Lodge, Sir Oliver (Joseph) (1851-1940)

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Lodge, Sir Oliver (Joseph) (1851-1940)

World famous British physicist and a fearless champion of after-death survival. He missed no opportunity to declare his belief that death is not the end, that there are higher beings in the scale of existence, and that intercommunication between this world and the next is possible. Lodge was born June 12, 1851, at Penkhull, Staffordshire, England, and studied at University of London (B.S., 1875; D.Sc. 1877). He was professor of physics at University of London (1877) and at University of Liverpool (1881-90) and served as principal of Birmingham University (1900-19). Lodge was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1887, awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for his pioneer work in wireless telegraphy, and was knighted in 1902. He was president of the British Association in 1913. His great reputation as a physicist was established by his research in electricity, thermoelectricity, and in wireless (radio) and theories of matter and ether. Lodge developed the spark plug that bears his name.

His first experiences in psychic research occurred in 1883-84, when he joined Malcolm Guthrie on his investigations of thought-transference in Liverpool. Lodge undertook similar experiments himself in 1892 in Carinthia at Portschach am See and reported them in Proceedings of the SPR (Vol. 7, part 20, 1892).

His most notable observations in physical research were made with the medium Eusapia Palladino. In Charles Richet 's house on the Ile Roubaud, he attended four séances and reported on them in the Journal of the SPR (November 1894), affirming the reality of Palladino's phenomena:

"However the facts are to be explained, the possibility of the facts I am constrained to admit; there is no further room in my mind for doubt. Any person without invincible prejudice who had the same experience would come to the same broad conclusion, viz., that things hitherto held impossible do actually occur. If one such fact is clearly established, the conceivability of others may be more readily granted, and I concentrated my attention mainly on what seemed to me the most simple and definite thing, viz., the movement of an untouched object in sufficient light for no doubt of its motion to exist. This I have now witnessed several times; the fact of movement being vouched for by both sight and hearing, sometimes also by touch, and the objectivity of the movement being demonstrated by the sounds heard by an outside observer, and by permanent alteration in the position of the objects. The result of my experience is to convince me that certain phenomena usually considered abnormal do belong to the order of nature, and as a corollary from this, that these phenomena ought to be investigated and recorded by persons and societies interested in natural knowledge."

When Palladino was exposed in fraud in the following year at Cambridge, Lodge, who attended two of the sittings there, defended his earlier observations. He declared that there was no resemblance between the Cambridge phenomena and those observed on the Ile Roubaud. In the field of mental phenomena, Lenora Piper was his chief source of enlightenment. His first investigations with Piper took place in 1889, when the medium was tested in England by the Society for Psychical Research. Lodge received many evidential messages, which soon convinced him that the dead were still alive.

His first report was published in 1890. Nineteen years later, in discussing the evidence for the return through the medium-ship of Piper of F. W. H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, and many others, he referred to his experiences:

"The old series of sittings with Mrs. Piper convinced me of survival for reasons which I should find it hard to formulate in any strict fashion, but that was their distinct effect. They also made me suspector more than suspectthat surviving intelligences were in some cases consciously communicatingyes, in some few cases consciously; though more usually the messages came, in all probability, from an unconscious stratum, being received by the medium in an inspirational manner analogous to psychometry. The hypothesis of surviving intelligence and personalitynot only surviving but anxious and able with difficulty to communicateis the simplest and most straightforward and the only one that fits all the facts" (from The Survival of Man, 1909).

Lodge openly stated for the first time, in 1908, that he believed he had genuinely conversed with late friends and that the boundary between the two worlds was wearing thin in places. Five years later, speaking from the presidential chair to the British Association in September 1913, he boldly declared that his own investigations convinced him that "memory and affection are not limited to that association with matter by which alone they can manifest themselves here and now, and that personality persists beyond bodily death."

The widest publicity to Lodge's belief in survival appeared in his famous book, Raymond: or, Life and Death (1916). The story of the return of his son, who died in action in World War I, is one of the best-attested cases of spirit identity. It begins with the celebrated "Faunus" message, delivered through Piper on August 8, 1915. It purported to come from the spirit of psychic researcher Richard Hodgson and began abruptly: "Now, Lodge, while we are not here as of old, i.e., not quite, we are here enough to give and take messages. Myers says you take the part of the poet, and he will act as Faunus. FAUNUS. Myers. Protect: he will U.D. (understand). What have you to say Lodge? Good work ask Verrall, she will also U.D. Arthur says so."

