Scientific Investigation

The scientific investigation of Spiritualism

There is much scientific evidence that supports the Spiritualist philosophy which is based on observable facts. From the beginning of our philosophy, we have a proud record of co-operation with any investigator who was genuine in their desire to investigate our claims. Most of the scientific work was carried out around the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s but more recently ,some excellent studies have been undertaken in universities on the subject of mediumship and in hospitals on the subject of the Near Death Experience (NDE).There are many books written by eminent scientists who have investigated our philosophy. Most of them started out as sceptics and ended up convinced that, at the very least, there are paranormal states of consciousness, whilst many even admitted to being convinced of life beyond the grave.

The best-known investigators are:Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor Frederick William Myers, Dr. Crawford, Dr. Gustav Geley, Prof. Johann Karl Friederich Zollner, Cesare Lombroso, Prof. Enrico Morselli, Prof. Charles Richet, Clamille Flammarion, Dr. Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing and Alfred Russel Wallace. In their day these people had impeccable international reputations as men of science. The contribution made by the abovementioned people to the philosophy of Spiritualism is summed up as follows.

Sir William Crookes – One of England’s most noted chemists and physicists. He conducted many detailed experiments to prove the truths of Spiritualism and he pursued the truth despite criticism from fellow scientists who tried to destroy his reputation simply because he was interested in life after death. He was one of those who tested the famous physical phenomena medium Daniel Home. The results of his experiments, conducted in his own laboratory, were published in the July 1871 edition of the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Science. The report was entirely favourable to Daniel Home. He also investigated Catherine Fox, Florence Cook and Eusapia Palladino and became, through his investigations, an advocate of the Spiritualist movement. He wroteResearches in the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism and The Spiritualist.

Sir Oliver Lodge – A renowned physicist. From 1900-1919 he was the Principal of Birmingham University. He investigated our philosophy and became convinced of the continuance of life after death. He looked upon Spiritualism as a point of interest in psychical research rather than being a religion, and he wrote Raymond or Life and Death in 1916, after having communicated with Raymond through the mediumship of Mrs. Leonard.

Prof. Fredrick William Meyers – Professor at Cambridge University. He co-founded the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 and coined the words “telepathy” and “supernormal”. He wrote Human Personality and It’s Survival of Bodily Death.

Prof. Enrico Morselli – Professor of Psychiatry at Genoa University from 1889 (previously at the University of Turin) was a bitter sceptic of psychic phenomena until Eusapia Palladino, in 30 sittings, completely convinced him of their reality. He was the author of the book Psicologia e Spiritismo, (Psychology and Spiritism) published in two volumes in Turin in 1908. In 1907 in the Annals of Psychic Science (Vol. V., p. 132) he wrote:

“The question of Spiritism has been discussed for over fifty years; and although no one can at present foresee when it will be settled, all are now agreed in assigning to it great importance among the problems left as a legacy by the nineteenth century to the twentieth. If for many years academic science has depreciated the whole category of facts which Spiritism has, for good or ill, rightly or wrongly, absorbed and assimilated to form the elements of its doctrinal system, so much the worse for science. And worse still for the scientists who have remained deaf and blind before all the affirmation, not of credulous sectarians, but of serious and worthy observers such as Crookes, Lodge and Richet. I am not ashamed to say that I myself, as far as my modest power went, have contributed to this obstinate scepticism, up to the day on which I was enabled to break the chains in which my absolutist preconceptions had bound my judgment.”

His psycho-dynamic theory of materialisation phenomena is a compromise between psychological orthodoxy and the spirit theory. It forms an important chapter in research history. An earlier book, more or less on supernormal phenomena, was published by Morselli under the title: Le Magnetisme, la fascination et les etats hypnotiques.

 
Prof. Johann Karl Friedrich Zollner (1834-1882) – University of Leipsic – professor of physics and astronomy. Prof. Johann Zollner worked with medium Henry Slade who was well known for his slate writing feats. The studied phenomena included knots tied in endless cords, materialisation of hands, disappearance and reappearance of solid objects and matter through matter experiments.

