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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Was It Better Afterlife Evidence Than the "Cross Correspondences"?

The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (funded by the very wealthy businessman Robert Bigelow) recently published a series of prize-winning essays attempting to answer the question of what is the best evidence for life after death. You can read the essays (many of them almost book-length) by going to this page, and you can read my review of some of the long essays on this page. 

Many of the essays mention a case called the "Cross Correspondences" case, which some consider one of the best cases supporting the idea of life after death. I have never got around to the chore of describing such a case,  partially because I regard the case as being so complex that it is very hard for the average person to follow.  The case involves different persons getting little scraps of text by apparently paranormal means, with the scraps supposedly fitting together like pieces of a puzzle, to produce some very convincing result. Unfortunately, the case involves so many subtle and obscure classical references and esoteric literary references and interlocking pieces that it taxes the patience of a reader to try and follow it. 

A much easier case to follow is the case described in Chapter XVIII of the very interesting 633-page book "Psychical and Supernormal Phenomena, Their Observation and Experimentation" by Dr. Paul Joire, which you can read here.  The chapter describes experiments conducted by the Society of Psychic Studies of Nancy, France.  The experiments involved five people at a table, at which was seated a very young medium and also Dr. Joire. Mysterious raps were heard on the table, and attempts were made to query unseen agents. We are told queries were made "using the alphabet as usual," and presumably this was a system by which the alphabet was repeatedly recited and a table rap after a particular letter was counted as standing for a particular letter of the alphabet.  The plan was that experimenters attempted to get as many pieces of factual information they could from these mysterious rap signals, and they then attempted to verify whether there was any truth to the information provided.  

In quite a few cases, the experimenters were able to verify claims made during these seances. Below are some examples.

Bertolf  de  Ghistelles

The question and answer session went like this (I'll give a partial excerpt):

"Question.  Bertolf  must  be  a  Christian  name.  Have  you any  other  name  ?
Answer,  Bertolf  de  Ghistelles.
Q.   Were  you  French  ?
A.  Flemish.
Q,  Will  you  tell  us  the  name  of  the  locality  where  you lived  ?
A,  Dunkerque.
Q.  Have  you  been  a  long  time  in  the  Beyond  ?
A.  Yes.
Q.   In  what  year  did  you  die  ?
A.  In  1081.
Q.   What  were  you  ?
A,  Husband  of  a  Saint.
Q.  Do  you  mean  that  your  wife  is  honoured  as  a  saint, that  she  has  been  canonised  ?
A,  Yes.
Q.   What  was  her  name  ?
A,  Godeleine  de  Wierfroy.     Can  she  forgive  me  ?
Q,   You  did  her  harm  ?
A.  Yes.
Q.   You  killed  her  perhaps  ?
A,  I  had  her  strangled...
Q,  Have  you  found  any  members  of  her  family  ?
A,  Heinfried  and  his  wife  Ogine,  her  father  and mother.    They  have  forgiven  me.
Q.  Is  the  festival  of  your  wife  celebrated  anywhere  ?
A.  Yes.
Q.   On  what  date  ?
A,  July  6th.... 
Q,  Did  you  die  in  a  tragic  manner  ?
A,  No,  in  a  monastery.     I  remained  there  nine  years.

The experimenters attempted to verify this information, and found a reference that stated the following, consistent with the claims above (but with the man's name being spelled differently):

"Godelive,  Godelieve,  or  Godeleine  of  Ghistelles  (saint), born  near  Boulogne  in  1040,  died  at  Ghistelles  in  1070. She  married  Berthold,  Lord  of  Ghistelles,  near  Bruges, who,  after  having  subjected  her  to  odious  treatment,  had her  strangled  and  thrown  down  a  well.  Berthold  became  a  monk... Godelive  is  specially  honoured  at  Bruges  on  July  6th."

The page here from the Catholic Encyclopedia lists the husband of this saint as "Bertolf," matching exactly the spelling given at the seance.  It gives details matching those in the answers above. 