The message reached Sir Oliver Lodge in early September 1915. On September 17, the War Office notified him that Raymond was killed in action on September 14. Before this blow fell, Lodge wrote to Margaret Verrall, a well-known classical scholar and asked her, "Does the poet and Faunus mean anything to you? Did one protect the other?" She replied at once that "the reference is to Horace's account of his narrow escape from death, from a falling tree, which he ascribes to the intervention of Faunus."

The Rev. M. A. Bayfield attached to the incident the following interpretation: "Horace does not, in any reference to his escape, say clearly whether the tree struck him, but I have always thought it did. He says Faunus lightened the blow; he does not say 'turned it aside.' As bearing on your terrible loss, the meaning seems to be that the blow would fall, but would not crush; it would be 'lightened' by the assurance, conveyed afresh to you by a special message from the still living Myers, that your boy still lives."

On September 25, Lady Lodge had a sitting with Gladys Osborne Leonard. Raymond sent this message: "Tell Father I have met some friends of his." On asking for names, Myers was mentioned. Two days later, medium Alfred Vout Peters spoke about a photograph of a group of officers with Raymond among them. Various other messages came from different mediums, as did the cross-correspondence on the Faunus message.

On November 25, Mrs. Cheves, a complete stranger, wrote a letter saying that she had a photograph of the officers of the South Lancashire Regiment of which Raymond Lodge was a second lieutenant and offered to send it. In a séance on December 3, Gladys Leonard described the photograph, featuring Raymond sitting on the ground and an officer placing his hand on Raymond's shoulder. The photograph arrived on December 7 and corresponded with the description in every detail.

Many other messages, bearing the authentic stamp of Raymond's identity, came through. The most curious was one about "Mr. Jackson." "Feda," Leonard's control, said that Raymond mixed it up with a bird and a pedestal. The truth of the matter was that Jackson was a peacock which, after its death, was stuffed and put on a pedestal.

Lodge displayed the whole mass of evidential communications in his book Raymond, including the reference to cigars and whiskey and soda in the afterlife. Owing to this, many ridiculed the book, although many others accept the idea that dead spirits can furnish the afterlife with familiar associations of everyday physical life. Some critics suggested that Lodge's bereavement led him into Spiritualism, but his book repudiates this notion. "My conclusion," Lodge wrote, "has been gradually forming itself for years, though, undoubtedly, it is based on experience of the same sort of thing. But this event has strengthened and liberated my testimony. It can now be associated with a private experience of my own, instead of with the private experience of others."

The book Raymond was followed by other important publications on psychic research in which Lodge elaborated his previous conclusions. Before the Modern Churchmen's Conference in September 1931 in Oxford, Lodge declared:

"If I find myself an opportunity of communicating I shall try to establish my identity by detailing a perfectly preposterous and absurdly childish peculiarity which I have already taken the trouble to record with some care in a sealed document deposited in the custody of the English S.P.R. I hope to remember the details of this document and relate them in no unmistakable fashion. The value of the communication will not consist in the substance of what is communicated, but in the fact that I have never mentioned it to a living soul, and no one has any idea what it contains. People of sense will not take its absurd triviality as anything but helpful in contributing to the proof of the survival of personal identity."

He reiterated this viewpoint two years later in his book My Philosophy: "Basing my conclusions on experience I am absolutely convinced not only of survival but of demonstrated survival, demonstrated by occasional interaction with matter in such a way as to produce physical results."

Lodge died August 22, 1940, at Amersham, Wiltshire, England. His correspondence is preserved in the Lodge Collection of the Society for Psychical Research in London.

The post-mortal identity test of Lodge's survival involved the depositing of a set of envelopes with the Society for Psychical Research and the London Spiritualist Alliance, with instructions for consecutive opening of the envelopes. The packet in the possession of the Society for Psychical Research contained seven envelopes, one inside another, containing clues when opened consecutively. The instructions were somewhat complex and, owing to the war years following his death, could not be applied. The final envelope with the test message was opened February 10, 1947. No psychic had identified it. The test did not lead to the evidence of survival hoped for (see Journal of the SPR Vol. 38, pp. 121-134).


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Hill, J. Arthur, ed. Letters from Sir Oliver Lodge. London: Cassell, 1932.

Jolly, W. P. Sir Oliver Lodge. New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1975.

Lodge, Sir Oliver. Christopher: A Study in Human Personality. New York: George H. Doran, 1919.

. Conviction of Survival. N.p., 1930.

. Past Years. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931.

. Raymond; or, Life and Death. London: Methuen, 1916.

. Raymond Revised. N.p., 1922.

. The Reality of a Spiritual World. N.p., 1930.

. The Substance of Faith Allied with Sciences. London: Methuen, 1915.

. Survival of Man. London: Methuen, 1909.

. Why I Believe in Personal Immortality. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1929.

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