Victor Duncan's research on survival
Investigations on survival
As I have already pointed out, the reactions to mediumistic phenomena, and in particular to their spiritual origin, cover the whole range that goes from unconditional credulity to the intransigent rejection of the possibility that such phenomena may even occur. In the page dedicated to research on hypnotism, it is highlighted how the mind of a person can easily be molded and influenced, and therefore it is rarely possible to rely on sound, stable and secure knowledge bases. Our personal orientation is more often influenced by psychic elements that transcend the individual and correspond to more or less conflictual dynamics, for which what has value and meaning today may no longer have the same value tomorrow, and vice versa. So, for a better understanding of the meaning of our earthly life and the possibility that there is a continuity of the existence of the conscious Ego in the afterlife, the importance of the evolution of the psyche must always be kept in mind. The need to know if something related to our human personality can survive death is not born so much from the desire to continue to exist anyway, nor from the fear of what will happen to us after death: in fact any intelligent person realizes that the lack of consciousness does not involve any form of existence, and therefore there would be nothing left and no one able to know whether I exist or not. Death as annihilation of consciousness may be preferable to the idea, for a long time widespread and endorsed by temporal or ecclesiastical power, of the existence of hell as a place of eternal suffering. For similar reasons, those who suffer intensely in this life from an incurable disease often desire and prefer immediate death rather than continue to live in such conditions.
Among those who do not believe in survival, some use their life trying to turn everything to their advantage, regardless of the consequences of what they do and the effects that their actions can have on their likes, while others have an exemplary ethical behavior towards mankind. It is not a coincidence that among the communications obtained through mediumship there are many coming from entities that claim to have never believed they could survive death when they were alive: it could be deduced that the belief or not to survival has no influence on what may happen to us after death. Moreover, the history of humanity shows that there were people capable of committing atrocities of all kinds, justifying them in the name of the salvation of the souls of the unfortunates who had to suffer them. Survival surveys carried out by people of adequate intelligence and good cultural level are not born from simple curiosity or from the fear of ceasing to exist, but rather from the need to find a wider meaning to the problem of human life and the disconcerting vicissitudes in which we are involved in this world. Moreover, some people, whose soul is more inclined to piety and relieving the sufferings of others, find in the certainty of survival an effective means to alleviate the pain of those who have lost a loved one.
Events in direct voice: testimonies of an Anglican clergyman
Personal contact with mediumistic phenomena such as direct voice has been the privilege of a few, but the literature that reports and offers testimony of them is wide and well accessible. Among the diligent researchers who devoted themselves to the investigation of survival, a prominent place deserves Victor G. Duncan, a pastor of the Anglican church, who turned his attention to the manifestations in direct voice due to the mediumship of the Moore sisters, publishing in a concise but significant booklet entitled Proof the reports of various sittings that occurred between 1926 and 1932.The author claimed to have written the book in complete sincerity, driven by the desire to solve the problem of survival experimentally, recognizing that – due to the needs of evolved human consciousness – faith is no longer sufficient to offer guarantees in this regard, being founded on elements of tradition and conventions not supported by the validation of scientific knowledge. The interest of the manifestations described by Duncan is due to their coherence, to the naturalness with which the entities communicated with the sitters and to the expressive clarity of the spirit guide, Andrew Wallace, who – although always expressing himself with a strong Scottish accent – fulfilled very well his task of introducing the spirits who wished to communicate and did his best to help them make themselves clearly heard. During the séances there were significant examples of identification, clairvoyance and premonition, as well as some cases of healing. Also noteworthy is the fact that the mediums did not fall into a trance during the sessions, but actively participated in the conversations with the spirits.
Duncan and the mediumship of the Moore sisters
Regarding the possibility of verifying the reality of what was told by the author, Duncan stated his good faith, claiming to have exercised himself so that he could take notes even in the darkness. Not being able to use recording devices that did not exist at the time, during each sitting he took written notes of what happened, and based on those he wrote a complete report almost always immediately after the séance, or as soon as possible. His notes reported the date and time of each sitting, and the names of the sitters, cited in full when Duncan was authorized to do so (with indication of their profession or social role), or with their initials (or fictitious names) when it was not. A research of the names of the most prominent personalities quoted by Duncan has confirmed their existence and participation in the sittings to which reference is made. We can mention: Lord Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), a British military and writer, founder of the Boy Scouts Association; Mary L. Cadell, researcher and member of the SPR; the rev. A. F. Webling, interested in psychic research and author of some books like Something Beyond, which were quite successful between 1920 and 1940; Colonel Henry Campbell Osborne (1874-1949), secretary of the Canadian Agency of the Imperial War Graves Commission. In the book are also included written and signed testimonies by these and other people who attended the séances.