Alfred Russel Wallace – A surveyor and architect who explored the Amazon and Negro Rivers in Brazil. He wrote Miracles and Modern Spiritualism.He wrote a letter to the Editor of The Times (London) that appeared in that newspaper on 4th January 1873. For the sake of completeness (and, perhaps, posterity) the letter has been re-printed here in full.

  • “Having been named by several of your correspondents as one of the scientific men who believe in spiritualism, you will perhaps allow me to state briefly what amount of evidence has forced the belief upon me. I began the investigation about eight years ago, and I esteem it a fortunate thing that at that time the more marvellous phenomena were far less common and less accessible than they are now, because I was led to experiment largely at my own house, and among friends whom I could trust, and was able to establish to my own satisfaction, by means of a great variety of tests, the occurrence of sounds and movements not traceable to any known or conceivable physical cause. Having thus become thoroughly familiar with these undoubtedly genuine phenomena, I was able to compare them with the more powerful manifestations of several public mediums, and to recognize an identity of cause in both by means of a number of minute but highly characteristic resemblances. I was also able, by patient observation, to obtain tests of the reality of some of the more curious phenomena which appeared at the time, and still appear to me, to be conclusive. To go into details as to those experiences would require a volume, but I may, perhaps, be permitted briefly to describe one, from notes kept at the time, because it serves as an example of the complete security against deception which often occurs to the patient observer without seeking for it.
  • A lady who had seen nothing of the phenomena asked me and my sister to accompany her to a well-known public medium. We went, and had a sitting alone in the bright light of a summer’s day. After a number of the usual raps and movements our lady friend asked if the name of the deceased person she was desirous of communicating with could be spelt out. On receiving an answer in the affirmative, the lady pointed successively to the letters of a printed alphabet while I wrote down those at which three affirmative raps occurred. Neither I nor my sister knew the name the lady wished for, nor even the names of any of her deceased relatives; her own name had not been mentioned, and she had never been near the medium before. The following is exactly what happened, except that I alter the surname, which was a very unusual one, having no authority to publish it. The letters I wrote down were of the following kind:- y n r e h n o s p m o h t. After the first three – y n r – had been taken down, my friend said, “This is nonsense, we had better begin again.” Just then her pencil was at e, and raps came, when a thought struck me (having read of, but never witnessed a similar occurrence) and I said “Please go on, I think I see what is meant.” When the spelling was finished I handed the paper to her, but she could see no meaning in it till I divided it at the first h, and asked her to read each portion backwards, when to her intense astonishment the name “Henry Thompson” came out, that of a deceased son of whom she had wished to hear, correct in every letter. Just about that time I had been hearing ad nauseam of the superhuman acuteness of mediums who detect the letters of the name the deluded visitors expect, notwithstanding all their care to pass the pencil over the letters with perfect regularity. This experience, however (for the substantial accuracy of which as above narrated I vouch), was and is, to my mind, a complete disproof of every explanation yet given of the means by which the names of deceased persons are rapped out. Of course, I do not expect any sceptic, whether scientific or unscientific, to accept such facts, of which I could give many, on my testimony, but neither must they expect me, nor the thousands of intelligent men to whom equally conclusive tests have occurred, to accept their short and easy methods of explaining them.
  • If I am not occupying too much of your valuable space I should like to make a few remarks on the misconceptions of many scientific men as to the nature of this inquiry, taking the letters of your correspondent Mr. Dircks as an example. In the first place, he seems to think that it is an argument against the facts being genuine that they cannot all be produced and exhibited at will; and another argument against them, that they cannot be explained by any known laws. But neither can catalepsy, the fall of meteoric stones, nor hydrophobia be produced at will; yet these are all facts, and none the less so that the first is sometimes imitated, the second was once denied, and the symptoms of the third are often greatly exaggerated, while none of them are yet brought under the domain of strict science; yet no one would make this an argument for refusing to investigate these subjects. Again, I should not have expected a scientific man to state, as a reason for not examining it, that spiritualism “is opposed to every known natural law, especially the law of gravity,” and that it “sets chemistry, human physiology, and mechanics at open defiance;” when the facts simply are that the phenomena, if true, depend upon a cause or causes which can overcome or counteract the action of these several forces, just as some of these forces often counteract or overcome others; and this should surely be a strong inducement to a man of science to investigate the subject.
  • While not laying any claim myself to the title of “a really scientific man,” there are some who deserve that epithet who have not yet been mentioned by your correspondents as at the same time spiritualists. Such I consider the late Dr. Robert Chambers, as well as Dr. Elliotson, Professor William Gregory, of Edinburgh; and Professor Hare, of Philadelphia – all unfortunately deceased; while Dr. Gully, of Malvern, as a scientific physician, and Judge Edmonds, one of the best American lawyers, have had the most ample means of investigation; yet all these not only were convinced of the reality of the most marvellous facts, but also accepted the theory of modern spiritualism as the only one which would embrace and account for the facts. I am also acquainted with a living physiologist of high rank as an original investigator, who is an equally firm believer.
  • In conclusion I may say that, although I have heard a great many accusations of imposture, I have never detected it myself; and, although a large proportion of the more extraordinary phenomena are such, that, if impostures, they could only be performed by means of ingenious apparatus or machinery, none has ever been discovered. I consider it no exaggeration to say, that the main facts are now as well established and as easily verifiable as any of the more exceptional phenomena of nature which are not yet reduced to law. They have a most important bearing on the interpretation of history, which is full of narratives of similar facts, and on the nature of life and intellect, on which physical science throws a very feeble and uncertain light; and it is my firm and deliberate belief that every branch of philosophy must suffer till they are honestly and seriously investigated, and dealt with as constituting an essential portion of the phenomena of human nature.”

