Lodge, Sir Oliver (Joseph) (1851–1940)
World famous British physicist and a fearless champion of
after-death survival. He missed no opportunity to declare his
belief that death is not the end, that there are higher beings in
the scale of existence, and that intercommunication between
this world and the next is possible. Lodge was born June 12,
1851, at Penkhull, Staffordshire, England, and studied at University
of London (B.S., 1875; D.Sc. 1877). He was professor of
physics at University of London (1877) and at University of Liverpool
(1881–90) and served as principal of Birmingham University
(1900–19). Lodge was elected fellow of the Royal Society
in 1887, awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts
for his pioneer work in wireless telegraphy, and was knighted
in 1902. He was president of the British Association in 1913.
His great reputation as a physicist was established by his research
in electricity, thermoelectricity, and in wireless (radio)
and theories of matter and ether. Lodge developed the spark
plug that bears his name.
His first experiences in psychic research occurred in
1883–84, when he joined Malcolm Guthrie on his investigations
of thought-transference in Liverpool. Lodge undertook
similar experiments himself in 1892 in Carinthia at Portschach
am See and reported them in Proceedings of the SPR (Vol. 7,
part 20, 1892).
His most notable observations in physical research were
made with the medium Eusapia Palladino. In Charles Richet’s
house on the Ile Roubaud, he attended four séances and reported
on them in the Journal of the SPR (November 1894), affirming
the reality of Palladino’s phenomena
‘‘However the facts are to be explained, the possibility of the
facts I am constrained to admit; there is no further room in my
mind for doubt. Any person without invincible prejudice who
had the same experience would come to the same broad conclusion,
viz., that things hitherto held impossible do actually
occur. If one such fact is clearly established, the conceivability
of others may be more readily granted, and I concentrated my
attention mainly on what seemed to me the most simple and
definite thing, viz., the movement of an untouched object in
sufficient light for no doubt of its motion to exist. This I have
now witnessed several times; the fact of movement being
vouched for by both sight and hearing, sometimes also by
touch, and the objectivity of the movement being demonstrated
by the sounds heard by an outside observer, and by permaEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Lodge, Sir Oliver (Joseph)
929
nent alteration in the position of the objects. The result of my
experience is to convince me that certain phenomena usually
considered abnormal do belong to the order of nature, and as
a corollary from this, that these phenomena ought to be investigated
and recorded by persons and societies interested in natural
knowledge.’’
When Palladino was exposed in fraud in the following year
at Cambridge, Lodge, who attended two of the sittings there,
defended his earlier observations. He declared that there was
no resemblance between the Cambridge phenomena and those
observed on the Ile Roubaud. In the field of mental phenomena,
Lenora Piper was his chief source of enlightenment. His
first investigations with Piper took place in 1889, when the medium
was tested in England by the Society for Psychical Research.
Lodge received many evidential messages, which soon
convinced him that the dead were still alive.
His first report was published in 1890. Nineteen years later,
in discussing the evidence for the return through the mediumship
of Piper of F. W. H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, and many
others, he referred to his experiences
‘‘The old series of sittings with Mrs. Piper convinced me of
survival for reasons which I should find it hard to formulate in
any strict fashion, but that was their distinct effect. They also
made me suspect—or more than suspect—that surviving intelligences
were in some cases consciously communicating—yes,
in some few cases consciously; though more usually the messages
came, in all probability, from an unconscious stratum,
being received by the medium in an inspirational manner analogous
to psychometry. The hypothesis of surviving intelligence
and personality—not only surviving but anxious and able with
difficulty to communicate—is the simplest and most straightforward
and the only one that fits all the facts’’ (from The Survival
of Man, 1909).
Lodge openly stated for the first time, in 1908, that he believed
he had genuinely conversed with late friends and that
the boundary between the two worlds was wearing thin in
places. Five years later, speaking from the presidential chair to
the British Association in September 1913, he boldly declared
that his own investigations convinced him that ‘‘memory and
affection are not limited to that association with matter by
which alone they can manifest themselves here and now, and
that personality persists beyond bodily death.’’
The widest publicity to Lodge’s belief in survival appeared
in his famous book, Raymond or, Life and Death (1916). The
story of the return of his son, who died in action in World War
I, is one of the best-attested cases of spirit identity. It begins
with the celebrated ‘‘Faunus’’ message, delivered through
Piper on August 8, 1915. It purported to come from the spirit
of psychic researcher Richard Hodgson and began abruptly
‘‘Now, Lodge, while we are not here as of old, i.e., not quite, we
are here enough to give and take messages. Myers says you take
the part of the poet, and he will act as Faunus. FAUNUS.
Myers. Protect he will U.D. (understand). What have you to say
Lodge Good work ask Verrall, she will also U.D. Arthur says
so.’’
The message reached Sir Oliver Lodge in early September
1915. On September 17, the War Office notified him that Raymond
was killed in action on September 14. Before this blow
fell, Lodge wrote to Margaret Verrall, a well-known classical
scholar and asked her, ‘‘Does the poet and Faunus mean anything
to you Did one protect the other’’ She replied at once
that ‘‘the reference is to Horace’s account of his narrow escape
from death, from a falling tree, which he ascribes to the intervention
of Faunus.’’
