William Brown

Born in 1881, eminent Harley Street specialist, Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy at Oxford University and keen inquirer into psychical research. Also; Psychotherapist to King's College Hospital, London; Hon. Consulting Psychologist and Lecturer on Medical Psychology, Bethlem Royal Hospital, London. In two letters to The Times (May 7, 14, 1932) he wrote appreciatively but guardedly of Rudi Schneider's powers and declared that they are worthy of the closest scientific investigation. In a lecture delivered during the jubilee celebrations of the SPR he reviewed the evidence collected and examined by the society and declared that it was "sufficient to make survival scientifically extremely probable."

Personality and Psychical Research (Part II)

 - William Brown-

Being the substance of a paper entitled 'Some Personal Psychical Experiences and Experiments', read before the Society for Psychical Research, on Feb. 18th, 1926. Since this date I have had many more sittings with Mrs. Leonard. I had verbatim reports made at all the sittings, and have published one, as it stands, in the Appendix. The reports were made by Mrs. Muriel Hankey, and I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude for her painstaking and accurate work.

          OWING to the kindness of Sir Oliver Lodge and to the exceptional help given to me by his secretary, Miss Nea Walker, I was able to obtain four private sittings with the famous medium Mrs. Osborne Leonard in January and February 1926, completely incognito.

Few of my readers need to be reminded of the way in which Mrs. Osborne Leonard works. She very kindly installs her sitter in a comfortable chair; she herself chooses a hard-backed chair, and sits opposite one, slightly to one's left. Oneself is sitting in the comfortable chair opposite the fire; the curtains are drawn; the room is in semi-darkness. She sits in this hard-backed chair and proceeds to pass into another mental state. She seems to undergo a sort of anaesthetization; it is as if she were giving herself an imaginary anaesthetic, breathing deeply and slowly, and after a few seconds a sound of gibbering is heard, and as if some one is coming. Then: 'I am coming; I am coming. Good-morning; Good-morning. There is two spirits here that wants to speak to you', and one has the impression that Mrs. Leonard is being controlled by some separate mind or personality. This control exhibits certain dramatic features. When she gets excited, she tends to move up and down in her chair, and may clap her hands. She talks in rather a baby language, pronouncing R's as L's, and in several other ways slightly altering the English language.

'Feda', the control, is supposed to be an Indian girl. Space does not permit the record of Feda's history, and that does not concern us here, although it is of interest from the general psychological point of view.

At the first interview, on January 1st, four people came to me, or were supposed to come to me, and these four people were just the four people I would be interested in hearing from. There are very few people on the other side that would interest me, but these four certainly would. One was a lady who died in 1916; another, a young man, my brother, who died in battle on the Somme in 1916; another was a little child who died at the age of 2¼, in 1909, and the fourth person described was an elderly gentleman whom at first I could not recognize at all because I was trying to think of some one else who had recently died, and then I suddenly realized who it might be.

It is that fourth person who contributes something of special scientific interest in this paper, but let me first clear away the other cases.

The lady - she is described, but I need not bother you with her description; all I need say is that I very clearly got the impression who it might be, that it was this lady who died at the age of a little over 30, early in 1916. The description was correct, as, e.g., of her hair:

'It shows her forehead but it goes a little bit down one side of her forehead more than the other. It isn't short like the peoples wears it now; she has got long hair and it is coiled at the back of her head, not on top nor low down, but here between.'

That was characteristic.

'She passed over through illness - not an accident or anything like that but illness, but she came to rather a sudden end as if she was not really expecting to pass over, and she was surprised when she did.'

That was quite true. She was suffering from tuberculosis of the lungs which had lasted for many years, but she was optimistic and hopeful and did not expect to die. Further facts [in the record] I need not bother you with; they are correct.

'She comes near you - and she brings with her a young man.' -

Now she proceeds to describe this young man, whom I tool to be - if it is a discarnate being - my brother, whom she knew well, and of whom she was very fond. He met his death on the Somme in 1916.

'His eyes are blue - &c.'

Again the description has no meaning for my readers. If, or where, descriptions are wrong or incorrect, I will mention it.

'I feel that he knows you, and knows you very well, and I know that you have got a photograph of him that has been near to you lately.'

As a matter of fact, it is the only thing of his I have, a little round photograph that I have always had on my writing-desk, or mantelpiece, in a silver frame. A short time before, the glass had got broken, and my wife had taken the photograph away, and I had wondered where it was; it had passed through my mind, 'I must find that photo.'

