CHAPTER XIV PERSONAL IDENTITY
Personal identity has been the stumbling block of psychic investigators. In my work, on account of the darkness required, I have to depend upon the voice and the information given for proof of identity of the individual. I have had in this regard some very remarkable proofs.
It is only by showing that people in the afterlife have material bodies and live under material conditions that we can appreciate how they may speak with direct voice and prove their identity. Assuming that they have bodies, that they retain the same etheric form that was clothed with the flesh garment, and that they live in a material world, we do not find the fact that they speak to us and communicate with us in various ways startling; on the contrary, it is reasonable and natural not only that they should do so, but that they should be just as anxious to communicate with us as we are to communicate with them.
I recall an incident that will appeal to the purely materialistic. I was one of my father’s executors, and after his dissolution and the settlement of his estate, speaking to me from the next plane, he told me one night that I had overlooked an item that he wanted to mention to me.
I replied: “Your mind was ever centered on the accumulation of money. Why take up the time that is so limited with the discussion of your estate. It has already been divided.”
“Yes,” he answered, “I know that, but I worked too hard for my money to have it lost, and there is an asset remaining that you have not discovered.”
“Well,” I said, “if that be true, tell me about it.”
He answered. – “Some years before I left, I loaned a small sum of money to Susan Stone, who resided in Pennsylvania, and I took from her a promissory note upon which under the laws of that State I was entitled to enter a judgment at once without suit. I was somewhat anxious about the loan; so before its maturity, I took the note and filed it with the prothonotary at Erie, Pennsylvania, and he entered judgment, which became a lien on her property. In my books of account there was no reference to that note or judgment. If you will go to the prothonotary’s office in Erie, you will find the judgment on record, and I want you to collect it. There are many things that you don’t know about, and this is one of them.”
I was much surprised at the information thus received and naturally sent for a transcript of that judgment. I found it entered October 21, 1896, and with that evidence of the indebtedness I collected from the judgment debtor $70 with interest. I question if any one knew of that transaction besides the makers of the note, and the prothonotary at Erie. Certainly I did not know about it. I had no reason to suspect it. The psychic present at that interview could not have known about the matter, and I certainly collected the money. My father’s voice was clearly recognizable on that occasion, as it has been on hundreds of others, and I cite this instance for the benefit of those who measure everything from a monetary standpoint.
Dr. Isaac J. Funk, a man of much learning, spent forty years in psychic research. He published the result of his investigation and many of his conclusions, but he always lived in awe of the criticism of science. I spent many hours with Dr. Funk going over the details of my own work, and I discussed with him many of the problems with which we had to deal. He was much interested in the investigations that I was making with Mrs. French, and for that reason I arranged for her to go to New York where she spent eleven days with him and his associates. There, under conditions that he desired, she demonstrated the work she was doing with me. The result he published in his “Psychic Riddle.”
He was always anxious for proof that the voices which he heard were independent, and he wanted evidence of the identity of those with whom I had speech. These points he regarded as important to prove the continuity of life, and in his work he was unable to satisfy himself concerning them. His method was to attempt to prove a fact by the process of elimination, that is, to prove truths by demonstrating their opposite. He, like all other scientific men, attempted to rear a structure by tearing the structure down. This process has impeded the progress of nearly all psychic investigators, and I often said to him that one should seek what he wanted to find with open and receptive mind, always having in his thought that conditions cannot be changed to satisfy any one’s particular notion; that we must accept conditions as we find them and make them better, to enable us to gain the end desired. In all of Dr. Funk’s published works he left a loophole in his conclusions, that he might avoid criticism should he be found in error.
Some time ago the doctor left his physical body, and one night soon after, during one of the last sessions I had with Mrs. French, a man’s voice spoke my name. The tone was familiar, but I could not associate the voice with any one whom I had known in the earth-life, although I knew a spirit was speaking.
I replied, “Your voice is familiar, but I do not recognize it.”
He replied, “I am Dr. Isaac Funk. I have been out of the body but a short time and being interested in your work, I have been permitted to come.”
