Gladys Osborne Leonard

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Gladys Osborne Leonard

Post by Admin on Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:35 am

Gladys Osborne Leonard
(1882 to 1968)

I have been drawn to the work of Gladys because of a chance encounter with her rare and out of print auto biography, several years ago when an Eversion of, My Life in Two Worlds, 1931, was made available in a Books of Inspiration Group. The book was easy to read whilst containing a detailed record of her experiences in becoming a medium the book also gives some practical advice on developing your psychic abilities and mediumship. Indeed it seemed impressive enough to include as the first title in our Mission Elibrary when this was added to the website. (at www.nasm.org.au )


Gladys Osborne was born on May 28, 1882, at Lytham, on the coast of Lancaster, in England. She was the eldest of four children born of Isabel and William Osborne. Her father was a wealthy yachting entrepreneur, and for the first part of Gladys' life, money was no problem.

As often happens with many natural mediums, Mrs. Leonard exhibited early signs of her sensitive nature. In her autobiography she explains: "Every morning . . . I saw visions of most beautiful places. In whatever direction I happened to be looking would gradually come valleys, gentle slopes, lovely trees and banks covered with flowers of every shape and hue”. Unfortunately when she mentioned her experiences to her parents they discouraged her from using her abilities

Things changed when her family fell on hard times suffering great financial loss, from then on she had to manage for herself. She chose to make her living from singing and the theatre. Indeed her first real contact with Spirit came while she was singing at a local Spiritualist church when the medium told her that her guides were preparing her for a "great spiritual work." A message she accepted whilst not knowing what it meant.

On December 18, 1906, her mother died unexpectedly, it was known she was ill but not seriously so. At 2:00 a.m., Gladys awakened with a strange feeling. "I looked up and saw in front of me, but about five feet above the level of my body, a large, circular patch of light. In this light I saw my mother quite distinctly. Her face looked several years younger than I had seen it a few hours before . . . She gazed down on me for a moment, seeming to convey to me an intense feeling of relief and a sense of safety and well-being. Then the vision faded. I was wide awake all the time, quite conscious of my surroundings." The next morning she learned that her mother had died at 2:00 a.m.

These two events meant that she became convinced of the need to investigate the philosophies of Spiritualism and psychic research. At the same time while working in a theatre she met an actor named Frederick Leonard, who became her devoted husband and lifelong friend. The events combined to give her life as a medium some definite directions and to facilitate her development she remained in the London area accepting whatever work became available.

Through the theatre Mrs. Leonard met two sisters who were interested in Spiritualism. They suggested that the three of them sit around a table to see what, if anything, would happen and they decided to use the hour's break in the evening performance working under the stage. It took quite some time for anything to happen, but finally on the 27th evening the table began to tilt up and down. Using the old table-tilting method with the alphabet, a series of evidential messages were received. This led Mrs. Leonard to be introduced to her guide, Feda. The name Feda was agreed between them because the actual name was complex as the spirit was a Hindu girl who had married Mrs. Leonard's great-great-grandfather, William Hamilton Feda had died around 1800 after giving birth to a son.

"Feda told me . . . that she had been watching over me since I was born, waiting for me to develop my psychic powers so that she could put me into a trance . . . I must confess that the idea of going into a trance did not appeal to me."

Despite her reservations on Trance Mrs. Leonard decided allow herself to become entranced by Feda beginning her long life of dedicated service as a medium. Indeed all of the messages given by Mrs Leonard were from Trance State and given by Feda. Only occasionally, during healing sessions would another guide North Star step in to take over the trance control. In many ways this approach was quite remarkable given she went into trance during all her private sittings as well. She was an evidential medium but all of the clairvoyance and clairaudient information was given by Feda while Gladys was in trance.

Equally remarkable was that Feda seemed subject to the same limitations in Mediumship that a human Medium is, that is she did not have any awareness of the Spirits until they drew close to her and communicated directly with her. Indeed at a later date Hereward Carrington conducted research to try and establish whether Feda was, in fact another element of Mrs Leonard’s personality rather than a spirit.

Mrs. Leonard was one of the most thoroughly investigated mediums of the twentieth century. Investigations into Mrs. Leonard's mediumship were conducted by the world's most noted psychic researchers of the time among them Rev. C. Drayton Thomas, Rev. Vale Owen, James Hewat McKenzie, Mrs. W. H. Salter, and Hereward Carington (who named here the British Leonore Piper). She was so certain that she had nothing to hide in her work she was quite happy to subject herself to these investigations.

Over time a number of different testing methods were used on Gladys’s Mediumship.

BOOK TESTS, where the sitter would be directed to a certain book in a certain place in their home where, on a given page, they would find a special message.
PROXY SITTINGS, in which the person present with her would be acting as a proxy on behalf of the actual sitter. The sitter was known neither to the medium nor to the person acting as a proxy.
CROSS CORRESPONDENCE, in which part of a message would come through her mediumship and part through another medium.

In 1918, for a period of three months, she was exclusively engaged by the SPR. Out of 73 sittings all but three were anonymous. The report of Mrs. W H Salter states that the sitters generally agreed that good evidence of surviving personality had been obtained and the complete trustworthiness of the medium could not be questioned. Indeed the Society for Psychical Research conducted hundreds of tests on Mrs Leonard and a complete list of these can be found in their Combined Index, Part III, pages 50 through 52, and Part IV, page 104.

