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Spirit Communication Issues as explained by Sir Oliver Lodge

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Spirit Communication issues as explained by Sir Oliver Lodge


Michael Tymn

On October 18, 1929, Sir Oliver Lodge, (below) a distinguished British physicist and pioneering psychical researcher, delivered the first Frederic W. H. Myers Memorial Lecture to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London.  Myers, one of the founders of the SPR, had died in January 1901. He and Lodge had become good friends.  The following is significantly abridged from that talk, as set forth in the November 1929 issue of “Psychic Research,” published by The American Society for Psychical Research. Some of the comments by Mary Lodge seem to lend themselves to the Group Soul concept.

Sir Oliver Lodge oli.jpg.f6e58bf7cac373e85d6e0ca154eb4c20.jpg

…In the December of the same year – 1889 – I persuaded my wife rather against her will, to invite Mrs. [Leonora] Piper to stay a week at our house, in Liverpool. There I conducted a series of test sittings, introducing strangers, and made a report to the Society, which was published in its proceedings….The dawning certainty of survival, and the power of survivors to communicate under certain conditions began in my mind, and has never seriously receded since….

…The possibilities of the Universe are still largely a sealed book.  We must be unaware of a multitude of things going on all around us, just as we are unaware of the wireless waves passing through the hall at the present moment – waves which would bring us speech or music if we had suitable instruments…If only our eyes were open to see the whole of existence we should be dazzled, blinded – we could not stand it. They are mercifully screened from complete revelation, but we have inklings and suggestions and indications that we are thus screened, that the body isolates us, so as to enable us to act as individuals and to do our work here in the field of matter which we are occupied with for a few years…

I am sometimes asked whether I have had any communication with Myers since his death, or whether he has gone on to some higher grade of existence out of touch with earth.  My answer is that as far as I can judge, a man devoted as he was to the enlightenment of his generation in spiritual matter, is not likely to shirk his task merely because he has an opportunity of progressing.  He may progress, but it is possible for people from high to return on missionary enterprise.  The lower may have to bide their time before they can ascend to the higher, but I judge that the higher can always descend to help the lower.  I should have thought that that was the essence of the Christian faith, that the Higher did come to the help of the lower.  However that may be, I know for a fact that Myers’ influence and help are still with me, and that when I have questions to ask he is willing and ready to answer.  He does this often through his lieutenant, my son Raymond, sometimes coming himself, to give information of a more difficult character than Raymond could manage.  Most of this has to be done unfortunately through a more or less uneducated medium, and therefore is apt to be sophisticated and is never infallible.

I propose to limit myself to a few extracts [from my writing in the SPR Journal] bearing on the nature of [the spirit] control and the kind of dislocation or confusion that personality sometimes manifests when one and the same ostensible control tries to manifest through more than one medium. Feda, for example, talks mostly from Mrs. [Gladys Osborne] Leonard, but I have had a talk with Feda through another medium. It seems to be possible for a control habitually accustomed to work through one channel to attempt an occasional excursion through another. Feda is said to have spoken through other mediums. As for Raymond, he has no special habitual channel; he used to prefer members of his own family.

[On one occasion, involving an amateur medium, Feda] spoke about Mrs. Leonard and someone who was giving her trouble, and seeing that, she (Feda) was rather worried about it. She was worried about someone who wanted to take possession of the medium…Well, in May, a month later, we had a sitting with Mrs. Leonard.  After Myers and Raymond had finished speaking, Feda, now the normal control, said, “May I talk about something to do with myself? You know I have been down to your house, don’t you?” (Lodge replied in the affirmative and was then addressed as Solomon, the name Feda used for him.)  “Solomon, I do not think I have told you about this before, but there are times when Feda is not really communicating, but her shadow is.  (Feda often referred to herself in the third person.) Mr. Fred (that is Myers) can explain. Did you know what a thought form is, something that you might send a long way off and the thoughtform might even speak? When you go that way you get things you want to say mixed up with other things.” She then explained more clearly about Mrs. Leonard’s worry which she referred to through that other medium. It had to do with Mrs. Maconnell and her express desire that David Maconnell (her son) should take control (rather than having Feda relay messages from David.) Mrs. Leonard did not wish that, and Feda resented the attempt to displace herself.

Lodge: “Feda, I gather that when you came down to us in the country it was your etheric form that came and that it is not quite dependable in what it says.”