I then said: “You may be Dr. Funk, as you claim, but we cannot permit you to consume our time unless you establish your identity. This is one of the rules that we adopted some time since, for the reason that, knowing the person, we can form some judgment as to the value of what he may say. If you are Dr. Funk and desire to continue this conversation, you must establish that fact.”
He quickly responded: “You are entirely right about that; what you ask is fair. I ought to be able to establish my identity.”
I said: “Certainly, if you are Dr. Funk you can give us some proof of your identity. During your earth life you always made a great point of establishing identity.”
Then he enquired: “How shall it be done?”
I answered: “That is not for me to suggest. You know how technical the body of scientific gentlemen to which you belong always is. If you are going to have a test here, we want it to be evidential. If you are going to prove your identity, you must do it without suggestion from me.”
He replied, after a pause: “Identity was what I invariably wanted satisfactorily proved. I recall a conversation I had with you in my private office at which no one was present but ourselves.”
“Yes,” I suggested, “we had many such interviews.”
He then said: “I refer to one at which I asked you to make a special test at one of your meetings with Mrs. French. I asked that when some one with an independent voice was speaking, you put your hand upon the table and have Mrs. French put her mouth upon your hand; you were then to place your free hand over her head, holding it firmly, and in that situation see if you could hear the independent voice. I wanted such evidence to demonstrate that Mrs. French did not do the talking. No one knew of that conversation but ourselves, and that ought to be proof to you that I am Dr. Funk.”
I replied: “Yes, I do, recall that conversation at the time and place. I now recognize your voice, and your proof is satisfactory.”
I then put my hand on the table. Mrs. French at my suggestion put her mouth upon the back of my hand, I put my free hand over the back of her head, holding it firmly, and then I said:
“Is this what you asked me to do?”
Dr. Funk replied: “Yes.”
I immediately said: “Dr. Funk, you do the talking, and we will demonstrate that your voice is independent.”
Afterward there was a general talk between Dr. Funk, certain of my group of co-workers upon his side of life, and me, and some plain things were said. I told Dr. Funk that because of his prominence, and as one who had investigated this important subject for many years, he could have been a great force for good; that many people in this world of men were interested in him and his writings and were guided by his conclusions, but that he never published them in full, for which reason his readers could not reach a better conclusion than he did. I told him that he had failed at the crucial moment, and had nullified the good he could have done. I added that I regarded this as a great misfortune not only to him, but to the world at large.
He replied: “I realize that now more than ever. It is a fact that I was afraid of the criticism of men of science. I now regret very much that I did not fully publish my conclusions. In my own mind there was no doubt.”
A spirit answered and said to him:
“You were the custodian of much knowledge. Through your investigations you learned many things. By reason of your position you could have done much good. That was your stumbling block, and before you can progress, you must become strong where you were weak.”
In my investigations, covering many years, in the room in my own home devoted to such work thousands of men whom I have known personally have talked with me, using their own tongues. I have recognized their voices; they have recalled and related countless facts and incidents of their daily life and have proved beyond question their identity, no less convincing than in the two cases to which I have referred.
Again, I have talked with many whose personal acquaintance I did not enjoy when they were in this life, but through this intercourse I have come to know them well, and admire them much. I have heard on many occasions the speech of Robert G. Ingersoll, which no man could imitate, speech as eloquent as when in his lectures he held great audiences spellbound. Henry Ward Beecher has honored me with his friendship and delivered many lectures on conditions prevailing beyond the physical. DeWitt Talmage has talked on various occasions of the duties of the ministry, and of the conditions resulting to the individual though teaching things that were unknown. He found that there was no progress possible in the afterlife for one occupying the position of spiritual leader when here, until he had searched out in his plane all those who had followed his teaching, and had brought them to the truth; moreover he found that he must stand and wait until the coming of those still in the earth-life in order that his error should be corrected at the earliest possible moment.
To promulgate unknown or impracticable teachings while on this earth-plane is a serious matter, and results in punishment in the afterlife.