'The photograph that he is showing me is not in a flame - not in a frame! It is - wait a minute - not in a frame, not in an album, not in any of the usual places that you keep them. Looks as if it was just stuck in between papers - papers. I don't know if it is fixed in the papers, but I feel as if I got to turn papers over to see the photograph, which is not a large one, and I don't think is awful good of him.'

Quite true; it is not good of him.

'He is only just mentioning that you have got this, and you can look it up soon.'

At that time I did not know where it was, but when I came to read the notes to my wife afterwards, she got up and rummaged at once in a drawer, among foolscap papers, and found the photograph. We shall see, in another later sitting, this same spirit (?) refers to the finding of the photograph.

'You have got another photograph of him too, and that one - the one he is speaking of now, the second one - is not by himself, and it will be taken several years ago with a good many other people taken with it. I get a feeling of a gloup - a group - rather a large group.'

This may refer to a large family group.

'What do you mean? What are you showing me? What are you showing a shield for on the group? I don't know what this means, but I get this and I got to tell you that he says it, even if you don't understand it. Well, he is showing me this photograph and he shows me a peculiar shape like a shield, and he puts this shield, this shape - I think it got a drawing or design on it too - and he put it on the photograph. I not sure that it is on the photograph, in the middle of the picture or anything like that, but I feel it got something to do with it.'

This doesn't apply to the group, but it might have applied to my parents' copy of the single photograph, for it might be the Royal Berks regimental badge; but that I pass over. There is a great deal that is non-evidential, in so far that I could not find any correspondence later, but in this first interview so much could be fitted in, could be accepted.

Perhaps the following is worth quoting:

'What do you mean that you help him to write? He says that he can help you to write, but he doesn't mean automatic writing quite - more inspirational, and he is bending over you, taking hold of your hand as if he was trying to write through your hand, but not ordinary writing quite, more helping you to get ideas as to what to put.'

I should emphasize the fact that Mrs. Leonard had no idea whatever who I was. I feel quite satisfied about that.

'Something you have got to do shortly, important, that he is going to help you with. It isn't a story or anything interesting like that. It is more a sort of article or serious writing, and it is very 'portant, more 'portant than you yourself know, and he wants you to remember that he is helping, but look for the photograph. You will probably find one much more easily than the other, but he will help you to find them both, but one may take longer. He says he will have to impress your mind where to look for them. - I got a feeling that this man has often been with you, talking over things with you, when he was here on the earth, like arguing, discussing, and yet that he would listen to you and take notice of what you said, but he wouldn't like to take it all; he would like to argue a bit about it, and as if you didn't mind him arguing, because I see both of you in a room when he was here in the earth body, in a room at either side of the table, not sitting down to it. I don't know what you were doing at it, but as if you stood up near the table. (Why didn't you sit down? "Because we didn't want to," he says), but it was something you were doing, I feel, because you were looking at each other over the table but yet looking down at the table, and you got something in your hand as if you were pointing with something.'

As a matter of fact, years ago we used to amuse ourselves with table-tilting, and he was quite expert at it - and I think quite genuine. All of us at home could get results with planchette-writing too, and this was how I first began to take an interest in the subject of psychology.

'He seems to be looking down, too, at what you are looking at, and then looking up in your face as if he was asking questions about it. The room is a light room, &c.'

This might refer to the room, but it is rather general. The impression is a familiar one. One did get, as it was coming through, an impression that it might very well be this particular boy - man.

Then suddenly one's name comes - it is a common one, unfortunately for the evidence.

'Will-Will-Will-some one calling out Will. I don't see the person yet who is saying that, but just hear the name called out, and then I heard this: "I am helping in the new conditions, helping you in the new conditions," as if you are going into some new conditions, going to do new things, some new work in a new place, and as if they want you to know that they will be supporting you. That is a funny word to use, but that is what they call it, "supporting" you and helping you in it. Has he got to go in front of some kind of Committee? Have you got to go in front of some kind of Committee soon? You need not answer because you may not know. I only say it like a question because I see you in a place with some other people. I think men, not women, and I feel it is some kind of Committee, something very 'portant, and important to you too, mixed up with it, and that the spirit people are going to help you. They don't quite like the word "Committee" and yet Committee is the only way I can describe it.'

Possibly this may have referred to a Spiritual Healing Committee (appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury) of which I am a member. We had not yet had any meeting of the Committee at that time. Or it may (very improbably) have referred to the Psycho-Analysis Committee (of which I am also a member) set up by the British Medical Association in 1927. It must be remembered that Mrs. Leonard knew nothing whatever about me at these first four sittings.

