The personality of John W. Edmonds
In order to better understand the reactions determined by the human psyche as a consequence of communications of mediumistic origin, I think it could be interesting to examine in detail the testimony of the New York judge John Worth Edmonds (1799-1874), as reported in his book Spiritualism, published in 1853, which can be downloaded from our Library. In that initial period of rapid diffusion of spiritualism, several texts were published in the United States that help to understand the origins and early developments of the phenomenon of mediumship in its more modern meaning: among them Modern Spiritualism: its Facts and Fanaticism by Eliab W. Capron and Startling Facts in Modern Spiritualism by Napoleon B. Wolfe, both downloadable from the Library. I chose Judge Edmonds' book for the particular prominence of the author's public personality, which reflects his character and his civil and cultural commitment, and for the particular diligence with which, in an introduction covering over 70 pages, he has left us an exhaustive information picture of the path through which he wanted to investigate the mediumistic phenomena of that time, in order first of all to ascertain whether they were genuine or not. The book was written by Judge Edmonds in collaboration with a New York physician, George T. Dexter: the latter had become a writing medium in spite of himself, at least according to what emerges from his introduction to the book (page 81), which follows that of Edmonds and which we will examine carefully. The main object of the volume are in fact the written communications obtained in 1853 through Dexter's mediumship and attributed to two entities who signed themselves as Sweedenborg (referring to Emanuel Swedenborg, the forerunner of spiritualism) and Bacon (referring to Sir Francis Bacon, the English philosopher). Although we know almost nothing about Dexter, apart from what he himself says in his introduction, through an internet search we can obtain a lot of information, of which I will now give a summary, on the life and personality of Judge Edmonds.
John Worth Edmonds was born on March 13, 1799 in Hudson, New York, second of General Samuel Edmonds' five sons. His mother, née Lydia Worth, was a member of a prominent Quaker family. After studying law at Union College, graduating in 1816, he began his training as a barrister in Albany, in the law firm of Martin Van Buren (who became President of the United States in 1837), living with the Van Buren family. The friendship that bound him to Martin Van Buren – who was already a friend of his father – lasted throughout his life. Edmonds then continued to practice law in his hometown of Hudson from 1820 to 1824. At the same time, he served as an officer in the 47th Columbia County Infantry Regiment. He joined the Democratic Party, actively participating in political life, and in 1824 he was appointed by party leaders as editor of the Hudson Gazette. He also actively attended the Christ Church Parish in Hudson until 1824. Around 1820 he married Sarah, a girl of his age, by whom he had at least five children and to whom he was always very close, so much so that in his last will he disposed that his body be buried in the same coffin as his wife – who had died in 1850 – so that «our ashes may mingle, and be one on earth, as our souls will be one in the spirit world». As we shall see, the state of mind following the loss of his wife was one of the causes which induced Edmonds to take an interest in mediumistic phenomena. Among the many activities to which Edmonds devoted his organizational skills, he was Chief Engineer, until 1837, for the volunteer Hudson Fire Department, and in 1827 was appointed to the office of Recorder of the city of Hudson. In 1830 he was elected to the New York State Assembly as a member of the Democratic Party, and in 1831 he was elected by a large margin to the Senate of that same state. In the Senate, he served on the joint committee on South Carolina's claim to tariff nullification, as chairman of the Committee on Canals, as chairman of the Bank Committee, on the Court for the Corrections of Errors, and was also Senate President. Moreover, he was a leading member of the Albany Regency, an influential political network developed by his friend Martin Van Buren. In 1836 he resigned from the New York Senate, reportedly for health reasons.
