Saturday, 27 June 2009

Mr James Wendell, F.R.S.

A man of science working at the Royal Institution, Wendell attended the dinner-party séance to investigate the claims of the medium, and is presenting the results of his investigations to the Society for Physical Research. Rather sceptical of spiritualism, he argues that ‘Lizzy’ deceived the attendees, and is not really affected by magnetism, or channelling spirits to ‘rap’ on the tables. He cites instances from the film that contradicted or disrupted the events of the séance, such as where he has concealed a magnet, used instruments, or sat underneath the table. He clashes with Brookes over the findings of ‘scientific’ investigations, picking apart Brookes’ evidence. However, his own physical work – into invisible phenomena and ‘singing’ flames – is compared to the events of the séance: ‘The spirits were consulted, and I was pronounced a first-class medium’; the letters ‘p o e t o f s c i e n c e’ are spelt out. Himself interested in the ‘scientific use of the imagination’, he is perhaps not so close to a modern scientist as the audience might at first believe.

Wendell believes that science has established the main forces that govern the world and all it contains. There is no previously unrecognised force that science has failed to establish. A supernatural or spiritual force that ONLY occurs in the presence of a medium is not real because: The physical laws of the universe require that a force be present universally – not just in a drawing room in the presence of a medium and not just recently when not previously apparent. Any force should be measurable with scientific instruments. Thinks this is highly unlikely in the case of ‘spirit forces’. He (Wendall) would dearly like to take Miss Lightman into his laboratory but she says this would scare the spirits. Forces which come and go like this seem likely not to be real. His magnetic forces on the other hand are reliable phenomena which can be observed by anyone and made to perform at any time and they are measurable phenomena. An educated scientific man is able to investigate phenomena and by virtue of his scientific training his intellect can reason what is a genuine phenomenon and what is not. Seeing is not believing. From a distance St Pauls cathedral is measured as only inches tall. But reason tells us how to understand that evidence of our senses and know that this is not the case in actuality. The scientific training he has received means he has a fully clear but also sceptical mind.