Frederic William Henry Myers.

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Law and Examiner in the Education Department), were the habitual members,
and generally the only members, of the small group who witnessed the pheno-
mena about to be described.

Mr. Percival, the late Dr. Speer, Mr. W. H. Harrison, Dr. Thomson, and
the late Mr. Serjeant Cox have at different times printed short first-hand
records of certain of Mr. Moses' phenomena, and Mrs. Garratt and Miss
Birkett took some contemporary notes of sittings at which they were present.

Two note-books and other MSS. by Dr. Speer have been placed in my
hands, and contain independent contemporary records of much evidential value.


[Many additional records of the automatic script from Mr. Moses' note-books
have been published in Light during the last few years.]

IV. In estimating the evidential value of oral intercourse as to Mr. Moses'
phenomena, the character of my own friendship for him is an item on which I
am Bound to be explicit. Friendship it might truly be called, for it was based
upon a consciousness of common pursuits of great moment, and I felt for him
much both of gratitude and of esteem. He responded to my unfeigned
interest with a straighforward intimacy of conversation on the experiences of
which I cared so much to learn. But there was no such close personal attrac-
tion as is likely to prompt me to partiality as a biographer ; and indeed both
Edmund Gurney and I were conscious in him of something like the impatience
of a schoolmaster towards slow students ; natural enough in a man whose
inborn gifts have carried him irresistibly to a conviction, on the edge of which
less favoured persons must needs pause and ponder long. I am bound to add
that the study of his note-books, by making him more intimately known to me
as he was in his best days, has brought me nearer to the warm and even enthu-
siastic estimate implied in the letters of various more intimate friends of his
which lie before me.

More important, however, than the precise degree of attractiveness, or of
spiritual refinement, in Mr. Moses' personal demeanour are the fundamental
questions of sanity and probity. On these points neither I myself, nor, so far as I
know, any person acquainted with Mr. Moses, has ever entertained any doubt.
" However perplexed for an explanation," says Mr. Massey, " the crassest
prejudice has recoiled from ever suggesting a doubt of the truth and honesty
of Stainton Moses." " I believe that he was wholly incapable of deceit," writes
Mr. H. J. Hood, barrister-at-law, who knew him for many years. The people
who assumed that he must somehow have performed the phenomena of his
dark stances himself who asked triumphantly, " Where was Moses when the
candle went out ? " even these never, so far as I know, suggested anything
beyond unconscious fraud in a trance-condition.

A brief record of Mr. Moses' life, with some estimates of the work done by
him in ordinary professional capacities, will help the reader to form something
of a personal judgment on his character.

On the events of his life the Speer family, who were his most intimate
friends, and are well acquainted with his nearest surviving relatives, are my
main authority. Their importance as witnesses of the phenomena is so great
that I must be pardoned for inserting a " testimonial " to the late Dr. Speer
(M.D. Edinburgh), which shall not, however, be in my own words, but in those
of Dr. Marshall Hall, F.R.S., one of the best known physicians of the middle
of this century. Writing on March i8th, 1849, Dr. Marshall Hall says (in a
printed collection of similar testimonials now before me): " I have great satis-
faction in bearing my testimony to the talents and acquirements of Dr. Stanhope
Templeman Speer. Dr. Speer has had unusual advantages in having been at
the Medical Schools, not only of London and Edinburgh, but of Paris and
Montpellier, and he has availed himself of these advantages with extra-
ordinary diligence and talent. He ranks among our most distinguished rising

Dr. Speer held at different times various hospital posts of credit, and was
much valued as a practising physician at Cheltenham and in London. The
work of a physician, however, was rendered somewhat trying to him by an


over-anxious temperament ; and as he possessed private means, and had
strong scientific and artistic tastes, he quitted his profession at thirty-four,
and preferred to spend the latter part of his life in studious retirement. Dr.
Speer's cast of mind was strongly materialistic, and it is remarkable that his
interest in Mr. Moses' phenomena was from first to last of a purely scientific,
as contrasted with an emotional or a religious, nature.

I regret that I never met Dr. Speer, who died in 1889. His widow, Mrs.
Stanhope Speer, is well known tome ; and I regard her as an excellent witness.
Her son, Mr. Charlton T. Speer (also an excellent witness), is an Associate of
the Royal Academy of Music, and is well known in musical circles as a success-
ful composer and performer.

With these words of preface I pass on to the facts simple and ordinary
enough in their external aspect of Mr. Moses' life.