I mention these details because Victor Duncan is not particularly known in the field of psychical research, nor are the two mediums with which he experimented, the Moore sisters of Glasgow (always referred to by Duncan as the Misses Moore). Despite this, all the reported sittings stand out for the quality and consistency of direct voice communications, for the various and precise predictions of events that after occurred, for the excellent phenomena of clairvoyance in relation to the consulting sitters and the objects brought, and for some interesting explanations on the development of the phenomena. In these respects the cycle of mediumistic phenomena described in the book Proof can be considered one of the most convincing and coherent, even in relation to the hypothesis of survival. However, although I am personally convinced of the truthfulness of what is reported by Duncan, no other evidence can be offered except what I have previously indicated: I will therefore take for granted (although not proven) the reliability of what is written in the book.
As for the mediumship of the Moore sisters, it was very similar in many respects to that of the American medium Etta Wriedt (see the page dedicated to her): like Mrs. Wriedt, the Moore sisters did not fall into a trance, but took actively part in the séances. The spirits communicated in direct voice, often with the help of the trumpet and sometimes even without it. Unlike Wriedt, the Moore sisters – while always showing themselves amiable, kind and well-disposed – insisted on giving a religious character to each sitting, in the sense that sitters had to start with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and with the song of a sacred hymn. The sittings then almost always ended with a blessing given by a spirit who had performed church-related functions during his lifetime. However, apart from these premises that the Moore sisters considered important for the success of the séance, they accepted the presence of anyone, even without knowing his/her name. The sittings were usually limited to three or four sitters, besides the mediums, while – as we have seen – to Mrs. Wriedt's séances could assist even more than twenty people.
The book contains a brief preface by Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), professor of mathematics and physics in Liverpool until 1900 and then rector of the University of Birmingham until 1919, who was president of the SPR from 1901 to 1903 and honorary president in 1932, and wrote some interesting articles on the possibility of survival from the scientific point of view and on the dynamics of survival, in addition to his well-known books Survival of Man, Raymond or Life and Death and Why I Believe in Personal Immortality. Lodge found the booklet of Duncan very interesting, so much that he agreed to write the preface (which he did not usually do for unknown authors) after reading it without interrupting from beginning to end.
The meeting with the Moore sisters
At the first meeting, which took place in Edinburgh in 1926, Duncan described the Moore sisters as two normal young Scotswomen, simple and decent in expression and behavior, without any of the peculiarities and claims typical of pseudo-mystical personalities. Both were enthusiastic, however, of being able to devote their lives to the cause of spiritualism, which they considered to be of great importance to mankind: they considered themselves a simple instrument used by the spirit people to communicate with humans. After the initial prayer, the music of a gramophone was used and the sitters had to talk to each other of this and that in a natural and fluid way, because the sound vibrations helped the manifestation of the phenomena. The séances had to be held in complete darkness as the light inhibited the manifestation of the voices. However, some experiments were also carried out in the light coming from the fireplace, or outdoors at night with the light of the full moon. During these sittings the voices were clearly heard, albeit at a reduced volume compared to the usual.
In the middle of the circle of sitters, the mediums placed a trumpet on the floor, consisting of a conical aluminum tube of about 45 cm having a diameter of 10 cm at the base and 3 cm at the other end, used by some spirits to be heard more clearly. During the sittings the trumpet floated around the room, approaching some sitter's ear or touching him/her with taps. The sitters were invited by the mediums not to touch the trumpet while it moved or was suspended in the air, so not to stop the communicating voice. In more than one circumstance, however, Duncan himself or some of the other sitters managed to put their arms around the trumpet near the ear, fingering in the dark to discover if someone or something was holding the instrument, without ever detecting anything. As in the case of Wriedt séances, the trumpet was not used by the spirits as a megaphone (in which we speak at the smaller end to amplify the voice inside the conical beam) but in the opposite direction, as can be used an animal's auricle or a rudimentary acoustic horn, in which the small-diameter end is placed next to the listener's ear. This instrumental help is related to the acoustic physics of direct voice, as was explained in a sitting by the guide Andrew Wallace.
The guide Andrew Wallace and entities Koha and Dodo
The beginning of the phenomena was almost always showed by a clear perception by the sitters of currents of freezing air specially around their legs. Then came the voice of Koha, an American Indian who had the task of arranging the environment by harmonizing the conditions so that the spirits could speak more easily. Koha had a masculine, guttural and friendly voice, but he always said a few sentences, using infinitive verbs and a few mumbled words (typical of the broken English of those who speak the language without mastering the grammar). His voice moved here and there in the room, as if it belonged to a person intent on carrying out a specific activity. On one occasion, as Koha's voice moved rapidly from one corner of the room to the other, saying: «Me make room ready for visitors», Duncan had a mental image of a busy person brushing the armchairs and sweeping the floor to clean up, but Koha, as if reading Duncan's thoughts, exclaimed: «No, brudder, me not use broom, me paper the walls». A more appropriate way of expressing itself, which brought to Duncan's mind an activity aimed at creating an acoustic insulation of the environment, within which both energies coming from the spirits and those released by the mediums and the sitters could merge. The fact that the séances took place in a room used exclusively for this purpose (it was a series of sittings held at Duncan's home in 1927) helped, as Koha said, to make the arrangement work easier.
