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Lethbridge, Thomas Charles

Category: Explorer or adventurer

 

Thomas Charles Lethbridge (23 March 1901 – 30 September 1971), better known as T.C. Lethbridge, was an English archaeologist, investigator of spiritual phenomenon and explorer of the physical.

A specialist in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, he served as honorary Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology from 1923 to 1957, and over the course of his lifetime wrote twenty-four books on various subjects, becoming particularly well known for his explanations and research into dowsing.

Lethbridge was lucky to have been born into a wealthy family, it gave him an independence of which he took advantage to good effect.  At almost every stage of his career, he ignored dogma and orthodoxy – science as religion – and described what he had found by meticulous and unbiased observation. 

An anonymously authored obituary in The Antiquaries Journal referred to "the strength and honesty of Lethbridge's character as a man, and the singleness of purpose that united all his work, as experimental testing of what he found by observation".

and

The death of T. C. Lethbridge in the early autumn of last year took away from us a man who ….. throughout his life kept an open mind and avoided confusing majority opinion with truth." — Glyn Daniel, 1972.

One interesting aspect of Lethbridge is that it is clear that his theories were way beyond his time. 

We have not covered his work with the pendulum as a dowsing tool in too much detail, as his books need to be read to understand his work, but it is clear he discovered something exceptional and if the academics had been a bit less narrow minded, some of his work is on a par with the truly great scientists – the Faradays and Bose’s.  It deserves to be revisited.

  Lethbridge as explorer/adventurer

Like many truly gifted people, Lethbridge is somewhat difficult to classify, he had all the attributes of a true scientist [a very rare breed] – open-minded, observant, curious, and able to record and then communicate his ideas.  He was also a most successful explorer and adventurer.  But it is because we believe Lethbridge was a true adventurer – an adventurer of the physical world and a true explorer of the spiritual and how it works, that we have placed him in the category of explorer.  He was brave in the pursuit of both.

 

In 1921, Lethbridge was part of an expedition to visit Jan Mayen island in the Arctic Circle, alongside fellow Cambridge students James Chaworth-Musters and William Syer Bristowe and a don from St. John's College, Cambridge, the geologist James Wordie. The Norwegian expedition was led by Hagbord Ekerold and accompanied by Swiss mountaineer and glaciologist Paul Louis Mercanton. The expedition set sail from Bratvaag aboard two ships in August 1921, and upon arriving at Jan Mayen they became the first team to successfully climb the Beerenberg. During the expedition, Lethbridge was also able to explore his growing interest in archaeology by excavating an abandoned Eskimo settlement. The Times recognised the expedition as the mountaineering event of the year.

In the summer of 1923, he became part of a party, mostly composed of young men from Cambridge who had just taken their degrees, attempting to go to East Greenland in a chartered Norwegian sealing ship, to do some research work in what was at that time a little known piece of country. The trip was not without incident:

ESP Beyond Time and Distance

As it happened, we encountered the heaviest pack-ice for many years and, after dodging about in the lanes between the ice-flows for weeks, we were eventually forced to turn tail and run for the open sea. This prolonged delay in the middle of the ice, put a strain on our food supplies, which had not been designed for such an eventuality. We lived for much of the time on the meat of polar-bears, which were shot from the deck. I did not like the proceeding, which seemed worse to me than shooting dogs. But a man must eat.
One day an indifferent shot wounded a bear which, roaring terribly, attempted to amble away over the ice. Of course I joined the party which gave chase to it. You cannot leave an animal in pain.
As I was running over the ice-floe, I trod on a rotten patch and fell straight through into the polar sea. At one moment I was running on a solid surface with no thought except how best to round up the bear; at the next I was in an icy death-trap. I do not remember experiencing the slightest fear, but I do recall the indignant surprise. On the four or five other occasions when I have been very nearly drowned, it was much the same, but not so sudden, nor so cold.

 

 

In the late 20s and early 30s, Lethbridge devoted much of his spare time to yachting around the British Isles, [in the days when yachting really was an adventure] sometimes taking family members with him. Over the course of the 1930s he self-published a series of books featuring his own sketches and engravings of maritime scenes.

