Stainton Moses, William Stainton Moses,
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Medium William Stainton Moses England
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Stainton Moses Medium
Imperator and Rector
THE MEDIUMSHIP of Rev.
William Stainton Moses, an Anglican minister, began in
1872. According to his biographer, Charlton Speer, who often sat with Moses
during his seances, it started with a variety of raps and progressed to the
direct voice, direct writing, the trance voice, and automatic writing. Speer
wrote that direct voice, in which voices came through in the air above them, was
not clear or distinct, while direct writing, in which a pencil untouched by
human hands gave short messages, such as that received from the distinguished
musician, was rare. Speer further reported that the trance voice, in which the
Spirits used Moses’ entranced body, came through in a dignified, temperate,
clear and convincing tone. Moreover, it was always apparent that the personality
addressing the group was not that of the Medium. The voices were different and
the ideas expressed were often contrary to Moses’. While different Spirits came
through, the chief communicator in the early days called himself Imperator. Mrs.
Speer, Charlton’s mother, did the recording of the trance messages, but she said
it was impossible for her to capture the beauty and refinement of the
manifestations or the power and dignity of Imperator’s influence.
“I, myself, Imperator Servus Dei, am the chief of a band of forty-nine Spirits, the presiding and controlling Spirit, under whose guidance and direction the others work,” Mrs. Speer recorded. “I am come from the seventh sphere to work out the will of the Almighty; and, when my work is complete, I shall return to those spheres of bliss from which none returns again to earth. But this will not be till the Medium’s work on earth is finished, and his mission on earth exchanged for a wider one in the spheres.”
Imperator added that Spirits named Rector and Doctor were his immediate assistants. He had come, he said, to explain the Spirit World, how it is controlled, and the way in which information is conveyed to humans. “The ladder between Heaven and earth has always been,” Imperator voiced through Moses, “but man’s unbelief cut him off from the ministry of angels.”
When Imperator was speaking through Moses, the sitters observed a large, bright cross of light behind Moses’ head and rays surrounding it. The lights seemed to culminate in a beautiful line of light of great brilliancy several feet high and moving from side to side. One of the sitters asked Imperator to explain the lights. He responded that the pillar of light was himself, the bright light behind him his attendants, and the numerous lights seen in the room belonged to the band of 49. In all, there were seven Circles of seven Spirits each. Each Circle composed one presiding Spirit with a particular mission and six ministers.
On March 30, 1873, Spirit messages started coming through Moses’ hand by means of “automatic writing.” This method was adopted, Moses was informed, for convenience purposes and so that he could preserve a connected body of teaching. Initially, the writing was very small and irregular, and it was necessary for Moses to write slowly and cautiously. However, the writing quickly became more regular and more legible. Most of the early messages came from Doctor, but after a time others started using Moses’ hand. Each was distinguished by a different handwriting as well as peculiarities of style and expression. When some Spirits found that they could not influence Moses’ hand, they called upon Rector for assistance. Rector even acted as an amanuensis for Imperator. In 1883, Moses compiled his writing into a book entitled Spirit Teachings.
Moses wondered how he could be sure that Imperator and his band were not evil Spirits - wolves in sheep’s clothing - attempting to lead him astray. He was continually concerned that much of what they had to say was contrary to Christian dogma and doctrine. Imperator responded, commending Moses for his questioning frame of mind and pointing out that this was one of the reasons he was chosen as their vehicle. “We hail your doubts as the best evidence of our successful dealing with you,” he said, going on to mention that there is a point beyond which it is impossible to provide evidence. He called for Moses to use the standards of Jesus, “By their fruits shall ye know them” and “Men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles,” further telling him that he must consider the whole tenor of their teachings for proof that it is Divine. For definite proof, Imperator continued, Moses must be content to wait until he too stood in their company. The most they could hope for is the gradual establishment of conviction. “We desire that you should apply to us the same law by which the Master judged - the Divine law of judging others as you would yourself be judged.”
