Spiritualist Trance - Spirit, Multiple Personality or just plain Fantasy?

The hardest question any trance medium has to contend with is answering the query regarding the authenticity of their trance. Is the personality really that of a deceased individual communicating through the medium or is it ego-aspect of themselves or at worst is it a pathological condition?

Even the famous medium UrsulaRoberts answering a self-posed question on the authenticity of her own trance communication, commented ‘How can I be sure that it is a state of trance control and not just a submerged part of my mind which has become active?’ Responded simply, ’The medium must examine the results of the controlled communications. Are you able to say things which were not previously in your mind?’ Of course theproblemwith this approach is that we cannot guarantee that which has been said was truly never known. Besides if we accept thepossibility of telepathy then what is it to say that in the altered state the medium isn’t able to read the minds of the sitters or access information from an unknown source e.g. Edgar Cayce’s Akashic Records.

To complicate matters further in attempting to answer this question introduces a big problem because in makes a very big assumption; that being that there is a Spirit World. For many researchers this is simply absurd and as such simply disregards the Spiritualist hypothesis, favouring the ego-states of the medium or the pathological condition. But for Spiritualists’ this is a real possibility and therefore must be included in the mix of possible options.

So how do we go about determining the source of the trance personality?

One such method might be to consider is it possible to measure or notice something common between trance mediums that differs between individuals with pathological conditions? And it is this approach that is favoured by many researchers though it doesn’t prove the existence of the spirit world hypothesis directly. What it does allow us to do is to gradually rule out the other possible options, leaving us with the only remaining possibilityis to accept the spirithypothesis (well until at least another hypothesis is proposed).

So is spiritualist trance a pathological condition? I’m sure there are some rare instances where this may be true however a recent study looking at the mental health of mediums has found that in general mediums enjoy a better level of mental health than the found in the population as a whole. The only area where mediums do not do so well is that mediums are prone to experience neurotic disorders. Go figure, who’d ever think that! But sarcasm aside, exhibiting psychotic disorders such as Dissociative Identity Disorders, referred to in the past as Multiple Personality Disorder then mediums are given the ‘green’ bill of health. Good to know we’re not psychotic!

What about trance being a condition of the ego-states or a relaxed state of the medium? Again, there have been numerous interesting studies which suggest that something more interesting than the medium ego-states are at play.

In one study a number of trance automatic writers were studied by measuring the cerebral blood flow around their brain whilst writing in and out of the trance condition. They found that whilst the medium was writing but not in the trance condition, areas of their brain accepted as being those responsible for complex cognitive processes such as the creation of thoughts and those typically needed for composing a piece of writing were shown to be active. Interestingly, the measurements recorded when the mediums went into trance showed and lack of activity in the very same areas. Further when the written work composed in trance was compared with the non-trance written piece, its complexity was scored higher. Leaving the researchers to conclude:

'The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the under activation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out.

My own research supports this finding using skin conductance as a measure of the emotional condition beingexperienced bynumerous trance mediums and comparing those measurements with non-trance conditions such as meditative states and hypnosis. The findings in each case suggest that the emotional conditionexperienced is common‘ within’each sample group but significantly different (p>0.001)‘between’each group. Therefore suggesting that the altered stateexperienced by trance mediums differ from that of meditators and hypnotics.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of research conducted, and everyday additional research is published suggesting the Spiritualist Trance condition differs from other altered state condition. Though concern must be taken so not to lead us into a false conclusion of Spirit (deceased) personalities being the only hypothesis for Spiritualist Trance. It should give trance mediums confidence that when their trance is properly developed they are at least not suffering from a psychotic disorder or simply making it up!

Chris Connelly 2017