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Post by Admin Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:45 am

This article was written by me, edited by Lis for Psychic News wher it was published in 2009.
© Jim & Lis Warwood and Psychic News all re-use to be correctly attributed.


“The most intelligent Spirits positively protest against the idea of God”.

“Most often, man dies without being aware of what is happening to him. He returns to consciousness after several days, sometimes after several months. The awakening is far from agreeable. He sees himself surrounded by beings whom he does not recognize; the heads of these beings resemble skulls. The terror that seizes him often makes him lose consciousness again.” …

“Everything material is subject to the laws of matter; matter decomposes; our lives do not endure for more than a hundred and fifty years at most; then we die for good”.

These three statements, purportedly received direct from Spirit through the use of a machine built under Spirit instruction for this explicit purpose, portray an unusual vision of the spirit world. Both comments were mentioned in the French newspaper ‘Le Monde Physique’ in 1912, when reviewing a new book on spirit communication, and were subsequently used by the French author, Rene Guenon, in his 1923 book ‘Spiritist Fallacy,’ as a means of highlighting that both Spiritualists and Spiritists were misled by those with whom they were supposedly in contact.

Guenon was an influential writer on a variety of topics but especially metaphysics and sacred science, and in the 1923 publication he based his arguments against spirit communication upon the inconsistencies in the messages which claimed to come from spirits concerning their existence and the after-life. Not surprisingly, he viewed the above ‘communications’ as prime examples of the plethora of contradictory information supposedly transmitted by spirit.

Discovery of this material may be seen to solve an interesting puzzle from the past and explain why some apparently ground breaking experimental work in psychical research has fallen into obscurity. The research had been directed at two areas of interest. The first, related to direct communication with spirit through the use of specially created machinery. The second aspect concerned an analysis of the form the Spirit may take in the after life.

The two Dutchmen who conducted the research were Drs. Matla and Zaalberg van Zelst. Their scientific expertise was in the specialties of high-frequency currents in electricity, liquid air and the compression of gases. Both of them had long standing interests in Spiritism. The instructions on how to build the machinery they used came from a Spirit claiming to be Zaalberg van Zelst’s father, as communicated through the mediums they met while carrying out their research.

Their research into Spiritism and spirit communication stretched for over a twenty two year period. However, after the Father’s death on July 17th 1903 they began to receive full descriptions on the equipment required. They then constructed the machines conducting experiments and using the feedback to help refine the machines to be more effective, combining their own expertise with Spirit guidance. They published their findings in 1912. The book, written in Dutch, was titled “The Mystery of Death”.

At the time the book was launched they also exhibited a clay model of the communicating Spirit, which, under spirit instruction, had been made by Zaalberg van Zelst. The statue received a critique from the French newspaper ‘Le Monde”, reported on March 9th 1913, in the New York Times, which sadly commented that the model was sufficiently ugly as to “discourage any desire for immortality”!

The review in the New York Times had the curious title ’Say Man Becomes a Gas,’ and described how the two Dutch “Scientific Spiritualists,” used instructions received from Spirit to construct a machine which enabled them to measure the size of the Spirit, defined as the “superman” or “man-force.” The paper was surprisingly uncritical, reporting that the results obtained indicated the ‘spirit’ was an intelligent being with a body that conformed to the laws relating to gases and was therefore undoubtedly composed of gas.

The machine described in the newspaper report was the final version of Matla and Zaalberg van Zelst’s device for measuring the spirit. This was an enclosed cylinder filled with air linked to a manometer which was filled with alcohol. The manometer allowed a measurement of the displacement of the air driven out of the cylinder as the spirit working on this project with them entered it. The information collected recorded the volumetric size, mass and the weight. By this means they were able to calculate the nature, size and weight of the spirit involved.

The two researchers went on to add another machine, called the Dynamistograph, an electro mechanical machine to allow the spirit to converse by the use of a register which the Spirit could click to print letters onto a moving roll of paper, not unlike ticker tape. By this method the spirit was able to give more information, even typing complete passages for them.
Picture of Dynamistograph
Pioneers of EVP SAY MAN BECOMES A GAS Dynami10
Not surprisingly their research gained widespread attention at the time. The Journal of the Society of Psychic Research reported on it, and Hereward Carrington gave a detailed review in ‘Modern Psychical Phenomena’ in 1919.

Their experiments created interest for psychical researchers in two very distinct areas: the theoretical calculation of the size of the man-force, or manifesting spirit, together with its abilities to manipulate its body and, the ability of the spirit to directly pass on messages, in an independent way, using machinery it could control itself, thereby removing the need for a medium to be present.

Hereward’s book provides detailed information about the experiments, including the way they constructed their machines, however, it focuses mainly on the data from the experiments about the physical nature of the Spirit. No information about the nature of the messages received is mentioned. As for the dimensions of the Spirit, Carrington quotes the conclusions which Matla and van Zelst reached:

“That this "body" is capable of contraction and expansion, under the action of the will of the "man-force," the expansion being 1.26 mm., or about one-forty-millionth of its own volume; its contraction being much greater, viz., about 8mm., or one-six-and-a-quarter millionth of its volume. Its specific weight is about 12.24 mgs. lighter than hydrogen, and 176.5 times lighter than air.”

It is this area of their work which continues to receive mention in the field of psychical research. Extra credence has been given to it because the weight claimed matched figures obtained by research conducted in 1907 by Dr. Duncan McDougall, of Haverhill, MA. His experiments recorded the weight of a dying person from just before death to just afterwards. His conclusion was that the weight change, apparently similar for all people, could only reflect the departure of the Spirit.

While the two Dutch scientists indicated that meaningful messages were received, even when no one was in the laboratory, and there could not have been any external ‘mediumistic’ influence, the content of the messages appear to have told a very different, and significantly less pleasant story of life after death than that more commonly imparted. Containing elements such as the terror that occurs when spirit reawaken, the absence of God, and spirit survival being for at most one hundred and fifty years before oblivion, were not ideas readily accepted by people at the time.

Matla and Zaalberg van Zelst’s work was nevertheless an important early attempt at communication through electronic machinery. As such it rightfully gets a mention in the annals of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) being referred to in the 2003 book, ‘There is No Death and There Are No Dead’, by Tom and Lisa Butler, where it is described as the second really significant event in the history of EVP.

While not denying the validity of attempts to communicate with the spirit world by mechanical rather than mediumistic means, their work, however, seems to highlight a difficulty faced in all efforts to communicate with the spirit world; namely the need to ‘test the spirits’ to ensure they are what they claim, and what they say can be relied upon. Indeed, the two researchers acknowledged in their book that over one three year period they obtained in their “alphabetical data, only banalities, rude comments, and blatant lies” which leaves one to wonder what precisely had been communicating through the machine.

That a seemingly seminal work in scientific spirit communication, should have received little further research or investigation to evaluate the mechanical process by which these communications were achieved, despite the apparent anomalies in the information received, is rather saddening. It was a fascinating, and ingenious new means of communicating with the realm of spirit that has become just another of Spiritualism’s historical curiosities.

© Jim & Lis Warwood and Psychic News all re-use to be correctly attributed.


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Post by obiwan Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:49 am

Interesting thanks Jim


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