Moses continually asked for the earthly identifications of Imperator and the others. Imperator initially resisted, informing Moses that revealing their earthly names would result in casting additional doubt on the validity of the messages. However, Imperator later revealed their names, advising Moses that they should not be mentioned in the book he would write. It was not until after Moses’ death that the identities were made public by A. W. Trethewy in a book, The Controls of Stainton Moses. Imperator was Malachias, the Old Testament prophet. Rector was Hippolytus and Doctor was Athenodorus. Imperator took directions from Preceptor, who was Elijah. Preceptor, in turn, communed directly with Jesus. Other communicators included Daniel, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, Solon, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Plotinus, Alexander Achillini, Algazzali, Kabbila, Chom, Said, Roophal, and Magus.
Moses died in 1892, but the Imperator band began communicating again in 1895 through the mediumship of Leonore Piper of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Until then, Piper had been controlled by Phinuit and “George Pelham” (a pseudonym for George Pellew). The quality of the messages coming through Piper had begun to deteriorate and there were indications that devious earthbound spirits were able to control Piper’s organism. Deceased writers Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot supposedly communicated directly through Piper’s hand, but the nature of the communication suggested impostors.
Pellew and Phinuit gradually gave way to “Rector,” who told them that Piper’s organism was weakening and needed a rest. While Rector and the band of 49 continued to use Piper’s organism, it was with more care than Pellew and Phinuit could provide. Rector said they were substituting a “softer melody” for the rough, inharmonious and uncultivated dialect, referring primarily to Phinuit. While not “earth earthy,” Rector said that Phinuit was too bound by the attractions of earthly minds. He further cautioned Dr. Richard Hodgson, the chief investigator for the Piper phenomena, not to rely too much on Pellew as he was “too far away,” i.e., too advanced, to be effective. “His Spirit is pure, his mind sincere, his whole life here is one of honor and one to be respected by us all,” Rector wrote through Piper’s hand. “Yet, we would speak the truth and say his work in your field is done.”
Some researchers questioned whether Piper’s Rector was the same as Moses’ Rector, even though her Imperator group claimed to be the same one that controlled Moses.
“It is a rather puzzle to me why Mrs. Piper’s personalities should have assumed the same set of names,” wrote Sir Oliver Lodge, the distinguished British physicist and psychical researcher. “In general characters they are similar, but I see no very close resemblance in detail. And hitherto the Piper ‘Imperator’ has not given us the same old earth name as the original ‘Imperator’ to Stainton Moses. So it would appear as if they did not very seriously pretend to be identical.”
Soon after his death in 1905, Hodgson began communicating through Piper. During a 1906 sitting with Piper, researcher George Dorr asked Hodgson about Rector. Hodgson explained that Rector was in complete control and that Rector spoke for him. Hodgson went on to say that Rector reported for everyone, i.e., he reported in the first person for all communicating Spirits. He further explained that Rector understood the conditions of spirit better than any individual Spirit and that Rector was constantly under the direction of Imperator.
Barrett, Sir William, On the Threshold of the Unseen (New York: E.F. Dutton & Co., 1917).
Holt, Henry, On the Cosmic Relations (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914).
Lodge, Sir Oliver, The Survival of Man (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1909)
Moses, William Stainton, Spirit Teachings (New York: Arno Press, New York, 1976, reprinted from 1924 edition published by London Spiritualist Alliance)
Moses, William Stainton, More Spirit Teachings
Myers, F. W. H., Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (2 vols) (London: Longmans & Green, 1903; reprint, New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, Inc., 1961).
Source with some minor addtionsMichael E. Tymn, vice-president of The Academy of Religion and Psychical Research.
Source with some minor addtions
William Stainton Moses (1839-1892) is best known for his contribution to Spiritualist thought and literature. What is often overlooked is his ability as a talented and very able physical medium. As Beloff comments, he was a medium 'whose physical phenomena were said, by those fortunate enough to be allowed to sit with him, to be as powerful as those of D. D. Home himself'.(1)
After being ordained and working in the Isle of Man and
Dorset, his poor health caused him to cease his duties, whereupon he went to
London and took up the post of teaching the son of Dr Stanhope Speer and his
wife; he also taught at University College School until 1889. It was in 1872,
through the reading of Robert Dale Owen's
The Debateable Land,
recommended to him by Mrs Speer, that his interest in the subject of
Spiritualism was kindled. This prompted him to visit mediums, including D. D.
Home. On one occasion, Moses exposed a fraudulent medium, surely an indication
of his desire for genuine phenomena.
