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Observations placeholder

Seventeen year old is possessed



Type of Spiritual Experience


This observation is fascinating simply because of the lack of detail given by the writer, the vicar of a London parish who refused to have his name published.  The case could, in theory, be possession or multiple personality.  But I think it may be possession. What are the arguments for possession? 

  • Firstly the onset matches the symptoms described by Mircea Eliade 
  • Secondly, the character is totally different from his own character and he is able to do things that he would have been unable to do as a seventeen year old.  The multiple personality is generally younger than the main personality – split off at a certain age and remaining that age, whilst this soul is older 
  • Thirdly, he comes back completely cured after his visit to the uncle.  Most cases of multiple personality take years of psychoanalysis and help to ‘cure’ as they are caused by abuse which needs to be ‘healed’

Something at home was causing the right conditions but we have no clues, some sort of Angst

A description of the experience

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research volume iv 1876
[from Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death – F W H Myers]

My son was in his seventeenth year attacked by what was said to be cataleptic hysteria.  At their first commencement they were little more than prolonged fainting fits; afterwards, each attack began by his passing in an instant into a state of complete rigidity.  After a time he would rise with a sigh, move about, and speak without the slightest hesitation or incoherency, and thence continue for hours or days, leading an entirely separate existence, not recognising friends or relatives or even the way to his own bedroom, and taking no notice if addressed by his own name, writing letters with another signature, always imagining himself to have arrived at middle age, and alluding to incidents of his imaginary youth, which teemed with echoes of his past reading; he was most courteous and pleasant in his manner, excepting when any doubt was implied as to the accuracy of any statement which he made.

At times all his faculties were in a most excited state.  He would continue for hours playing games of skill with almost preternatural dexterity; he would repeat to the air pages of poetry; and he would play and sing in a wild and original manner, of which he was incapable at other times, quite unconscious of the presence of others and impervious to any interruptions.  In this state he has continued for a week at a time, going out with us to dine with old friends whom, however, he never recognised but treated as new acquaintances.

He always spoke of his parents as far off in some distant Eastern country, in which he himself had been born, and spoke to us (his mother and father) as kind hosts and friends whom he was soon to leave.  Suddenly he would fall to the ground, roll about in convulsive agony with loud groans, and, a little water being poured into his lips, would get up and go on talking about the subject of conversation on which he had been engaged at the time of his seizure [first seizure] and without the slightest remembrance of anything that had passed meanwhile.  These attacks continued every few days for more than two years, during which he was forbidden all kinds of study.  At the age of nineteen we were advised to send him on a voyage, and accordingly he paid a visit to an uncle, a military officer at Madras; from thence he returned in six or seven months quite cured, went up to the University of Cambridge, where he went out in honours and is now at the bar.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps