Monthly Archives: January 2014

Alter Ego by Jastrow

JosephJastrowNow here comes the oft- quoted old-time skeptic, Professor Joseph Jastrow, Ph.D.  He was a founding member of the American Society for Psychical Research and was a respected psychologist and educator.   He published a book titled Wish and Wisdom in 1935.  In that book he has, in Chapter XV, some thoughts about Patience Worth.  The chapter title is “Patience Worth: An Alter Ego”.

(Now you know where this is going, don’t you?)

He doesn’t state anything brilliant in this chapter and of course provides no references.  I do give him credit for a short summary of the of Patience Worth case seemingly taken from Dr. Prince’s book The Case of Patience Worth and from Casper Yost’s book Patience Worth, A Psychic Mystery. Jastrow is very subtle in his presentation of Patience Worth as an ‘Alter Ego’.  He chooses his words like a passive-aggressive writer trying to convince by suggestion and association rather that evidence.  He says that Pearl Pollard’s story (meaning her early childhood) provides some clues. After that, he mixes somewhat factual selections about Pearl Curran’s early life with his opinions, unsupported by any hard evidence and no references.

For example, he says that Pearl Curran’s father was “of English-Welsh extraction”—well, yes but according to the 1930 census he was born in the United States (New York)  and lived his entire life there.  Pearl said that she knew little of her father’s side of the family other than he was English and Welsh.  She remarked that she had ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and that her “Mother’s people came over generations ago; I don’t know where they landed.” ( The 1930 census lists Illinois as the birthplace of her mother.)  Jastrow says, speaking of Pearl, that “Inevitably she absorbed some knowledge of English ways from her parents.”  How does he know that?  Pearl’s parents might have been of English extraction but they were not from England.  Jastrow says her father “was editor of a small newspaper;…”  Well, yes but in small mining towns in Potosi and Irondale Missouri and in Charleston Illinois for a relatively short time.

Pearl said that her father, George Pollard, was educated at a military school in Ithica,     N. Y, and that he tried art a while after graduating, then sold his studio and went to Texas  He had been employed at a railroad company at Mound City Illinois and  “had been with the Courier” a newspaper in Charleston, Illinois. (The Pollards—George, Mary and Pearl— left Illinois for Texas when Pearl was an infant.)

After the Pollards moved from Texas to Missouri, George Pollard edited a couple of  country newspapers in Potosi and Irondale Missouri.  He also reportedly worked as a Secretary of the Renault Lead Company in Palmer, Missouri.   Jastrow thinks that Pearl’s father’s “editorial offices”  may well have been a center for miscellaneous information for Pearl.  Jastrow says of Pearl that “She spent part of her childhood in the Ozark region with her mother’s relatives.”  Well, her mother’s relatives lived in St. Louis Missouri; while close to the Ozark mountains, St. Louis was and still is a major metropolitan city in Missouri and was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair.   Potosi, Irondale and Palmer Missouri, where Pearl spent her teenage years, are close by.    Jastrow brings-up the Ozark reference since some people accuse Patience Worth of using a dialect found in the people of the Ozark Mountains.  However, it was shown that the dialect of Patience Worth and the Ozark dialects were not similar and Jastrow implies this in his last paragraph of the chapter.

Jastrow states that Pearl had ‘strong religious interests’.  Well that would be news to Pearl since her parents took her as a child to several religions denominations until finally she was confirmed in the Episcopalian church.  Because Pearl did spend many years training her voice, she reports that she sang in the church choir but she did not display “strong religious interests” as evidenced by statements made by her family and friends.  The following quote from Pearl Curran is taken from The Case of Patience Worth by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in response to questions from Dr. Prince:

“Never a Bible reader.  Neither father nor mother went to church.  I was in Sunday-School because they were ashamed not to send me.  A Methodist school, I think—I don’t remember much about it.  Father was essentially religious, but didn’t talk it or go to church.  If I asked ‘Is there a God?’ he would say: ‘My dear, I don’t know.’  Mother went to church only by fits and starts.  She did not talk of religion until Patience Worth started her.  I just graduated with the class into confirmation.  I had no inward experience.  Was taught at home to say: ‘Now I lay me’ —-that was all.  No, I didn’t think much on religious subjects, and don’t now.  The longest period of church-going I had was in St. Louis, after I began to write for Patience Worth.  The first volume of the record was done while I was singing in the choir.  The preaching did not seem to affect me;  I was there to sing. 

