Arthur Oram

First joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1946. He was Honorary Secretary, Vice-President, elected member of council (for 31 years), founder member of the Survival Committee and member of the Research Grants Committee. In 1998 he wrote 'The System in Which we Live' which sought to construct a model of reality which would encompass a wide range of psi phenomena without conflicting with the findings of any of the established sciences. Central to this endeavour, he believed, was the acceptance of the existence of minds as separate entities, existing "before and after the rather limited life of the brain and its body".

A Discussion on the Evidence for Survival

- Arthur Oram -

Private v. Public Evidence

          WE SHALL be dealing, mainly in connection with private psi experiences and communication through mediums, with what we shall refer to as private evidence and public evidence, and it will be helpful to have a clear understanding of what we mean. Private evidence for survival is normally based on personal knowledge of the deceased and on judgement as to whether a communication is evidential, based on an assessment of the personality factors and the general feel of the situation on receiving a communication, either directly or through a medium. It is private or personal in the sense that its importance and apparent validity cannot be directly appreciated by others.

For our present purposes public evidence is that which can be appreciated equally well by any unbiased individual who is given an adequate report of it. Normally we can say that public evidence is scientific evidence, at least when we are dealing with the results of research into the phenomena of psi.

It is possible for a researcher to collect a quantity of private evidence received by different people, to analyse and classify component parts and to present the whole as public or scientific evidence. This has been done with outstanding success in connection with near-death-experiences.

Conditions for Communication

Communication through mediums of different levels of sensitivity ranges from a voice that is loud and clear, to obscure coded taps, and there are probably as many variations as there are mediums and sensitives. Paul Beard suggests in Survival of Death[1] that in the HD* world thought takes place much faster than it does in the 4D** world and therefore that a communicator has to get into a different set of conditions in order to communicate with us. He suggests that a medium or sensitive is an individual who can reach out to meet the HD world, to some extent, and that as a result of these changes of conditions by both parties, from the HD world and from the 4D world, there is a range of conditions in which the two can meet. We can illustrate this with our own diagram:

HD World                                    4D World
                  X                        Y

[1] London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.
[2] Survival of Death, pages 101-102 and 105.
* HD: Higher dimensional.
** 4D: Four-dimensional. The world of three dimensions of space and one of time.

The communicator in the HD world goes into an altered state of consciousness (ASC) and then into his dotted line, which represents the condition in which he can make contact with the 4D world. The medium goes into an altered state of consciousness and then into her dotted line, which represents the condition in which she can make contact with the HD world. They then have a range of conditions for communication, from the extreme marked X which is close to the HD world to the extreme marked Y which is close to the 4D world. Beard tells us that most mediums who demonstrate to an audience from a platform work close to what we have labelled as the Y position[3] (Beard, page 102).

[3] Survival of Death, page 102.

Both Beard[4] and Cummins[5] cover the main points indicated here and they both make it clear that when the communicator enters his dotted line condition he temporarily loses much of his memory, covering matters relating to the 4D world and to the HD world.

[4] Survival of Death (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966).
[5] The Road to Immortality (London: Psychic Press, 1932).

Trivialities in Communication through Mediums

We often read critical statements which complain that material received through mediums tends to be of a trivial nature. There is great truth in this criticism to the extent that some mediums appear to be incapable of handling material of depth and many communicators are prevented, often by their lack of experience in communicating and possibly by a lack of depth in their normal thought, from giving rise to communications beyond the trivial.

To some extent the sitters may be to blame. A communicator with little experience of this type of work is unlikely to produce material of depth unless encouraged to do so by the sitter.

In order that communications of great depth can be received, it is necessary that the medium should have the ability to remain in contact with a particular communicator for a reasonable length of time. Normally, every sitting starts with the comparative trivialities of introductions and material of depth can only be developed later with continuity of communication from that same communicator and with an appropriate environment.

Several of the books referred to above illustrate the extreme non-triviality of communication through mediums in appropriate conditions. Journey Beyond[5], Survival of Death[6], Swan on a Black Sea[7] and The Barbanell Report[8] all illustrate this. My own many sittings with mediums have never been concerned with trivialities except where either the medium or the communicator has been limited to such a level.

[5] Transmitted by Chan (Spirit guide of Ivy Northage), 1972.
[6] Paul Beard (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966).
[7] Geraldine Cummins (
Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1965.)
[8] Edited by Paul Beard, transmitted to Marie Cherrie (Norwich: Pilgrim Books, 1987).

We have ample evidence here for the rejection of any criticism of mediumship on the grounds of triviality of material obtained.