In due course, Moses developed his own mediumship, and in mid-1872, he sat in a Circle with Dr Speer, Mrs Speer and sometimes, other persons. In the early stages, the circle experienced raps and table movement that responded to sitters' inquiries. Later on, there was the occurrence of communicators making themselves known and the levitation of various objects. This was followed by the manifestation of apports and fragrant odours. On 30 August 1872, Mrs Speer recorded not only the apports, but the levitation of Moses; later that same year, Dr Speer also testified to Moses being levitated and the movement of objects.
It was the event on 22 August 1872, that was momentous: on that date, Moses began to produce automatic writing during a seance. In the following month, 'direct writing' was produced, i.e. paper located under the table was found to have 'Imperator' written upon it. On 19 December, the control calling himself Imperator, spoke for the first time by direct voice. These were the activities that from March 1873 led to Moses' Spirit Teachings (published in 1883) that 'has been dubbed the "Bible of British Spiritualism"';(2) many of the teachings by certain communicators are given in this book. Nelson refers to the lack of generally agreed beliefs by Spiritualists, but says 'the nearest we can get to this is probably contained in a book called Spirit Teachings'.(3) By the time of his death, Moses had composed twenty-four books containing information given through automatic writing from March 1873 for the following ten years, four that pertained to physical phenomena between 1872 and 1875, and three of a summary nature. Myers of the SPR confirmed that in the case of the first category of books, he 'searched them carefully for any sign of confusion or alteration, but without finding any'. Moses referred to the messages where the gist never varied and the style of writing remained unchanged despite the length of time during which this took place.(4) The fact that the communicators were not the product of Moses' own mind was exhibited by Moses being able to read a book or occupy himself with something unrelated to the communications when the automatic writing was produced; in these periods, the writing was not affected by Moses' distractions.
There can be no doubt that Moses found the teachings imparted by the communicators to be disconcerting: his writings show his own immense struggle with what was said, this being diametrically opposed to the Christian faith that he once expounded as an Anglican clergyman. Moreover, they exhibit his determination to verify that the communicators were actual persons. Wilson notes how Moses 'argued long and bitterly, attacking the "Spirit Teachings"', but the communicators 'refused to budge an inch'.(5) In view of the identities claimed by some of the communicators, i.e. well-known historical personages, Moses was aware that this would be more likely to attract ridicule than provide weight to the communications; he therefore did not reveal who they were, and this information only became known after his death. Myers, who produced an extensive essay concerning Moses, observed that in the case of these teachers, the information was emanated through 'a stream of influence'. To illustrate this point, he cited one communicator who, while confirming that return was possible, nevertheless stated, 'I am very distant from you now'.(6) Although Moses acted as a medium for these persons, he also acted as a medium for other categories, i.e. those who had died many centuries before, and those who had only recently done so. Until the end of 1872, only Moses had witnessed Spirit lights, but on 31 December 1872, the sitters also saw these, i.e. a cross, and moving lines of light. From this time, seances were often accompanied by raps, fragrant odours, lights and apports.
Moses' mediumship continued to develop and in June
1873, he recorded what was seen by those present: 'Large globes of light...went
into the room where the sitters were placed...They were sufficiently bright
to...cast a strong reflection into the room...They seem to have been carried by
a materialised hand'.(7) Mrs Speer described the occasion of when 'many
beautiful Spirit lights appeared..some were very large...Musical sounds then
came around us. Both rooms were often quite illuminated through the brightness
of the lights'.(8)
Moses also saw his controls during seances and underwent OBEs and visited the spheres; in one that took place at the beginning of 1874, it upheld the Spiritualist belief in the 'Summerland'. In this experience, he became separated from his physical body and was met by one of his controls. He described how 'the scenery through which I passed was like an earthly landscape, but the air was more translucent, the water more clear and sparkling, the trees greener and more luxuriant'; on arriving at a 'simple cottage', he was temporarily reunited with his grandmother.(9) Moses also recounted an OBE that included a meeting with Imperator. Of this he said: 'It was Imperator, as I have before seen him...The face was earnest, benevolent and noble in expression...The whole effect was so dazzling that I could not look steadfastly at it'.(10) At the end of 1872, Moses recorded how during a seance, the Speers saw a light, although he saw a person within this and as it faded from sight, Moses asked who this was. In Imperator's style, 'Myself' was rapped out in reply. Such communications with Imperator were significant as he was to become the principal control, and an agent for some of the greatest teachings supplied from the next world, as recorded in Spirit Teachings.