'But Committee will do. It is like judging something, &c., &c. I don't understand it, but I got to say that, and they keep on saying, say what they say, &c., &c.

'And then I see the figure of an elderly man, and he didn't get close before, and suddenly he has come close. He is quite gley colour; he has a very fine face, what you call a thoughtful face, and yet a very kind face too, a clever face. Wait a minute! His hair is gley; it is a little thin just on top of the temples. His features are good, but it is not so much that he is pletty or handsome; it is more a fine and a very clever face. His eyes are not plonounced; they are deeply set, and I can't quite see the colour but I think they might be grey, not full eyes at all but deeply set. His mouth is fine shape, the underlip a little full and he got little bit of a habit sometimes of... it sticks out more than the upper ... closing his mouth up like that! It is a kind face, but very thoughtful and serious looking. He, too, is on the tall side He has been a well set-up looking man, but towards the end of his life he stooped a little and let his head go a little bit forward like that. I feel him being very tired sometimes, but trying to cover it up. He is a little bit impatient; he wants me to go on and on just this minute, and he keeps on telling me to go on and go on.'

I may as well say at once that the impression I got, and still have, is that this man might have been(1) my friend, W- A-, who died a year before rather suddenly, after an operation. I had had a long discussion with him about Psychology within a short time of his death, and he very kindly allowed me to collaborate with him slightly in his last (unfinished) play.

(1) Except that he never stooped.

'He had been very active, not only active in body but active in mind, and he had really sometimes worked his mind too much. He would worry himself rather over things too. He was a good man, not always just in the way other peoples thinks is good, but good in what he thought right to do. He would do good as he saw it. I feel he had helped a good many people in his life, and yet he was rather a peculiar man.'...

I leave out some things:

'This gentleman was able to keep working, and he kept doing things up to a little while before he passed over. He had still kept in touch with things. Have you got books of his, printing of his? Books-books-books. That is what he says, books.'

'He only holds up one book, but he said books, so I suppose you got more than one, but he just showed me one, so I suppose that is a book belonging to him because he put it against himself and then handed it over to you.'

The book might possibly be one of his, of which I had quite recently been reminded by an article in the columns of The Times.

'You used to like this man. I feel that you have liked him very much and he liked you.'

I did like this man, and I felt very deeply the breaking of the friendship through his death.

'He wants you to try and remember him. I am sure he has tried to come to you before, not perhaps so much in this way, but just helping you and looking after you. This man had been interested in places away from here, places a distance away as well as in London; he hadn't been limited to one place or a few places. I get a feeling he had travelled and had interests in a good many places.'

That might apply very definitely to W- A-.

'He, too, is speaking of writing. I am sure you must have some important writing to do because I see you writing, but I see you getting up and speaking too, but as if - I don't mean just speaking to one person at all - but as if there you are having to address a good many people and I think there is something coming in that way that will be very important indeed, not just to a few people, but to a great number like a Conference, a special sort of big meeting. I see you getting up and saying gib-gib-gib-gib-gib-gib, and he says, "Yes, we have got to help you there too. It is all part of our work." It isn't on spiritualism, but it is helping the world. That is what they are doing with you. Helping humanity, he says. That is your work, he says, Your work is not quite - oh, what a nuisance! - he says your work is not to spread the fact that communication is possible; you have got different work to do. He says, helping humanity in a wider, more general sense, helping them physically as well as mentally and spiritually. It wouldn't be right for you to give up what you are doing now to try and spread this. They are not asking you to, not wanting you to, but they are wanting to be able to help you sufficiently so that you may be able to tell people that there is another life and people can communicate, but that it isn't everything to know that. They have got to live here on the earth, not live mentally on another plane for which they are obviously not yet fitted.'

As a matter of fact, with regard to these words, 'They have got to live here on the earth, not live mentally on another plane for which they are not yet fitted' - that may be telepathy, because I had used almost those very words myself that week.

'Go on as you are at present. Don't alter things too much... Do you know a little boy that comes up near you? I don't mean on the earth, but a little boy passed over, who passed over with something to do with the throat. I feel I get a choky feeling. It is not only the throat, it goes up a bit to the side here too, and breathing is bad, &c.'

That description might possibly apply to a little boy of 2 ¼ years, who died in 1909. We shall find a further reference to him later on.