We should be deeply appreciative of our freedom to find mediums and of the freedom that makes it possible for people who think they have the capability of setting up as mediums to do that. Anybody can claim to be a medium and that freedom is valuable to us all. On the other hand, we have to make a modest payment for these freedoms in that we may discover that one who claims to be a medium shows, at least to us, little capability.

There needs to be a subtle rapport between a medium and a sitter, so that one who is good for sitter A may not be so successful with sitter B. It is up to the sitter to find mediums that can produce the type of communication that is required. Nobody other than the sitters can judge the mediums. We should be strong in protecting our freedoms in this area.

Different Levels of Communication

In this chapter we are dealing with evidence of life after death, mainly in connection with work with mediums. It looks as if a fairly high percentage of the work of mediums might fit the general description of communication between sitters and the minds of people who have died and wish to communicate with them.

Such work normally deals with minds which are in the first level of the next world, sometimes referred to as Paradise. The description Summerland has also been used but for some people can be quite wrong. It was probably Myers who referred to this level as 'The Plane of Illusion'[9]. It is a level from which we can obtain interesting comment and discussion, but normally nothing new of any academic importance, although the mere fact that our communicators are less restricted than we are to our 'now' point can give them the ability to take a wider view than ours of some developing features in our lives. On the other hand this is limited by the fact that they are normally not allowed to solve our day to day problems for us.

[9] The Road to Immortality (London: Psychic Press, 1932).

At this level we get no new science and in general nothing new that is of importance.

But it is possible to have contact with a higher level at which we do not normally communicate with named individuals but from which we can obtain highly intelligent and sometimes highly technical information.

Over the years some scientists and mathematicians have told us that they have been able to obtain required information when they have asked for help with a carefully and precisely specified problem which is important to them but which they have no alternative means of solving. On one occasion when I was desperate to find an individual who might help in a particular situation I asked for help in this way and, unexpectedly, the next morning, I was given the name of an individual, one I had never thought of in this connection, who would handle the job and who did, very successfully. The name just came to me, just two words, like 'John Roberts', as if spoken by somebody behind me.

An engineer and inventor has told me that he has used this facility a number of times, usually successfully, adding that one difficulty in this field is that he never knew when the answer would come. He did know that when it came he had to understand it right away, because it would not come again.

On one occasion he was shown what he thought was a haystack and failed to see how that could help him to solve his problem, until he realised that it was not a haystack but a graph, and as a graph it gave him exactly what he needed. In a written comment he added 'The Haystacks signal came early on a Sunday morning before I was properly awake and led to a major rearrangement of Monday's programme as special recorders had to be obtained to display and record the haystack shaped signals during the aircraft flight on the Monday afternoon'.

But one of his answers came to him when he was driving on a motorway, one came when he was with young children at a birthday party and another when he was in bed. This difficulty about timing was a feature of some of the experiences described by W. B. Yeats[10] in connection with his wife's psi activities.

[10] A Vision (London: MacMillan, 1937, first published by Werner Laurie in 1925.)

This is just one of several ways in which the high-level communication can arise, when an individual is in need of help, asks for it and specifies the problem.

Another way arises when the whole initiative is taken from the higher level, possibly to the amazement of the individual. In April 1942 such an event happened to me through a remarkable coincidence, with action started off by me but involving a friend, which led to my being able to volunteer out of the RAF and to enter an entirely new type of life. In November 1955 a closely parallel event triggered by the use by a colleague of almost exactly the same words that had been used by my friend in 1942, but involving an even more unbelievable coincidence, provided a facility for me to leave the civil service and enter industry, which again changed my life in a big way.

In neither of these cases had I been thinking of such a change. Each involved a remarkable degree of unseen planning in advance of the coincidence. Each was for me an outstanding and fantastic intervention.

The inspiration of Mozart, Ramanugan and so many others can probably be considered to be further examples of this high-level influence coming from the HD world. Mediums are not involved.

If, however, we return to the field of mental mediumship, we have the famous cross-correspondences which showed such a high intellectual content, produced by a few outstanding mediums who appeared to have been formed into a group for that purpose by a high level intervention. If we look at physical mediumship we have occasional occurrences of highly intellectual planning in connection with particular phenomena, and in some situations these seem to arise along with other phenomena that do not disclose any connection with intellectual factors.

I do not know enough about the substantial work that is being done by way of counselling to suggest how that fits in with the two levels. It would seem to make sense to assume that it can embrace the whole width of potential communication, from the simplest and crudest at the lower levels to almost unlimited wisdom. More and more material is now being published in this field and it would seem that it will be for the readers of such books to sort out the gems from the more modest contributions, the sparkling from the bland.