It is worth noticing the regularity of the manifestations of the guides in the séances of the Moore sisters: Koha always showed at the beginning to arrange the environment, giving information on the conditions in which the sitting would take place (fair, very or exceptionally favorable, not very good, etc.), or suggesting to play some music when energy decreased, but always with a role that we could call mainly technical. When Koha had finished his task, he said goodbye, and gave way to the actual guide, Andrew Wallace, who spoke in a loud, clear voice with a strong Scottish accent. He never used the trumpet because, as he himself claimed, he was well trained and did not need it. His voice was deep, vibrant and jovial, and usually seemed to come from above, near the ceiling, moving here and there depending on the circumstances, and often secluded in a corner to speak privately with some of the spirits who then manifested themselves, or whose thoughts and wishes he reported to the sitters. He introduced himself as Adra Wallace o' Dufermline (an old Scottish town), lived on Earth several years before. In life he had been a pub manager, and he showed some regrets about his work. Sometimes his voice became sad in relation to certain events in his life, but the Moore sisters comforted him by saying, «Never mind, Andrew, you're making up for it now, bringing comfort and happiness to so many people who are in sorrow». To which Andrew returned in a good mood and began to perform brilliantly, always with a strong Scottish accent, his task as presenter of the many entities who wanted to communicate.
Andrew's way of speaking was fluent and conversational, always well intelligible. He sometimes spoke to the sitters in a personal way, about their deceased relatives or friends who wished to communicate, while at other times he commented with phrases like: «We want yez all to be happy. Folks are awfu' silly to be feared o' death. It would be better for them if they were feared o' life. Death canna' harm them but life can. It's the way they live in yon material that counts on this side». Finally, during the sittings, often showed up Dodo, a colored child with a shrill voice, always cheerful and mischievous, who enjoyed amusing the sitters with her clairvoyant skills.
Identification of spirits voices
Since his first sitting Duncan brought with him another person, whose identity was completely unknown to the Moore sisters, introducing him generically as a friend or acquaintance, not only as a precaution to avoid fraud attempts by the mediums, but also to have a counterpart with whom to confront in relation to the results of the sitting. The first time he went there with a businessman, an ex-soldier very skeptical of spiritualism. After manifesting himself, Andrew Wallace wished them a good evening, calling them correctly by name, and then said he would make someone happy, because there was a lady, long since passed away, who wanted to talk to Duncan's friend. Then a female voice was heard to call softly: «Jan! Jan!» (his friend's Christian name), and Jan made a sharp movement with his chair and in a voice thrilling with emotion cried out: «Mother! Oh, mother darling! Is it really you?» «Yes Jan, it is really and truly me». Then in tender, eager tones, audible to all in the room, mother and son talked as though they were both in the flesh. Talked of the father who was left behind; of the son who needed special care; of the son's wife (addressed correctly by name); of the uncle who would soon be beside her in the heavenly places; and lastly of her present happiness. Before she left, Duncan's friend asked one final question, not so much, he told Duncan afterwards, in a spirit of doubt, but because he felt that every shred of evidence was of such tremendous value to him. «Can you remember, Mother – he asked – the second name of Dad?» His father belonged to a Scandinavian family. But nobody in the room except himself knew that fact. The name asked for was a peculiar one and had reference to this origin. «Why, Sewald, of course»,came the answer, without scarcely a moment's hesitation. It was perfectly true. Jan later told Duncan that he had no doubt that the one he had heard was his mother's voice. Duncan's friend was a practical man, pragmatic and accustomed to making quick decisions. His mother had just died, he had been close to her, and he remembered her voice and way of expressing very well, and though it might seem incredible to him, it was absolutely certain that the voice he heard was that of his mother.
