Inspirational Speakers

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Inspirational Speakers

Trance mediums who deliver impromptu platform addresses on various subjects, often chosen by the audience, the contents of which seem to greatly surpass their normal intellectual power and knowledge. The degree of difference in knowledge and erudition between the medium awake and in a trance continues to be (in the case of New Age channeling ) one of the primary arguments in favor of the spirit hypothesis. The history of Spiritualism is rich in accounts of inspirational mediums. Among the most famous mediums in the United States were Cora Richmond (first known as "Miss Cora Scott" and later as "Mrs. Hatch" and "Mrs. Tappan"), Emma Hardinge Britten, Thomas Lake Harris, Thomas Gale Forster, and Nettie Colburn (also known as "Maynard" ). They were joined in England by William J. Colville, J. J. Morse, Anne Meurig Morris, Estelle Roberts, and Winifred Moyes.

The first American inspirational speaker who visited England shortly after the arrival of Maria B. Hayden was Emma Frances Jay (later Mrs. Emma Jay Bullene). Emma Hardinge Britten mentions a number of additional inspirational speakers in her survey Modern American Spiritualism (1870), among them a Miss Sprague, Charlotte Tuttle, Hattie Huntley, Frances Hyzer, and Mrs. M. S. Townsend. Trance speaker Henrietta Maynard had a special claim to fame since her oratory reportedly influenced Abraham Lincoln on the issue of emancipation.

In recent times the concept of trance speaking has experienced a remarkable revival as a New Age phenomenon, with the deviation that the New Age channels rarely allow the audience to suggest the topic for their regular discourses. Familiar names from the modern era include Edgar Cayce and Jane Roberts, who inspired a host of contemporary channelers, such as Elwood Babbitt, JZ Knight (who channels "Ramtha"), Jack Pursell ("Lazaris"), and Ruth Montgomery.

It is not always clear whether the trance message is coming from a real or fictitious communicating entity or whether it springs from a hidden level of consciousness of the channeler. It is therefore always wise, as with mediumship in general, to evaluate the phenomenon of channeling on the basis of the quality of inspiration and on the accuracy of information and insight.


Garrett, Eileen J. My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship. New York, 1939. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.

Klimo, Jon. Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1967.

Leaf, Horace. What Mediumship Is. London: Spiritualist Press, 1976.

Maynard, Nettie. Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist? Philadelphia: R. C. Hartranft, 1891. Reprint, London: Psychic Book Club, 1917.

Moses, William Stainton. Spirit Teachings Through the Mediumship of William Stainton Moses. London, 1883. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1976.

Roberts, Jane. Seth Speaks. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972. Stern, Jess. Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet. Virginia Beach, Va.: A.R.E. Press, 1967.