Elsewhere we find what may be highly intelligent communication in such fields as dowsing and the work of arithmetical prodigies.

This chapter, however, is concerned with evidence of survival obtained through mediums and for this purpose we are mainly concerned with communication with people we have known who are in the first level of the HD world, where we do not normally find deep academic achievement.

This section is a deliberate diversion for the purpose of seeking to differentiate between the two levels that we can occasionally observe within the field of mediumship. As with so many other aspects of the subject we need to be careful to avoid jumping to conclusions regarding the nature of demarcations in the HD world, but we must get back to our problem of evidence for survival.

The Super-ESP Hypothesis

If information received through a medium exists anywhere, say in the memory of an individual who is living or in a document, then any one of the minds involved in the sitting, the mind of the medium, or of the medium's guide, or of the sitter, could have acquired it by way of telepathy or clairvoyance. It appears that Professor Hornell Hart first called such a hypothesis "The Super-ESP Hypothesis". If it is accepted then it could be difficult or even impossible to obtain scientific evidence for survival. The problem is discussed in Gauld[11] and elsewhere. It is, however, probably fair to say that in many cases the apparent evidence for survival could not be accounted for by "super-ESP" without requiring a far higher standard of telepathy or clairvoyance than has been demonstrated in terms of scientific evidence.

[11] See Alan Gauld's "The 'Super-ESP' Hypothesis" in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 53, 1961, page 227.

Professor Ian Stevenson has studied the potential for cryptomnesia as a possible factor. This is the recall from the subconscious of memories long forgotten, typically of words read or heard spoken many years ago. This needs to be added to telepathy and clairvoyance when considering the possible effects of super-ESP.

There have been instances in which communications have included information, including errors, that corresponds in some detail with that printed in a newspaper or a book, many years earlier. It is tempting to assume that the medium may have read that earlier record and forgotten it, but we cannot claim to be able to distinguish satisfactorily between cryptomnesia, telepathy and clairvoyance in such cases.

Our model sees all minds being of the HD world and we know very little of the standards of communication in the HD world. It seems to me that much of what is accepted as scientific evidence of telepathy and clairvoyance, based on laboratory experiments, may be at a very low level compared with what can be achieved by unfettered minds. In the field of dowsing it has often been rediscovered that most successful dowsers fail to reproduce the effects when they try to show them at a party, and yet a few have recently told me that they can do that. They might, for instance, seek to locate objects hidden under a carpet. It seems that for dowsing to work effectively there usually has to be a true need. If, however, that factor were necessary for other psychic faculties then we would not expect to see much in the way of success from the typical laboratory experiment.

The best communications when received by experienced and discerning sensitives or sitters frequently appear to provide good personal evidence of survival. This is how it appears to be. "Super ESP" provides a hypothesis concerning how such a situation could arise by other means. We know very little about the likely limits of such effects. Serious investigators with wide experience in the field are generally not inclined to accept Super ESP as the answer, but we need to appreciate that it may not be easy to provide scientific evidence to refute it.

On the other hand, Super ESP cannot be of the physical world. There is no conceivable way of accounting for Super ESP, or even for normal ESP, in terms of received scientific models based on the operation of the world of physics. So we can only consider Super ESP along with a new model of the system in which we live, possibly a model like the one presented here, and with such a model we are free to postulate hypotheses based on information from the minds of deceased individuals or via Super ESP. The important point is that one does not exclude the other. It is, however, unfortunate that the Super ESP idea is frequently put forward by people who have little understanding of the scope of observed ESP and it is wrong to use it when the circumstances would require a higher power or scope than has been demonstrated to exist. Any viable model must cover both, the possibility of evidence of survival through communication from surviving minds and material received by ESP of a high order. And any viable model must leave the question open to the extent that, even in the course of a single sitting, different methods may be used.

So the Super ESP hypothesis was originally set up with a view to possibly invalidating the concept of messages from deceased people. That now seems to be logically impossible and Super ESP needs to take a new place as a possible alternative explanation of some parts of such messages.

General v. Particular Evidence

Particular evidence for survival will be defined here as evidence for the survival of a specified individual.

For our present discussions general evidence is the totality of evidence provided in the literature and, unrecorded, to thousands of individuals every day, including the evidence that comes from near-death experiences and possibly, indirectly, through some out-of-the-body experiences.

If we can, through new experimental work, obtain significant evidence of the operation of independent minds, then that could be a contribution towards general evidence for survival. The question would then remain as to whether any of them was previously associated with a body living in the 4D world.

Any evidence for reincarnation is automatically evidence for survival and its type may be general or particular.

