Archive for March, 2019


Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Modern discussions about the mediumship of D.D. Home typically focus on his physical phenomena (e.g., S. Braude, Daniel Dunglas Home. Psi Encyclopedia, 2016). These include raps, movement of objects, luminous effects, touches, materializations, and elongation and levitation of the mediums’s body. However, the authors of accounts of Home seances also describe phenomena that are seldom mentioned. These include accounts of trances and spirit communications, some of which were reported to take place via raps. Here are some examples.

HOME HOLDING BOOK

D.D. Home

HOME TESTED BY CROOKES 2

Home in Test Conducted by William Crookes

There are several interesting accounts of trances. In one of them it was stated: “Mr Home now passed into the trance state, and, rising from his seat, his eyes closed, his arms rigid and drawn across his chest, he walked to and fro; opening the door, he beckoned for the unseen friends to enter” (H.D. Jencken, Elongation of Mr. Home, with Measurements. Human Nature, 1869, 3, 138-141, p. 139).

In addition to Jencken, other writers described how Home used to walk around during trances, usually talking. Here is one account in which he did not talk: “Home now went into one of those strange trances in which he is unable to speak; he bandaged his eyes with a handkerchief, walked about the room a little, then brought the candle, two sheets of paper and a pencil, and placing them on our table, sat down; then spreading open one of the sheets he commenced writing the alphabet on it in large capital letters. He proceeded with a firm bold touch as far as the letter F, when his hand became violently tremulous, he went on to the letter L, the shaking of his fingers gradually increasing, when he made a gesture as if he could not proceed, and handed the paper and pencil to me. I finished the alphabet. He then, following the lines that I had made, traced over the letters R, S, T, U, V, W, with the same tremulous motion of his hand, and proceeded to decorate with leaves and flowers the letters A, G, S, T, U. He drew a cross in the letter U, a heart pendant on T, a star or double cross in S, an anchor in G, something resembling a bird in A, and marked the letters A and U with the figure 2” (Viscount Adare, Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D.D. Home. London: Thomas Scott, n.d. [1869], p. 129).

Adare also recorded an instance in which Home talked much, and physical phenomena also took place: “I was seated at the table in Home’s room at Ashley House writing; he was seated at the opposite side, reading; we heard raps upon the door; Home said ” Your grandfather has come in, do you not see him sitting in that chair yonder?” “I see no one,” I answered; “Which grandfather do you mean?” “Your father’s father; you will at any rate hear him.” I heard a sound as if some one sitting on the chair he had mentioned had put his foot on the ground. Home, while speaking, went into a trance. The chair moved very slowly up to the table (no one touching it) a distance of eight feet eleven inches. ‘He is moving the chair,’ Home said, ‘He is pleased to be able to do that, he says you never saw a much prettier manifestation than that; Ah! he has gone over there now.’ Another chair moved close up to me, a distance of about a foot. Home said ‘He is sitting in that chair near you; he has come because he wishes to speak to you; you are rather in difficulties he thinks.’ He then spoke to me about certain private matters. Presently Home said ‘Your mother does not wish you to think that she forgot you because she said so little about your marriage; she could not say more then, and after all what could she do more than pray God’s blessing upon you in this as she would in everything that you undertake, honestly, and with a desire to do that which was right. She has much more to say on the subject, but not now” (Adare, pp. 148-149).

Image result for adare experiences in spiritualism with mr. d.d. home

 

Like other mediums of his era, sometimes Home delivered long speeches about a variety of general subjects while he was in trance. Once he stated: “There are laws which govern the approach of spiritual beings to earth, and their organic life, and there are epochs of darkness when the spiritual spheres are far removed from the earth; when the approach of spirits. is all but impossible. These epochs have been called by those on earth the dark ages; they mark the absence of spiritual intercourse. There are also times of near approach, not unlike your winter and summer seasons . . . You are now entering upon a period of very near approach. It is coming like the tide in a river—irresistible, overriding the current, overcoming all; it is coming grandly and Godly” (Adare, p. 18).