William Stainton Moses was born in Lincolnshire, November 5th, 1839.
His father had been headmaster of a grammar-school at Donington, near
Lincoln. His mother's family name was Stainton. Mr. Stainton Moses
believed that the name Moses had been originally Mostyn, but that an
ancestor had changed it in order to avoid some peril in the time of the
Commonwealth. There seems no reason to suppose that the family, which
had been for some time settled in Lincolnshire, was of Jewish descent. Mrs.
Moses still living and vigorous (1893) at the age of ninety-one was a
serious and intelligent woman, and brought up her only son with pious care.
He showed ability; and the family moved to Bedford, about 1852, that he
might have the advantage of education at Bedford College. There he did
well, and in due time gained a scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford. In his
school days he occasionally walked in his sleep, and on one occasion his
mother saw him go down into the sitting-room and write an essay on a
subject which had puzzled him on the previous evening, and return to bed
without awaking. The essay thus written was the best of those sent up by
the class that day (Mr. Moses tells us), and was fully up to the level of his
waking performances. This is the only incident of which I have heard which
in any way foreshadowed his future gift. He is not recorded as having been
a specially nervous or excitable child ; and he was at this time strong and
healthy. In after life his health was bad ; but his troubles were mainly
respiratory constantly recurring catarrh and bronchitis until near the end
of his life, when he was attacked by Bright's disease, which ultimately caused
his death. His phenomena, it may be observed, were at their best when he
was in his best health, and declined or disappeared altogether when he was ill.

To return to his Oxford career. At Oxford he was an ambitious and hard-
working, but not in other ways a very noticeable, undergraduate. His health
broke down from overwork, and he left Oxford without taking a degree, and
spent some considerable time in travel, mainly with friends, but in part alone.
He was already much interested in theology, and he lived for some six months
(none of these dates are very precise) in a monastery on Mount Athos. Beyond
the mere fact of his residence on Mount Athos, to which his surviving friends
testify, all that is known of this period of seclusion consists of allusions made
by his " spirit guides," who say that they directed him thither that he might
study the Eastern Church, and be prepared by a comparison of theologies for
the reception of a wider truth. Be this as it may, he recovered his health,
returned to Oxford, took his degree, was ordained by Bishop Wilberforce, and


accepted a curacy at Kirk Maughold, near Ramsey, in the Isle of Man, at
the age of twenty-four. He was an active parish clergyman, liked by his
parishioners, and holding Anglican views of an ordinary type. On the
occasion of an outbreak of small-pox he distinguished himself by his zeal
and kindness; and it is recorded that in one case he helped to nurse and
to bury a man whose malady was so violent that it was hard to get any one
to approach him. During this period also he began to write for periodicals,
Punch and the Saturday Review being specially mentioned. The memorial
verses to the Rev. F. D. Maurice which appeared in Punch have since been
quoted as of Mr. Moses' writing; and I should conceive that his other con-
tributions were probably in this serious strain. He continued to write much,
anonymously, for various periodicals during many years of his life, and showed
an easy style and a good deal of miscellaneous knowledge.

After some four years of residence near Ramsey, he accepted the curacy of
St. George's, Douglas, Isle of Man. Here also he was esteemed as an active
clergyman, and admired as a preacher. In April 1869 he had a serious illness,
and hearing that Dr. Speer, whom he knew slightly, was in the island on a
holiday, he called in his medical aid. Dr. Speer brought him successfully
through his illness, and invited him as a convalescent to the house which he
was renting in the island. The foundations of a lifelong friendship with Dr.
and Mrs. Speer were then laid.

In 1870 he took a curacy somewhere in Dorsetshire, where also he was
liked, and was appointed " Lent preacher " for the county. A very severe
attack of whooping-cough obliged him to interrupt his parish work, which, in
fact, he never resumed. Dr. Speer invited him to become his son's tutor, and
for seven years he filled that office in a way that attached to him both parents
and pupil more closely than ever. In 1871 he was offered a mastership in
University College School ; and this post he held until failing health compelled
him to resign it some three years before his death. The physical phenomena
about to be described began in 1872, and continued with gradually lessening
frequency until 1881. The automatic script began in 1873, and finally died out,
so far as we know, in 1883. During these later years Mr. Moses was active in
contributing to, and afterwards in editing, the weekly newspaper Light; and
he took a leading part in several spiritistic organisations. Of one of these
the London Spiritualist Alliance he was president at the time of his death.
In 1882 he aided in the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research; but
he left that body in 1886, on account of its attitude towards Spiritualism, which
he regarded as unduly critical. It is worth remarking that although, as the
fact of his withdrawal shows, many members of the Society held an intel-
lectual position widely differing from that of Mr. Moses, and although his own
published records were of a kind not easily credible, no suspicion as to his
personal probity and veracity was ever, so far as I know, either expressed or

Mr. Moses' health became steadily weaker. He suffered greatly from sup-
pressed gout, in addition to other ailments. A serious fall from the top of an
omnibus made matters worse. In 1890 he was attacked by influenza in the
severest form, and was reckoned, I believe, to have had twelve separate
relapses or recurrences of that complaint. An accident to his eyes also gave
him much trouble. He worked on, as best he could, to the last ; but the period
of decline was tedious and distressing; and it would be very unfair to judge


him from the utterances of these last years. When in September 1892 he
passed from earth, we may surely trust that his achievements here had won
their way to promotion, and his sufferings to repose.

