From the book "Voices of the Passed" - Major J.H. Webster
THE DEAD SPEAK
WHAT is known among psychic phenomena as direct voice is, in my opinion, the most convincing. I will begin this chapter with an extract from an article of mine on the subject which was published in Light of March 18th, 1943:
I sit in my darkroom, which is not used for photographic purposes, but for the development of the voices of the "passed." With me are three other people; and one of them, my wife, is the medium. No special effort is required on her part beyond sitting in an ordinary chair in a normal state of consciousness and chatting (sometimes singing) with the other three occupants of the room.
Nevertheless, if she were not present, no phenomena would occur. So, whatever part she plays in producing the phenomena, it is one of which she is quite unconscious. Obviously, therefore; she is used in some way or other by forces or intelligences whose power to manifest is dependent on something she possesses which we do not. This is an important point to bear in mind when the phenomena are ascribed to the collective power of mind over matter on the part of the sitters.
An elongated megaphone, made of aluminium, stands upright on a table. On it are four spots of luminous paint which shine forth like cats' eyes in the dark. Vibrations constitute an important part of the conditions required. These have to be raised to a level above normal, and I have found an electric gramophone admirable for this purpose, as it usually embodies a handy means of controlling the volume of sound; and provided suitable records are available, the music furnishes a pleasant accompaniment to the periods of waiting for the voices. An extended volume control is attached to my chair. This is manipulated by my left, hand, while my right is available for recording what the voices say on a tear-off pad affixed to the lid of the gramophone. There is no hymn singing. If we do sing, we choose bright and cheerful tunes—the same cheerful spirit governing our choice of gramophone records.
Some few minutes after commencing the sitting the megaphone wobbles on the table, sometimes beating time to the music. We know then that our invisible collaborators are getting to work, and the megaphone soon rises from the table. Sometimes it drops to the floor once or twice, being replaced by the member of the circle nearest to it. Then it becomes more stabilised in its movements and floats round the circle, bowing, as it were, to each sitter in turn, and frequently touching us lightly, but unmistakably, on our hands, knees and faces.
All this time the music continues, dimmed or faded out altogether as required by means of the control on my chair (a variable resistance of 50,000 Ohms). Usually the first voice is that of Leslie, my son, who left this world in 1932 at the age of twenty-four. He performs the duties of master of ceremonies, so to speak, and supplies information as to the amount of power available.
Remember, there is complete darkness, except for the spots of luminous paint, which enable the sitters to follow the movements of the megaphone. The spots do not radiate sufficient light to render anything else in the room visible.
That we are seen by the unseen intelligences present cannot be doubted, for the touches of the megaphone are deliberate and exact; there is no fumbling, and the delicacy of the touches indicate the precision with which they are made. On one occasion recently the megaphone floated over to me direct from the table and touched my lips, while from it issued the sound of a kiss; and this was immediately followed by a message from my mother.
Imagine for a moment what might happen if the medium, or one of the other sitters, tried to bring about this effect fraudulently. Bear in mind that he or she would be unable to see me, let alone find my face and the exact location of my lips. The same applies to the touch of a materialised hand, which I have also experienced more than once. The little finger of my left hand has been gripped and pulled gently by what felt like a thumb and forefinger.
As to the voices—well, there they are; they come from the megaphone, and I know that they are not the voices of any of the four people present in the flesh. They are not loud, and sometimes it is difficult to catch the words; an exaggerated whisper is the nearest I can get to describing them—faint when the power is weak, but quite strong and easily audible when conditions are at their best. The messages vary in length, again according to the power available. The communicator's main difficulty seems to be to keep the megaphone up long enough to complete the message; and once the megaphone falls some little time is required to work up sufficient power for further speech.
And that brings me to a point where some difficulty usually arises. One can understand that the etheric larynx, lips, tongue, teeth, and so on, of the communicator can become partially "physicalised" by the use of ectoplasm drawn from the medium and the sitters, thus making articulation possible; and, of course, the articulation is amplified by the megaphone. But whence the voices? To whom do they belong?
As in the case of trance control, we still have to rely on the contents of the messages themselves for evidence of identity. The voice—at any rate, so far as my own experience goes—is not itself recognisable as belonging to any particular person.