Gabriel Garcia Moreno

The question and answer session went like this (I'll give a partial excerpt):

"Question.  What  was  your  profession  ?
Answer,  President.
Q.  President  of  what  ?
A.  The  Republic  of  Ecuador.
Q.  At  what  age  did  you  die  ?
A,  53  years,  Friday,  August  6,  1875.     Dio  ni  muere  !
Q,  Why  those  words  ?
A.  I  spoke  them  as  I  fell.     I  died  a  Christian.
Q.  Will  you  be  kind  enough  to  translate  them,  because we  do  not  know  Spanish  ?
A.  They  mean  'God  does  not  die.'
Q.  Of  what  illness  did  you  die  ?
A.  (by  violent  raps)  Assassinated  by  Rayo  and  his accomplices  in  front  of  the  Government  palace  at  Quito.
Q.  What  weapon  was  used  ?
A.  The  machete.
Q.  What  is  the  machete  ?
A.  A  Mexican  knife.
Q.  Are  you  happy  ?
A,  I  have  caused  the  death  of  some  men.
Q.  For  what  reason  ?
A.  To  repress  a  conspiracy.
Q.  Do  you  regret  it  ?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Who  was  the  instigator  of  the  conspiracy  you repressed  ?
A.  General  Maldanato.

The experimenters attempted to verify this information, and found a reference that stated the following, consistent with the claims above:

" Moreno  (Gabriel  Garcia),  President  of  Ecuador,  assas- 
sinated at  Quito  in  1875.  Exiled  in  his  youth,  he  went 
to  Paris  and  London,  where  he  studied,  returned  to 
Ecuador,  took  up  the  profession  of  chemist,  married  the 
daughter  of  General  Flores  and  became  chief  of  the 
conservatives  at  Quito.  President  of  the  Republic  from 
1861  to  1865,  and  again  from  1869  to  1875,  he  was 
scheming  to  become  president  again  when  he  was  assas- 

A wikipedia.org article on Moreno confirms these claims, and tells us the assassination of Moreno at Quito occurred when he was "struck down with knives and revolvers," a statement consistent with the seance claim that death occurred by machete (a machete being a large knife).  The wikipedia.org article also says that Moreno's last words were "God does not die," matching the seance claim.  The page here confirms that statement about Moreno's last words, and states that "in the afternoon of August 6, Garcia Moreno was attacked by an assassin with a machete and three accomplices armed with revolvers on the porch of the Presidential Palace."

Gabriel Garcia Moreno

Henry  Charles  Montagne

In the next case the mysterious raps identified their source as Henry Charles Montagne, saying that this person (the son of Edouard  Montagne) had died ten years earlier, on his birthday at the age of 31, being attacked by a tiger, and that this person was buried at Pere-Lachais. 

The researchers wrote to some distant office, trying to get verification for some of this information. They received this reply in 1906:

"Dear  Sir  and  Colleague,— Yes,  Henry  Montagne was  the  son  of  a  former  delegate  of  the  Societe  des  Gens de  Lettres,  Edouard  Montagne,  the  immediate  predecessor of  M.  de  L.  He  was  killed  by  a  tiger  at  Nha-Trang (Annam),  on  July  9,  1896.  His  body  was  brought  to Paris  on  September  26th,  and  was  buried  on  the  28th at  Pere-Lachaise,  in  the  family  vault,  &c."

This account was in agreement with the tale told by the mysterious raps, the only difference being that one source lists the funeral as occurring on September 28th, and the other source lists the funeral as occuring on November 28th. 

Henri  Thomas

In the next case the mysterious raps identified their source as Henri Thomas, with the conversation going like this:

"Q.  Have  you  been  dead  for  long  ?
A.  Two  years  and  a  half.
Q,  How  old  were  you  ?
A.  Twenty  years.
Q.  Do  you  know  of  what  illness  ?
A,  Accident.
Q.  What  is  the  name  of  the  place  where  you  lived  ?
A.  Gondrecourt.
Q.  Were  you  born  at  Gondrecourt  ?
A,  No.     At  Demange-aux-Eaux.
Q,  Had  you  a  profession  ?
A,  Yes;  teacher."

After a letter was sent to a school official at Gondrecourt, the following reply was received:

"Thomas  (Henri)  was  born  at  Demange-aux-Eaux (Mouse)  on  October  10,  1883.  He  entered  the  Normal School  at  Commercy  on  October  1,  1899,  and  left  on July  20,  1902,  with  the  higher  certificate.  On  October 1st  of  that  year  he  took  the  position  of  probationary teacher  at  Gondrecourt,  about  four  miles  away  from  his family.  He  was  a  very  good,  kind  master,  somewhat timid,  conscientious,  and  of  very  good  conduct.  On Thursday,  November  26, 1903,  at  7  p.m.,  he  placed  himself in  front  of  a  train  on  the  line  from  Bar  to  Neufchateau.  We learned  of  his  tragic  death  on  the  following  day.  All  who knew  him  were  profoundly  astonished  by  it."

