LUMINOUS PHENOMENA are of frequent occurrence in physical mediumship. On rare occasions they are witnessed in apparent independence of mediumistic conditions. The chronicles of religious revivals are full of instances of transcendental light.
Of the great Irish revival in 1859 and of the Welsh Revival in 1904 we have fairly recent accounts. Mr. Jones of Peckham, editor of the Spiritual Magazine (1877, vol. 18) quotes a leading official belonging to the Corporation of London: "Having heard that fire had descended on several of the great Irish assemblies during the Revivals, I, when in Ireland, made inquiry and conversed with those who had witnessed it. During the open-air meetings, when some 600-1,000 people were present, a kind of cloud of fire approached in the air, hovered and dipped over the people, rose and floated on some distance, again hovered on that which was found afterwards to be another revival meeting, and so it continued. The light was very bright and was seen by all, producing awe."
Of the Welsh Revival an interesting account was published by Beriah G. Evans in the Daily News on February 9, 1905. The lights he saw appeared for the first time on the night when Mrs. Jones commenced her public mission at Egryn. The first light "resembled a brilliant star emitting sparklets. All saw this. The next two were as clearly subjective, being seen only by Mrs. Jones and me, though the five of us walked abreast. Three bars of clear white light crossed the road in front, from right to left, climbing up the stone wall to the left. A blood-red light, about a foot from the ground in the middle of the roadway at the head of the village street was the next manifestation." The Daily Mirror correspondent confirms Evans. He saw the subjective, at another time the objective light. A third confirmation was published in the July (1905) Review of Reviews, by the Rev. Llewellyn Morgan.
These lights seem to be the result of an outpouring of combined psychic forces which religious ecstasy generates. It is a well-known fact that religious enthusiasm and ecstasy in general is often accompanied by luminous phenomena. Christ was the light of the world. The saints and martyrs spoke of an interior illumination. St. Ignatius Loyola was seen surrounded by a brilliant light while he prayed, his body shone with light when he was levitated and St. Columba was said to have been continually enveloped in a dazzling, golden light. William James quotes many interesting instances in Varieties of Religious Experience. The cosmic consciousness of Maurice Bucke was heralded by an influx of dazzling light. Mrs. Piper's body was described by the communicators as an empty shell filled with light. "A medium, "said Phinuit "is for us a lighthouse, while you, non-mediums are as though you did not exist. But every little while we see you as if you were in dark apartments lighted by a kind of little windows which are the mediums." This light or flame-according to communications obtained by Mrs. Hester Travers Smith-appears to be pale "a clear white fire "-which seems to grow more vivid as the medium gets into better touch with the spirit world.
Spectral lights may also have a psychic origin. The Fire of St. Bernardo was studied in 1895 in Quargnento by Prof. Garzino. It was a mass of light which wandered every night from the church to the cemetery and returned after midnight. A similar light was observed at Berbenno di Valtellina. The light passed through trees without burning them. The phenomenon is not amenable to chemical laws. The main difficulty which such lights present is the absence of human organism to which their origin could be traced. But such an absence is also noted in uninhabited haunted houses where the human link is strongly emphasized.
Leaving the deeper mystery aside, a general survey of the cases that will follow justifies the comparatively simple conclusion that psychic lights are the result of a chemical operation on the human body and disclose a close analogy to the organic lights observable in nature. The ways and means of this operation are unknown to our physiology but appear to be an easy process to the intelligences that continually claim to stand behind the phenomena.
The Psychic Lights of D. D. Home and Stainton Moses.
"Under the strictest test conditions," writes Sir William Crookes- in Researches into the Phenomena of Spiritualism "I have seen a solid luminous body, the size and nearly the shape of a turkey's egg float noiselessly about the room, at one time higher than anyone present could reach on tiptoe, and then gently descending to the floor. It was visible for more than ten minutes, and before it faded away it struck the table three times with a sound like that of a hard solid body. During this time the medium was lying back, apparently insensible, in an easy chair."
