Spirit Mediumship

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Spirit Mediumship

Aspirit medium is a person who has become qualified in some special way to form a link between the living and the dead. Through the physical agency of the medium, the spirits of the deceased may speak to their family and friends and relay messages of comfort, support, and personal information. While some mediums gain impressions from the spirit world in a fully conscious state, others place themselves into a trance, which is often accompanied by manifestations that appear to defy known physical laws, such as moving objects without touching them, levitating the mediums' own body, and materializing spirit forms of the deceased.

The essential attribute that qualifies one to be a medium is an extreme or abnormal sensitivity which seemingly allows the spirits more easily to control the individual's psyche. For this reason, mediums are often referred to as "sensitives."

During seances, spirit mediums, often working in a trance state, claim to be under the direction of a spirit control or spirit guide that serves as an intermediary between themselves and the spirits of deceased men and women. Once contact has been made with particular spirits in the other world, the guide speaks through the medium and relays messages to the sitters, those men and women who have assembled in the seance room for the opportunity of hearing words of comfort or guidance from their departed loved ones.

Spirit mediums argue that while Christianity, Judaism, and Islam promise their followers a life eternal whose reality must be taken on faith alone, for thousands of years those who visit mediums have been able to base their hope for a life beyond the grave on the tangible evidence provided by the phenomena provided in the seance room. Although they have been condemned as cultists, scorned as satanists, and reprimanded for communing with evil spirits by most of the major religions, mediums have remained thick-skinned toward their critics among the various clergy.

In addition to any religious objections one might have toward the kind of evidence that spirit mediums present as proof of life after death, an important factor that has long contributed to the layperson's skepticism toward mediums is the fact that few areas of human relationships are so open to cruel deceptions. It has taken neither scientific training nor orthodox religious views to expose many spirit mediums as charlatans preying upon such human emotions as grief and sorrow over the loss of a loved one.

Beginning in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, Spiritualists and spirit mediums began to contend with an increasingly materialistic and mechanistic science that did a great deal to obliterate the idea of a soul and the duality of mind and body. The concept of an eternal soul was being steadily eroded by an emphasis on brain cells, conditioned responses, and memory patterns that could exist only while the body remained alive.

When the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) was established in 1882 and the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was formed in 1885, leading spirit mediums such as Florence Cook (18561904), Mina "Margery" Crandon (18881941), Leonora E. Piper (18571950), and Daniel Dunglas Home (18331886) allowed themselves to be subjected to extensive tests conducted by psychical researchers, most of whom at least believed that man and mind were something more than physical things. However, as the experiments progressed year after year with spirit guides, materialized beings, and levitated objects, the researchers came more to believe in the enormous reach and abilities of the human psyche. They began to see the medium's spirit control as evidence that the human mind was capable of projecting a segment of itself unhampered by time and space, that one level of mind might be able to give "birth" to new personalities, that one level of the subconscious might telepathically gain knowledge of a departed individual from a sitter's memories while yet another level dramatized that knowledge into an imitation of the deceased's voice. In other words, the more the psychical researchers learned about the range and power of the human mind, the less credence they tended to grant to the spirit medium's "proof" of survival.

Spirit mediums have never felt that the phenomena of the seance room can be properly or fairly transferred to the sterile environment of the laboratory with any degree of success. In answering the criticism that spiritistic phenomena cannot be repeated again under individually controlled conditions as demanded of a scientific experiment, Maurice Barbanell (19021981) wrote in This Is Spiritualism (1966) that such was not possible "because mediumship involves the use of human beings. Whenever you deal with human beings, the human factor can be wayward and liable to upset the most intricate calculations."

Sometime in the 1940s, Dr. J. B. Rhine (18951980) summarized the research on survival evidence provided by spirit mediums in the laboratory to be a draw. While hardly anyone would claim that all the investigations conducted by psychical researchers since the 1880s could disprove the claim that "if a man shall die he shall in some manner or other be capable of living again," Rhine stated, "On the other hand, no serious scientific student of the field of investigation could say that a clear, defensible, scientific confrontation has been reached."

