Monday, January 23, 2012

The Legacy of J. Arthur Findlay

When renowned British physical medium Stewart Alexander wrote his 2010 autobiography* he began by confessing that as a young man he had no knowledge of spiritualism and had given little thought to life after so-called death. Reading one book changed all that for him, however, and launched him on what he labeled “an extraordinary journey.” * Stewart Alexander, An Extraordinary Journey: The Memoirs of a Physical Medium (2010), Saturday Night Press Publications (

That one book was On the Edge of the Etheric by Arthur Findlay.

As Alexander began reading Findlay’s best-selling book he recalled that “I did not suspect that my life was about to be changed forever…. [I]t had a profound effect upon the way that I had previously viewed such matters by making the implausible plausible.”

While On the Edge of the Etheric moved Alexander into a spiritual quest that would last a lifetime, the book was a springboard for its author as well. Now in print continuously for 81 years, Findlay’s first book led to many other titles that are revolutionary in their scope and impact. The man, his writings and his former home are still making a huge difference in the lives of many worldwide 50 years following his death.

J. Arthur Findlay
Born into privilege in Glasgow, Findlay was raised in a strict Calvinist home. Like Alexander, as a young man he was also incredulous about claims of spiritualists but a singular experience changed all that. In 1918 he attended his first direct voice séance with Glasgow medium John C. Sloan and during that session his deceased father and uncle both spoke with Findlay revealing particulars that only the three of them were aware of. Indeed, Findlay had shared his name with neither the medium nor other sitters and no one there knew who he was. Over time Findlay was given proof after proof that convinced him Sloan was a genuine medium, that the voices that appeared in his séances were indeed those from departed friends, and that there truly is life after death. Findlay walks the reader through his doubts and experiments step by step in On the Edge of the Etheric.

But this book was not only a testimonial to the mediumship of John Sloan – it still stands today as a basic guide to mediumship by explaining spirit communication and providing scientific explanations for it. What’s more, Findlay goes on to share an outline of what spirits have taught concerning the nature of the afterlife, the purpose of life on material earth, what happens when one dies and why all of this should matter to us. In its 80s the book remains as one of the best introductions to spiritualism that has ever been produced.

Findlay provides common sense explanations for spirit phenomena that make no appeal to the “supernatural” or “miraculous.” Everything in this world and the next is controlled by natural law, he says, and there’s nothing happening that bridges that law. He sums up the process as follows:

“… I am told that the whole universe is made up of substance of various degrees of density and vibratory activity, that this fills all space, in which life exists in varying degrees of development. What we sense here on earth is only matter vibrating within certain fixed limits. Surrounding, interpenetrating, attached to, and moving with our earth, is another world of etheric matter in a higher state of vibration. Consequently it is unperceived by our senses. In our physical world the real, or enduring, body is an etheric body, which, at the moment of our conception, commences to gather round it, or, in other words, clothes itself with physical matter slow in vibration. The etheric body is the framework on to which physical matter is attached. This etheric body is composed of substance quite in tune with the etheric matter of the next plane, but so long as it is attached to physical matter it is limited by the limitations of such matter.

“At death, however, the etheric body is released from its physical covering, and continues functioning quite naturally in the etheric world, where everything is as real to it as it was when in the physical. The etheric body is, in every particular, a duplicate of our physical body, and so it can be understood how, if conditions are given for an etherian to re-materialise his organs of speech, it is possible to vibrate again our atmosphere and make his voice heard. The mind, which controls the etheric duplicate carries over with it, I am told, everything but the physical covering. Character, memory, affection, personality, etc., go with the mind, because they relate to the mind and not to the physical body. The etheric world is, in many respects, similar to this world. Our senses there respond as they do here, but, owing to the finer structure of etheric substance, the mind can work on it in a way it cannot do here. Hence it is in this sense a mental world, but our present world is also a mental world as I tried to show in Chapter III.

“In this next state of consciousness, the inhabitants find themselves in surroundings much the same as we experience here. There grow trees and flowers, but there is no death such as we understand it, all vegetable life, instead of decaying, dematerializes and disappears from sight. The surroundings of the inhabitants are greatly conditioned by their thoughts, and so their houses and mode of life are much their own making. This, I am told, does not constitute the next state to be one purely of mental projections, because its inhabitants have the same sensations as we have, as they can feel, touch and smell the flowers, they can gather them, and, when walking in the fields, they meet and talk with their friends.

