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Case Profile: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886)

Daniel Dunglas Home documented the history of his mediumship and "the mysterious workings of Providence" in Incidents In My Life (1862) with a second series of memoirs with the same title published in 1872.  His third book was Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877).  The following quotations about the unusual manifestations that occurred in the presence of Home are from the first chapter of his initial book.

I have not, and never had the slightest power over them, either to bring them on, or to send them away, or to increase, or to lessen them.  What may be the peculiar laws under which they have become developed in my person, I know no more than others.  Whilst they occur I am not conscious of the mode by which they are produced, nor of the sort of manifestation that is about to occur.  Any peculiar sensations that I may experience during certain of the manifestations, I will describe as far as I can, while mentioning the visions or external phenomena.
These extraordinary occurrences have, with some exceptions, continued with me ever since the time I have stated as their commencement, and they have extended their range, to my astonishment not less than to that of others, in the most striking manner.  They have proved to me and to thousands of careful and able investigators, the existence of spiritual forces which are calculated to revolutionize the current ignorance both of philosophy and theology, as men have made them.  The exceptions to which I refer have been of periods during which the power has left me entirely; for instance, from the 10th of February, 1856, to the 10th of February, 1857, during which time I had no external token of Spirit power, though I on several occasions had visions, one of which was my seeing the manner in which a brother passed from earth.  He was frozen in the Polar Seas whilst out bear-shooting with the captain and officers of his ship.  Falling into a fissure of the ice, he was not found till the following morning.  I saw all this in a vision at the very time of its occurrence, and informed my family of it five months before the confirmation of the intelligence arrived.  On several other occasions, the power has ceased for shorter periods, and generally I have been told beforehand, both of the times of its cessation and return.  I could never detect any physical cause for such cessation, nor any difference in my general feelings or health, although the reason given for the withdrawal has commonly been on the ground of health.  Upon several occasions, however, the reason given was that it was withdrawn from me as a reproof for having done that which I knew to be wrong.

Home was born near Edinburgh in 1833 and was soon adopted by an aunt residing in Portobello.  He accompanied his adoptive family to America when he was about nine years old.  At seventeen, he lived in Norwich, Connecticut and his Mother was residing in a nearby town when she died at the age of forty-two.  At the time of her passing Home described seeing "what appeared to be the bust of my mother" as she told him the time of the occurrence.  In following years she periodically communicated with him, including on an occasion following a New York theologian/professor offering to have Home reside with him for the purpose of studying to become a Swedenborgian minister.

I went to his house, with the intention of so doing, but within forty-eight hours I saw in my waking state the spirit of my mother, who said to me, "My son, you must not accept this kind offer, as your mission is a more extended one than pulpit preaching."

During the early years of his vocation, Home described being given instructions by spirits concerning his travels.  He discovered that when he entered a trance state he could facilitate healing.

I rang the bell, and Mr. B ----- having seen me, came himself to open the door.  As he did so, I said, "Your mother is ill, and I have been sent to say what will relieve her."  His look of intense surprise baffles description, as he said, "How on earth could you have known of her illness, as it is only an hour since she fell ill, and we have sent in another direction for a medical man, but I fear he will not arrive in time to save my poor mother, as she seems sinking so rapidly."  On entering the house, I stood waiting to see what impression I might receive.  Whilst I was standing, I was thrown suddenly into a trance, and I was told by Mr. B ----- that in that state I led the way to his mother's bed-room, and that after making a few passes over her with my hands, the acute pains left her, and that in a few minutes time she was in a quiet sleep.  Whilst in the trance, I also mentioned simple remedies of herbs for immediate use, and others for continued use.  I was then led by the unseen power into the sitting room, and there returned to my normal state, greatly surprised when these things were related to me.

