Communications that seem to originate in an extraneous mind are sometimes followed by others in which the subconscious element is overwhelming. Dowden cited a case in which description of a haunted castle was given.
Ethics and Religion Talk: Communication with the Dead
She wanted to stop the communication as one of no interest when her guest interrupted and said that he was very much interested, since the story that came through was the plot of his new play. Generally the communications are earnest and their tone is moral and religious. In discussing the various angles presented by the contents of mediumistic communications, F.
Myers concluded:. I must indeed confess myself unable to explain why it is that beneath frequent incoherence, frequent commonplaces, frequent pomposity of these messages, there should always be a substratum of better sense, of truer Catholicity than is usually to be heard, except from the leading minds of the generation. The almost universally high tone of genuinely automatic utterances — whether claimed as spirit communications or proceeding obviously from the automatist himself — has not, I think, been sufficiently noticed or adequately explained.
The great question in all communications that originates in the subconscious is why they should take on the form of personal character. William James offered an explanation, that "all consciousness tends to personal form. His supposition is borne out by the observations of Frederik van Eeden with the medium Rosina Thompson. The sum total of his findings was that after the genuine information has ceased, the role of any spirit is easily and imperceptibly taken up by the medium. What is the mechanism of communication?
In the trance mediumship of Leonora Piper the controls took pains to give an explanation, later summarized by Richard Hodgson:. The relation of Mrs. Piper's ethereal body to the ethereal world, in which communicators claim to dwell is such that a special store of energy is accumulated in connection with her organism, and this appears to them as 'light.
Piper's ethereal body is removed by them and her ordinary body appears as a shell filled with this 'light. There are two chief masses of it in her case, one connected with the head, the other in connection with the right arm and hand. Latterly, that in connection with the hand has been brighter than that in connection with the head.
Communication (Between Living and Dead)
If the communicator gets into contact with the light and thinks his thoughts, they tend to be reproduced by movements in Mrs. Piper's organism. Very few can produce vocal effects, even when in contact with the light of the head, but practically all can produce writing movements when in contact with the light of the hand. Upon the amount and brightness of this light, caeteris paribus, the communications depend.
When Mrs. Piper is in ill health the light is feebler and the communications tend to be less coherent.
It also gets used up during a sitting and when it gets dim there is a tendency to incoherence even in otherwise clear communicators. In all cases coming into contact with this light tends to produce bewilderment, and if the contact is continued too long or the light becomes very dim the consciousness of the communicator tends to lapse completely. To obtain communications from two different intelligences at the same time, one writing and the other speaking, was nothing unusual in Piper's mediumship. Attempts were even made at gaining the use of the left hand by a third intelligence for simultaneous communication.
Hodgson reported that at a sitting where a lady was engaged in a profoundly personal conversation with Piper's control "Phinuit" concerning her relations, "the hand was seized very quietly and, as it were, surreptitiously, and wrote a very personal communication to myself purporting to come from a deceased friend of mine and having no relation whatsoever to the sitter; precisely as if a caller should enter a room where two strangers to him were conversing, but a friend of his is also present and whispers a special message into the ear of the friend without disturbing the conversation.
The attempt to write with the left hand was successfully made on March 18, , in a sitting with a Miss Edmunds. Her deceased sister wrote with one hand and "G. Very little, however, was written with the left hand. The difficulty appeared to lie chiefly in the deficiencies of the left hand in writing. Piper's case was not unique.
The communication of the dead - The Catholic Thing
Hardinge Britten's Modern American Spiritualism , quotes affidavits and writes from his own experience that Warner often gave three separate communications at once — one with her right hand, another with her left, and a third through rapping. Robert Dale Owen testified to the same versatility in Kate Fox. William Crookes confirmed Owen's observations: "I have been with Miss Fox when she has been writing a message automatically to one person present, whilst a message to another person on another subject was being given alphabetically by means of raps and the whole time she was conversing freely with a third person on a subject totally different from either.
