Medium

Paranormal


 

Medium is a person supposed to be qualified in some special manner to form a link between the dead and the living. Through him the spirits of the departed may communicate with their friends still on earth, either by making use of the material organism of the medium himself (" automatic phenomena") or by producing in the physical world certain manifestations which cannot be explained by known physical laws. The essential qualification of a medium is an abnormal sensitiveness, which enables him to be readily "controlled" by disembodied spirits. For this reason mediums are also known as sensitives. There is some doubt as to whether mediumship is an inherent faculty, or whether it may be acquired; and among some spiritualists at least, the belief is held that all men are mediums, though in varying degrees, and consequently that all are in communication with the spirits, from whom proceeds what we call "inspiration." Those who are ordinarily designated "mediums" are but gifted with the common faculty in a higher degree than their fellows.

Mediumship, like all the central doctrines of spiritualism, dates back to very early times. Demoniac possession affords an excellent instance; so also does witchcraft, while the sonwambule of the mesmerists was identical with the modern medium. In its usual application, however, the term medium is used only of those sensitives who belong to the modern spiritualistic movement, which had its origin in America in 1848 (See Spiritualism.) In this sense, then, Mrs. Fox and her daughters, the heroines of the Rochester Rappings, were the earliest mediums. The phenomena of their séances consisted mainly of knockings, by means of which messages were conveyed from the spirits to the sitters. Other mediums rapidly sprang up, first in America, and later in Britain and the Continent. Their mediumship was of two kinds, "physical" and automatic. Taese phases were to be found either separately or combined in one person, as in the case of the Rev. Stainton Moses (q.v.) Indeed, it was practically impossible to find a trance speaker who did not at one time or another practice the physical manifestations, until the time of Mrs. Piper, whose phenomena were purely subjective. The early rappings speedily developed into more elaborate manifestations. For a few years an epidemic of table-turning caused wide-spread excitement, and the motions of the table became a favorite means of communicating with the spirits. The playing of musical instruments without visible agency was a form of manifestation which received the attention of mediums from an early date, as was also the bringing into the séance-room of "apports" of fruit, flowers, perfume, and all manner of portable property. Darkness was found to facilitate the spirit-manifestations, and as there are certain physical processes, such as those in photography, to which darkness is essential, no logical objection could be offered to the dimness of the séance-room. The members of the circle were generally seated round a table, holding each other's hands, and they were often enjoined to sing or talk pending the materialization of a spirit. All this, though offering grounds of suspicion to the incredulous, was plausibly explained by the spiritualists. As time went on, and the demand for physical manifestations increased, these became more daring and more varied. The moving of objects without contact, the levitation of heavy furniture, and 6f the persons of medium or sitters, the elongation of the human body, the fire-ordeal, were all practiced by the medium Home. At the séances of the Davenport Brothers musical instruments were played and moved about the room, and objects moved without being touched, while the mediums were bound hand and foot in a small cabinet. The slate-writing of "Dr." Slade and William Eglinton had a considerable vogue. The tying of knots in endless cords, the passage of solids, through solids, were commonplaces of the mediumistic circle. The crowning achievement, however, was the materialization of the spirit-form. Quite early in the history of spiritualism hands were materialized, then faces, and finally the complete form of the " control." Thereafter the materialized spirits allowed themselves to be touched, and even condescended, on occasion, to hold conversations with the sitters. Further proof of the actuality of the spirit " control" was offered by spirit photography.

To those for whom spiritualism was a religion, however, much the most important part of the mediumistic performances is the trance-utterances and the like which come under the heading of "automatic," or psychological phenomena. These dealt largely with the conditions of life on the other side of the grave, and in style they tended to be verbose and incoherent. The spirit-drawings, also, were lacking in depths and distinction. Clairvoyance and crystal vision are included in the psychological phenomena, and so also are the pseudo-prophetic utterances of mediums, and the speaking in unknown tongues. According to the spiritualistic hypothesis already referred to, that "all men are mediums," it would be necessary to class inspiration, not only the inspiration of genius, but all good or evil impulses—as spiritual phenomena, and that in turn suggests that the every-day life of the normal individual is to some extent directed by spirit " controls." And therein lies the responsibility of mediumship, for if he would be controlled by pure spirits from the higher spheres, it behooves the medium to live a well-conducted and principled life. Misuse of the divine gift of mediumship carries with it its own punishment, for the medium becomes the sport of base human spirits and elementals (q.v.), his will is sapped, and his whole being degraded. Likewise he must be wary of giving up his personality to the first spirit who comes his way, for the low and earth-bound spirits have least difficulty in communicating with the living, having still more affinity with the things of the earth than with those of the spirit.