If there is anything in it, if there is any spirit world, and if there is any power of communication, I should be surprised if he did not come, because I was more fond of him than of anything in all my life.

Then again, about the one I thought of as W- A-:

'I am sure you ought to know him. I feel you have been doing things quite lately that should have reminded you of him, quite lately, as if you have been reading something lately that is very much linked up with him. Wait a minute. The reading - I am not sure it was a book. I only feel that you were reading something that didn't take you long to read. What he is referring to I am sure is not a book. It was only some words, not very many, but it did make you think of him, though you may not remember that now, but it is quite lately that, too.'

This may refer to an article in The Times at the end of December 1925, in which a brief reference was made to one of W- A-'s books. I was very vividly reminded of him as I read that article.

'He keeps saying to me, "I am well and strong again." He says, "It is so much better over here; one isn't limited with all these physical difficulties. It leaves one's mind free, one's spirit free, to work, to make progress instead of being shackled with all these petty physical limitations".'

This, too, reminds me of him, because the vague feelings of illness towards the end of his life discouraged him. He wanted to get on with his last play, but made little headway. He had written two acts, but the third act wouldn't come because of his failing health.

'He must have felt them rather a lot here, because his head seems full of them now. He says he wishes you could be there too, with them. You would enjoy it over there, but he says, you can't go for many years, for your work here yet. (Isn't it a nuisance?) No, he says, it is not a nuisance. It is necessary, and Will, Will, Will; W. A., W. A.) W. A., W. A. is helping you from our side, he says.'

Here his initials appear.

'He didn't always live in London; he lived in rather a nice place, quite in the country that he used to love.'

That again might refer to his home in the country.

The lady who continued to be there all the time throughout the four sittings now speaks:

'"I was not expecting really to go over. I thought I should be all right." [And Feda explains]: She had been making so many plans for living on the earth, not for dying, and up to a very little while before her passing she had been arranging things, and doing things, not only telling other people, but thinking them out for herself and doing them herself, for all she was going to do on the earth. I feel that her passing over at the end must have come very quickly.'

She had that great optimism of the phthisical patient, and wouldn't entertain the possibility of not getting over her illness ultimately. All this was in my mind, and the coincidence might therefore be explained in term of telepathy. 'She wants to get in touch with you direct, herself.'

She was very good at table-tilting and planchette-writing in those days more than a score of years ago, and she used to threaten (in fun) that if she went first she would haunt me.

'All love; all love. She wants to get in touch with you herself, direct. She-will-leave-no-stone-unturned. Good-bye. Good-bye.'

That is a typical ending to these séances.

That is the first séance.

Now I will turn to the final sitting, so as to take up the thread of what I feel might refer to W- A-.

It was right at the end of the sitting. I knew it was the last sitting that I should have before writing this paper. As a rule I sit back in the chair, hiding my face to avoid giving Mrs. Leonard any inkling, consciously or subconsciously, of what is passing through my mind. W. A. had been mentioned in the first séance, and the trouble was that this other lady would insist on speaking the whole time, all through the four sittings, and although I did not wish to stop her speaking, I was anxious to get something of a more evidential nature for the sake of my audience (the Society for Psychical Research). So I said, 'Who is W. A.?' and Feda replied:

'It is somebody over there, not on the earth.'

I asked, 'Can he speak?' and she said:

'Alice-Ellis-Alice. Do you know if the name Alice, Ellis, Alice, if that is a name that would be very close to him, of some one very near to him?'

I did not recognize this name, but have since been told by Mrs. A- that Alys is the name of their daughter-in-law, of whom W- A- was very fond.

'You will be able to find out about that afterwards.'

That is what I was able to find out.

'He is giving this name, Alice or Ellis very plainly. Wait a bit. This W. A. passed over rather suddenly, but she says not exactly through an accident. She doesn't mean that, because he had some illness, but as if he wasn't expecting it to end fatally.'

Of course, that is quite true.

'At least, she says, though it might have come into his mind he hadn't acted on it. He didn't expect it to get fatal and people connected with him didn't either, but he did something rather peculiar. Towards the end, or very near the end of his earth life he did a thing that looked rather peculiar afterwards, as if he had a presentiment about it.'

'Something he had done unexpectedly in a very peculiar way within a few days of his passing, something out of the ordinary for him; something against his ideas and nature altogether that looked like an unexpected stroke of the imagination for him.'

