Book: "The Survival of Man"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- Section Four -

Automatism and Lucidity

Chapter 12

Personal Identity


          IN illustration of the remarks made at end of last chapter, the following is a favourable instance of the mode in which evidence is given to prove identity in cases of automatic writing: it was described by Mr. Stainton Moses to Edmund Gurney and F. W. H. Myers, while it was still fresh, on his first meeting with them, May 9th, 1874. It is to be understood that he was an automatic writer, and one of those who could, as it were, "converse" with the script as it emanated from his own unconscious hand. He was accustomed alternately to write a conscious question and then to receive an unconscious or subliminal answer - his hand 'being apparently guided by an intelligence not his own. The record runs thus:-

On the evening of April 8th, 1874, while at Bedford with his father and mother, Mr. Stainton Moses, who had been receiving messages about ancient religions during the day, began to ask a question, "I should like -" when a meaningless drawing was made in place of intended words. 

Q. What is all that? And why was I stopped?

A. "A spirit wished to communicate, and we are commanded to permit her. She is not able to write with ease, but will communicate through us. Her name is Fanny Westoby. Do you know the name?"

Q. I do not remember.

A. "Your mother knows her well. She is a cousin of hers. Slat passed from your earth May 15th last."

Q. Was she married?

A. "Yes, her maiden name was Kirkhain."

Q. Fanny Kirkham. Yes, I have a dim remembrance. She used to live at Markby.

A. "She says that she was born in Alford, in the house now occupied by Sam Stevenson. She then lived at Markby, arid, having married, at Belchford. She passed away at Horncastle, at 63 years of age. You do not remember her, when, in the year 1845, you went to see her at Markby. Her mother, Elizabeth Kirkham, was then just released from a lingering illness, and your mother had gone to condole with her cousin. You were taken around the farm, and rode on a goat (she is anxious on this point) and she threw you in sport into a heap of wheat which was being threshed. The result was that you were severely bitten by the harvest bug. She is very anxious that you should recall this to your mother."

Q. I will, but is it wise?

A. "You will not be able to induce her to search into this matter, but you may satisfy yourself that what is said is true"

Q. Has she any message?

A. "She says, 'I lost much of my opportunity for progress through the gratification of bodily, appetite, which cast me back. My course of progress is yet to come. I find my present life not very different from yours. I am nearly same. I wish I could influence Mary, but I can't get near her."

Q. Can she assure me that she is F. W?

A. She can give you no further evidence. Stay, ask your father about Donnington and the trap-door."

Q. I have not the least idea what she means. All the better. I will ask. Any more? Is she happy?

A. 'She is as happy as may be in her present state."

Q. How did she find me out?

A. "She came by chance, hovering near her friend (i.e. Mrs. Moses), and discovered that she could communicate. She will return now."

Q. Can I help her?

A. "Yes, pray. She and all of us are helped when you devote your talents willingly to aid us."

Q. What do you mean?

A. "In advocating and advancing our mission with care and judgment. Then we are permeated with joy. May the Supreme bless you. + RECTOR"

On this Mr. Stainton Moses comments thus:- I have inquired of my mother and find the particulars given are exactly true. She wonders how I remember things that occurred when I was only 5 years old! I have not ventured to say how I got the information, believing that it would be unwise and useless. My father I can get nothing out of about the trap-door. He either does not remember, or will not say.

April 9th, 1874. My father has remembered this incident. A trap-door led on to the roof in the house lie occupied at Donnington. The house was double roofed and a good view could be had from it. F. K. on a visit wanted to go there, and got fixed halfway, amid great laughter.

(We have verified Mrs. Westoby's death in the Register of Deaths. - F. W. H. M.)

It is indeed seldom that particulars of date, place, and circumstance are given so glibly arid fully as this. Communicators themselves usually appear confused about these more precise details; but an ostensible reporter, having obtained the information from them at leisure, can sometimes quote it through an automatist with fair accuracy, as in the case above.


Another striking case is that of the lady known here as "Blanche Abercromby"; though in this case the concealment of real name removes some of the interest that would otherwise be felt in it. When the communication arrived through Mr. Stainton Moses's hand he was not aware of her death - nor did he know her at all well; in fact, he had only met her and her husband once, at some sťance and had been annoyed at the strongly expressed disbelief of her husband in the possibility of such things.

Part of the communication, the part in special handwriting, purports to be a hasty amende for this incredulity, at the earliest, posthumous opportunity. Mr. Myers examined this case carefully, being much interested in some features of it. The pages of the notebook in which the writing occurred had been gummed down and marked "private," nor had they apparently been mentioned to any one it the time. But years later after the death of Mr. Stainton Moses, this and other books came into Mr. Myers's hands, and with the consent of the executors he opened this portion.

He was surprised to find a written communication entirely characteristic of a lady known to him, here called Blanche Abercromby, who had died on a Sunday afternoon, nearly forty years ago now, at a country house about two hundred miles from London. He found that it was on the very same evening near midnight that the supernormal intimation of the death had reached Mr. Stainton Moses at his secluded lodgings in the north of London: and that afterwards the lady had ostensibly written a few lines herself. The evidence of the handwriting, which was in one point peculiar, is specifically testified to, not only by Mr. Myers, but by a member of the family, and by an expert (see Human Personality, vol. ii. P. 231, or Proc. S. P. R., xi. 96 et seq.) It is unlikely that Mr. Moses had ever seen her writing

The chances necessary to secure a verification of this case were more complex that can here be fully explained. This lady, who was quite alien to these researches, had been dead about twenty years when her posthumous letter was discovered in Mr. Moses's private notebook by one of the very few surviving persons who had both known her well enough to recognise the characteristic quality of the message, and were also sufficiently interested in spirit identity to get the handwritings compared and the case recorded.