After resigning from the Senate, John Edmonds accepted the appointment given to him by President Andrew Jackson to serve as United States Commissioner for a peace treaty with the Ottawa and Chippewa Indian tribes. He spent the summer of 1836 camping among the Indians in order to learn some of their languages. As a United States Commissioner, he also investigated a disturbance involving the Potawatomi people in Indiana: he took testimony concerning the claims of their creditors and issued a resolution of these claims. Anyone interested can download and read the complete text of that document, not because it is relevant to the topics covered on this site, but because it represents a valid testimony of the care and commitment with which Edmonds carried out the tasks and assignments entrusted to him. After working on Indian affairs, in the autumn of 1837 Edmonds moved to New York City, where he opened a successful law practice specialized in corporate affairs. He soon found himself running a large and profitable business among the tycoons of commerce and industry, making friends and bonds also with influential politicians. In his youth, Edmonds – in addition to being very industrious – passionately defended the causes that interested him, being endowed with a combative temperament. In his mature years he became more thoughtful, toning down the more competitive aspects of his character. One of his political opponents said about him: «But from his present course, it would be supposed that he has tempered his strong feelings, and as the hey-dey of his youth passes away, his judgment will, no doubt, prevail entirely over his feelings. If this should be the case, and he does not lose his praiseworthy industry, he must hereafter stand high among our distinguished men». As a politician and lawyer, Edmonds demonstrated that he had the ability to work hard to study a subject, develop a well-founded position, and also win others' support to it. With his friends Samuel Tilden, Martin Van Buren and others, formed about 1842 a staunchly anti-slavery faction that split the Democratic Party: they were called barnburners in reference to a farmer who would burn down his barn to get rid of rats inside.
In April 1843, the Governor of New York appointed Edmonds inspector of the Sing Sing State Prison. Although at the beginning he lacked experience about the prison system of those times, Edmonds devoted himself to his task with the commitment, righteousness and energy that characterized him. This experience, about which there are also some mentions in his book on Spiritualism, was among the most important of his life: in those times the life of prisoners was particularly hard, with rigid rules and frequent corporal punishments (floggings) for those who broke them, always at the guards discretion. Furthermore, the same management of prisons was in deficit, and not infrequently there was a lack of economic resources to provide for the convicts' minimum vital needs. Edmonds carried out an important and meritorious work of reforming the prison system of the New York State, which then also influenced other states of the Union. At first, drawing perhaps on his legislative and military experience, Edmonds instituted a program of sharp fiscal retrenchment and strict prison discipline. To implement these changes, he brought back to Sing Sing Elam Lynds, a former prison warden widely known for maintaining absolute order through intimidation and frequent, brutal floggings. For his reappointment of Lynds, some angry citizens burned Edmonds in effigy. Following these events, Edmonds became a staunch advocate for prison reforms: after extensively studying the criminal literature and visiting other prisons, he realized that Lynds' actions were counterproductive and managed to have him removed. He also worked to eliminate or at least drastically reduce the practice of flogging, and within two years he was the recognized leader of the prison reform movement. In November 1844 Edmonds, with sixty-two other signatories including prominent New York public figures, issued an appeal calling for the formation of a prison association, the intended objectives of which were «the amelioration of the condition of prisoners, the improvement of prison discipline generally and relief for discharged convicts». In response to this call, a few hundred citizens met on December 6, 1844 in the Apollo Rooms, Broadway, giving rise – on Edmonds' proposal – to the Prison Association. On that occasion, Edmonds delivered a long address describing the hardships of discharged convicts, different systems of prison discipline and their effects: he presented statistical comparisons with other states and countries and described the importance of classification and instruction of prisoners. Edmonds was a Vice-President of the Prison Association, Chairman of the Executive Committee, and a member of each of the four committees that were established.
To get an idea of Edmonds' commitment and orientation in dealing with issues related to life in prison and after prison, it should be remembered that he spent a lot of time personally communicating with held and released prisoners. In a letter dated February 22, 1851, addressed to the Executive Committee of the Prison Association, he so explained: «I have, myself, stood day after day, for hours at a time, at the doors of the cells of the prisoners, listening to the details of human depravity and human suffering, until the sickness of the heart was even more intolerable than the weariness of the body. Still it was a duty which our experience told us ought not to be omitted, and which our Association rigidly exacted from those upon whom they devolved the duty of examination». Regarding his interest in the living conditions of released convicts, the Recording Secretary of the Prison Association, who had access to many of Edmonds' personal papers, stated that: «A most voluminous correspondence has been preserved, showing his care for and interest in individual cases. Both while on the bench and afterwards, when in full practice at the bar, he hunted up persons who had been discharged; he visited them at their lodgings; he advised with them; he sought out their friends; he obtained for them employment». However, Edmonds tended to depreciate «sentiments of pity and of good will to men»: he favored «sober results rather than emotional or pathetic impressions». An acclaimed authority on penal reform, he emphasized science and expertise in treating prisoners: «the care and treatment of criminals… must be pursued upon scientific principles. The reformatory treatment and discipline of criminals is a department of social science». In this he reflected the absolute trust – typical of educated people in that period – in the progress of science in every sphere of human activities and interactions. So Edmonds communicated extensively with prisoners, but he regarded that communication as a matter of duty and science. He considered the ultimate aim of prison reform to be a state in which «prison-keeping and all penal discipline, were in the hands of broad-minded and enlightened experts, free from embarrassing relations to political strife, and the selfish aims and dictation of partisan leaders».
