Sometimes I think people have this erroneous idea that when a medium is talking to a deceased person, they think the dead is right up next to the medium’s ear whispering information. “Tell him my name is Joe, and that I had a heart attack.” Indeed, I believe some people think this is the way it should be. Though in some instances, information can come through the auditory senses (clairaudience), more often than not, various other methods are used to “speak.”
During the heyday of spiritualism in the late 1800s and early 1900’s, the investigators of the Society for Psychical Research in England and its American counterpart ASPR worked with many talented mediums that left them astounded believers. Richard Hodgson, a staunch skeptic, came to the US to study an enigmatic Boston housewife, Leonora Piper, who had confounded one of ASPR’s founders. Hodgson’s sole intent was to find out how she was fooling everybody; he even went so far as to hire private investigators to shadow her around town to see how she was “stealing” information about potential sitters. He is quoted in an article from 1914 as saying “I had but one object, to discover fraud and trickery … of unmasking her.” Through years of blind experiments and tests of unimaginable conditions (such as being poked with needles during a trance, or having foul smells placed under her nose to trip her up), Mrs. Piper turned Hodgson into a believer, as well as the highly regarded and respected psychologist William James, who declared Piper his “white crow.”
When Hodgson collapsed on the hand-ball court and died of a massive heart attack, it took eight days to make his way for communication through Piper to a new SPR investigator: The former Hodgson took control of the medium’s body and started writing. It was very tough at first (initially breaking the lead of the pencil due to uncertainty and heightened emotions as he tried to scrawl his initials). But eventually – through perseverance and practice – he got the pencil flowing and proved his identity by offering information Piper had never known about him, but could be validated. He also revealed how difficult it was for spirits to get information across to those here on earth. He said he had to “impress the mechanism” in order to get information through, describing Piper’s body as a field of light that scattered things in a random fashion; it took concentration and effort. He said there were certain spirits that, with much practice, were able to impress the energy easier than others to get the information into conscious awareness. He alluded to the notion that those of us on earth really have no idea as to what the medium has to go through, and so he did his best to describe the process; it wasn’t perfect, it was prone to errors, mainly due to the fact that consciousness is so variable and can distort the incoming impressions. “I find now difficulties such as a blind man would experience in trying to find his hat,' Hodgson told Professor William Newbold in a July 23, 1906 sitting. “And I am not wholly conscious of my own utterances because they come out automatically, impressed upon the machine (Piper’s body)…I impress my thoughts on the machine which registers them at random, and which are at times doubtless difficult to understand. I understand so much better the modus operandi than I did when I was in your world.
Indeed, F.W.H. Myers, who is credited with starting the cross correspondence phenomenon (see my earlier post “Telepathy, Super-psi, or Talking to the Dead”), wrote through a medium after his death how hard it was to send a transmission. “The nearest simile I can find to express the difficulties of sending a message – is that I appear to be standing behind a sheet of frosted glass which blurs sight and deadens sounds – dictating feebly to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary.” In cases like this, the message seems so clear, but apparently, it can be a game of hit-and-miss. The cross correspondences spell this out through many examples, as similar messages were received through various mediums, with only slight alterations between imagery or words, which would be expected by such limitations as “frosted glass that blurs sight and deadens sounds.”
As we can see from these early pioneers, it’s not as simple as someone speaking into your ear. Mediumship is its own language that oftentimes has to be “built” individually per medium. According to these initial explorers and modern mediums of today, a spirit will oftentimes show the medium something relevant to the medium’s life as an analogy to the spirit’s own. For instance, the medium may see an image of his own grandmother, simply to reference that he has a sitter’s grandmother coming through. The medium may see a shot of fireworks going off connected to a calendar date, giving him the impression of a birthday or anniversary – and it’s the same image for different spirits. Same with bodily sensations – heat may mean illness, or heaviness or blackness suggesting “Things aren’t right.” In other words, each spirit has access to symbols, feelings, sounds, from a personal library attached to the medium. How this works, how a spirit accesses this and understands how to impress the medium’s consciousness with the symbols, I can’t begin to imagine.