In 1937, Lethbridge was part of an expedition to North West Greenland to investigate cosmic radiation at high latitudes and great altitudes. He was one of a team of ten men.  Setting sail in June 1937, Lethbridge undertook excavations of Eskimo sites at Rhyder Island, Cary Island, North West Island, and Isbjörn Island. On returning home in October 1937, it was decided that various geographical features encountered would be named after team members, and thus two lakes on Baffin Island were named the Lethbridge Lakes. During the trip, Lethbridge became particularly interested in the design of Eskimo boats, resulting in the self-publication of his 11-page booklet, Umiak – the European Ancestry of the 'Women's Boat', in 1937. He followed this with a second book, The Fishermen of Durness (1938), in which he argued that a study of contemporary traditional fishing communities could inform archaeologists more about ancient boat-making and fishing.

As the Second World War loomed, the British Admiralty commissioned Lethbridge to undertake a reconnaissance mission to Iceland to analyse German naval activity around the country, which he carried out in summer 1939. Lethbridge used the mission to visit sites that interested him, such as locations mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. Back in Britain, he self-published a short volume discussing his Icelandic journey, News from Tili.

 Archaeological work

At the outbreak of the First World War, aged 13, Lethbridge was sent to Wellington College in Berkshire and in October 1921 he enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, intent on studying geology and geography. Whilst still very young, he had developed a passion for archaeology, entomology, and ornithology, as well as drawing.  He was an avid collector of fossils, skulls, bone, rocks and in fact anything ‘interesting’.  His houses were later full of stuff in boxes which might have been neglected for years, but which he remembered and always knew their contents.  But he found university to be exactly the opposite of what he expected, as many do who are genuinely interested in a subject.  Geology as taught at Cambridge was "crushingly dull", he rarely attended lectures as a consequence but despite this, he graduated [with a third class BA] in June 1923.

 

During his student years, Lethbridge frequented the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, where he had befriended its curator, Louis Clarke. Upon Lethbridge's graduation, Clarke offered him the honorary position of Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the museum. Lethbridge took up the voluntary and unpaid post, being able to subsist on his family's finances.

In his capacity as Keeper, Lethbridge carried out excavations at various sites around Britain. His claims regarding the existence of Iron Age hill figures on Wandlebury Hill in Cambridgeshire caused significant controversy within the archaeological community, with most archaeologists believing that Lethbridge had erroneously misidentified a natural feature. He hadn't.  Lethbridge's methodology and theories were widely deemed ‘unorthodox’, and in turn he became increasingly critical of the archaeological profession.

In many ways, Lethbridge came up against the same problems that just about every other open minded researcher has experienced with academia.  Academics are the opposite, they are in the end the theologians of a new religion – the religion of ‘science’- and archaeology is in this context just another science. 

ESP Beyond Time and Distance

…… if [people] can be bothered to [get to the end of this book] they will see that all that we are finding out now is not really new. The facts were known to many men, in many lands, and through many ages. It is only during the last 100 years or so that they have become obscured. Men in the Stone Age apparently knew more about the real meaning of life than the most erudite professor of science today. If this is not just as great a shock as falling through a hole into the polar sea, then nothing is. For we were brought up and conditioned to believe that science either knew all the answers, or was just about to find them. It seems clear now that a huge slice of knowledge has been left out.

 

A map of the 'Egg' from Robert Fludd - a healer mystic of the 1500s.  This is the
pattern used for all stone and wood henges, with concentric rings leading to an inner
sanctum.  Lethbridge was able to see these connections between the spiritual
landscape and the sacred landscapes.

Over the course of his career at the museum, Lethbridge produced 60 archaeological reports, written in an ‘unusually informal manner’ that used humour and wit and included narrative descriptions of the excavation process.

One thing that marks Lethbridge out as a researcher, is that at no time did he dismiss the beliefs of the past as ‘superstition’ or the wild imaginings of an ignorant peoples.

ESP Beyond Time and Distance

Early people knew far more than they are given credit for, because they were much better observers than people are today. They had to be. All through the millennia of prehistoric times a man who was not a good observer had little chance of survival. Some extra faculty in the more natural state of early man [also] informed him of the [spiritual].

 

In other words we have been declining as a species not ascending, we are sinking into a pit of ignorance that has actually never been so great as now. 

