Last time, we looked at discussions of life in the next world as provided by Prof. Stafford Betty’s Heaven and Hell Unveiled, a compilation of excerpts from channeled writings. As I observed in that post, I find this material interesting, but some of it is hard to swallow.
Now I’m reading a somewhat similar book, Dead Men Talking, edited by longtime blogger and author Michael Tymn. Dead Men Talking consists of extended excerpts from seven channeled books all produced in the World War I era, purporting to describe conditions in the afterlife. The excerpts are placed in context by Tymn’s excellent introduction and extensive background information. I found that this material sheds considerable light on the whole subject of afterlife messages, by clarifying the miscommunications that can occur.
Even the early researchers were well aware of this problem. Tymn quotes from one of Oliver Lodge’s books on the spirit world:
We have not as yet the privilege of getting into touch with the complete personality of the departed; we see through a glass darkly, not face to face. But through a more or less turbid medium we do catch glimpses …
More recent confirmation of this point comes from channeler John Scott, who wrote the 1948 book As One Ghost to Another.
“I think I may say that most [spirits] become thus absorbed (with their new environment), to the exclusion of all thoughts of earth,” the communicating spirit further told Scott, also insisting that absolutely no communication comes through without a portion of error, which further frustrates communication.”
William Stainton Moses, a pioneering channeler who was concerned about the accuracy of his messages, received some interesting information from his chief communicator, Imperator. Tymn writes:
The more advanced the spirits, Moses came to understand, the more difficult it was for them to communicate because of the vibratory difference in their levels. Thus, the advanced spirit had to send the message down (in vibration) to lower-level spirits to relay it on or through to the medium. “Most frequently the actual [automatic] writing is done by one who is accustomed to manifest in that way, and who acts, as it were, as the amanuensis of the spirits who wish to communicate,” Imperator informed Moses. “In many cases, several spirits are concerned.”
As a result, errors inevitably crop up, just as they do in the game of Telephone.
But there is still more to the problem. It appears that the spirit who communicates directly with the medium (the so-called control), being on a lower plane, does not actually meet with the spirit delivering the message. Let’s say that our friend Joe, recently deceased, wants to send a message, but can get through only via Zachary, a control. Joe and Zachary are not actually “in the same room,” so to speak. In fact, they have never even met. Apparently, each goes into trance, and then Joe must direct his message telepathically to Zachary, who interprets it as best he can and passes it on to the medium. Errors are possible at every stage: Joe’s message may not be correctly picked up or interpreted by Zachary, and Zachary’s message may not be correctly picked up or interpreted by the medium.
Dead Men Talking contains vivid examples of this process in the work of Gladys Osborne Leonard’s control, Feda.
Feda: There is some one here with a little difficulty; not fully built up; youngish looking; form more like an outline; he has not completely learnt how to build up as yet … He is not easy to describe, because he is not holding himself up so solid as some do … He is not built up quite clearly, but it feels as if Feda knows him …
Feda often spoke of herself in the third person. This excerpt makes it clear that she is not in the same room as the communicator, and is in contact with him only via telepathy, gathering an impression of the person that is laboriously "built up" in her mind. She herself says as much:
Feda gets it mostly by impression; it is not always what he says, but what she gets; but Feda says “he says,” because she gets it from him somehow … Now he’s trying to build up a letter of some one: M he shows me.
This probably was the communicator’s attempt to get the name “Myers” through to Feda and therefore to the medium – an unsuccessful attempt in this case. Note that the communicator must try to convey the name by “building up” particular letters in the control’s mind — something that would be unnecessary if the communicator and the control could talk directly to each other.
While describing the experience of soldiers killed in war, Feda encounters a problem in the transmission from the communicator:
He knows that when they pass on and wake up, they will still feel a certain fear, and some other word which Feda missed. Feda hears a something and “fear.”
Besides missed communications like the one above, there are instances in which extraneous information will bleed through, further complicating the process. In one such case, Feda receives an mental impression of the moment when the communicator (killed in the war) passed over:
Feda feels like a string around her head … a light feeling in the head, and also an empty sort of feeling in the chest, empty as if sort of something gone. A feeling like a sort of a vacant feeling there; also a bursting sensation in the head. But he does not know he’s giving this. He has not done it on purpose; they have tried to make him forget all that, but Feda gets it back from him.
The process of communication, then, appears much less straightforward than we might assume. The deceased communicator on one vibratory plane (however this is understood) must somehow communicate via telepathic impressions with the spirit control on a lower plane, who has no face-to-face contact with the original communicator at all. The control must then pass on this message to the medium, who may receive it only partially or in garbled form. Add to this the possibility of extraneous information coming through from the subconscious mind of the communicator, the control, or the medium, and the necessity for additional levels of transmission in the case of higher spirits, and you have a situation tailor-made for misunderstandings and distortions.
In my previous post, I expressed doubt at the claim made by one communicator (Leslie Stringfellow) that Shakespeare was still writing plays in the afterlife and Mozart was still giving concerts. If we think in terms of the difficulties presented here, this detail can be explained easily enough. Suppose the deceased Leslie wants to convey the idea that there is art and culture in the afterlife. The symbolic impression received by the control is of Shakespeare and Mozart, two of the most iconic representations of high art. The control misinterprets these impressions, taking them literally, and conveys an impression of Shakespeare and Mozart actively contributing to the culture of Summerland. The medium’s own subconscious slightly embellishes the suggestion, and now we have Shakespeare writing plays and Mozart performing piano compositions – when all that was intended was a general statement to the effect that the pursuit of art and culture goes on.
I’m not insisting that this is what happened in that particular case. My point is, this is the kind of thing that could happen and probably does happen quite frequently. I would guess that a very large portion of the “travel guide” material on the afterlife is a product of such distortions, unconscious embellishments, and “analytic overlay,” to borrow a term from remote viewing.
None of which means that such channeled descriptions are useless, only that they need to be taken only as rough approximations. As Lodge said, paraphrasing Saint Paul, in mediumistic communications we see through a glass darkly, not face to face. And this seems to be true not just of us, but of the discarnate communicators and controls as well.