Whitman Takes Trance Lessons

Update: The Whitman referenced in the quotation below is John B. Whitman, not Walt Whitman.


At the weekly public meeting of the New York Conference of spiritualists on July 21, 1857, homeopathic physician and spiritualist, Dr. John Franklin Gray, set the question for discussion.  As reported in the minutes, it was, “What is the difference between a medium, so-called, and those who were not mediums?  What is Mediumship, or wherein do Mediums differ from the rest of us?” 

Whitman discusses Cora Hatch with his spiritualist friends

In response to Dr. Gray’s question at the session of the New York Conference, Whitman took the floor and revealed that he had been trying to develop himself as a medium for the past year, but without success.

Mr. Whitman said he was unable to get a clear idea of what mediumship really was.  He was unable to get a direct answer to the Doctor’s question, what constitutes a medium as contradistinctive to what is not?  He had observed that mediums were of every variety physically, intellectually and morally.  One was delicate, frail and of a nervous constitution, another was robust, healthy and vigorous.  One was ignorant and imbecile, while another was intelligent and learned.  He wished to come at the knowledge of what peculiar constitution, temperament, quality or condition is requisite to constitute a medium.  It is all important that we should possess this knowledge if possible.  Mrs. Hatch explained it to him once, but not satisfactorily.  She said that there was a medium-spirit on the other side of the line, as it were, associated with the physical medium.  That it was through this spiritual medium that spirits, and circles, and societies of spirits first communicated, and it again communicated with and through the physical medium with whom it was en rapport. She declared that there was as much necessity for a medium there as here.  He should like to know the truth about the matter and be a medium himself if possible.  He tried for twelve months and failed.  He hoped it would be explained.
“New York Conference.  Session of July 21.” The Spiritual Age (New York), August 1, 1857.


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