No, I never wanted to be a missionary or do good in any particular way.  I wanted to go on the stage and sing.  I went to Sunday-School off and on, from seven to fourteen.”

Jastrow implies that Pearl Curran benefited by the “constant association with Mr. Yost, editor, voracious reader with a large fund of general knowledge.  He says that Yost’s knowledge encouraged the development of Patience Worth. Well yes, Casper Yost was a very literate man, except that Patience Worth appeared before Yost’s association with Pearl Curran.

You get the picture.

Jastrow goes on and on with these kinds of insinuations and opinions which were I to quote and rebut them, they would take up way too much space on an internet blog.  My point here is that if the reader sees quotes from Jastrow, used by pseudo-skeptics to provide evidence that they have figured out that the Patience Worth persona was an alter ego of Pearl Curran, I suggest reading The Case of Patience Worth by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince  in which Dr. Prince provides much first-hand information about his meetings with Pearl Curran and Patience Worth.

Here’s a selection on page 190 of Wish and Wisdom by Professor Jastrow.

“One may well question whether Patience Worth is worth so much patience.  The linguistic product is plainly antiqued, monotonously and ostentatiously so.  We are accustomed to antique furniture and examine it closely in order not to be deceived, even as to the worm-holes produced by bird-shot.  Patience Worth’s use of a’ o’. the me o’ me, a-down, a-stopped, a-wing, o’hand, not all a-yet, is so much verbal bird-shot.  To suggest that the model is a recollection of Ozark does not mean that she speaks that dialect, the similarity is only that of an older and quainter diction made familiar in her childhood.

He continues;

 “To suppose that Mrs. Curran in any sense is in touch with a Devonshire lass of three hundred years ago brings no illumination and adds much confusion.  How could Patience know or write the tale of the Christ with that fullness of setting which actually appears?  How can she spread her personality from then until now?  I know nothing of the habits or the psychology of discarnate personages; but their habit of behaving so much like the persons they inhabit is both disconcerting and revealing.

“I do not depreciate the quality of Mrs. Curran’s performance, nor its value as a contribution to the psychology of creative literary activity; but I cannot subscribe to the independent reality of Patience Worth, whether in the reserved sense in which Mrs. Curran maintains her faith in her inspiration or in that of those who go so far as to find the authentic voice of a real once living person.  My analysis gives Mrs. Curran the credit for the merit of Patience Worth.  The performance is significant not as trick authorship, but as an interesting form of release, which is not likely to be duplicated—not with the same setting.  To Mrs. Curran, Patience Worth has been worth the patient devotion she has spent upon it.  Many a writer, including the present one, would gladly adopt a mythical ghost, if in compensation he received the fluency of output along the directions of his desires, and thus became his own ghost-writer.

Well, Jastrow was a prominent psychologist during the lifetime of Pearl Curran.  Dr. Prince documents in The Case of Patience Worth that on February 12, 1921 Professor Joseph Jastrow was present at a session with Patience Worth and “asked for a poem about his adopted son and other verses, and there had been much questioning on his part,  .  .  . “  so apparently he had met Patience Worth at least one time.  He is probably not considered a big-time player in the case of Patience Worth but he does ask the right questions however.  It’s just that he is referenced and quoted so much by pseudo-skeptics who try to debunk Patience Worth and Pearl Curran.  They rely on this chapter of opinions by Jastrow rather than ferreting-out the real evidence from those who met Patience and Pearl and studied them first-hand.

 

 

 

A Nickell’s Worth

Wizard of OzTwo resources often used by pseudo-skeptics to debunk the Patience Worth case are Joe Nickell and Joseph Jastrow. I’ll get to Joe Jastrow later but now let’s start with Joe Nickell who describes himself as “the modern Sherlock Holmes: the “real-life Scully: (from X-files).”  He says that, “I believe that mysteries should actually be investigated….”  He considers himself
the “world’s only full-time professional paranormal investigator – – – the ‘Investigative Files’ writer for Skeptical Inquirer science magazine who travels around the world investigating strange mysteries at the very fringes of science.” He claims a Ph.D. in English, focusing on literary investigations and folklore, and author of two dozen books. Apparently he is an extraordinary individual with many careers which I quote from his web site to include; paranormal investigator, private investigator for a world-famous detective agency, historical document examiner, poet, fiction writer, editor, literary critic, forensic linguist, handwriting expert, photographer, stage magician, blackjack dealer, riverboat manager, and sign painter among 1,049 other ‘personas’ which he lists.  (You’ve gotta see this!)

