This is the last in the five-volume series of autobiographical novels called "The Children of Violence," which trace the life story of Martha Quest. The first four books portray Martha's youth and young womanhood among the English settlers in colonial, racially divided British Rhodesia. In this book, Martha leaves Africa and is living in postwar London, a bombed-out city where the walls of buildings are not the only boundaries that have come down. The line between good and evil was much clearer under the African sun; here Martha enters a world where such distinctions are lost at a dizzying pace. Her friend Lynda undergoes a personal breakdown, prefiguring Martha's own dissolution. Lessing's genius is to see that this time of social fragmentation and personal disorder can be welcomed as the prelude to a spiritual rebirth. This book moves from politics toward spirituality and reflects Lessing's honesty and concern.
The researchers speculate that maybe as frontal lobe activity decreases, "the areas of the brain that support mediumistic writing are further disinhibited (similar to alcohol or drug use) so that the overall complexity can increase." In a similar manner, they say, improvisational music performance is associated with lower levels of frontal lobe activity which allows for more creative activity.
Attempts to communicate with the dead and other living human beings, aka spirits, have been documented back to early human history. The story of the Witch of Endor (In the most recent edition of the NIV witch is rendered medium in the passage) tells of one who raised the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel to allow the Hebrew king Saul to question his former mentor about an upcoming battle, as related in the Books of Samuel in the Jewish Tanakh (the basis of the Old Testament).
The medium Frank Decker was exposed as a fraud in 1932. A magician and séance sitter who called himself M. Taylor presented a mail bag and Decker agreed to lock himself inside it. During the séance objects were moved around the room and it was claimed spirits had released Decker from the bag. It was later discovered to have been a trick as Martin Sunshine, a magic dealer admitted that he sold Decker a trick mail bag, such as stage escapologists use, and had acted as the medium's confederate by pretending to be M. Taylor, a magician. The British medium Estelle Roberts claimed to materialize an Indian spirit guide called "Red Cloud". Researcher Melvin Harris who examined some photographs of Red Cloud wrote the face was the same as Roberts and she had dressed up in a feathered war-bonnet.
In 1907, Hereward Carrington exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning, trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading and spirit photography. between 1908 and 1914 the Italian medium Francesco Carancini was investigated by psychical researchers and they discovered that he used phosphorus matches to produce "spirit lights" and with a freed hand would move objects in the séance room.
The medium Henry Slade was caught in fraud many times throughout his career. In a séance in 1876 in London Ray Lankester and Bryan Donkin snatched his slate before the "spirit" message was supposed to be written, and found the writing already there. Slade also played an accordion with one hand under the table and claimed spirits would play it. The magician Chung Ling Soo revealed how Slade had performed the trick.
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