[Feda replied]: ‘No, it is like going in a dream. You get mixed up not with the mind, but with the subconscious mind of the medium.  When you dream, you dream about things that have been worrying you.”  She reported then that Mr. Fred (Myers) wanted to speak, and then Myers took up the thread – note the change of style – “You talk about secondary personalities when you are in the body. On our plane, in our condition, we have no secondary personality, or even a third. It is something that can be called to life by expectation. Supposing I make a strong mental impression on the mind of a psychically sensitive person while yet I am talking with someone else many miles away, that impression of myself which is Number Two, as I heard Feda remark just now, would not be in full consciousness with Number One. The normal image of myself would be left with Number One. The record once produced can be fixed on the medium’s mind again. It requires only a touch to get it going. I myself have often come into touch with a sensitive whom it has not been my intention to influence, but my proximity seemed to touch a spring in the medium.”

Then Feda takes up the thread again: “Mr. Fred is very interested in this?” I said. “Yes, what has been said is quite useful.” Then Myers broke in again, “Lodge, you know in dreams we are not at our best. I remember dreams in which I seemed to be all the time dodging responsibility, running away from responsibility. The elements of doubt and fear very often enter into the dream. That is apt to be the same in what Feda terms the shadow self.”

…My wife has gone over lately and joined the group. She had overcome her initial repugnance to the subject which she felt last century; she had become quite interested, and although she did not claim or admit that she knew very much about it, she was very sympathetic with bereaved people, often helping them, and was anxious to do something to help me when she got over to the other side. Recently I asked her one or two questions about the personality of the control. I instanced the well-known controls of one or two famous mediums with whom she had been acquainted by sittings held while she was here. One of them, John King (control for Eusapia Palladino and others), was more especially attracted by my wife. It has always been a puzzle to us in the SPR to know what personalities of this sort are. They are sometimes thought to be secondary personalities of the medium; by others they are thought to have an independent existence. I therefore wanted to ask what her experience of those was now on the other side. Her answers in May of this year, at a sitting with Mrs. Leonard, were given through Feda, who expressed amused interest as to what was thought about herself, among other controls. At this sitting, Raymond broke in and said, “Mother is awfully enthusiastic about all this, Father, I have had to hold her back.” I asked whether she could talk to Phinuit (Leonora Piper’s early control), whether this was a person one could talk to. The reply was, “Not very much.” At this point Feda chips in and says, “What a funny answer.” My wife continued: “Phinuit is not altogether through with me, Oliver. There is a condition that makes it more difficult to talk to one kind of entity than another. I could talk to Raymond very fully. I could talk to so many people, certain people who exist, well, they exist, but I do not understand everything about it yet. I understand that later on I shall be able to talk to Phinuit more easily.”  Then, I asked [if she had met John King]. “I have spoken to the person who calls himself John King. He presents different masks and calls them John King. Oliver, it is not always the soul that is the personality that communicates. I am beginning to understand it, and it does interest me”

…My wife went on: “There is one thing I wanted to explain to you. When people belong to each other through long association through love, through freshly relationship, there is no difficulty in contact between those people, either from one plane to the other, or between them when they have both reached the same plane. The links exist. But in the case of controls it is different. If we trace it back we shall find there has been a person, say, John King, and that it was necessary for him to do some good work with and through a certain instrument. That brings him in touch with other kids of controls, for one control cannot work in an isolated way. Demands are made of him and he may not wish to accede to those demands, and there you get what I call, Oliver, a mask.” (Sir Oliver asked if a mask was the same as a “personation” and Mary Lodge replied “yes.”)

….My wife continued: “As a rule, Oliver, when a conscientious guide knows that there is a mask being made of him he does his best to follow the mask to see that as much good and as little harm comes it as possible. It is like ensuring a good understudy, or a good locum tenens. Any conscientious guide who had the work at heart would do his best to be present and supervise the proceedings in which his name is being used, but he may never be personally so deeply in them as he was with the medium he himself chose.”

These masks occur mainly in physical phenomena. Raymond tells me how many people called to him and made a mask. He checked his first impression, but you cannot go on guaranteeing impressions and by the time it came to the sixth or seventh he said, “Oh, let them get on with it.  I cannot keep up with it all.” 

…Our sacred books have been subject to [many glosses and different interpretations], and scholars have had to decipher them as best as they can. If the higher powers have not thought it worth while to take precautions against garbling in respect of matters of the utmost importance and if humanity has had to use its judgment as the authenticity and validity of the Scriptures, it is quite unlikely that any of our trivial affairs shall be safeguarded against similar possibilities of mistake.  Therefore, all the communications I receive, I receive with caution, and with a consequent need for interpretation; but received in that spirit. I find them interesting and instructive. I only hope that when my time comes I shall be able to do as well. I am sure that communication is difficult, and I expect one will find oneself forgetting much that one had intended to say before entering the dim condition of faculties necessitated by even partial and occasional control.

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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