In the case of Moses' mediumship, it is apparent that in the
initial stages, while Circle members were conscious of various phenomena, Moses'
clearly enjoyed a greater and deeper awareness of this and the relevance.
Nonetheless, the sitters came to a meaningful experience of what was happening
as the seances conducted by Moses provided individual phenomena for those
present. For example, in the seance held on 10 August 1873, Dr Speer recorded
how a light appeared, and through the entranced Medium, the communicator said:
'You see; now listen, I will knock'. At this, the table was pounded three times. Dr Speer continued by recording how the communicator then said: ''Now I will
show you my hand' and Speer recounts: 'A large, very bright light then came up,
and inside of it appeared the materialised hand of the Spirit. He moved the
fingers about close to my face.(11)
From March 1873, the sounds produced were like that of many types of instruments, including a harp. These became so loud that they vibrated the table and could be heard in other rooms. Moses noted that: 'The sound would traverse the room and seem to die away in the distance, and suddenly burst forth into great power over the table...The sounds were at times deafening'.(12) As so often happens, tests conducted demonstrated a significant change in temperature during a seance. Not only were the seances sometimes rather noisy, events did not always proceed smoothly: on January 25, 1873, Moses recorded how after the table was levitated to head-height, the sitters requested that something be brought in from another room in the house. A heavy bronze candlestick was produced, and Moses complained that it 'struck me heavily on the head, and hurt me considerably...'.(13)
Myers supplied a good summary of Moses' mediumship, i.e.
intelligent raps, object movement, levitation, apports, automatic writing,
noises, odours, lights, dematerialization and the limited materialization of
communicators: these occurred while Moses was both entranced and fully
conscious.(14) However, in view of the effects of Moses' mediumship, this has
naturally attracted attempts to discredit his work.
Podmore, who was hardly an ally of Spiritualism, referred to the possibility of fraud, and well-intentioned deception, but admitted that Moses' personality, 'contradict[s] such a supposition' and such activity 'hardly seems to fit Stainton Moses'. With regard to the fashionable suggestion that Moses was mentally unstable, Podmore had to admit that Moses showed no signs of undue abnormality.(15) Myers, who met Moses in 1874, testified to the Medium's 'manifest sanity and probity'. Furthermore, he gave two examples of when Moses was notified of deaths that could not have been known to him by normal means; he also cited the instance of a woman communicator whose writing was unknown to Moses and when this was shown to the woman's son, 'the resemblance appeared incontestable' and was also confirmed by an expert.(16)
Charlton Speer, the son of Dr and Mrs Speer, confirmed to
Myers that the phenomena occurred some distance from Moses; noises were heard
from different heights, and the lights approached from the opposite location of
where Moses was seated. Moreover, in a lighted environment, 'the Medium's hands
and face could therefore be plainly seen, and even then raps could be heard in
other parts of the room'. He also mentioned the voices that spoke independently
of Moses; these were invariably indistinct, but on occasions it was possible to
hear something of what was being said and 'these sounds generally seemed to be
in the air above us'. He also referred to the occurrences of direct writing and
the occasion when after a seance, he personally requested this 'under test
conditions'; after being given an affirmative answer, he left paper in a room
and after ensuring the area was vacated by all persons, and securing all points
of entry, he went outside and remained by the locked door. On entering again, a
message had been left for him on the paper.(17)
As noted, Dr and Mrs Speer were regular circle members; after Dr Speer died in 1889, Moses was with Dr Speer's family and saw him, and told Mrs Speer that he did not understand the term used by Dr Speer for his wife that had just been conveyed. Mrs Speer recognized it as being her husband's pet name for her that he only used when they were alone, a point about which she was absolutely adamant, i.e. there was no opportunity by which Moses could have become aware of it.