It is normally assumed that either (1) everybody survives, or (2) there is no such thing as survival. We do not propose to question this approach here, on the grounds that we are unlikely to have any opportunities for obtaining evidence to support any third possibility, such as selective survival, until after establishing that some individuals do, unquestionably, survive. There could also be some problems relating to a precise definition of what we mean by survival.

In much of our research we have to assume acceptance of survival in order to obtain further evidence of survival. Typically we make appointments to see mediums who tell us that all their work is done with the help of guides and who present us with what are claimed to be messages from people who have died. To this extent our search for indisputable particular evidence may be conducted against a background of weak general evidence.

Weak evidence does not normally become strong through replication. In other words, if there proves to be another explanation for what appeared to be evidence of survival, that explanation can be applied to any number of other similar instances, whether they are of a general or particular nature.

Impeders and False Communicators

The term "False Communicators" has been used for communicators who pretend to be somebody else, possibly pretending to be someone with whom the sitter wishes to make contact.

Amateur sensitives can be seriously deceived by such action and a published example appeared at pages 12 to 17 of Yeats (1937). In that case the offending entity was described as being of a seriously hostile nature and was referred to by Yeats as one of the "frustrators". In another situation, in the early 1940s, repeated attempts to impersonate were made by a friendly deceased relative who appeared to be unhappy in the HD world and who enjoyed communicating, but in that case (known to the author but not published) the impersonator always apologised and withdrew when challenged.

On a much wider basis it appears that there are many people using ouija boards, pendulums or mental methods for seeking communications and within that population it seems likely that impeders and false communicators may be active on a substantial scale. Normally we do not know about such activities but since 1984 a number of people have been motivated by articles in books and magazines to try to obtain the keys to the codes left by Dr. Robert Thouless. The positive side of that subject is referred to in the section below, in dealing with the arranging of tests, but here we can consider briefly the problem of false communicators in this field.

References to the Thouless codes in magazines are sometimes less than clear and some people have been motivated by an apparently deceptive reference in a book and appear to have done a considerable amount of work that has been wasted because of the deception. In general, while any keys obtained can be checked by anybody who cares to take the trouble, based on the information published by Dr. Thouless, many people wrote to the Society for Psychical Research with what they had been told, through communications, were attempts to ascertain the keys. Such letters were usually sent by the Society to Miss Betty Markwick or to me, or to each of us, as we each have computer programs for checking the keys.

From such letters that came to me, and in some cases further correspondence or telephone conversations, it became clear that some people were convinced that they had been in touch with Dr. Thouless when the material that they produced could not possibly have been valid for consideration. Typically, it might consist of words or figures that bore no relationship to the explanations and definitions that Thouless published. Furthermore, some of these people were not easily convinced that they had been deceived. He was a man of deep sincerity and it is inconceivable that he would communicate and give false material of a wrong type or format, in other words, material that could not conceivably be correct. As far as I can see, all such communications must have been false from the start. In my communications that have purported to come from Thouless, mainly through Mrs. Marie Cherrie, it has always been made clear that he cannot remember the keys.

Any valid attempt that is of the required type or format and that is received in conditions that suggest a genuine communication, should certainly be sent to the Society for checking, although difficulties in communicating could well result in their being wrong. The only basis for the critical nature of these comments is the amount of false communication that came to light, although virtually all communications from the public relating to the Thouless tests appear to have ceased from the early 1990s.

Throughout my experience of communication through mediums, communicators who have been famous or outstanding during their lifetimes appear to communicate with great modesty, sometimes so great that it becomes difficult to confirm their identity. Those seeking to arrange their own means of communication could well look for such modesty as a first test. Any suggestion that what is being communicated is important, or any detectable exuberance may be a warning of the very common falsity in which a communicator of no substance seeks to create a false importance in order to enjoy the process of communication.

We have been considering false communicators, and in particular their apparently common activities in connection with sensitives of limited experience. On the other hand, an unknown communicator who remains behind the scenes is not necessarily doing harm. It can be extremely helpful when an independent mind assumes the role of an intermediary and helps others to communicate. With some mediums a "control" or a "guide" plays that part fairly regularly. The term "false communicators" would be unsatisfactory in such a context in that it refers to only one or two of a wide range of situations in which an intermediate mind plays a part in communication. Similarly, Yeats' term "frustrators" deals with an even narrower part of the range. I have been inclined to favour the word "impeders" on the grounds that any un-declared impersonation tends to impede our progress in research and our understanding of the subject, whether the impeder is friendly and trying to help, or, at the other extreme, hostile and dangerous.