In February 1845, Edmonds was appointed circuit judge for the First Circuit of New York. In June 1847, he was elected to Justice of the New York Supreme Court. The judicial reforms that the Constitutional Convention of 1846 enacted increased the workload of Supreme Court Justices. He achieved prominence as a judge and distinguished himself in this difficult job: «it is remarked by all that he transacts a greater amount of business, in a given time, than any jurist who has ever been upon the bench in the city of New York». He was elevated to the Court of Appeals, New York State's highest court, in 1852, however, even throughout his judicial career, he continued to serve in addition as an officer of the Prison Association. By 1853, his private character and judicial reputation were beyond reproach, and his «ability, integrity, and judgment were beyond dispute». Indeed, since his spiritualist beliefs became a subject of ridicule when he was up for renomination to the Supreme Court in 1853, Edmonds – declaring his acceptance of not being re-nominated in a letter to leading Democrat John Cochrane – noted that Cochrane informed him that in the nominating convention «it was freely and fully admitted that my ability, integrity and judgment were beyond dispute, and that my judicial reputation was unimpaired». The same thing is also written in a letter he sent to Archibald Hilton, who received the nomination to the Supreme Court and who offered to withdraw in Edmonds' favor. John Edmonds' record of accomplishments and public service was indeed extraordinary. With regard to his philanthropic activities, it should be remembered that Edmonds was one of the 24 New York citizens who – concerned about the large number of orphaned, abandoned or runaway children and teenagers who lived on hardship and expedients on the city streets – in 1851 founded the New York Juvenile Asylum, which later became known as the Children's Village: a private non-profit institution, which later could also count on public funds, capable of providing food, housing, school and job placement for many young people in troubles. As late as 2015, the Children's Village was directly assisting and following, in one form or another, over 10,000 children and teenagers.
Although, after his public stance in favor of Spiritualism and the publication of his book in 1853, Edmonds was often attacked and ridiculed not only by certain political, institutional and cultural circles, but also by important press media such as the New York Times, his prestige as a judge and his legal practice were unaffected. In a legal book that he published in 1863, Edmonds observed that persons seeking to know the law of New York had to search for statutes through fifty volumes with slovenly indexes, and uncover relevant adjudications in two hundred volumes of reported cases. He condensed all the statutes and judgments into just five topically organized volumes, that included indexes and references to relevant adjudications: «So accurately and systematically was the work performed that it at once superceded the former editions of the Statutes and was adopted as the standard authority. He has since added two supplemental volumes and an index» (Albany Law Journal, vol. 9, 1874). Edmonds wrote other important legal reference works in addition to his condensed laws of New York State: in 1868, he published an over 600-page volume reporting selected cases that had come before him as circuit judge, but which heretofore had not been reported or reported only partially. At his death in 1874, a second volume of about 500 pages was in progress, which was published posthumously in 1883. Even after becoming a leading exponent of spiritualism, Edmonds continued to work as a name partner at the New York law firm Edmonds, Bushnell & Hamilton: about 1860 he provided an important legal opinion concerning the disposition of dividends by the New York Life Insurance Company, a leading insurance provider. At his death, in 1874, John W. Edmonds was honored as an eminent public figure. His funeral, held in New York City, was a major public event. As the New York Times reported on the occasion, «a large gathering of our leading citizens, and a number of persons from abroad, viewed the remains, and followed them to the tomb... The procession that the followed the remains to the grave was one of the largest ever seen in this city». John Edmonds is now a largely forgotten figure in American history. American National Biography, the most current reference source for biographies of remarkable United States personalities, does not include John Edmonds: it does, however, include his younger brother, the painter Francis William Edmonds (1806-1863). However, in the nineteenth century John Edmonds was certainly more prominent than his brother Francis.
