I have been doing some research for my partner Jane Osborne who is writing a book about the explosion of interest in Spiritualism in the mid 18th century which carried on for a century. It has been highly instructive for me to discover how the modern movement evolved and grew to an extent, and level, which it is difficult to comprehend today.
It embraces a perfect storm of rapid scientific advances in Western Europe. A philosophical and intellectual climate which felt no mystery was too great, and a time of high infant mortality and adult life expectancy curtailed by war and disease. In the early 21st Century, Spiritualism is on the margins, with a sense that science has quashed religion as a whole, and the afterlife in particular.
Spiritualism in Western Europe, and in France, England and the USA specifically prospered in Victorian times. A period of intellectual rigor and scientific and technological achievement. Psychologically nothing was beyond them in their eyes. And so Spiritualism was not in the shadows of whacky, eccentrics on the margins of mainstream thought, instead it was cultivated by the scientists, law makers, politicians , authors and thinkers of the time. These are the stories of some of them:
The Golden Age Of Spiritualism
After spending some time amongst the Spiritualist community, curiosity about its history is invariably aroused. Spiritualism itself is as old as recorded history. Twenty first century Spiritualism however has some specific literary, religious, philosophical and scientific antecedents which germinated and flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
As I have explored these ideas, and the people who promoted them, a few truths emerged. Firstly, many were eminent intellects of their time, including senior judges, novelists, astronomers, and scientists. Secondly, many of them knew each other or were influenced by their work.
I have chosen the people whom I have written about, because they chose me. As I learned more about them, so I became interested in people who had interested them. It is a list that is both random, and linked. I do not undertake to assess their importance. All of them were important in their own time. But time provides context, and the contributions made by these figures require reassessment, and re-evaluation.
A feature of the Golden Age was how many scientists became interested in Spiritualism and how many sought scientific explanations for it. The credibility of those individuals accounts for the weight given to their views. Over one hundred and fifty years on, science, and scientific understanding, has evolved immeasurably.
Unsurprisingly some of the scientific hypotheses of the time are now either outdated, flawed, or demonstrably incorrect. Yet I am not sure that damage is also done to Spiritualism. If these individuals had access to modern science would they debunk Spiritualism, or be using Quantum Physics and mechanics to make their case?
Some names are familiar, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle particularly. His fame today is primarily as author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, his fame as an author in his time was matched by his pre-eminence as a Spiritualist of international renown. Other names are largely forgotten now, but were dominant figures of their era, none more so than the Russian Helen Blavatsky. Although many mediums were women, Blavatsky stand alone as a female mover and shaker in the Spiritualist movement and co-founder of the Theosophical Society. So many of the Spiritual strands of the Golden Age touch her.
The Golden Age itself did not emerge by accident, and four figures stand out as being pivotal to that era. Plato/ Socrates, Bacon and Swedenborg. There are more, however I have picked these four as providing the basis for an understanding of how the Golden Age unfolded.
Joseph Rodes Buchanan,(1814-1899), was an American scientist, Faculty Dean and Professor in the Eclectic Medical Institute, in Covington, Kentucky, and research pioneer in psychometry. It was Joseph Buchanan who, in 1842, coined the term “psychometry” as meaning the “measuring of the soul.”
General Bishop Polk of the Civil War once told Professor Buchanan of his curious sensitivity to atmospheric, electric, and other physical conditions. If he touched brass in the dark, he immediately knew it by its influence and the offensive metallic taste in his mouth.
Dr. Buchanan began to experiment and soon discovered that these sensations are not restricted to the sense of taste alone. Students of a Cincinnati medical school registered distinct impressions from medicines held in their hands. In order to eliminate thought transference, the substances were wrapped in paper parcels and mixed.
Eventually, it became very evident to Dr. Buchanan that some type of emanation is thrown off by all substances, even by the human body; furthermore, certain sensitives can feel and interpret these emanations in their normal state. He recognised the significance of the possibilities of this discovery:
“The past is entombed in the present, the world is its own enduring monument; and that which is true of its physical is likewise true of its mental career. The discoveries of Psychometry will enable us to explore the history of man, as those of geology enable us to explore the history of the earth. There are mental fossils for psychologists as well as mineral fossils for the geologists; and I believe that hereafter the psychologist and the geologist will go hand in hand, the one portraying the earth, its animals and its vegetation, while the other portrays the human beings who have roamed over its surface in the shadows, and the darkness of primeval barbarism. Aye, the mental telescope is now discovered which may pierce the depths of the past and bring us in full view of the grand and tragic passages of ancient history.”
They are words far ahead of their time. He called the subtle emanation given off by the human body “nerve aura.” In the Journal of Man, one of the first Spiritualist monthlies, he published a complete exposition of his system of neurology and anthropology.
Psychometry, for Dr. Buchanan, was essentially a human faculty of the mind; he did not feel it involved the intervention of spirits. However, Mrs. L. A. Coffin, in her preface to Dr. Buchanan’s Manual of Psychometry (Boston, 1889), states that she was often impressed by spirits while performing psychometry. This was not in conflict with Dr. Buchanan’s views, as he was an avowed Spiritualist. He simply felt that psychometry was primarily a psychic faculty, not a mediumistic influence.
His , Manual of Psychometry, is considered to be the most authoritative text written on psychometry.
Finally, he was one of very few medical professionals who, with great determination, defended the Fox sisters, when they were experiencing incredible negative publicity even though that support subsequently was shown to be misplaced.
In the course of his investigations, primarily through the mediumship of Mrs. Hollis-Billing, Dr. Buchanan received direct writing, purportedly from St. John. After being held in privacy for 17 years, these communications were published in 1897 under the title of “Primitive Christianity. Containing the Lost Lives of Jesus Christ and the Apostles and the Authentic Gospel of St. John.”
He claims that he tested the St. John script, properly concealed, with three psychometrists — Cornelia Buchanan, Mrs. Hayden, and the famous Dr. J. M. Peebles — and all three agreed as to its source, giving very similar descriptions of a great spirit devoted to Jesus Christ.
On other occasions, but in similar manner, Dr. Buchanan obtained a portrait of Moses and the Tablets of the Law, a picture of Aaron, of Helen of Troy, of John the Baptist, and communication from Confucius. Again, he substantiated the sources of these items though reputable psychometrists.
Some of Buchanan’s work is contested. Its influence within Spiritualism is not.
Nicolas Camille Flammarion – 1842- 1925
Known popularly as Camille , Flammarion was one of the most distinguished Astronomers of his time, as well as a prolific author and Psychic leading light. In 1922, he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French Government for his Astronomical life-work, and has had craters on Mars and the Moon named after him. Flammarion was also a member of the seminal Theosophical Society as championed by Helen Blavatsky.
Academically gifted as a child, he was educated in a seminary and by Jesuits in Paris. A student of English and the Classics, he entered the Paris Observatory as a pupil Astronomer aged sixteen , quickly writing two critically acclaimed books, the first “The Cosmology of the Universe” on Astronomy, the second “ The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds” on Spiritualism.
His scientific background gave him credibility and respect. He approached Spiritualism and reincarnation from the viewpoint of scientific method, writing, “It is by the scientific method alone that we may make progress in the search for truth. Religious belief must not take the place of impartial analysis. We must be constantly on our guard against illusions.” He spoke at the funeral of Allan Kardec, codifier of Spiritualism, on 2 April 1869, when he declared that “Spiritualism is not a religion but a science”
His Spiritualism impacted his science fiction. In his book “Lumen”, a human character meets the soul of an alien which had been reincarnated in many different worlds, able to cross the universe faster than light.
Flammarion was drawn to two significant social movements in the western world: the thoughts and ideas of Darwin and Lamarck, and the rising popularity of Spiritualism with Spiritualist churches and organizations appearing all over Europe. He has been described as an “astronomer, mystic and storyteller” who was “obsessed by life after death, and on other worlds, who seemed to see no distinction between the two.”
Jean Reynaud (1806–1863) and his book “Terre et Ciel” (1854) particularly influenced him. It described a religious system based on the transmigration of souls believed to be reconcilable with both Christianity and pluralism. He was convinced that souls after the physical death pass from planet to planet, progressively improving at each new incarnation.
Flammarion’s belief in life on other worlds was also influenced, and inspired by, authors such as Fontanelle, Cyrano de Bergerac, Huygens, Lalande, PP Gener’s “ Death and the Devil”, and Brewster. He, and another French writer, J. H. Rosny, were the first to popularize the notion of beings that were genuinely alien and not merely minor variants on humans and other terrestrial forms. However, he drew a distinction between the likes of Fontanelle, whom he believed merely to be a novelist, and his own work which he maintained was a scientific study. As such, he was marginalised by the religious mainstream and Catholic Church into which he had been born.
He declared that: ”Man was a citizen of the sky, and other worlds studios of human work -schools where the expanding soul progressively learns and develops, assimilating gradually the knowledge to which its aspirations tend, approaching thus evermore the end of its destiny.” Flammarion’s best-selling work, his epic Astronomie Populaire (1880), translated as Popular Astronomy (1894), is filled with speculation about extra-terrestrial life. He argues the case for lunar life, and describes Mars : “an earth almost similar to ours”.
When interviewed by R.H.Sherard for McClures Magazine in 1894, Flammarion said: “I have always been intensely interested in the occult sciences and studied them for over twenty five years including Kardec, Rochas and Papus. My conclusion is that there exist certain occult forces of which humanity is ignorant. Papus, the occultist, is a frequent visitor to my house and has given numerous seances here.”
Flammarion was a critical observer of mediumship: “It is infinitely to be regretted that we cannot trust the loyalty of mediums. They almost always cheat”. However, Flammarion, a believer in psychic phenomena, attended séances with Eusapia Palladino and claimed that some of her phenomena were genuine. He produced in his book alleged levitation photographs of a table and an impression of a face in putty. Spiritualist sceptic Joseph McCabe did not find the evidence convincing. Flammarion’s book “The Unknown” (1900) also received a negative review from the psychologist Joseph Jastrow who wrote “the work’s fundamental faults are a lack of critical judgment in the estimation of evidence, and of an appreciation of the nature of the logical conditions which the study of these problems presents.”
Flammarion researched automatic writing for two years and surmised that the subconscious mind is the explanation, and there is no evidence for the spirit hypothesis. Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death but wrote that mediumship had not been scientifically proven. Even though Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death he did not believe in the spirit hypothesis of Spiritualism, instead he believed that Spiritualist activities such as ectoplasm and levitations of objects could be explained by an unknown “psychic force” from the medium and that telepathy could explain some paranormal phenomena.
In his book “Mysterious Psychic Forces” (1909) he wrote: “This is very far from being demonstrated. The innumerable observations which I have collected during more than forty years all prove to me the contrary. No satisfactory identification has been made. The communications obtained have always seemed to proceed from the mentality of the group, or when they are heterogeneous, from spirits of an incomprehensible nature. The being evoked soon vanishes when one insists on pushing him to the wall and having the heart out of his mystery. That souls survive the destruction of the body I have not the shadow of a doubt. But that they manifest themselves by the processes employed in séances the experimental method has not yet given us absolute proof. I add that this hypothesis is not at all likely. If the souls of the dead are about us, upon our planet, the invisible population would increase at the rate of 100,000 a day, 36 billions in ten centuries, etc.—unless we admit re-incarnations upon the earth itself. How many times do apparitions or manifestations occur? When illusions, auto-suggestions, hallucinations are eliminated what remains? Scarcely anything. Such an exceptional rarity as this pleads against the reality of apparitions.”