Newspaper articles and published eyewitness statements about Home increased public interest in him.  Home acknowledged that the first occasion when he was "lifted in the air" occurred in August 1852.  Home didn't divulge all the circumstances of the seances as he felt details "appealing to the sympathies of relatives and friends" were of a private nature; yet he remarked about these manifestations: "They ever say that God in His loving-kindness allows this, and that as He is an everywhere present God, and can bear with our shortcomings, they having been mortals like ourselves, can the more readily understand the weaknesses of our human nature."

Home wrote about a unique visionary experience in 1853.  He recalled that prior to prayer and sleep he'd been pondering "that change which the world calls death" and on "the eternity that lies beyond": ". . . it appeared to me that, as I closed my eyes to earthly things, an inner perception was quickened within me, till at last reason was as active as when I was awake."  He heard his mother speak: "Fear not, Daniel, I am near you; the vision you are about to have is that of death, yet you will not die.  Your spirit must return again to the body in a few hours.  Trust in God and his good angels: all will be well."

Home recalled: ". . . almost instantaneously came rushing with a fearful rapidity memories of the past; my thoughts bore the semblance of realities, and every action appeared as an eternity of existence."  He became aware of being in "a spirit body in every respect similar to the body which I knew to have been mine, and which I now saw lying motionless before me on the bed."  The remembrance continued —

The only link which held the two forms together seemed to be a silvery-like light, which proceeded from the brain; and, as if it were a response to my earlier waking thoughts, the same voice, only that it was now more musical than before, said, "Death is but a second birth, corresponding in every respect to the natural birth, and should be the uniting link now be severed, you could never again enter the body."

As the voice continued to speak, the comments included "God is love" and "Be very calm, for in a few moments you will see us all, but do not touch us, be guided by the one who is appointed to go with you, for I must remain near your body."  The following recollections mentioned "glorious light" and this "heavenly light came from those I saw standing about me . . . shed on them from a higher and purer source . . . I was bathed in light, and about me were those for whom I had sorrowed . . . One that I had never known on earth then drew near and said, 'You will come with me, Daniel.'"

Daniel noticed that what sustained his new 'spirit-body' was "but a purple tinted cloud."  The earth was seen far below Daniel and his guide until they hovered over an unknown cottage with sleeping people among transparent walls and furniture.  Home also observed "the various spirits who were watching over the sleepers" and observed about these spirits —

One of these was endeavoring to impress his son where to find a lost relic of him which the son much prized, and the loss of which had greatly grieved him.  And I saw that the son awoke and thought it was but an idle dream, and three times this impression was repeated by the spirit; and I knew that when morning came, the young man would go, out of curiosity where he had been impressed to go, and that he would there find what he sought for.  In an adjoining room I saw one who was tormented by dreams, but they were the production of a diseased body.

I was most deeply interested in all this, when my guide said, "We must now return."  When I found myself near my body, I turned to the one who had remained near my bed, and said, "Why must I return so soon, for it can be but a few moments I have been with you, and I would fain see more, and remain near you longer?"  She replied, "It is now many hours since you came to us; but here we take no cognizance of time, and as you are here in spirit, you too have lost this knowledge; we would have you with us, but this must not be at present.  Return to earth, love your fellow-creatures, love truth, and in so doing, you will serve the God of infinite love, who careth for and loveth all.  May the Father of mercies bless you, Daniel!"

After relating the visionary experience in his memoir, Home described a prophetic dream that brought him the awareness of the death of a little sister.

On the occasion of sailing from Boston to England in 1855, Home could only describe the miraculous occurrences that accompanied him as something essential to himself — a mystifying if innate "strange power" that resulted in making "a few look with pity on me as a poor deluded being, only devil-sent to lure souls to destruction, while others were not chary in treating me as a base impostor."

At a seance attended by a "distinguished novelist," a message was spelled out by raps heard in conjunction with the alphabet being recited.  ". . . the response was, 'I am the spirit who influenced you to write Z —!'"

Here’s another of Home’s reminiscences of seances in England.

