Geraldine Cummins

Authoress, daughter of the late Professor Ashley Cummins of Cork, Ireland, remarkable automatic writer. Received communications alleged to emanate from Phillip the Evangelist, Cleophas and F. W. H. Myers. The fourth book of Miss Cummins, 'The Road to Immortality', a series of communications which F. W. H. Myers claims to have sent through, gives a stupendous vision of the progression of the human spirit through eternity. Oliver Lodge, in his preface pays the following tribute, "I believe this to be a genuine attempt to convey approximately true ideas, through an amanuensis of reasonable education, characterised by ready willingness for devoted service, and of transparent honesty".

The Lines of Communication

- Geraldine Cummins -

          'HOW DO you establish your lines of communication?'

That is a question which I often meet with, in one form or another. I wish I could answer it clearly and simply, so that my map could be followed without difficulty by aspirants to the same psychic experiences. But all I can do is to try to throw light on the process from different angles. It can never be a textbook answer, for the track that those lines follow is at least partly laid in a region apart from conscious thought.

The first directions which I received I owe to the famous Irish poet, A.E. (George Russell).

A few days before the production of my first collaborated play, Broken Faith at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, I met the Irish poet A.E. In the course of conversation, he instructed me in the practices of Eastern metaphysicians for the development of mind. I, a twenty-two years old youngster from the provinces, listened with awe to the sage's advice, but only in one elementary exercise did I occasionally follow his instruction, one now known to many people in the West, but to few in those far-off days.

Briefly, A.E. advised concentrating intently on an object such as a 'White Triangle', or on a single word, for at first a very few minutes, three or four perhaps, as the whole attention had to be uninterruptedly fixed on the object, with every stray thought eliminated.

Some years later, when I had begun psychic experiments, I carried out this advice. I chose the word 'stillness', perceiving it meditatively in my mind's eye, for a few minutes only while I endeavoured to lose my little self in the meaning of that word. I feared, however, that this simple exercise was not sufficient when, in 1925, I was invited by the late Dr. Maude, Bishop of Kensington, to let him be present at a sitting for the writing of The Scripts of Cleophas. The most eminent theological scholar in England of that day, Dr. W. OE Oesterley of London University was also to be there.

Extreme fear and tension seized me at the prospect. The experiment seemed doomed to failure. These Cleophas scripts were of a period in early Christian history of which I was totally ignorant, so I had no idea beforehand of what would be written. My conscious mind was helpless in the matter.

But eventually, out of my gloomy forebodings, there emerged an amplification of A.E.'s advice, a response, perhaps from the Unknown to my request for aid in this apparently impossible task. The advice which was somehow transmitted to me was this: In the quiet of evening I was first to concentrate on stillness, secondly to desire the fulfilment of my need and thirdly to imagine it fulfilled.

In order to enter the stillness, it is necessary to raise one's intelligence to a higher degree of consciousness. The stillness is neither a passive, inert state, nor trance, in my experience. When achieved it is a lucid work of intense activity. The condition of stillness clarifies the desire and creates efficiency. Once launched, the desire seems as a little boat on the lake or sea of the imagination. There, piloted by desire, driven forward by the waves of imagination, it can on certain occasions reach, the objective chosen.

So for nights before sleep I exerted my will in concentration on stillness, then desired that in the Bishop's study the pen I held would move rapidly and well, the 'Messenger of Cleophas' dictating as usual with abnormal rapidity, continuing the historical narrative. Over this I let my imagination wander effortlessly and confidently, as it did so often when I was a child seated in a meadow, gathering and enjoying its wild flowers, treating the flowers I picked as if they were living creatures, each kind with its own character and life.

But on the ominous date when I entered the ecclesiastical study there were five clergymen, besides the Bishop and Dr. Oesterley present, and a thunderstorm began to rage outside. All the conditions were hopelessly against me, so the fear returned that I would fail to put myself into the concentrated state necessary to receptivity.

However, once I was established at a table with foolscap sheets before me and had shaded my eyes with one hand while the other held the pen, a merciful tranquillity dominated me. The seven learned witnesses were no longer there for me. After about three minutes 'the Messenger' took over, and for an hour and a half an historical narrative was written at a considerable speed without a single pause. Sheet after sheet filled with writing was passed to the silent clergymen by the attendant sitter. It was a feature of this writing that there were no halts until the final full stop.

During the sitting I did not even hear the loud claps of thunder. I was too concentrated on the suspension of conscious thinking in order to listen in on another mind-level to notice earthly conditions.

The material obtained on this occasion is incorporated in chapter 30, pp. 10 ff., of The Scripts of Cleophas.