Judge Edmonds' interest in mediumistic phenomena
John Edmonds' interest in mediumistic phenomena and his public stance in support of spiritualism certainly did not help his juridical and political career, despite the various acknowledgments regarding his professional competence and integrity, which no one was able to discredit. Many prominent American citizens, and many of Edmonds' friends among them, considered spiritualism to be utter nonsense. Others, incuding members of the Congress and the Senate, although interested in mediumistic phenomena and persuaded of their authenticity, joined psychic circles privately so as not to compromise their public figures and careers: very few of them, indeed, had the courage to publicly express their interest in spiritist communications. At Edmonds' death, his activities in support of spiritualism posed a challenge to obituary compilers and biographies writers: could his communications with the dead be regarded as a form of religious belief? Edmonds described spiritual communication in terms of empirical science and a trial court: that wasn't the typical style of religious expression. Describing Edmonds as having gone insane with grief over the death of his wife in 1850 was contradicted both by the testimony of those who knew him, and by the documentary evidence of his subsequent legal writings. In any case, the dominant culture of the time ended up treating the spiritualistic convictions of the now deceased Judge Edmonds with a certain benevolent indulgence, as can be seen in the entry dedicated to him in the 1887 edition of Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, which so summarizes the positions of many press organs: «Judge Edmonds became a convert to the doctrines of spiritualism in 1851, and in 1853 openly avowed and defended them, believing himself to be in almost constant communication with departed spirits. His peculiar views were sustained with the greatest courage and persistence, and it was said that they cost him his place on the bench of the supreme court. He was a jurist of unquestioned ability, and the honesty of his convictions was never doubted».
When, in 1853, John Edmonds published the first volume of his book Spiritualism, he was fully aware of the risks he ran towards the public opinion and certain circles that were capable of influencing it, and he knew that his stance would cost him the reappointment as judge of the New York Supreme Court: «I was... requested to withhold publication of my book, and was assured that if I would do so, my nomination and election would be secured. I declined to withhold it, and my defeat there (at the convention of one part of the Democratic Party) was not at all unexpected to me». So, apparently, the difficulty was not Edmonds' spiritualist beliefs, but his publishing a book on them. After Edmonds published Spiritualism, the New York Times harshly attacked the book and its author's intellect: «We concur fully in the general concession that no Judge upon the bench has been more careful, conscientious and fearless in his office than Judge Edmonds, and his decisions have been moreover very able and correct. But this fact is, to our minds, even more remarkable than that he should have embraced his present notions, just as it is more wonderful that an insane man should act rationally on certain subjects, than it is that he should be insane. And such mental habits, opinions and lines of study as those to which Judge Edmonds is now surrendered, must render the operations of his intellect utterly unreliable, and destroy all confidence in the continued justice and correctness of his judicial actions». It is not clear whether the columnist's claims about Edmonds' mental insanity were due to the mere fact that the judge had wanted to engage in investigating mediumistic phenomena (an activity that, according to some people, no sane person should undertake), or they refer to the contents of the spiritist communications reported in the book of Edmonds and Dexter. Anyway, regarding those communications, the article continued as follows: «The whole collection is a jumble of commonplaces, puerilities, and absurdities; and the claim that they come from men to whom they are ascribed, is an attempt on popular credulity too audacious for the most comprehensive charity... the whole troop of spirits all talk just alike, in English equally bad, in style equally affected and equally stuffed with attempts at poetic finery; they all talk about the same things, in the same way: and not one of them utters a sentence which any man of ordinary brains and literary practice could not shape». As we can see, this is a severe and no-appeal judgment.