“All on the same plane, I am told, can see and touch the same things. This is the reply I invariably received, when trying to find out whether this state was objective or subjective. There are many planes, but only those on the same plane experience the same sensations. I have, myself, experienced etherians present who talked to me, but they could not see each other, though they were in the same room, the explanation given being that they were in different planes of existence. These etherians are men and women, not vaporous spirits, but real, vital and tangible people, such as we mix with every day. Theirs is not a dream world, but one of objective reality, intensely real – everything, music, art and all constructive work, being at a higher pitch than we can possibly understand.”

Findlay also describes several séance room incidents that constitute excellent proof of survival. He classes the best cases as “A1” and the next best as “A2.” All of them are remarkable and when taken together they are difficult to refute.

On the Edge of the Etheric is still in print and available here in the U.S. through (Amazon also has a Kindle edition). Used copies of previous editions are generally available as well and online sources for free e-editions include and, both being links we have provided on this blog. The ghostcircle edition is in MS Word (doc) format and the second link offers the more desirable pdf format. Unfortunately, neither of the e-copies provides the illustrations which make a printed copy more useful.

Twenty years after publishing On the Edge of the Etheric Findlay went on to issue a massive 600+ page book containing verbatim transcripts of 19 séances with John Sloan. That book is Where Two Worlds Meet and like other Findlay titles it is still available, I understand, in the U.K., but over here in the U.S. it is almost impossible to find. I purchased my used copy online through . At this writing an MS Word copy is available for download online at .

Throughout his lifetime Arthur Findlay spoke of On the Edge of the Etheric as the first in his spiritualist “trilogy.” The three books in the series need to be taken together in order to fully comprehend his description of spiritualism along with the science and philosophy that is behind it.

The second volume in Findlay’s trilogy is Rock of Truth and it mainly covers the religious aspect. Before discussing this book I want to point out that elsewhere on this blog I’ve indicated that in my younger years I was a candidate for the clergy. I suspect I may write more about it later but for now let me state that I abandoned that career path primarily because of academic scholarship over the past couple of centuries that brings into doubt many of the cardinal teachings and traditions of Christianity. In other words, much of what we’ve been told simply isn’t true – it’s the invention of churchmen centuries ago who were attempting to manufacture a durable institution. They succeeded and we have been stuck with the fallout ever since.

Over the decades I read much of this obscure information about Christian origins and I had to admit it was on target. I also knew from personal experience as well as reading that we live in a spiritual universe and that this life on earth is just a tiny part of reality. Reconciling the rejection of religious teaching with my understanding of spiritual realities was initially difficult but I breathed a sigh of relief when I read Findlay’s take on the topic in Rock of Truth. He doesn’t mince any words as he delves into the history of the Christian religion and describes how it was molded by a bunch of church leaders back in the fourth century. He then goes on to reconstruct what we know about the actual teachings of Jesus before they were carved up by the churchmen.

In the second part of the 325-page Rock of Truth Findlay more thoroughly outlines the basics of spiritualism. “Spiritualism is not the faith of a sect or a cult,” he writes; “it does not rest on tradition, nor on writings, ancient or modern. It has no ecclesiastical organization claiming to interpret God’s purpose towards mankind. It has no forms and ceremonies, pomp or circumstance. What Spiritualism stands for is a fact of the same nature as the fact that we exist. It is the only revelation that has ever come to man from a higher level of intelligence than exists on earth. It does not depend on the sayings or teachings of a past age, nor on inspired writings. It rests fundamentally on the fact that communication takes place between the inhabitants of this world and the inhabitants of the Etheric World. This is a scientifically established fact, and, once it is accepted, what follows is natural.”

Findlay goes on to elaborate further: “Those who call themselves Spiritualists believe that it can be accepted as scientifically proved that (1) The universe is governed by Mind, commonly called God. That all we have sensed, do sense, or will sense, is but Mind expressing itself in some form or another. (2) The existence and identity of the individual continues after the changed called death. (3) Communication under suitable conditions takes place between us here on earth and the inhabitants of the Etheric World, into which we shall all pass at death.”

