When Raymond Lodge went to the front in WWI, his father was already a well-known and respected physicist. Sir Oliver Lodge was a pioneer when it came to studying electromagnetic radiation and the development of radio technology. He was also a member of the Society of Psychical Research, an organization filled with scholars and scientists whose mission was to study and ascertain whether or not popular spiritualist ideas were fact or fiction. Already by the 1890s, original skeptical members of the Society were becoming true believers as they rigorously studied various mediums throughout the UK and America. Though many mediums were considered frauds, charlatans, and total tricksters, careful protocols such as proxy sitters, or appearing for a reading as an anonymous sitter (no name or information given about one’s self), in addition to cross corresponding spirit information through more than one medium (without the mediums even being aware of the corroboration amongst themselves) and conducting tests with the spirit communicators moved many from theoretical conjecture to ardent believer. It can be said that Sir Oliver was already in this camp when his son Raymond was killed on the battlefield in September 1915.
Instead of grieving his son’s death in the way we typically do, he took it as a way to continue the exploration and evidence gathering for spiritual survival. It became a family affair, as his wife and children also connected with mediums and other séance devices in an effort to either refute or accept Raymond’s survival in another reality. (It should be noted, prior to Raymond’s death, Sir Oliver’s other children didn’t pay much attention to their father’s fascination with spiritualism. Only until their own personal tragedy did they even entertain the idea and entered the fray as cautious yet open-minded skeptics).
Sir Oliver Lodge documented the whole journey in his 1916 bestselling book “Raymond, or Life and Death” (available on Amazon). It is an absolutely fascinating read, as he introduces us to who Raymond was – using Raymond’s own words from correspondence at the front. Then he dovetails into his son’s death and subsequent research by contacting several mediums. Through this second section, he gives actual word-for-word notes of each sitting, putting the reader right in the middle of the readings. Though he occasionally omits certain fragments, he offers good reason for their omissions – and as a trained and celebrated scientist, there is no reason for us to believe anything that was removed has tainted the rest of the information provided.
As I said, it’s a fascinating journey, as he chronicles the readings also experienced by other members of his family. They would typically come to a session anonymously, yet the medium would announce Raymond by name and his relation to them. Raymond would also speak about subjects through multiple mediums – a form of cross-correspondence which makes the notion of fraud even less tenuous (how can a spirit reference the same subject through two separate mediums if he were fake?). Even more so, the family would “test” Raymond – asking him pointed questions about past memories, to which Raymond, on occasion, would give them an answer they weren’t expecting but would later find out to not only be true, but delivered in the manner and style the living Raymond would have suggested it.
The goal for Sir Oliver Lodge in writing this book was to inspire the reader to the possibility of survival. Considering his background and stature, we as readers should take it seriously. The treatise definitely offers many such opportunities through all the detailed readings. The most convincing relates to a photograph. I offer it here as one of the many examples given in the book, and is quite possibly the strongest – suggesting that, indeed, we had evidence well over 100 years ago for personal survival.
Raymond was killed on September 14, 1915. Thirteen days later, Sir Oliver’s wife attended a session with a medium known by the surname of Peters. He stated that “You have several portraits of this boy… one where he is in a group of other men. He is particular that I should tell you of this. In one you see his walking-stick.” Now at the time, the Lodge family had not seen nor were they aware of any group photograph.
Two months later, a letter arrived from a Mrs. Cheves, mother of Captain Cheves, who knew Raymond. In this letter she declared “My son, who is M.O. to the 2nd South Lancs, has sent us a photograph of a group of officers taken in August, and I wondered whether you knew of this photo and had a copy.” Naturally, they requested a copy of the picture; however it took another several weeks before it actually arrived.
In the interim, on December 3rd Sir Oliver had a sitting with the medium Mrs. Osborne Leonard. Sir Oliver asked Raymond’s spirit about a photograph he had mentioned elsewhere. Through Mrs. Leonard, Raymond correctly replied that the news wasn’t delivered through the table (This was correct, as several sittings had also been done through table-tipping, an old-style traditional spiritualist mode of conducting a séance). Raymond then went on to describe the photograph to Mrs. Leonard’s spirit guide control, stating “Some were raised up round; he was sitting down, and some were raised up at the back of him. Some were standing, and some were sitting.” He also gave the first initials of several of the men standing around him.