Now that you understand Nickell’s self-described attributes, let’s consider his article about Patience Worth titled “Ghost Author? The Channeling of ‘Patience Worth’” In the article he states that he ‘…was able to study Pearl Curran’s writings at the Missouri Historical Society Archives . . . .”   “For five hours I pored over the Pearl Curran/’Patience Worth’ papers —numerous boxed documents and twenty-nine bound volumes of typescripts.”

(Just so you know, the definition of ‘pored” is “to read or study carefully” or to meditate deeply or to ponder.)

I have ‘looked at’ the Patience Worth records in the Missouri Historical Society’s archives for a few hours and one would have to indeed have a brilliant mind to pore over the numerous boxed documents and twenty-nine bound volumes of typescripts in five hours.  After this five-hour study of the records, Nickell doesn’t always provide accurate information. He says that Patience Worth was slain by Indians at the age of forty-five.  Now, I have looked and looked and cannot find any evidence that Patience Worth was forty-five years old when she was killed. It would be interesting to know how Nickell found out that Patience Worth was 45 years old when she was killed.  The record doesn’t state how old she was when she died.

He quotes, “One Elizabethan scholar, a Professor Shelling” for whom no other identifiers are provided. He uses as his reference for Shelling,  magician Milbourne ‘Christopher 1970, 129’ but the exact quote as used by Nickell was quoted long before in a 1935 book Wish and Wisdom by Joseph Jastrow ( whom I will discuss later) and attributed to Professor Schelling. Jastrow informs us that, “On such matters an expert opinion is decisive. Professor Schelling, eminent Elizabethan scholar, to whom I submitted the “case” kindly sends me this definitive verdict:. . . ” Jastrow also does not explain Professor Schelling’s academic credentials nor is a bibliography included in Jastrow’s  book.

Nickell states that Patience Worth “. . . . could speak through Curran’s voice. . . .” Well, that ‘s somewhat misleading. Pearl Curran stated that she heard Patience’s voice in her head and repeated what she said for transcription. Pearl Curran could often carry on conversations with other people at the same time she received communications from Patience Worth. I have found no evidence that Patience Worth used Pearl Curran’s voice box as is implied by Nickell’s statement.

Another statement by Nickell: “Moreover, as is now well known, the productions of the Ouija board are actually due to ‘the involuntary muscular actions of the players’. Apparently this opinion was in Isaac Fuld’s application for a patent on the Ouija Board. I don’t know if that is true or not.  Maybe in some cases it is.  (See here and here.)

In his book Singer in the Shadows, Irving Litvag quotes Pearl Curran from an article in Patience Worth’s Magazine in which Mrs. Curran discusses the role played by the ouija board in the Patience Worth affair.  In the article, Mrs. Curran declared that the only value of the board for her had been to serve as a “thought dispeller,” enabling her “to put my own thoughts away for the moment.  As soon as this happens.  .  .  the dictation of Patience Worth begins.  .  .  .  It is I who moves the board, in response to the subconscious or conscious impulse.  There is no mystery in the movement;  the mystery, if any, is in the source of the impulse.”  The Ouija board, she said bluntly, “is just a piece of dead wood, nothing more.”

Continuing,  Joe Nickell found Pearl Curran ‘fantasy prone’, that she “exhibited several traits consistent with having a fantasy prone personality.” Such persons “enjoy a rich fantasy life, which may include experiencing a previous lifetime.” Just what are those ‘traits’ that Pearl Curran exhibited Mr. Nickell?  The following is a quote from Pearl Curran concerning her ‘fantasy life.’

“I never heard ‘voices’ before 1913, and that of Patience Worth developed slowly.  Never saw an apparition.  When about eight I used to poke among the coals in the kitchen stove thinking I might see something interesting, but I never did.  That is about the most vivid fancy I remember.  No, I never had any ‘invisible companions.’  I sometimes talked to myself when I had no one to play with. I was never of a melancholy bent, and being introspective was not my style.  It is odd, but I never gave names to my dolls or pets.  Philosophical questions never entered my mind.  On the whole, my childhood was happy.”