For more than fifty years Gladys gave remarkable evidence of personal survival to countless sitters. It was quite normal for the sitters to visit her in total anonymity, to avoid any chance of her obtaining or knowing personal information in advance.

Her mediumship gained some critical attention during the winter of 1914 with some satisfactory sittings she gave to Hewat McKenzie, the founder of the British College of Psychic Science.

As a result of this he recommended that Lady and Sir Oliver Lodge visit her, after their son Raymond was killed in World War I during the autumn of 1915. They followed his advice and arranged to sit with Mrs Leonard, at first attending in total anonymity.

These sittings were possibly the most significant in her life because the information the Lodges received from Feda convinced them they were communicating with their son Raymond. Sir Oliver was not one to accept mediumistic utterances blindly, and he put Mrs. Leonard through a severe series of tests. But the evidence kept coming forth, and it became impossible to deny the obvious: Raymond lived on.

More importantly these experiences were then recorded in Sir Oliver Lodge's famous book, Raymond, or Life After Death, which is an examination of his search for survival evidence.

In 1916 two sitters, Radcliffe Hall and (Una) Lady Troubridge, approached Leonard after the death of their friend "A.V.B." Although the sitters and subject were unknown to her, "Feda" gave remarkably detailed information on the subject and the house where the ladies had lived. The sitters not only approached Leonard anonymously, but also employed a private detective to make sure Leonard had not obtained the information in a mundane way. No deception was discovered.

Rev. C. Drayton Thomas carried on experiments with Leonard for years involving over 500 sittings with her. Thomas's deceased father acquired the ability to come through without "Feda speaking directly from Leonard's mouth. It seems that this led to Thomas having the honor of recording the first spirit voice on tape when he captured one of the audible, disembodied voices she had started producing on tape. He later identified one of them as the voice of his own father. This occurred sometime in the late 1940s abd the tape was converted to gramophone records.

Father and son developed a whole series of tests to check on the accuracy of information For example, on one occasion Thomas was told, "In tomorrow's Times, on page 8, column 5, about six inches from the bottom, you will find a name which will recall intimate associations of your youth between the ages of 16-18." The Times appears to have been "invaded" systematically for information by this communicator who also disclosed personal traits in referring to his favorite books, indicating passages on certain pages in answer to questions put by his son.

They also developed a whole series of book tests. The idea 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.". They extended this test to include the libraries of friends so that Mrs Leonard could not have any possible idea of the locations.

Over a period of about two years, the father and son researchers carried out 348 tests. Of those, 242 were deemed good, 46 indefinite, and 60 failures. The discarnate Thomas explained the failures as his inability to get the idea through the mind of the medium or the medium's mind somehow distorting the message.

Rev Drayton Thomas catalogued all of his experiences and in 1928 published them in a book called Life Beyond Death.
.
Mrs. Leonard was often surrounded by many of England's finest minds and never lacked for work as a medium. However, she considered herself an ordinary woman using a means of communication which, to her, was just as natural as talking on the telephone. She had a firm understanding of mediumship and knew that one does not simply turn it on and off. Her work demonstrated that a medium can remain both honest and a person of normal common sense in daily life. “'Good gracious,' exclaimed a stranger on meeting Mrs Leonard, you look quite sensible.'”

In the forward to Mrs. Leonard's autobiography, Sir Oliver Lodge wrote:
"To communicate with the spiritual world most of us require the services of a human being with an organism trained to allow itself to be used by other intelligences, who are thus able to demonstrate their existence and to send messages of affection or comfort. Mrs. Leonard is such a medium and has proved herself in the past to be the best or one of the best that I have known."

On March 19, 1968, at the age of 85, during her sleep, Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard quietly passed out of the body, in order to continue her work on that higher realm of Spirit.

As a final anecdote about her Mediumship there was one incident when Sir Oliver Lodge sent two of his adult children to a sitting to test her further so Lionel Lodge and his sister, Norah, went for a sitting in London. Back in Birmingham another son and two daughters knew the time of the sitting and sat in the drawing room to focus on Raymond asking him to get the word “Honolulu during the sitting with Leonard. Lionel and Norah knew nothing of this request.

When Sir Oliver later read Lionel’s notes of the sitting, he saw that Raymond said something about Norah playing music upon getting a response from Raymond, Feda than said, “He wanted to know whether you could play Hulu – Honolulu. Well, can’t you try to? He is rolling with laughter.”
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Re: Gladys Osborne Leonard

Post by obiwan on Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:04 pm

Aside from Gladys's own story, the writings of Oliver Lodge regarding his sittings with her are very interesting. I think they are hard to dismiss without assuming OL was a fool which I can't say I think he was, given his achievements although he was only human after all. His book "Raymond" was fascinating and very well written although the language is looking a bit archaic these days and is a bit convoluted in places Smile

Feda comes across as a bit of a character although there seems to be some debate as to exactly who or what she was (ie a person in her own right or an aspect of Gladys Leonard's subconscious used as a mechanism for communication.

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Re: Gladys Osborne Leonard

Post by zerdini on Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:38 pm

An excellent book Jim.

I have a copy which I must admit I haven't read recently but as I read the extracts you published it all came back to me.

Oliver Lodge was highly praised by a Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University as one of "the six finest brains in Britain".

Feda, if I remember correctly, described her earthly life and was also distantly related to GOL in some way.

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