In the 1920s Flammarion changed some of his beliefs on apparitions and hauntings but still claimed there was no evidence for the spirit hypothesis of mediumship in Spiritualism. In his 1924 book “Les Maisons Hantées” (Haunted Houses) he concluded that in some rare cases, hauntings are caused by departed souls whilst others are caused by the “remote action of the psychic force of a living person”. Spiritualist fellow traveller, but sceptic, magician Harry Houdini, was not impressed. He wrote it “fails to supply adequate proof of the veracity of the conglomeration of hearsay it contains; it must, therefore, be a collection of myths”, Flammarion was undaunted.
In a presidential address to the Society for Psychical Research in October 1923 Flammarion summarized his views after 60 years into investigating paranormal phenomena. He wrote that he believed in telepathy, etheric doubles, the stone tape theory and “exceptionally and rarely the dead do manifest” in hauntings.
He died aged 83, offering a legacy which uniquely combined science, science fiction and Spiritualism, Edgar Burroughs directly namechecked him, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed his science.
Names worth investigating further:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Cyrano de Bergerac,
J. H. Rosny,
Society for Psychical Research
Helena Blavatsky 1831- 1891
The Spiritualist Movement is rich in characters and ideas. From time to time I would like to share some of them with you. The first is a Russian woman who lived in the 19th Century who is arguably amongst the most significant female figures in Western and Russian culture from that time.
Helena Blavatsky is a colourful, and controversial character in the Spiritual movement who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875 while in New York. She gained an international following as the leading theoretician of Theosophy, the esoteric religion that the society promoted. She gained prominence as a Russian occultist and spirit medium. She was devoutly followed by believers, and ridiculed and doubted by those who saw her as a fraud.
Theosophy is a collection of mystical and occultist philosophies concerning, or seeking direct knowledge of, the presumed mysteries of life and nature, particularly of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe. It believes that hidden knowledge or wisdom from the ancient past offers a path to enlightenment and salvation.
The Theosophical Society was co- founded by Helena Blavatsky, William Quan Judge, and Henry Steel Olcott. Blavatsky’s major work, The Secret Doctrine (1888), was one of the seminal works of modern theosophy. Today, organizations descended from, or related to, the Theosophical Society are still active in around 52 countries around the world. And has also given rise to, or influenced, the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.
Blavatsky’s life is obfuscated by the numerous conflicting accounts she gave of it at various times. She claimed that in the 1850’s she embarked on a series of world travels, visiting Europe, the Americas, and India and encountered the “Masters of the Ancient Wisdom”, who sent her to Shigatse, Tibet, where they trained her to develop her own psychic powers.
By the early 1870s, Blavatsky was involved in the Spiritualist movement; although defending the genuine existence of Spiritualist phenomena, she argued against the mainstream Spiritualist idea that the entities contacted were the spirits of the dead. Relocating to the United States in 1873, she befriended Henry Steel Olcott and rose to public attention as a spirit medium.
In 1877 she published Isis Unveiled, a book outlining her Theosophical world-view. In 1880 she and Henry Olcott moved to India, where the Society was allied to the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement. That same year, while in Ceylon she and Olcott became the first Westerners to officially convert to Buddhism. Although opposed by the British administration, Theosophy spread rapidly in India but experienced internal problems after Blavatsky was accused of producing fraudulent paranormal phenomena. Amid ailing health, in 1885 she returned to Europe, there establishing the Blavatsky Lodge in London. Here she published The Secret Doctrine, a commentary on what she claimed were ancient Tibetan manuscripts, as well as two further books, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence. She died of influenza in the home of her disciple and successor, Annie Besant.
Blavatsky was a controversial figure during her lifetime, championed by supporters as an enlightened guru and derided as a fraudulent charlatan and plagiarist by critics. Her Theosophical doctrines influenced the spread of Hindu and Buddhist ideas in the West as well as spawning Ariosophy, Anthroposophy, and the New Age Movement.
Blavatsky’s claim to fame is as a founder of the Theosphical Movement and was its leading theoretician establishing its “doctrinal basis”. The ideas in her published texts provide the basis from which the Society and the wider Theosophical movement emerged. Blavatsky’s Theosophical ideas were a form of occultism, a strain of thought which has morphed into something quite different in modern times. Then it emphasized the idea of an ancient and superior wisdom that had been found in pre-Christian societies but which was absent from the doctrines of established Christianity.
Fundamentally, the underlying concept behind Blavatsky’s Theosophy was that there was an “ancient wisdom religion” which had once been found across the world, and which was known to various ancient figures, such as the Greek philosopher Plato and the ancient Hindu sages. Blavatsky connected this ancient wisdom religion to Hermetic philosophy, a worldview in which everything in the universe is identified as an emanation from a Godhead. She believed that all of the world’s religions developed from this original global faith and that the Theosophical movement’s revival of the “ancient wisdom religion” would lead to it spreading across the world, eclipsing the established world religions. In bringing these Theosophical ideas to humanity, Blavatsky viewed herself as a messianic figure.
According to Goodrick-Clarke, the Theosophical Society “disseminated an elaborate philosophical edifice involving a cosmogony, the macrocosm of the universe, spiritual hierarchies, and intermediary beings, the latter having correspondences with a hierarchical conception of the microcosm of man.” Officially, the Society-based itself upon the following three objectives:
1.To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
2.To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
3.To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
While living in New York City, Blavatsky had referred to herself as a “Buddhist”, although only officially embraced Buddhism while in Ceylon. However, Lachman her detractors claimed her Buddhism was highly eccentric and had little to do with Buddhism. Although critical of Catholicism and Protestantism, and opposing their growth in Asia, throughout her life she remained highly sympathetic to the Russian Orthodox Church.
One of her champions, G. R. S. Mead proclaimed, “Two things in all the chaos of her [Blavatsky’s] cosmos stood firm in every mood – that her Teachers existed and that she had not cheated.
What is certain is that she was a supreme self-publicist and manipulator of opinion, the legacy of the Theosophical Society alone makes her worthy of our attention now.
For further reading: http://www.magickalmind.com/blavatsky.htm
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859- 1930) and Spiritualism
Today, Doyle equals Sherlock Holmes, the rational, clinical, forensic detective able to crack any crime by systematic and careful deduction. Few realise that he was a medical doctor, fewer still that he was in the vanguard of the rise of 19th Century Spiritualism.
Anecdotally his interest was attracted by a book by US High Courts Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816-1874), a pioneering American Spiritualist, who claimed that after the death of his wife he had been able to communicate with her. While working as a doctor in Southsea he moved on to participate in table turning sittings at the home of one of his patients, General Drayson, a teacher at the Greenwich Naval College reflecting the popularity and status of interest in the paranormal.
In 1893, Conan Doyle joined the British Society for Psychical Research, a society formed in Cambridge one year earlier in order to investigate scientifically the claims of Spiritualism and other paranormal phenomena. Other members of the Society included the future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, philosopher William James, naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, scientists Williams Crookes and Oliver Lodge, and philosopher and economist Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and poet and philologist F. W. H. Meyers (1843-1901).
This convinced him that telepathy existed and in 1917, Conan Doyle gave his first public lecture on Spiritualism. Later he wrote books, articles and made public appearances in Britain, Australia and America to promote his beliefs. He held numerous séances together with his second wife Jean to communicate with members of their family killed in World War One and other spirits. Such was his all -consuming interest in Spiritualism that he abandoned writing any more Sherlock Holmes books and devoted himself almost entirely to the study of paranormal. Doyle was convinced that intelligence could exist apart from the body, and that the dead could communicate with the living. . Sir Arthur claimed to have had conversations with the spirits of many great men, including Cecil Rhodes, Joseph Conrad, and others.
Doyle had numerous celebrity friends, amongst them met the famous American illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini.. He believed that Houdini possessed supernatural powers, Houdini however was a sceptic about Spiritualism. In 1922, he agreed to participate in a séance arranged by Conan Doyle and his wife as a medium who claimed that she had contacted his dead mother. Lady Doyle, in a hypnotic trance, wrote automatically a long message in English from Mrs. Weiss, Houdini’s mother. Houdini exposed this as trickery because his late mother barely knew English and announced publicly that Spiritualism is a fraud, which understandably ended his friendship with Doyle.
Around a third of Sir Arthur’s over sixty books are about Spiritualism. They include: The New Revelation (1918), Life After Death (1918), The Vital Message (1919), Spiritualism and Rationalism (1920), The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The Coming of the Fairies (1922), The Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Our American Adventure (1923), Our Second American Adventure (1924), Spiritualist’s Reader (1924), Memories and Adventures (1924), The Early Christian Church and Modern Spiritualism (1925), The Land of Mist (1926, fiction), The History of Spiritualism, in two volumes (1926), Pheneas Speaks. Direct Spirit Communication in the Family Circle (1927), Our African Winter (1929), The Edge of the Unknown (1930).
In 1917 Doyle’s credibility was seriously damaged by the “Fairies Fraud”, two teenage girls in Yorkshire, Elsie Wright (age 16) and her cousin Frances Griffiths (age 10), produced two photographs of fairies which they had taken in their garden. One of the photos showed Frances in the garden with a waterfall with four fairies dancing upon the bush. Three of them had wings and one was playing a long flute-like instrument. Conan Doyle accepted the photos as genuine evidence for fairies and wrote two pamphlets and a book, The Coming of the Fairies (1922), in which he publicly announced that fairies truly existed. The book was widely ridiculed in the press leading many people to question whether Doyle had lost his grip on reality.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s definitive book on Spiritualism is the two-volume set, The History of Spiritualism (1924), which discusses a wide range of issues and personalities linked with modern Spiritualism, both in America and the United Kingdom. The book made him one of the authorities on Spiritualism of his time prompting widespread travel all over the world, drawing big crowds wherever he went.
He began his Spiritualist travels in 1918, with visits to major cities of Great Britain. Then, during 1920 and 1921, he made voyages to Australia and New Zealand. In 1922 and 1923, he toured the United States with lectures on Spiritualism. Early in 1928, he visited South Africa, and in the autumn, he toured several European countries. In 1925, he was nominated Honorary President at the International Spiritualist Congress in Paris.
Doyle died in 1930 prompting a pre-arranged test to see whether he could communicate beyond from beyond the grave at the Royal Albert Hall , but the results were inconclusive. The New York Times Obituary, July 8, 1930 wrote:
“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an indefatigable exponent of Spiritualism, who vigorously championed the cause of life-after-death. His faith in the possibility of communication with departed souls was strong and he cared little whether others agreed with it or not. In his later years he often expressed a wish that he should be remembered for his psychic work rather than for his novels.”
Doyle certainly had a strong literary and philosophical impact on the time. He tapped into a counterculture movement within Victorian and Edwardian society and its legacy is visible in later time. Victorian Spiritualism exerted an indirect influence on the emergence of the esoteric movements of modern Theosophy and New Age. It also had an impact on psychoanalysis and the notion of the subconscious, and the modernist artists and writers, such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce , Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.
Sir Oliver Lodge,1851-1940, was a world-renowned physicist.
Sir Oliver’s first experiences in psychical research dates back to 1883 and 1884, when he was invited by Mr. Malcolm Guthrie to join his investigations in thought transference in Liverpool, England.
His most notable observations in physical mediumship were made with the famous Italian medium, Eusapia Paladino. He attended four sittings with Eusapia and reported his findings in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, November, 1884. He accepted the reality of the phenomena observed through the medium, and he wrote the following concerning his observations:
“However the facts are to be explained, there is no further room in my mind for doubt. Any person without invincible prejudice who had had the same experience would come to the same broad conclusion, viz., that things hitherto held impossible do actually occur.