Then Andrew Wallace turned to Duncan: «There's someone wantin' to speak to ye, Brither. It's a tall man, very tall and well set up and he looks like a meenister. He's wearing a long black cloak». It is interesting to notice how the entities introduced by Andrew were often described (both in their physical aspect and in clothing), as they should look like when they lived in this world. A male voice began to speak a few inches from Duncan's face: «I'm Moss – he said – Gerald Moss. You don't know me but you know of me. I was the former rector of your present church». Gerald Moss then answered correctly all the questions Duncan asked him, and he did not fall into a trick question: «Now I can give – Duncan asked – a message to your wife?» «I never had one and you know it» said Moss with a touch of annoyance in the tone. Duncan begged his pardon and said that I felt sure he would understand why I had put that question. «Casuistry!», came Moss' quick response followed by a short laugh. Duncan then asked the entity to give him an information that he himself was unaware of and could verify later, so as to exclude the thesis, already accredited at the time, that the spirits were produced by the subconscious of the medium and the sitters. Gerald Moss told him that before becoming a minister of the Anglican church he had taught at a school in Edinburgh, of which he gave him the name, information which Duncan then had the opportunity to verify as correct. Moss finally told Duncan that he would help him in his ministry, that he would be at his side in the church and the pulpit, and that Duncan would have to defend this truth: that life continues and that bodily death does not destroy the soul. Some weeks after this sitting several people of Duncan's parish contacted him separately and in various circumstances, to tell that they had seen beside him, in the pulpit, the figure of a tall, strong man wearing a long black cassock. Someone had also recognized in this figure the ancient rector of the church, Gerald Moss.
Andrew Wallace then said that a lady, anxious to talk to Duncan, had entered the circle: «Her Christian name was R., she was short and stout and her face was round in shape, grey eyes and hair that was carried back from her forehead. She had lived somewhere near the sea and had died rather suddenly after an operation. She's some connection o' your's, a relation maybe, and she's very troubled to put right some misunderstanding that was 'atween ye before she passed on». As we can see, this is a rather accurate description of both the physical aspect of the entity and the circumstances that connected her to Duncan, who promptly replied: «I can follow you, Andrew, tell her that's all finished with and that everything is all right now. She will know what I mean. It's a little personal matter». «Oh, aye, it's personal. Ye ken that, sisters, – Andrew said, addressing the mediums – the meenister is glad to mak' it right». There was often the impression, during the séances, that Andrew Wallace behaved like a person really present on the scene, despite darkness, because his voice was moving here and there, often quickly, turning to one or another of the sitters.
At Duncan's request, Andrew invited the entity to try and talk in the trumpet. Duncan felt the trumpet moving slowly, gently touching first his head and then his face, and then a female voice began to speak excitedly, as if she wanted to say many things in a short time: «It's me, R., I'm overjoyed that you're here and that I can talk to you. I want to say how sorry I am about all that happened. You know what I mean. I've been worried about my part in it and about my attitude. I hope you'll forgive me. It will be such a help». After Duncan had said, through Andrew, that he heartily forgave her, even though he felt there was no need for any forgiveness as it was a mere misunderstanding, Andrew observed how R.'s spirit was happier, because love and kind thoughts make all the difference in the spirit world. That's why, Duncan notes, good thoughts and prayers can be helpful to the deceased.
A series of séances at Duncan's home in Edinburgh
In the spring 1927 Duncan invited the Moore sisters to stay with him at his home in Edinburgh for a period of three weeks. Two sittings a day took place in Duncan's office, which was used only for that purpose, remaining closed for the rest of the day. Duncan noted as far as possible everything that happened in each séance: to do so he and his wife had well practiced writing in the dark during the previous winter. He had also gathered a group of about seventy people, interested in mediumistic phenomena, who met weekly for conferences and debates on the topic. In turn, some members of the group were invited to attend the séances, to which nevertheless never more than four or five spectators, besides the mediums, were admitted, given the small size of the room in which they took place. The trumpets used were two, and often some spirits were heard talking at the same time. In one of the sittings (March 23, 1927) took part Duncan, his wife, and Mary L. Cadell, a member of the SPR who had written some articles for the Journal of the Society. The names and activities of the sitters were never communicated to the Moore sisters by Duncan or his wife. Mrs. Cadell wrote and signed her own report of the séance, published in Duncan's book, in which she observed that she had the impression that at the beginning one of the trumpets sprang up to the rather high ceiling of the room, and then hovered here and there, like a bat (this was obviously an auditory perception in the dark). When the trumpet began to touch her gently on the knees, on the arms, on the cheeks, on the forehead and near the ear, she felt an intense cold.
Andrew described a tall young officer standing behind her. He was very upright and boyish looking. Shortly after she heard a low, intensely moving voice say: «Mother, Mother, I love you. I am always with you. There is no death. I long for you. I am Cadell». Mrs. Cadell, who a few years earlier had lost a young son (Richard) whose appearance matched Andrew's description, remained silent until Koha spoke, saying he was trying to create more favorable conditions for communication. Andrew spoke again inviting Richard to use the trumpet, but he did not. Richard's voice was full of emotion and spoke softly, yet had an artificial timbre that Cadell could not reconnect to his son's voice. Then a disk was played on the gramophone, which helped the vibrations: everyone present began to sing a hymn and suddenly a new voice joined them, a sweet and deep male voice that Cadell recognized unequivocally as that of her son. After a while all the sitters stopped singing, to hear Richard's voice continuing on its own.