However, in March of 2001, scientists involved in a unique study of spirit mediums at the University of Arizona announced that their findings were so extraordinary that they raised fundamental questions about the survival of human consciousness after death. Professor Gary Schwartz, who led the team of researchers, concluded that highly skilled spirit mediums were able to deal directly with the dead, rather than merely with the minds of the sitters. In the opinion of the scientists, all the data they gathered was "consistently in accord with survival of consciousness after death." Based on all their data to date, Schwartz said, "The most parsimonious explanation is that the mediums are in direct communication with the deceased."

Ouija Board

A Ouija board is used by some spirit mediums for purposes of contacting the other side. The instrument has two parts: a large smooth board, approximately 22 by 15 inches, and a three-legged triangular or heart-shaped pointer called a planchette, which slides easily across the face of the board. On the board the letters of the alphabet are arrayed in large, easily read characters in two curved lines; above to the right and left, respectively, are the words "yes" and "no." At the bottom are the words "Good Bye" (on some boards the word "Maybe" is added). During a seance, spirit mediums who use a Ouija board will place their fingers lightly on the planchette, and the spirits will provide the energy to move it to answer yes or no questions or to spell out names and more detailed information. On certain occasions, mediums may invite one or more sitters to place their own hands on the planchette so that they may feel the spiritual force controlling its movements and determine that the medium is not responsible for its actions.

Spirit mediums and certain psychical researchers maintain that the Ouija board has been instrumental in producing volumes of impressive communications from the other side and has also helped to develop hundreds of psychic-sensitives who have become adept at spirit contact.

The Ouija board was first available for the American public in 1890 and was marketed as a parlor game. According to its creators, E. C. Reiche, Elijah Bond, and Charles Kennard, the name of the board was derived from the ancient Egyptian word for good luck. Egyptologists flatly stated that "ouija" was not an ancient blessing, and William Fuld, a foreman at Kennard's company, agreed, protesting that he was the one who had really invented the board, fashioning its name by splicing together the German (ja) and the French (oui) words for "yes." In 1892, Kennard lost his company, and the selling of the Ouija boards was taken over by Fuld.

It seems likely that the Ouija board was inspired by the planchette that has been used by spirit mediums for centuries as they received automatic writing from their control. This planchette is a roughly triangular or heart-shaped object about four inches long and three inches wide, approximately one-eighth on an inch thick, and is mounted on two small legs which are generally padded with felt or equipped with small wheels or casters. At the tip of the planchette is a hole through which a soft pencil or ballpoint pen can be inserted point downward to serve as a third leg. When the planchette is placed on a plain sheet of paper and the medium places his or her fingers lightly on its surface, the planchette will move across the paper and write messages for those sitters in attendance at the seance.

The idea of the Ouija board may also be a modern adaptation of glass writing, a method still favored by some spirit mediums. In glass writing, a fairly large sheet of paper on which the letters of the alphabet are printed in a wide circle is placed on a table. On it, upside down, is placed a thin wine glass or a light water tumbler. Then the sitters, usually two and never more than four, place their fingertips on the bottom of the upturned glass. After a while, spirit energy is believed to enter the glass. As the glass moves, it will come to rest over certain letters which, when written out on a separate sheet of paper, will spell out intelligent messages.

Skeptics believe that those mediums who use such devices as a Ouija board are not summoning spirits to provide the answers to questions put to the board, but are either consciously or unconsciously moving the planchette to spell out the desired answers. The same thing is true of those persons who use the Ouija board as a kind of parlor game and who may receive "spirit communications" that appear on first examination to be baffling and indicative of unseen intelligences hovering nearby. These people may have permitted themselves to become suggestible by the mood provoked by seeking spirit contact and may have allowed the answers provided by the planchette to reflect their unconscious thoughts, fears, or wishes.