“If one such fact is clearly established, the conceivability of others may be more readily granted, and I concentrated my attention mainly on what seemed to me the most simple and definite thing, viz., the movement of an untouched object in sufficient light for no doubt of its motion to exist.
“This I have now witnessed several times; the fact of movement being vouched for by both sight and hearing, sometimes also by touch, and the objectivity of the movement being demonstrated by the sounds heard by an outside observer, and by permanent alteration in the position of the objects.
“The result of my experience is to convince me that certain phenomena usually considered abnormal do belong to the order of nature, and as a corollary from this, that these phenomena ought to be investigated and recorded by persons and societies interested in natural knowledge.”
When Eusapia Paladino was exposed for fraud, Sir Oliver stood by his convictions of her mediumship.
In the field of mental mediumship, his greatest source of revelation and enlightenment was Boston’s famous medium, Mrs. Lenore Piper. His first investigations with Mrs. Piper took place in 1889, when the medium was tested in England by the Society for Psychical Research. He received many evidential messages from loved ones, in Spirit, which soon convinced him that the “dead” still live. His findings were published in 1890.
Nineteen years later, when close friends and associates , Frederick Myers and Edmund Gurney, communicated through Mrs. Piper, he made the following comments in his book, “ Survival of Man”:
“The old series of sittings with Mrs. Piper convinced me of survival for reasons which I should find it hard to formulate . . . They also made me suspect — or more than suspect — that surviving intelligences were in some cases consciously communicating; though, more usually, the messages came, in all probability, from an unconscious stratum, being received by the medium in an inspirational manner analogous to psychometry.
“The hypothesis of surviving intelligence and personality — not only surviving but anxious and able to with difficulty to communicate — is the simplest and most straightforward and the only one that fits all the facts.”
In September, 1913, speaking from the Presidential Chair to the British Association, he declared, “Memory and affection are not limited to that associated with matter by which alone they can manifest themselves, here and now, and that personality does persist beyond bodily death.”
Perhaps the most convincing and challenging communications were those which came from his son, Raymond.
On September 17, 1915, the War Office notified Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge that their son, Raymond, ( had been killed in action on September 14, 1915. On September 25, 1915, Lady Lodge had a sitting with the renowned medium, Gladys Osborne Leonard. Raymond communicated and sent this message: “Tell Father I have met some friends of his.” On asking their names, Frederick Myers was mentioned.
Another medium, Alfred Vout Peters, two days later spoke about a photograph of a group of officers with Raymond among them. Various messages came from different mediums. On November 25, 1915, Mrs. Cheves, a complete stranger to the family, wrote a letter saying that she had a photograph of the officers of the South Lancashire Regiment of which Raymond was second lieutenant and offered to send it to the Lodges. They accepted the offer.
On December 3, 1915, Raymond, communicating through Mrs. Leonard’s mediumship, gave a complete description of this photograph. He described himself as sitting on the ground, with a fellow officer placing his hand on Raymond’s shoulder. On December 7, 1915, the photograph arrived and corresponded with the description, given four days earlier, in every detail.
Many other messages came forward from Raymond, all of which were very evidential to Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge. Although Sir Oliver had ample evidence of Spirit survival from the past, the series of communications from Raymond was, perhaps, the most meaningful to him, very likely because of his personal involvement and sense of loss and bereavement. He was criticized for his books on Raymond. Researchers felt he was too personally involved to be objective in his observations and assessments.
When Sir Oliver was asked to speak before the Modern Churchmen’s Conference, in September, 1931, at Oxford, he declared:
“If I find myself an opportunity of communicating I shall try to establish my identity by detailing a perfectly preposterous and absurdly childish peculiarity which I have already taken the trouble to record with some care in a sealed document deposited in the custody of the English S.P.R. I hope to remember the details of this document and relate them in no unmistakable fashion.
“The value of the communication will not consist in the substance of what is communicated, but in the fact that I have never mentioned it to a living soul, and no one has any idea what it contains. People of sense will not take its absurd triviality as anything but helpful in contributing to the proof of the survival of personal identity.”
It is people such as Sir Oliver Lodge who, over the years, have given great credibility to a field of study and experience which has been plagued by shams and charlatans. While not being an innovative thinker, he was certainly a key supporter of the Spiritualism Movement.
For more information;
Judge John Worth Edmonds,1816-1874, is amongst the most distinguished Spiritualists of his age.
After a great public career, as a member of both branches of the New York State Legislature and, for some time, President of the Senate and Judge of the Supreme Court of New York, he resigned the latter position on account of the outcry raised against his Spiritualistic beliefs and, especially, his support of the Fox sisters.
His interest in the Rochester knockings was aroused in early 1851, and the first account of his experiences was published on August 1, 1853, in the New York Courier, in an article “To the Public.” In this article, in order to meet the constant attacks against him by the Press, he confessed his complete conversion to Spiritualism and related his experiences.
This bold step aroused a tremendous sensation, and a furious controversy arose.
In a letter published in the New York Herald, on August 6, 1853, he wrote:
“I went into the investigation originally thinking it a deception, and intending to make public my exposure of it. Having from my research come to a different conclusion, I feel that the obligation to make known the result is just as strong. Therefore, it is, mainly, that I give the result to the world. I say mainly because there is another consideration which influences me, and that is, the desire to extend to others a knowledge which I am conscious cannot but make them happier and better.”
The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism: Leah (1831–1890), Margaret (1833–1893) and Kate Fox (1837–1892). The two younger sisters used “rappings” to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits.
Their older sister then took charge of them and managed their careers for some time. They all enjoyed success as mediums for many years. However, Edmonds’ faith in them was misplaced, an error that only became apparent four years after his death.
In 1888, Margaret and Kate confessed that their rappings had been a hoax and publicly demonstrated their method. Margaret attempted to recant her confession the next year, but their reputation was ruined and in less than five years they were all dead. Edmonds’ investigations into mediumship were logical, hard, and indicative of a man of the law.
He was very shrewd, and, consistently, his conclusions were the same: spirit out of body can and does communicate with spirit in body.
As time passed on, Judge Edmonds developed mediumship himself. Between the years 1853 and 1854, within a small circle formed with a few close friends, he received many spirit messages and communications. The chief communicators were alleged to be Swedenborg and Bacon.
Francis Bacon 1561-1626 was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. He served both as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England.
After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution. “New Atlantis” was Bacon’s most spiritually infused literary work.
In it he presents his vision of an advanced civilization, in which scientific understanding and application compliments enlightened religious belief and practise in the creation of a future utopia.
The consciousness that gave rise to this visionary work also influenced the philosophical and spiritual framework on which the new nation of the United States of America was formed. Bacon was involved in the establishment of early colonies in the new world and was considered by Thomas Jefferson, among others, to have contributed greatly to the welfare of mankind.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, and mystic. He is best known for his book on the afterlife, “Heaven and Hell” (1758).
Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at age 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he began to experience dreams and visions, beginning on Easter weekend of 6 April 1744. This culminated in a ‘spiritual awakening’, in which he received revelation that he was appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity.
According to “The Heavenly Doctrine” the Lord had opened Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell and talk with angels, demons and other spirits; and the Last Judgment had already occurred, in 1757.
For the remaining 28 years of his life, Swedenborg wrote eighteen published theological works, and several more which were unpublished. He termed himself a “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” in True Christian Religion, a work he published himself. Some followers of “The Heavenly Doctrine” believe that, of his theological works, only those which Swedenborg published himself are fully divinely inspired.
Bacon and Swedenborg were in the vanguard of contemporary religious philosophical thinking. Edmonds referenced, compiled, and published these communications in two volumes on Spiritualism. This venture was achieved jointly with George T. Dexter, M.D.
These volumes achieved tremendous success, with several editions being printed. They are some of the most fascinating and informative literature ever published on Spiritualism, a seminal collection.
In addition to his own mediumistic encounters, Judge Edmonds’ daughter, Laura, became a trance medium.
She developed incredible musical powers and the gift of tongues. Although she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke nine different languages with great fluency: Spanish; French; Greek; Italian; Portuguese; Latin; Hungarian; and Indian dialects were identified.
These phenomena and many others were all meticulously recorded by Judge Edmonds.
The account of his experiences with raps, as given in the New York Tribune, March 1859, is especially significant and informative:
“And finally after weeks of such trials, as if to dispell all idea in my mind as to its being done by others, or by machinery, the rappings came to me alone, when I was in bed, when no mortal but myself was in the room. I first heard them on the floor, as I lay reading”.
“I said ‘It’s a mouse.’ They instantly changed their location from one part of the room of another, with a rapidity that no mouse could equal.
‘Still, it might be more than one mouse.’ And then they came upon my person — distinct, clear, unequivocal.
“I explained it to myself by calling it a twitching of the nerves, which at times I had experienced, and so I tried to see if it was so. It was on my thigh that they came. I sat up in bed, threw off all clothing from the limb, leaving it entirely bare. I had my left hand flat on the spot — the raps would be then on my hand and cease on my leg. I laid my hand edgewise on the limb and the force, whatever it was, would pass across my hand and reach the leg, making itself as perceptible on each finger as on the leg. I held my hand two or three inches from my thigh and found that they instantly stopped and resumed their work, as soon as I withdrew my hand. But, I said to myself, this is some local affection which the magnetism of my hand can reach. Immediately they ran riot all over my limbs, touching me with a distinctness and rapidity that was marvellous, running up and down both limbs from the thighs to the end of the toes.”
Judge Edmonds never wavered in his beliefs nor in his advocacy of Spiritualism. He was a true champion for the cause, and he suffered dearly for it. Despite his distinguished legal and political career and formidable amazing intellect, the Press and public, condemned him for his support of Spiritualism and, especially, for his support of the Fox sisters and the Rochester rappings.
Nonetheless, he continued in his Spiritual work, even at the expense of stepping down from the New York Supreme Court. In the year 1873, in recognition of his years of service to Spirit and to the cause of Spiritualism, the Spiritualists of England presented Judge Edmonds with a testimonial and a Testimonial Certificate. Two such certificates were made: one for Judge Edmonds, himself; the other was given to the founder of our Church, Marcellus Ayer, by those same British Spiritualists. This second certificate proudly adorns the wall of our Church Library. This Testimonial begins as follows:
“To Judge Edmonds: We, on behalf of your many admirers in England, desire to testify to you our high appreciation of the distinguished services you have rendered to the cause of Spiritualism.”
It continues with beautiful words of recognition and appreciation and signed, at the bottom, by 26 prominent British Spiritualists. It was presented to Judge Edmonds in London, in November 1873.
Judge Edmonds wrote the following: Letters and Tracts on Spiritualism; Spiritualism, Volume I (1853); Spiritualism, Volume II (1855); and Uncertainty of Spiritual Intercourse (1856).
His pioneering work was an important factor in the growth and spread of Modern American Spiritualism. Curiously the Fox sisters scandal had little adverse impact in the growth of the movement.
For more information:
Arthur Findlay MBE, JP (1883 – 1964) was a writer, accountant, stockbroker and Essex magistrate.
He came to prominence in the Golden Age of Spiritualism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is best known today for having bequeathed his home, Stansted Hall, to the Spiritualists’ National Union, a venue still used by them today, to promote Spiritualism.
He grew up within a strict Christian family, but as a young man he began to explore beyond the restrictions of that faith alone.
