Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Speakers for the living

Leonora Piper, William James's "White Crow"

I've been drawn back into the world of the Victorian spirit hunters, especially that great and eloquent pioneer of psychic research and psychology, Frederick (F.W.H.) Myers, and his famous American friend William James. 

There is an amazing moment in one of James's sessions with Leonora Piper, the Boston medium James studied and consulted over many years and came to call his "white crow".* She was supposedly communicating on behalf of Richard Hodgson, a great friend of James who had been secretary of the American Society of Psychical Research. Though "tremendously athletic", according to James, Dick Hodgson had died suddenly playing handball, leaving two book projects unfinished - and a half-joking promise that, if he died first, he would communicate from the Other Side and provide evidence of survival.

James grilled the Hodgson personality over and over, seeking proof positive that it was the dead man talking, through the revelation of personal secrets and codes neither the medium nor the sitter could have known. The demands this approach imposed on Hodgson's memory (assuming it was Hodgson) became ridiculous. Assessing the notes from these long sessions (James conceded) bored him "almost to extinction". 

But then something will come through that is thrilling even to a skeptical reader a century later. Here's what got me very excited, in the transcript of a "voice-sitting" on May 21, 1906:

Speaking through Mrs Piper, Hodgson tells James that Myers (who died in 1901) is with him. "Myers and I are also interested in the Society over here. You understand that we have to have a medium on this side while you have a medium on your side, and through the two we communicate with you."

The "Society" mentioned is the Society for Psychical Research, which was (and is) dedicated to producing evidence of "supernormal" (Myers' phrase) phenomena, including contact between the living and the deceased. Think about the statement made via Mrs. Piper's vocal chords. While there is a Society for Psychical Research on this side, there is a similar Society on the Other Side. They, too, hold seances or sittings with mediums. While James is listening to the voice of his dead friend through a speaker for the dead, Hodgson is apparently listening to the voice of his living friend through a speaker for the living. 

Was this the ultimate folie de grandeur of a psychic charlatan, promoting her own profession - that of medium - to the status of indispensability on the Other Side? I have a notion that this part of the reading, at least, can be trusted. There are sensitives among us who are more able than others to pick up presences and messages from the Other Side. It's not such a stretch to suppose that in the same way, there are people on the Other Side who are better as inter-world communicators than others, and may even have the ability to call spirits of the living for a session with relatives or colleagues who are eager to talk with them.

*  Having concluded that Mrs Piper's communications were for real, even though the sources could not be determined beyond doubt, William James declared: "If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, it is enough if you prove that one crow is white. My white crow is Mrs. Piper." [William James on Psychical Research edited by Gardner Murphy and Robert O. Ballou. New YorK: The Viking Press, 1960, 41]


honor woodard said...

I wonder if it's just inter-dimensional communication - that the dead aren't so much "dead" as just in another dimension of life - in that case it makes a lot of sense that we are conjuring each other though skilled ones who know how to do so, not unlike skilled, gifted dreamworkers such as you, Robert. Very interesting post. Thanks.

Don said...

Hi Robert,

This sort of thing fascinates me greatly. And I am full of questions. I am convinced of survival on the Other Side. When I married, my wife told me that she had never met anyone from Hawaii who wasn’t superstitious. But I have seen ghosts and spirits. That was common in Hawaii in the old days. It is not superstition.

One of my many questions is that if ghosts are spirits of those who have passed over, why are they clothed? Their clothing was not living and did not die. So why is it still covering the ghost? I think the ghosts, as we see them, are projections of how they wish to be seen. But that is only my guess.

There was one instance of a highway in Hawaii, over the Nuuanu Pali, being blocked by a ghost. People driving up the highway came screaming back at dangerously high speeds, utterly terrified. The police investigated, and they came racing back as fast as they could, also terrified. There were two officers who said they did not believe in ghosts. They went up there only to drive back at high speed, terrified. They said they still didn’t believe in ghosts, but they believed in that, and they weren’t going back there no matter what it cost them.