Both psychical researchers and skeptical investigators agree that impressionable children should not use the Ouija board as a game to be played late at night during slumber parties or sleep-overs. Often the messages relayed by the planchettewhether by spirits or the human unconsciousare of a profane and vile nature, revealing psychological weaknesses and primal fears.

Delving Deeper

Gaynor, Frank, ed. Dictionary of Mysticism. New York: Philosophical Library, 1953.

Paranormal News. http://paranormal.about.com/science/paranormal/library/blnews.htm. 1 October 2001.

Post, Eric G. Communicating with the Beyond. New York: Atlantic Publishing, 1946.

Skeptics Dictionary. http://skepdic.com. 1 October 2001.


Those who accept the teachings of Spiritualism believe that the varied phenomena associated with a seance, such as the levitation of objects, the materialization of spirit forms, or the acquisition of information beyond the normal sensory channels, emanate from spirits of the dead. Nonspiritualists who attend seances may hold a wide variety of religious and philosophical views, but they are likely to believe that some part of their being survives physical death, and they are willing to base their hope for life eternal on the phenomena of the seance room and the messages that they receive from discarnate beings.

After the sitters have been ushered into the seance room with its subdued lighting, they are invited to be seated, generally forming a circle around a large round table. The successful medium of an established reputation usually begins the seance in a friendly manner, making light conversation with each of the sitters. Such an approach relaxes the sitters and encourages them to express their wishes or any concerns that they might have about their communicating with the deceased. The medium is quite certain that their very presence at a seance indicates some degree of receptivity to the idea of communication with the dead. By the time the medium has entered the meditative state that induces the trance which summons the spirit guide, the sitters have been prepared by the medium's confidence and by their own beliefs and expectancy to accept the reality of an outside intelligence occupying the medium's physical body.

Mediums usually make it quite clear to neophyte sitters that the best manner in which to secure a demonstration of genuine spiritistic phenomena is to assure the medium of one's good will. The sitter should also let the medium know that he or she is assured of the medium's honesty and abilities. The sitter should not hurry the medium, but keep in mind that the greatest guarantee of a successful seance is the medium's serene state of mind.

Often the spirit voices of the deceased speak through a metal trumpet that has been coated with luminous paint and which floats around the seance room. At trumpet seancesalmost invariably conducted in complete darknessthe horn rises, apparently lifted by spirit hands, and the voices of the departed are heard speaking through the instrument. Theoretically, these voices manifest independently from the medium. Trumpet mediums are popular at Spiritualist camps, and husband and wife teams often travel the circle of summer camps giving demonstrations. Skeptics suggest that the reason for such male and female partnerships among trumpet mediums is the simple fact that many more voice tones may be imitated by the mediums during the course of a seance.

The materialization of an old coin, a ring, a bracelet, or a semiprecious stone from the spirit world to a sitter attending a seance is called an "apport" (from the French apporter, "to bring"). According to mediums, spirit friends bring these objects from great distances to lay before the sitters. Sometimes, according to mediums, these objects come from old treasure chests that have lain lost and forgotten beneath the land or sea for ages. On other occasions, the apports are said to be items lost by owners who are now dead and presented as gifts to their living relatives in attendance at the seance.

Spirit photography is one phenomenon of the seance room which seems to function as effectively in a spontaneous situationsuch as snapping a photograph in a graveyard or a haunted houseas in the trappings of the sitting room. Psychic photography is nearly as old as photography itself. Since the earliest daguerrotypes, people have been taking pictures that have shown unexplainable objects and figures in the background. The idea that such figures and objects could have originated because of some paranormal influence has been rejected by the great majority of scientists. Hazy, spectral figures have been credited to the faulty processing of film. Clearly discernible and even recognizable features on the ghostly faces have been attributed to deliberate fakery.

In the early days of photography, such skepticism was understandable because of the many steps of processing that a photograph had to undergo before it could be examined. With loading and unloading of the film and darkroom operations that sometimes took hours, the opportunities for switching the plates were so great that even the most open-minded person could not help becoming suspicious if shown the photograph of spirit forms appearing over his or her shoulder after the portrait had been taken.

