Okkulte Stimmen. Mediale Musik [Recordings of Unseen Intelligences 1905-2007].
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: The Journal of Parapsychology Publisher: Parapsychology Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Parapsychology Press ISSN: 0022-3387|
|Issue:||Date: Spring, 2012 Source Volume: 76 Source Issue: 1|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Recordings of unseen Intelligences 1905-2007 (Nonfiction work)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Fischer, Andreas; Knoefel, Thomas|
OKKULTE STIMMEN. MEDIALE MUSIK [Recordings of unseen intelligences
1905-2007] edited by Andreas Fischer and Thomas Knoefel. Berlin:
Suppose, 2007. Three CDs and a booklet. $60.00. ISBN 978-3-932513-81-7.
What would a person interested in psi phenomena give for a film of one of the seances of D. D. Home, Mrs. Piper, or Mrs. Leonard, or of a demonstration by Alexis Didier. Barring the development of a functioning time machine, we will never get such treats, but the extraordinary set of CDs Okkulte Stimmen. Mediale Musik provides almost comparable sonic treasures. The recordings, spanning more than a hundred years, are divided into: trance speech (words spoken by mediums in a presumed altered state of consciousness during a seance), direct voices (speech in a seance without an apparent natural source), precognitive claims, xenoglossy (speaking in a tongue apparently never learned by the speaker), glossolalia ("speaking in tongues" or in an incomprehensible language), paranormal music (reputedly channeled from a dead composer or interpreter), raps and haunting phenomena, and electric voice phenomena. There are also not-easy-to-classify tracks such as that of the final seance in which Houdini's wife finally gave up trying to obtain any credible evidence of his survival through mediums, and various shamanic songs. The CDs contain a short presentation of the recordings in German and English, while a more general introduction is found in the book The Message (see a review of that book in this issue). It would take too much space to review every one of the 64 soundtracks, so I highlight some of the most noteworthy ones.
The first CD contains the trance speech, direct voices, and precognition (although other CDs also contain claims of precognitive information) sections. It begins with recordings from the two children involved in the famous Enfield poltergeist case. The voices sound masculine and spooky, but the statement in the booklet by an unnamed speech specialist that a child could not maintain such imposture for hours without damage to her vocal cords lacks supporting evidence. Tragic and even spookier is the soundtrack in the sad case of Anneliese Michel, whose possession and exorcism culminated in her death (for a general discussion of this case, see Cardena, 2007), demonstrating that some of these experiences are by no means child's play or fraud. In the more benign form of identity alteration known as trance mediumship/channeling, it is fascinating to listen to the playful voice of the Feda control of one of the most researched and successful mediums in history, Mrs. Leonard. In contrast, I hope that medium Leslie Flint did not actually communicate with a discarnate Oscar Wilde, as this would imply that in death Wilde gained in pomposity while misplacing his famous wit. Worth mentioning in this first CD are also the soundtrack of the hyperventilation (up to 300 breaths per minute maintained throughout long sessions) of the medium Rudi Schneider, and a recording of the Nazi-friendly medium Hanussen, who used secret information on how the SA would burn the Reichstag to "precognize" this event, yet did not foresee his own death at the hands of his political masters after his indiscretion.
The second CD includes xenoglossy and glossolalia recordings, although it would be more precise to call them vocal utterances during altered states of consciousness as they include shamanic songs that may not necessarily involve the assumption of a foreign or secret language. In this context, it is a pity that the collection does not include a fragment of the exuberant poems/chants of the Mexican mushroom shaman Maria Sabina (Estrada, 1977). Nonetheless the CD contains some fascinating surprises such as the incantations by the infamous esoterist and "Great Beast" Aleister Crowley, and glossolalic prophecies recorded during Pentecostal services.
The final CD illustrates different phenomena. The first soundtracks are of compositions and performances presumptively directed by dead composers. They include a couple of pieces "transmitted" through Rosemary Brown, from an LP that got considerable attention some years ago. Some have argued that a "mere" housewife without much formal training could not herself compose pieces that are pleasant and stylistically coherent with those of the proposed composer, although not extraordinary. This argument, however, implies that only formal training can give rise to feats of creativity, something that even a modest perusal of the lives of eminent and largely self-taught artists (e.g., Schoenberg, Frank Lloyd Wright) shows to be false. In the case of Rosemary Brown and other channeled material (see Hastings, 1991), one could argue that some people may have an unusual chameleon-like talent to imitate various styles without necessarily creating a new one. Whether this explanation, the actual transmission of works by deceased creators, or some other one holds the day, it is clear that we need to investigate this phenomenon far more and see whether it shares commonalities with the extraordinary reproductive skills found in savantism (cf. Snyder, 2004).
This CD also includes raps and haunting phenomena such as a cup suddenly and inexplicably exploding, some of them investigated by the German parapsychologist Hans Bender. The CD ends with various examples of electronic voice phenomena, one purported to be by the important French writer and politician Andre Malraux, and music seemingly interspersed in the midst of the noise found in recorders, telephones, and similar media. These phenomena have received media attention (e.g., various films and the acclaimed play The Weir, by Connor McPherson) but little controlled research has been devoted to it, although this may be changing. For instance, Colvin (2010) reports that raps from a number of poltergeist cases evidenced an acoustic pattern that differed from that of normal taps, and a recent book summarizes the research on electronic voice phenomena and includes a CD with various examples (Cardoso, 2010).
Okkulte Stimmen. Mediale Musik provides a treasure trove of examples of a realm that has had, and continues to have, enormous cultural import, regardless of its evidential impact for the validity of purported parapsychological phenomena.
Cardena, E. (2007). All in the family [Review of the motion picture Requiem]. Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid, with Sandra Huller. PsycCRITIQUES--Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 52 (31), Article 18, doi: 10.1037/a0006934
Cardoso, A. (2010). Electronic voices: Contact with another dimension (with CD). Winchester, England: O Books.
Colvin, B. (2010). The acoustic properties of unexplained rapping sounds. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 73, 65-93.
Estrada, A. (1977). Vida de Mar& Sabina la sabia de los hongos [Life of Maria Sabina, the wise woman of the mushrooms]. Mexico City: Siglo XXI.
Hastings, A. (1991). With the tongues of men and angels. A study of channeling. Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Snyder, A. W. (2004). Autistic genius. Nature, 428, 470-471.
Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP)
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