Now how did Nickell know Pearl Curran had a rich fantasy life? He quotes Wilson and Barber who determined that people with a fantasy life “. . . . become totally absorbed in the character and tend to lose awareness of their true identity” Well, where is the evidence that Pearl Curran ever lost awarness of her true identity? As studied by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince and many family members and friends Pearl Curran was as normal as any other woman of the time. She never lost awareness of her true identity. The identity of Pearl Curran was never displaced by the identity of Patience Worth.

It may be that at times Pearl Curran was somewhat distracted as she channeled Patience Worth but she never displayed typical signs of dissociation or multiple personality as defined in psychiatric diagnostic manuals. Nickell says that Curran’s “. . . . dissociated mode is clearly similar to what today would be recognized as “self-hypnosis”  (big difference, Mr. Nickell) —a state she entered and left easily. “”. . . .she probably would have been an excellent subject had she agreed to undergo hypnosis.” How does Nickell know this? Apparently he doesn’t really know what dissociation is! I have practiced self-hypnosis and am a licensed Hypnotist,  and hypnotic states are not that easy to enter or leave unless a post hypnotic suggestion has been given by a hypnotist. Pearl Curran was not self-hypnotized when she transmitted writing from Patience Worth. She is reported to have chatted freely with other sitters around the Ouija Board, smoked, acknowledged people entering and leaving the room and stopping at times to attend to some other business. These are not clinical signs of a dissociated personality or a self-hypnotized person.

Here are Pearl Curran’s own words about her state of mind when she communicates with Patience Worth.

“Very early I began to notice that even while I was carefully spelling a poem, I was keenly conscious, even with an added keenness, of everything about me and of anything regarding my person at the same time.  I could feel my nose itch and scratch it, note an air of criticism on the face of one of the company, and the worshipful expression of another, think what I was going to have for midnight lunch after they had gone, and write right along on the poem, understanding it as it came, and wondering at its beauty and strength, calling the letters, then the words, pausing to let Mr. Curran catch up with the writing.”

Nickell references Pearl Curran’s short autobiographical sketch saying that it revealed her to have been an imaginative child who played the piano at her uncle’s Spiritualist church. Well he is spanning a lot of years in that sentence. Pearl’s short autobiography shows her to be a normal little girl in Texas and Missouri, somewhat alone and feeling neglected but she also said that she was “. . . . spoiled by too much grown-up association.” She was mischievous and disinterested in learning in school and subsequently dropped out at about 14 years of age. She did play the piano as a grown woman at her uncle’s church in Chicago but she didn’t like what was going on there and because of her surroundings she returned home after a little over a month to the small towns in Missouri. I don’t know what Nickell is implying by that statement but he neglects to truly represent Pearl Curran’s account of her girlhood life in Texas and Missouri and her life as a young woman in Chicago.

Here is what Pearl Curran says about her contacts with spiritualism.

“My early contacts with Spiritualism?  Well, you know of that uncle who was a medium.  He was supposed to foretell things—-I don’t know if true.  I never knew him until I was thirteen.  When I was in Chicago, at eighteen, I played the piano in his church about a month and a half.  I didn’t like the crowd that came, and the whole thing was repulsive to me.  Since then I have had no contacts apart from Patience Worth.  I never in my life attended any meetings or séances save those I have referred to.  I had read, before 1913, no books on psychical research or Spiritualism whatever.  My first was ‘Cosmic Relations,’ which Mr. Holt sent me after he printed the first Patience Worth book.  Nor did the Ouija board experiments interest me until Patience Worth came.”

Nickell cites Charles E. Cory’s critique of the Patience Worth phenomenon and I refer the reader to Walter Franklin Prince’s excellent rebuttal to Cory’s comments in The Case of Patience Worth available from Internet bookstores.

I must say that I enjoyed Professor Cory’s comments about the Patience Worth case, acknowledging that in the third paragraph of his article he quickly reveals his bias.  In discussing the case he states at the onset “.  .  .  it will make for clearness if the reader will understand that Patience Worth, the writer, is a subconscious personality of Mrs. John Curran, of St. Louis.”   Well, I don’t think he could make his bias any clearer than that!   Unfortunately he provides no real evidence of that fact, simply wishing that hypnosis could have been used on Mrs. Curran for it surely would have discovered the subconscious personality.

