Charles Drayton Thomas

Died 1953

A Life-Long Psychical Researcher

          CHARLES DRAYTON Thomas was a Methodist minister in England, who devoted a major portion of his life to systematic psychic study.

His father, John Wesley Thomas, was also a Methodist minister. Drayton, after having gone into business, had felt a call to the ministry, and entered Richmond Theological College in 1889. From 1892 to 1907 he served various Methodist circuits in England. He then gave up circuit work, and was appointed to the Leysian Mission, City Road, London, where he remained until he retired. He continued preaching and lecturing until a few months before his death, in 1953, at the age of eighty-five.

His career in psychical research

As a minister he had for many years been interested in the life after death. On 3 February, 1917, he had his first sitting, anonymously, with Mrs. Osborne Leonard - the medium who had become famous as the channel through which Sir Oliver Lodge had secured the evidence published in the book to which he gave the name of his son, Raymond.

Drayton Thomas's father had passed on in 1903. Drayton had a married sister, Etta. She shared his psychical researches for three years, and passed over in 1920, at the age of forty-six. In 1922 Mr. Thomas began publishing his long series of books and articles. In these he presented cumulative evidence which, even at that early date, had convinced him that, through the mediumship of Mrs. Leonard, he was in full communication with his father and sister (as well as with other departed friends). The list of sources at the end of this present book includes references to fifteen of his publications, nine of which appeared in the Proceedings or the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

'He kept full and annotated records of his sittings with a care none too frequent among sitters, and generously made these available to other investigators. He also had gramophone records made of some of the communications from his father John ... and presented copies to the Society. The early sitters with Mrs. Leonard were fortunate in having to deal with a medium and control who fully entered into the spirit of scientific investigation, and indeed themselves proposed various methods of research which would provide crucial tests as to whether or not the content of the communications could reasonably be assigned to telepathy.'

The recognition of his scientific integrity led to his election to the Council of the Society for Psychical Research, on which he served for nineteen years. His membership in the Society extended over a period of more than half a century.

Drayton Thomas as a spiritualist

His strong conviction of survival did not destroy his capacity to use critical scientific methods. Mrs. Lydia W. Allison wrote of him in 1954:

'A convinced spiritualist, Mr. Thomas was able to act with entire sincerity during his mediumistic sittings, mainly with Mrs. Osborne Leonard, and his attitude, devoid of scepticism may, at least partially, have contributed to his long-continued success in obtaining evidence of a high order which pointed to the survival of human personality after death. It should be emphasized that Mr. Thomas whole-heartedly embraced the rigorous standards for mediumistic investigation introduced and developed over the years by the SPR. This combination of personal conviction of survival and willingness to accept scientific conditions in his experiments won for him the respect of psychical researchers of the most diverse opinions. "One of the advantages of having been trained in the ways of the Society for Psychical Research," he wrote, "was an appreciation of the value of exact note-taking, leaving nothing to memory."'

Thomas's Conclusions

That human personalities do survive bodily death was the conviction which Drayton Thomas maintained and for which he believed that he found ample justification. By survival he meant continuity of memory, of character, and of basic interests. He believed that surviving personalities retain vivid and detailed memories of their earth-lives, and that they retain their basic attitudes and character traits; he believed that these surviving personalities, through Mrs. Leonard and through other competent mediums, have been able to converse and co-operate with those whom they had left behind in earth-life and who sought such contacts. He believed that outside the séance room and apart from the aid of special mediums, contact between the two worlds could be maintained through meditation, and that spiritual guidance could be a basis and highly significant resource in daily living.

With respect to the process of communication itself, Drayton Thomas offered what he believed to be satisfactory evidence in support of what may be called a realistic interpretation of what goes on in the séance room. The evidence which he had collected seemed to him to fit perfectly into the interpretation that his communicators were literally present in their etheric bodies in definite spatial positions a few feet from the medium, that Feda was the actual spiritual survivor of one of Mrs. Leonard's ancestors, that Feda was able to see the communicators and to hear their voices, and that she also communicated with them by telepathy, that the communicators themselves at times whispered or uttered aloud brief words or phrases which the sitters would hear coming from the point in space occupied by the communicator, and that at times the communicators themselves could take possession of Mrs. Leonard's body and could speak through her vocal chords with voices and mannerisms characteristically distinctive of the persons involved.

Thomas accepted the explanation given by his communicators that the reason they were able to communicate through Mrs. Leonard was because of a 'power' which extended a few feet around her body, and which faded away towards the end of the sitting so that communication was no longer possible. He accepted also their explanation of difficulties which prevented their communicating freely and fully the knowledge and the ideas which they possessed when they were not in the abnormal state necessary for communication. In spite of these difficulties, Thomas believed that not only the evidential details which he was able to verify but also major blocks of the communications which he received were authentic and represented the actual ideas which his father, his sister, and his other communicators had been endeavouring to get through to him.

Types of evidence which Thomas presented

Two of the most striking types of evidence assembled by Drayton Thomas consisted in his detailed analysis of 'direct-voice' utterances, and his analysis of the nature of predictive messages which he himself received. The direct-voice phenomena appear to be consistent with his realistic interpretation of the seances. His analysis of the predictive messages offers a body of evidence which appears to show independent purpose and superhuman knowledge on the part of his communicators.

But these are only two outstanding bodies of evidence from among a number of systematic investigations which Drayton Thomas carried forward during his prolonged researches with Mrs. Leonard. His use of word-association tests to establish the identity of his communicators, his persistent and painstaking studies of proxy sittings, and the large collection of book-tests and newspaper-tests which he accumulated and interpreted, produce a major body of evidence which is consistent, with his general conclusions, and which would offer major difficulties to disbelievers in survival even if his studies of direct-voice and predictive phenomena had not been carried out.

Some of Thomas's books included:

Some New Evidence for Human Survival (London: Collins, 1922.)

Life Beyond Death with Evidence (London: W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1928.)

Precognition and Human Survival (Psychic Press Ltd.)

Life Beyond Death (London: Collins, 1933.)

An Amazing Experiment (London: Lectures Universal, 1936.)

Source: "The Enigma of Survival" by Hornell Hart (London: Rider & Co., 1959.)



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