"I have seen luminous points of light darting about and settling on the heads of different persons; I have had questions answered by the flashing of a bright light a desired number of times in front of my face. I have had an alphabetic communication given me by luminous flashes occurring before me in the air, whilst my hand was moving about am ' ongst them. In the light, I have seen a luminous cloud hover over a heliotrope on a side table, break a sprig off and carry the sprig to a lady."
Lord Adare writes in Experiments in Spiritualism with D. D. Home: "We all then observed a light, resembling a little star, near the chimney piece, moving to and fro; it then disappeared. Mr. Home said: "Ask them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, if this is the work of God." I repeated the words very earnestly; the light shone out, making three little flashes, each one about a foot higher above the floor than the preceding." (p. 209).
The color of the lights was sometimes blue, yellow or rose. They did not light up their surroundings. Special effort was necessary to produce an effect of illumination. When Ada Menken's spirit tried to make her form visible "the surface of the wall to Home's right became illuminated three or four times; the light apparently radiating from a bright spot in the center. Across the portion of the wall thus illuminated we repeatedly saw a dark shadow pass." (p. 238.)
Lord Adare has seen the extended hand of Home become quite luminous. On another occasion his clothes commenced to shine. Once the top of his head glowed with light as if a halo surrounded it. The tongues or jets of flame described by the Master of Lindsay and Capt. Charles Wynne as issuing from Home's head probably refer to this experience. The Master of Lindsay and many other witnesses often saw luminous crosses in and out of doors in Home's presence. They were variously globular, columnar, or star-shaped. Reading a paper before the Dialectical Society the Master of Lindsay said: "I saw on my knee a flame of fire about nine inches high. I passed my hand through it, but it burnt on, above and below. Home turned in his bed and I looked at him, and saw that his eyes were glowing with light. It had a most disagreeable appearance. The flame which had been flitting about me now left me, and crossed the room about four feet from the ground, and reached the curtains of Home's bed. These proved no obstruction; for the light went right through them, settled on his head and then went out."
A letter to the Dialectical Society narrates a further experience of his as follows: "At Mr. Jencken's house I saw a crystal ball, placed on Mr. Home's head, emit flashes of colored light, following the order of the spectrum. The crystal was spherical, so that it could not have given prismatic colors. After this it changed and we all saw a view of the sea, as if we were looking down at it from the top of a high cliff. It seemed to be the evening as the sun was setting like a globe of fire, lighting up a broad path over the little waves. The moon was faintly visible in the south, and as the sun set, her power increased. We saw also a few stars; and suddenly the whole thing vanished, like shutting the slide of a magic lantern; and the crystal was dead. This whole appearance lasted about ten minutes."
Many similar observations were recorded in the mediumship of Stainton Moses. Dr. Stanhope Templeman Speer observed that the light could be renewed when it grew dim, by making passes over it with the hand. The light had a nucleus and an envelope of drapery. It seemed to be more easily and fully developed if he rubbed his hands together or on his coat. The drapery passed over the back of his hand several times. It was perfectly tangible. These large globes of light could knock distinct blows on the table. A hand was more or less distinctly generated in their nucleus.
These globular lights ceased after a time. The drain on Moses' vital strength was too great. They were supplanted by a round disc of light which had a dark side, generally turned towards the medium, while the light side gave answers to questions by flashes. On rarer occasions the light was a tall column, about half an inch or rather more in width, and six or seven feet high. The light was of bright golden hue and did not illuminate objects in the neighborhood. For a minute a cross developed at its top, and rays seemed to dart from it. Round Moses' head was a halo, perceptible by natural vision and another cluster of light of an oblong shape at the foot of the tall column. It moved up and the big, luminous cross gradually traveled near the wall until it had passed over an are of 90 degrees. Solid objects afforded no obstacles to one's view of the lights. If they appeared under a mahogany table they could be seen from above just as well as if the top of the table had been composed of glass. Sometimes as many as thirty lights were seen flashing about like comets in the room. The big lights were usually more stationary than the smaller ones, which darted swiftly about the room.