A huna shaman was called. They drove him up as close as they dared. He walked on up to where the ghost was seen. He had offerings, of course. He found that the ghost was a huna shaman of the Aama Clan who had been violently killed there when Kamehameha conquered the islands and set himself up as king of all Hawaii.

The ghost and the huna had a conversation. The ghost accepted the offering, left the area, and has never appeared there since. This occurred in late 1947 or early 1948. I do not remember for sure. The highway really was blocked by that ghost.

If you ever have a chance to go to a place where something like that is happening, don’t. It is pure terror.

I am reminded of Jane Roberts and Seth. And there are other documented accounts of people communicating with people on the Other Side. Not angry ghosts like the one I just wrote about. There are people on the Other Side, too, who really do wish to communicate.

I like to think that those on the Other Side are better informed than we are. But in all honesty I have to question that. But I do not question that communication is possible.

Thank you for posting this. I would like to learn more about this kind of thing. (Perhaps I will soon. I am getting old. :-) )


Robert Moss said...

Hi Don

Thanks so much for that chiller of a ghost story from Hawaii. I would love to have the full details of what the kahuna did to propitiate and move along the ghost of his former colleague. I have been in a "ghost valley" on Oahu where the energy presence of a dead sorcerer was so oppressive it spooked a large group of otherwise rational scientists and scholars.

As for your very provocative question, we could say that ghosts, by definition, are decease people who have NOT "passed away". They are energy forms - containing varying amounts of intelligence or spirit - that have remained earthbound for one reason or another. Such energy forms are MEANT to be dropped after death like outworn garments, just as the physical body was dropped. Since this has not happened, it doesn't seem surprising to me that the ghost may appear clothed as the person was in life, not because the deceased has chosen to project this semblance, but because - being stuck and lacking imagination - he or she has failed to cast off old forms.

When the deceased are NOT earthbound but appear to the living on a more spiritual living, they do often choose their costumes, as you suggest. Not only clothes but their seeming age and physical appearance. I posted a little article about that here:

Robert Moss said...

Honor - Yes, of course the "dead" are only dead in the physical sense; they are alive in other dimensions, near or far. By my experience and observation, we do indeed "conjure" each other, and we don't need to go to a seance-room to accomplish that. Much of the traffic goes on in what, for the living, are dream states.

Robert Moss said...

Don - Returning to your question about clothing of the deceased, I want to share a statement from someone alive on the Other Side:

"We were accustomed to wear clothes that belonged to our particular period. The images of these are deeply marked in our subconscious memory. So our first instinct is to appear to those we love as we were on earth. Our minds, though unconscious of the imaginative act, fashion out of this amazingly plastic ether every thread, every inch of the garments which we habitually wore during our earth life. Naturally, after a while, we come to realise the change in ourselves and, aware at last of the creative powers of imagination, devise strange and lovely coverings for our etheric bodies. But as these fancies are largely drawn from it they are limited by the subconscious memory in character and kind."

The statement is from F.W.H.Myers, the great Victorian psychic researcher, as channeled by the medium Geraldine Cummins; it was published in a book titled "Beyond Human Personality". I hasten to add that I cannot judge whether the speaker is truly Myers; but the content seems to me entirely plausible.

nina said...
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Robert Moss said...

Nina - I've had considerable resistance to channeled material for most of my life, maybe due in part to the fact that one of my maternal ancestors was a tremendously gifted psychic medium. My own path has been one of direct experience in which I try to remain in full possession of my faculties, exercising my full power to navigate and co-create.

However, some very important material, worthy of serious study and reflection, has come via psychic mediums. Jane Roberts' Seth material is a remarkable example, still offering (in my humble opinion) one of the best and clearest models of the multidimensional self that we have available on this side. And I would gently counsel you not to dismiss the whole corpus. I am in process of re-reading and re-appraising channeled texts in which the great Victorian researchers of "supernormal" phenomena and survival dictated accounts of their experiences in the afterworld. Some of this is very good stuff, whatever we may consider the source to be.

Anonymous said...