ESP Beyond Time and Distance

There is no evidence that men are any more intelligent today than they were 10,000 years ago. In fact, from the way they go on, it might be inferred that they are far less intelligent. So it appears that some interest at least should be taken in what was, not long ago, assumed to be proved fact.  Who really knows that our ancestors may not have been right

 

Mildenhall treasure great dish british museum.  Another depiction of the Egg.  In
the days when these artefacts were produced there was an harmonious set of beliefs
and representations in all art works and in the sacred geography. 

As war broke out, Lethbridge organised the transfer of much of the museum's collections to Balsham Caves for safe keeping, while also becoming a warden of the Air Raid Precautions. He also led the rescue excavation of ten prehistoric tumuli that were being destroyed to enable the construction of Snailwell Airfield for the Royal Air Force.

Lethbridge continued his archaeological investigations, excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Lackford on Cavenham Heath, and involving himself in the investigation of the newly unearthed Mildenhall Treasure, being the individual responsible for locating its probable discovery spot.  It is rarely mentioned in academic circles, but Lethbridge discovered many of the artefacts and sites by dowsing.   Thus the efficacy of dowsing was witnessed by many academics, but as he said afterwards, they would never admit openly to have done so, a type of dishonesty, which in scientific terms is unforgivable.

He was among the first to take an interest in the cemeteries of the Mid Anglo-Saxon period, believing that the lack of 'pagan' objects such as weapons reflected the fact that those buried in two seventh-century cemeteries were among the earliest Anglo-Saxon Christians.

Symbolically the Egg with its concentric rings - Wandlebury hill

Lethbridge's next major project focused on searching for a chalk hill figure that was reported to have once existed on Wandlebury Hill in the Gog Magog Downs, Cambridgeshire. Towards the end of 1954 he began investigating the site, using dowsing pendulums to determine where he believed the turf had once been removed to expose the chalk below.   Dowsing using pendulums can not only identify the type of materials below ground, but can also identify human activity.  As a consequence of his pendulum and dowsing work he stated that he thought that three large figures, a warrior, a hooded goddess, and a sun god, likely to be 3000 years old, were there.  He then began excavation to remove the turf and reveal the figures.

 

Needless to say, an archaeologist who uses pendulums and divining rods did not get support from the archaeological community.  The Council for British Archaeology brought together a committee to assess Lethbridge's findings, composed of I. W. Cornwall, W. F. Grimes, Christopher Hawkes, and Stuart Piggott. The committee concluded that the shapes Lethbridge had discovered were “natural, having been formed during the last Ice Age”.

Hawkes disagreed with his colleagues, but was overruled.  In May 1957, the Egyptologist Margaret Murray involved herself in the Gogmagog debate, championing Lethbridge's ideas against the academic fraternity in a letter she sent to The Times. W. F. Grimes responded by claiming that she “was out of touch with contemporary scholarship”. Dogma.

Lethbridge stuck by his original ideas, and wrote a book aimed at a general audience, Gogmagog – The Buried Gods.

Lethbridge became increasingly critical of the academic and professional archaeological community, believing that an attitude of what he called "trade unionism" had caused most archaeologists to reject independent thought. In the end, the closed minds and hostility of the academic community wore Lethbridge down and he resigned from the university museum in 1957.  From that point he decided to research the area in which he had become the most interested and became an explorer of the spiritual. 

Exploration of the spiritual

 

Lethbridge's first major book away from academia and towards more spiritual and historical subjects was published in 1948, Merlin's Island: Essays on Britain in the Dark Ages, a collection of six essays on various elements of Early Medieval Britain. It was aimed at a popular rather than academic audience, and although [rather predictably] some academic reviewers were critical, it received much praise from non-academics.  This was followed in 1950 by Herdsman and Hermits: Celtic Seafarers in the Northern Sea, in which he returned to his interest in seafaring and boats. In 1952, Lethbridge published Coast Wise Craft, which again looked at boat building but was aimed at a general rather than specialist readership.

There is a fascinating connection here with another of our true scientists/spiritualists.  That same year, Thames and Hudson published Lethbridge's Boats and Boatmen as part of their "The Past in the Present" series edited by Jacquetta Hawkes.