Clamille Flammarion (1842-1925) – a noted French astronomer and the author of Death and its Mystery, is credited with the development of automatic writing.

Dr. Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing (1862-1929) – a German Physician who wrote Phenomena of Materialization.He worked with the medium Marthe B’eraud who was given the alias Eva C. to protect her real identity.

Dr. Crawford – conducted investigations into physical phenomena and became convinced of its reality.

Dr. Charles Richet – a French physiologist who was a researcher of physical phenomena. He coined the word “ectoplasm”. The researchers had nothing to gain and much to lose from announcing their conviction of the reality of physical phenomena and, indeed, in his book Thirty Years of Psychical Research he says: “To admit the reality of these phenomena was to me an actual pain.”

Dr. Gustav Geley – In his book Clairvoyance and Materialization he writes That during eighty séances with medium Jean Guzyk there was present a group of thirty eminent men, all of a critical turn of mind, comprising: “Professors of law and medicine, members of the Academy of Sciences, members of the French Academy, doctors, writers, engineers and police experts. They had no personal interest to serve, no religious belief or philosophical opinion to support. There were Catholics, materialists, spiritualists, idealists and indifferentists. Will anyone dare to say that they were all duped? It is obvious from the above testimony that all those present were persuaded that the phenomena were real.

Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) – an Italian criminologist was a total materialist and sceptic who investigated Spiritualism and became convinced of life after death.

Some Tested Mediums

Mention should also be made of Rev.William Stainton Moses who approached Spiritualism with the intent to smash up the so-called science. Instead, he became a medium of great ability. He demonstrated apports, psychic lights, direct voice, levitation and materialisations and wrote Spirit Teachings and Spirit Identitythrough the phenomena of automatic writing.

 The greatest and most tested physical phenomena medium of all time was Daniel Douglas Home  who was born in Scotland in 1833. He demonstrated trance, materialization and levitation and could levitate objects and his own body. He was very influential in leading others to Spiritualism and he demonstrated his mediumship before Napoleon III and wrote Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism. It is important to note that during his lifetime, scientists and men and women of high repute all over the world tested him and no one has ever given a plausible explanation for his amazing feats of physical mediumship.