Of the physical mediums perhaps the most successful was Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886), who claimed to be of Scottish birth. He went to America, however, at an early age, and it was there that his mediumistic powers were first developed, though not until he came to Britain in 1855 did he rise to fame. It is worthy of note that Home was never detected in fraud—as the bulk of physical mediums have been at one time or another—though his performances were similar in kind to those of other mediums. This may be due in part to the fact that he did not act as a professional medium, and his sitters, being either his guests or his hosts, were doubtless restrained by courtesy from a too close enquiry into his methods. Again, all who came into contact with him were impressed by his simple manners^ and frank and affectionate disposition, so that he possessed the most valuable asset of a medium.—the ability to inspire confidence in his sitters. Mediums of a different stamp, though widely popular in their day, were the brothers Davenport. Their performance consisted of allowing themselves to be securely bound in a cabinet by the sitters, and while thus handicapped producing the usual mediumistic phenomena. The Davenports were shown to be mere conjurers, however, and when Maskelyne and Cook successfully imitated their feats the exposure was complete. Slate-writing, which proved one of the most widely-accepted forms of psychic phenomena, had as its principal exponents Henry Slade and William Eglinton. The best argument which can be advanced against their feats is to be found in the pseudo-séances of Mr. S. J. Davey, 'given in the interests of the Society for Psychical Research. Mr. Davey's slate-writing exhibitions were so like to those of the professional mediums that the spiritualists refused to believe that he was conjuring, and hailed him as a renegade medium! Automatic drawing was principally represented by David Duguid, a Glasgow medium who attained considerable success in that line. Prominent trance speakers and writers were Duguid, J. J. Morse, Mrs. Hardinge Britten, and Mrs. Cora L. V. Tappan-Richmond. One of the best-known and most respected of private mediums was the Rev. Stainton Moses (1839-92), a clergyman and schoolmaster, whose normal life, at least, was beyond reproach. He produced both automatic and physical manifestations, the former including the writing of a work Spirit Teachings, dictated from time to time by his spirit "controls," while the latter comprised levitations, lights, "apports," and so on. His position, character, and education gave to his support of spiritualism a stability of considerable value.

It is to later mediums, however, that we must look for proof worthy of scientific consideration, and of these the most important are Eusapia Palladino and Mrs. Piper. Eusapia Palladino, an Italian medium, was born in 1854, and for a good many years had acted as medium for scientific investigators. In 1892 séances were held at Milan, at which were present Professors Schiaparelli, Brofferio, Lobmroso, Richet, and others. In 1894 Professor Richet conducted some experiments with Eusapia at his house in the He Roubaud, to which he invited Professor Lodge, Mr. Myers, and Dr. Ochorowiez. The phenomena occurring in Eusapia's presence were the ordinary manifestations of the mediumistic séance, but their interest lay in the fact that all the distinguished investigators professed themselves satisfied that the medium, with her hands, head, and feet controlled by the sitters, could not of herself produce the phenomena. Credible witnesses asserted that Eusapia possessed the ability to project false or psychic limbs from her person. Professor Lodge and Mr. Myers were disposed to look for a new force (ectenic force) emanating from the medium. In 1895, however, some séances with Eusapia were held at Mr. Myers1 house at Cambridge, where it became apparent that she habitually freed a hand or a foot—in short, habitually resorted to fraud. Yet even these exposures were not conclusive for in 1898, after a further series of experiments, Mr. Myers and Professors Lodge and Richet once more declared their belief in the genuineness of this medium's phenomena.

Mrs. Piper, the Boston medium whose trance utterances and writings contain the best evidence forthcoming in recent years for the truth of spiritualism, first fell into a spontaneous trance in 1884, and in the following year was observed by Professor James of Harvard. Thereafter her case was carefully studied by the Society for Psychical Research. Her first important "control" was a French physician, Dr.. Phinuit, who was probably a fiction, but in 1892 she was controlled by George Pelham, a young author who had died in February of that year. So complete was her impersonation of Pelham that more than thirty of his friends claimed to recognize him, and so well did he establish his identity by the mention of many private matters, known only to himself and a few of his friends, that the hypothesis of spirit-control was almost inevitable. In 1896 George Pelham gave place to "Imperator," "Rector," and other spirits, who had formerly controlled Stainton Moses. From that time, and especially after 1900, the interest of the sittings declined, and they offered less material for the investigator. Another automatic medium, H61ene Smith, came under the observation of Professor Flournoy. Helene's trance utterances were spoken in the "Martian language," a variant of the "unknown tongue" of the early ecstatics, and she claimed to be a re-incarnation of Marie Antoinette and a Hindu princess.

