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  • The Glut of Celebrity in Seances August 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beach is a complete tyro in seances and spiritualism. But one thing he has always been struck by is the great fortune that spiritualists seem to have in getting hold of really important people. Take the following remarkable list of personalities from a nineteenth-century séance in Naples.

    Of the spirits who manifested three were in the flesh, and amongst the disincarnated the most noteworthy were Margherita Pusterla, Dionysius of Syracuse, Genseric, Cleopatra, Richard Coeur de Lion, Aladdin [!!], Belcadel, Guerrazzi, Manin, and Vico. After these came Abraham, Melchisedec, Jacob, Moses, David, Sennacherib, Elisha, Joachim, Judith, Jael, Samuel, Daniel, Mary Magdalene, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John. The Biblical spirits came one after another, before the Nazarene. St. John immediately preceded him, telling us that he came to purify us before receiving the Great Master.

    Talk about having a direct line to the White House…

    This is reminiscent of the way that those reincarnated are rarely peasants or foot-soldiers, but the great of the earth. In the words of one pioneer but sceptical spiritualist: ‘I have had the pleasure of meeting at least twelve Marie Antoinettes, six or seven Marys of Scotland, a whole host of Louis and other kings, about twenty Great Alexanders, but never a plain ‘John Smith’.

    Nothing changes. In the 1980s anyone who was reincarnated had always lived in southern France at the time of the Cathar persecution. It goes without saying that something similar happens in mental institutions: in the nineteenth-century each asylum had its resident Napoleon.

    Then even if seances did not kick up famous people they kicked up eccentric spirits: where are the boring of the earth? This one is from Conan Doyle describing a seance about which he corresponded:

    When I say that among the visitants were two very exuberant public-school boys, four ladies of easy virtue, one old sea captain, one Austrian adventurer who had been murdered, and a number of bucks from the Regency and earlier years, it will be realized that the communications really seemed of unusual nature.

    A variation on this is the way that in the afterlife unlikely alliances are created. A nineteenth-century source described messages from John Wilkes Booth.

    I, and Lincoln, often have a cosy chat up here. We agree that it was just as well I shot him. You see, it was set down in the order of things for me to do it, and I don’t see why I should be blamed for accomplishing my destiny. The world was all the better for it.

    From Beach’s rather tame reading in the history of spiritualism he is struck by the strange double talk of constant references to karma and personal responsibility, on the one hand, and a surrender to destiny on the other. It is as if the first spiritualists couldn’t choose between rugged Protestantism and Forest Buddhism.

    Any other examples of the celebrity gut in spiritualism: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    31 August 2012: First is the Count ‘You’re forgetting a classic example – The First Book of Samuel, Chapter 26, in which Saul consults the Witch of Endor to conjure up the ghost of the prophet Samuel for advice on an important battle with the Philistines. It’s interesting that not just any old spirit will do – it has to be an Ancient Hebrew VIP. It’s also interesting that the witch claims to be able to see the apparition because she is psychic, but Saul cannot – he merely hears a mysterious voice. The account is a little obscure, and it isn’t entirely clear what some of it means, but it sounds as though the witch may well have used an easily faked trick such as ventriloquism, or a speaking-tube connected to a male assistant. More than one ancient temple seems to have had hidden speaking-tubes through which the “oracle” uttered its doubtful wisdom. Since the most miraculous aspect of the tale – the apparition of Samuel – is something Saul cannot see and has to take the witch’s word for, she sounds a lot like a modern medium of dubious authenticity, and unlike just about everything else in the Old Testament, nothing really inexplicable happens at all. It’s also interesting that the ghostly voice tells him that he has angered God through this act of necromancy, therefore he will lose the battle, and he and his family will all die. Driven to despair by this gloomy forecast, Saul does indeed lose the battle, and, after being wounded, and knowing he is doomed by God’s wrath, he commits suicide. Saul had previously persecuted and hounded out of Israel all the witches and necromancers as wicked blasphemers. This woman and all her friends and family may very well have suffered great personal hardship as a direct result of the man who, in a hypocritical volte face, wants her to give his confidence a much-needed boost. She probably hates him like poison! Assuming she’s faking it, is she more likely to tell him what he wants to hear, as fake mediums nearly always do, or the exact opposite? The result of a successful Philistine invasion could very well have been the re-legalization of her own religion, and the obliteration of Saul’s. She has everything to gain by undermining his already shaky confidence! For a recent example of Spiritualist communications with famous dead people that was more persuasive than most, consider the career of the late Rosemary Brown.  For an older, quirkier example perhaps more in keeping with your blog, here’s a letter to the New York Times detailing an obscure medium’s transmission of the posthumous prophecies of the recently deceased Napoleon Bonaparte.  Second, is Alan commenting on two lines: “even if seances did not kick up famous people they kicked up eccentric spirits: where are the boring of the earth”. Actually Beach there’re at least two metaphysical explanations for this phenomenon. The first goes back at least as far as the Ancient Egyptians and almost certainly the Sumerians which is the idea what we take to be our singular selves’re composed of often numerous different elements the bare minimum division being between the spirit and the soul. According to this idea then the divine animatory principle the spirit buggers back off home to its source God Heaven baby Jesus the Sun whatever and the soul as the repository of our life history and our experiences ie our memories hangs around until it gradually fades out of existence.  This’s one of the purposes behind ancestor worship supposedly to give the soul the means to sustain and renew itself.  And this’s where seances come in as they’re the direct descendant of ancestor worship.  They are as it were Big Mac drive-ins for spooks to get itty-titty bits of attention to keep them going.  The only way they can get that attention though is by claiming to be someone famous or to have an interesting history.  If you’re boring piss off! A less bleak take though’s what we tend to take for ourselves is really only a sort of security pass/profile we first acquire when our parents said “You Beachy” or “You Alan” constantly updated thereafter as we grow up (in your case at least…probably). And when we die apparently some of us don’t want to let go of that pass/profile especially those who were treated as if they were special or famous or powerful or inordinately rich or in some other way above the herd i.e. exactly the sort of dead persons seemingly hanging round at seances.’ KB rounds off with this thought: ‘Lately there has been a television show in the US called “Celebrity Ghost Stories.” It is a bit of a twist, for instead of spirits of celebrated figures of the past appearing to ordinary people, in this series, spirits of rather ordinary people appear to celebrities!’ Thanks to the Count, Alan and KB!