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Any attempt to interpret the cross-correspondences anew is to be welcomed, if only to re-arouse interest in this seriously neglected and complex field of ostensible discarnate communication. However, Christopher Moreman's effort to show that chance coincidence can produce correspondences as significant as those typical of the C-Cs is fundamentally unsound.

Let us first acknowledge that Moreman's experiment has shown that correspondences of some sort can indeed be found in a randomised selection of literary extracts. The questions which arise are whether these extracts are meaningful, in the manner of many of the cross-correspondences, whether the experiment is truly relevant to the cross-correspondences, and whether he has drawn the right conclusions from the most persuasive cases. All answers are in the negative.

Moreman early acknowledges that specific instructions, like that of the supposed discarnate Edmund Gurney to Mrs Holland to send her script to someone she did not know to an address she had not heard of, 5, Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge, must pre-suppose telepathy of some sort (although even this is stretching the human telepathic postulate somewhat). In extensive correspondence the first author had with Moreman following the presentation of his experiment to the SPR's international conference in 2001, he accepted that information psychically received by mediums could account for some of the communications, but contended that the discovery of meaningful correspondences was nevertheless entirely attributable to the zeal and imagination of the investigators.

This raises some difficult issues. Whence did Mrs. Holland derive her written instruction? Was it from the same source that casually mentioned the circumstances of the life, death, age, burial place etc of a John Collins, facts which were not to be largely validated until some thorough burrowing work by Guy Lambert about half a century later (Lambert 1967)? The only non-incarnate source must be the mind of Mrs Verrall, to whom the message had to be sent. But are we to believe that Mrs Verrall in Cambridge sent a telepathic message to someone in India whom she didn't know about a matter she could not have been aware of, in order to initiate a cross-correspondence of whose outcome she was ignorant? These are no idle questions. The admission of telepathy as a contributory element undermines the whole foundation on which the random coincidence hypothesis is based.

In fact Moreman leaves us with an arbitrary mixture of random, coincidental similarity and psi-produced intelligence, with no means to determine which is which. But the design of the experiment, and the sole conclusion it is permissible to derive from it, is that random coincidence alone can account for whatever similarities can be imaginatively coaxed from the texts. And indeed that is how Moreman concludes his paper, quietly burying the psi content he has earlier invoked in order to account for a range of information in the name-and-address category.

That really will not do. As the first author wrote to Moreman in 2001, "You really cannot have it both ways: you cannot draw a conclusion based entirely on chance, while finding yourself obliged to postulate a no-chance explanation.

There are many comparable examples of requests via the principal mediums' scripts or oral messages either to check this, refer back to that or to inform the other. Mrs Verrall, for example, was specifically urged to send her early script to Dr. Hodgson because he was one of the few people considered likely to recognise the significance of a reference to Syringa (lilac) (Verrall,1906). Indeed, what chiefly characterises the best C-Cs is that they form a pattern and sometimes convey a message. But there is nothing remotely akin to a message in Moreman's test. Many of the real C-Cs are presaged or interlarded with communications responsive to the sitters' requests. This is a feature wholly and necessarily absent from the random scripts.

In any event the Moreman experiment wrenches the C-Cs out of their context. Many scripts contain extensive interchanges between the communicator and the medium, and often between communicator, medium and sitter, or interrogator: exchanges that are coherent, meaningful and relevant. The personalities of the communicators are generally consistent, idiosyncratic and recognisable. The Moreman scripts are devoid of all such features.

Equally pertinent are other aspects of the C-Cs which make the random phrase or word experiment otiose. We have many repetitions or reiterations in the same scripts, not least when the medium appears to have difficulty in either hearing, understanding or spelling the word or phrase transmitted.

I omit the vast and complex evidence to show where and how scripts are predictive of events to come, but this is a field in which Professor Archie Roy and I have been labouring for some years, and whose outcome we expect to present to members in the not too distant future..