It is probably fair to say that most experienced mediums are for much of the time reasonably free from the effect of impeders, mainly because they have experienced minds in attendance - the ones they refer to as guides - to help in managing the proceedings. Another reason is that some of them have been trained to watch for any type of interference. However, even with experienced mediums it can be unwise to ask for contact with a particular individual, because we just do not understand the scope for impersonation. It may well be that ample information is available from the memory of the sitter for any competent impeder to play the required part and in such circumstances it would be understandable if the guide remained unaware of the fact that the communicator was an impeder. In such a situation the medium might have no way of checking.

In the case of a proxy sitting, when the memory of the sitter does not contain the required information, but an object is produced that previously belonged to the individual in question, it seems as if the production of such an object can definitely provide a channel to relevant information, but we have no idea as to how that works, nor as to how far it can reach. We have, therefore, to watch for the possible appearance of an impeder in any such proxy sitting. Alternatively, it might be that we are only given information that can be obtained from the object itself. In that case there should be no deception, but the sitter needs to have sufficient experience to be able to judge the situation fairly.

It is interesting in this connection that we are warned in the Bible to "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John, 4, 1). The first part of this statement appears to be a warning on the lines of the preceding paragraphs. The second part seems to put the blame on the medium. We are rather fortunate in the UK in having a number of good mediums available, although, at least occasionally, even one of them may not be aware that an impeder has taken over. Certainly all of those below an acceptable standard of competence might have to be classified for this purpose as potentially 'false prophets', although some of them could be successful some of the time.

It could well be that some communications that are genuine initially, become false part way through, or for a brief period, owing to intrusion by impeders. That is what Yeats reported, a short but false intrusion that appeared to be part of a longer and apparently genuine communication.

There is not much by way of reference to the problem of the impeders in the literature. It could be more important than is generally recognised. It could be wise to look carefully at any communication that claims to come from a famous individual.

The Arranging of Tests

In the early days of the SPR some people deposited messages in sealed envelopes with a view to trying to communicate the detail after death. This type of test was unsatisfactory in that opening the envelope, to check a wrong attempt at communication, destroyed the test. It also failed in that it could be read by a medium through the use of clairvoyance.

Two important tests set up by Robert Thouless will now be considered. This material was written before the second test was destroyed by a man who broke the code with the help of a computer in the USA in 1995. Until then both of the tests were important and it seems best to retain the descriptions as they were written when we were handling both of the tests.

In 1948 Dr. Robert H. Thouless (say RHT) set up two cipher tests, using two different procedures for coding. In each case there are four features:

(a) The coding procedure, described in the original paper
(b) Text that has not been disclosed
(c) The Key (a further piece of text) that has not been disclosed
(d) The (meaningless) coded message, in effect a string of code characters, printed in the paper

For the first test the key was a sequence of words 'from some identifiable passage in a printed work' and for the second test it was just two words. The keys were selected by RHT with a view to ease of communication.

During his lifetime RHT challenged mediums and others to try to ascertain the keys; they were not ascertained in that way.

When a key (c) is received we have to decode the message (d) using that key. If the answer makes sense (b) then we shall know that we have received the correct key, as it is extremely unlikely that a wrong key will produce a passage that makes sense. Any number of wrong keys can be checked without destroying the test. Technically, checking many wrong keys reduces the significance of receiving the correct one at a later stage, but for the first of RHT's tests the effect on significance will be very small. In the other test, with two words in the key, it would probably again have been very small, but depending on how many wrong keys have been checked.

At a later stage the second code was broken by a man working with a computer in the USA, but the following paragraphs were written before that happened and in order to retain the full description they have been kept as they were, before dealing with the breaking of that code.

Dr. Thouless died on the 25th September 1984. In the months that followed his death there were several articles published in the press by researchers, inviting members of the public to try to obtain the keys. Miss Betty Markwick wrote a program so that keys could be checked with the aid of a computer and she checked a number of submissions received by the Society, but none were correct. In November 1985 Professor Ian Stevenson very kindly provided the SPR with a fund to be used to pay for the cost of seeking to obtain the keys, mainly through sittings with mediums, and I was appointed as the co-ordinator of the project. Professor Stevenson expressed the wish that the co-ordinator should be personally involved in as many of the sittings as possible. As I had a different type of computer, I wrote my own programs for checking the keys received. I confirmed with Betty Markwick that our independent approaches to the preparation of our programs were giving identical results.