 

In 1954, Andrew Melrose published Lethbridge's The Painted Men, a book about the Picts of Northern Britain. It was deemed to be his last conventional book within the archaeological and academic community.

Stone Tape theory

As a result of his archaeological work and also his own observations Lethbridge came up with a theory which is now known as the Stone Tape theory.  On this site we have come to much the same conclusions, although we have elaborated it a bit more because we have access to more observations. 

We have determined that hallucinations are an overlay of ‘spiritual input’ from either ‘beyond the mind’ or from the mind itself, over the sensory input being received.  When it is beyond the mind, it may well come from the stored perceptions of other things.  In effect, although only certain objects have a memory, everything has perceptions and it is possible to tap into those perceptions when one is in the right frame of mind.  Thus the so called ‘memory’, more correctly perceptions, of stones in particular or any crystalline matter can produce a play-back of some emotionally charged event.

 

And Lethbridge came to exactly the same conclusions using his own evidence that ‘ghosts’ and ‘hauntings’ are analogous to tape recordings, and that mental impressions released during emotional or traumatic events are "stored" in moist [crystalline] rocks and "replayed" under certain conditions.   

We found that in general there are two kinds of spiritual interaction – one in which this kind of replay occurs and no interaction is possible, and another sort where there is interaction [although symbols are used not words].  Lethbridge concentrated on those incidences where the ‘ghost’ was not a spirit of the deceased, but was simply a non-interactive recording, similar to a movie.  Lethbridge’s  first book on this subject was Ghost and Ghoul, published in 1961.

Incidentally ego and feelings of self importance [the big I am] are the biggest block to any spiritual experience and this is why many academics have not only never seen a ghost, they have never had a spiritual experience of any kind – including inspiration and wisdom.

We personally believe that not having the ability to have any spiritual experience disqualifies any person from being an academic or anyone who professes authority in a subject.  Without wisdom and inspiration, one is effectively a low value stand-alone computer in a world of networks.

Pendulums and dowsing

Robert Fludd's concepts of the creative and healing forces of light
were illustrated by diagrams which are identical in their findings to
Lethbridge's.  Fludd lived in the 1500s and was a healer [and mystic]

His other area of research was in expanding his understanding of the pendulum and in this his findings are somewhat extraordinary. 

Quite separately and alone, not knowing the mystical use of the cone and triangle or the centuries old [millennia old] use of these symbols and concepts in a description of the spiritual realm and how it is organised, he found using his pendulum that every object does indeed have a cone of energy and lies within an hourglass

At the time, this fundamental and quite awe inspiring rediscovery went unnoticed, but he himself, at least, was not ignored.  The BBC filmed a short documentary titled Ghost Hunting with T.C. Lethbridge in May 1964, in which Lethbridge was filmed repeating his pendulum experiences in his garden.

Much of the extended theory of the pendulum was described in Lethbridge's book ESP – Beyond Time and Distance, published in 1965. There is more in the 1966 book A Step in the Dark, thus if one wants to get a grasp of his theories and how well they fit in with all ancient and mystic literature, then these are the two books to read

Private Life

Thomas Charles Lethbridge is an example of how wealth does not necessarily provide an easy life.  It provided him with the means by which to do a great deal, but his private life was dogged by tragedy following tragedy.  Lethbridge’s parents, Violet and her husband Ambrose Lethbridge, were wealthy and lived at Knowle House in Timberscombe, Somerset in south-west England, ‘where they employed seven servants’.  Ambrose had no need to earn a living, and as a gentlemen of "independent means" spent his time engaged in rural hobbies.  T C Lethbridge had a sister Jacintha and a brother Ambrose "Bill" William.  Thomas' father Ambrose contracted tuberculosis at the end of the decade, and died in September 1909, aged 34.  Jacintha and Bill became seriously ill as a result of a flu pandemic; the former survived but Bill died in March.

In February 1924, aged 22, Lethbridge married Sylvia Robertson, a clergyman’s daughter, in a ceremony held at Salisbury Cathedral. They had two children.  Sylvia suffered from mental illness, resulting in repeated hospitalisation and had numerous affairs with various men.  The couple divorced in June 1943, and in November Lethbridge sold his then home Mount Blow to pay a settlement to Sylvia.