Mr. Moses never married, and went very little into general society. His
personal appearance offered no indication of his peculiar gift. He was of
middle stature, strongly made, with somewhat heavy features, and thick
dark hair and beard. His expression of countenance was honest, manly,
and resolute. Many testimonies of affection and esteem appeared in Light
and elsewhere after his decease ; especially, of course, from those to whom his
experiences and teachings had brought a convincing hope. I subjoin a few
letters from friends who had good opportunities of estimating his value in the
common duties and intercourse of life.

Dr. Johnson, of Bedford, writes to me as follows :

March 2$th, 1893.

" DEAR SIR, As the intimate friend and medical adviser of the late
Stainton Moses I have had ample opportunities of thoroughly knowing his
character and his mental state.

" He was a man even in temper, painstaking and methodical, of exceptional
ability, and utterly free from any hallucination or anything to indicate other
than a well-ordered brain.

" He was a firm believer in all that he uttered or wrote about matters of a
spiritual nature, and he impressed me and, I believe, most others he came in
contact with with the genuineness of his convictions, and a firm belief not only
that he believed in the statements he had made and written, but that they
were the outcome of a mind which had given itself up entirely to the study of
a subject which he considered of essential value and importance to the welfare
of his fellow men.

" I have attended him in several very severe illnesses, but never, in sickness
or at other times, has his brain shown the slightest cloudiness or suffered from
any delusion. I not only consider that he believed what he stated, but I think
that those who knew him best would not for an instant doubt that all he stated
were facts and words of truth. Sincerely yours, WM. G. JOHNSON."

In another letter Dr. Johnson says :

"He was a most lovable character; kind and generous in his every action ;
and with a fund of information on most subjects which made him a most
welcome guest."

Dr. Eve, headmaster of University College School, writes as follows to
Professor Sidgwick:

LONDON, W.C., March i8M, 1893.

"My DEAR SIDGWICK, Stainton Moses was an excellent colleague. He
confined himself entirely to English ; in that subject he took classes in all
parts of the school, and his work was always well and methodically done.
He taught essay-writing well, and was very skilful in appreciating the relative
value of boys' essays, which is not easy. He was much looked up to by boys,
and had considerable influence over them. On general points connected with
the management of the school he was one of the colleagues to whom I most
naturally turned for advice, and I have every reason to be grateful to him.
Yours very sincerely, H. W. EVE.

5 88 APPENDICES [946 A

Mr. F. W. Levander, a master at University College School, writes to
me thus :

LONDON, W.C., May i(>tk, 1893.

" DEAR SIR, My acquaintance with the late W. Stainton Moses com-
menced in the year 1871, when he first became one of the masters here.
This acquaintance soon extended beyond the nature of that generally met
with between colleagues ; it ripened into a constantly increasing friendship,
which continued unbroken until his death. During the whole of this long
period he always impressed me with the idea that he was thoroughly
earnest and conscientious, and I believe that perfect reliance can be placed
on all his statements. Yours faithfully, F. W. LEVANDER."

I have often heard Mr. Moses discussed by persons of opinions opposed
to his own ; and since I owe it to my readers to make the present paper not
merely eulogistic, but as accurately descriptive as my materials allow, I feel
bound to reproduce adverse criticisms. I have, then, heard him, in his later
years, characterised as an obstinate, confused, and irritable controversialist.
I have heard him described as lacking in the grace of humility, and in that
spirituality of tastes and character which should seem appropriate to one living
much in the commerce of the Unseen. But I have never heard any one who
had even the slightest acquaintance with Mr. Moses impugn his sanity or his
sincerity, his veracity or his honour.

946 A. From the preface to Spirit Teachings, by W. Stainton Moses.

The communications which form the bulk of this volume were received
by the process known as automatic or passive writing. This is to be distin-
guished from Psychography. In the former case the psychic holds the pen
or pencil, or places his hand upon the planchette, and the message is
written without the conscious intervention of his mind. In the latter case the
writing is direct, or is obtained without the use of the hand of the psychic, and
sometimes without the aid of pen or pencil.

