Lang, Andrew (1844–1912)
Philosopher, poet, scholar, and author of scholarly books on
a wide range of topics, including anthropology, folklore, mythology,
psychology, ghost lore, history, biography, and fairy
tales. He was born at Selkirk, Scotland, on March 31, 1844, and
was educated at St. Andrews University. He also studied at Glasgow
University and Oxford University (Balliol and Merton colleges).
Lang abandoned his fellowship at Merton College to become
a journalist and author in London.
He joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in
1906, but his interest in psychical phenomena was of longer
standing. Lang studied them rather from the historic and anthropologic,
than from the experimental, viewpoint.
His earliest paper was read before the SPR on the Cock
Lane Ghost in 1894. Subsequently he was a frequent contributor
to the society’s Proceedings and Journal. In the Journal (vol.
7) he wrote on Queen Mary’s diamonds; in Proceedings (vol. 11)
on the voices of Joan of Arc. The telepathy à trois (involving
three individuals) was his conception in a paper on the mediumship
of Leonora Piper. His book Custom and Myth, published
in 1884, contained a chapter on the divining rod, which he regarded
as a mischievous instrument of superstition. However,
the investigations of William Barrett convinced him that it was
‘‘a fact, and a very serviceable fact.’’ Lang also contributed some
valuable personal evidence on crystal gazing.
He wrote several articles on psychic research for the Encyclopaedia
Britannica in 1902. His books The Making of Religion
(1898), Magic and Religion (1901), Cock Lane and Common Sense
(1894), and The Book of Dreams and Ghosts (1897) are regarded
as valuable tools for students of psychic research. The Mind of
France (1908) was the first attempt to consider Joan of Arc in
the light of psychic phenomena. In 1911 Lang became president
of the Society for Psychical Research. According to the
Rev. M. A. Bayfield in Proceedings (vol. 26), it is fair to infer from
Lang’s later writings that he found the exclusion of an external
agency from some phenomena increasingly difficult.
The range and content of Lang’s books and writings demonstrate
remarkable originality and scholarship. He was the first
scholar to properly correlate the mythology of ancient society
with the folklore and psychic phenomena of modern civilization.
His rainbow-colored series of fairy tale books for children,
beginning with The Blue Fairy Book in 1889, remains popular.
Lang was honored by St. Andrews and Oxford universities
and was elected an honorary fellow of Merton College in 1890.
The freedom of his native town of Selkirk was conferred on him
in 1889. He died July 20, 1912.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Lang, Andrew. The Book of Dreams and Ghosts. 1897. Reprint,
New York Causeway Books, 1974.
———. Cock Lane and Common Sense. London Longmans,
Green, 1894. Reprint, New York AMS Press, 1970.
———. Magic and Religion. 1901. Reprint, New York
Greenwood Press, 1969.
———. The Maid of France, Being the Story of the Life and Death
of Jeanne d’Arc. London Longmans, Green, 1908.
———. The Making of Religion. 1898. Reprint, New York
AMS Press, 1968.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.