Dr. Prince’s response was 3 times the length of Cory’s remarks and I found it to have a  defensive tone. ( Not unexpected, considering Dr. Prince’s predisposition to regard Patience Worth as a distinct entity separate from Pearl Curran.)  Dr. Prince ends his rebuttal by commenting that Cory’s “.  .  .   article keeps adding tributes to the literature and to the mentality which creates it.  ‘No trace of abnormal tendencies,’ ‘abundance of fine and wholesome humor,’  ‘her general sanity, her mental poise,’  ‘the dimensions of her mind, its moral security, and dramatic power.’  We  must share in the professor’s wonder that such a mind should be ‘in error regarding its own origin and history.’  We are not declaring that it is not in such error, {that Patience Worth did not recognize that she was a subconscious personality of Pearl Curran}  but its existence in the shape of a delusion cherished by a mind admitted to be otherwise sane, powerful, brilliant and morally superior, is an astounding anomaly.”  Prince continues by stating that,   ” I, for one, am grateful that he has made an attempt to furnish an explanation in the terms of abnormal psychology  If I have criticized his argument, it was not from any captious or inimical spirit, but in that of calm academic discussion.”

The following is a quote from Cory’s article which admittedly I cherry-picked, but it is an example of the tone of Cory’s comments which I thought was not at all abrasive.

“A thing  that gives special interest to the literature  {of Patience Worth} is that most of it reflects the life and manners of other times, and this it does with an intimacy that astonishes the reader.  They presuppose upon the part of the author, a wealth of information, a richness in contact that is normally secured only through a prolonged study.  “The Sorry Tale” is a large and intricately woven novel dealing with Jewish and Roman life at the beginning of our era, involving an enormous mass of knowledge of the life and customs of that time.  It is a powerful drama, full of subtle humor and seasoned wisdom.  “Telka,” an unpublished poem of seventy thousand words, has an English background.  The language used is unlike that of her other works.  It is an archaic English of different periods, and various localities.  It is difficult to understand how it could be used as a medium of poetry by a modern writer.  And the source of this language is a part of the general problem.  “Hope Trueblood” has an English setting of the early mid-nineteenth century.  “The Merry Tale” goes back to the days of the cross-bow.  It is a humorous tale of rough tavern life.  The language is not modern, and the general reader would find it difficult.  Only a reading of the million and a half words that have been written can give an adequate idea of the great reservoir of knowledge that is accessible to this secondary personality.  A careful survey of Mrs. Curran’s reading from childhood leaves the problem of its source largely unsolved.”

 

Nickell’s ‘smoking gun” is that Pearl Curran proofed the writings of Patience Worth, implying that she changed them as she saw fit. Emily Grant Hutchings may have done this (See this) but Pearl Curran did not. Pearl Curran edited them, parsed them and corrected typographical errors prior to publishing. Please see my post here regarding editorial proofing by Pearl Curran and others of the writing of Patience Worth.

I think the most galling part of Nickell’s article about Patience Worth is his unsupported conclusion of a simpleton which I quote:

“The weight of the evidence—-the lack of historical record for ‘Patience Worth’,  the fantasy proneness of Curran (consistent with producing an imaginary ‘other self’), the writings’ questionable language, and the evidence of the editing and revision process—-indicates that Patience was merely a persona of Curran’s. . . . . The century-old case can now be closed. It is about time.”

The all-powerful all-knowing wonderful Wizard of Oz has made his decision and closed this century-old case.  It’s ironic, isn’t it that this evaluation of the Patience Worth Case is from an individual who claims at least 1,049 personas himself. If anyone should know about dissociation and multiple personalities, Joe Nickell should!

OPINION MAKERS: Stevenson and Braude

Stevenson001Dr. Ian Stevenson, M.D,  known for his studies of reports of the reincarnational type and whose career spanned 35 years as chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia and  later as Director of the Department’s Division of Perceptual Studies, wrote Some Comments on Automatic Writing which were published in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 72, October 1978. In his comments he included a short paragraph about Patience Worth. I appreciate his thoughts and will quote his paragraph in its entirety even though Stevenson, as others sometimes do, winds up his thoughts with his unsubstantiated opinions.