He was awarded the MBE for his work for the Red Cross during WW1 at the age of thirty.
Findlay co- founded the newspaper Psychic News with Hannen Swaffer and editor Maurice Barbanell.
Swaffer was an English journalist and drama critic who became interested in Spiritualism.
He claimed that his Spiritualist circle had conjured up the ghost of his former employer, Northcliffe, as well as those of other dead celebrities associated with his London theatre work. The first issue of the paper was published on 28 May 1932.The name of the paper was credited to Maurice Barbanell, who said that he was told to use it by his spirit guide.
It published continuously until 2010, almost eighty years. Findlay resigned from the paper after the Nandor Fodor inspired fraudulent poltergeist scandal featuring Mrs Forbes.
Findlay was also a founding member of the International Institute for Psychical Research of which he became chairman. In December 1938, the British College of Psychic Science college merged with the International Institute for Psychical Research, becoming the Institute for Experimental Metaphysics.
During World War II the institute closed and all of its library and records were destroyed
While in Glasgow in 1918 he attended a séance with the direct voice medium John Campbell Sloan at a Spiritualist church in Glasgow.That provided the basis for a long- term friendship, a friendship driven by Findlay’s belief that spirit voices were speaking through Sloan. He studied him for five years spawning a number of books. In his book “On the edge of the Etheric”, Findlay devotes much space to Sloan. Who is presented as a respectable, principled self-effacing man who asked for no payment for his spiritual services. He practiced trance mediumship as well as direct voice, and produced various physical effects such as levitating trumpets.
His books “An Investigation of Psychic Phenomena” (1924), and” The Rock of Truth” (1933), explain how the direct voice is produced and discusses the subject and teachings obtained by this mediumship.
Findlay in “On The Edge Of The Etheric” explores ectoplasm and his scientific arguments for materialization and direct voice mediumship based on his understanding of the Ether, a substance once thought to fill the cosmos and serve as the medium for the transference of electromagnetic waves. He believed that the key to mediumship was understanding differences in the frequency of vibration of the Ether. Almost a century on, Findlay’s scientific hypotheses seem outdated and flawed. Yet so is much other science a century on.He was only able to construct arguments on the basis of available information. With what is known now, would his belief be just as strong, but supported by more modern arguments and facts? I think so.
In 1920, he founded the Glasgow Society for Psychical Research and in 1923 took part in the Church of Scotland’s enquiry into psychic phenomenon. As his interest in, and participation in, the Spiritualist world grew, he became an honorary member of both the American Foundation for Psychical Research, Edinburgh Psychic College and the honorary president of both the Institute of Psychic Writers and Artists and the Spiritualists’ National Union.
His enduring legacy is the Arthur Findlay College at his erstwhile home, Stansted Hall, which has an ongoing worldwide reputation as a leading centre for Spiritualism.
A well published author, Findlay’s books on Spiritualism include:
An Investigation of Psychic Phenomena (1924)
On The Edge Of The Etheric, 1931, his most famous book reprinted some seventy times
The Way of Life
The Rock of Truth (1933)
The Unfolding Universe, 1935
The Psychic Stream, 1939
Where Two Worlds Meet, 1951
There is much background information about Arthur Findlay, and the work of the SNU available at: http://www.snu.org.uk/
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688- 1772) was born in Stockholm, Sweden from the age of eleven he was educated at the University of Uppsala, where he studied medicine, astronomy, mathematics, natural sciences, Latin and Greek.
Early influences included Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and Christian Wolff (1679-1754). As a young man, he became renowned for his mechanical inventions, and has since been compared with Leonardo da Vinci. In the physical sciences his achievements were considerable.
He speculated about the nature of matter and the universe and anticipated the cosmology later formulated by Immanuel Kant and Pierre Simon. He also published a theoretical book on the physical sciences’
In the mid-1740s, however, Swedenborg’s life took a new direction. Turning from his outward journey, he embarked on an inward journey. at the outset, he underwent a transitional period in which he experienced very lucid dreams, this phase of Swedenborg’s life culminated in a vision of Christ in a London inn (1745). He came to believe that God was using him as an instrument to interpret the Bible. To Swedenborg himself that was the most important part of his work. He embarked on a huge work of biblical exegesis, a massive verse-by-verse commentary on the first books of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus, explaining the ‘inner’ or ‘spiritual’ meaning of these ancient texts.
He explored the idea that the Old Testament was symbolic, not literal. In his theological books, written over a period of more than twenty years and culminating in his work of ‘universal theology’, The True Christian Religion (1771), Swedenborg assumed the role of the prophet of a ‘new age’ of enlightened Christianity, although he never attempted to found a new religious denomination.
God is manifested to humans as the Lord Jesus Christ, the ‘Divine Human’, and so his theology is essentially Christ-centred. God, who is love itself, condemns no one to hell.
‘Heaven’ and ‘hell’ are self-chosen states of consciousness, both in this life and the next.
Acknowledging the Divine in some form and a life of love, or charity, towards the ‘neighbour’ are the means of salvation, not adherence to rigid creeds. Although an 18th-century Protestant, Swedenborg was, in effect, one of the first ecumenical Christians, living in an age when that term had not been invented.
In his best-known work, Heaven and Hell (1758), Swedenborg gave an account of a next world that resembles this one. The spiritual world is the foundation for the natural world and without it our world could not subsist.He describes this world as one of ‘states’ of consciousness where time and space as we know them do not exist, but he describes a world where spirits eat, sleep, talk, read books, work and make love, just as humans do here, although clothed in a ‘spiritual’, not a natural, body.Heaven and Hell is a book that has brought great comfort to many over the last 250 years. Some have seen Swedenborg as the ‘father’ of spiritualism, although he himself believed he had been granted special gifts by God which were not to be used for trivial purposes and were not available to everybody.Others have dismissed Swedenborg as an inventor of pretty fairy tales.
Two and a half centuries on, we can compare Swedenborg’s experiences with accounts given by spiritualists and with the evidence collated over the last thirty odd years of ‘near-death experiences’; There is a remarkable consistency between these accounts and what Swedenborg wrote in Heaven and Hell and other works.Those reporting near-death experiences tell of benign feelings of light, gentleness, peace and love, even of being welcomed by deceased relatives and friends.
All this you will find in Swedenborg. Especially moving is his description of the newly arrived soul, being awakened in the spirit world by two ‘celestial’ angels, beings who represent love. Heaven and Hell bears some comparison with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Swedenborg appears to have perfected special breathing techniques which enabled him to achieve ‘hypnagogic’ states.
Edgar Cayce , 1877 – 1945 was an American Christian mystic whose trademark was to work in a trance-like state, earning him the soubriquet of “The Sleeping Prophet”. He is regarded as an inspiration for the modern New Age Movement. The Association for Research and Enlightenment, was founded to facilitate the study of Cayce’s work and a hospital and a university bore his name.
It was his prophesies, his visions of Atlantis, and his mediumship work with the families of dead GI’s which propelled his fame. But he believed the publicity given to his prophecies overshadowed the more noted parts of his work, such as psychic medical diagnosis and recommendations, and spiritual development. Cayce’s clients included a number of famous people such as Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin.
To modern eyes, his Atlantis prophesies were a little hit and miss. He claimed that the Atlanteans possessed advanced technology that harnessed the power of the quantum world including the use of crystals and sound waves for healing. Lifts and connecting tunnels operated with compressed air and steam, and they used quartz crystal science to mine gold, copper and silver from the earth. He also believed that The Crystal Skull, was cut with such infinite precision that “no known modern tool could have replicated the job” using the amplification power of crystals in laser technology and memory chips and that Atlanteans made extensive use of mass mental telepathy, psycho-kinesis and astral projection into fourth dimensional consciousness. Cayce blamed the final destruction of Atlantis and the disintegration of their culture on greed and lust.
Cayce was also influenced by Theosophy, popular in America at that time and popularised by the Russian Helen Blavatsky who co-founded that movement in New York. He divided opinion, with numerous high profile devotees, and detractors who dismissed his medical remedies as uneducated quackery and doubted his prophesies. On the one hand he was a fellow traveller with the occult movement, on the other he remained a committed Christian. Here follow ten of his predictions:
1. The greater portion of Europe will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Japan will eventually go into the sea. Land will appear off the east coast of America.
2. There will be a shifting of the poles so that where there was once a cold climate will become warmer and the semitropical will become the more tropical.
Moss and ferns and new foliage will grow in places that seem strange to us now. As Cayce said: “The Earth is catching up with Time.”
3. There will come a time when the sun will be darkened. This will signify a spiritually-awakening event.
4. The city of Atlantis will be found near Bimini. It will be discovered that there are healing powers in the waters off Bimini and quartz crystals will be recognized for their healing properties to uplift, empower, and synchronize many types of energy, such as light and electricity.
5. The records of Atlantis will be open to those that are the spiritual initiates in the knowledge of the One God. A secret chamber will be found and the rising of the Temple will make the records accessible.
When asked, “Can you give in detail what the sealed room contains?” referring to the Atlantean Library, Cayce responded that it has a record of Atlantis from the beginning of those periods when the Spirit took form. The records describe the first destruction and the changes that took place in the land. It is a journal of sorts, a record of the sojourns of the peoples and their varied activities in other lands and a record of the meetings of all the nations and lands. it explains the building of the pyramid of initiation, together with whom, what, and where the opening of the records would come, that are as copies from the sunken Atlantis. Cayce also predicted Atlantis must rise again.
6. A new field of science will be developed based on a psychic/spiritual phenomenon. A shift in focus and study will occur. The world will give more weight to spiritual phenomena and less weight to the materialized or material phenomena. This new field of spiritual-science will become just as practical and as measurable as any other phase of human experience.
7. A “City of Gold” will be discovered in the Gobi Desert. It will have a temple with elevators; electric cars, and magical elements.
8. New York State’s east coast and New York City itself will disappear.
9. America’s west coast will be destroyed and there will be widespread destruction in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as in many portions of the west coast. Land will appear off the coast of America. The Great Lakes will drain into the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River.
Earth changes will occur in the central portion of the United States as well. There will be some safe places in the US. They are; Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, the central and some eastern states, to name a few.
10. Cayce predicted there will be three profound archaeological discoveries of a very ancient and important nature that will revolutionize the way we understand human origins.
Although controversial, he sits at the top table of the late 19th Century/ early 20th Century Spiritual and Occult movement alongside Helen Blavatsky, William Denton, Judge Edmonds, Moses Hull,Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Judge, Henry Olcott, Edvard Munch and Aleister Crowley all influenced before them by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and the teachings of Franz Mesmer (1734–1815).
Edward Burnett Tylor 1832- 1917 (aged 84) was a British anthropologist and the founder of cultural anthropology.Tylor popularised the term animism. Animism ascribes a spirit to all things alive, apparently inert, and natural phenomena . It acknowledges no distinction between the spiritual and physical world, and that soul or spirit, or sentience exists not only in humans, but also in other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows He regarded animism as the first phase of development of religions, in which there are other parallel worlds to our own, though invisible to us and not accessible to us in our state. These ideas echoed traditional Shamenism beliefs and were picked up by the burgeoning Spiritualism movement of the time. It is a belief set associated with the oldest cultures and societies in the world
He was born in 1832, in Camberwell, London, and was the son of Joseph Tylor and Harriet Skipper, part of a family of wealthy Quakers who owned a London brass factory. He went on to be appointed Keeper of the University Museum at Oxford in 1883, and, as well as serving as a lecturer, held the title of the first “Reader in Anthropology” from 1884 to 1895. In 1896 he was appointed the first Professor of Anthropology at Oxford University
Evolution is invariably associated with Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but the idea was not unique to Darwin. Contemporaneously it was widely used and meant the “unfolding” of something heterogeneous and complex from something simpler and more homogeneous. Herbert Spencer, a contemporary of Darwin, applied the term to the universe, including philosophy and culture. This view of the universe was generally termed evolutionism, while its exponents were evolutionists. Tylor’s scientific hypotheses were pivotal in the influence of Spiritualism, and credibility.
