According to psychologists the great mediums of the past century share similarities
with patients afflicted with a pathological condition known as dissociative, or
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.
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.