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George Wehner (1890-1970)Opera Composer Tells of Psychic & Mediumistic Experiences


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Opera Composer Tells of Psychic & Mediumistic Experiences

Posted on 04 January 2021, 9:40

In his 1929 book, A Curious Life, George Wehner (1890-1970) offers much food for thought relative to clairvoyance and trance mediumship, especially the speaking of foreign languages through a medium.  Although I could find little else about Wehner, he does mention being studied by researchers representing the American Society for Psychical Research and comes across as a very sincere and credible person.

My internet search for Wehner turned up a report in the archives of the New York Public Library, describing him as an “eccentric, but prolific artist.”  He was a composer, actor, writer, painter, and spiritualist who “who led an extraordinary varied, yet strangely productive life.” He produced many hit opera scores and his paintings were exhibited in various galleries. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Wehner grew up in Detroit and Newburgh, New York. 

According to the archives report, Wehner began composing music at age five.  Inspired by his interaction with an encampment of Ojibway Indians, he composed a four-act opera, which earned him a scholarship to the Michigan Conservatory of Music in 1908.  He studied composition, theory and piano and later taught at the conservatory before moving to New York City during the 1920s.  “His musical output became even more prodigious during the last two decades of his life, when he composed the music and wrote the librettos for fourteen operas,” the report states. 

The first few chapters of Wehner’s book relate many psychic experiences during his childhood, including what today might be interpreted as encounters with “grays” those little beings often associated with UFOs. “[The strange creatures] were sometimes four or five feet in height, and they wore no clothing, being sort of halfway between human and animal,” he wrote.  “They had rather short legs, long arms, and wide frog-mouths in their clumsy ill-shapen heads.  Their eyes were also froglike and faintly luminous. In color, their skins, if they can be so called, were gray like the bark of the tree from which they came, or pale yellow, and sometimes greenish.”  Wehner’s experience would have been around 1900, before other reports of grays, at least any I am aware of.

Wehner’s description of observing his mother’s death, when he was in his teens, is especially interesting.  “A misty blue-white form, the counterpart of my mother’s, but radiant, like a blue-white diamond’s flame, was slowly rising from her body in the bed,” he wrote. “This form lifted at an angle, the feet rising higher than the head.  The form now seemed to try to free itself, and after several tugs, the misty head separated from the body’s head, and the freed form righted itself in the air exactly as a log rights itself after it has been dropped into the water.  For a second, I saw several arms and hands materialize in the air and reach downward to welcome the new-born soul.  Then, like a shadow, the spirit-form of my beloved mother glided rapidly upward through a corner of the ceiling – and she was gone into the everlasting life of the Beyond!” 

Of his music ability, Wehner explained that it came from inspiration, not study. In fact, when he began studying piano, theory, and harmony at the conservatory, he struggled with reconciling what came to him “inspirationally” with what he was being taught.  While still a student, he was made assistant teacher of harmony and gave lessons to others on the piano.

It was while still attending the conservatory that Wehner suffered a strange illness, one involving many dizzy spells and which was diagnosed by a doctor as a nervous breakdown. The illness lasted for several months and the doctor told him that his recovery was doubtful.  However, one morning he heard a loud voice telling him not to pay attention to the doctor and to resume his studies. He immediately began to recover. It wasn’t long thereafter that the parents of one of his students, both spiritualists, suggested to him that they believed him to be a medium.  Until that time, Wehner had never associated his childhood clairvoyance with mediumship and had only a vague idea what a medium was.

While attending a séance with the student’s parents, Wehner observed the medium, Mrs. Marion Carpenter, speak in trance and at the same time found himself drifting off and seeing spirits. “A group of them were gathered behind the medium gazing fixedly at her as if concentrating upon her work,” he remembered. “Directly behind her stood the spirit of a man who appeared to be literally speaking into and through the back of her head.”  Wehner then realized that his past experiences were similar and that he, too, must be a medium. He was then persuaded to give trance mediumship a try. 

“I began to feel very drowsy,” he recalled his first experience. “We had said the Lord’s prayer and were singing hymns.  It seemed churchy and monotonous to me, and as I saw nothing, and nothing seemed likely to happen, I decided to yield to my drowsiness. I went to sleep.” When he awoke, he was told by his friends that he had been in a trance and that many veridical messages had come through for his friends.  An old Indian, White Cloud, had spoken and said he was Wehner’s guiding spirit and had been with him since birth.  His mother also spoke, sending messages for her sisters and telling her son that his curious illness was a result of chemical changes in his body and were necessary for him to work as a trance medium.