Later on members of the medical profession, representatives of psychic research societies, authors and various clergymen were from time to time witnesses of such writing. None in any way appeared to influence its rapid flow. As much as 2,600 words were written at a sitting of close, historical narrative, and, according to Dr. W. OE Oesterley of London University, W. P. Paterson, Professor of Theology, Edinburgh University, Professor David Morrison of St. Andrew's University, and other eminent theologians, historical and geographical facts unknown to me were recorded in these scripts.

In the case of certain skilled mediums the subliminal appears to be the channel for a successful telepathic communication from another individual or group of individual minds, either incarnate or discarnate. In numerous instances it may only convey valuable evidence in flashes, the intervening words coming from the medium's own subconscious mind. Every sitting or script has to be judged on its merits.

Generally speaking, my first task is completely to orientate my thoughts away from the life around me. I prepare for such writing by eliminating sense impressions and muscular action. Even if it is only for three minutes, when a sitter is present, I concentrate on stillness, having, previous to the sitting, desired to obtain something relating to the sitter, or an analysis beneficial to a patient suffering from an obscure neurosis. This procedure, if successfully practised, releases me from the material world. A condition of complete inattention to life is my goal, then a 'not-self' seems to dictate.

I much object to a sitter talking to me before I begin, as it interferes with this desired concentration on my part. Mediums have been accused of 'fishing' for information, but in my view such fishing is taboo, if, for no other reason, that it is certain to spoil my practise of concentration. I want to escape from everything and everyone around me into stillness, which, if attained, provides me with the listening attitude necessary for my inner hearing. How can I concentrate on the words that are to be dictated if I am compelled to listen to idle talk? Thereby my conscious mind is liable to be pulled out of its state of intense concentration and compelled to find answers to the sitter's tittle-tattle.

Once launched on a sitting, when I have attained to that other level, I have no objection to questions or conversation on the part of the investigator addressed to the alleged communicator, as then my conscious mind is in a state of equilibrium. When this is attained successfully, it appears to be on a higher level of energy and in complete control of my brain, able as a stenographer to take down the conversation of the communicator.

In the Journal of the SPR, December, 1962, Professor C. J. Ducasse writes of two possible methods of communication: '(a) Cases where a person "possesses" for the time being parts at least of the body of a medium, i.e. uses her auditory and her vocal organs or writing hand; (b) employs the medium only as intermediary, i.e. "speaks to her telepathically", and "listens" also telepathically, to what she hears when she speaks.'

Mine is and always has been the (b) method.

As to my complete exercise: To Will, to Desire, to Imagine, it has only been occasionally employed in advance of a sitting I deemed important. Since the death of Miss Gibbes in 1951 especially, my life has been over-occupied with work and with people and their problems brought to me for advice. This makes me too tired to make the necessary effort in the evening that later might work the oracle.

Though it is difficult in these days to obtain leisure, if my compassion for a stricken person is especially roused, I practise my complete method of preparation. Three years ago I was told of such a case by Dr. Connell. A brilliant man, M. had been ill for eight and a half years with very sharp pain down his leg, pain also in his neck. He suffered thereby cruel insomnia, was unable to work, became an invalid. His poor wife was in despair. They were ruined and the situation appeared desperate. Hypnotic treatment had been wholly ineffective. The patient had consulted five practitioners over the years of his illness, two Professors of Medicine, two leading psychiatrists. They prescribed strong sleeping draughts, as they failed to find the cause of the pain. The analysis in my script found plenty of causes for it in the patient's subconscious mind. But preceding that analysis, in what seemed to me an impossible task, on several nights I practised my complete exercise, while holding a sample of the patient's handwriting and his fountain-pen. From the script-analysis I obtained there resulted an almost immediate cure of this serious psychosis, after it had been discussed with the patient and explained to him by his physician. M. was very soon able to work again, and is now earning a good livelihood. See article by Dr. R. C. Connell in Light (Autumn, 1962).

A point of interest in the M. case is that, when holding his writing and his pen before obtaining the analysis, I felt an immense compassion for his suffering. Thus my desire and imagination were strongly reinforced and may have opened the door to the therapeutic knowledge that produced this particularly difficult cure.

When emotion is roused in this way it strengthens desire and stimulates the imagination, which enables the higher mind or subliminal to function smoothly as a channel for authentic messages, as it has done in certain other cases. Apparently there is then little or no subconscious interference, breaking in and dictating irrelevant material.

Of course I have had my blank sittings, devoid of evidence. Mediums more gifted than I have also experienced them. Just as in physical science numerous experiments are failures, so it can be in psychic experiments. But in the latter case the sitter who has had a blank sitting with a medium of the first class too often wholly condemns the medium and does not examine himself for any part in the failure. He may have blocked the lines of communication himself. He may have a strong subconscious prejudice against any interesting results being obtained at sittings. This can be an emotional drive that paralyses the sensitivity of the medium. Perhaps he is expert in some branch of science which would be revolutionized by evidence inexplicable to his colleagues and himself in the terms of his chosen subject. His subconscious desire then inflexibly determines not to have him shaken out of his comfortable groove of thought. Or he may have some other strong inhibition, as for instance an unadmitted dread of his own death. This alone might ruin his sittings with mediums.