A Testing Procedure for Physical Phenomena Mediums

The testing of mediums, particularly materialisation mediums, was very thoroughin the early days. The following is the typical way testing was done and what normally happened:The medium is medically examined before and after the sitting. The examination includes checking every bodily orifice and even the administration of an emetic solution to induce vomiting, before and after the sitting, just in case the medium was hiding something inside their body. The medium is then stripped totally naked and then sewn up in a specially designed costume. They would then be taken to a séance room – a room that they had never been in before. A movie film (when such technology was available) would then be made of the materialisation including the extrusion of ectoplasm from the mediums body, the materialisation taking shape and finally the reabsorption of the ectoplasm into the mediums body. All this was conducted in light equivalent to 100 candle power so that everything that happened in the room was clearly visible. A record was kept of the position of every object in the room before and after the séance.

Recent Testing of Mental Mediums

In the late 1990’s, a series of scientific experiments has produced evidence that; quote: “spirit mediums” may indeed have paranormal talents: unquote. Scientists involved in a study at the University of Arizona, headed by Professor Schwartz, say that the findings are so extraordinary, they raise fundamental questions about the survival of consciousness after death.A serious laboratory study of a group of mediums has found that they share an uncanny ability to state facts about the deceased relatives of people who come to them. When analysed for factual accuracy, the mediums achieved a success rate of 83% with one achieving 93%. The same studies have found that when “normal” people are tested in the same way they produce an accuracy rating of around 30%.These results were achieved even when the medium was not allowed to communicate with the sitter. Professor Schwartz believes; such evidence is consistent with claims that mediums deal directly with the dead rather than merely with the minds of the sitters.

Research into the Near Death Experience (NDE)

A study into the Near Death Experience is currently under way at Southampton General Hospital in England and is being conducted by a team headed by Dr. Sam Parnia. Helping out with the studies is Dr. Peter Fenwick – a consultant neuropsychiatrist. Dr. Sam Parnia’s conclusions which are supported by Dr. Peter Fenwick, is that there is enough evidence to justify a definitive study as to whether the mind continues to exist after the death of the body and the closing down of the brain. A much larger study involving many more patients in a hospital located in the Netherlands has supported the results of the British study. The Near Death Experience could be the final piece of evidence that will finally convince the world that life does indeed continue beyond the death of the physical body.

Spiritualism, Science and the Future – A message from Spirit

The well known guide of Maurice Barbanell, Silver Birch, said many times that the teachings of Spiritualism are really the natural law of the universe. If this is so – as all Spiritualists believe it to be, then the forward march of science can only prove us to be correct. Science is dedicated to working out the laws of the universe and sooner or later they will recognise the spiritual realms. Glimpses of an entirely new way of looking at the physical universe are being provided by the new science of Quantum Physics. The newest of scientific theories on the composition of matter and, by extension, the universe, comes from a new set of mathematics called “String Theory” which suggests that the fundamental particle (the basis of the material universe) is in fact a tiny lump of energy that looks like a vibrating string or a loop of vibrating string.

These strings are very small – if an atom is imagined as being the size of our entire solar system then a string would be about the size of tree on planet Earth! The maths clearly shows that the strings “vibrations” produce 11 dimensions all co-existing at the same “time”. It is of great interest to note that you cannot remove those 11 dimensions from the string equations – if you try – the maths falls apart and ceases to make sense. These other dimensions appear to exist in a different “vibration” to ours. All this talk of “vibrations” brings to mind the many messages from the spirit realms telling us that everything is a “vibration” of one sort or other and that the spirit realms exist in a higher and “finer vibration” to ours.

Science has already started to bridge the gap between science and religion. Medical science is proving the existence of the soul. So there is no need to fear science! If we are right, science can only prove our case, it’s only a question of time.