A case of cross-correspondence
On March 12, 1928, Mrs. Cadell had a private sitting with the famous medium Gladys Osborne Leonard, during which Feda, the medium's control, said: «Richard's voice comes like in the trumpet sitting: he can sing and pretty well too. Something only a little while ago reminded you of it. He's tried to make you hear him sing. He sang something that had words in it with a promise». Indeed this was true in reference to the hymn sung during the séance with the Moore sisters. Mrs. Cadell, who as a researcher always tested the mediums she was investigating, was careful not to tell Leonard that she had taken part in séances with other mediums.
On October 3, 1929, in Hampshire, during a sitting with the Moore sisters to which only Duncan was present, the young officer showed up again, giving his name as Dick (nickname for Richard). Since Duncan could not remember him under this name, the entity said: «Oh, I've met you before in Edinburgh», and when he was asked to give his full name, «Richard Cadell» he replied. He went on saying that he had been a career soldier, having enlisted in 1916, and having attended an institute in England in a place called Charterhouse. A few days later, Duncan wrote to Mary Cadell for confirmation of such details, and she replied: «All that my son told you was correct. He was a professional soldier, having joined the army class at 15 and gazetted in August, 1916. He was five years at Charterhouse School; one fourth of his short life. At a sitting with Mrs. Leonard on the l0th October, something came which I thought could only apply to you, so without telling Mrs. Leonard my reason, I asked her if she knew you – if she knew where you were. She had never met you, but had heard you had found congenial friends and knew you were at Alresford. Then Feda spoke: Richard (my son) went to a trumpet sitting because he hoped to get a message through. He said it was with people you had a link with – a parson. You know him (then a word was spoken which neither I nor Feda could catch), he was the one we knew in Edinburgh. He and his wife make nice psychic conditions. Can you write to the parson and ask him to keep a look out for me. I'm particularly anxious. He's going to have some more sittings. I'm going to try to get the voice without a medium. I know I have done something already. He was with a trumpet medium. I tried to get through. (Here Feda said he was going too quickly) I'm not quick. Will you tell him I'm working with Rachel. He'll know who I mean and there are others». On October 26, 1929, during a sitting attended by another clergyman by the name of Corbett and his wife, in addition to the Duncans, a woman named Rachel manifested in a pleasant female voice, in which Corbett and his wife recognized their deceased daughter. Richard Cadell showed up after her, and freely conversed with Duncan and his wife, then asked them to send a message to his mother.
At the séance of May 24 (1927) the only (incognito) sitter, besides Duncan, was the wife of a wealthy banker, Mrs. X. Andrew said that there was an elderly gentleman who wished to speak with Mrs. X. Requested the name, he said it was called Griffith. At once Mrs. X remembered having had an uncle Griffith, whom she had been very fond of as a young woman. The entity Griffith, after having recalled (always through Andrew) some episodes lived together, that Mrs. X recognized as true, made an attempt of direct communication, which however resulted in a confused mumble coming from the place where Mrs. X sat. The mediums then began to encourage the entity, begging him to make some further effort to give more energy to his voice. In order to help him, Andrew Wallace suggested playing a disk and singing an hymn. As the music pervaded the room, Andrew's voice was heard, turning to the spirit of uncle Griffith, saying: «Ye just step doon here in the pool d'ye ken and tak' hold o' the trumpet. When the lady speaks to ye, ye must be quick and catch her vibrations. Dinna fash yersel, and tak' yer tim». Andrew expounded his instructions in much the same way as an earthly teacher would have enlightened a novice in the handling of a new tool.