Many trance sessions would follow.  “We would sit for a short time in darkness, then in a subdued light.  In those days it used to take quite a while – sometimes three-quarters of an hour before I would become entranced.”  Wehner’s Aunt Lillian was part of their Saturday-night circle and was also mediumistic, producing etherealizations and partial materializations.  “As a rule, these astral forms would emerge from the cabinet, although sometimes a misty mass would appear near Aunt Lillian and gradually rear or build itself up into the semblance of a human form,” Wehner recalled. “This always frightened Lillian very much.  We never saw any distinct features, but the forms appeared to be men and women, and sometimes children. Often the forms of animals, usually cats and dogs, birds, and butterflies, would appear.  We could see straight through the ethereal forms, but the materializations were more solid.”

Wehner added that only rarely could they distinguish the clothing worn by the spirits, but when they did, it was always plain ordinary clothing. “There were times too, when we did not bother to put up the curtains of the cabinet, and the forms would appear just the same, emerging from the corner where the cabinet should have been.  Rapidly, we were becoming spiritualists.”

During a sitting with a medium referred to as Mrs. Tixier, Wehner observed mist-like substances floating around the room. “A few of these wraiths showed remarkably clear features, but most of them were indistinct and full of ghastly holes caused by lack of power to draw themselves a sufficient quantity of atoms from the mediums and the sitters,” he explained. “None of them appeared to linger, but passed rapidly through the walls, ceiling and floor, and many seemed to disintegrate in the air before our eyes.” He noted that not everyone in the room saw these manifestations with the same degree of plainness.

When World War I began in 1914, Wehner tried to enlist, but was rejected because his physical condition was not up to the required standards. “During these war years we had great difficulty with our Saturday night circles,” he recorded. “Our seances were besieged with the spirits of soldiers who had just passed over and who did not know that they were ‘dead’!  Many believed they were still fighting, others sought their relatives, and some screamed or moaned in their suffering. We could not make them believe they were no longer on the earth. Spirits told us just how long the war would last, and their prophesies proved true.”

According to what Wehner was told upon coming out of trance, spirits spoke through him in German, French, Hebrew, Hindu, Yiddish, and an American Indian dialect. “In speaking foreign languages through me, spirits are not often able to speak them fluently, or for any length of time,” he explained his understanding of it. “But they are able with words and more or less broken phrases to make their ideas clear. The reason for this difficulty is, that I, the medium, do not know these languages. Therefore, before they can pronounce a word they have to create that thought in my brain, for the brain is their seat of control. But when they are speaking my own language they have but to touch the brain-cells already charged with the desired word-thoughts. It is like playing upon the keys of an organ. In reality spirits do not need to speak their own language at all. When they do so it is only to prove that they can, or to prove identity. Thought is a universal language, and spirits have but to think their thoughts into the medium’s brain and the ideas will automatically be expressed in the medium’s native language. Spirits have often sung their native folk-songs through me in the voices of both men and women.”

Wehner pointed out that he did not need to go into trance to receive messages, but his guides preferred it, explaining to him that in the unconscious state there is less chance of his own mind or subconscious mind coloring the messages.  “With conscious clairvoyance, the medium hears what he is saying, and it is almost impossible for him to keep his mind from forming conjectures about what he is repeating for the spirit,” he further explained. “I know this to be true from my own clairvoyant readings.”

Asked about White Cloud, his chief guide, or control, and why so many American Indians filled that role, Wehner replied that his understanding was that they lived so close to the earth’s great currents and before contamination by the forces of civilization they had few real vices and natural psychical faculties that were not dulled.  “In passing from their earthly bodies Indians did not at once progress to other planes,” he went on. “They remained near, and even on earth, constituting a spiritual part of the nature-forces they had loved and worshiped.”

As for music, Wehner claimed that the rhythms of jazz, with its dissonances and often primitive noises, create an atmosphere that too often attracts the undesirable kind of spirits.  “It awakens the primitive instincts of the listeners and is too apt to stir the animal propensities…”  One can only wonder what the yelling and screaming that passes for music today attracts or awakens.

Wehner concluded the book with a story related to him by his aunts relative to the passing of his 91-year-old grandmother.  His aunts informed him that they heard his Grandmother Haslett exclaiming “Light-light-light.” They gathered in her room and found her sitting up in bed. “Look,” she said, “the beautiful light – can’t you see it filling my room?” But the aunts did not see it.  The grandmother then stretched out her arms, one which had been paralyzed for eleven years and cried out joyously, “Oh, can’t you see them coming for me – mother, father, Ben?” (Ben was her husband.)

The grandmother then greeted her children and other relatives who had preceded her in death years before.  “All my loved ones are here waiting,” she told the aunts. “It is the happiest hour of my life.  At last I am going to them.”

Next blog post: January 18

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We DieResurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is released on January 26, 2021.

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