The incoherency of some of the messages received through mediums and the difficulties in communicating with the dead presented a very complex problem. Richard Hodgson, on the basis of his experiences with Piper, arrived at the following conclusions:. Even under the best conditions for communication which I am supposing for the nonce to be possible, it may well be that the aptitude for communicating clearly may be as rare as the gifts that make a great artist, or a great mathematician, or a great philosopher.
Again, it may well be that, owing to the change connected with death itself, the spirit may at first be much confused, and such confusion may last for a long time; and even after the spirit has become accustomed to its new environment, it is not an unreasonable supposition that if it came into some such relation to another living human organism as it once maintained with its own former organism it would find itself confused by that relation.
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The state might be like that of awaking from a prolonged period of unconsciousness into strange surroundings. If my own ordinary body could be preserved in its present state, and I could absent myself from it for some days or months or years, and continue my existence under another set of conditions altogether, and if I could then return to my own body, it might well be that I should be very confused and incoherent at first in my manifestation by means of a human body.
I might be troubled with various forms of aphasia and agraphia, might be particularly liable to failures of inhibition, might find the conditions oppressive and exhausting, and my state of mind would probably be of an automatic and dream-like character. Now the communications through Mrs. Piper's trance exhibit precisely the kind of confusion and incoherence which it seems to me we have some reason a priori to expect if they are actually what they claim to be.
Myers pointed out the resemblance of such communications to the fugitive and unstable discourse between different strata of personality of which embodied minds offer an example. He suggested that multiple personality may occur in the disem-bodied as well. The explanations of Piper's control "George Pelham" presented a Spiritualist explanation of the communication process:.
Your conversation reaches us as if by telephone from a distant station. If I often blunder it is because I am mak ing use of an organism which does not fit me well ….
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When clear communications are wanted you must not stun them with questions. In order to reveal themselves to you the spirits put themselves in an environment that discommodes them a good deal. They are like persons who have received a blow on the head and are in a state of semi-delirium. They must be calmed, encouraged, assured that their idea will immediately be of great importance. To put ourselves into communication with you we must penetrate into your sphere and we sometimes become careless and forgetful as you are.
That is the reason why we make mistakes and are incoherent. I am as intelligent as I ever was, but the difficulties of communicating with you are great. In order to speak with you it is necessary for me to re-enter the body and there dream. Hence you must pardon my errors and the lacunae in my speech and memory. A message claimed to be from the deceased W.
Stead, recorded in Julia's Bureau on June 2, , is similar: "When I see now for myself the extraordinary difficulties in getting messages through from this side, I marvel not that we got so little in all our searchings when I was with you but that we got as much as we did. For it is you, your conditions which make the barrier. Piper's controls could not hold on long in the body of the medium and often got confused through the eagerness of the interrogator.
The spirit of Robert Hyslop said to his son, "You interrupt me, I ought to go now for my power is failing me and I don't know what I am doing.
Communicating With the Dead: Reach Beyond the Grave
Free, easy chatter, safe from concentration on tests is conducive to better communications. James H. Hyslop, in his sixteenth sitting with Piper, when he adopted the methods of the Spiritualists, obtained more identity proofs than in all the previous 15 sittings. The first attempts in getting through are usually fraught with greater difficulties. By a curious process of inversion, the recently dead individual reproduces the symptoms of his last bodily illness in the body of the medium without conscious effort and causes her great discomfort. At the same time the communicator lapses into the mental state he was in as he was dying.
Hyslop wrote on this point:. Piper, and when I recalled this period of his dying experience, this confusion was repeated in a remarkable manner, with several evidential features in the messages. Twice an uncle lost the sense of personal identity to communicate. His communications were in fact so confused that it was two years before he became at all clear in his efforts.
He had died as a result of a sudden accident. Once my father, after mentioning the illness of my living sister and her name, lost his personal identity long enough to confuse incidents relating to himself and his earthly life with those that applied to my sister and not to himself. The effect seems to be the same as that of certain kinds of dissociation which are now being studied by the student of abnormal psychology, and this is the disturbance of memory which makes it difficult or impossible to recall in one mental state the events which have been experienced in another.