Spirit Intervention

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Spirit Intervention

Spiritualist annals contain a number of accounts of the intervention of spirits to find lost wills, other papers, or objects of importance, or to track down murderers. Boccaccio, in his Life of Dante, related that the spectral form of Dante appeared in a dream to his son Jacopo Alighiere, and on the son's inquiry whether he had finished his great poem, the thirteenth canto of which they were unable to find, the spirit took him by the hand and led him to the house and into the room where Dante had been accustomed to sleep and pointed out a blind window covered by matting. On waking, Alighiere found the missing canto, which had not been seen before, in this place.

The philosopher Kant, in his revelations on Emanuel Swedenborg, narrated the story of a Madame Marteville, a widow who was asked to pay a debt of her deceased husband. She remembered that the debt was paid but could not find the receipt. During a visit to Swedenborg, Marteville asked the seer if he had known her husband. Swedenborg answered in the negative. Eight days afterward, the spirit of the dead man appeared to the widow in a dream and showed her where she would find a casket of finest workmanship with the receipt and a magnificent pin, which was also lost, inside. She immediately got out of bed, ran to the place indicated, and found the casket and contents.

In the morning, she was hardly awake when Swedenborg was announced. Without having knowledge of her dream Sweden-borg told her that during the night he conversed with many spirits, among them her deceased husband who, however, cut short the conversation by saying that he must visit his wife in order to reveal to her the whereabouts of a paper of the highest importance and of a diamond breast pin she thought lost. Swedenborg called to find out whether the spirit had kept his promise.

The Master of Lindsay, on being questioned before the committee of the London Dialectical Society on July 6, 1869, as to whether he ever obtained any information that could not have been known to the medium or to any present, told the following story:

"A friend of mine was very anxious to find a will of his grandmother, who had been dead 40 years, but could not even find the certificate of her death. I went with him to the Marshall's, and we had a séance; we sat at a table, and soon the raps came; my friend then asked his questions mentally; he went over the alphabet himself, or sometimes I did so, not knowing the question. We were told the will had been drawn by a man named William Walker, who lived in Whitechapel; the name of the street, and the number of the house were given. We went to Whitechapel, found the man, and subsequently, through his aid, obtained a copy of the draft; he was quite unknown to us, and had not always lived in the locality, for he had once seen better days. The medium could not possibly have known anything about the matter, and even if she had, her knowledge would have been of no avail, as all the questions were mental ones."

Robert Macnish, in his book The Philosophy of Sleep (1830), narrates the court case of R. of Bowland. This man was summoned to pay a sum that his father had already paid. When he was about to pay again, the spirit of his father appeared to him in a dream and informed him that the respective papers were in the hands of M. of Inveresk, near Edinburgh. If he had no recollection of it, he should be reminded of the difference of opinion that he had with the deceased about a Portuguese coin. The reminder was most helpful. With the help of it the old attorney remembered and found the papers.

Gabriel Delanne, in his book Le Spiritisme devant la Science (1885), tells the story of a spirit communication given to a descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach by the spirit of an Italian musician named Baldasarini who lived at the court of Henry III of France. The communication led to the discovery of a small strip of paper inside a spinet of 1664 with four lines of verse in the handwriting of Henry III. The authenticity of the writing was proved by comparing the strip with manuscripts in the Imperial Library.

The "Widow's Mite" incident was described by Isaac K. Funk in his book of this title, published in 1904. In February 1903, he heard of a Brooklyn family where every Wednesday evening sittings took place in the presence of a few invited guests. On his third visit, when he was getting reconciled to the notion that the mediumship was a remarkably good case of secondary personality, the control "George" asked: "Has anyone here got anything that belonged to Mr. Beecher?"

There was no reply. On his emphatic repetition of the question, Funk replied: "I have in my pocket a letter from the Rev. Dr. Hillis, Mr. Beecher's successor. Is that what you mean?"

The answer was: "No, I am told by a spirit present, John Rakestraw[,] that Mr. Beecher, who is not present, is concerned about an ancient coin, the Widow's Mite. This coin is out of place, and should be returned, and he looks to you, doctor, to return it."

Funk was greatly surprised and asked: "What do you mean by saying that he looks to me to return it? I have no coin of Mrs. Beecher's." The control then explained that he knew nothing about it, except that he was told that the coin was out of place and had been for a number of years and that Beecher had said that Funk could find and return it. The control also added that he was impressed that the coin was in a large iron safe in a drawer under a lot of papers.

Funk then remembered that when he was making the Standard Dictionary, he had borrowed a valuable ancient coin, known as the Widow's Mite, from a close friend of Beecher's. This friend had just died several days before. Funk asked if the coin had been returned. The answer came that it had not.

After Funk instituted a search, the coin was found in his office in a little drawer in his large iron safe under a stack of papers. In later inquiries through the control Funk was told that Beecher was not concerned about the return of the coin. His purpose was to give Funk a test to prove communication between the two worlds.

James H. Hyslop, in his report on the direct voice medium-ship of Elisabeth Blake of Ohio (Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, vol. 7, p. 581), quotes the following case given by L. V. Guthrie, superintendent of the West Virginia Asylum at Huntington, Blake's medical adviser:

"An acquaintance of mine, of prominent family in this end of the State, whose grandfather had been found at the foot of a high bridge with his skull smashed and life extinct, called on Mrs. Blake a few years ago and was not thinking of her grandfather at the time. She was very much surprised to have the spirit of her grandfather tell her that he had not fallen off the bridge while intoxicated, as had been presumed at the time, but that he had been murdered by two men who met him in a buggy and had proceeded to sandbag him, relieve him of his valuables, and throw him over the bridge. The spirit then proceeded to describe minutely the appearance of the two men who had murdered him, and gave such other information that had led to the arrest and conviction of one or both of these individuals."