Many people complain that mediumistic communications are disappointingly trivial or obscure, and that the purported communicators forget basic facts they should remember. In his fascinating 1961 book The Supreme Adventure, Robert Crookall explores several explanations for these anomalies. One of them is that the communicators, in order to make contact with earthly minds, must "lower their vibrations."
"Their minds," Crookall writes*,
are then more or less dulled and their descriptions may, in some respects, resemble those of the temporary inhabitants of Hades conditions [a transitional state immediately after dying] : they may complain of being "befogged", "semi-conscious", "drowsy", "dreamy", "suffocated", "not all there", etc., and their mental condition may affect their memories and therefore their messages. Jane Sherwood transmitted a typical statement on this subject. "Coming back is difficult... One has to lower one's vibration -- something like going into a trance or being drugged or finding oneself again in the misty, half-alive state."
He goes on to cite the researcher Richard Hodgson, who
compared the condition under which a discarnate communicator contacted a mortal friend with that of two mortals who were obliged to communicate with each other by employing a messenger who was dead drunk!... On one occasion, [the discarnate] Myers, communicating, said it was "like entrusting a message on which infinite importance depends to a sleeping person"; on another it was like "dictating feebly to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary".
Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard was told by a communicator that "sometimes the spirits who are not ordinarily in touch with the earth conditions would find themselves overcome by a sleepy, dreamy condition when actually entering physical vibrations...."
And he makes reference to a case cited by Hereward Carrington.
A communicator said that he had performed a certain act during his earth-life. Actually, it was known that he had not performed this act -- but he had made the same statement when, in the course of passing, he had been in a delirium. The suggestion is that, in order to attune with the medium and communicate, he had had to lower his vibrations in near-earth level: this caused him to re-enter the pre-death delirious state and so he mechanically repeated a statement which was, nevertheless, erroneous.
To buttress his point, Crookall assembles a lengthy collection of quotes, some of which I reproduce here. These quotes are taken from a variety of sources, including popular books and more academic studies. First, here are quotes attributed to discarnate communicators.
"When we come to you a portion of ourselves rests. We are in a drowsy state... it makes it easier for us to pick up the earth-vibrations and talk to you."
"When we plunge down into your atmosphere we feel stifled at first and can't think -- but improve with practice."
"I am, as it were, but semi-conscious while communicating it communicating thus.... It is one of the reasons for fragmentary communications."
"In my own sphere and place it would all be clear, but I now find a difficulty with my memory which is curious..."
"As I speak to you, I am not manifesting with complete consciousness. Much of which I am normally aware is indistinct to my vision. I am troubled by the miasmas of earth."
"Only a part of the consciousness [of the communicator] is getting through to earth conditions".
"In all these matters my memory is perfectly clear when I stand free and unhampered in the spiritual atmosphere, but somehow when I return into earth's atmosphere, so many things become hazy and incomplete."
"In certain circumstances we are only able to communicate with a fraction of our mentality here, which means that the messages get through to you in a hazy state... There are degrees and layers of consciousness... the whole personality" is not engaged in communicating -- that which communicates is "ourselves as we were on earth", the greater and higher levels being asleep.
"I am more awake than asleep, yet I cannot come just as I am in reality." (This was the discarnate "George Pelham" speaking to Dr. Hodgson through the medium Leonora Piper.)
"You [mortals] to us are more as we understand sleep and, in order for us to get into communication with you, we have to enter into your sphere, as one like yourself, asleep. This is why we make mistakes..."
"When we... desire to communicate through some sensitive, we enter a dream (or subjective) state... If we are but slightly entranced we are detached from the memory of concrete facts in our past life... we are frequently unable to communicate through the medium's hand or voice many exact facts about our past career on earth, sometimes not even our own names.... My perceptions, when adjusted to earth, are not rapid in their working.... When we seek to communicate, we... slow down our processes of thought... I may compare the experience with a passing from active life into a still, sleepy world..." (This was the discarnate "F.W.H. Myers" communicating through Geraldine Cummins.)
"It is not my whole self talking."
"If you will wait for me, I will remember all... I seem to lose part of my recollection... I intended to refer to Uncle John, but I was somewhat dazed... Strange, I cannot think of the word I want... I am working to keep my thoughts clear."
"Our first reaction is that of being encased, feeling very limited... In the process of entering the medium, we lose much of our thoughts, ideas and knowledge, all so clear to us a moment or two previous to our contact with the body, and so, on many occasions, the controlling spirit cannot answer some seemingly simple questions from the sister concern.... The feeling of being limited and encased fades away after a few times of trance."
"All your mind is not in your brain at one in the same time: you have your conscious and your sub-conscious mind. He [the communicator] also develops a conscious and a sub-conscious section when he comes here... The part left outside the medium's mind forms, for the moment, his sub-conscious mind. When you wish to recall what your conscious mind has lost, you try to obtain it from the sub-conscious... It is more difficult for him than for you, because a smaller portion of his mind is operating in the medium... You see, therefore, why he cannot, while controlling, think so clearly or remember so much as you can." (This was Gladys Osborn Leonard's control "Feda.")
"It is so suffocating here. I can appreciate their [i.e., former communicators'] difficulties better than ever before."
"After you die the soul suddenly seems to expand... When we communicate with you, we have, in a sense, to form a body; a body that will compress the soul again to the dimensions of that before we cast off the [physical] body.... The whole thing is a strain. When we speak to you we are in an unnatural condition."
A discarnate named Nellie, communicating through Mrs. Piper, said that the discarnate Myers was "much more lively" and "much more wakened up" in his normal spiritual life than when he was speaking through the medium.
In addition to these and other quotes from mediums, Crookall cites the conclusions of researchers. James Hyslop wrote,
The general supposition which, to the mind of Dr. Hodgson and myself, explains the persistent triviality of the communicating spirit at the time of communicating (not necessarily in his normal state in the spirit world) is in a sort of abnormal mental state, perhaps resembling our dream-life...
And Hereward Carrington wrote,
They [i.e., discarnate communicators] experience great difficulty in holding their thoughts together connectedly during the process of communication... This does not mean that they are ordinarily in this confused state, but (very often) as soon as they come in contact with the medium's psychic atmosphere and magnetism, they become confused and their minds tend to wander as they would in delirium or in a state of trance... It is because of this that many of the messages we receive commence well but dwindle off into incoherence and triviality.
Besides lowered vibrations, Crookall suggests other reasons for unsatisfactory communications. These include the likelihood that many communicators are earthbound spirits in a state of confusion, that some apparent communications result from the medium reading a discarded "astral shell" or reading the minds of the living, and that communicators may not know which parts of their messages actually get through.
Mortals, not unnaturally, expect communication with departed souls to be as simple and straightforward as is conversation between mortals. But it cannot be so: conversation is simple, communication is complex. It is particularly complex in those cases in which the communicator must retard his mental activities in order to attune with the medium.... A man whom we knew in earth-life to be of a well-informed and clear-thinking type may communicate inaccurate or vague statements: he may, nevertheless, be doing his best to get through. The claim that a communicator may forget details of his past life -- even his own name -- is paralleled by what can occur in partial anesthesia or hypnosis. The argument often advanced, therefore, "That can't be X -- it must be either the sub-conscious mind of the medium or an ignorant impersonating discarnate personality" is not necessarily sound.
*All quotes are from pp. 216-224. In quoting Crookall, I have omitted some of his italics and single-quote marks, because I feel he overuses them.