Two years have elapsed since the publication of Grant and Jane Solomon's The Scole Experiment, and the heavyweight tome The Scole Report published by the Society for Psychical Research: long enough, one would think, to be able to assess what impact they have had now that the dust has settled, and to note how far the claims made by or on behalf of the Scole Group and their investigators have withstood time's test.
You will recall the strange episode of the dog that failed to bark in the night, leading Sherlock Holmes to sniffle out a canine clue to some dastardly deed: well, this goes for Scole too, The debates which followed publication of our Report concentrated almost exclusively on the authenticity of the phenomena. This is what we had neither wished nor planned.
Long before the end of our unexpectedly truncated series of sittings between 1995
and 1997, it had become clear to all three principal investigators, and associated
To most readers of the Spiritual Scientist, for whom the presence and influence of spirit personalities are as real as their morning porridge, this may be an irritatingly pointless issue. But it remains true that the world beyond the séance room and the spiritualists' meeting place remains positively hostile to the evidence.
For many believers, this is a matter of indifference. They have found the truth as it appears to them; they have discovered a source of assurance, comfort, guidance and help which less fortunate or more purblind folk have denied themselves, and are content to cultivate their own garden and not seek to proselytise, or even protest.
That was the view strongly expressed six or seven years ago by the Noah's Ark Society.
The resistance to investigation by those seeking to intrude into their private séances
was both widespread and perfectly understandable. However, to those of us cursed
with insatiable curiosity, and angry at the manner in which the scientific establishment
I have been in as good a position as anyone to appraise the aftermath of The Scole Report. Its contents have been extensively reviewed, albeit not in the columns of the scientific press or in respected broadsheets. But the sceptics have certainly had every opportunity and incentive to undermine our findings by producing evidence, no matter how circumstantial or flimsy, that we were all taken in. The journalist able to unearth a damning piece of evidence of deception, at any stage, time, place or circumstance, would have surely made it to the front pages, and secured an honoured place for himself in the annals of fraud exposure.
But what has happened matches the behaviour of Sherlock's hound: silence. Hundreds
of people attended sittings in half a dozen countries over several years, not just
in the village of Scole. Not one has come forward to support any of the critics.
On the contrary, no single piece of evidence which has come my way has done anything
to undermine the integrity of the Scole Group or the authenticity of the evidence
of that astonishing range of physical phenomena -
This is all the more remarkable because I have gone out of my way to invite such
evidence. I have spoken at several meetings and conferences here and abroad, engendering
The critics argue that, had the evidence been yet more impressive, and devoid of the mere possibility of deception, they would have been won over. But history lends no support to any such plea. The literature of mediumistic communications in general, and the accounts of investigation of physical phenomena in particular, provide ample examples of cases where fraud is clearly ruled out, and only the notion of a carefully manipulated conspiracy among all concerned, chiefly the investigators or witnesses themselves, can be advanced to explain it all away.
The commonest argument in support of the critics is that scientific advances proceed by replication: do it in a different lab by different experimenters, and you overcome initial doubts. Do it again in a third or umpteenth lab, and you have won over the doughtiest of critics. Many psychical researchers, and not a few spiritualists, subscribe to this approach. Even Mrs. Emily Bradshaw, our wise, lively and charismatic spirit informer during the Scole sittings, said that replication is what we want.
But it isn't, because it isn't possible. The parrot-
It should be boldly stated that replication is a device appropriate within the framework of the three dimensional world which fits our everyday experience and requirements. The intrusion of the spirit world into our comfy physical domain immediately imports a different set of uncertainties. The Scole experience is inherently incapable of replication. We shall never be able to recapture the same persons, spirit communicators or physical environment which characterised those historic sittings.
What we might be able to do is to show that comparable physical phenomena can be
produced by others, elsewhere, but under just as tight or even tighter control conditions.
Strange to say, we have some of the evidence. My hope is that it will be published
during 2002. In most respects it is nowhere near as varied or intelligent as the
oral and physical transmissions the investigators experienced at Scole; but in one
or two respects, the conditions in which phenomena were produced were even more impressive
than prevailed with the Scole Group. This was in the production of pictures in the
dark from lens-
What will happen when such evidence is published? You would think (if you were sufficiently naive) that the sceptics would immediately recognise their defeat and rush to embrace the new truth, dedicated as they are to accepting the supremacy of evidence over theory. My prediction is that they will respond with their most effective weapon: total silence.
Do not be dismayed or surprised by this pessimistic forecast! It is important to understand just why the sceptics retreat into their materialistic shells when faced with evidence which blows a gaping hole in their intellectual midriffs. Just as the body automatically musters its defensive mechanisms to repel the intrusion of a foreign body, so the mind reacts similarly. Initially it will look for flaws in the evidence; but if none is found, then the result can take one or two forms. One is known as cognitive dissonance, the delightfully apt description of the mind which initially acknowledges the truth of some miraculous event demonstrated before its eyes, but which a day or day later rejects the experience as incompatible with the unalterable truth of practical experience. The other is silence.
Occasionally one can attempt to prise the sceptics from their shell by issuing challenges.
I did this for one of the best-
It is unwise to under-
But we're working on it. And when we get there, the historic contribution of the Scole Group to broadening the understanding of Man about his spiritual as well as is physical environment will be recognised.