“Students of automatic writing and, most of all, automatic writers themselves should examine carefully the works of ‘Patience Worth’ and the books about her (Litvag, 1972; Prince, 1929; Yost, 1925). ‘Patience Worth’ through Mrs. Pearl Curran, wrote at high speed (mostly with a Ouija board) much poetry and several novels that have considerable literary merit. These productions were far beyond the ordinary powers of Mrs. Curran. For this and other reasons, some observers regarded ‘Patience Worth’ as a discarnate personality communicating through Mrs. Curran. This is not an unreasonable interpretation of the case; one of the greatest of psychical researchers, W. F. Prince (1929), thought it the best explanation for the case, although he remained clearly aware of alternative ones. Prince did not, however, persuade others of the correctness of the spiritist hypothesis in the case, and I think most students of it today consider it only an extraordinary instance of secondary personality. We have had no similar case of equal value since; and if doubts remain about the best interpretation for such an excellent case as that of ‘Patience Worth,’ this fact should make us unusually cautious in attributing a spiritist interpretation to other literary productions and philosophical teaching that come through automatic writing.”

Stevenson said a lot of nice things here and although I respect Stevenson’s life work as a psychiatrist and researcher, I think he overly generalized when he states that “Prince did not, however, persuade others of the correctness of the spiritist hypothesis in the case, and I think most students of it today consider it only an extraordinary instance of secondary personality.” He didn’t cite any evidence that ‘others’, whoever they were, were not persuaded and in fact perhaps some ‘others’ were persuaded and I don’t think it is entirely clear when he says “this fact”. What fact? And how does he know that most students of it consider it an instance of secondary personality?  I think he is using his opinions as ‘fact’ when he cautions his readers about attributing a spiritist interpretation to automatic writing.  Technically, Pearl Curran did not use ‘automatic writing’ as is usually understood by most parapsychologists.  She simply repeated the letters or words she heard from Patience Worth in her head.  Patience Worth never took over the hands or arms of Pearl Curran to write “automatically”.

 

Braude001Professor Stephen Braude,Ph.D. wrote some comments about Patience Worth in a chapter about Patience Worth, in his book ‘Immortal Remains’ , which are strikingly similar to those of Dr. Stevenson. In his ‘Preface’ to the book Braude states that “Chapter 5 considers one of the most puzzling and interesting cases in the history of psychical research, the case of Patience Worth. On the surface it looks like a case of mediumship, but it provides no verifiable evidence for anyone’s former existence. What makes it remarkable is the mind-bogglingly creative, and apparently unprecedented, literary, linguistic, and improvisational fluency demonstrated by the medium. So this case is important for what it suggests about latent human creative capacities, an issue I pursue also in connection with several somewhat less impressive cases.”

Thank you for that Dr. Braude. Here again though, in the opinion of this erudite and highly intelligent professor of philosophy, the Patience Worth case suggests something about latent human creative capacities. And, in my opinion the additional cases he referenced in the chapter about the Patience Worth case, i.e., Hellene Smith, Rosemary Brown, Luis Gasparretto, Frederic L. Thompson, Fernando Pessoa; are not precisely relevant to the Patience Worth case and perhaps display messy thinking and writing as if by discussing these cases in the middle of a chapter about Patience Worth, Pearl Curran and Patience Worth become guilty by association with cases that in some ways are ludicrous and not really very good comparisons.

As does Stevenson, Braude concludes by saying:

“I, too sympathize with Prince’s assessment, although I believe we can be somewhat less noncommittal about the interpretation and import of the Patience Worth case. For the reasons considered above, it seems that a survivalist interpretation of the case simply leaves too great a residue of mysteries. By contrast, we can formulate a credible, although largely unsubstantiated account of the psychogenesis of the Patience Worth persona, and we can explain Pearl’s creative facility and anomalous knowledge in terms of latent capacities and presumably psychic processes for which we have independent evidence. For that reason, I’m inclined to echo Schiller’s comment that ‘it is . . . . safer to credit ‘Patience Worth’ to the unconscious and to classify her, officially, as Mrs. Curran’s ‘secondary self.”

(Braude left out the rest of F.C.S.Schiller’s comment which was: “But it is impossible to be comfortable about this theory, and it should certainly not be held fanatically.”)