William Stainton Moses (1839-1892) was an English cleric and spiritualist medium.
Moses was born in Donington near Lincoln. He was educated at Bedford School, University College School, London and Exeter College, Oxford. He was ordained as a priest of the Church of England by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce in 1870.
Moses attended his first séance with Lottie Fowler in 1872. Charles Williams and Daniel Dunglas Home were the next mediums he visited. Five months after his introduction to spiritualism, he claimed to have experienced levitation. The automatic scripts of Moses began to appear in his books Spirit Teachings and Spirit Identity. The scripts date from 1872 to 1883 and fill 24 notebooks. All but one have been preserved by the London Spiritualist Alliance.
Moses published Psychography. A Treatise on One of the Objective Forms of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena in 1878. In it, he coins the term “psychography” (from psycho and graphy) for the spiritualist concept of channeling messages from the dead via automatic writing (also known as “independent writing”, “direct writing” or “spirit writing”).
Moses was one of the first vice-presidents of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Other early members included Frederic W. H. Myers, Henry Sidgwick and Edmund Gurney. In 1886 and 1887 in a series of publications the SPR exposed the tricks of the medium William Eglinton. Because of this, some spiritualist members including Moses resigned from the SPR.
Moses endorsed the spirit photography of Édouard Isidore Buguet, however, Buguet was exposed as a fraud. Moses had supported Buguet in an article for Human Nature in May 1875. After Burguet was exposed later in the same year, Moses insisted that Buguet was still a genuine medium and he had been bribed to make a false confession. The case has been cited by researchers as an example of spiritualists willing to believe and refusing to accept evidence of fraud.
In 1884, Moses was a founding member, together with Rogers, of the London Spiritualist Alliance, afterwards the College of Psychic Studies, and died on 5 September 1892.
Moses performed in dark conditions only with a small select circle of friends, he did not allow psychical researchers to attend his séances and refused to be tested. The psychical researcher Frank Podmore wrote:
It seems reasonable to conclude that all the marvels reported at [Moses] seances were, in fact, produced by the medium’s own hands: that it was he who tilted the table and produced the raps, that the scents, the seed pearls, and the Parian statuettes were brought into the room in his pockets: and that the spirit lights were, in fact, nothing more than bottles of phosphorised oil. Nor would the feats described have required any special skill on the medium’s part.
It was suggested that Moses looked up obituaries, daily newspapers, biographies or The Annual Register to research the history of deceased people. Joseph McCabe described Moses as a “deliberate impostor” and wrote that his feats were the result of trickery. Science historian Sherrie Lynne Lyons wrote that the glowing or light-emitting hands in séances could easily be explained by the rubbing of oil of phosphorus on the hands. Moses was caught twice with a bottle of phosphorus.
The psychologist Théodore Flournoy wrote that before admitting a supernatural explanation for the automatic writings of Moses, “we must first of all be sure that he himself was not capable of elaborating them subconsciously. To my mind, he was quite capable.” Many of Moses’s statements about ancient history have proven to be false.
Researcher Georgess McHargue has suggested that Moses’ mediumship was the result of self-suggestion and unconscious trickery.
The first documented instance of cryptomnesia occurred in 1874 with Moses.
Under the pen name “M.A. Oxon”, Moses published the following books on spiritualism:
Spirit Identity (1879)
Spirit Teachings (1883)
Higher Aspects of Spiritualism (1880)
Moses also edited the periodical Light and wrote on spiritualism for Human Nature.
Allan Kardec Born, Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, 1804 -1869 (aged 64)
Allan Kardec was the nom de plume of the French educator, translator and author Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail He is the author of the five books known as the Spiritist Codification, and is the founder of Spiritism.
Rivail was born in Lyon in 1804 and raised as a Roman Catholic. He pursued interests in philosophy and the sciences, and became a folower and colleague of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Rivail completed a number of educational courses including a Bachelor of Arts degrees in science and a doctorate in medicine and was multilingual including German, English, Italian, and Spanish in addition to his native French.
He was a member of several scholarly societies, including the Historic Institute of Paris (Institut Historique), Society of Natural Sciences of France (Société des Sciences Naturelles de France), Society for the Encouragement of National Industry (Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale), and The Royal Academy of Arras (Académie d’Arras, Société Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts). He organized and taught free courses for the underprivilege
Rivail’s work with Pestalozzi helped lay the foundations for education in schools in France and Germany. For several decades he helped advance Pestalozzi’s teaching methods in France, founding schools and working as a teacher, educational writer and translator.
Rivail was in his early 50s when he became interested in séances, which were a popular entertainment at the time. Strange phenomena attributed to the action of spirits were considered a novelty, featuring objects that moved or “tapped”, purportedly under the control of ‘spirits’. In some cases, this was alleged to be a type of communication: the supposed spirits answered questions by controlling the movements of objects so as to pick out letters to form words, or simply indicate “yes” or “no”. At the time, Franz Mesmer’s theory of animal magnetism had become popular. When confronted with the phenomena described, some researchers, including Rivail, pointed out that animal magnetism might explain them. Rivail, however, after seeing a demonstration, dismissed animal magnetism as insufficient to explain his observations.
He compiled over one thousand questions concerning the nature and mechanisms of spirit communications, the reasons for human life on earth, and aspects of the spiritual realm. He asked those questions to ten mediums, all purportedly unknown to each other, and documented their responses. From these, he concluded that the best explanation was that personalities that had survived death were the source of at least some mediumistic communications. He became convinced that the mediums: provided accurate information unknown to themselves or others present (e.g. personal information about deceased individuals); demonstrated unlearned skills such as writing by illiterate mediums, handwriting similar to the alleged communicating personality, and speaking or writing in a language unknown to the medium (xenoglossy and xenography); and accurately portrayed a range of personality characteristics of deceased individuals.
He compiled the mediums’ responses that were consistent and adapted them into a philosophy that he called Spiritism, which he initially defined as “a science that deals with the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world.”
Rivail wrote under the name “Allan Kardec”, allegedly following the suggestion of a spirit identified as Truth. On 18 April 1857, Rivail (as Allan Kardec) published his first book on Spiritism, The Spirits’ Book, comprising a series of answered questions (502 in the first edition and 1,019 in later editions) exploring matters concerning the nature of spirits, the spirit world, and the relationship between the spirit world and the material world. This was followed by a series of other books, including The Medium’s Book, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell and The Genesis According to Spiritism, and by a periodical, the Revue Spirite, which Kardec published until his death. Collectively, the books became known as the Spiritist Codification. Kardec’s research influenced the psychical research of Charles Richet, Camille Flammarion and Gabriel Delanne.
François Marie Gabriel Delanne (23 March 1857 – 15 February 1926) was a notable French spiritist, psychical researcher, writer, and electrical engineer. He is best known for his book, “Le Phénomène spirite” (The Spiritist phenomenon).
Delanne was born in Paris in 1857. His father, Alexandre Delanne, was a friend of the well-known founder of Spiritism, Allan Kardec, and his mother was an automatic writing medium . Delanne was one of the principal exponents of Spiritism, apart from Léon Denis after the death of Kardec.
Delanne’s writings were mainly concerned with the question of the immortality of the soul and with reincarnation. As a spiritist, he favoured a scientific approach to psychic phenomena. He managed “La Revue scientifique et morale du spiritisme” (The Scientific and Ethical review of Spiritism), the journal of the “Union Spirite Française” (French Spiritist Union), from its first appearance in March 1883.
Gabriel Delanne died in Paris in 1926, and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Allan Kardec’s grave is at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. On it an inscription says Naitre, mourir, renaitre encore et progresser sans cesse, telle est la loi (“To be born, die, again be reborn, and so progress unceasingly, such is the law”).
After his death caused by aneurysm, Kardec was buried at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Leading astronomer, scientist and Spiritist Camille Flammarion attended his funeral.
William Crookes 1832 – 1919 (aged 86) Sir William Crookes was an English chemist and physicist who attended the Royal College of Chemistry in London, and worked on spectroscopy. He was a pioneer of vacuum tubes, inventing the Crookes tube which was made in 1875. Late in life, he became interested in spiritualism, and became the president of the Society for Psychical Research. Crookes was one of the most eminent British scientists of his generation, born in London, the eldest of 16 siblings. His interest in spiritualism flourished in the late 1860s. In this he was possibly influenced by the death of his younger brother Philip in 1867 at age 21 from yellow fever contracted while on an expedition to lay a telegraph cable from Cuba to Florida. In 1867, influenced by Cromwell Fleetwood Varley, Crookes attended a séance to try to get in touch with his brother.
Between 1871 and 1874, Crookes studied the mediums Kate Fox, Florence Cook, and Daniel Dunglas Home. After his investigation he believed that the mediums could produce genuine paranormal phenomena and communicate with spirits. Psychologists Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones have described Crookes as gullible as he endorsed fraudulent mediums as genuine. The anthropologist Edward Clodd noted that Crookes had poor eyesight which may have explained his belief in spiritualist phenomena and quoted William Ramsay as saying Crookes is “so shortsighted that, despite his unquestioned honesty, he cannot be trusted in what he tells you he has seen.” Biographer William Hodson Brock wrote that Crookes was “evidently short-sighted, but did not wear spectacles until the 1890s. Until then he may have used a monocle or pocket magnifying glass when necessary. What limitations this imposed upon his psychic investigations we can only imagine.”
After studying the reports of Florence Cook, the science historian Sherrie Lynne Lyons wrote that the alleged spirit “Katie King” was Cook herself and at other times an accomplice. Regarding Crookes, Lyons wrote “Here was a man with a flawless scientific reputation, who discovered a new element, but could not detect a real live maiden who was masquerading as a ghost.” Cook was repeatedly exposed as a fraudulent medium but she had been “trained in the arts of the séance” which managed to trick Crookes. Some researchers such as Trevor H. Hall suspected that Crookes had an affair with Cook, at best clouding his judgement as a result, at worst he simply endorsed her abilities for sex.
In a series of experiments in London at the house of Crookes in February 1875, the medium Anna Eva Fay managed to fool Crookes into believing she had genuine psychic powers. Fay later confessed to her fraud and revealed the tricks she had used. Regarding Crookes and his experiments with mediums, the magician Harry Houdini suggested that Crookes had been deceived. The physicist Victor Stenger wrote that the experiments were poorly controlled and “his desire to believe blinded him to the chicanery of his psychic subjects.”
In 1897, John Grier Hibben wrote that Crookes’ idea of ether waves explaining telepathy was not a scientific hypothesis “he presents no facts to indicate its probability or to save it from being relegated to the sphere of bare conjecture.”
In 1906, William Hope tricked Crookes with a fake spirit photograph of his wife. Oliver Lodge revealed there had been obvious signs of double exposure, the picture of Lady Crookes had been copied from a wedding anniversary photograph, however, Crookes was a convinced spiritualist and claimed it was genuine evidence for spirit photography.
Crookes joined the Society for Psychical Research, becoming its president in the 1890s. He also joined the Theosophical Society and The Ghost Club, of which he was president from 1907 to 1912. In 1890 he was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Although his Spiritualism was mired in controversy, his intellectual credentials were, and are, unassailable.