While all the sitters were singing in chorus, a very clear male voice was heard talking to Mrs. X, with an accent and timbre quite different from Andrew's. «It's Uncle Griffith. Your old uncle. Oh, and I'm so glad to meet you here this afternoon. Can you hear me?» After Mrs. X confirmed she could hear him clearly, Griffith went on: «I'm delighted. I've been waiting to today». «Who told you?», asked Mrs. X in surprise. A soft laugh came from the direction of the spirit voice and then he replied: «"Well, you knew you were coming here today and you thought about it very intently, so intently that your thought was registered on our side of life. My attention was called to it and I answered by coming here this afternoon». «Do you find it very difficult to speak to me here?» asked Mrs. X. «I found it puzzling at first. I had to learn how to slow down my vibrations; then it was terribly awkward for me using the trumpet. I can only explain it like this. You know when you have been to the dentist for an extraction and been given an anesthetic, he puts that queer mask over your face for you to breathe the gas into your lungs. I
Uncle Griffith was then able to remember, at the request of Mrs. X, the name with which he alone used to call her as a child. This cost him a certain effort because, as he himself recognized: «Names are always difficult». Probably this depends on the fact that names do not correspond to ideas. In addition, the spirits, although always ready to collaborate, could find themselves in difficulty in front of questions posed as a trap or with a hostile attitude, because in this way the harmony of communication was broken down. Andrew always emphasized how spirits were sensitive to what we might call sympathy. However, it was widely acknowledged that the intentions with which Mrs. X's request had been asked were more than reasonable, and at last the answer was correctly and enthusiastically given by uncle Griffith: «Why, Judy, Judy, Judy, my dear!» Mrs. X was very pleased with this answer, because in her opinion no one else could be aware of that name, which had nothing in common with her real name. In turn, Andrew said that they too were happy when they could offer some convincing proof of their existence.
I would like to highlight the interest of the explanation provided by Griffith entity on how the direct voice is produced. In fact, this phenomenon is heard in our dimension as a real voice (even if presents a spectrum of atypical frequencies compared to that of human voices), with acoustic features that make it physically recordable by electronic devices: it is therefore an objective phenomenon par excellence, that fulfills all our human criteria of reality. In no case is it possible to speak of collective hallucinations for the phenomenon of direct voice, provided it is true. Having to do with an undoubted and ascertained physical phenomenon, the question about the causes of it arises. If we want to rule out any cause unrelated to the dimension in which we live (like produced by spirits, or otherwise by alien entities) we should attribute to the human mind, or at least to that of the most gifted mediums, the magical power to act directly and unconsciously on matter. We can not in fact suppose that the phenomenon is due to a mind-to-mind suggestion effect, precisely because of its objective physical qualities. The explanation offered by Griffith entity, although not very clear and understandable in the light of our knowledge, has the advantage of referring to an environment in which certain laws are in force, related to the energetic nature of the phenomena, laws to which the spirits themselves are subject. In short, even the spirits should perform precise actions of a nature that we could call technical, to obtain the desired results. And even among the spirits, knowledge, practice and experience would be necessary to improve their level of operational efficiency.
Identifications, predictions and healings
During a séance a voice addressed a well-known member of the Royal Academy, first speaking in a feeble tone, and then suddenly changing into the virile voice of a young man: «I'm George, your son», said, and then, as turning and addressing the rest of the audience: «I was wiped out in the war». «What is my first name?», inquired the Academy member. «Robert – came the prompt reply – but I always called you Tallyrand». This was a convincing proof of identification, both for the unusual nickname and the spontaneity of the answer. «Quite right, – admitted the father, who told the other sitters that this was always the way his son had addressed him in this life. – Now try and tell me what you did before you entered the army. What was your work». «The same as yours», came the reply without the slightest hesitation. And in fact his father was a well-known artist, and his son too had followed the same path before the war. «I'm carrying on where I left off – went on George. – We have artists on this side, in fact, it is a more popular profession with us than with you. There is a wider scope for the expression of beauty». «So you're painting pictures? – queried his father. – Do you use a brush the same as we do?». «We can if we like – came the answer. – But most of our work, at least by those who have mastered the technique, is done by the power of imagination, by blending mind and will. We can produce the most gorgeous effects using hues you have no knowledge of».
From time to time at the séances showed up Dodo, the spirit of a little black girl who willingly joked and asked everyone, in an approximate English, if they loved her (Does o' love Dodo?). Dodo was able to make predictions, which turned out to be correct, on future journeys, unexpected arrivals of mail, or other events that involved the sitters, but more often she had fun in guessing the shape or the origin of things that the sitters had on their person, hidden from view (under the coat, in the purse or pocket) and always in darkness. Often the identification of the object was presented as a game in which Dodo provided the clues a little at a time but with precision, as children often do to feel approved. For instance, once a friend of Duncan brought with him an object that he did not show to anyone present, just to test Dodo, who told him: «Lady come here for o, she will not be able to speak today, power nearly gone now ». «Oh, I'm so sorry about that», said Duncan's friend. «0' have something here belonging to lady, she tell me. 0' brought something special for test. No it isn't her picture». «No it isn't that Dodo – the friend replied. –Now I'm going to take it out of my pocket and hold it in my hand, and I want you to see if you can tell me what it is». «"Ess I try». Duncan's friend took something out of his pocket and held it in his hand, in the dark not a single person in the room but himself knew what it was. «I'd be delighted, Dodo, if you can tell me what this is? Try hard, Dodo». «It's black!» said Dodo. «Yes, that's right, Dodo, that's right. Now what is?» «It's something she used to wear». «Oh, you're great, Dodo. Yes it's something she used to wear and it's black». «Something she used to put on – ess pull on», Dodo added, as if to pull the game for long. «Quite right. Only one more word, Dodo, and I won't bother you again. What was it?». «Glove!» she exclaimed triumphantly. «Right, absolutely right. You are a clever girl, Dodo!» «Dodo loves to help zee people on zee earth», the girl concluded.