Now I am not particularly psychic in any way shape or form, but I trust that communication with our departed friends is totally possible. I lost a girlfriend to cancer way too early-her early 40's. I worked with her and we had a blast together fighting the good fight at work. A few years after her passing, I was working at another company under stress on a deadline working on documentation, when I felt somebody poke me - and then heard her voice plain as day saying my name. Shocked me, because she was infamous for knocking me out of my work trances in the same way while she was alive. I wasn't the least bit scared - no denying who it was, and the message that work's really not all that important. It still puts a smile on my face to know that she's keeping an eye on me, making sure I don't overwork myself. I did take the instance as an indicator to not work so much, and slowed down a bit. Not heard from her again, but I'm sure if the same situation comes up again, I'll get another reminder.


Robert Moss said...

Grace - Thanks for sharing this encounter. Contact with the deceased is entirely natural because either (1) they are still around (2) they come visiting or (3) we travel to their realm, especially in dreams. My DREAMER'S BOOK OF THE DEAD is all about this.

nina said...
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susan said...

such fascinating discussions happen on your blog, Robert. & enlightening as well. always loved just about everything I read of William James but had never gotten to this. delightful! I guess I would just add a note of support to Nina - our inner compass tells us where we need to go, when to listen, etc. so many different drummers!

Robert Moss said...

Nina - I like the image of you putting on your "Eskimo" coat to leave a man who cares nothing for soul. Indelible in my mind is the statement of an Eskimo (Inuit) shaman to the explorer Knud Rasmussen in the early 20th century: "The only thing of value in a man is the soul."

Perhaps I should clarify that my own path is not that of the seance room or the channeler. I practice and teach direct paths to revelation. I have had to crank myself round to listening, with skeptical tolerance, to some of the channeled material. The discovery of the Jane Roberts/Seth material - belated, because of my long resistance - was a turning point.In the context of your dream, it is interesting to note that the subtitle of the first Seth book that I read, "Seth Speaks", is: "The Eternal Validity of the Soul." The content is all about encouraging people to work with their dreams and abandon the fast foods and dusty plates of consensual reality. So if your dream were mine, I might have different ideas about who my family wanted me to marry...

Robert Moss said...

Susan - Absolutely. And our dreams restore our inner compass.

susan said...

ahhh..Robert. so reassuring for those of us who are less than diligent with keeping our dream journals! no matter what, the inner compass is refreshed, replenished (restored) :)

Don said...

Back again, Robert,

Here is another type of contact with the Other Side that will almost certainly interested you.

My youngest daughter has had many precognitive dreams that have been proven to be accurate.. She had four children and was able to communicate with them before they were conceived, and while they were in her womb. Her last one was uncertain if he wanted to incarnate or not. My daughter talked with him about it in her dreams, but encouraged him to do what he felt was best. She let him know that she would love to have him for her son. He is my youngest grandson.

We almost lost my youngest daughter through miscarriage. I found my wife crying in anguish with blood all over her dress. We used every kind of technique, ritual, and prayer, we knew of to stop the miscarriage. We were able to stop the bleeding before we even reached the doctor’s office. The doctor was not able to do much of anything. I think that is proof that those mystic skills do work.

I think that "before-birth experience" probably allows my daughter to access the Other Side better than most other people do. And my daughter’s dream communication with people on the Other Side not only verifies the existence of the Other Side, but it verifies the value of dreams.

In your response to my previous post you wondered how the huna shaman contacted the ghost huna. That incident happened about 65 years ago. If I knew for sure, I forgot. But I think it was the other way around. I suspect that the ghost probably went after the huna demanding to know why he was there and what he wanted.

You sure got a lot of interest with your post. That is wonderful!

Robert Moss said...

Don - Thanks so much for sharing the marvelous double-header of how your youngest daughter came into the world and how she was able to help her own children to come through. The Aborigines of my native Australia say that every spirit that is on its way to being born in a body needs a SPIRITUAL parent (who may or may not be one of the biological parents) to help reassure it that it is coming to the right place. I think they are right. And it seems that the natural wisdom of your family has led you to operate in this way. That is grand.