Helen Duncan born Callender, Scotland (1897 to 1956) aka “The Last Witch” , a Scottish medium best known as the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of .
Arguably the most controversial medium of the 20th Century, Duncan was celebrated, fined, imprisoned, questioned as an enemy spy, courted by Sir Winston Churchill who visited her as a client, feted and reviled in the press, the subject of feverish debate in the House of Commons, and was the cause celebre which saw the repeal of the Witchcraft Act of 1735.
(Victoria) Helen MacFarlane was born in Callander, Perthshire on November 25, 1897. As a child her other worldly behaviour frightened her mother and scared her friends and school mates. She married Henry Duncan and became a mother of six, but fell pregnant a dozen times In 1926 she began holding séances, during these séances she claimed to be able to summon the recently deceased, and when these spirits were summoned she would emit ectoplasm from her mouth. Duncan was a Spiritualist Materialisation Medium through whose body, milky ectoplasm flowed and formed into complete human figures, which could walk and talk and greet their living relatives with intimate secrets known only within their families.
In 1928 Harvey Metcalfe, a photographer attended a series of séances with Duncan. During these events he claimed he took various photos of Duncan and her “spirits”, including her spirit guide “Peggy” but the photographs were subsequently exposed as fraudulent, an accusation also levelled at her production of ectoplasm. In 1933 she was prosecuted and fined £10 . She served a nine month prison sentence for providing a “false séance” in a later offence.
By the 1930s and 1940s she was travelling the length of wartime Britain giving regular seances in hundreds of Spiritualist churches, the evidence that was provided caused a sensation.
During WWII, Duncan’s accurate ‘death notices’ increased her fame, she was in great demand from anxious relatives, especially those who had lost close family on active war service or who were listed as missing.. In November 1941, during World War II , Duncan held a séance in Portsmouth, which took her infamy, notoriety, and celebrity to a new level. During this séance she claimed a sailor materialized before and told her HMS Barham had sunk. This information had only been revealed to family members of the casualties and was not made public until January 1942. The Navy became interested in her as a result. Two naval lieutenants were sent to attend further séances, following which she was arrested under suspicion of her being a spy or German agent.
Later a leak concerning the Barham was discovered, secretary of the First Lord had been indiscreet to Professor Michael Postan of the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Postan escaped arrest by insisting that he had made a mistake by believing the information had been imparted on an official basis.
Initially she was arrested under section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, a minor offence tried by magistrates, as a holding charge. After investigation, this was then upgraded to a charge under section 4 of the Witchcraft Act 1735, covering fraudulent “spiritual” activity, which was triable before a jury. Charged alongside her for conspiracy to contravene this Act were Ernest and Elizabeth Homer, who operated the Psychic centre in Portsmouth, and Frances Brown, who was Duncan’s agent who went with her to set up séances. There were seven counts in total, two of conspiracy to contravene the Witchcraft Act, two of obtaining money by false pretences, and three of public mischief (a common law offence). The prosecution reflected wartime paranoia about where she was obtaining classified information and concern that she was exploiting the recently bereaved, as the Recorder noted when passing sentence. That paranoia included a fear that she would divulge the date of the D Day landings.
The trial was a sensation in wartime London. A number of prominent people, among them Alfred Dodd academic, historian and Shakespeare expert, testified positively on her authenticity. Two equally respected journalists, James Herries and Hannen Swaffer also testified on her behalf. Swaffer was a London media celebrity and darling of the Theatre world. He was also co-founder of the Spiritualist weekly “Psychic News”, with Arthur Findlay. Contemporary accounts show he milked the occasion for all it was worth. James Herries, himself a Justice of the Peace, a much respected psychic investigator of some 20 years standing and the chief reporter of the prestigious and influential “Scotsman” broadsheet affirmed that he had seen Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famed author of the Sherlock Holmes books, himself materialise at one of Helen Duncan’s seances. He had especially noted the distinctive Doyle rounded features, moustache and equally unmistakable gravelly voice. Herries and Findlay were well known friends on the Glasgow social circuit.
The jury brought in a guilty verdict on count one, and the judge then discharged them from giving verdicts on the other counts, as he held that they were alternative offences for which Duncan might have been convicted had the jury acquitted her on the first count. In 1944, Duncan was one of the last people convicted under the Witchcraft Act 1735, which made falsely claiming to procure spirits a crime. She was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment. She was not given leave to appeal to the House of Lords. After the verdict, Winston Churchill wrote a memo to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, complaining about the misuse of court resources on the “obsolete tomfoolery” of the charge and subsequently visited her in Holloway prison in London. Churchill spoke of his psychic beliefs in his autobiography and was a member of the Grand Ancient Order of Druids.
There was a sense that an injustice had been done, and it is reported that extended to the warders at Holloway. For the entire nine months Helen Duncan’s prison cell door was never once locked and she continued to apply her psychic gifts as a constant steam of warders and inmates alike found their way to her cell for spiritual upliftment and guidance
On her release in 1945, Ms. Duncan promised to stop conducting séances, but was arrested again during another séance in 1956. Duncan’s trial almost certainly contributed to the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, which was contained in the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 promoted by Walter Monslow, Labour Member of Parliament for Barrow-in-Furness. The campaign to repeal the Act had largely been led by Thomas Brooks, another Labour MP, who was a spiritualist.
Some have claimed that the death of Duncan was caused by a “trance” meeting being disturbed by the police, but her medical records showed that she had a long history of ill-health. Some Spiritualists claim that they have made contact with her sine her passing and that in September 1982, she came through the direct voice medium Rita Goold and spoke to her own daughter, Gina, who confirmed the authenticity of the contact.
Charles Richet 1850 – 1935 (aged 85) was a French physiologist at the Collège de France known for his pioneering work in immunology. In 1913, he won the Nobel Prize “in recognition of his work on anaphylaxis”. Richet devoted many years to the study of paranormal and spiritualist phenomena, coining the term “ectoplasm”. He also believed in the inferiority of blacks, was a proponent of eugenics and presided over the French Eugenics Society towards the end of his life.
Richet spent a period of time as an intern at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, where he observed Jean-Martin Charcot’s work with then so called “hysterical” patients
In 1887, Richet became professor of physiology at the Collège de France investigating a variety of subjects such as neurochemistry, digestion, thermoregulation in homeothermic animals, and breathing.In 1898, he became a member of the Académie de Médecine. In 1913, his work with Paul Portier on anaphylaxis the term he coined for a sensitized individual’s sometimes lethal reaction to a second, small-dose injection of an antigen won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The research helped elucidate hay fever, asthma and other allergic reactions to foreign substances and explained some previously not understood cases of intoxication and sudden death. In 1914, he became a member of the Académie des Sciences.
Richet had many interests, and he wrote books about history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, as well as theatre plays and poetry. He was a pioneer in aviation
He was involved in the French pacifist movement. Starting in 1902, pacifist societies began to meet at a National Peace Congress, often with several hundred attendees. Unable to unify the pacifist forces they set up a small permanent delegation of French Pacifist Societies in 1902, which Richet led, together with Lucien Le Foyer as Secretary-General.
Richet held a deep interest in extrasensory perception and hypnosis. In 1884, Alexandr Aksakov interested him in the mediumof Eusapia Palladino. In 1891, Richet founded the Annales des sciences psychiques. He kept in touch with renowned occultists and spiritualists of his time such as Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, Frederic William Henry Myers and Gabriel Delanne. In 1919, Richet became honorary chairman of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris, and, in 1930, full-time president.
As a scientist, Richet was positive about a physical explanation for paranormal phenomena. He wrote: “It has been shown that as regards subjective metapsychics the simplest and most rational explanation is to suppose the existence of a faculty of supernormal cognition … setting in motion the human intelligence by certain vibrations that do not move the normal senses.” In 1905, Richet was named president of the Society for Psychical Research in the United Kingdom.
In 1894, Richet coined the term ectoplasm. Richet believed that some mediumship could be explained physically due to the external projection of a material substance (ectoplasm) from the body of the medium, but denied this substance had anything to do with spirits. He rejected the spirit hypothesis of mediumship as unscientific, instead supporting the sixth sense hypothesis. According to Richet:
It seems to me prudent not to give credence to the spiritistic hypothesis… it appears to me still (at the present time, at all events) improbable, for it contradicts (at least apparently) the most precise and definite data of physiology, whereas the hypothesis of the sixth sense is a new physiological notion which contradicts nothing that we learn from physiology. Consequently, although in certain rare cases spiritism supplies an apparently simpler explanation, I cannot bring myself to accept it. When we have fathomed the history of these unknown vibrations emanating from reality – past reality, present reality, and even future reality – we shall doubtless have given them an unwonted degree of importance. The history of the Hertzian waves shows us the ubiquity of these vibrations in the external world, imperceptible to our senses.”
He hypothesized a “sixth sense”, an ability to perceive hypothetical vibrations, which he discussed in his 1928 book Our Sixth Sense. Although he believed in extrasensory perception, Richet did not believe in life after death or spirits.
He investigated and studied various mediums such as Eva Carrière, William Eglinton, Pascal Forthuny, Stefan Ossowiecki, Leonora Piper and Raphael Schermann. From 1905-1910, Richet attended many séances with the medium Linda Gazzera claiming she was a genuine medium who had performed psychokinesis, i.e. that various objects had been moved in the séance room. Gazzera was exposed as a fraud in 1911. Richet was also fooled into believing Joaquin María Argamasilla, known as the “Spaniard with X-ray Eyes”, had genuine psychic powers, whom Harry Houdini exposed as a fraud in 1924. According to Joseph McCabe, Richet was also duped by the fraudulent mediums Eva Carrière and Eusapia Palladino.
Historian Ruth Brandon also criticized Richet as credulous when it came to psychical research, noting “his will to believe, and his disinclination to accept any unpalatably contrary indications”.
In 1905, Eva Carrière held a series of séances at Villa Carmen and sitters were invited. In these séances she claimed to materialize a spirit called Bien Boa a 300-year-old Brahmin Hindu, however, photographs taken of Boa looked like the figure was made from a large cardboard cutout. In other sittings Richet reported that Boa was breathing, had moved around the room and had touched him, a photograph taken revealed Boa to be a man dressed up in a cloak, helmet and beard.
A newspaper article in 1906 had revealed that an Arab coachman known as Areski who had previously worked at the villa had been hired to play the part of Bien Boa and that the entire thing was a hoax. Areski wrote that he made his appearance into the room by a trapdoor. Carrière had also admitted to being involved with the hoax
Richet with Oliver Lodge, Frederic W. H. Myers and Julian Ochorowicz investigated the medium Eusapia Palladino in the summer of 1894 at his house in the Ile Roubaud in the Mediterranean. Richet claimed furniture moved during the séance and that some of the phenomena was the result of a supernatural agency. However, Richard Hodgson claimed there was inadequate control during the séances and the precautions described did not rule out trickery. Hodgson wrote all the phenomena “described could be account for on the assumption that Eusapia could get a hand or foot free.” Lodge, Myers and Richet disagreed, but Hodgson was later proven correct in the Cambridge sittings as Palladino was observed to have used tricks exactly the way he had described them.
In July 1895, Eusapia Palladino was invited to England to Myers’ house in Cambridge for a series of investigations into her mediumship. According to reports by the investigators Myers and Oliver Lodge, all the phenomena observed in the Cambridge sittings were the result of trickery. Her fraud was so clever, according to Myers, that it “must have needed long practice to bring it to its present level of skill.”