In considering the authenticity of his mediumship, it has to
be borne in mind that complete details of his seances were not made available
until after he had died. In fact, during much of the period of his activity, his
writings only bore the pseudonym of 'M.A. (Oxon.)'. As Carrington understandably
concluded, if Moses was seeking attention, and did this through fraudulent
mediumship, there would be little point in doing so, but also keeping his
mediumship a secret.(18)
Moses was anxious to ensure the phenomena arose from actual communicators, and these strenuous attempts are detailed within his writings. His actions depict a desire to verify firstly, the communicators were in fact next-world communicators, and secondly, that they were who they claimed to be. Moses' records make repeated reference to this endeavour, and consequently, they also supply details regarding how confirmation was only obtained after the communication. For example, on one occasion, a communicator gave details of his death a week before; the newspapers were then unsuccessfully scrutinized for a notice of this, and it was only confirmed by enquiring at Somerset House where the details were found.(19) There were other similar instances: one being that of Thomas Wilson who communicated in 1874. He supplied considerable and very specific details about himself unknown to the circle, and these were subsequently confirmed as correct. Furthermore, on obtaining a letter that he had written before death from a friend, this not only verified the style of writing, but also contained the same misspelling that had occurred in the automatic writing produced by Moses.(20)
It is evident that Moses' background as a clergyman contributed to him not only working as a medium, but believing that Spiritualism was something to be vigorously preached. Despite his persistent ill-health (he died in 1892 through Bright's disease), his determined effort to proclaim Spiritualism is demonstrated by the work that he did in addition to his mediumship. Moses was a member of the BNAS (British National Association of Spiritualists), one of the many early Spiritualist organizations in this country. He was also a vice- president of the SPR, although he found it necessary to leave in view of the direction that it adopted. With the demise of the BNAS, Moses launched the LSA (London Spiritualist Alliance), and was its President at the time of his death; the LSA later became the College of Psychic Studies, that still exists: Moses' notebooks are in its archives. He was editor of Light, often contributing to this, and also wrote in Human Nature and the Spiritualist, and assisted in the formation of the Ghost Club. In addition to the writings referred to above, he also produced Researches in Spiritualism (that appeared in Human Nature, 1874-5), Psychography (1878), Spirit Identity (1879) and Higher Aspects of Spiritualism (1880).
Moses' activity is so very indicative of vigorous nineteenth century Spiritualism and the principal reason why he is to be deemed one of its foremost pioneers. It was this mode of dedication by this type of pioneer that undoubtedly led to the acceptance of Spiritualism and/or survival by so many in the period. To Stainton Moses, the outcome of Spiritualism was not merely something to be experienced, but expounded, developed and demonstrated. And it is noteworthy that the NAS's endeavours and stated aims coincide with this essential sentiment.
(1)J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.76.
(2)J. Oppenheim, The Other World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p.77.
(3)G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1969), p.209
. (4)F. W. H. Myers, 'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - II', PSPR, 11 (1895), pp.68,66.
(5)C. Wilson, Afterlife (London: Harrap, 1985), p.150.
(6)F. W. H. Myers, 'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', PSPR, 9 (1893-94), p.258.
(7)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', pp.273-274.
(8)Light, 30 July 1892.
(9)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - II', pp.36-37.
(10)Stainton Moses, More Spirit Teachings (London: Spiritualist Press, 1952), p.105.
(11)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', p.275.
(12)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', pp.277-278.
(13)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', p.301.
(14)F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, 3rd edn., rev (Norwich: Pelegrin Trust, 1992), p.261.
(15)F. Podmore, Modern Spiritualism (London: Methuen, 1902), pp.287-288.
(16)Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, pp.260-262.
(17)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - I', pp.343,348.
(18)H. Carrington, The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1907), p.15.
(19)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - II', p.45.
(20)'The Experiences of W. Stainton Moses - II', pp.70-75.
Readers may be interested to read Moses' Spirit Teachings; alternatively, there is the more readable More Spirit Teachings
Birth: November 5, 1839 in Donnington, England
Medium and religious teacher who became one of the most prominent late nineteenth-century British Spiritualists. He was born November 5, 1839, at Donnington, Lincolnshire. His father was headmaster of the Grammar School of Donnington. In 1852, the family moved to Bedford to give young William the advantage of an education at Bedford College. In his school days he occasionally walked in his sleep, and on one occasion in this state he went down to the sitting room, wrote an essay on a subject that had worried him on the previous evening, and then returned to bed without waking. It was the best essay of the class. No other incidents of a psychic nature of his early years were recorded.