A glance at Moreman's list of references reveals an odd and disturbing fact. Just as it would be inexcusable to attempt a history of World War II without mentioned Churchill, or write a biography of Wellington while avoiding reference to Napoleon, so it is of little value to assess the evidential value and the coincidental significance of the C-Cs while failing to cite let alone explain the Countess of Balfour's examination of the Palm Sunday case (Balfour, 1960), the most authoritative and least vulnerable account of the accumulation by more than one medium of a coherent evidential story, well summarised, by Rosalind Heywood (Haywood, 1960) for those reluctant to immerse themselves in the elaborate detail of the main study. As far as I know that paper failed to produce a single criticism which might undermine its authenticity. None of the earlier authorities on the C-Cs was able to take this late work into account, apart from Salter whose valuable study Zoar (1961) Moreman cites, but it makes only a cursory reference to the case, which Salter had dealt with in detail elsewhere (Salter 1948; Salter 1960).

It is not without significance that, in citing the work and implicitly criticising the gullibility of leading researchers, Moreman makes no mention of the seminal study by Gerald Balfour on the psychological aspects of Mrs Willett's mediumship (Balfour, 1935). He also unaccountably ignores Salter's account of the Rose of Sharon case (Salter 1963), which is good enough evidence to show how misconceived is the notion that odd concordances from disparate sources can begin to explain the abundance of pointers to a set of events due to take place between a few days and five years before they occurred.

Nor - still more disturbingly for Moreman's thesis - can his experiment be reconciled with two other types of cross-correspondences not derived from the familiar group of contributing mediums, nor analysed by the supposedly credulous SPR leaders. The first is the much overlooked but potent example of a cross-correspondence apparently designed by the deceased brother Walter of the remarkable and still controversial American medium, Margery (Mina Crandon). Here messages were given simultaneously, ostensibly by Walter, to three different mediums in Boston, New York and Niagara Falls in the form of drawings, geometrical figures and in some cases Chinese characters. Verification was obtained by telephone and telegraph enabling the entire message to be deciphered as a whole. In another case, Walter announced that Margery would make up a message - which she did after passing into a light trance — and that the remainder of (and solution to) the complete message would be shortly forthcoming from simultaneous reports through the other two mediums (Bird, 1929). Here was a straightforward and relatively uncomplicated example arranged, indeed stage-managed, by the discarnate communicator working in close liaison with three sets of experimenters supervising three mediums, all of them conveying a cryptic segment of an ultimately coherent communication.

Then there are the five examples cited by the eminent French savant Dr Gustave Geley (Geley, 1914) on which Piddington comments (Piddington, 1916). Geley's complaint, like that of Moreman and many others, was that the British C-Cs were needlessly obscure. Geley’s argument was not that apparent C-Cs were no more than the product of inflamed imagination and Rorshach-animated philology, but that they did not have the admirable simplicity of the Gallic examples. Geley was certainly not suggesting that they could be dismissed as chance.

But, as Piddington gently observed, 'If ten automatists on the same day each wrote "A covey of elephants danced round Buckingham Palace” and sang “We Wont go Home till Morning”, no-one could prove that chance would not cover the coincidences. One has to judge in these matters by common sense, and common sense does not lead everyone to the same conclusions'

We fear it may have led Mr Moreman astray.

References

Balfour, Earl of. (1935) The Psychological Aspects of Mrs Willett's Mediumship. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 43, pt. 140.

Balfour, Countess of. (1960), The Palm Sunday Case. (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 52, pt. 169).

Bird, J. M. (1929) Article in Psychic Research, August issue.

Geley, G. (1914) Contributions a l'etude des Correspondances croisées. E. Roussel, Paris.

Haywood, R. 1960 The Palm Sunday Case: a Tangle for Unravelling (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 40, pt. 704).

Lambert, G. (1967) Who was John Collins? Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 44, pt 731.

Piddington, J.G. (1916) Cross-correspondences of a Gallic type. (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 29, pt 72.

Salter, W.H. (1948) An Introduction to the Study of Scripts. Printed privately.

Salter, W.H. 1960) The Palm Sunday Case: a note, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 40, pt. 704.

Salter, W.H. (1961) Zoar, Sidgwick and Jackson.

Salter, W. H. (1963) The Rose of Sharon Case. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 54, pt. 194.

Verrall, A.W. (1906)On a Series of Automatic Writings, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 20, pt 53 (see page 101).


Chance Coincidence in the Cross Correspondences by Montague Keen
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