THE BOOK TESTS: OVERCOMING TELEPATHY
The book tests conducted by the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas, a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), are considered some of the very best evidence for spirit communication. “The primary purpose of these efforts was said [by my father] to be a demonstration that spirit people were able to do that for which telepathy from human minds could not account, a demonstration calculated to clarify the evidence already existing for the authorship of their communication,” Thomas wrote in 1922.
A Wesleyan minister, Thomas was especially interested in the popular theory that the medium was reading the mind of the sitter in providing information. He said that it was his father, the Rev. John Thomas, also a Wesleyan minister, who, posthumously, gave him the idea of the book and newspaper tests. It was during a sitting with Gladys Osborne Leonard, the renowned British medium, early in 1917, that the father and son on different sides of the veil began collaborating in the experiments.
The senior Thomas, who died in 1903, told his son that the tests had been devised by others in a more advanced sphere than his and the idea passed on to him. At the time, Drayton Thomas (he went by his middle name) had had over 100 sittings with Mrs. Leonard, although later in his career that number exceeded 500. He mentions that the tests were secondary to other business which he and his father discussed and that his father continually gave other evidence of his own identity.
Drayton Thomas would arrange a notebook on a table with a lighted lamp. Leonard would take a seat several feet from him and after two or three minutes of silence she would go into a trance. Suddenly, in a clear and distinct voice, Feda, Leonard’s spirit control, would take over Leonard’s body and begin using her speech mechanism while relaying messages from the senior Thomas and others in the spirit world. There was no similarity between Leonard’s voice and that of Feda, who spoke like a young girl. Moreover, Feda spoke with an accent and had frequent lapses of grammar.
Occasionally, just after Leonard went into the trance state, Thomas would hear whispering of which he could catch fragments, such as, “Yes, Mr. John, Feda will tell him…Yes, all right…” Feda often referred to herself in the third person, e.g., “Feda says she is having trouble understanding Mr. John.”
The idea behind the book tests was to communicate information gleaned by the father from a book in the son’s extensive library. For example, in one of the earliest experiments, the father told the son to go to the lowest shelf and take the sixth book from the left. On page 149, three-quarters down, he would find a word conveying the meaning of falling back or stumbling. When the younger Thomas arrived home that evening after his sitting with Mrs. Leonard, he went to the book and place on the page, where he found the words, “…to whom a crucified Messiah was an insuperable stumbling-block.”
The father explained to the son, through Feda, that he was able to get the “appropriate spirit of the passage” much easier than he could the actual words. However, over a period of 18 months experimentation, he found himself able to pick up more and more words and numbers, gradually shifting from “sensing” to “clairvoyance.” It was made abundantly clear by the father that he was experimenting on his side as much as his son was on the material side.
It was certain that Mrs. Leonard had never visited Thomas’ house and knew nothing of the library of books in it. Realizing, however, that his subconscious might somehow have recorded such detailed information in the book when he read it years before as well as the exact location of the book in his library, Thomas decided to experiment with books in a friend’s house. He informed his father of the plan so that the father knew where to search. In one of the tests there, Feda told Thomas that on page 2 of the second book from the right on a particular shelf, he would find a reference to sea or ocean. She added that the discarnate Thomas was not sure which, because he got the idea and not the words. When Drayton Thomas pulled the book from the shelf of his friend’s house, he read, “A first-rate seaman, grown old between sky and ocean.”
In another experiment, Drayton Thomas was told to look at page 9 where he would find a reference to changing of colors. Upon opening this book, Thomas found, “Along the northern horizon the sky suddenly changes from light blue to a dark lead colour.” In still another test at his home, Feda told Drayton Thomas to go to a book at a certain point on a shelf and he would find words looking like “A-sh-ill-ee” on the cover. Feda explained that she was giving the sound but not the correct spelling. When Thomas arrived home, he went to the exact spot indicated by Feda and found a book authored by Mrs. Ashley Carus-Wilson.
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