In the Cambridge sittings the results proved disastrous for her mediumship. During the séances Palladino was caught cheating in order to free herself from the physical controls of the experiments. Palladino was found liberating her hands by placing the hand of the controller on her left on top of the hand of the controller on her right. Instead of maintaining any contact with her, the observers on either side were found to be holding each other’s hands and this made it possible for her to perform tricks. Richard Hodgson had observed Palladino free a hand to move objects and use her feet to kick pieces of furniture in the room. Because of the discovery of fraud, the British SPR investigators such as Henry Sidgwick and Frank Podmore considered Palladino’s mediumship to be permanently discredited and because of her fraud she was banned from any further experiments with the SPR in Britain
In the British Medical Journal on 9 November 1895 an article was published titled Exit Eusapia!. The article questioned the scientific legitimacy of the SPR for investigating Palladino a medium who had a reputation of being a fraud and imposter. Part of the article read “It would be comic if it were not deplorable to picture this sorry Egeria surrounded by men like Professor Sidgwick, Professor Lodge, Mr. F. H. Myers, Dr. Schiaparelli, and Professor Richet, solemnly receiving her pinches and kicks, her finger skiddings, her sleight of hand with various articles of furniture as phenomena calling for serious study.” This caused Henry Sidgwick to respond in a published letter to the British Medical Journal, 16 November 1895. According to Sidgwick SPR members had exposed the fraud of Palladino at the Cambridge sittings, Sidgwick wrote “Throughout this period we have continually combated and exposed the frauds of professional mediums, and have never yet published in our Proceedings, any report in favour of the performances of any of them.” The response from the Journal questioned why the SPR wastes time investigating phenomena that are the “result of jugglery and imposture” and not urgently concerning the welfare of mankind.
In 1898, Myers was invited to a series of séances in Paris with Richet. In contrast to the previous séances in which he had observed fraud he claimed to have observed convincing phenomena. Sidgwick reminded Myers of Palladino’s trickery in the previous investigations as “overwhelming” but Myers did not change his position. This enraged Richard Hodgson, then editor of SPR publications to ban Myers from publishing anything on his recent sittings with Palladino in the SPR journal. Hodgson was convinced Palladino was a fraud and supported Sidgwick in the “attempt to put that vulgar cheat Eusapia beyond the pale.” It wasn’t until the 1908 sittings in Naples that the SPR reopened the Palladino file.
In 1954, the Society for Psychical Research member Rudolf Lambert published a report revealing details about a case of fraud that was covered up by many early members of the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI). Lambert who had studied Gustav Geley’s files on the medium Eva Carrière discovered photographs depicting fraudulent ectoplasm taken by her companion Juliette Bisson. Various “materializations” were artificially attached to Eva’s hair by wires. The discovery was never published by Geley. Eugéne Osty (the director of the institute) and members Jean Meyer, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Richet all knew about the fraudulent photographs but were firm believers in mediumship phenomena so demanded the scandal be kept secret.
Richet was a proponent of eugenics, advocating sterilization and marriage prohibition for those with mental disabilities. He expressed his racist and eugenist ideas in his 1919 book La Sélection Humaine. From 1920 to 1926 he presided over the French Eugenics Society. Psychologist Gustav Jahoda has noted that Richet “was a firm believer in the inferiority of blacks”, comparing black people to apes, and intellectually to imbeciles.
A man of contrasts, his scientific achievements are demonstrable, his psychic research robust, his belief in extoplasm surprising, his denial of an after life strange, his eugenic and racial beliefs the intellectual basis for twentieth century French Fascism.
William Quan Judge (April 13, 1851 – March 21, 1896) was of Anglo – Irish descent and enjoyed fame as a founder of the Theosophical Society, which he led after co -founders Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott left the United States to travel abroad. He became the General Secretary of the American Section of the Theosophical Society in 1884, with Abner Doubleday as President.
The epitome of the hard working immigrant and the possibilities of the American Dream, he arrived from Dublin as a thirteen year old, but by twenty one years of age he had passed the New York state bar exam, specializing in commercial law. An enquiring mind, and a thirst for knowledge drew him to Blavatsky. Although he appears to have been an implementer rather than an innovator his pivotal early role in the Theosophical Society, and its thinking, is beyond question. He was among the seventeen people who formed the Theosophical Society in 1875, and when Olcott and Blavatsky left the United States for India, Judge stayed behind to manage the Society’s work while maintaining his commercial law practice. Inevitably, without Blavatsky’s stardust and energy, the fortunes of the society began to wane. In 1876 while on a business trip to South America he contracted Chagres fever from which he never fully recovered compounding the difficulties of maintaining the Theosophical Society’s fortunes.
Blavatsky and Olcott’s work in India was controversial. Their efforts to revive Hinduism were not welcomed by either the evangelical Christians who had come with British colonisation or the British themselves. In 1882 the international headquarters of the Society was established at Adyar, near Madras. This remains the headquarters for the Society, which is now established in fifty countries of the world. Such was their impact that judge followed them her out to India and Ceylon.
When Judge returned to America in 1875, the Society was moribund, prompting him to initiate his greatest personal achievement, when he launched “The Path”, an independent Theosophical magazine. It transformed him,and the Society, for it showcased his abilities as a compelling, engaging writer. In his first editorial, he wrote: “It is not thought that utopia can be established in a day…Certainly, if we all say that it is useless…nothing will ever be done. A beginning must be made and it has been made by the Theosophical society…Riches are accumulating in the hands of the few while the poor are ground harder every day as they increase in number…All this points unerringly to a vital error somewhere…What is wanted is true knowledge of the spiritual condition of man, his aim, and destiny…those who must begin the reform are those who are so fortunate as to be placed in the world where they can see and think out the problems all are endeavouring to solve, even if they know that the great day may not come until after their death.” “The Christian nations have dazzled themselves with a baneful glitter of material progress. They are not the peoples who will furnish the clearest clues to the Path…The Grand Clock of the Universe points to another hour, and now Man must seize the key in his hands and himself – as a whole – open the gate…Our practice consists in a disregard of any authority in matters of religion and philosophy except such propositions as from their innate quality we feel to be true.”
As his talent became more widely appreciated he wrote for other journals and published “The Ocean of Theosophy” in 1893 . His skills as a lawyer proving invaluable for making his case. His value in founding the Society became clear. For although he was not an original thinker, he was adept at conveying Blavatsky’s thoughts, and in so doing, “The Path” publication became the vehicle for consolidating what the Society had already achieved, and expanding from it. He referred to his first encounter with Blavatsky, thus:
“It was her eye that attracted me, the eye of one whom I must have known in lives long passed away. She looked at me in recognition for that first hour, and never since has that look changed. Not as a questioner of philosophies did I come before her, not as one groping in the dark for lights that schools and fanciful theories had obscured, but as one who, wandering through the corridors of life, was seeking the friends who could show where the designs for the work had been hidden. And, true to the call, she responded, revealing plans once again, and speaking no words to explain, simply pointed them out and went on with the task. It was as if but the evening before we had parted, leaving yet to be done some detail of a task taken up with one common end; it was teacher and pupil, elder brother and younger, both bent on the one single end, but she with the power and knowledge that belong but to lions and sages.”
After Blavatsky died in 1891, Judge became involved in a dispute with Olcott, and British Theosophist and supporter of Indian Home Rule, Annie Besant, whom he considered to have deviated from the original teaching of the Mahatmas. As a result, he ended his association with Olcott and Besant during 1895 and took most of the Society’s American Section with him. Despite being hounded by Besant’s followers , Judge managed his new organization for about a year until his death in New York City, in 1896.
In 1898, Ernest Temple Hargrove, who had initially supported Tingley, left with other members to form the Theosophical Society in America (Hargrove) Branch. Other new organizations split off from his, including the Temple of the People (whose library bears his name) during 1898 and the United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT during 1909.
He became the General Secretary of the American Section of the Theosophical Society in 1884, with Abner Doubleday as President. often referred to the founding of the Theosophical Society as coming about as a result of occult direction from her teachers. Judge would later write that the objects of the Society had been given to Olcott by the Masters before the meeting at which they were adopted.
In 1881, looking back on the founding of the Blavatsky Society, Blavatsky wrote: “Our society as a body might certainly be wrecked by mismanagement or the death of its founders, but the IDEA which it represents and which has gained so wide a currency, will run on like a crested wave of thought until it dashes upon the hard beach where materialism is picking and sorting its pebbles…” At this time, the affairs of the Society were largely in Olcott’s hands. Meetings were held irregularly, and many plans for occult experimentation were proposed. Neither Blavatsky nor Judge took any active part in the meetings after the first few sessions. He was busy with his law practice. She was beginning to write her first book, Isis Unveiled.
Colonel Henry Steel Olcott 2 August 1832 – 17 February 1907) enjoyed a remarkable life an American military officer, journalist, lawyer , co-founder and first President of the Theosophical Society and inspiration to the revival of Buddhism and Nationalism in Sri Lanka.
From 1858 to 1860 Olcott was the agricultural correspondent for the New York Tribune at which he learned the journalist’s craft. During the American Civil War he served in the Army and afterward was admitted as the Special Commissioner of the War Department in New York. He was later promoted to the rank of colonel and transferred to the Department of the Navy in Washington, DC. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he assisted in the investigation of the assassination. Upon leaving the military in 1868 he became a lawyer specializing in insurance, revenue, and fraud.
He came to wide prominence as the first distinguished American to convert to Buddhism, a decision which scandalised high society at the time. His subsequent actions as president of the Theosophical Society, together with those of Helena Blavatsky helped create a renaissance in the study of Buddhism, and was amongst the first to popularise Buddhism to a Western audience. Remarkably he is canonised in Sri Lanka for helping to shape their modern religious, national and cultural revival identity.
In 1874 he became aware of the séances of the Eddy Brothers of Chittenden, Vermont. His interest aroused, Olcott wrote an article for the New York Sun, in which he investigated Eddy Farms. His article was popular enough that other papers, such as the New York Daily Graphic, republished it. His 1874 publication People from the Other World began with his early articles concerning the Spiritualist movement.
Also in 1874, Olcott met Helena Blavatsky while both were visiting the Eddy farm. His interest in the Spiritualist movement and his personal chemistry with Blavatsky resulted in the creation of the Theosophical Society barely a year later, in 1875 which he financially supported with him as President and Blavatsky as Secretary. In December 1878, they left New York in order to move the headquarters of the Society to India. They landed at Bombay on February 16, 1879. Olcott aimed to experience the native country of his spiritual leader, the Buddha and inspect original spiritual and religious texts before translation. He suspected that versions circulating in the West had drifted some way off the sense of the originals. The headquarters of the Society were established at Adyar, Chennai, as the Theosophical Society Adyar, incorprating the Adyar Library and Research Centre within the headquarters.
Olcott’s main religious interest was Buddhism, and he is commonly known for his work in Sri Lanka. After a two-year correspondence with Ven. Piyarathne Thissa, he and Blavatsky arrived in the then capital Colombo on May 16, 1880. Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steele Olcott took Five Precepts at the Wijayananda Viharaya located at Weliwatta in Galle on May 19, 1880 and on that day Olcott and Blavatsky were formally acknowledged as Buddhists, further to their previous Stateside declaration
During his time in Sri Lanka Olcott strove to revive Buddhism within the region, while compiling the tenets of Buddhism for the education of Westerners. It was during this period that he wrote the Buddhist Catechism (1881), which is still used today. It is one of his most enduring contributions to the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The text outlines what Olcott saw to be the basic doctrines of Buddhism, including the life of the Buddha, the message of the Dharma, the role of the Sangha. The text also treats how the Buddha’s message correlates with contemporary society. Olcott was considered by South Asians and others as a Buddhist revivalist, and his work resonated back in the West too.
