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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Tymn at his best, 24 Dec. 2012
Drafer (Bakersfield, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
Michael Tymn has written a fascinating account of one of the most gifted mediums in history, the American Leonora Piper. Along the way we meet most of the great psychical researchers of the late 19th and early 20th century, from Sir Oliver Lodge to William James. Both sat through dozens of seances with her in an effort to determine whether the spirits allegedly speaking through her were real. Tymn goes into detail, reproducing many of those sittings, so that we, the readers, can see for ourselves exactly what came through.

What did come through? Hundreds of facts that Piper had no way of knowing but that the spirits allegedly writing through her hand would be expected to know. Not only does Tymn show us and analyze for us the details of this evidential material; he creates the drama and excitement of the séances as those attending felt it.

Most accounts like this are dry and technical, but not this one. The personalities of the major players are fleshed out. Consider this example: William James, arguably American's most famous American intellectual, is conversing with the recently deceased Richard Hodgson, who is speaking through Mrs. Piper. James is testing Hodgson to see if it's really he--or some creation of Piper's imagination:

James: Do you remember another thing? We played a rather peculiar game. Possibly you may recall it. Ha d great fun.

Hodgson (through Piper): I remember playing leap-frog with the boys. Do you remember that?

James: Yes, that was frequent.

Hodgson: Yes, that is a very...--and then do you remember how I played bear?

James: Yes, bear is first rate. I was not there, but I heard them talk about your playing bear....

There is a great deal of material like this, and it leaves a powerful impression that a spirit, and not Piper, is doing the talking. And if that is the case, then we may be certain that life after death is a reality.

And that is what Tymn wants to show.

Tymn also gives us some tantalizing glances into the nature of the afterlife. During one séance the spirit of a 17-year-old boy, Bennie Judah, tells his mother (through Piper): "how necessary it is to pray for what you wish. I understand it since I came to this life...prayer is everything to us here."

Bennie and other spirits answer questions about aging, sleep, music, pets, God, the various levels of the world to come, and many other subjects--all delivered through Mrs. Piper's hand as she is in trance.

A fascinating, delightful, and important book by one of the world's most accomplished parapsychologists. A must for the serious student of mediumship.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent review of Piper's mediumship, 26 Feb. 2013
Christopher Carter (Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
The late 19th century was a time of intellectual upheaval. Darwin's work challenged the faith of many thinking people, and the doctrine of materialism was becoming widespread among scientists and philosophers.

Leading Victorian intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the renowned physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, Cambridge philosopher Henry Sidgewick, psychologist William James, and many others, longed to take on the materialists at their own game. That is, they sought to find solid evidence that would refute materialism. Accordingly, these eminent men and women started the British and American Societies for Psychical Research, in London and in Boston.

It is important to stress that many of these early researchers, such as Richard Hodgson and Frank Podmore, started off as hard-core skeptics, determined to debunk fraudulent mediums. And indeed, these men were instrumental at exposing several frauds, mostly professional "physical" mediums.

However, after studying "mental" mediums such as Leonora Piper, their opinions gradually changed, and they came to believe that mediums such as Mrs Piper were in fact genuine. Most of these women were not professionals, but were upper and upper middle class women who kept their mediumship a closely guarded secret, even from their friends.

Contrary to what "skeptics" may write, men such as Hodgson and Podmore were not gullible fools. Hodgson had Piper trailed by detectives, and not the slightest suspicious activity was ever noted. She was also brought to London England (where she knew no one and so could have no confederates) to be studied, and the results in London were every bit as impressive as they were in her home town of Boston.

Leonora Piper seemed to produce messages from deceased persons, many of whom were known to the researchers in life. The messages were produced while she was in a trance, either through writing on paper, or at times, when she seemed to be possessed by the deceased and spoke directly to the sitters.

Everything Piper said or wrote in a trance was recorded (except for some material of a confidential nature). The records of her mediumship are therefore permanent and objective, and can be studied by anyone at any time.

Michael Tymn's book is an excellent study of the Piper mediumship. He considers the alternative explanations of fraud and super-ESP, and shows why they are untenable. Highly recommended, and a pleasure to read.

(Chris Carter is author of Science and the Afterlife Experience)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-informed description of extraordinary research, 21 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
I'd recommend to open-minded people - those who really do want answers - that they check out the Piper material, but if I don't often do so, it's because there's no obvious source for them to go to. With Michael Tymn's excellent new book on Piper that's no longer the case.

In other hands the story might well have been told as a conventional biography, covering the whole of psychic research in the context of the thought of the day. In other words, it would have been diluted and hedged about with the sorts of qualifications that tend to make this sort of thing invisible. Tymn's achievement has been to hammer home a shocking and still largely unknown fact: a human being has lived who was repeatedly observed by scientific investigators to possess supernormal knowledge - and far beyond the ability of pseudo-explanations such as cold reading to account for.

To do this, Tymn has compressed a 25-year programme into 200 pages, focusing closely on the research and its implications. He tells the story chronologically, from Piper's 'discovery' (it seems a maid employed by her husband's family mentioned her doings to a maid employed by William James's in-laws); the three main 'control' phases: Phinuit, George Pelham and Imperator/Rector; the conversion of SPR investigator Richard Hodgson (who had begun with the expectation of exposing her tricks); the trip to England to hold sittings with Frederic Myers and Oliver Lodge; the later involvement of James Hyslop; and so on.