For my own sittings, in order to help in making contact a small object that had belonged to RHT was normally handed to the medium, in an open envelope. At most of the sittings contact appeared to be effective immediately and communications were received that seemed to be from RHT. Normally there was no mention of the cipher tests either by the sitter or in the communications. At the eighth sitting booked for this project, in February 1986, the medium had apparently completed a communication from RHT and was about to pass on to other communicators when I asked, in desperation, "Could he possibly comment on the problem in which we are both interested?" The reply came immediately "You mean the code?" and I said "Yes", but it is necessary to explain that that medium already knew that I was interested in obtaining the key to a code from that communicator; I had had many sittings with her. She continued with the message and explained that he was having great difficulty in trying to remember the reality of his life here in our world. He said it was like a dream he had had long ago and that this made it difficult. This was something he had not expected. "It is like trying to remember something you did in a dream". He tried to keep the code simple "but someone is making it complicated". I asked "Is it just the system that is making it complicated ?" The medium said "Yes". This discussion continued, but we have here the essential part for our present purpose.

I am hoping that if we persevere RHT may at some stage be able to recall the keys. He has confirmed that he is willing to keep trying. Some further information has been included in an earlier reference to this work, in connection with the nature of memory, in Chapter 6.

An interim report covering work on the Thouless cipher tests and on what were called the 'combination lock tests' was the subject of a paper by Stevenson, Oram and Markwick[12] (1989) in the Journal of the SPR.

[12] 'Two Test of Survival After Death', 55, pages 329-336, 1989.

The original papers in which Dr. R. H. Thouless set out his tests are as follows.

'The First Test' Proc SPR 48, pages 253-263, from 'Appendix - A Supplementary Test' at page 258. (What was originally the first test at pages 253 to 258 proved to be unsatisfactory and was later withdrawn. See page 342.) The required key will be 'an identifiable passage in a printed work' (page 261) and it will contain 74 different words, this point arising from the procedure described in the paper.

'The Second Test' Proc SPR 48, pages 342-343
The required key will be two words (page 343)

If a test such as either of these, and particularly the first, is successful it should be powerful evidence, but it will not be irrefutable evidence because with clairvoyance and telepathy along with retrocognition it could be argued that a mind operating at the time of the sitting could obtain information relating to the content of the mind of RHT in, say, 1983. We have no independent evidence of that sort of thing happening, but when we use the term "irrefutable" it does not come with any guarantee that potential refuters will be modest, or even reasonable. The most that we can hope for is that they will be honest. The second test, as it requires a key of only two words, could more easily be solved by a chance selection of the words.

Clearly this subject is far more difficult than most people realise. It is stated in Cummins[13] at page 106 that on dying we lose normal recall of all concrete memories and of all things we have learned. Furthermore, in order to communicate we then have to go into a state of altered consciousness, somewhat akin to hypnosis, and in that state (page 124) we are even more cut off from old memories and may not even be able to remember our name.

[13] The Road to Immortality (London: Psychic Press, 1932).

It seems that in arranging any future tests the items to be remembered should be very simple and preferably based on emotional links, although it may be difficult to combine such keys with an effective overall design from a point of view of the statistical significance of potential results.

At this point it can be confirmed that in July 1995 we were told that the second code had been broken by a man with a computer in the USA. The key words had been found to be Black Beauty. A short paper in the Journal of the SPR[14] reported the situation and that paper includes some further information on the subject.

[14] 'The Original Thouless Two-Word Code', part 61, pages 116-119, 1996.

It might possibly be helpful to describe a sequence of events that did not involve a test, but happened to reproduce some of the features that could contribute to a successful test. This case was not recorded or treated as being important at the time.

The characters were:

A. An old lady, unable to move beyond her home. She treasured her silver which was displayed on a sideboard in her dining room.

B. A neighbour who visited A from time to time and happened to be sensitive to psi.

C. A daughter of B. C visited A fairly regularly over a period of months.

D. Another daughter of B. D visited A one weekend when C was away and then continued to visit A at weekends for several weeks.

A died in the early 1970s and some time after that B dreamt (or possibly had a vision while awake - for convenience I shall refer to it as a dream) of A, who told B in the dream that she had much better silver in her new life and referred to the silver she had previously owned as "that old rubbish". She asked B to explain to D that "this is the one place from which I cannot send you a post-card".

B remembered that C used to visit A regularly and forgot that D had also done so. So she passed the message to C. C said it meant nothing to her and that it should be passed to D, reminding B that D had also visited A towards the end of the time before A was taken to hospital.

B then told D of the message. D said it was most interesting. During her visits A had been showing her post-cards of places that A had visited. D had shown an interest in the cards and A had said, jokingly, "next time I go somewhere interesting I'll send you a card". D had not mentioned these minutiae of conversation to anyone until she was told of the dream.

It could be that this little experience points to possible requirements for such tests from the point of view of the main character involved; the undertaking was simple and it was emotional. It was, of course, not planned to be sound from the standpoint of the design of experiments, and it was in no way envisaged as an experiment. It was just a little joke. We are dealing with feelings and emotion.