The entries in the MS. book will now be quoted. The communications began with some obscure drawings, apparently representing the flight of a bird; then ill answer to a question as to the meaning it went on:-

A. "It is a spirit who has but just quitted the body. Blanche Abercromby in the flesh. I have brought her. No more. M."

Q. Do you mean Lady -?

No reply. (Sunday night about midnight. The information is unknown to me.)
(On Monday morning the script continues)

Q. I wish for information about last night. Is that true? Was it mentor?

A. "Yes, good friend, it was Mentor, who took pity on a spirit that was desirous to reverse former errors. She desires us to say so. She was ever an inquiring spirit, and was called suddenly from your earth. She will rest anon. One more proof has been now given of continuity of existence. Be thankful and meditate with prayer. Seek not more now, but cease. We do not wish you to ask any questions now. 

A week later some matter of what must be called non-evidential quality appears; but in this instance I propose to quote it because this is an important case.

Q. Can you write for me now?

A. "Yes, the chief is here."

Q. How was it that spirit (Blanche Abercromby's) came to me?

A. "The mind was directed to the subject, and being active, it projected itself to you. Moreover, we were glad to be able to afford you another proof of our desire to do what is in our power to bring home to you evidence of the truth of what we say."

Q. Is it correct to say that the direction of thought causes the spirit to be present?

A. In some cases it is so. Great activity of spirit, coupled with anxiety to discover truth and to seek into the hidden causes of things, continue to make it possible for a spirit to manifest. Moreover, direction of thought gives what you would call direction or locality to the thought. By that we mean that the instinctive tendency of the desire or thought causes a possibility of objective manifestation. Then by the help of those who, like ourselves, are skilled in managing the elements, manifestation becomes possible. This would not have been possible in this case, only that we took advantage of what would have passed unnoticed in order to work out another proof of the reality of our mission. It is necessary that there should be a combination of circumstances before such a manifestation can be possible. And that combination is rare. Hence the infrequency of such events, and the difficulty we have in arranging them: especially when anxiety enters into the matter, as in the case of a friend whose presence is earnestly desired. It might well be that so ready a proof as this might not occur again."

Q. Then a combination of favourable circumstances aided you. Will the spirit rest, or does it not require it?

A. "We do not know the destiny of that spirit. It will pass out of our control. Circumstances enabled us to use its presence: but that presence will not be maintained."

Q. If direction of thought causes motion, I should have thought it would be so with our friends, and that they would therefore be more likely to come.

A. "It is not that alone. Nor is it so with all. All cannot come to earth. And not in all cases does volition or thought cause union of souls. Many other adjuncts are necessary before such can be. Material obstacles may prevent, and the guardians may oppose. We are not able to pursue the subject now, seeing that we write with difficulty at another time we may resume. Cease for the present and do not seek further."
+ I: S: D. RECTOR"

A few days later, Mr. Moses wrote:-

Q. The spirit B. A. began by drawing. Was it herself?

A. "With assistance. She could not write. One day if she is able to return again, she will be more able to express her thoughts . . . ."

(A few days later.)

A. "A spirit who has before communicated will write for you herself. She will then leave you, having given the evidence that is required.

"I should much like to speak more with you, but it is not permitted. You have sacred truth. I know but little yet. I have much, much to learn. BLANCHE ABERCROMBY

"It is like my writing as evidence to you."

The statement that the writing of this particular message is like that of the lady's, was long afterwards verified with some care and trouble by Mr. Myers, and is correct, as stated more in detail above. The amende, and the sentence "I have much, much to learn," are characteristic. I have myself seen the writing, and was told at the time by Mr. Myers of all the circumstances.


Attempts have been made, and are still made from time to time, to explain all this sort of thing - some of it by the recrudescence of lapsed memory, some of it by telepathy, and some of it by clairvoyance. If such attempts are regarded as successful how can it be possible, by any means, to get over the difficulty and to establish the identity of any communicator? I reply -

(a) by gradually accumulated internal evidence, based on pertinacious and careful record;

(b) by cross correspondences, or the reception of unintelligible parts of one consistent and coherent message, through different mediums;

(c) by information or criteria specially characteristic of the supposed communicating intelligence; and, if possible, in some sense new to the world.

Cross-correspondence - that is, the reception of part of a message through one medium and part through another - is good evidence of one intelligence dominating both automatists; especially if the parts separately are unintelligible, so that they cannot be rationally signalled either by normal or supernormal means. And if the message is characteristic of some one particular deceased person, and is received through people to whom he was not intimately known, then it is fair proof of the continued intellectual activity of that personality. If further we get from him a piece of literary criticism which is eminently in his vein and has not occurred to ordinary people - not to either of the mediums, and not even to the literary world, but which on consideration is appreciated as sound as well as characteristic criticism, showing a familiar and wide knowledge of the poetry of many ages, and unifying apparently disconnected passages in some definite way, - then I say the proof, already striking, would tend to become crucial.

These, then, are the kinds of proof at which the Society is aiming. These are the kinds of proof which are in process of being attained.



Contents / Preface / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15 / Chapter 16 / Chapter 1 7 / Chapter 18 / Chapter 19 / Chapter 20 / Chapter 21 / Chapter 22 / Chapter 23 / Chapter 24 / Chapter 25

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