Is Anybody There?
Are Trance Mediums
Really Contacting the ‘Dead’?
What is trance mediumship all about?
There are several layers of trance mediumship but in simple terms the medium has a guide who comes and blends in their aura and overshadows them. During this blending and/or overshadowing the medium relinquishes control of their mind, and sometimes body, for the spirit to take control.
The most common kind of trance mediumship is where the medium has full consciousness and awareness of what’s going on. However in deep trance mediumship the spirit takes full control and the medium’s mind is pushed to one side, going dormant if you like, and when they come round afterwards have no idea what happened during the session. Once the control is released by the spirit it takes the medium anywhere from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes and sometimes even longer to come round, but with no memory of what has just taken place.
The medium can also talk while in trance and in some cases take on the voice box of spirits speaking in a foreign tongue like Chinese, or German with no prior knowledge of that language. This happens especially in deep trance with the voice box being created out of ectoplasm. These voices can be heard by everyone present.
Trance mediumship can involve transfiguration as well. On spirit side the helpers take ectoplasm from the body of the medium and carefully lay it an inch or so in front on the medium’s face just like a mask of sorts. Other body parts and even full bodies can change shape during a transfiguration.
One of the most studied and well known mediums of all time was American Leonora Piper, who lived from 1857 – 1950. As a young lady, Leonora visited a spiritual healer to seek help as she was suffering with pain and it was during this visit that something extraordinary happened, and it was this that launched Leonora to stardom. During the time of the visit other guests were present and one of these other visitors was a Judge Frost. Leonora went into a trance and during this trance she wrote something down and handed it to the Judge. The Judge himself was convinced the letter was from his deceased son.
News of Leonora’s abilities spread and people were happy to pay her to contact those who had passed over and one day she was visited by the mother in law of William James, a Harvard University professor and one of the founding members of the American Society for Psychical Research. Intrigued to find out more, James visited Leonora in person and became convinced that she truly was speaking to the dead. The endorsement from such as respected figure caused Leonora to become even more famous. For more than two and a half decades Leonora was visited and investigated by leaders in the world of parapsychology and she grew support from some of the most recognisable names in the field.
As is to be expected from such extraordinary claims Leonora was not without her critics. Some suggested that those supporting Leonora were not thorough enough in their investigations and that they were duped by techniques that although well known today were known very little at the time. Without the opportunity to carry out further experiments however the critics were left unable to provide any proof that Leonora was not blessed with the abilities it is claimed that she had. Some have made suggestions as to how she might have faked her performances but none has been able to offer anything of substance.
Step forward to the 21st century and we are beginning to piece together what actually may be behind trance mediums. Jefferson University at Sao Paolo, Brazil, is home to a series of experiments into finding out what actually happens to trance mediums while they are communicating with those gone before us. By injecting a radioactive tracer into 10 volunteering mediums it was possible to monitor activity in the brain as the mediums went about using their abilities and the results were interesting to say the least. Of the 10 mediums 5 were very experienced at using their abilities while the other 5 were relative newcomers to speaking with those beyond the grave.
One observation of the experiments was that the more experienced mediums were not concentrating as much as those with less experience which would suggest that less effort is required with practice and experience. Another observation made during the tests however was much more curious…
Before testing, and while not in a trance state, all of the test subjects were asked to produce a writing sample and each of these samples was analysed. These control writing samples were compared with writing samples produced when the mediums were in a trance and a significant difference between the two were noticed. While under a trance the mediums were producing writing samples that were more complex than the control samples, but this didn’t make sense. The brain activity showed that there was less activity in some parts of the brain responsible for writing meaning that the samples produced should be less complicated than normal. The results were the reverse of what should have been occurring.
There are some theories as to what is happening. One is that reduced activity in the frontal lobe allows for more activity in other parts of the brain responsible for creativity as is the case with drug and alcohol use. Many dismiss this theory however as the states achieved in alcohol and drug use are significantly different to those when in a trance.
One thing that the results do show for sure is that there is a great deal about the mind that we don’t know about yet and we could well be in store for a lot of surprises as we learn more. Could it be that each and every one of us has the ability to communicate with the deceased? Perhaps all of us could do so if only we learned to unlock the abilities that lie within all of us.
And Finally.. A Twisted Confession
In 1901 the New York Herald published a statement which was advertised as a confession quoting Leonora as saying:
“The theory of telepathy strongly appeals to me as the most plausible and genuinely scientific solution . . . I do not believe that spirits of the dead have spoken through me when I have been in the trance state . . . It may be that they have, but I do not affirm it.”
Leonora was incensed by this so-called confession and how it was twisted out of context. Five days later she declared in the Boston Advertiser:
“I did not make any such statement as that published in the New York Herald to the effect that spirits of the departed do not control me . . . My opinion is today as it was eighteen years ago. Spirits of the departed may have controlled and they may have not. I confess that I do not know. I have not changed.”
This is very much in line with the thoughts and feelings of so many of our great mediums of the past; Alice Bailey, Edgar Cayce, Douglas Johnson et al. You would think if anyone knew where the information that was coming through them came from, it would be them. But this is to their testament that they don’t put their own thoughts on it and instead they quietly walk the talk.
We don’t have ‘speaking to the dead for dummies’ books that explain the practice in full to mediums. If Leonora was telepathically picking up this information from the sitters and not communicating with those who passed over then this would still be an awe-inspiring ability that needs and deserves further investigation. Either way, it would seem as though mankind’s mind has a lot of as yet untapped potential that could lead to some amazing, if a little scary, revelations.