But speaking of predictions, it was the guide Andrew Wallace who surprised Duncan with the description of events, places and circumstances of which Duncan himself had not the faintest idea. Duncan had some trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities on which he depended (the Anglican bishop of Edinburgh, the city where his parish was), precisely because of the open attitude he had with his parishioners in relation to the séances in which he took part, the manifestations of the spirits and the communications on life after death. In order to preserve his freedom, faithful to his own ideas, and also, to some extent, after consulting with Andrew, he resigned from his parish in Edinburgh. This act, given the organization of the Anglican church, was equivalent to remaining without livelihood until he could find someone willing to entrust a new parish to him, with relative prebend. But at the moment there was in sight no definitive solution to the problem, apart from a three-month supply in a rural vicariate not far from London. In mid-March 1928, knowing that the Moore sisters had settled in London, Duncan invited them to his vicarage for a weekend, during which a sitting was held on Sunday evening. The mediums asked Andrew Wallace if the spirits could help Duncan. «Aye, I am going to help yez», said Wallace. «"Thank you very much, – answered Duncan's wife – we need the help of you all». «Gi' us ye sympathy sister, and weel d' our part».
At this point the Moore sisters asked Andrew to tone down, because there were other people in the house whom they did not want to disturb. Andrew said he knew it well, and immediately began to speak in a more subdued tone, so much so that Duncan was amazed by the exceptional ease with which the entity could control his voice's volume. «Andrew – one of the Moore sisters said – we want you tonight to help us if you can about Mr. Duncan's plans. We are a little worried about things». «Dinna ye worry, sister. A' wi' be weel». «I daresay, Andrew, but we're only human you know, and can't help worrying». After pointing out how, until then, Duncan had managed one way or another to get by, Andrew, urged by one of the sisters Moore to give a more tangible help, seemed to move away as if to go and consult with someone, and after a while his voice was heard again: «Within a three, Duncan shall receive a letter containing an offer of a living». «You said within a three. What do you think that means?» Miss Moore said. «I see three gold moons. It's what ye call a symbol. We use symbols a great deal on this side. The three gold moons stand for three weeks. I see a long envelope con-tin' for ye' wi' the offer. It has a lang printed page for ye and there's a seal o' the top». «That sounds like some official document, – Duncan said – a little bit unpleasantly like an Income Tax Form». «Na, na, brither, it's no a government paper. It's an offer for you». «It sounds very interesting; can you tell me where the place is and what it is like?». «It's a wee kirk, and it stands at the top o' a hill in the country». «I suppose you couldn't tell me the name of it?». «I'll try, brither. It's... Mary... St. Mary Magdalene». «I'll make an extra special note of that, Andrew. Is it a pretty church?». «Och aye. I want yez to pay attention to the pulpit. It has gold and green on it and coloured things just like coloured platters». «That's unusual, Andrew. I shan't forget that». «Na, na, and I want you to notice the window. It has a picture in it and when ye goes doon to see the wee kirk ye'll see some lovely lilies in front o' it. Dinna forget». «I certainly won't, Andrew».
At this point Duncan's wife intervened, and asked: «And what about the house, Andrew». «I ken the ladies – Andrew answered –, they want to ken aboot the hoose. Well it's a nice wee hoose built o' stone and red brick. You'll find lots o' wee crosses worked o'er it». «We'll look for that, Andrew, and is there a nice garden?». «Aye, as ye ge into it, the front gate, ye'll see a queer shaped tree an' there's some pretty beds o' flowers nigh it». «Is there anything else we can notice, when we go there?». «Aye, yell meet a mon at the door. He's a meenister and he's tall and verra thin, wi' a lang clean-shaven face an' white hair. Yo'll notice his lang hands and lang fingers». «Is it north of where we are now, Andrew?» asked Duncan (who, being Scottish, thought he was already enough south in Hampshire). «Na, na brither, it's a gude bitty farther south». After some further exchange of phrases Andrew took his leave.
