For and Against: Physical Mediumship

For and Against is a regular feature in which two well-known commentators with opposing views on a particular spiritual or philosophical topic debate the issue. In this, our second debate, Lew Sutton and Leslie Price tough it out on the advantages and disadvantages of physical mediumship to the Spiritualist movement.

To have your say on this subject, post a comment and/or click on the link to our MicroPoll at the end of this article.

If there’s a subject you feel passionately about and would like to see debated in a future issue of SPN, let us know. Our thanks to those who’ve already written in with suggestions. Watch this space!

Lew Sutton

For Physical Mediumship

Three basic elements form Spiritualism – mental mediumship, physical mediumship and spirit-inspired philosophy. This is how it has been from the early days of Spiritualism, albeit that it took a while for these aspects to become unified into what we understand as modern Spiritualism.

There are sub-divisions, but for brevity, sticking to these basic three will suffice. I will begin with a brief account of how all three came together very meaningfully for me in the 1970s.

Life changed for me the first time I attended the Arthur Findlay College in the 1970s. As well as fine demonstrations of mental mediumship, it was the physical séance and one particularly inspired lecture that, together, changed the direction of my life. The lecture was the catalyst for dramatically opening my consciousness to altered states, and the séance for changing my attitude towards physical mediumship. Over the years, subsequent séances with several mediums further validated the phenomena of the séance room for me.

What is ‘reality’? For me as a scientist, here at last was overwhelming evidence that the model of reality accepted in mainstream science was totally inadequate. That the current laws of physics only define part of our reality and are far from complete. Thus the existence of an afterlife became a real possibility and not a contradiction to rational scientific thinking. Although mental mediumship, such as clairvoyance, is absolutely essential to Spiritualism, it cannot on its own bring about this understanding on a scientific level. It is the intelligent and complex manipulation of physical matter – far beyond that supposedly demonstrated by rudimentary telekinesis – that is the crucial ingredient in providing evidence for an afterlife.

At the birth of modern Spiritualism in the Victorian era, religious superstition dominated much of the population. The demand for an afterlife hypothesis on a rational understanding was limited to a relative few. Today, we are a significantly more scientifically orientated society. Unless it is demonstrated that the physical world around us is just one aspect of reality, and that reality can be manipulated by consciousness from beyond the grave, then I see little headway being made by Spiritualism.

The decline

Over the last 50 years there has been vast decline in Spiritualism. Many churches have closed, and attendance has fallen – as has the quality of mental and physical mediumship. No longer do we see mediums able to fill the Royal Albert Hall. No longer do we see physical mediums able to produce significant amounts of phenomena in red light – albeit that has always been quite rare. A decline no doubt related to the affluence of modern society, with perhaps reluctance by many with mediumistic aptitude to spend many hours honing their unique abilities.

The only aspect on the up-and-up is that of edited televised mediumship demonstrations, presented as ‘entertainment’. Unfortunately, these programmes rarely contain any reference to the spiritual significance of what is being communicated. Thus they are unlikely to bring about a mass change in consciousness – namely that it really does matter how we live our lives and that our actions will have repercussions for us beyond the grave.

Spiritualism cannot afford to tie one hand behind its back by ignoring physical phenomena. Over the years I have repeatedly heard it said that physical mediumship belongs to the past and is not needed in today’s Spiritualism. Could that be jealousy from mediums who see physical as a challenge to their mental mediumship? The two aspects complement one another and Spiritualism is incomplete without both. This interdependency is demonstrated in the séance room when survival evidence of a personal nature is sometimes provided by trance as well as by the manifested figure speaking by independent direct voice (without the traditional trumpet). Often, more evidence can be communicated through trance (mental mediumship) than by the more complex mechanism of direct voice.

Trivial words?

It is communication by our departed loved ones that can provide evidence that the manifestations are not derived through energy generated from our own thought patterns – real personalities from a different dimension rather than empty thought-shells left floating aimlessly in the ether as implied by the teachings of Theosophy. Unfortunately, the messages communicated frequently seem of a very trivial nature to the listener who is unaware of the true significance of the words communicated. But this has ever been so with spiritualistic communications – be they via mental or physical mediumship. It has only been the occasional outstanding communication that has interested the serious, rational investigator.

The dark problem

A major problem for many people these days is that the majority of the physical phenomena demonstrated publicly take place in total darkness. This is all very well for those of us who in the past have seen materialised forms in red light, but may not be very convincing for those who have never had that opportunity. For many there will always be the suspicion of trickery, especially in this age where rationality has replaced superstition and the accompanying underlying belief in the supernatural.

The lack of light is not a situation physical mediums would wish for. They have to work within their mediumship capability and all undoubtedly aim towards more light in their séances. Almost all the physical mediums I know are not satisfied with their mediumship and still sit to develop further. Although these mediums sometimes receive bad press due to the lack of light, we need them to keep alive interest and practical knowledge within the movement. My hope is that those who attend séances will be encouraged to play their part in promoting and sustaining this form of mediumship, which is at high risk of dying out.

Fraud – a thorny issue

As to the question of fraud in the séance room, this has been a problem throughout the history of Spiritualism. The dilemma of some physical mediums being fraudulent didn’t stop the pioneers from participating, so why should it stop Spiritualists today? Anyway, we are nowadays in a much better position to detect fraud with modern electronic equipment. Miniature electronic strain gauges under chair legs can detect whether anyone is in the chair. Stereophonic audio digital recording equipment is sensitive enough to track voices and the sound of movement around a room. State-of-the-art infra-red video equipment, such as I possess, will give clear images of what is happening in total darkness.

In the past there has been justified concern over the danger to the medium of infra-red radiation. However, the levels of energy required these days are very low compared to those used in the days of photographic film or plate. Furthermore, thermo-imaging video cameras can now give recognisable images by just relying on the naturally occurring infra-red energy radiating from human bodies – so the medium is not subject to any additional radiation.