Technological advances in photography have managed to eliminate many such objections and, at the same time, created many more. With modern 10-second processing of film and the use of an observer's own camera, the opportunity for trickery in the seance room has been greatly lowered. But computer technology has been able to create seamless photographs of an endless array of ghosts, phantoms, and spirit forms. Ghost sites and spirit photographs are popular on the Internet and available for scrutiny by skeptic and believer alike.

Perhaps the ultimate in seance phenomena is the materialization of a spirit form that is in some way recognizable to one or more of the sitters. This is often accomplished through the utilization of a cabinet from which the materialized spirit emerges and communicates with those gathered around the medium. Spirit cabinets may be elaborate wooden structures or they may simply be blankets strung across wires in order to give the medium some privacy while in trance.

"The miracle of materialization," Maurice Barbanell (19021981) writes in This Is Spiritualism (1959), "is that in a few minutes there is reproduced in the seance room the birth which normally takes nine months in the mother's womb." Numerous researchers, as well as Spiritualists, have claimed to have seen a nearly invisible cord which links the materialized spirit figure to the medium and have all made the obvious comparison to an umbilical cord.

If, indeed, disembodied spirits are capable of fashioning temporary physical bodies for their ethereal personalities, just what kind of substance could be used for such a remarkable materialization? The name that Spiritualists give to such a substance is "ectoplasm," and they contend that it is drawn from the medium's body.

Maurice Barbanell claims that ectoplasm is ideoplastic by nature, which is to suggest that it may be molded by the psychic "womb" of the medium into a representation of the human body. Barbanell gives "spirit chemists" the credit for compounding ectoplasm until it assumes a human form that "breathes, walks, and talks, and is apparently complete even to fingernails."

French researcher Dr. Charles Richet (18501935) christened ectoplasm in the 1920s, but Baron Albert von Schrenck Notzing (18621929), a German investigator of the paranormal, gained a medium's permission to "amputate" some of the material and to analyze it. He found it to be a colorless, odorless, slightly alkaline fluid with traces of skin discs, minute particles of flesh, sputum, and granulates of the mucous membrane.

Few contemporary mediums attempt to produce ectoplasmic materializations in the seance room. Today, the vast majority of seances conducted by professional mediums fit into the categories of "direct-voice" communication, during which the spirit guide speaks directly to the sitters through a medium who appears in a deep state of trance; "twilight" communication, during which the medium in a very light altered state of consciousness relays messages from the guide in a conversational exchange with the sitters; or a "reading," in which the medium in a fully conscious state presents a series of images and messages that are "shown" or "told" by spirits who have some personal connection to the sitters.

Some parapsychologists who have witnessed a wide range of the phenomena of the seance room under test conditions state that all such manifestations may be the result of conscious or unconscious fraud on the part of the medium. These researchers also point out that the intelligence exhibited by the "spirits" appears to be always on a level with that of the medium through whom they manifest.

Such critics go on to state that the spirits can be controlled by the power of suggestion and can be made to respond to questions which have no basis in reality. Many investigators have discovered that they can as readily establish communication with an imaginary person as with a real one.

Other parapsychologists accept a great deal of the phenomena of the seance room, but they deny that the source of the manifestations comes from spirits. These investigators have found that in many seances conducted under controlled conditions, the information relayed often rises far above the medium's known objective intelligence, but they argue that there are a number of ways by which the subjective mind can be elevated above the threshold of ordinary consciousness to the point where various phenomena may be produced. When mediums induce the trance state which summons the spirit control, they may sincerely believe that their physical body is possessed by an outside intelligence. When the subjective mind is operating under the suggestion that it is being controlled by the spirit of a deceased person, it can become marvelously adept at filling in the details of that person's life on Earth.

For many individuals who hold certain religious views, it is abhorrent for anyone to claim the ability to talk to the dead. At best, in this view, such claimants are frauds and charlatans. At worst, they are committing a grave sin. And if the phenomena of the seance room is really due to as-yet unknown faculties of the human mind, then the sins of mediums are doubled if they claim that manifestations originating in their subconscious come from discarnate entities.