W- A- was noted for his intensely rationalistic outlook on life, and intense honesty of thought, and I may take this opportunity of saying that he himself visited Mrs. Leonard some time ago, and was greatly impressed by the result of his interview. But he was anxious to get an independent opinion, so he came round to my rooms and asked if he might read the whole account to me. In it there were references to his son, who lost his life in the war. There was a great deal of evidence there of what could be called telepathy, and I gathered from W- A- that he was impressed by the evidence although not completely convinced at that time.

'It was noticed. It was commented upon directly after his death, "How strange he said that and did that!" It looked as if he knew, and yet other things seemed to point that he didn't know, because there were things he ought to have done, and should have done if he had known, but he didn't do them: he left them; he left some things in rather a difficult way, and had a lot of trouble to clear them up, but there was one thing he said and did that was not in the ordinary run of things at all - looked as if he had had a sudden thought he was going to die. Wait a minute.'

This may refer to what he did in the nursing home just before his operation, from which he died. He left a written statement to the effect that he had definite evidence of communication with relatives on the other side. It was a rather peculiar thing for him to do, and I was somewhat surprised because he had kept in touch with me before, and I might have expected that he would have discussed this matter more fully with me. We had had a long discussion on religion a few weeks before he died, but at that time he may not have had his evidence, for he did not bring up this question at all; he was arguing from recognized facts and discoveries of science.

'I feel that W. A. was rather a clever man. I can't see him; I am only feeling him as if he was rather clever. Funny I can't see him. He says I both saw and heard him at the very first sitting, and that I gave a description of him and several conditions connected with him. Has he spoken about him through Feda before? She said, Yes.'

From here to the end of the sitting Feda's voice was getting very low, fading away to a low but clear whisper.

'She says, Of course he has.'

The person communicating is supposed to be this lady to whom I have referred.

Then I asked right at the end, when I recognized that Feda was departing, 'If it is the man I think, he has already mentioned my name to Feda.'

'Yes; that is the one she is talking about, she says. That is the one she means, and he wanted you to help him with something. I thought before he was helping you with something, but she says, No. It is not only him helping you, but you doing things for him here on the earth. He wanted you to finish something - to complete something. Louise. Louise. Louise.'

Well, as I said before, he was writing a play-about Psychotherapy. He had written two of the acts, and he was hoping to complete it, and he was turning to me for the psychological side, for facts of pathological psychology.

'Difficulty in doing it. Opposition. Difficult. Charles-Charles- and another name beginning with W. Ch, isn't it a nuisance. I am losing the power.'

Then I asked in desperation, 'A book, or a play, or what?' because I realized that my previous tactics of saying nothing and giving nothing away were evidently holding things up, so that I had to begin asking questions, and certainly I found it worked better. Whether the scientific results are of equal value is another matter, of course.

'Difficulty finishing it, but he began it. Wait a minute. He had got an essential part done, but not by any means all; there is a lot to be done to it. but the idea had been worked out, but it would have to be elaborated; it had to be worked out properly. It had to be worked out after the theme was there; the situation was there, but that was all. No; No; part of it had been done; as well as the situation part of it had been done, and there had to be a little reconstruction. It was necessary. It couldn't be helped.'

That was quite true; the first act stood perfect, and was a very brilliant act, and held my attention very strongly as I read it. The second act he was in process of modifying, to prepare for the third act.

'He is pleased with something that has been done quite recently, very pleased, and he feel it will be all right if given a chance. A-, A-, A-.

That is the first occasion - right at the end - that his name is actually given.

'Wait a minute, given a chance. Oh, I can't get any more. Isn't it a nuisance! She sends her love again. He says he will come again... But he is pleased with things - pleased with George.'

I asked, 'George who?'

'Arler-Arler-Arler-Arler. It is something like that, she says, but don't say it. When you come again she might be able to get it.'

This 'George Arler' might be the well-known actor) George Arliss.

With regard to this particular character, who reminds me, and reminds me strongly, of W- A-, it gives me the impression of his personality as I knew him, although I really have tried to be as critical as possible in preventing 'projection' - that is why one is so glad to get verbatim reports of the sittings.

As far as the actual sitting is concerned, the impression is different at the time of the sitting from what it is when reading the results afterwards. During the sitting one gets frightfully disappointed; one feels there is nothing in it. One thinks: 'Why doesn't she come to the point?' There are so many things that she could easily say but does not. When one comes to read it afterwards, however, so many things one thought were quite useless and nonevidential are just the things that seem to be of value.

That is especially so with regard to this lady - whom I will call 'M'. She was a well educated lady, who took an especial interest in Psychology and Psychical Research, and she would be the very person to avoid the commonplace, and try, if she could, to get through something of an evidential nature.