More fundamentally than all this technology, what is required is diligence and knowledge when it comes to detecting fraud, or what may be suspected as fraud. Occasionally, damaging claims of fraud have been made when a medium has been detected moving around the séance room in total darkness. Such activity isn’t necessarily proof of fraud. For instance, there are historical accounts of mediums moving around with ectoplasm draped about their bodies when it has been claimed [Lew: by the spirit people or the medium?] there was insufficient energy to create a separate materialised form. However, in total darkness it is almost impossible to identify what type of phenomena occurs if the location of the medium is unknown. What is required within the movement is greater knowledge, to avoid damaging claims being made by those who do not have intimate knowledge of séance room phenomena. But where fraud is confirmed, it must be exposed.

I hope I have demonstrated that Spiritualism is incomplete without the three aspects I commenced with: physical mediumship, mental mediumship and inspired philosophical teachings. So, Spiritualists, be bold, don’t be put off by the fact that there has been, and no doubt always will be, fraud in the séance room. Play your part in helping the re-emergence of physical phenomena before it is too late and it disappears, perhaps forever.

Leslie Price

Against Physical Mediumship

One day in January 1880, top Spiritualists received a shock over their morning toast. The Times printed a letter from visitors to the London headquarters of the British National Association of Spiritualists who had (shockingly) seized a materialised spirit and found themselves holding the medium.

Nearly a century later, readers of the more down-market Sunday People found similar charges on their front page. A medium, a leading figure in the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU), was accused of fraudulent physical séances at Stansted Hall, a training college for mediums. What we might call the brand names – of the SNU and the Arthur Findlay College – were tarnished.

Let’s assume that there was no real substance to these stories. We might even do the same for another Sunday tabloid sensation, in 1958, when William Roy was photographed in the Sunday Mirror with his apparatus for faking séances. Psychic News had long had doubts about Mr Roy, but there were those who believed he once had a genuine gift.

What these incidents have in common is physical mediumship. My argument is that physical mediumship is bad news for the movement, and should therefore be excluded from official Spiritualism – that is Spiritualism as sponsored by Spiritualist organisations.

Not that I am denying the reality of such mediumship. Physical phenomena, for example, accompanied the revelation of Spirit Teachings received through Stainton Moses. Plenty of psychical researchers have testified to such phenomena in the best test conditions of their day.

But the phenomena are unpredictable, the entities involved in them cannot generally be relied upon, and the physical mediums in trance are not responsible for their actions. That is a recipe for trouble.

This is not a new realisation. After the 1880 exposure, Stainton Moses, the leader of UK Spiritualism, warned his colleagues about it. In Higher Aspects of Spiritualism, he noted that: “It is a fact well known to experienced Spiritualists that the spirits who are able to deal with gross matter so as to produce these physical manifestations are beings who are not possessed of high moral consciousness.”

The dark problem

Stainton Moses wanted an end to dark séances, an end to curtains or cabinets, and an end to mixed physical circles. Speaking generally, his views have had no influence. Even his own organisation, the London Spiritualist Alliance, did not follow him. Séances are suspicious activities because they involve the paranormal. This suspicion is greater the more the light is reduced. The image of Spiritualism has repeatedly suffered because it has been associated with darkness, or at least limited light. Darkness is traditionally associated with ill-doing, as evidenced in expressions such as “under cover of darkness”. I am not saying that ordinary people, including Spiritualists, should not investigate or cultivate physical mediumship if they wish. Several organisations have been formed in recent years to do just that, and may they flourish. But they ought, I propose, to be kept at arm’s length by the movement.

Fraud – a thorny issue

Perhaps my unease about physical mediumship derives from my upbringing in a small Lancashire town. The local paper, the Chorley Guardian, was privileged to print a photo of a materialised spirit, whose trouser legs were clearly visible. The laughter reached as far as PN’s office (as then assistant editor Roy Stemman remembers) which duly warned its readers to stay away from the medium, James Gardner. His adherents were not abashed, and eventually a Spiritualist church was named after him.

Later I met the Chorley Guardian‘s reporter who warned me about “Smutty Penelope”. This was the medium’s guide who would make off-colour remarks in the dark.

Mr Gardner, his sheet, stocking and big nasal ring have long since gone to a more critical place, but their capacity to embarrass lives on. Recently, a glossy, newish psychic magazine proudly displayed photos of his phenomena, only to retract them when older readers pointed out that they were not the real thing. But in the catalogue of the prestigious ‘The Perfect Medium’ spirit photography exhibition, amid the scholarly essays, there is a Gardner image. He had the last laugh!

It may be confidently predicted that scandals around physical mediumship will continue to arise at intervals. Sitters will misbehave, mediums will be found in compromising circumstances, and quite often the press will be involved, because there is much media interest in the paranormal today.

The sort of risky behaviour I have in mind is when a Spiritualist organisation – such as a church – hosts a physical medium, especially when money changes hands. I am not against payments to mediums, or to organisations, but under the new UK consumer law, one dissatisfied sitter can create a good deal of commotion. Even that mantra “What follows is for entertainment purposes only” may not offer protection.

Low entities?

Perhaps we can also ask if there might be deeper factors which should make us wary of physical mediumship. After all, if there are low entities involved in the production of the phenomena, what are they going to do to us in the long term – and to the mediums?

There may be snobbery here. We may say that is a very backward form of mediumship, not suitable for the Aquarian Age, yet add: “If you can squeeze me in for the visit of the physical medium next month, I would be grateful!”

Nevertheless, I am haunted (to coin a phrase) by some written remarks made by a knowledgeable person who was involved in the 1990s revival of physical mediumship in Britain. The level of disillusionment was profound. Eight times in one final article he spoke of despair.

I believe a better way forward for Spiritualism was outlined by Paul Beard. Paul was a personal friend of Maurice Barbanell, and took leave from his long service with White Eagle Lodge to preside over and modernise the College of Psychic Studies (1966-1982), which was then threatened with closure. I believe a better way forward for Spiritualism was outlined by Paul Beard in his many books and papers – based on the inner purpose of mental mediumship.

This would involve working with one or more guides of a higher type, on a path of spiritual unfoldment, rather than being held closer to the earth by phenomena.

What do you think?

To have your say on this subject, click here to vote on our MicroPoll.
To see the result of this survey, click here.