Charles had begun an affair with Sylvia's younger cousin Mina, during this traumatic period and he married Mina in July 1944 at Oban.  Together they moved from Cambridge to a farm on the Scottish island of Kerrera. But the couple found life on Kerrera too isolated and soon returned to Cambridge.

In January 1948, Lethbridge received word that his son Hugh had committed suicide after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder during his time in the armed forces.

 

After his resignation from academia, in late 1957, Lethbridge moved away from Cambridge and relocated to Branscombe in southern Devon.  He and Mina set up home in Hole House, a fortified building that dated to the Early Modern period.  Lethbridge found that Hole House was haunted, describing unexplained noises and smells there; it was this that increased his interest in the paranormal, and he decided to devote much of his time to investigating such phenomena in a scientific manner.  Mina, incidentally helped him a great deal in his research.

In 1966, Lethbridge first began struggling against heart disease.  Lethbridge's heart condition worsened, to the extent that he was unable to attend his mother's funeral in 1970. He eventually required 24-hour care, and was transferred to Nuffield Hospital in Exeter, where he soon became delirious before dying in his sleep on 30 September 1971, aged 70. His body was interned at the family plot in Haytesbury, Wiltshire.

As the Branscombe house was owned by the Lethbridge Family Trust, Mina was forced to move out after her husband's death, and she sold his belongings out of financial necessity. Mina also collected together Lethbridge's unfinished book with the help of writer Colin Wilson; together they assembled it into publishable form and it was brought out by Routledge in 1976 as The Power of the Pendulum.

I am not sure whether Lethbridge ever met C P Snow, but I am certain that they would have got on like a house on fire if they had, both were definitely singing from the same hymn sheet:

There is really only one study of man, and this should be known as Anthropology. Medical Science, History, Archaeology, Folk Lore and the rest are all branches of the one study. But this present age is one of specialization and all the branches are tending to become so elaborate and, at the same time, so constricted that we are in need of trained middle-men, who have a wide enough grasp of all of them to pull the whole thing together and present it in a readable form to those who wish to learn.

— T.C. Lethbridge, 1962

 A picture of Georgie Yeats' [wife of W B Yeats] intersecting cones.  Georgie's picture was derived from a trance condition, using automatic handwriting, and which Yeats documented in his book 'A Vision'.  We are missing and ignoring too much.  It has to stop.

 

 

 

References

 

The author Colin Wilson devoted part one of his book Mysteries to a discussion of Lethbridge's ideas. And in 2003, a group of admirers of Lethbridge’s work calling themselves "The Sons of T.C. Lethbridge" , with the aid of Colin Wilson and Julian Cope, released A Giant: The Definitive T.C. Lethbridge, a set comprising a booklet and two CDs containing music accompanying discussions of Lethbridge's work.

Terry Welbourn published a biography of Lethbridge in 2011, titled T.C. Lethbridge: The Man who Saw the Future; in it, he expressed his view that the archaeologist was "one of the most remarkable, yet overlooked men of the twentieth century".  And we agree.

A full bibliography of Lethbridge's published books and academic papers is provided in Welbourn's biography.

Year of publication

Title

1931

Recent Excavations in Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk: A Report

1932

Shanty

1933

Some West Country Coasters

1934

From Dublin to Elsinore in a Sailing Ship

1935

North About: Notes on a Passage from the Clyde to the Åland Islands

1936

Short Splices – Some Notes on Ships and Boats

1937

Umiak: The European Ancestry of the 'Women's Boat'

1938

Fishermen of Durness

1939

Notes from Tili

1948

Merlin's Island: Essays on Britain in the Dark Ages

1950

Herdsmen and Hermits: Celtic Seafarers in the Northern Sea

1952

Coastwise Craft

1952

Boats and Boatmen

1954

The Painted Men: A History of the Picts

1957

Gogmagog: The Buried Gods

1961

Ghost and Ghoul

1962

Witches: Investigating an Ancient Religion

1963

Ghost and Divining Rod

1965

ESP: Beyond Time and Distance

1967

A Step in the Dark

1969

The Monkey's Tail: A Study in Evolution and Parapsychology

1972

The Legend of the Sons of God: A Fantasy?

1976

The Power of the Pendulum

1980

The Essential T.C. Lethbridge

Observations

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