The New York Times complained that Spiritualism was united by a «steady hostility to the essential elements of Christian faith», and unfavorably compared its doctrines to that of the «Mahomedans, the Mormons, and other imposters». It concluded that, if read, the book will hurt the «weak-minded and credulous» while prompting «disciplined and healthy minds» to commiserate with Edmonds. It also concluded that the book was «too dull and uninteresting to attract many readers». The fact is that in that period not only did spiritualism attract and interest many people, but also generated a large academic-style polemical literature. Some books attacked or criticized spiritualism on a scientific basis, among them Modern spiritualism, scientifically demonstrated to be a mendacious humbug by John Lord (1856) – a criticism of chemist Robert Hare's book Spiritualism, scientifically demonstrated (1855) – and Spiritualism answered by science by Edward W. Cox (1872). Many other publications attacked or denounced spiritualism for being contrary both to the teachings of Scriptures and to what was considered common sense: according to the authors of these books, pamphlets and articles, mediums were in any case to be considered as charlatans and tricksters, and those who frequented them or investigated their phenomena as gullible imbeciles. Just as the New York Times columnist had not hesitated to attribute a form of degeneration of intellectual faculties to Edmonds, some anti-spiritualist books openly maintained that the very fact of dealing with mediumistic phenomena was a symptom or cause of mental insanity. As it became increasingly popular, spiritualism was a serious concern for some prominent authorities. Opposition to spiritualism did not simply come from a dogmatic fringe or elite groups who exploited otherwise insignificant issues for their own political purposes: prominent political and religious leaders were concerned about spiritualism's consequences. For example, in 1854, in Trinity Church in the city of Washington, a prominent clergyman, Reverend Clement Moore Butler, preached about the risks that spiritual communication posed to public deliberations and to people's souls. This preacher had served as U.S. Senate Chaplain from January, 1850, through December, 1853. He entitled his sermon «Modern Necromancy» and, attacking Judge Edmonds and other spiritualists, he pointed to the problem of conflicting testimony: «On one occasion, in the same room, a departed spirit through a Roman Catholic medium declared that there was a purgatory, and that it was essential to pass through its cleansing fires; while another spirit through a Protestant medium insisted, by the most energetic raps, that there was no purgatory».
In this respect, Reverend Butler was not entirely wrong: communications with spirits were not of great help in bringing harmony and understanding regarding the destiny of the conscious Ego (the so-called soul) in the afterlife, nay, they often gave rise to forms of conflict and confusion. Moreover, several communications did not prove to be up to the intellectual and cultural level of the illustrious departed personalities to whom they were attributed, and consequently Reverend Butler had a good game in stating that: «It is amazing that any person in his right mind should believe that these great (dead) men could be, at the same time, answering the summons of every ignorant and credulous person from California to New York and from Maine to Georgia, and that they should spend whole evenings in slowly rapping out a few sentences of unimportant intelligence, or of sentimental and mystical absurdity, of which they would have been ashamed on earth». It should be remembered that Reverend Butler, as an Episcopal priest, was a member of a community that, at least formally, valued prayer and believed – without asking too many questions – in the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, heaven, hell and other sentimental and mystical absurdities originating from the human psyche. We are therefore dealing with a typical case of conflict within the same human psyche, for which it would be naive to hope to be able to arrive at a reasonable separation between what is certainly true and what is certainly false, due to the psyche's bipolar character: the only resource we have, given our condition as human beings, is to observe and evaluate the various and cunning strategies used by the psyche to ensnare and convince the conscious Ego. Therefore, we are not surprised if the preacher concluded his sermon with these words: «I have brought this subject to your attention because much interest has been excited in regard to it in this community... and because I fear that some of you may be led, thoughtlessly, from curiosity, and with no idea of its impropriety, to tamper with this impious delusion of communicating with spirits, to the injury of your own souls and the souls of others». So, get away from mediumistic phenomena and spirits!
Under these conditions, the effort made by Edmonds to offer the public the results of his investigations into mediumistic phenomena caused him much bitterness and suffering on a personal level. So he described his social situation in an article on spiritualism published in the New York Tribune in 1859: «I have been sorely tried, temporally and mentally. I have been excluded from the associations which once made life pleasant to me. I have felt, in the society which I once hoped to adorn, that I was an object marked for avoidance, if not for abhorrence. Courted once, and honored among men, I have been doomed to see the nearest and dearest to me, turn from me with pity, if not disgust. Tolerated, rather than welcomed among my fellows; at an advanced age, and with infirm health, compelled to begin the world again». All this would not have happened if he, like many of his acquaintances, had not contented himself with attending mediumistic circles in private, to investigate the phenomena that occurred and communicate with those he considered – on the basis of proofs that for his juridical mentality were incontrovertible – the spirits of his deceased wife, children or other loved ones, without publicly taking a stand in favor of spiritualism. He could have discretely offered food and money to honor his wife's spirit, could have burnt incense or candles before an image of her and placed flowers on her grave, or could have called out to all saints – deceased men and women – to pray for her soul, as many persons around the world, including highly respected public figures, do even today: thus he would remain the esteemed and admired personality he had been until 1853. Edmonds had to face harsh criticism and personal contempt not because his interest in spiritualism was incomprehensible to others, but because a consistent part of the establishment felt that Edmonds' commitment to promoting knowledge through spiritualism threatened the public good or interest. His decision to publish texts attributed to prestigious personalities such as Francis Bacon, Emanuel Swedenborg or Abraham Lincoln – obtained through a medium – posed much greater risks for the determinations of public power than personal communication with his own deceased relatives and friends. Before going on, I want to point out that much of the information here reported on Judge Edmonds, his public activities and the consequences of his stance in favor of spiritualism, was acquired by me from the site www.acrosswalls.org: it is a very interesting site, devoted to communicating with convicts in US prisons, a section of which is dedicated to John Edmonds and his important activity as a reformer of the American prison system.