Further reading – books available from the Spirit of PN Shop:

Spirit Teachings by Stainton Moses
The Two Worlds of Helen Duncan by Gena Brealey and Kay Hunter
An Extraordinary Journey: The Memoirs of a Physical Medium by Stewart Alexander
Alec Harris: The Full Story of His Remarkable Physical Mediumship by Louie Harris
Helen Duncan: My Living Has Not Been in Vain by Mary Armour
Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism by D.D. Home
Life after death: Living Proof by Tom Harrison
Phenomena of Materialisation by Baron von Schrenck Notzing


40 responses to “For and Against: Physical Mediumship

  1. Hello folks and greetings. I can assure everyone Physical Mediumship is the backbone of our movement and long may it contiue to be so.
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  2. Chris Johnson

    Iam not a Spiritualist, I do not like to be put in a group and branded with any sins of that group, this includes Political and any other. Nor do I wish to darken the door of any respectable group, with my “many” sins!
    However, I have many close and very respected friends that are Spiritualists, and a few past contacts that give Spiritualism a very bad name.
    Physical Mediumship, is conclusive physical evidance of survival and communication, thus it is required to be developed into a science, to prove to the debunkers, this aspect of Nature.
    Imagine if Helen Duncan could appear in Court today, to defend her good name? How many people would not cheat, rob, rape or murder, if they did?
    If I may suggest, it would be the best and quickest way to get Spiritualism a better name, the name it deserves but is so often used to mock debunk or put people down “Oh, well if it comforts them” or other patronising or spiteful remarks!
    But we do need Spirit to help us control, Fraud, Greed and the Fakers!

  3. Hi everyone,over the last six years I have been researching all forms of mediumship but mainly focusing on Physical Mediumship.
    I have sat with all of the demonstrating mediums in the UK over the last six years and also sat in a couple of developing circles.
    I have also had the the privilege to speak to people who witnessed sitting with Physical Mediums of the past like Alec Harris & Leslie Flint.

    Physical Mediumship of the past seems to be miles apart from Physical Mediumship of the present in my opinion.
    Evidence of survival from loved ones seems non existent, or when there has been some I have found out after that the medium knew the sitter and the communicator and on occasions they have had a message before.
    There has been many occasions when the sitter has had no idea who the loved one was and the evidence given was so general it could have been anyone’s loved one. I am also left thinking why the spirit teams say they are materialized in the room even though it’s pitch black and no one can see them. Surely only use the energy to achieve that if there is some form of light in the room so all can see, otherwise why bother? It could be the medium walking around the room.
    At one seance the guide who was materialized walked straight into me whilst I was in my chair and my friend was hit by a table that was being controlled by spirit which left her leg sore and marked.
    My questions I have put to the spirit teams at these seances about lack of evidence of loved ones is always looked at as if I am being negative which I don’t mean to be. I am just trying to find out if we survive death. I would have no reason to ask if there was an abundance of evidence.

    For me I am not interested in tricks in the dark or flying trumpets. These may show that there is some other force at work, or it could be the medium running around the room.
    The spirit world exists or it doesn’t. For me, only evidence from loved ones is important and these days, from my short experience, I have not witnessed that. Of course that’s not to say that there aren’t Physical Mediums around that do have the ability of those that we read about of the past.

    I think that Physical Mediumship should always be a part of the Spiritualist movement. I just wish that the circle leaders would push the spirit teams to use the energies to bring loved ones instead of claims of materialization in the dark that no one can see.
    Also, we as sitters should not be afraid of asking direct question to find out the truth. Remember, if the spirit world exist they have to prove it. Wouldn’t it be great to say to someone who has recently lost someone they love “I can recommend a Physical Medium” and they went and were reunited with their loved one. That is what I call priceless. These are my views on my experience.

  4. Paul Challenger

    Someone had to represent the view against Physical Mediumship in the Spiritualist movement and that was a brave attempt, Leslie, but I think you were on a hiding to nothing. Orthodox Science and Religion have been vying for supremacy over each other for millenia and both have turned on mediumship and Spiritualism as a perceived common enemy. Neither can see that Spiritualism is the Great Mediator between people, embracing all cultures and viewpoints. Spiritualism is a science as evidence is provided and has been provided across the movement and through the passage of time, in repeatable forms satisfying experimental protocols. Spiritualism is also a Religion as a strong sense of a God Power underpins our sense of service to humanity.

    As Spiritualists we have no issues over the apparent contradictions between the views of scientific or religious orthodoxy as our philosophy embraces both. Why? Because some have seen and experienced, physically, an interaction from intelligent minds alive and well but who live in the invisible part of the universe. Those of us who have not had this direct experience, have been able to read about the experiments eminent scientists have performed and repeated with Physical Mediums and see the evidence they have accumulated from plaster casts etc. Mental mediumship is converting many previously sceptical people to the knowledge that life is eternal and that the human mind survives physical death but the conversions are almost on a one to one basis between a medium and a seeker. How long will it take to cause the paradigm shift of consciousness into the whole of humanity knowing the survival fact? How much faster will this paradigm occur if Physical Mediumship is the vehicle driving it forward?

    With Orthodox Science converted, where will that leave Orthodox Religion? Spritualist philosophy accomodates belief in a God Power. When Physical Mediumship proves to Orthodox Science the reality of life beyond death, Quantum Physicists can find the hitherto invisible part of the universe where “Spirits” live. I believe the work of Ron Pearson has shown them where it is. Ron’s work has also shown that a neurological network, similar to the neurological properties of a human brain’s functioning, exist in the invisible part of the universe and that this is likely to be the primary intelligence behind the non physical and then the physical universe. If this intelligence pervades the whole universe and is omnipotent and omnipresent and created physical matter in order to express itself, then the Mind of God has also been found, surely satisfying Orthodox Religion.

    I think intelligent minds in Spirit had this debate millenia ago and we have seen the evidence of and testimony about physical mediumship and what Pirit have acieved through it across the passage of time, therefore, I think it is safe to conclude that Spirit have chosen “For”.

  5. Leslie Price

    In October 2010 a small physical mediumship scandal ( not many hurt) underlined the dangers. A Swedish medium confessed fraud, casting doubt on both their mental and physical phenomena. Details were posted on one Spiritualist web site, and removed, but another Spiritualist web site alerted readers. The medium’s UK contacts were limited. If the exposure had been a few months later, however, UK groups who might welcome the medium could have been seriously implicated. On a lighter note, it is reported that the guide White Eagle, whose teaching was always averse to physical mediumship , has lately returned at a physical seance. This may be seen as progress or regression by the guide , or more likely a sign of a movement where discernment is not always applied.

