May 29 2012

Conjuring up Philip

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the following was sent to me on a mailing list yesterday. I’m frustrated in determining what I think of it. On the one hand, I think its useful in debunking some of the crackpots out there. On the other hand, I can safely vouch that communication is possible. On the third hand (yes, shush, I know), I’m intrigued by the idea of egregor / servitor / entity creation. And additionally, I’m curious about Joel Whitton’s involvement with this little project. I guess ultimately, its a good demonstration of what we are capable of doing with our own consciousnesses, but I don’t think for a minute that it serves as a blanket answer for all “paranormal” phenomenon. (And truthfully, I’ve never really “gotten” the whole table-rapping thing).

“Philip” is an artificial poltergeist, an egregor or artificial
intelligence, created as an experiment by a group of Canadian
parapsychologists during the 1970s. It was that as a result of their
experiment that the human will can produce spirits through
expectation, imagination and visualization. The members of the
experiment purposed to attempt to create, through intense and
prolonged concentration, a collective thought-form. All eight
participants were members of the Toronto Society for Psychical
Research; and, none were psychical gifted.

The group consisted of Iris Owen, a former nurse and wife of the
mathematician A. R. G. Owen; Margaret Sparrrows, former chairperson
of MENSA in Canada, an organization of individuals with high IQs;
Andy H., housewife; Lorne H., industrial designer and husband of Andy
H.; Al P., heating engineer; Bernice M., accountant; Dorothy O’ D.,
housewife and bookkeeper; and Sidney K., sociology student. Dr. A. R.
G. Owen or Dr. Joel Whitton, psychologist, attended the group

The group first fabricated the fictitious identity, physical
appearance, and personal history of their “Philip Aylesford” who was
born in England in 1624 and followed an early military career. At the
age of sixteen he was knighted. He had an illustrious role in the
Civil War. He became a personal friend of Prince Charles (later
Charles II) and worked for him as a secret agent. But Philip brought
about his own undoing by having an affair with a Gypsy girl. When his
wife found out she accused the girl of witchcraft, and the girl was
burned at the stake. In despair Philip committed suicide in 1654 at
the age of thirty.

The Owen group began conducting sittings in September 1972 during
which they meditated, visualized, and discussed the details of
Philip’s life. Although no apparition ever appeared, occasionally
some sitters felt a presence in the room; still others experienced
vivid mental pictures of “Philip.”

After going for months with no communication, the group attempted
table-tilting through psychokinesis (PK). This activity, popularized
during Spiritualism seances, involved people sitting around a table
and placing their fingertips lightly on the surface. The table
tilting practice was suggested by the British psychologist Kenneth J.
Barcheldor who speculated that some of the group members might have
skepticism concerning their venture. He felt the seance setting
possibly would produce a communication with “Philip,” which was the
sitters’ expectations.

Within weeks after changing to the séance setting the group
established communication with “Philip.” They engaged “Philip” in a
table rapping session where he gave yes or no answers. “Philip”
answered questions that were consistent with his fictitious history,
but was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group
had conceived. However, “Philip” did give other historically accurate
information about real events and people. The Owen group theorized
that this latter information came from their own collective

One session was held in front of a live audience of fifty people and
was videotaped to be shown on television. In other sessions sounds
were heard in various parts of the room and lights blinked on and
off. The levitation and movement of a table were recorded on film in
1974. “Philip” seemed to have a special rapport with Iris Owen. Some
member thought they heard whispers in response to questions, but
efforts to capture them on tape were inconclusive.

The group hoped their experiment would help in the study if the
phenomena of poltergeists, hauntings, and Spiritualism. Their
findings appear in the work Conjuring up Philip by Iris Owen and
Margaret Sparrows (Harper & Row, 1976).

The results from the “Philip” experiment encouraged other groups in
Toronto and Quebec to attempt similar ventures. The fictitious
entities were “Lilith,” a French Canadian spy during World War
II; “Sebastian,” a medieval alchemist; and “Axel,” a man from the
future. All personalities communicated through their own unique raps.

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