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A spirit Explains Ectoplasm

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moses.jpg.cf3a5a1f8e11c598f8620cae241cc7b1.jpgA Spirit Explains Ectoplasm

Posted on 15 August 2022, 8:01

In the February 1905 issue of “The Annals of Psychical Science,” Ernest Bozzano, an Italian psychical researcher, offers an article titled “A Defence of William Stainton Moses.” It is in response to comments made by Frank Podmore, the resident skeptic of the Society for Psychical Research, relative to the mediumship of Moses. Podmore’s theory was that the “spirit lights” frequently reported around Moses were produced with bottles of phosphorized oil hidden on or about him.  He claimed that Moses (below) had pretty much indicted himself by writing about a mishap that occurred during September 1873, as it suggested that a bottle had accidentally been broken.

The charges against Moses were made by Podmore in his book Modern Spiritualism, published in 1904, some 12 years after Moses’s death. He draws from Moses’s own written account of the incident, which reads, “Suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my own nose, a cloud of luminous smoke, just like phosphorus. It fumed up in great clouds, until I seemed to be on fire, and rushed from the room in a panic. I was fairly frightened, and could not tell what was happening. I rushed to the door and opened it, and so to the front door. My hands seemed to be ablaze and left their impress on the door and handles. It blazed for a while after I had touched it, but soon went out, and no smell or trace remained. … There seemed to be no end of smoke. It smelled distinctly phosphoric, but the smell evaporated as soon as I got out of the room into the air.”

The “clouds of luminous smoke” were likely what later came to be called ectoplasm.  Researchers reported it coming in various forms from vaporish to a thick milky-like substance.  Around the same time, Sir William Crookes, a renowned chemist, observed it with medium D. D. Home and referred to it as “psychic force,” a name given to it by lawyer Serjeant Cox, a fellow psychical researcher. 

Podmore was not present, only Dr. Stanhope Speer, Moses’s friend, but Podmore jumped to the conclusion that Moses mishandled a bottle of phosphorus, causing it to break. “Now this is what Mr. Podmore does,” Bozzano explains, “... he makes extracts of phrases where the phenomenon is insufficiently described, detaches the case, thus presenting it to the reader in a state of isolation, and makes a few brief comments on it – which, as usual, resolve themselves into cutting insinuations.” Bozzano further wondered why Moses bothered to write about it if it was a trick gone astray or why Dr. Speer made no mention of broken glass, etc.

Moses mentioned it because he was given an explanation the next day by a spirit communicator. It is not clear which spirit was communicating, but apparently it was Rector or Mentor from the Imperator group of 49 spirits. By means of automatic writing, Moses asked the spirit what the phosphoric smoke the previous day was all about. Here is part of the dialogue that took place:

Spirit: “We are scarcely able to write. The shock has destroyed your passivity. It was an accident. The envelope in which is contained the substance which we gather from the bodies of the sitters was accidentally destroyed, and hence the escape into outer air, and the smoke which terrified you. It was owing to a new operator (spirit operator) being engaged on the experiment. We regret the shock to you.”

Moses: “I was extremely alarmed. It was just like phosphorus.”

Spirit: “No, but similar. We told you when first we began to make the lights that they were attended with some risk; and that with unfavourable conditions they would be smoky and of a reddish yellow hue.”

Moses: “Yes, I know. But not that they would make a smoke and scene like that.”

Spirit: “Nor would they, save by accident. The envelope was destroyed by mischance, and the substance which we had gathered escaped.”

Moses: “What substance?”

Spirit: “That which we draw from the bodily organisms of the sitters. We had a large supply, seeing that neither of you had sustained any drain of late.”

Moses: “You draw it from our bodies – from all?”

Spirit: “From both of you. You are both helpful in this, both. But not from all people. From some the substance cannot be safely drawn, lest we diminish the life principle too much.”

Moses: “Robust men give it off?”

Spirit: “Yes, in greater proportion. It is the sudden loss of it and the shock that so startled you that caused the feeling of weakness and depression.”

Moses: “It seemed to come from the side of the table.”

Spirit: “From the darkened space between the sitters. We gathered it between you in the midst. Could you have seen with spirit eyes you would have discovered threads of light, joined to your bodies and leading to the space where the substance was being collected. These lines of light were ducts leading to our receptacle.”

Moses: “From what part of my body?”

Spirit: “From many; from the nerve centers and from the spine.”

Moses: “What is this substance?”

Spirit: “In simple words, it is that which give to your bodies vitality and energy. It is the life principle.”

Moses: Very like sublimated phosphorus?

Spirit: “No body that does not contain a large portion of what you call phosphorus is serviceable to us for objective manifestations. This is invariable. There are other qualities of which you do not know, and which not all spirits can tell, but this is invariable in mediums for physical manifestations.”

On another occasion, Imperator, the chief of the band of 49, which included Rector and Mentor, communicated:

“We have a higher form of what is known to you as electricity, and it is by that means we are enabled to manifest, and that Mentor shows his globe of light. He bring with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Maria Speer, the wife of Dr. Speer, recorded: “... the next evening we sat again in perfect darkness, which Mentor took advantage of, as he showed lights almost as soon as we were seated. He then controlled the medium (Moses), talking to us about the lights as he showed them. At first they were very small. This, he said, was the nucleus of light he had brought with him, a small amount of what we should call electricity. This nucleus lasted all the time, and from the circle he gathered more light around it, and kept it alive by contact with the medium. At one time, the light was as bright as a torch. Mentor moved it about all over the table and above our heads with the greatest rapidity.”

On August 10, 1873, Dr. Speer recorded that Mentor said he would show his hand. “A large, very bright light then came up as before, casting a great reflection on the oilcloth, came up as before in front of me; inside of it appeared the hand of Mentor, as distinct as it can well be conceived. ‘You see! You see!’ said he, ‘that is my hand; now I move my fingers,’ and he continued to move his fingers about freely, just in front of my face. I thanked him for his consideration.”

Everyone who knew Moses, an Anglican priest, spoke of his honesty and integrity, especially Frederic Myers. Moreover, it seems highly unlikely that Moses would have carried on such imposture with his friends for over ten years. Podmore implied that all of Moses’ seances were in the dark, but Bozzano pointed out that many of them were in lighted conditions. This was confirmed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer and others.

Bozzano’s article also refers to other phenomena observed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer, as well as their adult son, Charlton Speer, a professional musician. Charlton reported on strange music about them with no visible instruments.  He described it as something like “the soft tone of a clarinet gradually increasing in intensity until it rivaled the sound of a trumpet, and then by degrees diminishing to the original subdued note of the clarinet, until it eventually died away in a long drawn-out melancholy wail. This is a very inefficient description of this really extraordinary sound, but as I have in the whole course of my experience never heard anything at all like it, it is impossible to give to those who have not heard it a more accurate idea of what it was like.” 

On July 13, 1874, Dr. Speer reported: We had last night an admirable specimen of zither playing, for a length of time. The performer (we don’t know his name yet) actually performed what is called a free prelude; that is to say, a short unbarred composition. The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken.” Dr. Speer further stated that they “ascertained that the sounds were in truth evidence of the presence of individuals purporting to have long since departed from earth life.”

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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