Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death

Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death

Mrs. Piper, a trance medium, was one of the most tested mediums of all time. In the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research in 1898, her primary investigator, Richard Hodgson, published the opinion that her mediumship was most likely due to communication from spirits.

Precautions Against Fraud

Richard Hodgson was a skeptic. He had investigated Madam Blavatsky and exposed her as a fraud. Hodgson's investigation of Mrs. Piper proved she was psychic. Her trance was genuine, it was not a normal state of consciousness. She gave sittings under controlled conditions. Sitters were not introduced to her by their correct names and most of the sitters were unknown to her. While she was in trance, she gave correct information about deceased individuals she could not have elicited by means of cold reading. She was watched by detectives and her mail was read to prove she did not investigate sitters before their sittings.

There was no doubt that Mrs. Piper was psychic. By the time Hodgson published his report, the main question in the minds of psychical researchers was whether she obtained her information through telepathy and unconsciously mimicked the personality of spirits or whether her mediumship was genuine communication from spirits. Hodgson's opinion, based on his extensive records of sittings and many hours attending sittings with the medium, was that her mediumship was genuine communication with spirits.

Evidence for Survival After Death

Hodgson's Five Main Points of Evidence For Survival After Death

Hodgson gave these five main reasons why he favored survival after death over telepathy as an explanation for Mrs. Pipers mediumship:

  1. Skill in communicating varied with the spirit not the sitters. If Mrs. Piper obtained information from the sitters by telepathy, the quality of the information should vary with the sitter not the spirit.

    • Some spirits were never good at communicating.

    • Some spirits were better than others at communicating names.

    • During otherwise successful sitting where some spirits were able to communicate clearly, sometimes certain spirits well known to the sitters were not able to communicate clearly. This often occurred with spirits who had suffered from a long illness or a mental disturbance at the time of death. This confusion in a communicator was sometimes unexpected by the sitters particularly when the person was noted for clear thinking in life.

  2. All spirits had trouble communicating at first but improved with practice.

    • This occurred even when the sitters were experienced and had had other spirits come through.

    • Difficulty in communicating could be overcome with the assistance of other spirits. Telepathy does not explain this.

  3. Spirits seemed to be confused for a few days just after death.

    • This confusion was not due to changing the sitters. It occurred when the sitters remained the same.

  4. Stray thoughts from the spirits (not the medium or sitter) seemed to leak through into the communications if the spirit was having difficulty communicating.

    • These thoughts reflected subjects that would be of particular concern to the spirit such as situations involving living relatives but which were unknown to the sitters.

    • These stray thoughts were thought to explain some of the seeming failures of spirits to correctly answer questions aimed and proving their identity. This is not explained by telepathy.

    • When spirits communicated by writing and controlled the medium themselves, confusion was apparent. When spirits communicated indirectly through speech by the spirit control Phinuit, confusion on the part of the spirit was obscured because Phinuit was acting as an intermediate. This explains some of the failures of spirits to correctly answer questions aimed at proving their identity, and explains some instances when Phinuit was inaccurate. This is also not explained by telepathy.

  5. Characteristics of children communicators

    • The spirits of young children recently deceased had clearer memories of early childhood than spirits who had died many years before. This was not explainable by telepathy because the the sitters often had clear memories of the spirit's early childhood.

    • Spirits of young children recently deceased tended to communicate more clearly than adults recently deceased. This is not explained by telepathy.

    • Spirits of individuals who died in childhood express themselves as though they had grown during the intervening time. This occurred even when they were still thought of as young children by the sitters.

Other Evidence Not Consistent With Telepathy

  1. Spirits unrelated to sitters sometimes came through to give messages to friends not present at the sitting.

  2. Spirits responded to questions intended to prove their identity correctly but not always in ways the sitters expected. For example, a spirit was asked for a nickname of another person and replied with a nickname that had been used but was not the one expected by the sitter.

  3. Sometimes the communicating spirit was unable to give information that was in the conscious mind of the sitter. This is inconsistent with telepathy.

  4. On occasion, a spirit would not know the name of a sitter they were thought to know. This suggests telepathy was not occurring.

  5. Difficulty in communicating names was a common characteristic of Mrs. Piper's mediumship. This is also inconsistent with the hypothesis of telepathy.

  6. If the investigator ran the sitting like a telepathy experiment, less evidential information was given through the medium. If he treated the spirit like an actual person communicating under adverse conditions, the communication was improved. Beneficial treatment included maintaining a soothing manner, and letting the spirit say what he chose rather than subjecting him to a cross examination.
Richard Hodgson's report on Mrs. Piper is available to view or download on-line.

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

Article p. 284.

Table of Contents for Volume XIII.

Section: Indications That The Spirit Hypothesis is True, p 370.

Summary of Evidence for the Spirit Hypothesis: bottom of p. 391.