So I turn back again to her talking about helping me to write. That was very characteristic of her, and before her death I used to read to her everything I wrote. She had a literary gift, and used to take a great interest in all I wrote, and helped me all she could.

'She had never thought really that she would pass over; she had thought that you might, but she didn't think - (Why did you think that he would?) There was some reason she had been anxious about you, but didn't really expect it. Somewhere you had to go on a visit, but didn't think she would go so soon.'

I went out to Egypt (Alexandria) with the 29th Division in 1915, not going to France until 1916, and she died early in 1916; but early in 1915 I had been extremely ill with broncho-pneumonia, and she might be referring to this.

I think a great deal of this is non-evidential, but I am quite sure that later on some of it is more than mere coincidence.

'Who's Mollie? Then I get Mollie.'

Though many of the names are wrong, Mollie is correct as the name of my wife.

'There is another name that she wanted to get and tried to get last time. They giving the letter P. Not an ordinary name like Paul - more like a nickname - a made-up name. She puts it near you. A short name, but I think has two syllables. I catch two sounds, not one. That's important, and she seems to think that you ought to remember it at once. She looks at you in an anxious way as if you ought to know a little name used much in her earth life. accustomed to it. I feel, used by her. A little letter after P-not a long letter like h or l. I feel she would use it in two ways. She is trying to make me get the name. Two names. One a little longer than the other; both begin with P. Here I did break my rule of not saying anything, otherwise I felt I might lose something entirely. I said: 'Shall I make a suggestion? Is it P-?' She nodded her head. 'But there is another name beginning the same way but not ending the same way. She had like several funny names not quite ordinary for people and things around her, not for everybody she says. Not for everybody, but there were some people that she was used to calling by names. P- is right. She seems contented.'

The name referred to is simply a nickname she had for me. I admit I had to help it out, and it might not be very evidential, but one gets so much that is not evidential at all that one is only too glad to get anything that seems to fit in. Telepathy would explain the result.

From time to time one gets remarks on the general relationship of the spirit world to this world.

'She says she tried to give it in another quarter, because over here we know there is no separation; it is you who feel and have the separation, whatever separation there is, but, she says, we can see and to some extent hear you so often, so often, that it doesn't leave us with the sense of separation as it does you, and then we can always look forward to night time, night time, when you come over to us in your sleep.'

That is evidently a theory of Mrs. Leonard's subconscious, if it isn't something contributed from outside.

'She asking a funny little question, not important, something she noticed. No, she tries this way of putting it now. Superfluous diaries, note-books. Don't know if note-book's right word. Diary I think better word. Something you got; she doesn't know how you are going to use it. Silly having it. Get another one more suitable. Call it diary. Dates. to put down everything. Don't know if she is joking. She says, Give it away while it will be useful. She's joking, but it is true. Pretty and neat. Knows you won't use it. Might as well give it to some one who will. Not quite right kind for you. When you see it you will be quite sure. Remember what she says. Don't think she is really interested in it. A good deal of letterpress, unusual amount explanatory. Some refers not to the present time which you would expect in a diary, but things that have happened quite a long time ago, stupid things that she can't see what they have got to do with purpose of book. You will find it and be amused that she has got it so correctly. She isn't satisfied with the word "diary": it will do. It isn't what you would strictly call a diary, but that will do. It will explain it with the other things she has said.'

I thought this was more ridiculous than the rest, but when I pointed it out to my wife she at once went to her writing-desk, and said, 'Here's the diary. I got it out this morning, and wondered if we should use it.' It was 'A Nature Lover's Diary', not the kind I should use, and she was wondering what possible use we could make of it.

'I feel some one quite young now, some one she is very interested in and attached to. Some changing condition round this young person that she is trying to help with, to make satisfactory. I can't get any more about that, not important, and especially important the change in condition. She trying to get the right people or person. Trying to arrange the right condition.'

If there is anything here again, it would mean her own son, a boy who had just gone on from preparatory school to public school.

'The young lady is the important one all the time. She is the one that sticks and sticks all the time. She never will move far away from here.'

That was very characteristic of this lady to whom she refers. I asked what her name was.

'I could get a name on the table... Will you have a table and try to get it through the table with Feda?'

So we arranged for that. Feda disappeared, before the power went, and Mrs. Leonard (normal) got the table, and sat on one side, and I sat at the other. Here was something very familiar, that we used to do frequently twenty years ago.