At another sitting, each person in the circle who wore a ring had it gently removed by a spirit hand, the hand being seen afterwards with all the rings on its fingers, and after displaying itself by turning about, shewing the back and palm two or three times, inverted itself, and cast the rings upon the table.

Home stated about his visit to England, "At this time hands and arms were frequently seen, and they were repeatedly felt by all at the table as distinctly as though they were the hands and arms of living mortals, and frequently they shook hands with them as really and substantially as one man shakes hands with another."  One of these spirit hands was seen to lift up a Bible from a table and with a pencil mark two verses from the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew: "But blessed are your eyes, for they see.  For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear these things which ye hear, and have not heard them."

Home chronicled in his memoirs: "The spirit hands were frequently visible, and were seen by many to take pen or pencil and write in the autograph of the person whose spirit was represented to be present."

Home described facilitating a healing while residing in Paris.  A woman wrote to him that she had a dream where she saw her own mother and Home's mother and the latter told her to seek Home so that her fifteen-year-old son who'd been deaf for four years from the effects of typhoid fever might be cured.  The woman and her son visited Home the next day and she described the various unsuccessful surgical operations.

. . . my sympathies were deeply moved, and I had unwittingly thrown my left arm about the boy and drawn him towards me, so that the boy's head rested upon my shoulder.  Whilst in this position, and Madame de Cardonne was telling some of the most painful particulars, I passed my hand caressingly over the boy’s head, upon which he, partly lifting his head, suddenly exclaimed in a voice trembling with emotion, "Maman, de t'entends!"  ("Mamma, I hear you!")  The mother fixed on him a look of astonishment, and said, "Emile," the boy's name, and he at once replied, "Quoi?"  ("What?")  She then, seeing that the child had heard her question, fainted with emotion, and on her recovery the scene was a most thrilling one—the poor mother asking continually questions for the mere pleasure of hearing her child reply.  The boy was able to resume his studies, and has continued to hear perfectly up to the present time.

Another communication from his mother occurred in January 1858 when Home was in Amsterdam.  He was reflecting about a seance where the phenomena didn't seem as pronounced in comparison to what frequently occurred: ". . . the spirit of my mother came and comforted me by saying that sufficient had been given, and that 'the wind must be tempered to the shorn lamb.'"

Home soon arrived in Brussels when "the power left me, and I was told by the spirits that it would be sometime before it would return."  He was suffering from a severe cold and returned to Paris where his medical advisor diagnosed "impoverishment of the blood and great nervous depression."  Home was twenty-four years old at this time.  In March he reached Rome, where he wished to regain his health.  Accepting the invitation of a countess from Russia to attend a late night supper, Home found himself introduced to "a young lady, whom I then observed for the first time, as her sister.  A strange impression came over me at once, and I knew she was to be my wife."  The young lady was some years younger than him and still a teenager.  Her name was Alexandrina and Home called her Sacha.  Within two weeks they were partially engaged and waiting only for her mother’s consent.  At an engagement party, the following exchange was reported by Home.

I was seated on a sofa by my fiancée, when she turned to me and abruptly said, "Do tell me all about spirit-rapping, for you know I don't believe in it."  I said to her, "Mademoiselle, I trust you will ever bear in mind that I have a mission entrusted to me.  It is a great and a holy one.  I cannot speak with you about a thing which you have not seen, and therefore cannot understand.  I can only say that it is a great truth."  The tears came welling into her eyes, and laying her hand in mine she said, "If your mission can bring comfort to those less happy than ourselves, or be in any way a consolation to mankind, you will ever find me ready and willing to do all I can to aid you in it."

After their marriage in August 1858, Alexandrina experienced an attribute of her husband's mission.