On another occasion the trance was accompanied by possession:

“In the midst of our conversation Mr. Home fell into a trance; this was, perhaps, the most salient feature of the séance, for while in this state, which must have lasted about an hour, he appeared to be influenced or possessed by the spirit friends who surrounded us, personating in manner those whom he had never seen, but who had been known by the several members of our circle. This was most remarkable in the case of one whom we will call by the name designated to her by Mr. Home, namely, that of Margaret, although she had only been known by that of Christy, as a servant in the family of one of the gentlemen present, and had been drowned forty years ago. Mr. Home went through the action of drowning, and gave such proofs of the identity of ‘Christy,’ that the son of her former master, who was the gentleman present, was fain to accept them as unmistakable” (L.M. Gregory, A Seance with Mr. Home. Spiritual Magazine, 1866, 1(n.s.), 226-227, p. 227).

Another example of veridical information: “Mr. Home had by this time gone off into a trance state. Whilst in this trance he said he saw a spirit-form standing next to my guest. The form, character, and past history were so accurately detailed that the identity of the spirit-friend was unmistakably established, much to the surprise of the gentleman, whose departed friend had been quite unknown to Mr. Home” (H.D. Jencken, New Spirit Manifestations. Spiritual Magazine, 1868, 3(n.s.), 30-39, p. 36).

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In the same article Jencken also reported what follows: “On one occasion the friends present had only casually met; and were seated round the drawing table. Suddenly Mr. Home, who had all the while been engaged conversing with the ladies, changed the expression of his countenance, rose, and, having played a few chords on the piano, returned to resume his seat, but now in a state of trance; his face rigid, hands cold, and the fingers extended. He steadfastly gazed across to where Mrs. — was seated, and said, ‘L— S— is standing between you and Mr.—. I see her as she was in life— mark, not as she is, but as she was when on earth.’ Mr. Home then accurately described the personal appearance of the spirit when on earth. So marked and clear were the traits he delineated that no doubt as to identity remained in the minds of those present. He said a child which had passed away in early infancy was standing next to L — S— , and that the spirit of L — S— was much pleased, and anxious to communicate with Mrs.—, whom she had loved on earth; and to prove her identity recalled a conversation that had taken place years ago between the two friends. He then said that L — S— wished to say that since passing away her views had much changed— that she had first to unlearn in order to learn. The spirit then impressed Mr. Home to remind Mrs.— of a conversation Mrs.— had recently held with her husband, and repeated part of the conversation that had taken place. I must mention that Mr. Home was a perfect stranger to the deceased person, whose name he had never even heard of. We have here what borders very narrowly upon a proof of the actual presence of the spirit of a departed friend, tor we have name, description of person, marked incidents in past life, all given, sufficient to establish an identity in any court of law; but possibly not proof enough to dispel the doubt of a sceptic” (pp. 37-38).

DD HOME AND CHAIR

In the words of someone who had several seances with Home: “All who have seen Mr. Home in this state of trance, are aware how clearly he sees and communicates with spirits that have passed from the body. And marvellous and marvellously beautiful have been the communications made by them, through him, which it has been my fortune to hear. The gestures, the most trivial actions of bodily life, the mode of walking and speaking, the voice, the infirmities of persons who have passed away long before he was born, and concerning whose peculiarities in all these particulars Mr. Home had not the least possible means of obtaining any knowledge, are all repeated by him when in this state with an accuracy of detail which leaves no doubt, either that he is at the moment possessed by the spirit whose earthly characteristics he is delineating, or that he is receiving from them or from other spirits impressive communications which enable him to reproduce them” (M. D., Guardians of Strength. Spiritual Magazine, 1867, 2(n.s.), 112-118, p. 112).