Of the various theories advanced to explain the mediumistic manifestations the most important is the spiritualistic explanation, which claims that the phenomena are produced by the spirits of the dead acting on the sensitive organism of the medium. The evidence for such a theory, though some investigators of the highest distinction have found it satisfactory, is nevertheless generally acknowledged to be inconclusive. Conscious fraud, though it is no longer considered to cover the whole ground, yet plays a definite part in the phenomena of both "physical" and trance mediums, for it has been shown that the latter frequently collect, through private enquiry agents, information anent possible sitters which is later retailed by the "controls." The spiritualist's explanation of these lapses into fraud is that they are instigated by the spirits themselves. And it does not seem impossible that a genuine medium might have resort to fraud during a temporary failure of his psychic powers. Automatism covers a still wider field. That automatic utterances, writing, drawing, etc., may be quite involuntary, and without the sphere of the medium's normal consciousness, is no longer to be doubted The psychological phenomena may be met with in small children, and in private mediums whose good faith is beyond question, and the state is recognized as being allied to hypnotism and hysteria. Besides automatism and fraud there are some other factors to be considered ere the possibility of transcendental faculties be touched upon.

On the part of the sitter as well as of the medium some deception may be practiced. It has been said that the ability to inspire confidence in his sitters is essential to a successful medium, and if at the same time the sitters be predisposed to believe in the supernatural nature of the manifestations, it is easy to imagine a lessening of the attention and observation so necessary to the investigator. The impossibility of continued observation for even a short period is a fact that can only be proved by experiment. Memory defects and proneness to exaggeration are also accountable for many of the marvels of the séance-room, and possible hallucination must be considered. When the . medium is in a trance, with its accompanying hyperesthesia, unconscious suggestion on the part of the sitters might offer a rational explanation of so-called "clairvoyance." But when all these factors are removed the root problems of mediumship still remain. In the case of Mrs. Piper for instance, the least that can be said for her trance utterances is that they were telepathic; that she gathered information from the minds of her sitters, or through them from other living minds. To not a few, however, they presented definite proof of spirit communication. To meet such instances Mr. Myers formulated his doctrine of transcendental faculties, crediting the medium with clairvoyance and pre-vision. But no really conclusive test has ever been complied with. Psychical researchers have left sealed letters, whose contents are known only to themselves, instructing that after their deaths the letters be submitted to a medium, but in no case have the contents been correctly revealed. Again, in the case of Eusapia Palladino, Mr. Myers, Sir Oliver Lodge, and others have inclined to the belief in a force emanating from the medium herself by which the physical manifestations are produced. Here, also, the evidence cannot be considered conclusive. Skilled and scientific investigators have from time to time been deceived by what has actually proved to be sleight of hand, and, in fact, the only trustworthy evidence possible would be that of automatic records. At the same time the testimony of such distinguished gentlemen as Professor Richet, Sir O. Lodge, and others makes it evident that judgment must not be hastily pronounced on the medium, but rather that an earnest Endeavour be made to solve the problems in that connection.

Healing Mediums

The diagnosis and cure of disease have been extensively practiced by spiritualistic mediums, following in the path of the older somnambules and magnetic subjects. These latter were wont not only to trace the progress of their own diseases, but also to diagnose and to prescribe a mode of treatment. At the outset it was not prescribed for the diseases of those with whom they were in rapport; and likewise the medium, having established rapport between his control and the patient, was influenced to prescribe a mode of treatment. At the outset it was not considered proper for the healing medium to accept any remuneration for his services, but later healers usually demanded a fee. It is true that healing mediums, like Christian Scientists, mesmerists, magnetists, and others, have effected a considerable proportion of bona fide cures, but whether by spirit influence or suggestion is a point on which there is too much diversity of opinion for it to be discussed here. It is claimed for many mediums that they have cured diseases of long standing, which were pronounced incurable—heart disease, consumption, cancers, paralysis, and many more. Some also have been credited with the power to heal instantaneously, as did the Cure d'Ars and other miraculous healers. The marvelous potency of the waters at Lourdes is considered by spiritualists to be the gift of discarnate beings, having been in the first instance revealed to a child by her spirit guide, in the form of a white angel.





 

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