The information received was all consistent with the information coming from the mysterious raps, including the claim that Henri died at age twenty and worked as a teacher, except that the postal reply lists the death as a suicide, and the raps indicated death by accident.  It is possible that an accidental death from a train was incorrectly thought to be a suicide. 

Maurice Bouche

The raps produced a claim to be Maurice Bouche, and produced this statement: "I  died  three  years  ago,  at  Lille,  on  the  scaffold."  A subsequent inquiry produced this result:

"He  told  me  that  Maurice  Bouche  was  a young  man  of  good  family,  who  was  ruined  through  bad company.  Falling  lower  and  lower,  he  ended  by  joining some  robbers.  One  day  he  was  arrested  for  complicity  in the  assassination  of  an  old  lady  of  property,  and  was,  in fact,  executed  at  Lille  about  three  years  previously."


The raps produced a claim to be a weaver named Viry, who was born in Geradmer, who lived in Gerbepol, and who had died on November 26, 1877, at age twenty, "outdoors," because of consumption.  An inquiry then produced this response:

"I  have the  honour  to  inform  you  that  there  is  not  in  our  town any  relative  or  connection  of  young  Viry,  weaver,  born at  Gerardmer,  who  died  at  Gerbepol  on  November  26, 1877,  aged  nearly  twenty  years...This  young  man  was  found  dead  in  the  snow."

Madame Duchene

The raps claimed to be a Madame Duchene, someone who had once been a teacher, who  died  at  the  age  of  seventy-eight  years at  Vendresse, two and a half years ago.  An inquiry on this topic to a mayor produced this statement (dated June 16, 1906):  " In  reply  to  your  inquiry,  I  have  the  honour to  inform  you  that  Mme.  Duchene,  widow...died  at  Vendresse  on  September  7,  1903,  and  that  she bequeathed  all  her  fortune  to  M.  L.,  formerly  schoolmaster."  The difference between the dates of September 7, 1903 and June 16, 1906 is roughly two and a half years.  

Augustin-Louis Cauchy

The raps claimed to be a person named Augustin who died on May 17, 1857. When asked for "some  information that  will  help  us  to  establish  your  identity," a reply was given of "Beatus  qui  intelligit  super  egenum  et  pauperem," with a claim that such was written on the person's tombstone, in the "Sceaux  cemetery." The phrase in Latin means "Blessed  is  he  who  understands  the  poor  and  has pity  on  the  unfortunate."  The raps claimed to be from someone who had been a professor at the Sorbonne. 

The investigators made an inquiry to the keeper of the Sceaux cemetery, and received a reply by mail stating that after a search (and finding a gravestone covered with weeds), a tombstone was found with the following engraving:

Baron  Cauchy
Died  at  Sceaux  May  23,  1857
Beatus  qui  intelligit super  egenum  et  pauperem

The Latin line the cemetery keeper quoted from the tombstone exactly matches the Latin line given during the seance.  The only discrepancy is a difference of six days between the two dates of death.  Wikipedia.org has a long article on Augustin-Louis Cauchy, with the details matching the details given in the seance (with the exception of the same six-day difference about the date of death).  The article describes him as a staunch Catholic, matching the impression given in the seance quotations. 

How to Explain?

If all of these details were to have been provided orally by a seemingly entranced medium,  we have a possible explanation for these results by hypothesizing some extremely elaborate and very hard-to-prepare fraud in which a medium learned and meticulously memorized very many details about deceased figures (some not famous), and then orally recited those details, only pretending to be entranced.  But in this case we have the fact that all of the details came from mysterious table raps, with the raps spelling out letters.  The total number of raps needed to spell out the details above (with one rap per letter) would have been many hundreds, occurring spread out over a long time.  We can imagine no medium manually producing so many hundreds of raps at a table where five people were seated, without being detected by the investigators. 

There is still one narrow possibility for the skeptic wishing to deny this evidence. He can simply believe that the whole affair was completely fraudulent, that no such mysterious raps ever occurred, and that Dr. Paul Joire simply made up the whole account.  But a reader studying Joire's massive 633-page book "Psychical and Supernormal Phenomena, Their Observation and Experimentation" will be unlikely to suspect  so serious a scholar of that type of chicanery. 

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