Spiritualists will answer such charges by stating that the more conservative religions promise their congregations a life eternal, but spirit mediums offer tangible proof that the human soul does survive the act of physical death. They will assert that millions of stricken hearts have been healed by the consolation afforded by the conviction that they have truly communicated with the spirits of loved ones who have gone on before. They will argue that the sincere medium is no more a fraud than the sincere pastor, priest, or rabbi. And when parapsychologists claim that the phenomena of the seance room are controlled by the subconscious of the medium, Spiritualists insist that these researchers are basing their conclusions on a hypothesis influenced by mechanistic psychology and a materialistic society.

Parapsychologists counter by stating that the subjective mind of the medium operates under the suggestion that it is being controlled by the spirit of a deceased person. The medium has conditioned his or her subjective mind to that pervading premise by a selective education, environment, and religious beliefs; therefore, any display of paranormal abilities, such as clairvoyance, telepathy, or precognition, will be attributed to the interaction of spirit entities.

Delving Deeper

Barbanell, Maurice. This Is Spiritualism. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1959.

Carrington, Hereward. The Case for Psychic Survival. New York: Citadel Press, 1957.

Fodor, Nandor. An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1966.

Garrett, Eileen. Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1968.

Hart, Hornell. The Enigma of Survival. London: Rider & Co., 1959.

Matthews, Robert. Scientists Becoming Believers in Spiritualists' Paranormal Powers. http://www.telegraph.co.uk. 6 March 2001.

Mysteries of the Unknown: Spirit Summonings. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1989.

Rhine, Louisa E. ESP in Life and Lab: Tracing Hidden Channels. New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1969.

Smith, Alson J. Immortality: The Scientific Evidence. New York: Prentice Hall, 1954.

Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Spirit Control

Spirit mediums believe that while they are in an entranced state of consciousness, they fall under the control of a particular spirit that has become their special guide and who speaks through them and works all manner of mysterious phenomena on their behalf. Although this spirit was once a living person, it has, since its time in the spirit world, become greatly elevated in spiritual awareness.

The concept of a spirit guide goes back to antiquity. The philosopher Socrates (c. 470 b.c.e.399 b.c.e.) furnishes the most notable example in ancient times of an individual whose subjective mind was able to communicate with his objective mind by direct speech stimulus. Socrates referred to this voice as his daemon (not to be confused with "demon," a fallen angel or a negative, possessing entity). Daemon is better translated as guardian angel or muse, and the philosopher believed that his guardian spirit kept vigil and warned him of approaching danger.

Parapsychologists have suggested that the spirit guide may be another little-known power of the mind which enables the medium's subjective level of consciousness to dramatize another personality, complete with a full range of personal characteristics and its very own voice. The subjective mind of the medium may clairaudiently contact its own objective level, as in the instances of those people, such as Socrates, who claim to hear the voice of a personal guide.

Mediums perceive the spirit guide in a very different manner. While they may admit that the action of the subjective mind is not entirely eliminated during trance and the arrival of the guide, they will insist that their subconscious mind is taken over and controlled by a spirit entity of great compassion and wisdom.

Psychical researchers will counter such a claim of communication with a spirit by stating that the intelligence exhibited by the spirit control appears to be always on a level with that of the medium through whom it manifests itself. Some investigators of mediumistic phenomena will admit that the information relayed during a seance often rises above the medium's known objective intelligence, but they are quick to point out that the limits of the human subjective mind are not yet known.

Critics of spiritualistic phenomena also point out that the "spirits" can often be controlled by the power of suggestion and can be made to respond to questions which have no basis in reality. Many investigators have discovered that one can as readily establish communication with an imaginary person as with a real one. Careless or mediocre mediums have found themselves the object of ridicule when they have relayed a message from a living person or even from a sitter who has given the medium a fictitious name.