Within three weeks, Duncan received a long envelope containing a typewritten offer – which had the seal of an important college – for the church of St. Mary Magdalene which was on top of a hill. The church's pulpit was painted green and picked out with gold, and on three sides of it there were Coats of Arms on coloured shields (the colored platters Andrew had mentioned). The adjoining rectory was in gray stone and red brick, with some quaint crosses patterned in the exterior walls. But what most surprised Duncan was the side window of the church, which had painted on the glass the image of the Madonna with Child, in front of which there was a vase with several white lilies: the strange thing was that – being the season of Lent and in accordance with the usual custom – all other flowers had been removed from the church, but that one vase (it was later explained to Duncan) was always kept filled with flowers. Duncan's predecessor, who met them at the door, perfectly matched Andrew's description, and an unusually odd-shaped tree, surrounded by flowerbeds, stood close to the front gate.
Another noteworthy phenomenon that occurred three or four times during the séances was the healing of some non-serious cases of temporary illness. For example, a friend of Duncan, who preferred to remain anonymous, attended an afternoon sitting with the Moore sisters. When he showed up at the rendezvous in Duncan's house, from which they would then head for the apartment where the séance was held, Duncan realized that his friend was limping, and asked him why. His friend replied that the day before, playing golf, he had a bad distortion that had damaged his knee's cartilage. Strong pains had caused him a sleepless night, and only with a considerable effort had he managed to come that afternoon. Had it not been for the importance he attributed to the sitting, he would have stayed at home. However, he asked Duncan not to talk to anyone about the incident, because he wanted to use it as a test, doing his best to hide his temporary handicap. The apartment of the séance was on the second floor, and the two flights of stairs cost a great effort to Duncan's friend. But the latter went on to meet the landlady, beginning to converse with her and the other guests, so as to divert attention from his friend and give him the time to climb and enter remaining on the sidelines, without anyone noticing his problem.
During the sitting it happened that Andrew Wallace addressed Duncan's friend, who had already participated in other sittings, telling him: «Ye're no keepin' verra well, brither. I ken ye been playin' wi' the wee ballies». «True enough – laughed his friend – And they've played a trick on me this time!». «I ken thot. It's ye knee thot's troublin' ye?». «Right again, Andrew – replied his friend –. It's been pretty painful, too. I wonder what I can do about it?». «I'll see. Wait a minute and I'll try and get ye a spirit doctor». Shortly after it was heard an amazing conversation taking place between two independent voices with Andrew Wallace occasionally putting in a word. It was apparently an argument regarding the future life, being carried on by two persons in another sphere. At length Andrew explained this puzzling phenomenon. He said that he had asked two spirit doctors to come to the sitting and examine Duncan friend's knee. One of them had been an atheist while living in an earthly body and had not yet realized that he had passed to a different mode of existence. The other doctor was doing his best to enlighten him and enlist his aid in the friend's case. The sitters had been listening to their discussion. «The doctor will be able to help ye, brither» said Andrew. «Thank you Andrew, I hope he will», replied Duncan's friend, and then he gave a sharp cry of pain. «What's the matter», the other sitters exclaimed. «Goodness, – the friend cried – it felt like a probe piercing in between the joints of my knee; it was one sharp stab. I hope there'll be no more, Andrew». «Dinna' ye worry, brither. The doctor's smilin' at ye and he tells me it'll be all right now ». «I'm glad of that – remarked Duncan's friend – and I'm most grateful for your help». From that moment he never felt another twinge of pain from his knee. He walked down the stairs without a sign of lameness and he had no trouble with his leg since that afternoon. At the conclusion of this strange act of healing all sitters felt a cold breeze blowing through the room and the elder Miss Moore said that the spirit people were setting up a vibratory condition for some special purpose. All noticed how cold the atmosphere seemed to have grown.
Duncan's book reports several other interesting events and phenomena (including the presence of dead pet animals whose typical voice was recognized by their masters) and deserves to be read. What I want to highlight is the absolute naturalness of the conversations between the sitters and the spirits, who manifested themselves with a personality virtually identical to the human one, even in what is described as their physical semblance. The way in which the entities talked and spoke to their relatives and acquaintances was immediate, affectionate and direct, and certainly consistent with the way a human personality would communicate with another. Moreover, the spirits showed skills and knowledge that went well beyond normal human faculties. Often they knew what one or another of the sitters had done or said, because they had seen him, they had been near him or had picked up his thoughts: it is as if spirits could somehow perceive our dimension, while humans were not able to perceive theirs. And that their perception of our world was precise and relevant, and not vague and abstract as the descriptions that our intuition or our imagination show us in relation to the otherworld, was demonstrated by the descriptions of objects, events and even thoughts that, hidden from our perception in this dimension, became accessible to their knowledge. I think that these aspects, in their simplicity, are more interesting – even under a probative profile – of some theoretical dissertations on the nature and evolution of the spirit typical of other doctrinal communications, considered by some scholars as having a high intellectual content.