A short time after our marriage, my wife being in a sound quiet sleep, I saw the spirit of my mother come into the room, followed by one, who though I had never known him on earth, I knew to be my wife’s father.  My impression was one of relief that my wife was asleep, and thus that she would not see what I feared would frighten her.  My surprise was therefore very great on hearing her say, "Daniel, there is some one in the room with us.  It is your mother, and near her stands my father.  She is very beautiful, and I am not afraid."  Her actions, however, betrayed a certain shrinking, for she turned to the side of the bed where I lay, trembling violently.  The spirits now disappeared, but loud rappings were heard in and about the room, and our questions were answered.  This was my wife's first introduction to anything of the kind.

Home's first book included a remembrance of unusual circumstances following him attending a lecture concerning Cagliostro on April 3, 1860.  That evening, Home and his wife witnessed some light emanations in their bedroom.  She asked if this was the spirit of Cagliostro and the light indicated an affirmative response.

We asked him if he had been a medium when on earth, and a distinct voice, audible to both of us, said in answer, "My power was that of a mesmerist, but all-misunderstood by those about me, my biographers have done me injustice, but I care not for the untruths of earth."

During the spring of 1859, a son was born to the Homes.  The medium's happy marriage only lasted a few years as Alexandrina passed from earth in July 1862 from a condition that was then known as 'consumption' (tuberculosis).

Home’s first book includes a description of an occurrence that Home called his "miraculous escape."  While hunting partridge at a French park, Home was approaching a hedge when he suddenly found himself "lifted off the ground."

At the same instant I heard a crashing sound, and then all was quiet.  I felt neither fear nor wonder.  My first thought was that by some accident my gun had exploded, and that I was in the spirit-land; but, looking about, I saw that I was still in the material world, and there was the gun still in my hands.  My attention was then drawn to what appeared to be a tree immediately before me, where no tree had been.  On examination, this proved to be the fallen limb of the high tree under which I was standing.  I then saw that I had been drawn aside from this fallen limb a distance of six or seven feet.

Incidents In My Life
includes many testimonials shared by others about Home from correspondence and newspaper articles documenting phenomena manifesting in his presence.  One lengthy account featured in the book is by Dr. Wilkenson whose letter to an English newspaper shared his firsthand observations of the phenomena.  Dr. Wilkenson explained that the controversy aroused by the manifestations had resulted in letters pro and con appearing in country papers.  He wrote that ". . . hitherto, I have seen no statement of the experience of any of the writers in regard to these manifestations."  His letter appraised that some of Home's reviewers appeared to him "to make a scientific error in one respect—viz., in their estimate of the value of a man's character.  They seem to think that charging a man of good antecedents, and with every appearance of a blameless life, with lying and imposture of the most systematic kind, is positively the easiest account that can be given of any rare phenomenon out of the pale of their own previous philosophy."

Dr. Wilkenson observed further:

"The experience of others in these matters has, perhaps, differed very widely from my own, and I desire to see this experience also brought forward.  At other séances I have seen only a part of the phenomena which I have described as taking place on the three evenings which I have selected as being the fullest and the best.  And once or twice, when persons were present who it was most desirable to convince, almost nothing occurred.  This, I submit, is one of the strongest arguments in Mr. Home's favour.  Were the phenomena a trick, they might always be produced to order without variation."

"It seems probable from experience as well as reason that, granting the phenomena to be spiritual, the presence of determined scoffers at, and disbelievers in them, should in case the said persons be preponderant in their influence in the circle, render the manifestations imperfect or perhaps null.  The known laws of human sympathy, and the operations of our own spirits when antipathetic persons are near us, may also be cited as proof of this.  I conclude, then, that to the scoffer and the strongly prejudiced, who want no evidence, and to whom evidence has no appeal, evidence is, for the most part, not forthcoming."

Home also included an account by Wilkenson of the first seance conducted by Home that Wilkenson attended.  The following occurrences were among those described by Wilkenson.