The experienced and knowledgeable psychical researcher Hereward Carrington (18801958) devoted an entire book, The Case for Psychic Survival (1957), to his examination of Eileen Garrett (18921970), an English medium who is generally regarded as one of the greatest of the twentieth century, and her spirit control, Uvani. Carrington administered an extensive battery of personality tests to both Uvani and Garrett so that researchers might compare the two sets of responses. The spirit guide and the medium sat through sessions of the Bernreuter Personality Inventory, the Thurstone Attitude Scale, the Woodworth Neurotic Inventory, the Rorschach Test, and a seemingly endless number of word association tests. Carrington concluded that even though there existed only slight evidence for the genuinely supernatural character of spirit guides, "they nevertheless succeed in bringing through a vast mass of supernormal information which could not be obtained in their absence." Spirit guides, he theorized, seem to act as some sort of psychic catalyst.

Carrington speculated that the function of a medium's spirit guide appears to be that of an intermediaryand whether the entity is truly a spirit or a personification of the medium's subconscious, it is only through the cooperation of the guide that authentic, verifiable messages are obtained.

The psychical researcher stressed in his report that an essential and significant difference between the secondary personality in pathological casessuch as multiple personality and schizophreniaand the personality of the spirit guide in mediumship lay in the fact that in the pathological cases, the secondary personalities do not acquire supernormal information, while in mediumship, the guide does: "In the pathological cases, we seem to have a mere splitting of the mind, while in the mediumship cases we have to deal with a (perhaps fictitious) personality which is nevertheless in touch or contact, in some mysterious way, with another (spiritual) world, from which it derives information, and through which genuine messages often come."

In an interesting appendix to Carrington's book, he records a conversation with the spirit guide Uvani in which he questions him concerning the mechanics involved in the controlling of Eileen Garrett's "underconsciousness," his term for the unconscious. Uvani emphasizes that although he controls the medium's "underconsciousness," he has absolutely no control over her conscious mindnor would he ever consider such control to be ethical or right. In answer to a direct question of whether or not he had any knowledge of the medium's thoughts, Uvani stressed that he had no interest in her thinking processes or in the activity of her conscious mind. It was that time when she was in the trance state that he could make the medium's unconscious become a means of expression not only for his ideas but for the concepts and thoughts of many other entities. Garrett's "underconsciousness" became an instrument that he could work "like notes on a piano."

Carrington touches on two questions that skeptics and believers alike have asked of many mediums and their alleged guides:

  1. How do you know when the medium is ready for you to assume control of her unconscious?;
  2. f in life you were a man from another culture speaking a different language, how is it that you now speak perfect English through the medium?

To the first question, Uvani responded that he received a "telegraphed impression" when the mediumistic instrument was ready. Then the medium's conscious mind becomes very low in energy, but her "soulbody" becomes more vibrant before he assumes command.

As to the question of speaking perfect English through their medium's mouths, Uvani answered bluntly that he does not speak English: "It is my Instrument who speaks. I impress my thought upon her, on that 'figment' which I must work up, but no word of mine actually comes to you. The Instrument is impressed by my personal contact."

Chicago psychic-sensitive Irene F. Hughes explained how she can tell when her spirit guide wishes to bring forth an impression or message from a discarnate entity on the other side. "I am quiet, completely relaxed, deep in meditation," she explained. "I may be alone at home or among friends in a prayer circle. A tingling sensation, similar to a chill, begins on my right ankle, then on my left. Slowly the tingling spreads to cover my entire body. It is as though a soft silken skin has been pulled over me, glove-tighteven over my face, changing its featuresyet comfortable and protective. At this point I am on the way to that golden flow of consciousness that we earthlings term the Spirit Plane. I am in semitrance. Were I in full trance, I could not recall a single detail."