  6. I am interested that Lew Sutton talks about miniature electronic gauges under a mediums chair that could detect if the medium is sitting there or not. Has he used them in a seance? Surely no honest medium could object. Perhaps Mr Sutton could tell us if he has been allowed to use them ever.

    • In reply to Dawn21, I have no equipment to perform this function. Commercially available equipment would need modification and this is on my list of future projects.

  7. An interesting debate. Thanks to Messrs Sutton and Price. I would like to know if Mr Price has ever attended a physical sitting. He is a learned authority on the Movement’s history but if he has never been to a seance he should perhaps admit that? It is important that his readers should know if he speaks from any personal experience.

  8. Leslie Price

    Giles asks a fair question. Leaving aside a couple of seances with the egregious Mr Gardner, I also attended one with a physical medium I will call Mr Smith . The world is perhaps not yet ready for that story, and its sequel. Having such a modest experience of physical mediumship, I naturally defer to my elders on this subject.

  9. When one examines the history of physical phenomena mediumship, observing its evolution from the simple raps as occurred with the Fox family in Hydesville, to Jonathon Kooms ‘amazing log cabin’ where one might argue the origins of the ‘dark circle’ can be found, and onwards to today, it is evident that for every allegedly genuine physical medium there has been 100 or more who were fraudulent.

    Under cover of darkness fraud of the most blatent kinds have been presented as evidence of spirit return yet when examined closely show only the ability of man to beguile and deceive, and to be deceived because of their credulity.

    Every physical seance, held in the dark unermines Spiritualism. Such seances, inevitably leaves the question of survival open to dispute and controversy. That which occurs in the darkness may be genuine but then again it might not be, and how can anyone be sure, no matter how sincere they may be, when what is alleged to be occurring cannot be seen.

    Alleged spirit beings jumping on wooden floorboards, hands holding others in the darkness, trumpets flying around, etc, etc, can all be produced by fraudulent means. Is it any wonder that throughout the history of the Spiritualist movement there has been such a strong division between those who see physical mediumship as the supreme means of providing proof of life after death, and those who see in it a blight on Spiritualism’s efforts to bring the truth of survival to the attention of the world.

    I am not saying that all physical phenomena or physical mediumship is wrong. I am saying that when we look to the past it is only those who took the time to develop their abilities to the point where they could be carried out in light that have ever produced any real, objective evidence of spirit return. Those few mediums are worthy of our admiration and emulation. Those who have in the past held, and those who today insist on darkness , do little more than create controversy, ridicule and doubt.

  10. Without Physical Mediumship we would not have our much divided Spiritualist Movement, or Religion or Philosophy.

    Not so many years ago, I attended a Spiritualist service where the ‘medium’ claimed that as we were all Spiritualists, we didn’t need her to give evidence!

    Will that be the next step?

    I have been given convincing evidence of survival in the darkened seance room; both from mediums David Thompson and Colin Fry. I was, at the time a stranger to them, yet the materialised spirit of my father provided me with absolute proof of his survival.

    A person may later rationalise away evidence from a mental medium; I contend that this is very hard to do after a materialisation seance.

    In the last five days, I attended two seance with Tom Morris and Kevin Lawrenson from Mont Cabriol. Whilst evidence of survival was sketchy, the intelligent manipulation of tables, chairs, trumpets etc. signifies an intelligence at work. I checked the mediums bindings three times during the seance and also inspected the cabinet as well as the equipment that was levitated.

    I believe that jealousy and envy play a large part in attempts to discourage Physical Mediumship – mainly from a few establishment figures within the Movement in England. (Not you Leslie, I don’t believe we have met).

    A second opposition camp consists of many for whom Spiritualism and mediumship is both a game and an income! Convincing proof through Materialisation scares the daylights out of them. The idea that there really is an afterlife, complete with ‘Compensation and Retribution’ pushes them to look at their behaviour on this Earth, especially their behaviour and treatment of the vunerable within our movement.

    Thank you for a most valuable debate. I wish the Physical mediums and their circle leaders would speak up for themselves.


    Tom Hawke

    • Hi Tom

      Great to hear you have received evidence from your father – that’s what I like to hear.
      Though may I just say, as many might read this debate, Colin and David are not Materialisation mediums.They have direct voice or trance. Materialisation mediumship means it is seen by all in good light be it red, blue or normal of which Alec Harris and Helen Duncan had that ability and it is very rare.

      This to me is Physical Mediums’ downfall. They claim they have materialisation abilities and they don’t. They have ability and should work with what they have got. We have to be clear about this – Materialisation in the dark is a waste of energy in my opinion as it could be the medium in a trance state walking around the room. To prove that it is not the medium there has to be some form of light in the room. It matters not that the medium is tied in the chair, as on many occasions spirit have shown they can remove the medium from the ties even taken out of the room. Alec Harris was placed downstairs in his garden on occasions and had to be let back in the seance room.

      Anyway great to hear about your evidence. All the best – Mick.

  11. A 2008 Pew survey of 35,000 found that 74% believed there is a Heaven. In the same year, a different survey of 1,648 people found that half of those surveyed believed they had a guardian angel. Although a highly specialized audience, after “The Secret” aired on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the show’s website conducted a survey: “What do you believe?” 95% said that the human spirit can survive after death and 85% believed in “psychic mediums.” It is reasonable to speculate that a large percentage of our population can be considered spiritualists with a small “s”.

    Even though people may believe in their immortality, it is natural to seek reassurance. I have sat in a few circles demonstrating excellent physical mediumship, and from that limited experience, I feel confident that the mediums want very badly to demonstrate in a way that will help people understand the truth of survival.

    The problems are more complex than most realize. For instance, a medium might physically walk about in the dark because he is in deep trance and under the guidance of his or her control. Having seen matter-through-matter demonstrated, I understand that trickery is not required for the medium to be free of arm and leg ties.