Accidents in Light Production
The chemical operation for the production of these lights miscarried on April 14, 1874. "Suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my 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 very 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 I 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. I have seen my own hands covered with a lambent flame; but nothing like this I ever saw. There seemed to be no end of the smoke. It smelt phosphoric, but the smell evaporated as soon as I got out of the room into the air. I was fairly frightened, and was reminded of what I had read about a manifestation given to Mr. Peebles similar to the burning bush. I have omitted to say that the lights were preceded by very sharp detonations on my chair, so that we could watch for their coming by hearing the noises. They shot up very rapidly from the floor." Next day "Imperator said that the phosphoric smoke was caused by an abortive attempt on the part of Chom to make a light. There were, he said, ducts leading from our bodies to the dark space beneath the table, and into this space these ducts conveyed the substance extracted for the purpose of making the light. The phosphoric substance was enclosed in an envelope which was materialized. It was the collapse of this envelope that caused the escape of the phosphoric smoke and the smell. This substance was the vital principle, and was drawn from the spine and nerve centers principally, and from all the sitters, except those who were of no use or were deterrent."
Another miscarriage of psychic light was recorded by W. H. Harrison of a seance of Messrs. Herne and Williams as follows: "The name of the spirit was then written rapidly in large phosphorescent letters in the air near Mr. Williams. In the same rapid manner the spirits next began writing "God Bless -" when there was a snap, like an electrical discharge, and a flash of light which lit up the whole room." At the end of the sitting a slight smell of phosphorus was perceptible.
The strong smell of ozone which Geley recorded in later years during luminous phenomena is probably identical with the phosphorus of these failures.
The following description is from the Livermore records of seances with Kate Fox: "A spherical ovoid of light rises from the floor as high as our foreheads and places itself on the table in front of us. At my request the light immediately became so bright as to light up that part of the room. We saw perfectly the form of a woman holding the light in her outstretched hand."
Dr. Nichols, in whose house William Eglinton gave a series of sittings in Malvern, writes of "masses of light of a globular form, flattened globes, shining all through the mass, which was enveloped in folds of gauzy drapery. "Joey" brushed the folds aside with his finger to show us the shining substance. It was as if a gem-a turquoise or a pearl-three inches across, had become incandescent, full of light, so as to illuminate about a yard round. This light also we saw come and go. 'Joey' allowed his larger light to go almost dark, and then revived it to its former brilliancy. I need hardly say that all the chemists of Europe could not, under these conditions, produce such phenomena, if indeed they could under any."
John King always brought a lamp when he materialized. Once in a seance with Williams the lamp was placed in the hands of A. Smedley. He says in his Some Reminiscences: "To my great surprise it was like a lump of solid, warm flesh, exactly similar to my own." Others observed that the lamp was often covered with lace-like drapery. It is not a surprising fact as the appearance of psychic lights usually heralds materialisations. A disc of light may transform itself into a face, a star into a human eye. To the touch, the light is sometimes hard, sometimes sticky.
In a seance with Franek Kluski on May 15, 1921, Dr. Geley recorded: "A moment later, magnificent luminous phenomena; a hand moved slowly about before the sitters. It held in the palm, by a particular bending of the fingers, a body resembling a piece of luminous ice. The whole hand appeared luminous and transparent. One could see the flesh color. It was admirable."
In another seance on April 12, 1922, "A large luminous trail like a nebulous comet, and about half a metre long, formed behind Kluski about a metre above his head and seemingly about the same distance behind him. This nebula was constituted of tiny bright grains broadcast, among which there were some specially bright points. This nebula oscillated quickly from right to left and left to right, and rose and fell. It lasted about a minute, disappeared and reappeared several times. After the sitting I found that the medium, who had been naked for an hour, was very warm. He was perspiring on the back and armpits he was much exhausted."
Prof. Pawlowski recorded, with the same medium, the appearance of a completely luminous figure of an old man. It made the impression of a light column. It illuminated all of the sitters and even the more distant objects in the room. His hands and the region of the heart were much more strongly luminous than the rest of the body.