As her involvement with the spirit plane progresses, Hughes says that her body becomes as "icy cold as death itself," yet a delightful warmth engulfs her inner self. Soon, Kaygee, her spirit teacher, appears, smiles, bows to her as a trusted friend, indicating approval of her incursion into the spirit world. By a slight waving of his hand, he ushers in those of the spirit plane who wish to speak through her. "I am bound to my spirit teacher by ties that are ethereal, yet mighty as a coaxial cable," she said. "Every thought that flashes through his consciousness becomes crystal clear also in my consciousness."

Critics of the spiritistic hypothesis remain unimpressed by the agile mental phenomena of the spirit guide and the medium's attempts to explain the levels of his or her interaction with this mysterious personality. Many parapsychologists agree that mediums may arrive at certain information through paranormal means, but they maintain that the knowledge was gained through extrasensory abilities rather than through the cooperation of spirits. And in those cases when the alleged spirit guide displays a prima donna's temperament at being questioned for further proof of identity, it would seem that all-too-human behavior finds its seat in the unconscious of the medium.

Delving Deeper

Barbanell, Maurice. Spiritualism Today. London: Her bert Jenkins, 1969.

Bayless, Raymond. The Other Side of Death. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1971.

Carrington, Hereward. The Case for Psychic Survival. New York: Citadel Press, 1957.

Garrett, Eileen. Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1968.

Uphoff, Walter and Mary Jo. New Psychic Frontiers. Gerrards Cross, Bucks, Great Britain: Colin Smythe, 1975.


Numerous researchers have noted the obvious parallels between hypnotic sleep and the trance state of the medium. In hypnosis the subject is controlled by the suggestions of the hypnotist. In the trance state, many investigators believe, the medium is controlled by autosuggestiona kind of self-induced hypnotic state.

Good subjects for hypnosis can be made to assume any number of characterizations, from elderly people to babies, and will firmly appear to believe themselves to be the individuals they represent, complete with a set of habits and idiosyncrasies for the characters they are impersonating. Likewise mediums, through autosuggestion in the trance state, assume the guise of the spirit communicators who have come to speak to the sitters in the seance circle. Professional hypnotists have often claimed that all the phenomena of mediumship can be duplicated through their subjects by suggesting to them that they are under the control of discarnate entities.

A medium or a Spiritualist might counter such an assertion by saying that certain spirits may actually take possession of a hypnotic subject when they receive permission to do so, and that the subject may then truly be said to be in the control of the souls of the deceased.

Parapsychologists who have tested both the hypnosis hypothesis and the possibility of spirit possession have found that, in some instances, it is just as easy to obtain communication from a living person through a hypnotic subject or a medium as from a dead one, and from a fictitious person as from a real one, simply by making the proper suggestion to either entranced agent.

When mediums enter the trance state, they enter into a subjective condition that leaves them as open and amenable to the law of suggestion as is the subject of hypnosis. The potent suggestion that the spirit of a deceased person is about to enter their body and control them is ever present in the subjective mind of mediums. Such a suggestion has been a part of their educational development, and their religious beliefs are based on the "fact" of spirit survival and communication. All paranormal phenomena are considered by mediums to be a direct interaction of the spirit world with the material world. The trance state allows them to cooperate with spirit personalities and to become a vital link in communication between the two worlds. Since mediums believe so strongly in survival and their ability to establish contact with the departed, it is their mission to aid others in communicating with their beloved deceased.

Many parapsychologists theorize that with such a powerful autosuggestion constantly being directed to the transcendent or subjective level of the mind of a medium, all subjective knowledge gained by establishing telepathic rapport with the unconscious level of other minds will be immediately interpreted as information gained by the intercession of spirits. And so far as the transcendent mind of the medium is able to receive impressions of the "spirits," that mental image will be impersonated with all the creative abilities that reside in the almost limitless range of subjective intelligence.

Delving Deeper

Barbanell, Maurice. Spiritualism Today. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1969.

Fodor, Nandor. An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1966.

Mysteries of the Unknown: Spirit Summonings. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1989.

Uphoff, Walter and Mary Jo. New Psychic Frontiers. Gerrards Cross, Bucks, Great Britain: Colin Smythe, 1975.