Yes, as Braude says he presents a “largely unsubstantiated account of the psychogenesis of the Patience Worth persona. . . .” Ya gotta love this guy. He too is struggling to find an explanation of this case and I believe that he has spent a lot of energy and time considering it. However I cringe when I read his last paragraph in the Patience Worth chapter in which he pompously says based upon his previously stated opinions:

“Thus, the Patience Worth case illustrates why we must take very seriously non-survivalist interpretations of more evidential cases. If Pearl Curran could tap into the latent creative capacities needed to produce the Patience worth scripts, and if she could use her psychic abilities to access obscure but relevant chunks of historical and linguistic information then presumably similar feats can occur in cases where verified information is provided about a previous personality. So the Patience Worth case reminds us that we should be alert to the superficial treatments of the evidence noted in earlier chapters, and also very circumspect in rejecting non-survivalist explanations of the better cases. Moreover, and perhaps most important, the case is a humbling reminder that there’s much still to learn about the human mind.”

Now, I am not a logician but what’s wrong with this line of thinking? Are we talking about evidence here or opinion?—more likely, just philosophizing! “If Pearl could tap into…”, If she could use her psychic abilities to access obscure….” I know, I know, it’s just a book, but really now, either shit or get off the pot.

Patience Worth and Reincarnation

Roy-CordierAccording to Walter Franklin Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth, Patience Worth gave a discourse on reincarnation on September 3, 1923.   Apparently it came in response to questions from those who attended the sessions at the Ouija Board with Pearl Curran and Patience Worth.  It seems to me that the discourse on reincarnation was a somewhat rambling jumble of words and perhaps provides some evidence that Patience Worth (or Pearl Curran) really didn’t understand the depth of the question.  She stated:

How may it be that flesh created may become as flesh again in like exact?”  Nay I say me, flesh is recreated of the same material, builded of the same atoms, but the honey of God is ne’er the same—the trick of its hangin’ one ‘pon the other. 

The ‘honey of God” meaning the soul—and it is never the same even though the physical body is recreated of the same atoms that may have previously composed some other body.  In the rest of the discourse she continues off on a tangent talking about:

     “The trend o’ kennin’ may take frae this and that through kinship, but this hath naught for to do with flesh.  The bowl is and breaked may become a new bowl, fulfilling the same office; but the wine once drunk may not be drunk again.  The creatin’ o’ a bowl be the sign o’ office bestowed.  Aye, and man created be a root unto consciousness.  The incidents inscribe consciousness with wisdom or folly, yet man in his span through circumstance and incident becometh conscious of experience, aye, becometh ready that he may learn.
      He is touched of sorrow and thereby measures his joy.  He is filled of joy and thereby measures his sorrow.  He sees light and learns dark; tasteth sweet and becometh acquainted with the bitter; drinketh rich wine, sweet as lotus honey and sour like unto vinegar.  In all of this he is but a child learning to play a great game.
      Wisdom is conscious experience.  Folly is the disregard of experience.  Consciousness is the recpetivity of man to God; is the compliment of God unto His creation.
      That man who doubeth wisdom in its sober sense decries his God and proves himself unworthy of creation.  Experience, bein’ the rootin’ setteth man upon the roadway unto new wisdom and that wisdom is tenuous as moonlight, evasive as smoke, aye, or as mist, all encompassing as air, sustaining as bread, inexhaustible, ever-reaching, infinite.  Man may take this unto him according to his inclination.
      God neither demands no exacts.  Wisdom is manna for them who need and hungar.  Eternity is forever hungered and forever fed.  I may not set this in mere wordin’. Nay, as well dip moonlight wi’ a mug, for it may not be.  Look ye unto it; as indelibly writ as the sun is the soul of man.  No mouthing, no doubting, no wonderment, no folly, no cunning, no contrivance of word may efface this fact.  Man is and once uttered, through the lips of God, he is as certain as chaos, which unto man’s wisdom is a great riddle.

Well, I don’t know if this explains it or not!  Is there or is there not reincarnation?  I sometimes wonder if Patience Worth is thinking about resurrection of the body rather than reincarnation of a soul in another body. We’re really not talking about ‘flesh created becoming as flesh again in like exact’ ; at least that is not my understanding of reincarnation.  I always thought the flesh was different. (Remember, Patience Worth was a Puritan and may not have been allowed to entertain a belief in reincarnation.)

On another occasion on August 24, 1933 Patience Worth wrote a short poem which was titled “Reincarnation”

The revolving of the soul,
The up-shooting through experience;
The labor of perfection,
The supping of days that the soul be rich.
The re-reflection of God
Taking on the new imprints of his countenance;
Aye. and the re-offering of the spiriti
As a vessel that it receive Him.