The information continued to pour in. “He remembers that somebody wanted to lean on him… The last what he gave you, what were a B (initial of first name), will be rather prominent in the photograph. It wasn’t taken in a photographer’s place.” Sir Oliver pressed this last bit, asking if it was out-of-doors. Mrs. Leonard responded “Practically… At the back he shows me lines going down. It looks like a black background, with lines at the back of them.” At this, she kept drawing vertical lines in the air.
On December 6, Lady Lodge had been looking up Raymond’s diary, which had finally been returned from the front. In the entry for August 24th, a note was recorded “Photo taken.”
The photograph was finally delivered on December 7th. The number of people in the photograph was twenty-one. In it, several were standing, and others were sitting. As stated by Mrs. Leonard, Raymond was indeed sitting. In addition, the person standing behind him was leaning on him, just as reported in the session. The walking-stick mentioned in the sitting with Peters was also present, resting on Raymond’s legs. The background, for the most part, matched what came through – the roof of the shack had prominent vertical lines. As to the one labeled “B” as most prominent… Sir Oliver showed the photograph to several people and asked who they felt stood out in the group. Except as regards the central position, a well-lighted figure on the right was most usually pointed to. His name: Captain S.T. Boast.
Here is the photograph:
Raymond is seen second from the right, seated. On his ankle rests the walking stick, and the gentleman behind him is absolutely resting his arm on his shoulder. Captain Boast is the man standing on the far right, the one with the most light shining on him (thus the mention of prominence). It is out-of-doors, as described. Five months later, Captain Boast sent a second photograph, showing even more detail that confirms what came through. Notice how the man behind is leaning on Raymond even more than before, and the vertical lines of the hut are more greatly pronounced.
As mentioned earlier, the spirit of Raymond came through many different mediums during the Lodge family’s experiments. In one table-tipping sitting that lasted only 10 minutes, Alec Lodge asked Raymond to mention “Honolulu” through Mrs. Leonard, who lived a long ways away. Subsequently, at the sitting with Mrs. Leonard at 1 P.M. that same day, attended by Raymond’s brother, Lionel, and sister, Norah (who had no knowledge of the table-tipping session or the experiment), Mrs. Leonard’s spirit guide blurted out on behalf of Raymond “How is Alec? He does not always see who is at the table; he feels some more than others.” This suggests that Raymond was referring to the table session just an hour ago with his living brother. Then the subject of music came up with Norah, to which Mrs. Leonard on behalf of Raymond said “He wanted to know whether you could play Hulu – Honolulu. He is rolling with laughter (meaning that he’s pleased about something).” Indeed! The test was a success!
There are many such tests and wonderfully validated information Raymond’s spirit brought through – including being on the Other Side with two siblings who passed in childbirth, mentioning them by name and in the birth order, who had since grown up in spirit since passing.
Of course, the book is not without its detractors. But it’s all the usual stuff the skeptics trot out – “cold reading, subjective bias, or the medium knew the facts beforehand.” In Part 3, Sir Oliver tackles each of these concerns and how they completely fall short of the evidence. Indeed, such criticism falls flat when it comes to cross correspondence information, attending certain mediums without giving their names, the pointed details the mediums had no way of knowing about (and in some cases, the Lodge family had to investigate to corroborate). What’s more – how do you describe a photograph months before it even arrived?
The efforts Sir Oliver and his family went through to document this endeavor was (and most likely still is) unprecedented. They demonstrated incredible thoughtfulness, questioning authenticity throughout, paid enormous attention to detail, and (dare I say) scientific scrutiny to determine whether or not Raymond had survived his death on the battlefield and was still living on, interacting and remaining an integral part of the family. His story is just one of many (the other being George Pellew through the medium Mrs. Piper, as well as the SPR Cross-Correspondences) which – with open-minded inquiry and examination – shows that we knew with a high degree of reliability, the answer to the survival question. We do go on. And Raymond’s story shows that we knew well over 100 years ago.