Thursday, 11 June 2009

Developing Trance...

The new circle at the Bristol Spirit Lodge provides and opportunity to observe the behavioural traits of those undergoing trance development. Some of the sensations mentioned by the trainees include:
  • A feeling of drowsiness that is difficult to fight off: referred to as "spirit induced trance".
  • An inability to open the eylids once they have closed.
  • Sensations in the hands and arms: tingling, heaviness, twitches, uncontrolled motion. Certain individuals report that their arms are tired and aching after the seance despite remaining almost completely motionless throughout the duration of the episode.
  • A feeling of detachment from the body, as though the individual has "stepped back" from their body but is still able to perceive physical sensations.
  • The feeling of the need to swallow but of being unable to do so. The throat feels as though it is blocked by mucus (often interpreted to be a sign that ectoplasm is being utilised in the medium).
  • One individual reported a sense of "activity" located around the solar plexus, as well as at other chakra points within the body.
  • When the influencing entity is spoken to the developing medium feels a desire to respond but, for whatever reason, cannot speak out loud. A couple of sitters reported the sensation that their lips were being pulled in an unsuccesful effort to vocalise.
  • Certain individuals report the perception of different colours.

Individual sitters also report differing degrees of trance state; from a deep state (described as "sleep") in which the individual is apparently entirely unconscious and unable to perceive anything in the room around them, to much lighter forms in which the individual remains fully aware of their surroundings.

More such observations will be made over the course of the group's development...

Famous and Recurring Spirit Guides...

One of the aspects of mediumship that I find particularly interesting is the cross-over of spirit guides, or communicators, between mediums. Occasionally this cross-over can become quite a problem, as in the case of Warren Caylor and Colin Fry's dispute over a communicator called Magnus.

Other communicators appearing through different mediums often include a range of deceased celebrities: Freddy Mercury, Louis Armstrong etc...

In the realm of musical mediumship it is not unkown for composers to channel new music through more than one medium: Liszt and Chopin appear to be common channeling composers.

Grubelei transmitted by Franz Liszt through the mediumship of Rosemary Brown (1916-2001).

In his book Pursuing Physical Mediumship (2007), Robin Foy details various communicators that have not limited their contact with this plane through just one medium. Foy recounts numerous situations in which communications have been received through different mediums (including Leslie Flint) from the likes of Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Emily Bronte, Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Crookes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and so on.

Winston Churchill communicating through the mediumship of Leslie Flint (1911-1994) in 1980.

Indeed, there appears to be a propensity towards receiving communications from those individuals who were at one time themselves engaged in the investigation of spiritualistic phenomena. This is, perhaps, as we would expect: an individual that had been fascinated with the mechanics of mediumship throughout life would not hesitate to explore that machinery first-hand when given the opportunity in the afterlife.

Interestingly we also find accounts of communications with those who were skeptical in life, who now, upon experiencing the truth of life after death for themselves, cannot resist but come to communicate how misguided they had been in life. This situation, naturally, seems suspect to any inquisitive researcher (the medium might well be faking it in order to "demonstrate" the truth of life after death and to prove that his/her critics were ultimately wrong) , but it cannot be denied that it is a distinct possibility; we shouldn't rule it out just because it appears improbable, but we'd ought to remain inquisitive.

One argument put forward to account for the recurrence of "celebrity communicators" is that certain discarnate entities will utilise a famous name in order to enhance the enthusiasm of the sitters to communicate, thusly resulting in far stronger phenomena.

Celebrity "possession cults" are not limited to this particular form. The Changun possession cult of Korea is solely centred around the incorporation of famous deceased generals, including the likes of Genghis Khan during the Kut ceremony:

I would suggest, perhaps, that if these entities are not in actuality the individuals they claim to be, that the utilisation of the name of a celebrity/general is to denote elevation. The human being might find that attributing the label of a well known and respected individual to an unknown spiritual entity enables them to better conceive of the "elevatedness" of the entity. By giving it the name of a general, for instance, it is implied that the being is above our status. Conceiving of the spirit as "above our status" might simply be a means for us to abstractify higher dimensionality; I am "normal", the communicator is not; a way of communicating the sense of an uncanny presence.

Some food for thought perhaps...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Corroborational and Non-Corroborational Phenomena...

When sitting in seance conditions it is possible to distinguish between those occurrences that are corroborated by other sitters, and those that seem to be almost entirely subjective. But there is an added strangeness to this situation in that there are occasions when two individuals might perceive the same light or hear the same sound, while other sitters present in the same room experience no such thing.

This led me to speculate that phenomena exist within a spectrum ranging from the objective and hence corroborational to the subjective and non-corroborational. From this perspective it is possible to imagine all manner of phenomena occurring along the spectrum; some of which are much easier to corroborate with others, some that can be perceived by some individuals but not all, and those that can only be subjectively experienced internally.