Baron Schrenck Notzing writes in his Materialization Phenomena: "On December 15, 1921, we saw a complete phantom appear in the doorway of the bedroom. It projected flashes which lit it up. This was repeated ten times. Dematerialization could be observed by the same light. The phantom became smaller, diminished and melted away. Dr. Auer could see from time to time objects behind the phantom through its substance by the light of these flashes."
Admiral Moore has seen tongues of spirit light issue from the body of Ada Bessinet. They were about one third of an inch broad at one end and tapered away for a length of about one and a half inches to nothing.
In a seance with Indride Indridason, Prof. Haraldur Nielsson counted one evening more than 60 tongues of light of different colors. "I could not help thinking of the manifestations described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles," he writes in Light, Oct. 25, 1919, "especially as a very strong wind arose before the lights appeared. Later on the whole wall behind the medium became a glow of light."
An unusual type of psychic light was shown by the Medium Erto in seances at the Metapsychical Institute of Paris on the genuineness of which serious doubt was thrown afterwards. Flashes like electric sparks proceeded from the lower part of Erto's body, lighting up the floor and sometimes the walls of the room; luminous white rays up to 8 metres in length, luminous spheres from the size of a walnut to an orange in white, reddish or bluish color, zig-zag flashes and rocket-like lights. They were cold lights, devoid of actinic rays. Before each seance Erto was completely stripped and medically examined in all cavities, mouth, ears, rectum and even urethra. Erto demanded absolute darkness and did not permit hand control. Geley found out that the phenomena were imitable by the use of ferro-cerium, and that the medium seems to have used this trick. Erto's phenomena were not entirely unique. Frau Silbert occasionally produces somewhat similar psychic flashes. But her mediumistic reputation is far above Erto's.
In the Boston seances of Margery a glowing light was located on Margery's left shoulder. On touch no
luminosity was rubbed off and it continued to be seen through a black sock though with decreased frequency and brilliance. On examination the medium's left shoulder strap was found to be luminous. There was a less distinct brightness on her chest and luminous patches on her right shoulder which soon faded out. The luminous shoulder strap being brought into the seance room, a sudden growth of its intensity was noticed. During a minute examination a whisper in Walter's enunciation said "goodnight." At approximately the same time the light of the shoulder strap faded out and was not seen thereafter, except for one minute luminous point which seemed more persistent than the rest. At another time Carrington, holding the left hand of Margery, noticed at the end of the sitting that his hand was faintly luminous.
Prof. Richet attempted to imitate psychic lights by a neon tube six feet long and one inch in diameter. By rubbing he induced a frictional electric charge which made a brilliant glow in the neon at the point of the tube where the hand had the contact. It looked like a realistic psychic phenomenon in the dark.
Prof. Dubois collected a number of examples to prove in exceptional, yet normal conditions, that the human organism is capable of creating light. A woman suffering from cancer of the breast, under treatment in an English hospital, showed luminosity of the sore, sufficiently strong to be recognized at several paces distant, and bright enough to enable watch hands to be read at night a few inches away. The discharge from it was also very luminous. Bilious, nervous, red-haired, and more often alcoholic subjects have shown phosphorescent wounds.
Geley concludes that organic light and ectoplasmic light are rigorously analogous. They have the same properties; they are cold light, giving off neither calorific nor chemical radiations. Both are nearly inactinic and have considerable powers of penetration into opaque bodies. They impress photographic plates through cardboard, wood and even metal. Geley holds it likely that analysis of ectoplasmic secretion will reveal the two constituents-luciferin and luciferase-discovered in the normal luminous secretion by Professor Dubois.
Dr. Ochorowicz in his researches into the radiography of etheric hands found it a curious and significant fact that when an etheric hand radiates light it does not, and apparently cannot, materialize at the same time; by the act of materializing it loses its luminosity. This may be true. There are, however, experiences on record which caution against generalization.
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