He won a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford. Owing to a breakdown in his health he interrupted his studies, traveled for some time, and spent six months in a monastery on Mount Athos. When he recovered his health he returned to Oxford, took his M.A., and was ordained as a minister of the Church of England by the renowned Bishop Wilberforce. He began his ministry at Kirk Maughold, near Ramsey, in the Isle of Man, at age 24. There he gained the esteem and love of his parishioners. He was remembered for his activity during an outbreak of smallpox, when he helped to nurse and bury a man whose malady was so violent that it was very difficult to find anybody who would approach him.
His literary activity for Punch and the Saturday Review began at this time. After four years, he exchanged his curacy with that of St. George's, Douglas, Isle of Man. In 1869 he fell seriously ill. He called in for medical aid Stanhope Templeman Speer. As a convalescent he spent some time in Speer's house. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
In 1870, he took a curacy in Dorsetshire. Illness again interfered with his parish work and he was obliged to abandon it, and for the next seven years he was the tutor of Speer's son. In 1871, he was offered a mastership in University College School, London. This office he filled until 1889, when failing health made him resign. He lived for three more years, suffering greatly from gout, influenza, and nervous prostration. He died September 5, 1892.
Moses as a Spiritualist
The period of his life between 1872 and 1881 was marked by an inflow of transcendental powers and a consequent religious revolution that led him away from the Church of England and his former distrust of Spiritualism. He had considered all its phenomena spurious and had dismissed Lord Adare's book on D. D. Home as the dreariest twaddle he ever came across. Robert Dale Owen's Debatable Land (1870) made a deeper impression.
On Mrs. Speer's persuasion, he agreed to have a closer look into the matter and attended his first séance, with Lottie Fowler operating as the medium, on April 2, 1872. After much nonsense he received a striking description of the spirit presence of a friend who had died in the north of England. Charles Williams was the next medium he went to see. A séance with D. D. Home and sittings in many private circles followed. Within about six months, Moses became convinced of the existence of discarnate spirits and of their power to communicate. Soon he himself showed signs of great psychic powers. In 1872, five months after his introduction to Spiritualism, he reported his first experience of levitation.
The physical phenomena continued with gradually lessening frequency until 1881. They were of extremely varied nature. The power was often so enormous that it kept the room in constant vibration. E. W. Cox describes in his book What am I? (2 vols., 1873-74) the swaying and rocking in daylight of an old-fashioned, six-foot-wide and nine-foot-long mahogany table that required the strength of two strong men to be moved an inch. The presence of Moses seemed to be responsible for the table's extraordinary behavior. When Cox and Moses held their hands over the table, it lifted first on one then on the other side. When Moses was levitated for the third time, he was thrown on to the table, and from that position on to an adjacent sofa. In spite of the considerable distance and the magnitude of the force, he was in no way hurt.
Objects left in Moses' bedroom were often found arranged in the shape of a cross. Apports were frequent phenomena. They were usually objects from a different part of the house, invariably small, coming mysteriously through closed doors or walls and thrown upon the table from a direction mostly over Moses' head. Sometimes their origin was unknown. Ivory crosses, corals, pearls, precious stones, the latter expressly for Moses, were also brought from unknown sources.
Psychic lights of greatly varying shapes and intensity were frequently observed. They were most striking when the medium was in trance. They were not always equally seen by all the sitters, never lit up their surroundings, and could pass through solid objects, for instance, rising from the floor through a table. Scents were produced in abundance, the most common being musk, verbena, new mown hay, and one unfamiliar odor, which was said to be spirit scent. Sometimes breezes heavy with perfumes swept around the Circle.
Without any musical instruments in the room, a great variety of musical sounds contributed to the entertainment of the sitters. There were many instances of direct writing, demonstrations of matter passing through matter and direct voice, and materializations, which, however, did not progress beyond luminous hands or columns of light vaguely suggesting human forms.
Moses' continuing circle was very small. Dr. and Mrs. Speer and F. W. Percival were generally the only witnesses of the phenomena. Sergeant Cox, W. H. Harrison, a Dr. Thompson, a Mrs. Garratt, a Miss Birkett, and Sir William Crookes were occasional sitters. As a rule, the invisible communicators strongly resented the introduction of strangers. The physical phenomena in themselves were of secondary importance. They were produced in evidence of the supernormal power of the communicators to convince Moses and the sitters of the spirits' claims.