Friday, 5 June 2009

States of Consciousness...

I have stumbled upon an extract from William James' classic text, The Varieties of Religious Experience, that sums up my perspective concerning states of consciousness

"... our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded" (James, 2004, 335)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

An Experiment...

This evening a new circle is set to be started at the Bristol Spirit Lodge with the aim to develop physical mediumship. It is intended that rigorous notes are to be made by all attendees with the purpose of accurately charting the development of the circle and any phenomena that might occur.

Although such experiments have been conducted numerous times, it is still, to my mind, of great importance. It will enable me to gain first hand experience of the earliest stages of seance development; giving an insight into the processes involved in the cultivation of physical mediumship and psi phenomena. It is intended that any data collected during the course of the experiment will be collated, analysed and written up.

I feel that this form of engagement on the behalf of the researcher is fundamental to an in depth study of the seance and its phenomena. It is a form of deep participant observation; I will not separate myself from the proceedings; what could be termed a paraphenomenological approach.

I have no doubt that it will be a fascinating experience. Further details will be reported when available.

As is the custom at the Bristol Spirit Lodge the new circle has been given the name "High Spirits", Christine Di Nucci's reports of the circle's development can be read here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Personal Experience...

When conducting fieldwork for my dissertation I had deliberately made the decision to engage fully with the object of my investigation (full participant observation, as proposed by Edith Turner with regard to ritual). This decision was made in order to explore some of the core experiential sensations associated with the mediumship experience, both from the perspective of the sitter and the medium. These experiences form a fundamental infrastructure around which notions and beliefs about the nature of the experience, and its implications, are formed.

The following are the notes I wrote up following two particularly interesting experiences:

"Because Jon was unable to attend the séance this evening (10/3/09) it was decided that the time would best be spent with the intention of development. This involved sitting in red light conditions and meditating. Michelle, who has had previous mediumistic experience, was placed in the cabinet, but the intention of opening prayer was for spirit intelligence to make itself known through any of the vessels present in the room.

After the prayer was read, the music was put on and we were told to relax “and just see what happens”. As I sat there I decided that I would meditate and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. I closed my eyes and focussed my attention onto my breathing. Eventually I felt my hands tingling as they rested on the arms of the chair and my heart rate began to quicken. I started to feel as though I was going to lose control, as though I was verging on fainting. I wasn’t afraid of losing consciousness, it didn’t feel as though that would occur, but I did feel that I was becoming distanced from my physical body; as though I was sitting just back from my body. It was a very peculiar sensation. At the point when I felt most distanced from my body I heard Christine say that she sensed a presence standing by me. This made me panic, because I too was feeling a distinct presence at this time, as well as feeling as though I might lose control of my body. In response to all of this I panicked and opened my eyes. My heart rate was still racing and I felt light headed. I had to regain control of myself; to calm down and reassure myself that everything was ok.

When I had regained composure I decided to begin my meditation again. This time the physical sensations I felt in the first meditation came on again much faster; my heart rate increased and the tingling in my hands returned. I began to feel myself distancing from my body again, and at the point of greatest distance I felt as though there was a space in my body which could easily be filled, it was as though I had made room in my physical body by moving myself out of it. I then felt an energy move into my left hand, and my index finger began to rise of its own accord. It felt as though it were being lifted by a cushion of air. My second finger began to move upwards also, and soon my hand was quivering on the arm of the chair. I was aware of the movement, but also of the fact that I was not consciously willing it to happen. I was observing the movement, but not with my eyes. This motion began to become more vigorous and soon my whole arm was vibrating and shaking from side to side. All the while my head felt heavy and was drooped down onto my chest. It wasn’t long before my hand began to lower itself; it felt as though the energy was becoming less intense, and as it did so my hand’s movement also became less intense. Soon it was only my two forefingers that remained up, and then these too had returned to normal. When it had all subsided I had “returned” and was fully in control of my body.

I was quite shocked by this experience, and it took quite a while before I was fully calm afterwards.

The second occasion on which this occurred was 19/3/09. Similarly this was a development sitting due to Jon’s absence. I was sitting in the cabinet this time with the intention of conducting a guided meditation. As the meditation progressed it came to a point where the guiding was no longer having any effect. Christine noticed this and decided that she would stop guiding me. Soon after Christine had stopped I once again felt the vibration in my left hand, particularly concentrated on my two forefingers. The sensation was much less intense than on the first occasion but was nevertheless similar in many ways. I was not as shocked this time

Exposure to these experiences has allowed me an intriguing perspective on the mediumship phenomenon: the sensation of another energy (apparently separate from your own consciousness) taking over physical control of your body. It is a very real experience. I have become aware that my experience was just the peak of an enormous iceberg with far reaching potentials.

These experiences need to be explored.