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Great Spiritualists and Friends

Whymant, A. Neville John, Ph.D. (September 4, 1894 - ?): Professor of Linguistics
Institution / Country:England

Although not a Spiritualist, Dr. Neville Whymant, a professor of linguistics at Oxford and London Universities and earlier at the Universities of Tokyo and Peking, was involved in one of the most famous cases in psychical research lending itself to the spirit hypothesis. He reported on the case in his 1928 book, Psychic Adventures in New York.

In the book, Whymant told of 12 sittings with the direct-voice medium George Valiantine that he had at the New York Park Ave. home of Judge and Mrs. William Cannon during 1926. Having had several foreign languages spoken at sittings with Valiantine, Mrs. Cannon invited Whymant, who was in the United States to study languages of the American Indian, to sit with them. Whymant was said to be conversant in 30 languages and was especially fluent in languages of the Far East.

During the 12 sittings at the Cannon home, Whymant reported hearing 14 languages spoken through the medium, including Portuguese, Italian, Basque, Welsh, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Hindustani, and Chinese.

One of the voices identified himself in an ancient Chinese dialect as Fu-Tsu. Whymant immediately recognized it as the name of Confucius. Whymant came to realize that the language he was hearing was that of the Chinese Classics, edited by Confucius 2,500 years earlier. It was Chinese so dead colloquially as Sanskrit or Latin. “If this was a hoax, it was a particularly clever one, far beyond the scope of any of the sinologues now living,” Whymant explained in his book.

Apparently the communicating spirit recognized that Whymant was having a difficult time understanding the ancient dialect and changed to a more modern dialect. Whymant wondered how he could test the voice and remembered that there are several poems in Confucius’ Shih King which have baffled both Chinese and Western scholars.

Whymant addressed the “voice”: This stupid one would know the correct reading of the verse in Shih King. It has been hidden from understanding for long centuries, and men look upon it with eyes that are blind. The passage begins thus: Ts’ai ts’ai chüan êrh…

Whymant had recalled that line as the first line of the third ode of the first book of Chou nan, although he did not recall the remaining 14 lines. “The ‘voice’ took up the poem and recited it to the end,” Whymant wrote.

The “voice” put a new construction on the verses so that it made sense to Whymant. It was, the “voice” explained, a psychic poem. The mystery was solved. But Whymant had another test. He asked the “voice” if he could ask for further wisdom.

Ask not of an empty barrel much fish, O wise one! Many things which are now dark shall be light to thee, but the time is not yet… the “voice” answered.

Whymant addressed the “voice”: “…In Lun Yü, Hsia Pien, there is a passage that is wrongly written. Should it not read thus:…?

Before Whymant could finish the sentence, the “voice” carried the passage to the end and explained that the copyists were in error, as the character written as should have been i, and the character written as yen is an error for fou.

“Again, all the winds had been taken out of my sails!” Whymant wrote, pointing out that the telepathic theory, i.e., the medium was reading his mind, would not hold up since he was unaware of the nature of the errors.

Whymant also recorded that prior to the dialogue with Confucius, his wife’s father communicated in his characteristic drawl, reminiscent of the West County of England.

Whymant also recorded that at one sitting, Valiantine was carrying on a conversation in American English with the person next to him while foreign languages were coming through the trumpet. “I am assured, too, that it is impossible for anyone to ‘throw his voice,’ this being merely an illusion of the ventriloquist,” he wrote.

Not being a spiritualist or psychical researcher, Whymant did not initially plan to write the book. However, tiring of telling the story so many times, he agreed to put it in writing, asking that with the publication of the book that others not ask him to tell the story again.

Text and photo of Dr. Whymant courtesy of Michael Tymn, author of The Articulate Dead where Michael examines several of the best mediums of yesteryear and the scientific research surrounding them.