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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research Part 12

FOOTNOTES:

[63] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.

[64] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 18.

[65] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 315.

[66] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.

[67] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiv. p. 36.

[68] In another sitting W. S. Moses says that, as he held this view very strongly in life, he felt sure that he had been told it by his spirit-guides.

[69] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. pp. 305, 306.

[70] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 362.

[71] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. pp. 362, 363.

[72] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 434.

[73] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xiii. p. 301.

CHAPTER XII

William Stainton Moses--What George Pelham thinks of him--How Imperator and his assistants have replaced Phinuit.

For those of my readers who are unacquainted with spiritualist literature, and in order to facilitate the understanding of what follows, I must give a short sketch of the life of the English medium, William Stainton Moses. He was born in 1839, and died in 1892. He studied at Oxford, and was then curate at Maughold, near Ramsey, in the Isle of Man. His great kindness made him beloved by all his parishioners there. When an epidemic of smallpox drove even the doctors away, he remained faithfully at his post, caring for bodies and comforting souls.

But he had precarious health, and was overworked at Maughold. He obtained another curacy, where there was less work, at Saint George's, Douglas, also in the Isle of Man. It was at Douglas that the friendship, broken only by death, was formed between him and Dr Stanhope Speer. A throat-affection soon after prevented his preaching, and he left the service of the Church to give himself up to teaching. He went to London, where he became tutor to the son of Dr Stanhope Speer, who was living there. Finally, at the beginning of 1871, he obtained a mastership in University College School, and there he remained till 1889.

Till 1872 William Stainton Moses knew nothing of spiritualism. If he had vaguely heard of it, he had no doubt hastened to condemn the new superstition which carried off sheep from his flock.

However, in 1872, Mrs Speer, being ill and confined to her room, read Dale Owen's book, _The Debatable Land_. The book interested her, and she asked Stainton Moses to read it. He did so, but only to please his friend's wife. Nevertheless he became curious to know how much truth there might be in the matter. He visited mediums, and took Dr Speer with him, and both were soon convinced that here was a new force.

It was at the time when spiritualistic phenomena were attracting much attention in the United States and England, and when learned bodies were appealed to from all sides to put an end to these phantasmagoria. It was the period when the materialised apparition of Katie King appeared and talked to numerous spectators who came from widely separated places. Sir William Crookes could see her and photograph her as much as he pleased; heedless of his environment, he published what seemed to him the truth.

Thereupon the man whose brain had till then been considered one of the most lucid and best organised which humanity has produced, lost considerably in the opinion of his contemporaries. But no doubt the future will avenge him.

The Speer family and Stainton Moses now began to hold sittings by themselves. Stainton Moses[74] at once showed himself to be an extraordinarily powerful medium. Neither he nor anybody else had suspected this mediumship till now. Many other mediumships have been revealed in the same way, suddenly, by experiment. This shows that faculties, valuable for the study of these disturbing problems, may exist in some of us who least expect it.

The physical phenomena which occurred in the presence of Stainton Moses were numerous and varied.

These phenomena cannot be due to the subconsciousness of Stainton Moses, and they seem to point to external intervention more clearly than do the communications he has left us. The best known of these communications is entitled _Spirit Teachings_. It is a long dialogue between self-styled disincarnated spirits and Stainton Moses. Stainton Moses also wrote automatically without being entranced. _Spirit Teachings_, among other things, was obtained in this way. The medium is still saturated with his theological education; he discusses, he cavils, and his spirit-guides show him the absurdity of a great part of his beliefs. We know that his robust faith began to be shaken by doubt about the time when his mediumship revealed itself. If we left the above-mentioned phenomena out of consideration, we might not unreasonably be tempted to see in these dialogues only a doubling of personality; on one hand the personality of the clergyman defending his doctrines foot by foot, on the other hand the personality of the reasoning man formulating his own objections to them.

The self-styled spirit-guides of Stainton Moses formed a united group obeying one chief, who called himself Imperator. Rector, Doctor, Prudens, were his subordinates. Naturally, they asserted they were the souls of men who had lived on earth; the above names were borrowed for the circumstance; their real names were revealed to Stainton Moses, who wrote them in one of his note-books, but always refused to publish them.

I beg the reader to observe this detail, which will become important later.

Stainton Moses had the temperament of an apostle but not at all that of a man of science. The contents of the messages interested him much more than their origin. The former clergyman liked better to discuss a doubtful text than patiently to accumulate facts while guarding himself in all possible ways against fraud. Certainly he was scrupulously honourable; no conscious falsehood ever passed his lips, but his temperament makes his interpretations doubtful, and with reason. He was one of the first members of the Society for Psychical Research, but the methods which the Society adopted from the beginning were not of a kind to please him; for his part, he believed that abundant proofs already existed, and he saw no use in minutely examining a large number of small facts.

Dr Speer's son, whom Stainton Moses had taught, praises his judgment, his modesty, his inexhaustible charity. Modest he really was, and it never occurred to him to be vain of the miraculous phenomena which occurred in his presence; he never thought of making a venal use of his mediumship. Although he published his communications, he hardly ever published reports of his phenomena. It was Frederic Myers who published these from the note-books of the Speer family and of Stainton Moses himself. The notes are in agreement, although they were made separately, and without any idea of publication.

The son of Dr Speer asserts that Stainton Moses never refused a discussion, and never despised an opponent. But, on the other hand, Frederic Myers, who knew him well, assures us that he bore contradiction badly, and was quickly irritated by it. The manner in which he retired from the Society for Psychical Research tends to prove that it is Myers who is right. The son of Dr Speer, in his gratitude to his former master, must have deceived himself.

I will now explain the reason of this long preamble about Stainton Moses. At a sitting which took place on June 19, 1895, Professor Newbold, conversing with George Pelham, obtained from him the enunciation of doctrines which contradicted those given by Stainton Moses in _Spirit Teachings_. Professor Newbold[75] then asked,--

"Do you know of Stainton Moses?"

George Pelham.--"No, not very much. Why?"

Professor Newbold.--"Did you ever know of him or know what he did?"

G. P.--"I only have an idea from having met him here."

Professor N.--"Can you tell me what he said?"

G. P.--"No, only that he was W. Stainton Moses. I found him for E.[76]

and Hodgson."

Professor N.--"Did you tell Hodgson this?"

G. P.--"I do not think so."

At the sitting on the next day, Professor Newbold returns to the charge.

"Can you bring Stainton Moses here?"

G. P.--"I will do my best."

Professor N.--"Is he far advanced?"

G. P.--"Oh, no, I should say not. He will have to think for a while yet."

Professor N.--"What do you mean?"

G. P.--"Well, have you forgotten all I told you before?"

Professor N.--"You mean about progression by repentance?"

G. P.--"Certainly I do."

Professor N.--"Was not he good?"

G. P.--"Yes, but not perfect by any means."

Chapter end

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