It looks as if we should continue with attempts to arrange tests, but with careful thought for the necessary criteria from the point of view of evidence and for these additional factors relating to feelings and emotion.

Before we leave this section I want to introduce a thought that has been suggested by others, one that is pure speculation, but one that we should possibly bear in mind. It is that there is a possibility that those who form policy in the HD world are not ready for us to have the type of fairly concrete evidence that would be represented by our obtaining the keys to the Thouless tests and that because of that he has been prevented from communicating the keys to us.

I am myself inclined to prepare and have published if I can a test similar to the one referred to here as Thouless' first test, the one for which the key is a passage of text from some printed work. I consider this to be a procedure that could be worth carrying out and one in which I might be able to reflect something of what I think I have learned as to the requirements for such tests. If, however, I do that, I shall do it with a clear understanding that I may find that I am precluded from communicating the key.

The Reliability of Information Received Through Mediums

In considering the reliability of information received through mediums we can start with some general observations.

An individual is no more intelligent after death than before, and probably rather less intelligent about physical problems.

The only advantage he may have is that while we who are on earth normally only know about the past and the present, he does not have those rigid demarcations in connection with time and he may see something of the outcome of a situation. In that way he may know more than we do.

But while he does not have our demarcations regarding time, he also does not have our measurement of time, so that while he may be right about the outcome of a problem, he could be wildly out in his estimate of timing. Sometimes communicators and mediums will say "at the time of the daffodils" or use any indicator of that nature. That is great if it works, but it can be difficult if it is wrong by several years.

I suspect that big events may possibly look more important to a communicator than comparatively small events, and sometimes lead him to think they are closer than they really are, but this is mere supposition and needs to be investigated.

The early stages of the next life are normally in no way concerned with academic considerations; it is in the main an emotional life. Some communicators retain their judgement when referring to our problems, but others can forget and only look to the emotional factors. For instance, your interests might be deeply dependent on easy access to London, but a communicator concentrating on the emotional side might press you to sell your house and move to Somerset, thinking of an association you had with that area years ago.

Long before I was married I suggested to a girl friend whom I was thinking of marrying that we might each visit a particular medium and we did that. She went first and I was able to follow her as the next client of the medium. I asked about the girl she had just seen. She replied to the effect that "I don't see you two together". But the most impressive part of this exchange was her complete lack of interest in the question and the cold way she handled it. She was right. In some such situations the virtual brushing aside of a question may be almost more revealing than the words used.

In dealing with precognition we have seen two instances where identical forecasts made by independent mediums to separate members of a family were wrong.

Mediums frequently explain to their sitters that they can only give them what they receive from the next world, and that seems to be the situation. The medium has no way of ascertaining whether advice is right or wrong. On the other hand, the medium should exercise some judgement with regard to the wisdom of passing on certain types of sensitive information. For instance, if a sitter is in some way wholly dependent on his or her spouse it could be devastating to be told that the spouse will shortly die. On the other hand, it could be advisable to warn the sitter so that special arrangements can be made. Such situations can be particularly difficult to handle and the medium has to decide what to say suddenly, as the question arises. It is probably too much to expect deep wisdom from some mediums in such situations.

The old legal principle caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, should in all cases be applied to the implied offer of the sale of a service by a medium. The sensitivity that makes an individual into a medium is widely spread between people of all backgrounds and of all levels of intelligence. There is no guarantee of receiving wisdom or sound judgement from a medium, or from some communicators. A potential sitter should choose his medium carefully and there is normally no basis for complaining about information received.

Where the mediumship is that of an amateur, then anything can happen with regard to information obtained. If a communicator tells of important plans, or of anything of a grand style, then he is almost certainly one of the impeders and probably seeking contact because he is unhappy in the next world. The more senior minds are usually extremely modest.

Any suggestion that the sitter should approach a third party in connection with information received should normally be resisted. The safest procedure is to ignore it.

Even in our ordinary conversation with each other, advice that you should 'do this' differs only slightly from the advice that you should 'not do this'. The insertion of the one word 'not' reverses the whole proposition. But W. B. Yeats found that such a word could be inserted by an impeder into a communication that was otherwise from a trusted source, as explained in the introduction to Yeats[15] (1925). I have never found this type of deception to arise in any of my sittings, but as far as I know there have never been any hostile communicators involved.

[15] A Vision (London: MacMillan, 1937, first published by Werner Laurie in 1925.)

This subject is loaded with traps for the beginner and the wisest conclusion about the reliability of information received from mediums is that the sitter must take full responsibility at all times for decisions and action taken. Information received from a medium must be treated with great reserve; it may be helpful, but it may be wrong.

