London Dialectical Society

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The London Dialectical Society was a British professional association that formed in 1867 to investigate the claims of spiritualism.[1]

History[edit]

The Society was founded in 1867 under the presidency of John Lubbock. It gathered together highly regarded professional individuals to speak on issues of the day. Many well known speakers started at the Society including Joseph Hiam, the journalist and campaigner. Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy was invited to speak on more than one occasion.

The Society is probably best known for a Committee it formed "to investigate the phenomena alleged to be spiritual manifestations and to report thereon."[2] In January 1869, a committee was appointed that included 33 members. Notable members included Edward William Cox, Charles Maurice Davies, Cromwell Varley and Alfred Russel Wallace.[3][4]

Skeptics such as Thomas Henry Huxley and George Henry Lewes declined invitation to join the Society.[2]

The London Dialectical Society has been described as a precursor to the Society for Psychical Research.[5]

1871 report[edit]

In 1871 a report by the committee was published. The Society declined to publish the report and it was printed on the responsibility of the committee only.[6]

Six sub-committees had investigated the claims of spiritualism by attending séances and reported their findings. The report was heavily criticized by the scientific community as being of no scientific value.[6][7] This was due to the fact that half of the committees "saw really nothing" and only the second committee had reported successful "presumably spiritualistic" phenomena.[6] However, this conclusion was criticized as being based on unsupported statements from unreliable witnesses.[8] The report was dismissed by influential newspapers. For example, The Times described the report as "nothing more than a farrago of impotent conclusions, garnished by a mass of the most monstrous rubbish it has ever been our misfortune to sit judgement on."[9]

The fifth committee had investigated the medium Daniel Dunglas Home but "nothing occurred at any of the meetings which could be attributed to supernatural causes."[6]

Publications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "London Dialectical Society". Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.
  2. ^ a b Byrne, Georgina. (2010). Modern Spiritualism and Church of England, 1850-1939. Boydell Press. pp. 54-55. ISBN 978-1-84383-589-9
  3. ^ Costa, Thomas. (1984). Charles M. Davies [1828-1910]: The Broad Churchman as Journalist. Victorian Periodicals Review. Vol. 17, No. 1/2, pp. 29-33.
  4. ^ Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-19-924962-8
  5. ^ James, William. (1896). Essays in Psychical Research. Harvard University Press. p. 431. ISBN 0-674-26708-7
  6. ^ a b c d The London Dialectical Society on "Spiritualism". The Medical Times and Gazette, Volume 2. Saturday, October 28, 1871. pp. 528-529
  7. ^ Anonymous. (1872). Report on Spiritualism of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, Together with the Evidence, Oral and Written, and a Selection from the Correspondence. British Journal of Psychiatry 17 (80): 578-579.
  8. ^ Edmunds, Simeon. (1966). Spiritualism: A Critical Survey. Aquarian Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0850300130 "The evidential standards of the committee were, alas, deplorably low, many phenomena being pronounced genuine on the unsupported statements of credulous or dishonest witnesses."
  9. ^ Whittington-Egan, Molly. (2015). Mrs Guppy Takes a Flight. Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd. p. 16