Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- (Part 2) Chapter 2 - Supernormal Portion -

The "Faunus" Message


Preliminary Facts

          RAYMOND joined the Army in September 1914; trained near Liverpool and Edinburgh with the South Lancashires, and in March 1915 was sent to the trenches in Flanders. In the middle Of July 1915 he had a few days' leave at home, and on the 20th returned to the Front.

Initial "Piper" Message

The first intimation that I had that anything might be going wrong, was a message from Myers through Mrs. Piper in America; communicated apparently by "Richard Hodgson" at a time when a Miss Robbins was having a sitting at Mrs. Piper's house, Greenfield, New Hampshire, on 8 August 1915, and sent me by Miss Alta Piper (A. L. P.) together with the original script. Here follows the extract, which at a certain stage in Miss Robbins's sitting, after having dealt with matters of personal significance to her, none of which had anything whatever to do with me, began abruptly thus:

R. H. - Now Lodge, while we are not here as of old, i.e. not quite, we are here enough to take and give messages.

Myers says you take the part of the poet, and he will act as Faunus. FAUNUS.

MISS R .- Faunus?

R. H. - Yes. Myers. Protect. He will understand.

(Evidently referring to Lodge. - A.L. P.)

What have you to say, Lodge? Good work. Ask Verrall, she will also understand. Arthur says so. (This means Dr. Arthur W. Verrall (deceased) OJL)

MISS R.- Do you mean Arthur Tennyson?

(This absurd confusion, stimulated by the word (poet, was evidently the result of a long strain at reading barely legible trance-writing for more than an hour, and was recognised immediately afterwards with dismayed amusement by the sitter. It is only of interest as showing how completely unknown to anyone present was the reference intended by the communicator. - OJL)

R. H. - No. Myers knows. So does you got mixed (to Miss R.), but Myers is straight about Poet and Faunus.

I venture to say that to non-classical people the above message conveys nothing. It did not convey anything to me, beyond the assurance, based on past experience, that it certainly meant something definite, that its meaning was probably embedded in a classical quotation, and that a scholar like Mrs. Verrall would be able to interpret it, even if only the bare skeleton of the message were given without any details as to source.

Letter from Mrs. Verrall

In order to interpret this message, therefore, I wrote to Mrs. Verrall as instructed, asking her: "Does The Poet and Faunus mean anything to you? Did one 'protect' the other?" She replied at once (8 September 1915) referring me to Horace, Carm. II. xvii 27- 30, and saying:

"The reference is to Horace's account of his narrow escape from death, from a falling tree, which he ascribes to the intervention of Faunus. Cf. Hor. Odes, ii. xiii.; II. xvii 27; Ill. iv 27; 111. viii. 8, for references to the subject. The allusion to Faunus is in Ode ii. xvii. 27-30:

'Me truncus illapsus cerebro Sustulerat, nisi Faunus ictum Dextra levasset, Mercurialium Custos virorum.'

"'Faunus, the guardian of poets' ('poets' being the usual interpretation of 'Mercury's men').

"The passage is a very well-known one to all readers of Horace, and is perhaps specially familiar from its containing, in the sentence quoted, an unusual grammatical construction. It is likely to occur in a detailed work on Latin Grammar.

"The passage has no special associations for me other than as I have described, though it has some interest as forming part of a chronological sequence among the Odes, not generally admitted by commentators, but accepted by me.

"The words quoted are, of course, strictly applicable to the Horatian passage, whichthey instantly recalled to me. (Signed) M. DE G. VERRALL"

I perceived therefore, from this manifestly correct interpretation of the 'Myers' message to me, that the meaning  was that some blow was going to fall, or was likely to fall, though I didn't know of what kind, and that Myers would intervene, apparently to protect me from it. So far as I can recollect my comparatively trivial thoughts on the subject, I believe that I had some vague idea that the catastrophe intended was perhaps of a financial rather than of a personal kind.

The above message reached me near the beginning of September in Scotland. Raymond was killed near Ypres on 14 September 1915, and we got the news by telegram from the War Office on 17 September. A fallen or falling tree is a frequently used symbol for death; perhaps through misinterpretation of Eccl. xi, 3. To several other classical scholars I have since put the question I addressed to Mrs. Verrall, and they all referred me to Horace, Carm. ii. xvii. as the unmistakable reference.

Mr.Bayfield's Criticism

Soon after the event, I informed the Rev. M. A. Bayfield, ex-headmaster of Eastbourne College, fully of the facts, as an interesting S.P.R. incident (saying at the same time that Myers had not been able to 'ward off' the blow) ; and he was good enough to send me a careful note in reply:-

"Horace does not, in any reference to his escape, say clearly whether the tree struck him, but I have always thought it did. He says Faunus lightened the blow; he does not say 'turned it aside.' As bearing on your terrible loss, the meaning seems to be that the blow would fall but would not crush; it would be 'lightened' by the assurance, conveyed afresh to you by a special message from the still living Myers, that your boy still lives. "I shall be interested to know what you think of this interpretation. The 'protect' I take to mean protect from being overwhelmed by the blow, from losing faith and hope, as we are all in danger of doing when smitten by some crushing personal calamity. Many a man when so smitten has, like Merlin, lain

'as dead, And lost to life and use and name and fame.'