Of course the medium too can be the cause of failure. Serious worries in her own life can inhibit the production of convincing evidence, or, as in the case of professional mediums, exhaustion of sensitivity through giving too many sittings.

Scepticism, however, is no fault or hindrance in the investigator. If not allied with his emotional subconscious prejudices or fears, evidential results can very well be obtained.

I've been asked to try and describe my personal sensations when I am acting as recorder of transmitted writing from those who claim to have departed this life of fairly recent times. I can do no better than to quote 'Mrs. Willett'. (I may add that I have not read the Balfour Study of the Psychological Aspects of Mrs. Willett's Mediumship, only what is quoted from it in G. N. M. Tyrrell's The Personality of Man and in Mr. Saltmarsh's Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross Correspondences. Neither book quotes very much from the Balfour Study.)

Mr. Tyrrell quotes her as saying: 'I heard nothing with my ears, but the words came from outside my mind ... I don't feel a sense of seeing, but an intense sense of personality, like a blind person perhaps might have - and of inflections, such as amusement or emotion on the part of the speaker.' And, again, 'It is as "minds" and "character" I know them.'

Her experience was similar to mine. But in psychometric work, that is to say when I have held an object I have occasionally been clairvoyant and have seen passing pictures of a person or a room or country that has been connected with the object or its owner. During the writing of The Scripts of Cleophas, I had now and then a 'sense of seeing'. Perhaps a moment before scenes and people were presented in the transmitted writing I saw them quite clearly in my mind's eye. But it was as if I were a spectator in a cinema, looking at moving pictures. I had hardly any sense of the words describing them that were being rapidly written by my hand.

Professor H. H. Price has said that our present higher education is designed to increase our capacity for verbal thinking. It may be significant that when I record communications from educated people of the last decade I do not see images and scenes, but when I recorded the Cleophas writings, concerned with people who were said to have lived eighteen hundred years ago, I sometimes saw moving pictures of them and their surroundings. Among them were scenes of mobs and uproar, trial scenes or a mystical vision. Very occasionally a foreign word or a foreign name, Hebrew, Greek or Roman, appeared in illuminated images of it.

In my book Mind in Life and Death are reports of so-called 'intruders', communicators unknown to myself or to anyone present at the sittings. They came with a purpose and appeared to force their way into my writing. One of these gate-crashed when I was in Co. Cork in 1952. The messages given were for a Mrs. Grant (pseudonym) with whom I had a slight acquaintanceship. I posted them to her in London. As she was a keen research student, she had this case examined and checked by a member of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research.

In these scripts a modern, highly educated Dr. Tomlin accurately communicated names and a number of facts, some of them psychological, about himself, his daughter and wife. Certain of the facts were unknown to Mrs. Grant, and she obtained verification of them from Dr. Tomlin's daughter. In her report of the case she wrote 'the description of (the daughter) Mrs. Jervis's life as given in the scripts was quite true and has been confirmed by her. She also confirmed the fact that she had never met or heard of Miss Cummins, nor did she know any friend or acquaintance of Miss Cummins other than myself.'

While recording communications from Dr. Tomlin I saw no images whatever. But as shown in the absent investigator's report I correctly gave an account of a highly emotional psychological situation in the lives of the father and daughter.

According to one anti-survival theory, Dr. Tomlin was extinct as an individual, and I was merely stealing his neatly tabulated memories from an alleged Common Unconscious. But how then in these scripts did this static Great Memory demonstrate a very active survival in Tomlin's case, showing his characteristic jealousy of his daughter's husband and exhibiting in unscrupulous action an agitated mind tormented by hatred and frustration?

This case and others show that when an intruding stranger is driven by a powerful emotion of love, jealousy or hatred he appears to be able through its power to overcome all difficulties of transmission and to be able to convey verifiable facts, as did Tomlin. His active, hate-driven mind endeavoured with threats to break up the happy marriage of a living couple. We do not seem to have static existence in the Hereafter, but continue our progress either for evil or for good. I felt extremely repelled by the unpleasant personality of Dr. Tomlin and I stopped his later attempts to write through me.

Exactly the opposite was my reaction to my communicator 'Mrs. Willett'. In her case I was sensible of a delightful and varied personality with a glancing wit. Her personality was indeed a trifle dominating, but she was clearly the fine, late Victorian English* lady, public-spirited and a worker for others. Both she and Tomlin were unknown to me and they appeared to be impelled by powerful emotions to communicate even in the difficult circumstances of no sitter being present.

