Monday, November 2, 2009

Can A Nice Irish Girl Speak With The Spirits?

This is a harder than usual post, for me anyway. The general subject seems rife with bunk, baloney, and unhelpful charlatanry. Because of the load of that kind of stuff, and because I don't have a "comfortable" theoretical/theological "fit" for this phenomenon, I have to go into this wondering if this is possibly true or a mess of dingoes kidneys. Still, there is Eileen Garrett.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A lot of brainy people have been interested in whether some persons can serve as contact points for communication with a reality which seems spiritual at least in some not yet certainly identifiable way. Why wouldn't you be? Heavyweight scientists like Crookes, Lodge, Flammarion [and many others] felt that it was worth pursuing in an orderly manner. [There is NO question why these scientists were investigating this. They, just like the rest of us should, had strong intuitions that an Ontology which had no room for the spiritual was incomplete, if not ultimately sterile--this is in all their writings on the topic]. They were however not fools. They knew that fakers existed en masse, especially the "physical" mediums who claimed to be able to "apport" objects into a seance room from some distant spot, or even "materialize" them out of...what?..."ectoplasm". I am not sure that there was one physical claimant that ever tested in a credible way. But this historical background makes a difference in my approach to the "communications" mediumship of Eileen Garrett. She, unlike almost any other claimant, spent her whole life trying to find out what was going on with her. She was astonishingly "available" for testing in any responsible and "scientific" way. Her attitude was that she did not know exactly what was going on in these matters, but that something surely was. She has convinced me of that as well.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A thumbnail of her life: She was born in Ireland in 1893. It was not a good life. Parents died young. Godparents [relatives] didn't treat her well. Some of the latter was due to the early hints of her psychic nature, which they wished repressed. Unsurprisingly, Eileen was a child with "invisible companions" [the modern term "imaginary friends" is prejudicial against the possible reality of this sort of entity, and I see the term as another element of our off-base culture trying to reduce everything to a despiritualized materialism. The nature of this phenomenon is not obvious, and should be left as an open question]. Eileen had these "companions" till she was thirteen. She married early and it was the first of three tragic unions. Nevertheless, it is a testament to her basic goodness that during WW1, as a young woman, she ran a hostel for wounded soldiers [sometimes having dreams about those who returned to the fight, that they had died in battle--dreams that when later facts were available, turned out to be veridical]. In 1919, a British writer convinced her that she should try to develop her wild talent and she began to work with people who allegedly at least knew more about this. She attended a "sitting" with the [possibly authentic] spirit medium, Stella Cranshaw, felt that some real things were going on there, and met the original "ghost hunter", Harry Price. Price was an enthusiast but not a complete fool and he tried to have some standards in his research. He was immediately impressed with Eileen. Being impressed turned to mind-boggling gob-smacked when he asked her to participate in a session [aimed at contacting A.Conan Doyle] in 1930. This didn't go as planned. It is known as the R101 reading.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I don't know if, when you "pop" your mouse on the page illustrations that accompany this part of the post, you'll be able to read the print, but I can at least tell you what it is. These are the pages from the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research [1931] in which Price communicates, as a "foreign correspondent" what went on at the session. Much of the exact words of the transcript are here---so that you can read them [hopefully] for yourself and make up your own mind.

Eileen began the session trying to do what the agenda was all about [contact Doyle] and may or may not have been marginally successful. But a personality broke in and took over. This entity claimed to have been a crew member of a dirigible which had just exploded and was destroyed in spectacular fireworks. This event had happened only a couple of days previously. The incident had been reported fairly thoroughly in the press, so simply knowing some facts would hardly constitute evidence that Eileen was getting this information from an esoteric source. But the information that "she" communicated was not at all easy to wave away by saying that she was just repeating newspaper data. [as I say, I hope that you can read the pages, so you can see why on several points, Price and others were impressed]. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Newspapers picked up the story of the psychic who "saw" the inside story of the R101 disaster and Price was suddenly famous as was Eileen Garrett. Shortly, she was asked to come to the United States, by the American Society for Psychical Research, and engage in more testing--which she welcomed. She went to Duke University, and the legendary Dr. William McDougall, and met other famous characters like Hereward Carrington. after her tour, Eileen returned to England, continuing her exploration of this phenomenon which gripped her. In 1939 she participated in a second famous incident of genuine note: the Ash Manor Haunt---I'll talk about this, and her testing by the US intelligence community [I kid you not] tomorrow or the next day. But today, I'll end with a quote from her which obviously resonates with me: "Slowly but surely society has eroded our content with our inner selves until we are bereft of our spiritual values, a fact which causes us to live in timidity and fear. The exercise of those perceptions--of which telepathy is one--can bring us to that closer understanding of our great responsibility to ourselves and to the new world to come...We must never again lose sight of the fact that within us we have the creative structure by which we can build a new world".


  1. Garrett's quote is wonderful. I hadn't heard much about Eileen Garrett, so thanks for the proper introduction. A few weeks ago I read a book by Deborah Blum titled, "GHOST HUNTERS: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death." Despite the corny Travel Channel-like title, it turned out to be a fairly thorough explanation of the early days of the SPR and ASPR, all the way until the death of William James. One of the big "stars" of book is the medium Leonora Piper (, whose abilities are similar to Eileen Garrett's. Lodge, who is also discussed in Blum's book, makes a careful distinction in the R101 report that you provided, that I think captures the essence of the scientific spirit (forgive the pun) of psychical research as well as good UFOlogy (please correct me if I'm wrong), and that is not necessarily to discuss hypotheses, but rather "to put on record the detailed account of a remarkably interesting and thought-provoking experiment." Whatever Lodge or any researcher believes to be occurring has no bearing on the facts being documented when a study is conducted in this fashion. In Blum's book and in your accompanying illustrations (plus other postings), you really get a sense of the grade school bullying antics that have been used within the scientific community to dissuade reputable scientists from this type of research, which seems anything but objective. It certainly must be frustrating.

  2. I'm sorry, it was Harry Price, not Lodge who was involved in the R101 report. There goes my credibility. Same difference. The report stands on its own and I'm sure that Price and Lodge both took their fair share of crap for being involved with such unpopular subject matter.

  3. The good anomalies researchers [and there are very few of them] all have their hypotheses as it is inhuman not to have them. The difference between them and the poor researchers is usually that the good ones go forward with their work and analysis despite having hypotheses and, also, being willing to change them. Because all fields are rife with speculations that the poor researchers can't help themselves from spewing forth without proper support and open-minded caveats, the skeptics have a field day making [in a bizarre sense] "understandable" "fun". Both the poor researchers AND the skeptics are wrong in these behaviors of course, as the smearing of a whole field with slanders and smirks of superiority is at least as unscientific and unhelpful to the progress of knowledge as the poorly supported and poorly stated opinions of the mediocre anomalist. So the good anomalies researcher gets squeezed both ways--his "enemies" are bad and his "friends" are often worse. Whether you are as accomplished a scientist as Lodge, or as brilliant as James, or just a try-hard stiff like the rest of us, we all get the "crap" equally, and, in my opinion, utterly unjustly. It feels bad because people make it personal [and circumstances are such that you can't "settle it outside in the parking lot" {and, believe me, I have felt that way many times}], but with perspective you see that this is REALLY bad for the whole human group of us, that small-minded jerks are ruining our ability to engage in the greatest of explorations. Why they do this astoundingly stupid behavior is not really mysterious. They are fear-driven wimps who see something coming to get them, whether it be GOD or ET or just a big expansion of the possible that they can't cope with. I guess I should feel sorry for them in their weakness. I don't. Forgive me.



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