Varley, C F - 02 Experiments in spiritualism
Type of spiritual experience
We do not believe that any of these bodies were 'dead', but were out of body travellers
A description of the experience
Cromwell Varley FRS, electrical discharge and Victorian spiritualism - Richard Noakes
Varley's approach to testing mediums and their ‘spirits’ illustrates his belief that the expertise and resources that he had used in constructing successful electric telegraphs would also help him understand the ‘spiritual’ telegraph.
In his view he had exactly the kind of knowledge and skills needed to determine the veracity and nature of distant beings trying to communicate via some kind of telegraph, and the knowledge to appreciate how different the world might look from the perspective of the imponderable agents sending the signal or constituting the channel of communication.
For instance, in 1869 he explained how his knowledge of electricity made it easier to accept claims that immaterial or spiritual entities could have material attributes, such as the enormously puzzling observation that 'spirits of the dead' were clothed:
An iron wire is to an electrician simply a hole bored through a solid rock of air so that the electricity may pass freely. Glass is opaque to electricity, but transparent to magnetism. Therefore we infer that everything is solid in respect to something, and that nothing is solid in respect to all things, and therefore thought, which is power, may be in some sort solid, so that if you take an old English farmer, for instance, he would be ashamed to be seen without his top boots, his coat with the buttons, and his hat. They are part of his identity, he cannot think of himself without them; they form part of his nature, and the moment he leaves his body and becomes a thought man, the thought boots, the thought coat and the thought hat form part of his individuality.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: John Bryant