Olcott’s catechism reflects a new, post-Enlightenment interpretation of traditional Buddhist tenets. As David McMahan stated, “[Olcott] allied Buddhism with scientific rationalism in implicit criticism of orthodox Christianity, but went well beyond the tenets of conventional science in extrapolating from the Romantic- and Transcendentalist-influenced ‘occult sciences’ of the nineteenth century.”
The Theosophists combination of spiritualism and science to investigate the supernatural reflected the society’s desire to combine of religion and reason and to produce a rationally spiritual movement. This “occult science” within the Theosophical Society was used to find the “truth” behind all of the world’s major religions. Through their research, Olcott and Blavatsky concluded that Buddhism best embodied elements of what they found significant in all religions.
Olcott utilized scientific reasoning in his synthesis and presentation of Buddhism. This is clearly seen in a chapter of his “Buddhist Catechism”, entitled “Buddhism and Science”. Notably, his efforts represent one of the earliest attempts to combine scientific understanding and reasoning with Buddhist religion. The interrelationship he saw between Buddhism and Science paralleled his Theosophical approach to show the scientific bases for supernatural phenomena such as auras, hypnosis, and Buddhist “miracles”.
The Theosophical Society built several Buddhist schools in Ceylon, most notably Ananda College in Colombo, Mahinda College in Galle, Dharmaraja College in Kandy and Maliyadeva College in Kurunegala. Olcott also acted as an adviser to the committee appointed to design a Buddhist flag in 1885. The Buddhist flag designed with the assistance of Olcott was later adopted as a symbol by the World Fellowship of Buddhists and as the universal flag of all Buddhist traditions.
Helena Blavatsky eventually went to live in London, where she died in 1891, but Olcott stayed in India and pursued the work of the Theosophical Society there. Olcott’s role in the Theosophical Society would still be as President, but the induction of Annie Besant sparked a new era of the movement. Upon his death, the Theosophical Society elected her to take over as President and leader of the movement.
Annie Besant, née Wood (1847 – 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule and President of the Theosophy Society.
In 1867, Annie at age 20, married Frank Besant, a clergyman, and they had two children, but Annie’s increasingly anti-religious views led to a legal separation in 1873. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society (NSS) and writer and a close friend of Charles Bradlaugh. In 1877 they were prosecuted for publishing a book by birth control campaigner Charles Knowlton. The scandal made them famous, and Bradlaugh was elected M.P. for Northampton in 1880.
She became involved with union actions including the Bloody Sunday demonstration and the London matchgirls strike of 1888. She was a leading speaker for the Fabian Society and the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). She was elected to the London School Board for Tower Hamlets, topping the poll even though few women were qualified to vote at that time.
In 1890 Besant met Helena Blavatsky and over the next few years her interest in theosophy grew while her interest in secular matters waned. She became a member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent lecturer on the subject. As part of her theosophy-related work, she travelled to India. In 1898 she helped establish the Central Hindu College and in 1922 she helped establish the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board in Mumbai, India. In 1902, she established the first overseas Lodge of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain. Over the next few years she established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1907 she became President of the Theosophical Society, whose international headquarters were in Adyar, Madras, (Chennai).
She also became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress. When World War I broke out in 1914, she helped launch the Home Rule League to campaign for democracy in India and dominion status within the Empire. This led to her election as president of the India National Congress in late 1917. In the late 1920s, Besant travelled to the United States with her protégé and adopted son Jiddu Krishnamurti, who she claimed was the new Messiah and incarnation of Buddha. Krishnamurti rejected these claims in 1929. After the war, she continued to campaign for Indian independence and for the causes of theosophy, until her death in 1933
Besant had met fellow theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater in London in April 1894. They became close co-workers in the theosophical movement and would remain so for the rest of their lives. Leadbeater claimed clairvoyance and reputedly helped Besant become clairvoyant herself in the following year. In a letter dated 25 August 1895 to Francisca Arundale, Leadbeater narrates how Besant became clairvoyant. Together they clairvoyantly investigated the universe, matter, thought-forms, and the history of mankind, and co-authored a book called Occult Chemistry.
In 1906 Leadbeater became the centre of controversy when it emerged that he had advised the practice of masturbation to some boys under his care and spiritual instruction. Leadbeater stated he had encouraged the practice to keep the boys celibate, which was considered a prerequisite for advancement on the spiritual path. Because of the controversy, he offered to resign from the Theosophical Society in 1906, which was accepted. The next year Besant became president of the society and in 1908, with her express support, Leadbeater was readmitted to the society. Leadbeater went on to face accusations of improper relations with boys, but none of the accusations were ever proven and Besant never deserted him.
Until Besant’s presidency, the society had as one of its foci Theravada Buddhism and the island of Sri Lanka, where Henry Olcott did the majority of his useful work. Under Besant’s leadership there was more stress on the teachings of “The Aryavarta”, as she called central India, as well as on esoteric Christianity.
Besant set up a new school for boys, the Central Hindu College (CHC) at Banaras which was formed on underlying theosophical principles, and which counted many prominent theosophists in its staff and faculty. Its aim was to build a new leadership for India. The students spent 90 minutes a day in prayer and studied religious texts, but they also studied modern science. It took 3 years to raise the money for the CHC, most of which came from Indian princes. In April 1911, Besant met Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and they decided to unite their forces and work for a common Hindu University at Banaras. Besant and fellow trustees of the Central Hindu College also agreed to Government of India’s precondition that the college should become a part of the new University. The Banaras Hindu University started functioning from 1 October 1917 with the Central Hindu College as its first constituent college. That legacy remains to this day.
Blavatsky had stated in 1889 that the main purpose of establishing the society was to prepare humanity for the future reception of a “torch-bearer of Truth”, an emissary of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy that, according to theosophists, guides the evolution of mankind. This was repeated by Besant as early as 1896; Besant came to believe in the imminent appearance of the “emissary”, who was identified by theosophists as the so-called World Teacher.
Henry Sidgwick (1838 – 28 August 1900) was born in Skipton, Yorkshire the son of a grammar school Headmaster, and became a prominent classicist, philanthropist, philosopher and economist holding the Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy from the year 1883 until his death . His place in the development of Spiritualism results from him being a founder and first president of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and a member of the Metaphysical Society. He promoted the higher education of women, founding the women only Newnham college in Cambridge, and is a seminal figure in the development of economics. Politically he was a Liberal Unionist, a party that became assimilated into the Conservative party.
In 1869, he left the Church of England, and described himself as a theist, independent from established religion. Although he saw Christianity as “indispensable and irreplaceable – looking at it from a sociological point of view,” he never returned to Christianity and died an agnostic, buried at Terling All Saints Churchyard, Terling, Essex, with his wife not far from Stansted Hall, home of Arthur Findlay, and now home of the SNU.
Sidgwick’s academic credibility made him a force to be reckoned with when the SPR was created reflecting the burgeoning academic, social, and religious interest in Spiritualism at the time in 1882. It survives to this day in London and Cambridge.
The Society, and Sidgwick, became embroiled in the “Eusapia Palladino Scandal (1895)”, in which her mediumship was exposed as fraudulent when it was tested by eminent members of the Society including Frederic Myers and Oliver Lodge.
Because of the discovery of fraud, the British SPR investigators including Sidgwick and Frank Podmore considered Palladino’s mediumship to be permanently discredited. She was banned from any further experiments with the SPR in Britain. The scandal provoked a confrontation with the British Medical Journal which questioned the scientific legitimacy of the SPR to investigate Palladino, with e Professor Sidgwick, Professor Lodge, Mr. F. H. Myers, and Professor Richet all smeared by association.
This caused Sidgwick to respond in a published letter to the British Medical Journal, 16 November 1895 making a vigorous defence of the SPR in its rigor in exposing fraudulent practices. Palladino did not go away. In 1898, Myers was invited to a series of séances wither in Paris with Charles Richet, their conclusions endorsed Palladino’s authentic mediumship causing an internal SPR spat in which Richard Hodgson, editor of SPR publications, banned Myers from publishing anything on his recent sittings with Palladino in the SPR journal.
Sidgwick leaves a towering legacy academically, socially for work with his work at Girton College, and spiritually in his founding stewardship of the SPR which still prospers today
Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer 1734 – 1815) was a German medical doctor. His lifetime pre-dates the Golden Age of Spiritualism, but his work helped lay the foundations for it. His contribution was twofold. Firstly, he pioneered modern hypnotism, secondly he believed that a transfer of energy was possible between animate and inanimate objects in a process called animal magnetism. Confusingly, it is the latter which was contemporaneously referred to as mesmerism, even though today the word mesmerise is associated with hypnotism. The term hypnosis itself was coined in 1843 by the Scottish physician James Braid, defined as the invocation of a trance like state , which Mesmer induced by hypnosis, underpinning Spiritualist thought ever since. Animal magnetism became hugely popular throughout the 19th Century.
While Mesmer, who was no religious thinker, advanced hypnosis and animal magnetism, so Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) who was, claimed to be able to contact the spirit world. Together they had provided the conceptual building blocks for Spiritualism to advance. It was a potent synthesis and Mesmerism practitioners were inspired in Europe and particularly North America, where showmanship and occasion were central to the performances. Most prominent of these was American Andrew Jackson Davis, who called his system the “harmonial philosophy”. Davis was a practicing Mesmerist, faith healer and clairvoyant from Poughkeepsie, New York who was an adherent of the cutting edge, French Associationist socialist theories of Fourierism. His 1847 book, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind was greatly influential at the time.
Mesmer studied medicine at the University of Vienna in 1759 and published a doctoral dissertation which discussed the influence of the Moon and the planets on the human body and on disease, building largely on Isaac Newton’s theory of the tides. A man of some standing, he married Anna Maria von Posch, a wealthy widow, and established himself as a physician in the Austrian capital Vienna. In the summers he lived on a grand estate and became a patron of the arts including Mozart, who became a friend and name checks him in his opera “Così Fan Tutte”. Mesmer’s medical work became increasingly experimental. In 1774, Mesmer claimed to have produced an “artificial tide” in a patient, Francisca Österlin, who suffered from hysteria, by having her swallow a preparation containing iron and then attaching magnets to various parts of her body. She reported feeling streams of a mysterious fluid running through her body and was relieved of her symptoms for several hours. Mesmer did not believe that the magnets had achieved the cure on their own. He felt that he had contributed animal magnetism, which had accumulated in his work, to her and stopped using magnets as a part of his treatment. He was also asked by the Munich Academy of Sciences to pass judgement on exorcisms as his fame grew,
In 1784 King Louis XVI appointed four members of the Faculty of Medicine as commissioners to investigate animal magnetism . At the request of these commissioners the King appointed five additional commissioners from the Royal Academy of Sciences. These included the chemist Antoine Lavoisier, the physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly, and the American ambassador. Later to become President, Benjamin Franklin. The report was not favourable, with one dissenting voice. As a practitioner his star subsequently waned, although his ideas and followers prospered.
Today, animal magnetism and being mesmerised have shifted in meaning, yet can be traced back to Mesmer. That he was rubbing shoulders with Mozart, and having his theories tested by the likes of Louis XVI and Benjamin Franklin a testament to his contemporary stature.