    My point is that these phenomena need be considered as part of the larger body of evidence. One might discount the experimenter effect on the merits of a few psi studies. However, once such phenomena as ITC, biofield therapy, and mediumship are considered to establish more ways that intentionality affects matter, the experimenter effect becomes an obvious. Physical mediumship is much the same.

  12. Thanks Mick,

    In the instance of my fathers’ return, it was not just what he said to me, although that was evidential in itself.

    I asked him for evidence that he was in the room with me. He shook my hand and on other occasions placed his right hand firmly against my cheek. There is a uniqueness to my Dads’ right hand that was presented to me. Only I could know. In fact, I had forgotten until he did so. He said ‘Do you believe now, son’. on one occasion and on another that ‘You need always be cautious Tom, I only put it back for you.’

    That, I can assure you, was materialisation of the spirit form; even if the room was dark.

    My thanks to all of you for this discussion.I really wish some of the mediums would contribute.

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us that is very kind of you. Though I will still say that in my opinion, for those who claim they are materialisation mediums, the materialisation has to be seen in some form of light to prove to all they are in the room. So that we know without doubt that it is not the medium walking around.

      As we have mentioned David in our debate, there is a video of David’s guide William materialised at a seance, the spirit team knew that there was a video recording happening at this time so it gave them time to prepare for this materialisation. I will leave it up to you to come to your own conclusion thou I cant see anything remotely looking like a materialisation and this seance is in the pitch black. Full form materialisation is a rare ability which in my opinion the Physical Mediums that demonstrate publicly these days do not have.

      I do hope that this debate helps others to question Physical Mediumship.

    This link is kept alive by an avid supporter of the defunct Noahs Ark society and it is worth a look ,it gives a lot of insight into Phyiscal Medium-ship.

  14. I take Mick’s point about the fact that materialisation in a dark seance could be faked, although occasionally I sat in gatherings where we were so tightly pack nobody could have moved without it being known. However I don’t believe that it should be stated that materialisation does not take place. I have, on a number of occasions held the hand of materialised spirit persons. On one occasion at a Noah’s Ark Society seance I was sitting bang up against a stone pillar and as soon as the seance started a well-formed hand seized mine from exactly where the pillar was situated. We were sitting so close together that nobody could have manoevered their way into that position. On another occasion I was speaking to a spirit person who wanted to deliver a message to my wife, who was outside the seance room. The voice was coming from approximately 12 feet away but, in an instant, my hand was shaken and the same voice spoke to me. Of course we would have loved to have seen the materialisations in full light but as we were sometimes told, if the energy wasn’t so good the bodies that were able to be materialised would have been quite shocking! I feelvery privileged to have had these experiences.

  15. Several readers have asked for an explanation of the term “independent direct voice”. Essentially it refers to spoken spirit communication which does not require the use of a physical medium’s own vocal apparatus. In traditional physical mediumship the communication takes place through a “voice box” built by the medium’s spirit team from the living energy ectoplasm, drawn primarily from the physical medium, and to a lesser extent from any suitable sitters in the room.
    Such communication can be highly evidential, especially when the medium is fully conscious (not in trance) and able to join in the conversation with the spirit communicator. John Campbell Sloan and Leslie Flint were two mediums who were able to do this. Ed.

  16. I agree with Roy on this.

    To me, materialisation means material, solid, touchy-feely if you like. This was certainly the case with my father. The evidence was the material hand, not simply the words spoken.

    I have sat with David when luminous plaques were used to help visitors identify the face of a materialised Spirit. Athough some places away, I could clearly see part of the Spirits face. The sitters confirmed the identity of the Spirit and repeated that statement to me after the sitting.

    Visible materialisation would be better of course. On a handful of occasions over the years, I have witnessed full or partial materialisation in natural or reflected light. I would love to do so regularly.

    The people who bring the phenomena to us are criticised that they/it are not good enough. At least they are trying. We need to encourage more and criticise less.

    If I remember correctly, some years ago PN refused to publish articles on Physical Mediumship. I am glad that this forum has not. We all need to communicate like this, sharing ideas and experiences.

    When we refuse to hear or listen to the views of others, no matter how they clash with our own beliefs, we do no good for ourselves as individuals, for Spirit, or for the Spiritualist Movement.

  17. It is interesting to read this discussion, my feelings run much closer to those expressed by Micky, Lis and Leslie in this matter. The reality is that the Spiritualist movement has always rejected dark circles/séances.

    Now let us see another opinion from the Spiritualist Movement:
    “After a diligent and careful investigation of the subject we are irresistibly forced to the conclusion that darkness is not a necessary condition for physical manifestations, but that it is a condition assumed and insisted upon by the tricksters, having no other use than to afford opportunities for deception. We therefore recommend that all spiritualists and others discountenance dark circles, for under any circumstances they afford no reliable proof of spirit existence, presence or communion, and must, even if they were genuine, be of such doubtful character as to be of no practical value, while there are thousands of incontestable proofs that admit of no doubt or other solution than the one to which they are referred.”

    A strong statement from a committee that met for a twelve month period, comprising people who had previously been studying the phenomena for periods ranging from ten to seventeen years. This was the last report handed into the National Convention of Spiritualists in Cleveland Ohio in September 1867. It was felt to be so important that the New York Times carried it verbatim, in a repeat from the Cleveland Herald, on September 13th 1867.

    The convention accepted the report after a “stormy debate” by a majority vote.

    Now let us look at another view:

    “Through some of our best mediums, as well as by spirit influence, through my own lips we have often been exhorted not to sit on the dark, and the assurance has been given that a steadfast circle, amongst the members of which medium power existed, sitting together under good conditions for given periods of time, in subdued light, would and could obtain all that has or could be given, without cabinets, machinery, or any other equivocal or doubtful means”

    Once again a strong statement and not just by anyone but by Emma Hardinge Britten in her 1882 article Dark Circles and Cabinets, carried in the Psychological Review. The article includes wonderful descriptions of Materialisations in both full and partial light.

    Then again we have another description from a critic of dark circles:

    “The form of fraud at present most in vogue is the simulation of a spirit form or forms. To be successful such simulation usually requires the aid of a room so ill-lighted as practically not to be lighted at all, a “cabinet” into which the medium withdraws from the view of the sitters, and various other ” conditions ” of the sort. When the rules of such séances are broken, awkward discoveries occur. Sometimes the light is turned up suddenly, and the medium revealed in his or her “spirit-dress.” Sometimes the “spirit-form” is grasped, and found to be none other than the medium. But should all go well, the credulous are often highly gratified.”