The table began to rise on the opposite side to where Mr. Home was sitting, and it was clearly out of his power to have raised it. Mr. Home's chair was quietly moved back, away from the table, about three feet, and whilst there the dresses of my wife and of the lady next to her were both pulled, and so strongly that I could see them dragging down.  I also felt my wife's dress whilst being so pulled, and there was a powerful force expanded in the act resisting my hand.  At this time Mr. Home was fully six feet off, and both from distance, and from his being in full view, I could see that it was done by no force of his.  Mr. Home now held the accordion in his right hand beside his chair, and it at once began to play.  He held it by the bottom, the keys being on the top, and they were therefore out of his reach.

In Mr. Home's hands a beautiful tune was now played, during which we heard what has been so often described, the full notes gradually decreasing till they died away into the thinnest streaks of sound.  By three quickly repeated notes it was promised that the instruments should play the tune of the other evening, representing 'The Two Lives,' the one in this world, the other in that which follows.  The first, or this world's life, was represented by discords grating painfully on the ear, and which I thought did but scant justice to a world which, though capable of improvement, still has some rich harmonies within its depths.  In mercy to our ears, the first life did not last long, and was then succeeded by the second, which was made up of beautiful soft angel music, such as I had never heard.  It played for several minutes, swelling into rich sounds, of which the sweetness was enchanting to the ear, and gradually changed into the dear old tune of 'Home, sweet Home.'

Another who wrote an account of occurrences in Home's seances was author William Howitt, who later published The History of the Supernatural in all Ages and Nations, and in all Churches, Christian and Pagan, demonstrating a Universal Faith (1863).  In this two-volume work, Howitt commented about Spiritualists before the development of the American movement: "Nothing can be more self-evident than that American spiritualism is but the last new blossom of a very ancient tree, coloured by the atmosphere in which it has put forth, and somewhat modified in its shape by the pressure of circumstances upon it."

The following is one of the remembrances in a letter by Howitt that was included by Home in his first memoirs.

"Then the spirits went to a shrine of bronze idols, belonging to the lady of the house, who bought them in India.  Some of these are very heavy.  They pitched them down on the floor, and with such violence that the clash might have been heard all over the house.  The larger of these idols—perhaps all—of that I am not uncertain—unscrew, and the screws work exactly the opposite ways to our screws; but the spirits unscrewed them, and pummeled their heads lustily on the floor, saying, through the alphabet, 'You must all do your best to destroy idolatry, both in India and in England, where it prevails in numerous ways.  Idolatry of rank, idolatry of wealth, idolatry of self, idolatry of mere intellect and learning,' &c, &c.  The different parts were thrown under the table, that you might tread them under foot, and two parts of the idol Mahadeo, of heavy bronze, were placed on the table by a visible hand. The head of the idol felt to me to weigh four or five pounds."

The Earl of Dunraven in the introductory remarks of his son Viscount Adare’s book Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home (1869) commented on the trance aspect of the phenomena.

One of the most remarkable features in these séances is the frequency of Mr. Home's trances.  This peculiar phase of his power has become much developed of late; while others, such as his being raised in the air, have comparatively diminished.  To those who are familiar with mesmeric trances, the genuineness of Mr. Home’s is easily admitted.  To me they are among the most interesting portions of the manifestations which occur through his mediumship.  The change which takes place in him is very striking; he becomes, as it were, a being of a higher type.  There is a union of sweetness, tenderness, and earnestness in his voice and manner which is very attractive.  At first sight much might appear to be skilful acting; but after having so frequently witnessed these trance states, I am fully convinced of their truthfulness.  Sometimes his utterances are most impressive; the language beautiful, conveying his thoughts in the most appropriate words.  That he is possessed by a power or spirit, not his own, and superior to himself, a very little experience will suffice to render manifest.

The following excerpts are from one of the seance descriptions presented in Viscount Adare's book.  In the book’s preface Adare explained the difficulties in putting down on paper Home's words when speaking in a trance.  Adare's observations were based upon quickly written notes and recollection so there are bound to be inexact or possibly misquoted passages.  The following excerpts provide an example of Adare's attempts to chronicle Home's trance mediumship.