Writing in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 9, pt. 25), F. W. H. Myers asserts that:
". . . they were not produced fraudulently by Dr. Speer or other sitters. . . . I regard as proved both by moral considerations and by the fact that they were constantly reported as occurring when Mr. Moses was alone. That Mr. Moses should have himself fraudulently produced them I regard as both morally and physically incredible. That he should have prepared and produced them in a state of trance I regard both as physically incredible and also as entirely inconsistent with the tenor both of his own reports and those of his friends. I therefore regard the reported phenomena as having actually occurred in a genuinely supernormal manner.''
Moses' character and integrity were so well attested that Andrew Lang was forced to warn the advocates of fraud that "the choice is between a moral and physical miracle.'' Frank Podmore was almost the only critic to charge Moses with trickery. He suggested that the psychic lights at the séances could have been produced by bottles of phosphorized oil and quoted a report by Moses himself in the Proceedings of the SPR (vol. 11, p. 45) stating: "Suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my nose, a cloud of luminous smoke, just like phosphorous. . . '' It seems most improbable that the medium would write such a report if guilty of fraud, and even Podmore himself concluded: "That Stainton Moses, being apparently of sane mind, should deliberately have entered upon a course of systematic and cunningly concerted trickery, for the mere pleasure of mystifying a small circle of friends, or in the hope of any petty personal advantage, such, for instance, as might be found in the enhanced social importance attaching to a position midway between prestidigator and prophet--this is scarcely credible.''
Moses' famous automatic scripts are known from his books Spirit Teachings (1883) and Spirit Identity (1879) and from the full séance accounts he commenced to publish in Light in 1892. The scripts began in 1872 and lasted until 1883, gradually dying out in 1877. They filled 24 notebooks. Except for the third, which was lost, they were preserved by the London Spiritualist Alliance, where both the originals and typed copies were accessible to students. They have been complemented by four books of records of physical phenomena and three books of retrospect and summary. In his will Moses entrusted the manuscripts to two friends--C. C. Massey and Alaric A. Watts. They handed them to F. W. H. Myers, who published an exhaustive analysis in the Proceedings of the SPR (vols. 9 and 11).
The automatic messages were almost wholly written by Moses's own hand while he was in a normal waking state. They are interspersed with a few words of direct writing. The tone of the spirits towards him is habitually courteous and respectful. But occasionally they have some criticism that pierces to the quick. This explains why he was unwilling to allow the inspection of his books during his lifetime. Indeed, there are indications that there may have been a still more private book into which very intimate messages were entered, but if so it did not survive.
The scripts are in the form of a dialogue. The identity of the communicators was not revealed by Moses in his lifetime. Neither did Myers disclose it. They were made public in a later book The "Controls'' of Stainton Moses by A. W. Trethewy. Considering the illustrious biblical and historical names the communicators bore, Stainton Moses's reluctance was wise. He would have met with scorn. Moreover, for a long time, he himself was skeptical, indeed, at first shocked ,and was often reproved for suspicion and want of faith in the scripts.
Moses emerged as the Medium for an organized band of 49 Spirits. Their leader called himself "Imperator.'' For some time he manifested through an amanuensis only, and later wrote himself, signing his name with a cross. He spoke directly for the first time on December 19, 1892, but appeared to Moses's clairvoyant vision at an early stage. He claimed to have influenced the Medium's career during the whole of his lifetime and said that in turn he was directed by "Preceptor'' in the background. "Preceptor'' himself communed with "Jesus.''
The identity of the communicators was only gradually disclosed and Moses was much exercised as to whether the personalities of the band were symbolical or real. They asserted that a missionary effort to uplift the human race was being made in the spirit realms and, as Moses had the rarest mediumistic gifts and his personality furnished extraordinary opportunities, he was selected as the channel of these communications. Like "Imperator'' and "Preceptor'' every member of the band had an assumed name at first. The biblical characters included the following names, as revealed later: "Malachias'' (Imperator), "Elijah'' (Preceptor), "Haggai'' (The Prophet), "Daniel'' (Vates), "Ezekiel,'' "St. John the Baptist'' (Theologus). The ancient philosophers and sages numbered 14. They were: "Solon,'' "Plato,'' "Aristotle,'' "Seneca,'' "Athenodorus'' (Doctor), "Hippolytus'' (Rector), "Plotinus'' (Prudens), "Alexander Achillini'' (Philosophus), "Algazzali or Ghazali'' (Mentor), "Kabbila,'' "Chom,'' "Said,'' "Roophal,'' "Magus.''