The Rev. M. A. Bayfield attached to the incident the following
interpretation ‘‘Horace does not, in any reference to his escape,
say clearly whether the tree struck him, but I have always
thought it did. He says Faunus lightened the blow; he does not
say ‘turned it aside.’ As bearing on your terrible loss, the meaning
seems to be that the blow would fall, but would not crush;
it would be ‘lightened’ by the assurance, conveyed afresh to you
by a special message from the still living Myers, that your boy
still lives.’’
On September 25, Lady Lodge had a sitting with Gladys
Osborne Leonard. Raymond sent this message ‘‘Tell Father I
have met some friends of his.’’ On asking for names, Myers was
mentioned. Two days later, medium Alfred Vout Peters spoke
about a photograph of a group of officers with Raymond
among them. Various other messages came from different mediums,
as did the cross-correspondence on the Faunus message.
On November 25, Mrs. Cheves, a complete stranger, wrote
a letter saying that she had a photograph of the officers of the
South Lancashire Regiment of which Raymond Lodge was a
second lieutenant and offered to send it. In a séance on December
3, Gladys Leonard described the photograph, featuring
Raymond sitting on the ground and an officer placing his hand
on Raymond’s shoulder. The photograph arrived on December
7 and corresponded with the description in every detail.
Many other messages, bearing the authentic stamp of Raymond’s
identity, came through. The most curious was one
about ‘‘Mr. Jackson.’’ ‘‘Feda,’’ Leonard’s control, said that Raymond
mixed it up with a bird and a pedestal. The truth of the
matter was that Jackson was a peacock which, after its death,
was stuffed and put on a pedestal.
Lodge displayed the whole mass of evidential communications
in his book Raymond, including the reference to cigars and
whiskey and soda in the afterlife. Owing to this, many ridiculed
the book, although many others accept the idea that dead spirits
can furnish the afterlife with familiar associations of everyday
physical life. Some critics suggested that Lodge’s bereavement
led him into Spiritualism, but his book repudiates this
notion. ‘‘My conclusion,’’ Lodge wrote, ‘‘has been gradually
forming itself for years, though, undoubtedly, it is based on experience
of the same sort of thing. But this event has strengthened
and liberated my testimony. It can now be associated with
a private experience of my own, instead of with the private experience
of others.’’
The book Raymond was followed by other important publications
on psychic research in which Lodge elaborated his previous
conclusions. Before the Modern Churchmen’s Conference
in September 1931 in Oxford, Lodge declared
‘‘If I find myself an opportunity of communicating I shall try
to establish my identity by detailing a perfectly preposterous
and absurdly childish peculiarity which I have already taken the
trouble to record with some care in a sealed document deposited
in the custody of the English S.P.R. I hope to remember the
details of this document and relate them in no unmistakable
fashion. The value of the communication will not consist in the
substance of what is communicated, but in the fact that I have
never mentioned it to a living soul, and no one has any idea
what it contains. People of sense will not take its absurd triviality
as anything but helpful in contributing to the proof of the
survival of personal identity.’’
He reiterated this viewpoint two years later in his book My
Philosophy ‘‘Basing my conclusions on experience I am absolutely
convinced not only of survival but of demonstrated survival,
demonstrated by occasional interaction with matter in
such a way as to produce physical results.’’
Lodge died August 22, 1940, at Amersham, Wiltshire, England.
His correspondence is preserved in the Lodge Collection
of the Society for Psychical Research in London.
The post-mortal identity test of Lodge’s survival involved
the depositing of a set of envelopes with the Society for Psychical
Research and the London Spiritualist Alliance, with instructions
for consecutive opening of the envelopes. The packet in
the possession of the Society for Psychical Research contained
seven envelopes, one inside another, containing clues when
opened consecutively. The instructions were somewhat complex
and, owing to the war years following his death, could not
be applied. The final envelope with the test message was
opened February 10, 1947. No psychic had identified it. The
Lodge, Sir Oliver (Joseph) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
930
test did not lead to the evidence of survival hoped for (see Journal
of the SPR Vol. 38, pp. 121–134).
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Hill, J. Arthur, ed. Letters from Sir Oliver Lodge. London Cassell,
1932.
Jolly, W. P. Sir Oliver Lodge. New Jersey Fairleigh Dickinson
University Press, 1975.
Lodge, Sir Oliver. Christopher A Study in Human Personality.
New York George H. Doran, 1919.
———. Conviction of Survival. N.p., 1930.
———. Past Years. London Hodder and Stoughton, 1931.
———. Raymond; or, Life and Death. London Methuen,
1916.
———. Raymond Revised. N.p., 1922.
———. The Reality of a Spiritual World. N.p., 1930.
———. The Substance of Faith Allied with Sciences. London
Methuen, 1915.
———. Survival of Man. London Methuen, 1909.
———. Why I Believe in Personal Immortality. Garden City,
N.Y. Doubleday, Doran, 1929.

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