Author: Michael Prescott
I'm reading an advance copy of Michael Tymn's new book Resurrecting Leonora Piper, which I'm enjoying quite a lot. (I'll post a review when I've finished it. By the way, although the official publication date is January 14, it looks like Amazon is selling the book now, in both print and Kindle editions.)
The book is not a biography of Mrs. Piper, but a detailed examination of her mediumship, with an emphasis on the most impressive communications. Tymn acknowledges that there was a great deal of nonsense produced throughout the decades-long course of Mrs. Piper's trance sessions, and there were times when she drew a blank for a particular sitter or made too many errors to be credible. But there were other sessions - quite a lot of them - when she would produce copious quantities of verifiable information, some of it unknown to anyone present, and much of it impossible to obtain by research or guesswork.
Still, doubts persisted. One such doubt was the often-repeated objection that the communications were too trivial to be taken seriously. Tymn quotes William James:
The prima facie theory, which is that of spirit-control, is hard to reconcile with the extreme triviality of most of the communications. What real spirit, at last able to revisit his wife on this earth, but would find something better to say than that she had changed the place of his photograph? And yet that is the sort of remark to which the spirits introduced by the mysterious Phinuit are apt to confine themselves.
James goes on to concede that occasionally Mrs. Piper's spirit control, Phinuit, did give "long lectures to us about our inward defects and outward shortcomings, which were very earnest, as well as subtle morally and psychologically, and impressive in a high degree," and that these monologues were "probably superior to anything that the medium could produce in her natural state." Still, the "triviality" issue remained a sticking point. For some people, it is a sticking point to this day....