But the overall process seems to be understood: Images, feelings, smells, sounds … These are all techniques employed by the discarnate in order to get through. And they come in quick snapshots – rarely is it like a piece of film being thread through a projector that lasts from the beginning of the reading to the end. Yes, sometimes I see moving pictures, but they do not tell the complete story; the complete story can only be discovered within the context of all the images, sounds, feelings, etc., being experienced. Some add onto the others, creating a larger picture and meaning, while some are at times disjointed and require deeper examination.
Communication, as we all know, is a two-way street and we can assist our friends in spirit in developing this dialogue.
Since a good percentage of clairvoyant perception comes in symbolic images “plucked” from the medium’s life history, the medium can create new memories, thus new symbols, to give spirits a greater vocabulary to choose from. I tried this technique over a year ago, and it has worked surprisingly well. Since I believe everyone has this ability, this means you can do it, too.
How to do this, you ask? It’s actually quite simple, in principle (the work comes in practicing mediumship itself, overall). Choose a picture (say an image of ballet slippers) and write beneath the image what it means as a symbol (“Dancing or dance.”) And then, during the course of a reading, if a snapshot of those ballet slippers appears, when you place it within the context of other messages coming through, you can piece it all together into a message that might say “He says you love to dance.” All it takes is creating an image, defining its meaning, and then committing it memory (that may take awhile).
Will these images be used all the time, every time? No. For instance, I have a symbol for being a musician and liking music. I had a client whose mother was an avid musician, yet the symbol never came up during the reading, but it had come up in other readings before. That’s okay; with all the other information she gave, there was no question that she was communicating. Again, since we don’t know all the fine details of how this process works, we can’t say why some spirits use the symbols while others don’t – when it seems they could have. Similarly, we have millions of words to choose from (according to Webster) yet we don’t always choose the most appropriate and instead stick to what we can use “off the cuff.” Since the act of communicating through a medium has its limitations (time, energy, and process), it may very well be whatever a spirit thinks they can grab more easily and transmit through the energetic matrix, and thus certain possible cues are abandoned in favor of others perceived as “easier to transmit.”
It may not be an easy method, or it might require education, practice, and skill. As Hodgson stated through Piper, some spirits are very practiced at communicating while others aren’t.
The other ingredient to making this communication happen more “smoothly” is the relaxation process within the medium. Since it appears the spirits have to impress our energies, the less chaotic and frantic we are, the better this process is going to be. I notice when I let go of expectation, stress, or even mild concern during a sitting, I get information a lot quicker, with deeper nuances. This is partly the reason why so many professional mediums suggest meditation as a daily practice.
Early mediums used a form of trance state in order to get out of their own way. It was within this trance that their consciousness would be suitable energetically to have spirits come through – either in automatic writing or direct channel. The trance medium usually declares no recollection of the sitting, as if they had left the body.
In many cases, the early mediums employed what they considered a “control” spirit, like a spirit guide, who would deliver the message on behalf of the deceased. It was believed that the control spirit had more practice in impressing the medium’s consciousness, plus aid in keeping the body of the medium protected. Today’s mediums are considered mental mediums, where they are consciously aware of the Now moment and are still in complete control of their faculties. Some claim to use spirit guide controls as the messengers, while others don’t. I, myself, feel I am communicating directly with the individual and not through a control, based on several factors happening at the time of communication, such as location of where the information is coming from, feel of the individual’s personality, etc.
In either case, the method of communication seems to be similar, if not altogether identical. It’s not talking like you and me having a conversation, it’s more like watching, listening, and feeling … And when things impress upon the consciousness – that feeling of heat, weight, accompanied by a visual image and maybe a memory of a sound or a familiar fragrance or a word which is completely unique within the stream of your regular mental awareness – that’s when the messages begin.
Until next time,