I don’t think that is very good explanation either.  I think the quality of the poetry from Patience Worth or Pearl Curran seemed to wane as they moved into the 1930s from their heyday in the teens and twenties.  Perhaps like many writers and other creative people they reached a peak of excellence and slowly decended into mediocrity.  The above poem seems to just describe the concept of reincarnation rather than confirm or deny it.

Here’s another one delivered on January 3, 1920:

REINCARNATION

Who would become a child
If heaven were a rebirth to infancy?
What then the game? 
To become a child again
With no heritage of memory? 
Then life is vain.

It doesn’t sound to me that Patience understood the depth of the philosophy of reincarnation.  Better examples suggesting reincarnation may be found in some of her earlier poems.  The following is a good example.

 

MAN

Behold me, a composite of all atoms
The core of life is within me;
The elements of “Matter” remain with their kind.
The elements of “Spirit” flow forth
To rejoin their kind.
There is the parting of the way,
For spirit is but measured and dealt in matter
It hath no part with matter, neither doth it
Leave a stain of its substance upon the clay.

Clay is but clod, and droppeth awhither.
The cup is moulded and ground
And dispersed in dust before the winds!
While the “spirit’ encircles the universes!
And forgets the crumbling atoms, save to smile
Upon newer cups at their measuring.

I don’t know but I guess that one can read into this poem whatever resonates with ones beliefs.  Patience routinely refers to the body as a vessel, cup or container into which the spirit of man is poured. To me the last line suggests that the spirit released from the clay,  forgets about the old body which is “but clod and droppeth awhither” to be dispersed as dust before the winds and then smiles upon the newer cups (bodies) in which the spirit is to be measured or contained.  Then perhaps in the following poem titled IMMORTALITY of which I quote in part provides another perspective—maybe not!

I have watched my days slip
into the hopper of time and become ground
Unto the ages in dust.
I have watched men proceed to a certain height,
And then cut down, and their labors fall
As chaff upon days that knew them not;
Yet there is a certain something in that
Persistent essence which spurteth — Youth!
Who staggers beneath the mouldering decay,
And thrusts up his head, decrying defeat,
Urged to be on at existence!

Is yester’s dew then gone? Watch tomorrow coming!
Will the lotus bloom anew, and the dew pearl?
Is the song hushed?  Spring comes,
And in it winter shall forget to sleep,
And be tricked to dance.  Is wisdom done?
Nay, out from the dust of aged wisdoms
Are newer wisdoms tortured forth,
And the stuff, the witchery of this is Faith—
The soul of man’s soul!—
The flesh of his Immortality!

And here are a few more lines given by Patience Worth in response to the contents of a sealed envelop containing a short discourse between Socrates and Hermogenes about weaving and a shuttle as a metaphor for life and quoted by Irving Litvag in Singer in the Shadows. In it, Patience also uses the metaphor of weaving to explain man’s purpose in life and writes that what man makes of his life which is not perfect, he shall re-weave as the mercy of a just God..  Whether or not this is a reference to reincarnation, is for the reader decide.

Life is the garment of eternity
Which be the vestment of God Himself.
Each man be the keeper of a golden thread
Spun from the radiant Heart of God.
This he plies at will,
Making or marring the Perfect Pattern.
Yea, Man is a bobbin,
Slipping the woof of Hope
‘Twixt the warp of Faith
Upon the loom of Love. 
Despite his rebellions, he must lend him
Unto the weaving,
And that which is not perfect
He shall re-weave.
This is the Mercy of this Just God
Whose labors are perfect.
Man, in his fulfillment of this Perfection,
Having inherited the power of creation,
Createth Himself unto perfection.
This is the law of the Perfect.
Man is the bobbin at weaving the vestment of God
Wherein is reflected His own Countenance,
And Man’s kinship in full is declared.

Well, I don’t know what Patience really thought about reincarnation.  From her poems it seems that she returns again and again to the concept of reusing the old to make the new.  She implies that the soul goes on to new, greener fields with more work to be done.  At times one could interpret what she says as meaning that one continues on in the spirit world, that is, in heaven or, considering another interpretation that one returns to the physical world.   Some have suggested that Pearl Curran was the reincarnation of Patience Worth.  Maybe so.  But then again maybe not!  Personally I think that Patience Worth was but one of the personalities of an oversoul that contains not only Patience Worth but Pearl Curran, Hope Trueblood, Telka, Theia, and Samual Wheaton among other personalities

What do you think?