Friday, May 29, 2009

Mrs. Piper's Control Spirit, Phinuit

Lenora Piper was one of the most investigated mediums of all time. In a previous post ( Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death ) I described how it was proved she was psychic, precautions investigators took to rule out fraud, and why it was believed that she obtained information from spirits rather than through telepathy.

Was Phinuit a Spirit?

One uncertainty about Mrs. Piper's mediumship that I have felt was unfair was the suggestion that one of her control spirits, Phinuit, was not really a spirit but an alternate personality of the medium. It seemed to me that other spirits, who gave a lot of evidential material, acknowledged he was a spirit. That seemed to be strong evidence in favor of him being a genuine spirit.

I was reading the 1898 report by Richard Hodgson in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical research and I saw that Hodgson made the same point:

A Further Record of Observations Of Certain Phenomena of Trance by Richard Hodgson L.L.D. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research Vol. XIII. 1898, p 284 - 582

On page 369 Hodgson wrote:

Now, to give Phinuit his due, notwithstanding all his shortcomings and delinquencies, I was inclined to think, even before the publication of my previous report, that Phinuit believed himself to be a "spirit." (Proceedings, Vol. VIII., p. 57.) But there was so much that was inferior about him that one could not attribute any force, on the ground of either his intelligence or his sincerity, to his persistent affirmations that he was a "spirit" and giving communications from "spirits." But we must, I think, allow some weight to such statements when they are made persistently by a continually increasing number of coherent personalities manifesting directly through Mrs. Piper's trance, and characterised by a high moral tone, a pervading sincerity, and a deep earnestness of purpose, who individually insist that they are the persons we knew in bodies incarnate; when they all make their statements from the point of view that would naturally belong to such persons under the conditions in which they claim to be; and when they stoutly resist any suggestions to the contrary. Those who adopt the hypothesis of telepathy from the living must clearly recognise the fulness and completeness of many of the personalities which they suppose to be fictitiously formed in connection with Mrs. Piper's trance, and the inversion, as it were, of the conceptions of living persons; so that there is produced this marvellous simulation of the "deceased," accompanied not only by their specific memories, but by the presentation of each character in its unity, showing a clear self-consciousness, a working intelligence of its own, and a morality in no case less than that of the persons concerned when living, but showing rather a more definite upward movement, a stronger determination towards the "things that are higher." And yet with all this apparently complete independence and power of reasoning and lofty ethical aspirations, they must be regarded as either lying or mistaken about the fact of their existence itself, and must be assumed to be, one and all, merely fragments of Mrs. Piper.
Hodgson is saying that the spirits who communicated through Mrs. Piper and proved their identity said that Phinuit was a spirit. Since they were the spirits of reliable people and therefore unlikely to lie, it is reasonable to conclude that Phinuit really was a spirit.

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