Here again, especially with the table, if the sitter is to be one of the collaborators, he knows all the things are in his own mind, and it is very difficult to keep consciously passive, and of course still more difficult to arrive at results of any evidential value.

Before Feda went I asked one final question, 'Used she to do that when she was alive?'

'She smiled and she nodded her head. It is something that she knows about, this, and that is why she impressed Feda to sort of suggest this part. I feel she will have the power for it, do you see? and that she will know somehow what she is doing, and be able to control it. I get a feeling of use. I am sure she has done something of this kind before. I am sure she has done something of it before she wented over, and that is why it will come easy to her.'

Well, at the table one asks questions, and the table tilts in reply. I asked, 'Is there some one here?' and the table tilted three times for yes. I asked for the name, and it spelt it out, but here again I knew what the name was. It is frightfully difficult to make one's mind a complete blank so as not to influence the replies. The name, the place of her death and the date of her death were all given, tapped out correctly. Then:


Here Mrs. Hankey (the shorthand-writer, to whom also I was then unknown) was noting the results, and I simply didn't know what the letters were, but I must confess that while her name was being spelt out, I found it quite impossible to keep it out of my mind. No doubt one's subconscious is very anxious that Mrs. Leonard should not tap the wrong name. 'Holding it down.' Of course that might refer to anything, but many years ago we used to hold the table down when it got frisky and moved round the room. Then it tapped out:


I may mention, here again I asked a question. Immediately after her death I found my pen moved automatically in my hand to write 'yes' and 'no'. Nothing else would be written, but if I sat down and asked questions, my hand would be automatically moved. So 1 said, 'I want to ask one thing, but I know if I do 1 shall get the answer 'yes', and the table tapped out 'yes'. Then it began to tap out a message.


At this time I did not know what was being tapped out. Mrs. Hankey noted down the letters, and asked the later questions. She asked:

After what?
Did he know?
Can you tell us how he knew?

Mrs. Hankey, who has had experience of a large number of Mrs. Leonard's sittings, noted on the transcript:

'During many sittings with Mrs. Leonard for the past ten years I have never known Feda to close a sitting and work through table-tilting.'(1)

(1) Sir Oliver Lodge writes, of this: 'I have had table-sittings part of the time in the past with Mrs. Leonard. They used to be employed to get names or such details more precisely.'

Mrs. Leonard herself said she wasn't very keen on this mode of communicating. The explanation is, if - and I say 'if' - it were that particular person it wouldn't be very strange, because she herself was very skilful in getting things through the table - not necessarily evidential things, but long stories of murders, &c., which amused us.

As regards this table-tilting, I may say my earliest experience did begin that way, and we found the table worked with us vigorously. On one amusing occasion, when the table tapped out that the guardian spirit of one of us was Nero - much to her annoyance - it went on to tap out that buried treasure could be found under the fourth step of the cellar stairs. We proceeded to dig it up,

but found nothing. We went back to the table, which tapped out that it was a mistake, and the treasure was under the third step. Still no success, so we went back to the table again, which then said the sixth step I Incidentally it may be noted that Nero was interested in buried treasure (v. Tacitus, Annals), although this was not known to any of us at the time.

Just two more points:

'That is a funny thing, that, about the other boy you have got with you. Do you know the other boy that he has got with him? the one that passed over very young? I get a feeling he must have either been a baby or been one of those that is born without earth life. He had so little. I am sure he didn't go to school, or be educated or developed here - I can't tell you how long it is since he passed over, nor how old he would have been if he had been here, because the development on the spirit side of life is different to the development on the earth, and because he is grown up now doesn't help me to tell how long it was before, because it isn't according to time that they grow; it is just according to how much they develop.'

That might again refer to that child of 2 ¼ who died in 1909, and, in whom - if the spirit hypothesis be true - my brother would be very interested.

'Who is she talking about, taking care of fire? - What is that you are mentioning? Who's been setting fire to themselves? I am not sure if she means lately or some time ago. Fire-fire-fire.'

I knew nothing about this at the time of the sitting.