To better understand the reasons that urged Judge Edmonds to expose himself publicly, despite being informed and aware of the risks he ran, it is first of all necessary to remember that he came from a family in which the influence of the Quaker faith, at least from the maternal branch, was well present and had rooted in the Judge's very personality. The Quakers, as those belonging to the Religious Society of Friends (of Christ) are commonly called, are a Christian movement that arose in England in the seventeenth century, which differs profoundly from other Christian churches or sects, in particular for their rejection of ecclesiastical hierarchies, the sacraments, participation in war and swearing oaths. At first the movement's members called themselves Children of the Light, because one of the founders of the movement, the Englishman George Fox (1624-1691), had a mystical experience in 1647 which he described in these terms in his autobiography: «One day... I was taken up in the love of God, so that I could not but admire the greatness of His love; and while l was in that condition, it was opened unto me by the eternal light and power... then did I see my troubles, trials, and temptations more clearly than ever I had done. As the light appeared all appeared that is out of the light; darkness, death, temptations, the unrighteous, the ungodly; all was manifest and seen in the light». George Fox had grown up in the rigid moralism of a Puritan family, but at the age of 19, considering his religion too formal and institutionalized, he had embarked on his own path of spiritual research which led him, after four troubled years, to have his mystical experience in 1647. He felt strengthened and fulfilled by that experience, to the point of convincing himself that all human beings must be guided in their journey of faith by an inner divine Light and not by a book like the Bible, however important it be, neither by a hierarchy of ministers, nor by rites such as baptism or communion: all instruments of lesser efficacy than that inner light he had experienced. It cannot be excluded that Fox's mystical experience had similarities with some NDEs, also taking into account the fact that in that period he underwent long periods of purifying fasting: as we have seen, the experience of divine Light – as an almost physical manifestation of the absolute and unconditional love that characterizes the Spirit energy – is frequent in NDEs.
But to return to Judge Edmonds, all the testimonies that have come down to us about his public activities and his personal relationships – also through a large collection of letters – offer us the image of an upright, sober and hardworking person, substantially devoted to the good in accordance with a vision of life meant as a duty and a mandatory mission, to be fulfilled consistently with one's fundamental principles. It is therefore my opinion that we can be sure of his sincerity, accuracy and good faith as regards his experiences and investigations in the field of mediumistic phenomena that were occurring at that time in the State of New York, as they are reported – as true events – in his book Spiritualism. By examining the contents of this book in detail, we will be able to observe the way in which some interpretative elaborations produced by the human psyche were formed and consolidated – sometimes conditioned by the cultural programs prevailing in that period, other times in contrast with them – both through mediumistic communications and through the reactions of the same Edmonds or of other sitters to the contents of such communications. We will also take into account what the author has reported regarding the reactions of certain circles or public personalities to his decision to publish the results of his research activity, openly taking a stand in favor of spiritualism. In following this experiential adventure of Judge Edmonds, as narrated by himself, each of us will be able to record the reactions of our own psyche's attunements to the various events and revelations reported in the book, both in relation to what can be considered elaborations similar to those which are normally produced by the mind of us living humans, and – in some cases – towards intuitions which allow our consciousness to glimpse, albeit with difficulty, those which could be the intellectual and experimental faculties of our spiritual Ego, finally freed from the conditioning and limits that the human psyche imposes on it. On this route, my role will be that of a guide able to gradually point out the important points on which to focus our attention: now and then I will also report my psyche's reactions, but above all I will try to identify and highlight those communications that can represent a serious challenge for the mental schemes we usually rely on. The real origin of the mediumistic communications contained in Edmonds' book is, as we shall see, of relative importance: this topic was addressed more than once both by the communicating entities and by Edmonds himself, and we will have the opportunity to evaluate the results of this debate.