That seems to me to give a sufficiently precise application to the word (on which Myers apparently insists) and to the whole reference to Horace."

In a postscript he adds the following:- 

"In Carm. iii. 8, Horace describes himself as prope funeratus / arboris ictu, 'wellnigh killed by a blow from a tree.' An artist in expression, such as he was, would not have mentioned any 'blow' if there had been none; he would have said 'well nigh killed by a falling tree - or the like. It is to be noted that in both passages he uses the word ictus. And in ii. 13. 11 (the whole ode is addressed to the tree) he says the man must have been a fellow steeped in every wickedness who planted thee an accursed lump of wood, a thing meant to fall (this is the delicate meaning of caducum - not merely "falling") on thine undeserving master's head.' Here again the language implies that he was struck, and struck on the head. "Indeed, the escape must have been a narrow one, and it is to me impossible to believe that Horace would have been so deeply impressed by the accident if he had not actually been struck. He refers to it four times -- Carm. ii. 13.-(Ode addressed to the tree-forty lines long.) ii- 17- 27.-- iii. 4. 27-- (Here he puts the risk he ran on a parallel with that of the rout at Philippi, from which he escaped.) iii. 8. 8.

"I insist on all this as strengthening my interpretation, and also as strengthening the assignment of the script to Myers, who would of course be fully alive to all the points to be found in his reference to Faunus and Horace-and, as I have no doubt, believed that Horace did not escape the actual blow, and that it was a severe one."

Note by OJL

Since some of the translators, especially verse translators, of Horace convey the idea of turning aside or warding off the blow, it may be well to emphasise the fact that most of the scholars consulted gave "lightened" or "weakened" as the translation. And Professor Strong says--"no doubt at all that 'levasset' means 'weakened' the blow; the bough fell and struck the Poet, but lightly, through the action of Faunus. 'Levo' in this sense is quite common and classical."

Bryce's prose translation (Bohn) is quite clear--"a tree-stem falling on my head had surely been my death, had not good Faunus eased the blow ..." And although Conington's translation has "check'd the blow in mid descent," he really means the same thing, because it is the slaying, not the wounding or striking of the Poet that is prevented:

"Me the curst trunk, that smote my skull, Had slain; but Faunus, strong to shield The friends of Mercury, check'd the blow In mid descent."

Additional Piper Script

Mr. Bayfield also calls my attention to another portion of Piper Script-in this case not a trance or semi-trance sitting, but ordinary automatic writing-dated 5 August, which reached me simultaneously with the one already quoted from, at the beginning of September, and which he says seems intended to prepare me for some personal trouble:

"Yes. For the moment, Lodge, have faith and wisdom [? confidence] in all that is highest and best. Have you all not been profoundly guided and cared for? Can you answer, 'No'? It is by your faith that all is well and has been."

I remember being a little struck by the wording in the above script, urging me to admit that we-presumably the family-had "been profoundly guided and cared for," and "that all is well and has been"; because it seemed to indicate that something was not going to be quite so well. But it was too indefinite to lead me to make any careful record of it, or to send it as a prediction to anybody for filing; and it would no doubt have evaporated from my mind except for the 'Faunus' warning, given three days later, though received at the same time, which seemed to me clearly intended as a prediction, whether it happened to come off or not.

The two Piper communications, of which parts have now been quoted, reached me at Gullane, East Lothian, where my wife (M. F. A. L.) and I were staying for a few weeks. They arrived early in September 1915, and as soon as I had heard from Mrs. Verrall I wrote to Miss Piper to acknowledge them, as follows:

The Linga Private Hotel, Gullane, East Lothian, 12 September 1915

"MY DEAR ALTA - The reference to the Poet and Faunus in your mother's last script is quite intelligible, and a good classical allusion. You might tell the 'communicator' some time if there is opportunity.

"I feel sure that it must convey nothing to you and yours. That is quite as it should be, as you know, for evidential reasons."

This was written two days before Raymond's death, and five days before we heard of it. The Pipers' ignorance of any meaning in the Poet and Faunus allusion was subsequently confirmed.

It so happens that this letter was returned to me, for some unknown reason, through the Dead Letter Office, reaching me on 14 November 1915, and being then sent forward by me again. (1)

(1) Further Piper and other communications, obscurely relevant to this
subject, will be found in a Paper which will appear in the S.P.R. Proceedings
for the autumn of 1916.



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