'It is something that occurred only a little while ago and made her feel very anxious indeed, though she knew at the time it hadn't resulted in anything very bad, but it made her feel that if it happened again it might be very very dangerous indeed, and I don't think that she thinks it might only be dangerous to furniture or to a room, but it was because she thought it would be dangerous to some one that she was so very anxious. That some one wasn't you, but it was some one near to you, somebody belonging to you. I feel people belonging to you knew about it, and she thought that they would have told you about it, but she is not sure of that. It is as if she thought that perhaps as nothing very bad did happen they have just kept it quiet. They may not have said anything, but you could ask now, as it has all blown over; perhaps they won't mind saying anything about it. I can see that she thinks that this thing, or part of it, may have been kept from you for fear it would worry you, especially as it wasn't necessary after, and no damage much was done, but it is fire I get. I get that word very, very strongly, and she would like you to investigate it. She rather hopes you don't know it, because what they wanting to do so much is to try to let you know that the things they tell you are not just in your mind.'

I read this to my wife, and a curious expression passed over her face. It appears that not long before, in the early morning, she was frying something on the gas-stove, in a cottage in the country, and the frying-pan caught fire, and that worried her because the gas-meter had been foolishly fixed just above the stove, and she was afraid it would also catch fire and burn the cottage down. She was a bit disturbed by it, but she didn't tell me about it at the time. I quote that for what it is worth. I didn't know anything at all about it at the time of the sitting. I merely thought 'Here's more waste of time on the part of Feda'. It is the impression one gets so frequently in these sittings.

Then Feda relates more and more about this lady, and everything does fit. The more she says, instead of taking something away and making you feel it is some one else, the more it fits.

A possible psychological theory is that Feda is a secondary personality of Mrs. Leonard, part of her subconscious self-working as a dramatization of her subconscious self. The question whether this dramatized portion of the subconscious self obtains the evidence by telepathy from the sitter, or from outside, or in both ways, is entirely a question of fact or observation.

There is coincidence to such an extent that it is far beyond the possibility of chance. I feel sure of that. What I have got satisfies the statistical part of my mind that it is beyond chance. The explanation may be entirely in terms of telepathy and clairvoyance, or it may be partly in terms of these factors and partly in terms of outside spirit influence.

As regards the telepathy part of it, what one feels is that there is so much that might be expected to come through telepathy - emotional experiences that you are only too anxious to hear of again, just the sort of things that would move you most - and these are just the things that you do not get. All through, you have the feeling that the person on the other side is trying to find something that isn't obvious to your own mind, and even where it is fairly clear to your mind it comes as a surprise to you and often only becomes fully clear later.

As regards the personalities that come, the objection might be made that here 'projection' is strongly at work. The sitter is thinking of some one, and as soon as he decides who it is, he gets into an intellectual and affective state which emphasizes all that corresponds to that person, and obliterates all that does not. But these manuscript notes were taken verbatim.

During the sitting the results seem to be less satisfactory, less impressive than when one reads them through quietly afterwards, because during the sitting one is hoping for all sorts of things, and they don't come, and so much is vague and veiled, and one may become impatient, and towards the end feel thoroughly disappointed. Afterwards one finds there is more in it.

Then there is this question of personal identity. It is often objected that the messages that come through are not characteristic. Of course I must leave my readers to judge. All I can say is that they definitely give me the impression that they are characteristic.

Then, why does so little come through? Why such a rigmarole and so little evidence in it? That doesn't strike one as extraordinary when one thinks of the complexity of the nervous system, and the complexity of discarnate beings - if such there be. You have only to contemplate the difficulty of speaking over a defective telephone, especially where the exchange is open and you hear other voices sounding through as well; and that is the impression one gets in some of these communications. Some of the messages seem to be not for one at all, but for other people. If there is a chance of communicating, a number of people on the other side seem ready to compete for the opportunity. But of course the whole impression may be mere illusion.

NOTE: In quoting these results of sittings with Mrs. Leonard, I am fully aware that nothing in the nature of scientific proof of personal survival is furnished by them. Apart from chance coincidence and the working of known psychological processes, the factor of telepathy between medium and sitter would suffice to explain the correspondences observed. Yet telepathy itself is but another name for such observed correspondences, and not really an explanatory process, at the present stage of our knowledge. It will not have full scientific standing until we have discovered the conditions under which it occurs and the means by which it may be controlled. The same remarks apply to the factor of clairvoyance.

I present the reports merely as illustrations, obtained at first hand, of the kind of phenomena which occur in the mediumistic trance and which have bearing upon our scientific conception of the nature of personality and its possible survival of bodily death.

Note: The above article appeared in "Mind and Personality" by William Brown (1926, University of London Press, London).


Related Material

Personality and Psychical Research (Part I): William Brown

Personality and Survival of Bodily Death: William Brown

Verbatim Report of a Sitting with Mrs. Osbourne Leonard: William Brown

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