    Yet again another strong view – this time by a person viewed as one of the doyens of physical mediumship, D.D. Home, in his 1878 book Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism, Chapter VIII Trickery and its exposure

    Indeed he goes on to say:
    “For the evil has assumed gigantic proportions. Dishonesty, and its natural ally, darkness, are arrayed against honesty and light. It is with pleasure that I see signs of an organized attempt to abate the nuisance. Certain enlightened spiritualists, and a few (alas! a very few) select mediums who, in the consciousness of their honesty, can afford to encounter fearlessly investigation and the sun, are banding themselves against those “children of the night” who affect carefully-darkened rooms, and séances from which all opportunity for enquiry is excluded. “

    So well before the year 1900, senior, credible figures are opposing dark séances.

    Well I will jump some years and I will ignore the very real claims of Lamar Keene and the “Psychic Mafia” to visit his Spiritualist base Camp Chesterfield.

    Just a quick stop – 10th June 1959 Walking and Talking With the Dead; Pictures that prove Spirit Materialisation; The Picture of the Century. This was written by a very dedicated Spiritualist, Tom O’Neil, who wrote it as believer who committed his life to our movement. Then he was persuaded to work with infrared again at Camp Chesterfield. The facts speak for themselves:

    July 10, 1960 Psychic Observer
    “We had been quite fortunate in discovering that Indianapolis was the only city in a radius of a 1000 miles that could boast, as one of its enterprises, a firm called FILMCRAFT LABORATORIES. These people process every and all types of film, and processing infrared film, which had been one of our greatest concerns, was second nature to them. Hence, all we had to do was take the film we had shot the night before down to Filmcraft; it was processed on the spot, and we viewed our efforts in their projection room the same day. That is why I say Wednesday was the clincher, this was the day when we were viewing Tuesday night’s film. I could hardly believe my eyes! Andrija was right! The spirits were coming from a door adjacent to the cabinet; entering the cabinet through its loose side-curtain, and walking through the front opening of the cabinet to be photographed by us. Little did they know that we were photographing the whole bit!”

    Unfortunately, despite the evidence Spiritualists, sided against Tom, a real believer who was heartbroken by the deception. They deserted his publication and left him a broken man because he told the truth.

    I will now update it. We have two physical mediums that are subject to scrutiny right now. The Swedish medium that Leslie mentioned who has admitted cheating. We also have another who has been challenged to the point where his mediumship has been challenged in the Independent UK national newspaper as part of a discussion on the new laws concerning fraudulent mediumship.

    This is current news, no different from everything I have added to this comment. Those of us who speak against these two and other physical mediums are seen as being outside of the group, excluded and subject to challenge.

    Maybe we have a new Psychic Mafia where only those who accept physical mediumship, even if the mediums cheat at times, will be accepted.

    Surely this is not the way of the future, enough specialists have passed into Spirit that it is time physical mediumship moved on into the light. If it cannot achieve that, it is time to move into the light of Lew’s infrared thermography. As a consultant who has looked at the technical aspects of this technology it is ideal for séances.

    Any takers yet, Lew, for your thermography, or are we still locked in with Spirit Chemists from the 19th Century?

    • Jim i enjoyed reading your post and your are oviously very well informed. One thing I don’t understand is about the Infra Red. I heard that Physical mediums can get injured if it is used in a seance. I am wrong thinking that? Does anyone on here have experience of using it for a seance?

      • If you look at it from the perspective of electromagnetic radiation being the problem–especially in the “white light” range, then passive imaging systems such as infrared film or detectors should be safe. (See for instance, You should be careful not to use something like a Sony Night Shot because they radiate infrared as a light source much like the visible light for normal video work.

        There is also light amplification equipment for “night vision” (see that depends on amplification of available light. (Be careful not to use night vision dependent on “stimulated emission.” Those are just very expensive Night Shots.) Light amplification is rated in measures of “LUX” and something like .0001 LUX would be a pretty good night vision camera. In a totally dark room with a few luminous tabs set around, I would guess you would need current generation military-grade equipment which is probably not available to us … yet.

        By the way, there is an interesting iPhone app at for night vision.

        The display for these devices radiates too much light, but some models have a remote camera on a long lead from a computer for recording and display which could be in an adjoining room.

        My “inner engineer” would probably not put up with dark room settings if it were not for my understanding of other forms of these phenomena. Human nature aside, the phenomena is pretty solid when not considered alone. It is also good to keep in mind that we know a lot more about psi, psi functioning, biofield, intentionality and ITC than people did not many years ago. These days, people can be Spiritualists because they know these things and not because they have faith.

        • Hi Tom and Margaret
          Thanks for that reply Tom, and for your comment Margaret.
          I am familiar with the Flir equipment, Tom, from a consulting job I did for a company specialising in using their equipment in a range of ways. It was very impressive and its non-invasive character is very important given the wide range of uses it is put to.

          Margaret, the interesting issue about infra red is the number of wonderful photographs we have of Materialisation and ectoplasm as a result of its use in the past. Indeed in the far past we have photographs taken with magnesium flares. On none of those occasions have I found a record that a medium was harmed.

          Let us name a few who were photographed: Margery Crandon, Leslie Flint, Jack Webber, Minnie Harrison, Helen Duncan, Eva C, Einer Nielsen, Florence Cook with Katie King, Mrs Mary Marshall and Rudi Schneider, to name just a few in what is an impressive and illustrious list.

          These forerunners enabled us to see in the dark séances they held and must be put alongside the people who worked in the light such as Alec Harris, to name the last one who we know of who could do this.

          All of these cases have one thing in common – the guides of these individuals were happy to allow it. However, other guides insist that it must not be carried out, or it is harmful to the mediums. It seems that in our current state of Physical Mediumship these guides are in the majority, It does seem a strange inconsistency within the Spirit World and one which is baffling. Surely as people have entered Spirit with a better knowledge of technological gadgetry we may have expected some rapid advances in this area.