* ISS note: 'Mrs. Willett' (Winifred Margaret Pearce-Serocold) was of Welsh decent on the side of her mother, Mary Richardson of Derwen Fawr, South Wales. Winifred lived and worked in South Wales and became a very keen Welsh Nationalist. She had the official title of 'Mam o Nedd' ('Mother of Neath').

This mother had demonstrated in the earliest scripts and throughout the series a devoted love for her son Henry, which was later verified to have existed. The purpose of her communications was to convert him from a belief in her extinction to acceptance of the fact that she was still living and loving him. Her emotional drive was the very opposite of static.

The later verified memories of herself and her life on earth were not a bunch of recollections stolen from a common unconscious by the writer. Her lively mind led her to break down the barrier and strive to fulfil her purpose, as can be seen in her scripts.

These two, as well as some other communicators, came wholly alive to me as deeply interesting characters and during the writing I was sharply and unusually sensible of their moods.

I intended only to try and record two or three scripts from 'Winifred' in compliment to the investigator, Mr. W. H. Salter. But her personality was so engaging that I entertained her again and again, until I had about forty-four scripts. She had no immobilized existence in a Hereafter of static memory. Her progress was for good. During her exploration of 'the subterranean chambers of her mind' when she discovered a certain very minor fault of hers (later verified) of which she had been ignorant she turned her dismay into correcting it at once and thereby was able to progress for the good of herself and others.

Doubtless, if we survive, we shall all have access to the tribunal of the subconscious mind and we shall make unpleasant discoveries about ourselves, but few will have Mrs. Willett's brave honesty in admitting error, in rectifying it and in telling of it in her script-confession.

The information in this script was known only to two or three strangers to me, and even if I had known Mrs. Willett in her lifetime I could not have learned of it.

From a study of the Cummins-Willett scripts much can be learned about the process of communication, no doubt because Mrs. Willett herself had practised the art from this end in the long period of her mediumship that has so clearly and sensitively been surveyed in its psychological aspects by Gerald Balfour.

My own method of concentrating on 'stillness' does not seem to have been hers. Why should it be? Her sitters or investigators were very few and selected for their understanding and discretion, and the same seems to have been the case with her communicators. Perhaps she did not need to adjust herself to the extent that I have had to, considering the number of sitters who have appealed to me and the large range of personalities that claim to have communicated through me, claims that often have been verifiable.

In any case, no doubt every practitioner of transmitted writing probably has his or her own suitable method for acquiring the best listening attitude, but, I should like to repeat, as these lines of communication seem to have to pass through regions apart from conscious thought it is hardly feasible to make a map of them.

A more rewarding study is that of the material brought to us through these means, and I submit that Mrs. Willett has put us greatly in her debt.

Before closing this chapter I must emphasize one point in relation to my long experimental experience of psychic research. (It extends over forty years of my life.)

I have previously stated that as a rule preceding a sitting I concentrate on stillness with the object of raising my intelligence to a higher degree of consciousness. This is a lucid work of intense activity. It places my directing self in a strong position in which I have never been controlled by an alien mind. Mine has never been a case of 'possession' by another mind. I am as a stenographer taking down words from dictation and employing as it were an inner hearing. To use the words of the poet William Blake in relation to the writing of some of his poems, 'I am the secretary. The authors are in eternity'. In my experience no more than any secretary or shorthand writer is my conscious mind dissociated during sittings. That is to say it is not in any way controlled by a dictating alien mind either during my scriptwriting or for one moment in my ordinary daily life. Certain people have said or written that 'automatic writing is dangerous to the writer'. In my case there has been no danger experienced by me, possibly for the simple reason that mine has not been automatic writing. It has been transmitted writing taken down as by a reporter who has complete control of his physical body. But I am aware that my conscious mind is more keenly alert and active in its pointed concentration during the transmitting process. This may possibly be so because on favourable occasions it appears to he raised through concentration to the higher subatomic level of energy. I did not in these proxy Willett sittings converse with Mrs. Willett. For this unsociability she severely chided me. But conversation on my part would have broken up my one pointed concentration on listening via the inner hearing to her dictation.

Whether the content of my scripts are transmitted to me by a subconscious or unconscious mind or a discarnate communicator, that is for others than myself to judge.


The above article was taken from Geraldine Cummins's "Swan on a Black Sea" (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965).

Related Articles

My Personal Background by Geraldine Cummins

Home | About Us | Latest News | Biographies | Articles | Experiments | Photographs | Theory | Online Library | Links | Recommended Books | Contact Us | Glossary | Search


Some parts The International Survivalist Society 2005