Interestingly another author stated: “The communications we received were always strikingly characteristic of those by whom they were made, and in strict accordance with the opinions they had always in life expressed; the rapidity and clearness of their replies to mental interrogation was also remarkable in the extreme. I have also seen communications made by means of the alphabet in several languages, Polish amongst the number, with which neither Mr. Home nor any one present (except the individual communicated with) was acquainted” (Mrs. Eric Baker, Fraud, Fancy, Fact: Which Is It? An Enquiry into the Mystery of Spiritualism. London: J.S. Hodson & Son, 1862, p. 19).
Here are two other accounts about deceased persons.

“He then said, ‘There are other spirits behind your chair, Elizabeth, Mary, Harriet.’ The two first puzzled me, but Harriet I knew well; she was my old school-fellow and earliest friend. I begged Mr. H. to describe her. He directly began scribbling, (she was a great writer) and looked very merry. Soon after, my chair was playfully pushed twice-—just what Harriet would have done, had she been present in the body; for she was full of fun” (A. Branker, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 431-432, p. 431).

“Mr. Home then suddenly went into the trance and saw ‘Charles,’ and gave such a description of his appearance and manner, that Mrs. W. recognised her late grandson, whose name at birth she had wished to be called Charles, but the wish had been over-ruled! and another name was given. Shortly, a sprig from a verbena plant in the room was broken off by invisible agency, and placed on the table by her right hand, and the sounds spelt out ‘Grandma, this is from little Charles.’ The lady was much affected, even to tears” (J. Jones, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 479-480, p. 479).

The latter part of the previous quote is an example of physical manifestations apparently guided by spirits related to the sitters, as is the following account of raps: “Q. (by Mr. Home) Is there a spirit present ? A. Yes.— Q. (by one of us whom I forget) What do you want to say ? A. My dear Ned, watch over you; be patient, you will be cared for.—Henry, your father! This message was written down, letter by letter, without word division, and we had to spell it over afterwards before we could understand it” (E.H. Chawner, Letter. Spiritual Magazine, 1865, 6, 45-57, p. 45).

Other physical phenomena showed relationship to actions in the séance room. “During this séance, Mr. Home recited a poem . . . As he repeated it the table rose with two feet into the air, and with the other two beat time to the rhythm of the poem on the floor. At a particular passage, with words to this effect, ‘And when I opened my eyes, a thrill went through me,’ the table gave such a thrill and shake, that even Home started back” (W. Howitt, Some Séances with Mr. Home Some Years Ago. Spiritual Magazine, 1872, 7(n.s.), 424-428, pp. 425-426).

Raps were reported to follow verbal statements: “Five raps is the understood signal whereby a Spirit (supposed) signifies its presence and desire to communicate . . . The communication itself is thus obtained:—The alphabet is in some leisurely manner repeated: A—B—C, etc. When a particular letter is arrived at, three raps on the table—or risings of it, indifferently—as the understood sign of assent (yes), indicate it as that wanted: it is accordingly taken down; and the alphabet being begun anew, a series of other letters is in the same way obtained, and noted. Two raps indicate the close of the communication ; and the word, or sentence, as it may be, is then readily deciphered and read out” (P.P. Alexander, Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, 1871, p. 21).

Alexander Spiritualism

Another example involved a communication via raps: “A spirit announced its presence, and rapped out, ‘It is Pophy Sophy? ‘Pophy Sophy!’ said Mr. Home; that is very odd. It does not seem like a name, either in English or any other language known to me. Can any one at the table explain?’ Whereupon a lady present gave signs of great agitation, and presently she burst out, ‘Pophy Sophy’ Oh! that is our poor dear little Sophia, whom we lost two years ago. Pophy Sophy!—that was the dear little pet name she always went by in the family, as she had given it to herself when an infant.’ On this, another lady present (the aunt of little Pophy, as it appeared) began to cry bitterly. Five raps were then again heard, and the following was rapped out—’Do not cry, Auntie dear! You were not to blame, and I am happy, happy now.’ And immediately after came this: ‘I did not die. Am I not alive? And could I forget you all?’ The story, as after inquired into by my friend, was thus :—The little child, left under charge of her aunt, during absence of the parents in England, had died of scarlet fever, and the poor lady had been eaten up with morbid remorse, as supposing that, through some blind carelessness on her part, the infection might have been caught” (Alexander, pp. 35-36).