          I notice that around the Physical Mediumship fraternity the name of Ron Pearson, the engineer who has studied quantum physics, comes up as an expert in the area of whether infra red is harmful to ectoplasm. A friend of mine knew Ron and asked him and he was categorical that passive infra red would be harmless.

          Hopefully we will soon see the new wave of Physical mediums availing themselves of the new technologies and returning to work with infra red.

  18. Hi everyone
    I will carry on this debate saying that in my opinion I don’t think I have sat with a real physical medium, even though I have sat with all of the demonstrating physical mediums who have been in the UK over the last six years – which is about six mediums – on many occasions. I know they claim that they are but I don’t think they are when you compare them to the likes of Minnie Harrison, Alec Harris, Leslie Flint, John Sloan and others.

    In my opinion if Arthur Findlay was alive today and was taken to any of physical mediums who demonstrate now, he would have walked away with scepticism, compared to the evidence he received with John Sloan, which was a three-hour seance – non-stop loved ones giving there full names including middle names, full names of the people they were with, full addresses etc.They spoke about there occupations and the sitters were left without doubt that they was experiencing something very special, all in clear voice not whispers or fading away when asked a personal question. Not “I am here I love you I am always with you please move on.” You can hear the reunions for yourself. I heard some good evidence at one seance only, to find out after that the medium knew the sitter even though when the loved one was in conversation with the sitter he said to the sitter “How is your sister?” but mentioned no name. Now I am sure if that was family they would remember the name. I found out after that the medium did not know the sister’s name. Surely you can remember your name and your family’s name if you survive death?

    Alec and Louie Harris seances had full materialised spirits in red light so all could see – loved ones two at a time speaking to their family, even sitting with them on occasions. This is from speaking to people that have experienced this personally. That is what I call physical mediumship, so all leave without doubt of the continuation of life and the feeling of being uplifted by what you have just experienced, not walking away feeling more sceptical than you did before you went in.

    John Sloan never really demonstrated on a big scale- only once or twice I believe – but worked mainly in his home circle. Also he didn’t charge for he seances. His character and his attitude have a lot to do with his ability. I can understand why he had this level of mediumship – he was a humble man without ego. Arthur Findlay quoted I cant believe this man isn’t famous. That statement says it all to me. Maybe that he sat in his home circle and fully developed his mediumship without big demonstrations was the key. So maybe the mediums of today do have this level of ability but money, fame and ego suppress the ability. Think of yourself as a guide – who would you give this ability to? John Sloan – a humble man without ego? Or a medium who seeks fame or fortune?

    I know Tom said we need to encourage more and criticise less well I would if it felt right to me but it doesn’t, and even thou I believe that physical mediumship needs to play a part in spiritualism I can understand why some don’t.

  19. This is becoming interesting. Has anyone contributing to the debate actually used infra red equipment during a seance or attended a seance where that equipment has been used? If so it would be interesting to hear of your experiences.

    • Yes we have an infa red camera installed in our little Seance room and it works well how-ever I have found that Spirit works better when the camera is switched it seems it is all not meant to be recorded. The camera is not harmfull to the sitters how-ever I believe this is because our inspirers will only allow the sitters and the medium to go to level to suite the conditions.We only record now and then for training puposes for our patrons to see the orbs flying around and get a gist of what happens in a seance. I trust this helps L&L Jock

  20. Micky its really interesting you think the character of the medium (no ego, humble) make a difference to the mediumship. Can you say why? Its well known that people like Minnie Harrison and Alec Harris didnt charge but do you really thi k that makes a difference to the phenomena? How could it?From what I have read Helen Duncan charged quite a lot.Like to know your thoughts.

    • Hi Anita

      I have spoken to people who have known and sat we these mediums of the past. One of these people recorded everything and still has all the tapes – how cool is that? All forms of mediumship are connected to the mind, even physical. So the medium will always play a part in the process, and intention is important. I was told you can lie to everyone but not the guides as they know your thoughts.I believe that mediums have a taste of their ability and the guides stand back and see how it unfolds and how responsible you are. (When the heart has a sense of power it sometimes has a tendency to massage the ego — that was also said by a guide.)

      What stands out like a sore thumb with all these mediums of the past is their character. They did not chase fame money or notability so to me their thoughts and intentions were known by the spirit world. Also the guides that worked with them were great philosophers, completely different from the guides today.The three best mental mediums I have seen do not have websites. Its hard to find anything about them. They mainly serve the churches and give a few demonstrations to make ends meet.

      I will ask about Helen Duncan and try to read a little about her. I think (but not a 100% certain) that her husband was quite poorly and did not work – not too sure though. If you or anyone who reads this goes to a seance, listen very careful to what is said and what evidence is given. Try not to get caught up in the moment.

      I have friends who have lost their son who believe when you’re dead that’s it. I would love to say to them I can recommend a physical medium and be confident that it would help. The problem is that everyone is used to the standards of physical mediumship today and accepts it. If only there was a John Sloan about, then no one would want to sit with the others.

      These are only my opinions. Mick.

  21. Is anyone on here who sat with the old physical mediums? What a shame Tom Harrison can’t come on and talk about it all. I would give a lot to sit with his Mum. I would like to talk with people who sat with the real physcal mediums. I read in Eric Hattons book about sitting with Alec Harris too. What lucky people. Nothing like that now.

  22. Ann Harrison

    In Jim’s reply to Margaret he states ‘the interesting issue about infra-red is the number of wonderful photographs we have of Materialisation and ectoplasm as a result of its use in the past. …On none of those occasions have I found a record that a medium was harmed’.

    May I point out that the Minnie Harrison circle was only permitted to take an infra-red photo a whole 10 months after they had first asked permission of their Spirit team, when the Spirit scientists felt they had put sufficient protection in place for her safety, and even then they told the circle that Minnie would feel as though she had been punched in the stomach, which she did. (page 151 of Tom’s book) And only 3 photos were ever taken with infra-red. The other photos were all timed exposures in red light with no flashes of brighter light.

    Yes, I agree that infra-red and night-vision has moved on very significantly since the 1940s but do we understand the physics and chemistry involved in the production of the energy from the spirit side of things?
    Have they been able to tell you of how they feel about it? And have you given them a chance to examine the energy involved in a séance room when they are not actually extracting the energy?

