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Can the Dead Speak to Us?

This article was published in The Scrutineer and Berrima District Press (NSW), Wednesday 18th March 1908

Sir Oliver Lodge, lecturing last month before a crowded audience of members of the Psychical Research Society, London, made som remarkable statements. After referring to recent researches, using diagrams to assist his explanations, he said - "We find the late Edmund Gurney and the late Richard Hodgson and the late F.W.H. Myers, with some other less known names, constantly purporting to communicate with the express purpose of patiently proving their identity, and giving us correspondence between different mediums. We also find them answering specific questions in a manner characteristic of their known personalities, and giving evidence of knowledge appropriate to them. We require definite and crucial proof - a proof difficult even to imagine as well as difficult to supply. The ostensible communicators realise the need of such proof just as fully as we do, and have done their best to satisfy the rational demand. Some of us think they have succeeded; others are still doubtful. I am one of those who are of opinion that a good case has been made out, and that, as the best working hypothesis at the present time, it is legitimate to grant that lucid moments of intercourse with deceased persons may, in the best cases, supervene, amid a mass of supplementary material, quite natural in the circumstances, but mostly of a presumably subliminal and less evidential kind.

"The boundary between the present and the future is still substantial, but it is wearing thin in places; and, like excavators engaged in boring a tunnel from opposite ends, amid the roar of water and other noises, we are beginning to hear, now and again, the strokes of the pick axes of our comrades on the other side. What we have to announce is the reception by old but developing methods of carefully constructed evidence of identity, more exact and more nearly complete than perhaps ever before. The construction can exist quite as much on the other side of the partition as on our side; indeed most, though not all, of the inventive ingenuity, has been on that side. There has been distinct co-operation between those on the material side and those on the immaterial side; and we are at liberty not, indeed, to announce any definite conclusion, but to adopt as a working hypothesis the ancient doctrine of a possible intercourse of intelligence between the material and some other, perhaps, ethereal order of existence."

Professor James Hyslop, a member of the American Psychical Research Society, and formerly Professor of Logic and Ethics at Columbia University, in an interview, declared that what Sir Oliver Lodge says is "quite true." He affirms that Richard Hodgson established his identity several years ago through mediums. "Edmund Gurney made himself known through mediums as far back as 1889. I have talked with Hodgson myself, and as for Frederick Myers, why, I talked with him only yesterday."

That science as a whole is, however (writes the London "Christian World"), by no means converted to these views is shown by the attitude of Sir William Ramsay, Professor of Chemistry at University College, London, who, in an interview recorded in the "Daily Mail," poured abundant cold water on the psychic cult, and its latest development. He declared that he had been a member of the council of the Psychical Research Society, and present at many seances, but had now severed his connection with it, "convinced that many of these 'manifestations' were 'merely humbug.'" He had "ceased to read that sort of thing." He admitted the entire sincerity of Sir Oliver Lodge, but he thought, nevertheless, these supposed phenomena from another world were "hallucination and nothing else." He adds: "Far more wonderful phenomena than those described by Sir Oliver Lodge have been spoken of by Sir William Crookes. He has explained some of them to me. I cannot doubt the word of Sir William Crookes. But I have not seen these things myself, and must therefore remain a sceptic."

The position at the moment, then, may be described as that of a case sub judice.

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