Some of the most interesting chapters are around particular episodes, for instance a series of conversations between a 17-year old boy who died in a boating accident in 1898 and his parents; a Boston public figure describing his new environment; Hodgson himself, following his death at age 50, communicating with James and Hyslop; and finally the deceased James himself communicating. The book deftly works in summaries of key passages with enough verbatim speech to give a good sense of the interactions. Wherever possible it highlights evidential exchanges, for instance those that show knowledge of little things known only to the communicator and the sitter, and again which could not remotely be explained in terms of fraud.

The impression left on my mind - as someone who knows a bit about mediumship, and Piper in particular - is amazement at just how easy, fluent and detailed this two-way communication can be, and also how much highly veridical material the investigations produced. There's a powerful sense that people who once lived are excited to find they can, after all, communicate with loved ones left behind, and reassure them of their continued existence, which they do with varying levels of skill - just as we would expect.

Sceptics will dismiss the book as a partisan account by a writer who accepts the reality of spirit survival. Some might argue that the material has been cleaned up, removing the errors and distortions that give a quite different impression, for instance showing the medium groping for information. It's impossible of course to counter these objections completely (although it might help if some sitting transcripts were given as appendices, so that readers can make an independent judgement). Yet Tymn's presentation seems to me to be true to the material, and his conclusion entirely reasonable. There's no intelligent way that the supernormality of the Piper material can be denied (there are of course many unintelligent ones - like Martin Gardner's transparently false claim that the investigators were ignorant of fakers' methods - but Tymn rightly wastes no time on them).

It's also true that some investigators preferred to view the communicators - particularly the 'controls' like Phinuit and George Pellew who acted as go-betweens - as secondary personalities, or what they called 'dream creations' of the medium's unconscious mind. A prime mover in this was William James himself, who could not make up his mind one way or the other. But he and other investigators were in no doubt at all about the supernormality of the phenomenon, a fact which deserves to be better known and understood, and which this excellent book helps make clear.

(Robert McLuhan is author of Randi's Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong, and why it matters)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A biography of a great medium, 18 Jan. 2013
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How science discovered the afterlife by Michael Tymn, White Crow Books, Guildford, Surrey. UK, 2013, 234 ff.

Leonora Piper was a famous trance medium who lived from 1857 to 1950. During her long life therefore she saw the start of modern accounts of psychic experiences (there are accounts going back to Dante and Plato) but lived long enough to also see the reporting of scientific evidence supporting what she and very many others maintained - that there was a realm of spiritual consciousness that embraced the world of discarnate spirits. Michael Tymn is a journalist who has specialized in presenting the case for mediumship and communication with discarnate souls in the several books he has written. Here, Tymn calls on the researches into Piper's mediumship by many eminent predecessors, such as William James, James H. Hyslop, Richard Hodgson, Oliver Lodge and Frederic Myers. That such a collection of respected philosophers, psychologists and scientists could all be deluded or be party to fraud over more than half a century is simply not credible.

Tymn attributes the increasing interest in spiritualism in the late 19th century to the widespread search for meaning in life in the aftermath of Darwin's theory of evolution and Nietzsche's nihilism that seemingly did away with a role for God. Tymn is hoping that the information in this book will provide enough evidence to convince those who still dismiss suggestions of an afterlife. But if this mass of verified information over such a long period conveyed to Mrs Piper and other mediums does not come from the spiritual domain, then it is up to the unbelievers to provide an explanation of its source and not simply dismiss the whole enterprise as fraud or self-delusion.

The body of this book is a detailed catalogue of Mrs Piper's sittings, and reports of those who investigated her. The book is well researched and sources of material are given at the ends of each chapter. Not all of Mrs Piper's sitters were convinced of her powers, and examples of those who were disappointed by the sessions are also included in the book. However, complementary medicine, if it is to be effective, demands a certain degree of participation from the patients as it involves the subconscious as well as the materially oriented mind. Patients who are totally negative or hostile to the whole concept will often not be successfully treated. The same applies to those who visit mediums: the sitter must at least have an open mind to the possibilities.

There is a mass of confirmatory evidence of the afterlife in this book but, on page 55, there is a statement said to have been received from Francis Bacon that is particularly significant. After noting that phenomena such as materializations of trivial objects or table raps are not of great significance in providing life messages for the living, `Bacon' comments: `... man has not been taught his true relation even to the life he now enjoys, or his connection with that other state of existence beyond the grave... [religious scriptures] are not absolute revelations from God, or even predicated on his laws, but are the positive creations of mind that are materially influenced.' I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to those who are still unconvinced of the existence of an afterlife!

The Afterlife Explorers: v. 1: The Pioneers of Psychical Research
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Bloody time!, 1 Sept. 2013
Mr. Mj Hill "Michael Hill" (UK. London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
This book is sensationally good, Michael Tymn has refurbished a forgotten treasure and one of the most remarkable mediums the world has known. She is still ignored by "science" despite herself been studied all her life by some of the finest brains in the world and found to be telling the truth about human survival after death. That this subject is still debated in the negative sense is an intellectual and scientific disgrace and the book is well written and sourced with great authority and good humour
Michael Hill
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lillle-known facts of mediumship laid bare, 27 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife (Paperback)
Intriguing study of a once famous medium. Illustrates many aspects of spiritualism for the lay person and tends to 'de-bunk' the de-bunkers.
Since it quotes from actual case-studies and records of the Society for Psychical Research, it is highly interesting for the sceptic and believer alike.
A factual record of a now largely forgotten medium, it concentrates more on her work and investigation by others than on her actual biography.
For those with an interest in this field, the evidence presented is consistent with some aspects recorded of near-death experiences.
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Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife
Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife by Michael Tymn (Paperback - 14 Jan. 2013)
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