    Consultation with those who know the other side of things is essential.
    I can hear some saying ‘but the information coming from spirit is coloured by the medium’s mind and if the medium is fearful of injury he/she will block the permission to try.’

    But you may find them willing to have a look at it and if not have to accept it.

    Tom said they had a team of 20 scientists and chemists working with them on the spirit side to achieve what they did and the team that worked with them stressed that they were just ‘a getting together of old friends’. It was never destined for public demonstration and the circle remained stable for all the years they sat, only losing members as they passed over – stability and harmony the key to a good circle.

    Anita said in her comment ‘From what I have read Helen Duncan charged quite a lot’. Well some of the people who organised Helen’s sittings charged quite a lot but she got only a small portion of it and she was the bread winner in her family. He husband was too ill to work following his experiences in the First World War. She had to do ‘public demonstrations’ even though it was at the time illegal to take money for ‘purporting to conjure spirits’. But the accuracy of the materialisations at her sittings in York in 1930s, when members of his family returned, changed our 97-year-old friend’s life forever and his memory of those evenings is as clear now as it was then.

    Public pressure to ‘see’, in many cases, pushes physical mediums out into the public area – for some it is also the desire for riches – but this is often to the detriment of development of the phenomena, as Stewart Alexander has said in his book, and this is one of the reasons for his withdrawal back to the home circle where the weekly energy mix is constant and the spirit chemist team can work with that energy instead of having to cope with a new ‘cake mix’ each week or month.

    I have had wonderful experiences sitting with some present day physical mediums and likewise have sat with others when I have known that the energy was basic ‘psychic’ and not spiritual and it was quite disturbing.

    The folks working from the Spirit world, of whom Tom is now one, are desperately trying to let people see them and convince them that life goes on and to impress on everyone that, as Lew stated, ‘it really does matter how we live our lives and that our actions will have repercussions for us beyond the grave’.

    So for those who charge extortionate fees and perform fraudulent practises remember, this life is but a short span in the time of eternity and how we treat others here, will come back in Compensation and Retribution hereafter.

  23. Anne glad you have joined the debate. I remember meeting you and your lovely husband in 2002 and I enjoyed his talk a lot. I am interested in how you can tell energy is pyschic not spiritual. Can you explain how? Mary

    • Ann Harrison

      I expect Mary that people are aware of the difference between psychic and spiritual in different ways. For me it is feeling the love that comes with the presence of good Spiritual energy and in particular the loving Spirit people.
      Like the feeling when you go into a house that is full of love or peace only more so.
      On a psychic level I don’t get that feeling. I don’t get a bad feeling – just not that good feeling . Ann

  24. Freddie Giddings

    All forms of mediumship should demonstrate the survival of physical death. Only physical mediumship can demonstrate this in such a dramatic form, that the person witnessing the phenomena is unlikely to forget it for the rest of their lives. What is so breathtaking is the power of spirit that can be demonstrated in a fully developed physical circle. Yes it is controversial, yes it is rare today, but as the very bedrock of Spiritualism is it needed in today’s very material world? The only answer must be a very resounding YES.
    In a report by that very cynical Daily Mirror columnist “Cassandra” on the mediumship of Jack Webber, he said he went to scoff “But the laugh is sliding round to the other side of my face”. That says it all really.

  25. The purpose of Spiritualism is to prove that there is no death. Physical phenomena provides the best evidence of this.
    All other forms of medium-ship provide only circumstantial evidence.

    Has it become rare? I don´t believe so. The governing factor seems to be the good intentions of the enquirers. It is not a “music hall” act intended for entertainment.

  26. Leaving aside those who in the past may have faked physical mediumship for financial gain etc. It surely is a matter of following genuine guidance from the spirit world! If ‘they’ want to communicate and a medium has been born capable of facilitating the process, then naturally, it is a good idea to go ahead and use the medium. Whether sceptics and any other of the spiritually ignorant population regard it as fraud or dubious doesn’t matter. The proof is for the open minded who want such evidence and/or guidance that may be forthcoming. To argue against physical mediumship is, in my opinion, to argue against minds that have progressed to a higher level that is beyond our own – so it would be like the pupil telling the teacher what they are permitted to teach!

  27. MICKY have you sat with Wayne Goundry?

    • Hi Jill

      No I haven’t sat with Wayne Goundry, I just read a little about him he seems to be a transfiguration medium.

  28. i see there are 2 thumbs down why?

  29. Interesting debate on physical mediumship.
    I am all for physical mediumship within the Spiritualist movement.
    I am a Transfiguration medium and have demonstrated at various churches, purely for the reason that (1) It can provide evidence of survival(2)It may open the mind of those present and they reflect on what they have witnessed. (3) Encourage those present that Physical mediumship is still living well.
    As regards to the comment regarding this form of phenomena being close to the earth plane, this I question when I think of those from spirit who work with me, as an example, a very ancient Mandarin (My Guide) a Tibetan Monk (Spiritual Teacher)
    I work in red light and have worked in normal light where spirit can still be seen, but the red light does show more phenomena (Colour, spirit lights and orbs)
    I have been developing for nearly 10years and my spirit friends are now seriously working on the voice, but the developent will continue all the time I am healthy to do so. We ALL learning at each development sitting, each sitting is an experience, and are patiently waiting for the day when teaching will be given and further learning takes place.
    I have always held Alec Harris in high esteem, he always loved his healing more than sitting in the cabinet, but as his guide said to his dear wife, “In what he does is in itself healing”
    Closeness to the earth plane? remember like attracts like,

  30. I recently sat with a ‘physical medium’ who has attracted much negativity and was named in an article in the Independent Newspaper.

    The ‘seance’ was outrageous and blatantly fraudulent. Frankly he did more to harm than help Spiritualism. When I voiced my concerns to a few people I was shouted down and told I was jealous because I did not have his ability. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to witness the promised but never appearing ‘full materialization’ – the entire farce has left a bad taste in my mouth. None of this has had any effect on my own beliefs in survival but it surely must have a negative affect on the movement. ‘Mediums’ (and I use that term loosely) who persist in this type of deceit need to stop now! There is a place I believe for genuine physical mediumship but we need to separate the wheat from the chaff if it is to be taken seriously.

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