Automatic writing is a well-known method of communication with the
invisible world of what we loosely call Spirit. I use that word as the most
intelligible to my readers, though I am well aware that I shall be told that I
ought not to apply any such term to many of the unseen beings who com-
municate with earth, of whom we hear much and often as being the reliquice
of humanity, the shells of what were once men. It is no part of my business
to enter into this ghost question. My interlocutors call themselves spirits,
perhaps because I so call them, and spirits they are to me for my present

These messages began to be written through my hand just ten years since
March 3oth, 1873 about a year after my first introduction to Spiritualism.
I had had many communications before, and this method was adopted for the
purpose of convenience, and also to preserve what was intended to be a
connected body of teaching. The laborious method of rapping out messages
was manifestly unfitted for communications such as those which I here print.
If spoken through the lips of the medium in trance they were partially lost,
and it was moreover impossible at first to rely upon such a measure of mental
passivity as would preserve them from admixture with his ideas. I procured
a pocket-book which I habitually carried about with me. I soon found that


writing flowed more easily when I used a book that was permeated with the
psychic aura ; just as raps come more easily on a table that has been fre-
quently used for the purpose, and as phenomena occur most readily in the
medium's own room.

At first the writing was very small and irregular, and it was necessary
for me to write slowly and cautiously, and to watch the hand, following the
lines with my eye; otherwise the message soon became incoherent, and the
result was mere scribble. In a short time, however, I found that I could dis-
pense with these precautions. The writing, while becoming more and more
minute, became at the same time very regular and beautifully formed. As
a specimen of caligraphy some of the pages are exceedingly beautiful. The
answers to my questions (written at the top of the page) were paragraphed
and arranged as if for the press, and 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.

The earliest communications were all written in the minute characters that
I have described, and were uniform in style and in the signature, " Doctor, the
Teacher," nor have his messages ever varied during all the years that he has
written. Whenever and wherever he wrote, his handwriting was unchanged,
showing indeed less change than my own does during the last decade. The
tricks of style remained the same, and there was, in short, a sustained indi-
viduality throughout his messages. He is to me an entity, a personality, a
being with his own idiosyncrasies and characteristics quite as clearly defined
as the human beings with whom I come in contact, if indeed I do not do him
injustice by the broad comparison.

After a time, communications came from other sources, and these were
distinguished each by its own handwriting, and by its own peculiarities of style
and expression. These, once assumed, were equally invariable. I could tell at
once who was writing by the mere characteristics of the caligraphy.

By degrees, I found that many spirits who were unable to influence my
hand themselves sought the aid of a spirit " Rector," who was apparently able
to write more freely and with less strain on me ; for writing by a spirit unac-
customed to the work was often incoherent, and always resulted in a serious
drain upon my vital powers. They did not know how easily the reserve of
force was exhausted, and I suffered proportionately.

Moreover, the writing of the spirit who thus became a sort of amanuensis
was fluent and easy to decipher, whereas that of many spirits was cramped,
archaic in form, and frequently executed with difficulty, and almost i
So it came to pass, as a matter of ordinary course, " Rector " wrote, but when
a spirit came for the first time, or when it was desired to emphasise a communi-
cation, the spirit responsible for the message wrote for himself.


It must not be assumed, however, that all messages proceeded from one
solitary inspiration. In the case of the majority of the communications printed
in this volume this is so. The volume is a record during which " Impera-
tor" was alone concerned with me, though, as he never attempted writing,
" Rector " acted as his amanuensis. At other times, and especially since that
time, communications have apparently proceeded from a company of asso-
ciated spirits, who have used their amanuensis for the purpose of their mes-
sage. This was increasingly the case during the last five years that I received
these communications.

The circumstances under which the messages were written were infinitely
varied. As a rule it was necessary that I should be isolated, and the more
passive my mind the more easy the communications. But I have received
messages under all sorts of conditions. At first they came with difficulty, but
soon the mechanical method appeared to be mastered, and page after page was
covered with matter of which the specimens contained in this book will enable
the public to judge.

What is now printed has been subjected to revision by a method similar to
that by which it was first written. Originally published in the Spiritualist
newspaper, the messages have been revised, but not substantially altered by
those who first wrote them. When the publication in the Spiritualist was
commenced, I had no sort of idea of doing what is now being done. Friends
desired specimens to be published, and the selection was made without any
regard to continuity. I was governed only by a desire to avoid the publication
of what was of personal interest only, and I, perforce, excluded much that
involved allusion to those still living, whom I had no right to drag into print.
I disliked printing personal matter relating to myself; I had, obviously, no
right to print that which concerned others. Some of the most striking and
impressive communications have thus been excluded, and what is printed
must be regarded as a mere sample of what cannot see the light now, and
which must be reserved for consideration at a remote period, when I and those
concerned can no longer be aggrieved by its publication.

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 regu-

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 78 of 89)