No. 9 Seance—July 26th, 1868.

Present: Mrs. Jencken, Mrs. Hennings, Mr. Jencken, Home, and myself.  Physical manifestations very slight, Home passing almost immediately into a trance, in which he delivered the following address, purporting to come from the spirit of Dr. Jencken; to prove identity several tests were given.  Dr. Jencken, during the last few years of his life, had been quite blind, and was in the habit, when dictating, of going through the form of writing with great rapidity on his knee with his finger; he also had a peculiar habit of clasping his hands together, and speaking with his head bent very low down.  Home imitated him in both respects to the very life, and also mentioned some circumstances that had occurred many years before at Mayence.  The first words Home spoke were in a very low voice, telling us to go on talking.  He then got up, threw away a silk cushion he had been sitting on, and said, "Remember, Dan must not sit on a silk cushion while this very hot weather lasts."  He remained silent for a few minutes, and then commenced speaking with a clear voice, and in a very impressive manner.  Part of the discourse was in verse, but owing to the partially darkened state of the room and the rapidity of his utterance, it was quite impossible to write it down.  The following notes taken by Mr. Jencken are for those reasons very imperfect.

"You wonder if we wish you to be better than you are.  You are all good.  The germs of good are in all.  We can see further than you can; and know all your trials, all your doubts and difficulties.  Were we not once mortals as you are?  We see the troubles and thorns that beset your path.  Stretch forth your hands—thrust them through the brambles—draw them not back or the blood will flow—stretch them out and let them remain, there shall they find rest.  We know not of time; to us yesterday, to-day, to-morrow are all one.  Had we hours, days, years, even ages, like you, we should say time passes slowly, or time passes fast.  We never tire; we are eternity.  Happiness is not idleness.  Labour is joy, the labour of love.  Even on earth it is not the spirit that wearies of a labour of love; it is the poor weak body that tires, that faints, that falls to sleep.  We have work to do to elevate ourselves, and to draw you onward and upward.  We constantly watch over you, and sympathize with all your cares.  We never weary; we do not judge you; we were as you are.  God alone is the Judge.  You ask why we always speak of love; it is love that brings us to you.  God is Love.  Spirit messages are always breathing love for God.  God is Love."

Among the phenomena witnessed and recorded by Adare in his book includes Home levitating out of a third floor window in an adjoining room to appear "standing upright" outside the seance room window.  He then "opened the window and walked in quite coolly."  Adare recorded details of seventy-eight seances conducted by Home.  Seance No. 25 includes the following response from the entranced Home answering the question, "As it is so difficult to influence men are you not constantly endeavoring to do certain things and failing?"

Answer.—To a certain extent,—yes. But spiritual influence has much more to do with the affairs of the world than what you dream of.  All inspiration, poetry, improvising as in the case of the old Troubadours,—all that is owing to it—everything in fact, is set in motion by spiritual interference.  To those who pray earnestly for and seek for light and truth, light will certainly be given; our greatest difficulty is the folly of men's hearts, and their blindness.  There are thousands of men who pray that rather than that Spiritualism should be understood, men should believe it to be the work of the devil; to advance themselves one day only, they would retard the progress of the world for ages.  Every prayer has its effect, and every aspiration and wish is a prayer; it is not necessary to go down on your bended knees to pray.  Would that you would see as we do the great black cloud (to speak figuratively) of prayers and aspirations that is for ever rising up from a populous haunt of mankind like this great city of London.  Aspiration for truth and knowledge will surely bring its answer, and as surely does every prayer to the contrary distort and retard true progress.

An expanded second edition of Home’s autobiography was published in 1864.  Other articles about D. D. Home include "Trance Communication and D. D. Home" and "No. 1 Seance from Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home".  A contemporary of Home is psychic and channeler Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910).  Also see: "'We' and the Mediums of Oneness".

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Case Profile: Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886)


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