If one goes to several independent mediums and obtains the same information from each of them, that in itself can have a considerable impact. On the other hand, we do not know whether the same information or advice coming from several seemingly independent mediums has a greater validity that that from just one medium. It could be that something that has been seen by a medium is in effect lying around in the months that follow, to be picked up by any other medium, even for a different but related sitter.

If one goes to a particular medium from time to time over a period of years and appears to be communicating with the same communicator on a number of occasions, apparently with great interest and apparent value in advice received, there can still be an unexpected failure, arising without any warning. I received such a communication early in 1994 and the broad details may be of interest.

T had suffered a minor stroke and although she recovered fairly quickly, she at some stage told me that one outcome of that experience was that one tends to worry as to whether a major stroke might follow. I asked her whether it might help if I asked a medium about the position and she said she thought it might. I visited a medium I had been dealing with for some years and when the communicator was T's father, with whom I had communicated for many years and had always found to be extremely reliable, as he had been during his lifetime. He was accompanied on this occasion by T's mother.

I explained T's question and they assured me that everything would be alright. They said she would remain in full control of her faculties 'until she passed through the door'. They said she would never have any trouble with her legs, and in general gave me far more reassuring information than I had expected. I asked whether I should show her a copy of the tape of that conversation and they said yes, it would help to give her confidence.

Several months later T had the big stroke. She has never walked since then, except with difficulty with a frame. Her short term memory has been severely affected. Her personality has been changed. She no longer wants to be with people and lives almost entirely on her own in her nursing home bedroom. Just two or three close friends manage to keep in touch with her.

Obviously to tell this story was going to upset my medium. So I postponed that for several months. My medium was then very upset. Through her I discussed the situation with T's father and he was very concerned about it. He explained that he could only say that neither he nor her mother saw anything of what had subsequently happened when they gave me that account of what they saw at the time.

I can only give my personal conclusions about this case, but unless we have better explanations these comments could be important.

In the first place it appears to show that what a communicator sees about the development of a situation in the future may be given to that communicator by some other and presumably more senior mind. In other words it seems that it may not be a direct vision of what is going to happen.

Secondly, it looks as if what was said initially was given in order to help T to live the coming weeks with the maximum confidence and so it might have been the wisest approach in spite of the fact that what was said was in no way true. There are parts of this world where enquirers are often given answers by well-meaning people, calculated to make them happy at the time, rather than what might be described as an attempt to give factual truth.

Any messages relating to future events need to be treated with the greatest care and this case just illustrates one rather frightening, but probably wise, situation that can occur.

But we almost certainly have to go further than that. In chapter 7, in discussing precognition, we referred briefly to the pastiche type of picture or vision that is sometimes seen by living sensitives. The elements of a future event may be seen, but in a different sequence or format from that of the event itself and we concluded that such pictures appear to have been created by minds, presumably for a purpose. It looks as if a similar situation applies when a communicator communicates through a medium. In such cases it looks as if the communicator may have based the information he or she has given on a pastiche type of vision of future events, which has presumably been prepared by a mind at a higher level. We have no idea how far this goes.

Too easily we assume that our communicator has a superior source of true information, but his sources may be similar to those used directly by living sensitives. It looks as if there could be a hierarchy of levels, in effect a hierarchy of dependence on such pictures, all created by minds for purposes we may not understand.

We referred in chapter 7 to the insistence by many leading mediums in 1939 that there would be no major war. This looks as if it could have been based on an agreement between the guides, based on an idea, or on knowledge, that to forecast a major war at that time could have made the outcome even worse. We may never know about the full background to such decisions. My experience early in 1994, referred to above, was of a similar nature but relating to the life of one individual.

Fortune telling has for a long time had a bad name and this is a relatively small part of the background. Here we have seemingly wrong forecasting by normally trustworthy communicators for presumably good reasons that we do not understand. Far greater problems could arise if hostility and deliberate harm or frustration were involved.

We started this section with a heading referring to reliability of information. We end it realising that we do not know what we mean by reliability or by information when dealing with messages received about future developments.

We can probably be reasonably safe if at all times we remain thoughtful and careful concerning material received, realising that criteria other than our own may have validity in particular situations.

Any advice or comment that is received must be treated with great care. The subject is immensely important for our understanding of the system in which we live, but there is so much that we do not yet understand.


The above article was originally titled "Part II Evidence for Survival". It was taken from Arthur Oram's "The System in Which We Live" (Purley: Talbot Books, 1998).

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Studying the Evidence for Survival by Arthur Oram

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