It was not until Book XIV of the communications was written that Moses became satisfied of the identity of his controls. In his introduction to Spirit Teachings he writes:
"The name of God was always written in capitals, and slowly and, as it seemed, reverentially. The subject matter was always of a pure and elevated character, much of it being of personal application, intended for my own guidance and direction. I may say that throughout the whole of these written communications, extending in unbroken continuity to the year 1880, there is no flippant message, no attempt at jest, no vulgarity or incongruity, no false or misleading statement, so far as I know or could discover; nothing incompatible with the avowed object, again and again repeated, of instruction, enlightenment and guidance by Spirits fitted for the task. Judged as I should wish to be judged myself, they were what they pretended to be. Their words were words of sincerity and of sober, serious purpose.''
Later, when the phenomena lost strength he was again assailed by doubts and showed hesitation. It is obviously impossible to prove the identity of ancient spirits. "Imperator's'' answer to this objection was that statements incapable of proof should be accepted as true on the ground that others that could be tested had been verified. For such evidential purposes many modern spirits were admitted for communication. In several cases satisfactory proofs of identity were obtained. "Imperator's'' statement was therefore logical. It should also be noted that each of the communicators had his distinctive way of announcing his presence.
Moses was also well aware of the possible role his own mind might play in the communications, and observed:
"It is an interesting subject for speculation whether my own thoughts entered into the subject matter of the communications. I took extraordinary pains to prevent any such admixture. At first the writing was slow, and it was necessary for me to follow it with my eye, but even then the thoughts were not my thoughts. Very soon the messages assumed a character of which I had no doubt whatever that the thought was opposed to my own. But I cultivated the power of occupying my mind with other things during the time that the writing was going on, and was able to read an abstruse book and follow out a line of close reasoning while the message was written with unbroken regularity. Messages so written extended over many pages, and in their course there is no correction, no fault in composition and often a sustained vigour and beauty of style.''
These precautions do not exclude the possibility of the action of the subconscious mind.
Moses' life and activity left a deep impression on Spiritualism. He took a leading part in several organizations. From 1884 until his death he was president of the London Spiritualist Alliance. The phenomena reported in his mediumship served as a partial inducement for the founding of the Society for Psychical Research. He was on its foundation council. Later, owing to the treatment the medium William Eglinton received (he was accused of fraud), Moses resigned his membership and censured the society for what he considered its unduly critical attitude.
He edited Light, contributed many articles on Spiritualism to Human Nature and other periodicals, and published a number of books, primarily developed from his automatic writings, under the pen name of "M. A. Oxon,'' a reference to his degree from Oxford.
- Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.
- Gauld, Alan. The Founder of Psychical Research. New York: Schrocken Books, 1968.
- Oxon, M. A. [Stainton Moses]. Higher Aspects of Spiritualism. N.p., 1880.
- ------. Psychography; or, A Treatise on the Objective Forms of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena. N.p., 1878. Reprinted as Direct Spirit Writing. N.p., 1952.
The above writeup was reproduced by permission from "William Stainton Moses." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 5th ed. Edited by J. Gordon Melton, 2001.
- Spirit Teachings - William Stainton Moses, 1883, 291 pp also here
- More Spirit Teachings - William Stainton Moses, 124 pp also here
- Spirit Identity - William Stainton Moses, 1879, 143 pp
- Biography of William Stainton Moses from Spirit Teachings also here
- Biography of William Stainton Moses - International Survivalist Society
- Stainton Moses Physical Medium - Noah's Ark Society
- The Mediumship of Stainton Moses
- William Stainton Moses (1839-1892) from www.wegbegleiter.ch auf Deutsch
- William Stainton Moses: Grandes Vultos do Espiritismo - www.espirito.org.br in Portuguese
- Biografia de Willian Stainton Moses - www.espiritismogi.com.br in Portuguese
- Grandes vultos -William Stainton Moses - www.searabendita.com.br in Portuguese
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