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Whitton, Dr Joel - The Philip Experiment

Identifier

026262

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

he Philip experiment was a 1972 parapsychology experiment conducted in Toronto, Ontario to determine whether subjects can communicate with fictionalized ghosts through expectations of human will.

The experiment was conducted by the mathematician A. R. G. Owen and overseen by psychologist Dr. Joel Whitton. The test group consisted of A. R. G.'s wife Iris Owen, former chairperson of MENSA in Canada Margaret Sparrows, industrial designer Andy H., his wife Lorne, heating engineer Al Peacock, accountant Bernice M, bookkeeper Dorothy O’Donnel, and sociology student Sidney K.

Their goals were to create a fictional character through a purposeful methodology and then "attempt" to communicate with it through séance. The character created and agreed upon was named "Philip Aylesford", referred to as Philip during the test. His fictional history partially coincided with actual events and places. He was born in 1624 in England, had an early military career and was knighted by the age of sixteen. He was involved in the English Civil War and became personal friends with Charles II, working for him as a spy. Philip was unhappily married to a woman named Dorothea and later fell in love with a Gypsy girl who was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. In despair, Philip committed suicide in 1654 at the age of thirty.

Participants began feeling a presence, table vibrations, breezes, unexplained echoes, and rapping sounds which matched responses to questions about Philip's life. At one point the table tilted on a single leg.

Dr Whitton was thus part of this experiment.  The psychokinesis may have been disembodied spirits, whereas the answered questions seem to have been simple telepathy between themselves.  Nothing was conjured here, an entity wasn't created, on the other hand they did seem to attract another spirit which helpfully provided information they didn't know.

A description of the experience

Video of the Philip Experiment from the early 1970s.

The Philip experiment

In the 1970's, a group of Canadian parapsychologists wanted to attempt an experiment to create a ghost, proving their theory that the human mind can produce spirits through expectation, imagination and visualization.

The actual experiment took place in Toronto, Canada, in 1972, under the direction of the world-renown expert on poltergeists, Dr A. R. G. Owen.

The members of the experiment proposed an idea... by using extreme and prolonged concentration, they could create their ghost through a collective thought form: Non-physical entities which exist in either the mental or astral plane. In order to create this ghost and make it as 'real' as possible, it needed a life story; a background in which the ghost could 'relate' to.

They named the ghost they were attempting to bring into focus "Philip Aylesford" and created a tragic story, explaining to the fullest and in great detail, his life, and the few actions that lead to his tragic death.

Step two was contacting Philip. In September 1972, the group began their "sittings" and after some initial problems the group attempted to duplicate the atmosphere of a classic spiritualist séance. They dimmed the room's lights, sat around a table and surrounded themselves with pictures of the type of castle they imagined Philip would have lived in, as well as objects from that time period.

Within a few weeks, Philip made contact. Although he did not manifest in spiritual form, appearing as an apparition or ghost, he did make contact through a brief rap on the group's table. "Philip" answered questions that were consistent with his fictitious history, but was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived. However, "Philip" did give other historically accurate information about real events and people. The Owen group theorized that this latter information came from their own collective unconsciousness.

The sessions took off from there, producing a range of phenomena that could not be explained scientifically. His "spirit" was able to move the table, sliding it from side to side. On more than one occasion, the table chased someone across the room. All hands were clear of the table when this occurred.

In conclusion the experimenters were never able to prove the 'how' and the 'why' behind Philip's manifestation. Was Philip a direct result of the group's collective subconscious or perhaps did they conjure an actual entity that simply latched onto the story?

While some would conclude that they prove that ghosts don't exist, that such things are in our minds only, others say that our unconscious could be responsible for this kind of the phenomena some of the time.

Another point of view is that even though Philip was completely fictional, the Owen group really did contact the spirit world. A playful (or perhaps demonic, some would argue) spirit took the opportunity of these séances to 'act' as Philip and produce the extraordinary psychokinetic phenomena recorded.

Whatever caused the manifestation it seems that it adapted itself to the expectation of the audience, playing the role of the spirit they intended to contact. Since all was based on fiction it could not be the spirit of Philip so what else could it be?

The source of the experience

Whitton, Dr Joel

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References