Now the sceptic tells us that by some trick of that apparently artful, deceitful and extremely clever subconscious mind, either the medium and/or the sitters themselves unconsciously produce the voices and make them say what the sitters expect or want them to say. This explanation, if a true one, must also account for the lifting of the megaphone, together with its movements about the room, to say nothing of the touches and the pulling of my little finger.
A certain type of sceptic (usually a man with theological prejudices), having been floored from his standpoint of fraudulent mediumship, admits the spirit agency in these manifestations, but attributes them to the operations of evil spirits, or sub-human elementals, who, either for satanic purposes or for their own amusement, impersonate prominent personalities, and even departed relatives and friends.
In my opinion, this is a more feasible theory than the first, but it weakens, or even destroys its own hypothesis.
It must be admitted that we ourselves, and perhaps some of our relatives and friends who have passed on, are far from being saintly spirits. Death does not change ordinary mortals into angels of light. It must also be conceded that if evil spirits can indulge in such entertainment, they have not only survived death, but have some relaxation from eternal punishment. It also follows that if evil spirits can speak through a megaphone, so can good ones, should they wish to do so.
So where does the sceptic draw the line when it conies to speaking through a megaphone at a direct voice sitting? Personally, I am fully prepared to admit that seldom, if ever, is it likely that a saintly soul who has progressed to the higher spheres of the Beyond will manifest at such a sitting. We do not expect or wish him to do so; and he has probably been so long away from earth conditions that it would be impossible for him to participate in physical phenomena of this nature. The souls we desire to contact in this way are spirits like ourselves.
As for impersonation, maybe some mischievous playboys do sometimes pull our legs—and perhaps our little fingers. But the point is that if an evilly disposed person can speak from the Beyond in this way, so can one who is not so disposed. Whether or not they do speak to us can be, and is frequently, determined by the contents of the messages received. As in the case of other forms of communication, evidence of identity alone decides the issue.
I make no claim that evidence of identity, sufficiently watertight to constitute indubitable proof of survival, has yet been communicated at any of my sittings. But it may be reasonably argued that the messages not coming through the mouth of the medium, but through a megaphone, out of the larger end of which issues the spoken word, and at the smaller end of which there is nothing entirely physical, cannot be influenced by the mind of either medium or sitter. I do not say that it is not possible, for allowance must be made for the possibilities, however remote, of the unplumbed depths of the human mind. I merely assert that from what we know at present of our mental capacities such a possibility—or, to be more precise, probability—cannot be reasonably contended.
In this connection, however, I would refer the reader to the theory of divine limitations outlined in my article in Light of December 10th last; and ask him to bear in mind that my object is to establish the case, not for absolute and scientific proof, but for a reasonable belief in communication with the beyond. And I will conclude this article by giving a very simple example from the many communications received through the megaphone, establishing firm ground for such reasonable belief.
One member of the circle, whose name is Shirley, was addressed by a voice as Cissie. There was no need for the communicator to reveal her identity further than that, because the discarnate speaker was the only person who ever used that name for her friend, Shirley.
Now, if Shirley's own mind unconsciously projected that name into the megaphone, from which it was thrown back at her (an absurd notion, but one nevertheless seriously entertained by the sceptic), together with an intimate and characteristic message from the one person who ever addressed her as Cissie, or if an evil spirit had not only discovered by some unknown means this name, but so effectively simulated certain characteristics of the friend as to deceive Shirley, then human nature, human mentality, human or inhuman devilry and the whole bag of tricks of life, either here or hereafter, are so illogical and incomprehensible as to be unworthy of a single thought.
I have heard what claim to be the voices of my mother, my son, my brother, some of my wife's relatives, to mention only a few; I have heard issuing from the mouth of that megaphone voices speaking to many friends of mine who have avowed their conviction that the voices were what they purported to be, viz: utterances made by their friends and relatives who were dead and buried. The resurrection of the dead has been demonstrated to people assembled from time to time in a little upper room, of my house, which my wife, through whose instrumentality this "miracle" has happened, calls her sanctuary. Sanctuary indeed it has been to many sorrowing souls who are now comforted in the belief that their loved ones live, are happy, and are "preparing a place for them."
Have they been hoaxed? If so, by whom, by what? Is there some as yet unknown diabolical human agency through which such cruel deceit is possible?
These "dead" ones say they live. They still appear to possess the same characteristics as they evinced when in the flesh; and are only too ready, when the opportunity occurs, to demonstrate their sense of humour, despite the difficulties associated with communication from the Beyond. This is shown not only in the messages received, but in the peculiar behaviour of the megaphone itself, which frequently performs remarkable evolutions in mid air, dances on the table in time to the music, bows in salutation before each sitter, and indulges in such antics as passing beneath the table and round its legs without touching them.
On one occasion we were puzzled by seeing the megaphone turn round and round on its longer axis in a sort of rolling motion. Then it suddenly dawned on us that its movements were responding to the song being played on the gramophone at the time, "Let the Great Big World Keep Turning." As soon as we acknowledged the joke the rolling stopped.
When the megaphone drops to the floor, as it does sometimes on completion of the message (or in the middle of it, if the power momentarily fails), it has to be picked up and placed on the table. Once when doing this I found the table was rocking violently, and with such force that even by exerting all my strength in pressing the megaphone against the table-top I was unable to keep it still. This went on for several seconds, until I acquainted the other sitters with my difficulty, when the rocking ceased abruptly, the force opposing my efforts being switched off, as it were, immediately I explained what was happening.
Now there was, I think, a subtle intention behind this particular manifestation. If this phenomenon can be accounted for by the power of mind over matter, which in some unknown way was used by me and/or the other sitters, whence came the will and the power? My will and strength were opposing it; the other sitters were unaware of it until I told them. If it is attributable to the unconscious mind, surely the mind must be not only unconscious but insane, to bring about such an effect.
No, the phenomenon demands a much more sensible explanation; and that is supplied by the assumption of the operation of some unseen intelligence; and as the same intelligence produces a voice claiming to be that of a discarnate human being, whose utterances indicate evidence of identity, as they frequently do, then it is logical to believe that the owner of the voice has not only survived death but is able to manifest his presence in this and various other ways. And I maintain that this particular combination of table movement and voice production, with its attendant evidence of identity, constitutes one of the strongest reasons for belief in survival and communication. In short, I feel justified in regarding it as a fairly big piece of "gold in the dross."
The sanctuary is usually decorated with fresh flowers, two or three loose ones being placed on the table with the megaphone. During a sitting the latter are frequently placed in our laps or in our hands by our invisible visitors, who seem to delight in springing surprises upon us. I have had a tug-of-war with the long stem of a sweet pea, the flower end having been neatly and accurately placed between my finger and thumb (and this takes place in complete darkness, mark you), while someone or something at the other end has pulled against me. The switching on of the light at the conclusion of one sitting disclosed a sweet pea threaded through the medium's hair. But the most outstanding surprise with flowers was a demonstration displaying not only the ability to move objects about but to pay pretty and affectionate compliments.
When the sitting commenced two pink roses were on the table; on a pedestal in one corner of the room, well away from the table, stood a bowl of roses of various colours. Present at the sitting were three ladies (including the medium) and two men. At the end of the proceedings on this occasion it was found that one of the pink roses had been deposited on the lap of each of two female members of the circle, while the medium herself was not forgotten, for on her lap was found a red rose, taken from the bowl on the corner pedestal. But that was not all. The pink roses matched the dresses of the two ladies, while the medium's frock was red. So each was presented with a rose whose colour corresponded with her garment, the red rose having been deliberately (or was it chance?) selected from a bowl containing pink, white, red and yellow roses.
A noticeable feature of this pretty incident was that the one red rose was extracted from the bowl without leaving any trace of the remainder having been disturbed. If the sceptic is inclined to regard this feat as a fraudulent act, let him try it—in the dark! He must rise from his chair, locate the bowl, then the red rose, and, without fumbling or disturbing its fellows, take it out, return to his chair, which he cannot see, and place the flower in the medium's lap. He must do all this without his movements being made known to others present.
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