According to psychologists the great mediums of the past century share similarities with patients afflicted with a pathological condition known as dissociative, or multiple, personality. Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde

Scientists first described in 1815 and it was brought to everyone's attention by Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel about the normal Dr. Jekyll and his monstrous alter ego, Mr. Hyde. Multiple personality is the displacement of a person's principle identity by another personality with completely different characteristics. The alternation of personalities is beyond conscious control, and the victim has no memory of what the secondary personality says or does. This personality disorder often occurs in the wake of a severe emotional shock - the death of a parent or a lost love - and the victim represses memories and feelings of loss. Sometimes there are symptoms before the new personality emerges, insomnia, amnesia or headaches, for example.

One of the first mediums to be studied in any detail by psychologists was Helene Smith, who joined a seance circle in Geneva in 1891. It was not long before members of the sitting circle found she had strange powers. tables moved, she predicted the future, and picked up information by telepathy. What really interested psychologists of the day was her deep voice of a spirit named Leopold who spoke through the medium while she was in a trance state. Leopold said that he had been Count Alessandro Cagliostro, 18th century alchemist and a friend of Marie Antoinette. In later trances, Smith revealed that she was the reincarnation of the French queen.

Helene was a very beautiful 30 year old woman, and she fascinated audiences as she acted out dramatic scenes with performers visible only to her. On other occasions, Ms. Smith would become Simandini, alternately a 6th century Arab princess or the 15th century bride of a Hindu prince. Smith also spoke in a language she told us she learned on the planet Mars.

Martian language Another example of a medium with multiple personalities was Pearl Curran of St. Louis. She was apparently a normal sort of woman, until her mother and friend were experimenting with a Ouija board that jerked and moved about by itself, spelling out this message from the beyond, "Many months ago I lived. Again I come - Patience Worth is my name." It soon became clear that Patience, who said that she was a Quaker born in 17th century England, was channeling through Pearl Curran. Soon a torrent of messages began coming through Pearl, and her husband wrote them down as fast as he could manage. This incredible creative output of plays, poems and even novels were soon being read by an attentive audience all over the U.S.

Psychologist Charles Cory who had some experience with dissociative personality, was intrigued by Curran and would often go to her seances. In his opinion Patience Worth was the secondary personality of an intelligent, sensitive woman who had repressed her creative gift until she at last had found a creative outlet. He knew her education was inadequate to explain the wealth of historical detail in her stories, but he insisted that she still have unconsciously absorbed the knowledge the knowledge required for works set in periods as diverse as 1st century Palestine and medieval England.

Walter Franklin Pierce of the American Society for Psychical Research challenged the psychologist's diagnosis. He argued that before 1913 Curran had never shown the symptoms of classical dissociative personality disorder, which include amnesia or a traumatic event that could have triggered the onset of multiple personalities. Prince also doubted that an individual so poorly educated and uninterested in history and literature could have possibly learned so much by by an unconscious process. The famous parapsychologist (then known as psychical researchers) thought that there was "respectable evidence" in this case for the survival of spirits. Of course the medium herself firmly believed that the Quaker was a genuine spirit control.


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