Lodge, Sir Oliver (Penkhull, Staffordshire, England, 12 June 1851 – Lake, Wiltshire, 22 August 1940)

Lodge, Sir Oliver (Penkhull, Staffordshire, England, 12 June 1851 – Lake, Wiltshire, 22 August 1940)

After joining the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) soon after its formation in 1882, Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge (June 12, 1851 – August 22, 1940) investigated many cases of mediumship, including those of Leonora Piper of Boston, Mass., Gladys Osborne Leonard of England, and Eusapia Paladino of Italy. Through his investigations, he came to accept the reality of mediumship and to believe in the survival of consciousness at death. Much to the dismay of many of his materialistic colleagues in science, Sir Oliver made his beliefs public.

Born in Staffordshire, England, Lodge received his doctorate from University College, London, in 1877, going on to teach physics and mathematics at University College in both London and Liverpool. In 1900, he became principal of Birmingham University, remaining there until his retirement in 1919. Knighted in 1902 for his scientific work, Lodge was known primarily as a physicist, especially for his work in electricity, thermo-electricity, and thermal-conductivity. He perfected a radio wave detector known as a “coherer” and was the first person to transmit a radio signal, a year before Marconi. He later developed the Lodge spark plug.

Like so many other scientists caught up in the wake of Darwinism, Lodge had become a materialist, not believing in anything spiritual. However, he remained open-minded on the subject and was intrigued by the idea that one person could read another’s mind, something he had observed around 1883 in a stage performer called Irving Bishop. “The verification of the fact of telepathy, indicating obscurely a kind of dislocation between mind and body, was undoubtedly impressive, so that it began to seem probable, especially under (Frederic) Myers’s tuition, that the two – mind and body – were not inseparably connected, as I had been led by my previous studies under Clifford, Tyndall, and Huxley to believe they were,” Lodge later wrote. “I began to feel that there was a possibility of the survival of personality.”

During the winter of 1889, Lodge and Myers closely studied Leonora Piper, the American medium who had been brought to England by the SPR. It was that study that convinced Lodge of survival and spirit communication. “The proof that they retained their individuality, their memory, and their affection, forced itself upon me, as it had done upon many others,” Lodge wrote. “So my eyes began to open to the fact that there really was a spiritual world, as well as a material world which hitherto had seemed all sufficient, that the things which appealed to the senses were by no means the whole of existence.”

Further studies of Gladys Osborne Leonard and other British mediums reinforced Lodge’s belief and provided the basis for his popular 1916 book, Raymond, or Life After Death, which involved communication from his son, Raymond, killed on the battlefield on September 11, 1915. On September 24, Raymond began communicating with Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge through Leonard and Alfred Vout Peters, another London medium. He communicated that Myers, who had died in 1901, was helping him adjust to his new environment. Much in the way of evidential information was communicated by Raymond, including information about a photograph taken just before his death with his military unit. Raymond mentioned that he was in a sitting position with a walking stick and a fellow officer standing behind him was leaning on him. Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge had never seen the photo, but made arrangements to obtain it. When they did acquire a copy, they found it to be exactly as Raymond had described – Raymond with a walking stick across his folded legs and the arm of an officer behind him resting on his shoulder.

By the end of April 1916, a preponderance of evidence that Raymond had been communicating with them had been accumulated by the Lodge family. “The number of more or less convincing proofs which we have obtained is by this time very great,” Sir Oliver wrote. “Some of them appeal more to one person, some to another; but taking them all together every possible ground of suspicion or doubt seems to the family to be now removed.”

Lodge saw no conflict between mainstream science and psychical research. “For myself, I do not believe that physics and psychics are entirely detached,” he wrote. “I think there is a link between them; neither is complete without the other. A study of the material world alone may be a narrowing influence. It leaves untouched the whole ‘universe of discourse’ apprehended by artist, philosopher, and theologian. To emphasize the importance of one part of the universe we need not decry or deny the remainder.”

Lodge left a series of sealed envelopes as a posthumous test of his survival. While several mediums claimed to have heard from Lodge after his death, the SPR concluded that the results of his posthumous test were inconclusive and ambiguous.

Besides Raymond, or Life After Death, Lodge authored many books, both on mainstream scientific subjects and psychical research. They included Man and the Universe (1908), Science and Religion (1914), Ether and Reality (1925), Evolution and Creation (1926) and My Philosophy (1933).

“Death is not a word to fear, any more than birth is,” Lodge summarized his philosophy. “We change our state at birth, and come into the world of air and sense and myriad existence; we change our state at death and enter a region of – what? Of ether, I think, and still more myriad existence; a region in which communion is more akin to what we here call telepathy, and where intercourse is not conducted by the accustomed indirect physical process; but a region in which beauty and knowledge are as vivid as they are here, a region in which progress is possible, and in which ‘admiration, hope, and love’ are even more real and dominant. It is in this sense that we can truly say, ‘The dead are not dead, but alive.’” 

May 5th, 2017 by

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