A consideration of these phenomena will provide us not only with more information about D.D. Home, but with a wider and more complete view of his mediumship.

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Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Parapsychologist John Palmer published an interesting study in his paper “Training Anomalous Cognition in a Motor Task with Subliminal Auditory Feedback” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 132-147; for reprints write to the author: john@rhine.org). Here is the abstract:

“On each of 60 trials, 5 participants (Ps), selected based on high state and trait dissociation scores in a previous motor automatism experiment, explored with a computer pen a 16 x 16 inch grid affixed to a computer writing tablet, stopping to register a response to a randomly selected target square. The grid is conceptually divided into 16 squares (4 in each of 4 quadrants). The dependent variable was the average of 2 z-scores representing square and quadrant hits. Ps attended 2 1-run baseline sessions and 2 1-run test sessions. In between, they completed 15–20 1-run training sessions with subliminal auditory feedback. The feedback stimulus was the spoken word(s) “good” (quadrant hit) or “good good” (square hit) superimposed on brownian (similar to pink) noise. 1 of the 5 Ps significantly confirmed the hypothesis of higher scoring on test than baseline runs. There was significant or suggestive evidence of anomalous cognition in the baseline and/or test results of 4 Ps and the 5 difference scores showed significant between-subjects variability. There was no evidence of learning in the training sessions. According to the underlying theory, conditions for learning were not met because Ps did not successfully blank the mind and were overly attentive to the feedback sounds.”

For me the interesting aspect of the study was that related to dissociation. As Palmer wrote: “The general hypothesis tested in the overall research program is that psi is facilitated by dissociated states of consciousness and that the most dissociated form of psi expression is motor automatism, such as automatic writing and dowsing, where conscious cognitive processing is minimized.”

Commenting on the history of the dissociation-ESP relationship, the author wrote in his introduction: “The first experiment to test for anomalous cognition (AC) using motor automatisms was by Brugmans (1922), who had a special participant (P) point to a square with a letter-number on a grid while blindfolded, with the hope that he would point to the randomly selected target for the trial. Highly significant results were obtained, but the randomization method was poor. One of the card-guessing methods used in J. B. Rhine’s famous card-guessing experiments was ‘screen-touch matching,’ in which P pointed to one of five ‘key cards’ representing the five Zener cards symbols. This technique was used in the prominent and controversial Pratt-Woodruff experiment (Pratt & Woodruff, 1939).” However, this history is incomplete.

Not only there is no mention about the earlier attempts to use motor automatisms to test for ESP (as seen in: F.W.H. Myers, Automatic Writing.-II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1885, 3, 1-63; and C. Richet, La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, 1884, 18, 609-674), but there is no acknowledgement of the general interest in dissociation showed by early psychical researchers, as seen in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research during the Nineteenth-Century (see C.S. Alvarado, Dissociation in Britain During the Late Nineteenth Century: The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 2002, 3, 9-33).

Palmer was also interested in training ESP performance. “The motivation to follow up [a previous study] with a training study had to do with my belief that in order to demonstrate the reality of psi to the mainstream scientific community, it is necessary to increase the strength, and especially, the reliability of psi in the laboratory. It seems to me that the best way to do this is through training of psi ability, and such attempts should be made, even if they are ‘long-shots,’ as this experiment arguably was.”

“There were a considerable number of statistically significant or suggestive results in the study . . . These outcomes with Ps selected on the basis of dissociative tendencies encourage further research on the dissociation-ESP relationship . . . However, no such success appeared during the training sessions. This lack of improvement in the training sessions indicates that whatever genuine AC [anomalous cognition] occurred was not due to learning, and there was no evidence of learning in any of the Ps’ data.”