He continues with what is known as the Seven Principles of Spiritualism: “On these three fundamental principles, which Spiritualists believe are scientifically proved, the following logical deductions are naturally drawn from the information which comes to us from those who have passed on to this larger life: (4) That our ethical conduct should be guided by the golden rule, given first to the world by the great Confucius, “Whatsoever you would that others would do to you, do it also unto them.” (5) That each individual is his own Savior, and that he cannot look to someone else to bear his sins and suffer for his mistakes. (6) That each individual reaps as he sows, and that he makes his happiness or unhappiness just as he harmonizes with his surroundings. That he gravitates naturally to the place in the Etheric World in harmony with his desires, as there desires can be gratified more easily than here on earth. And finally, (7) that the path of progress is never closed, and that there is no known end to the advancement of the individual.”

These seven principles can easily be accepted by many whether they call themselves “capital S” spiritualists or not. The sub-title of The Rock of Truth, however, brings up another topic that I hope to explore more thoroughly on this blog sometime later. The full title Findlay gave to this book is The Rock of Truth Or Spiritualism, The Coming World Religion and this not only reveals Findlay’s expectations when he penned it in the 1930s but it also raises a contemporary question, “what happened between then and now?”

Stewart Alexander, the medium mentioned at the top of this post, has spent a lifetime asking that same question and he’s come up with some answers in his autobiography. I think he’s right on target and we will explore this topic fully sometime soon on this blog.

This book is currently in print in the U.S. and the U.K.

The final book in Arthur Findlay’s trilogy is The Unfolding Universe and my personal first edition is more than 450 pages long. In it he continues discussion of the superstitions inherent in all religions and his vision for the future when the truths of man’s spirit nature become more widely accepted. Like Findlay’s other books in the series, it is easy but enlightening to read and my opinion is that if the titles were more readily available they would be impacting people much as they did when first released nearly 80 years ago.

Stansted Hall
J. Arthur Findlay (“Sir” Arthur Findlay – he was made a Member of the British Empire) no doubt inherited a great deal of his fortune but he also was a skilled business man and stock broker. He retired early and bought a palatial estate, Stansted Hall, which is pictured here. Upon his death he bequeathed Stansted Hall to the Spiritualist National Union for the express purpose of establishing a college of psychic science. This was done and the Arthur Findlay College continues to offer coursework to students who travel there from around the world.

It should be obvious by now to my readers that Arthur Findlay the man and his books rank very high in my list of topics to promote on this blog. He wrote several others which I will talk about later; each fills an important niche in spiritualism and each provides Findlay’s unique insight which is very much applicable to today. My hope is that these books will again enjoy broader circulation, especially here in North America where the materialistic philosophy is so prevalent. It’s my understanding that a provision of Findlay’s bequest to the SNU bound the organization to keep all his books in print – hopefully forever. Some titles have entered public domain hence the reprints issued by publishers other than the SNU. Online free e-books are marvelous but they are often, unfortunately, filled with distracting typos. Google e-books are scans that are much better but sometimes I’ve been reading these and find that their scanner skipped a couple of pages.

If any readers have positive things to say about J. Arthur Findlay, his books or the college, please chime in. As promised, this topic will be continued later….


  1. Dave, Excellent post. Coincidentally, I was just writing a bio of Findlay for the AECES web site at

    Findlay was indeed one of the best researchers, but since he identified himself as a Spiritualist, he is not now considered to have been an objective researcher. It is sad, but that is the way it has gone. Any psychical researcher or parapsychologist who leans in direction of spirits and survival automatically is deemed an unobjective observer. And that, I believe, is why no progress has been made in the field. Researchers came to realize that they must forever remain on the fence if they were to retain their reputations as men (and women) of science.

  2. I have commented on Mr Tymm's blog before. The problem with getting survival across to the masses is that it is presented as something to consider, rather than a solid fact whose implications no one will escape. We must leave the masses, whoever they are and whatever their upbringing, no choice. We must become radical spiritualists, just as there are radicals of other world religions or movements.we must allow no one their opinions or beliefs any longer as it has and will lead to ever increasing butchery of man against man. We must use ultra extreme violence, but violence of the pen only. Our message must become unrelenting. The world is at a crossroads and is ready for radical spiritualism. We must have one message only, that whoever you are, you will survive death, and your circumstances following transition depend on your decency or lack thereof. The evidence for survival is absolute. It is stupid to admit of any other conclusion, as it would be to still argue that the sun circles the earth, or the earth is six thousand years old. No further research is needed to establish survival. Much further research and study is needed to establish more reliable and safe contact with worthwhile spirits so mankind can progress and benefit himself and all other life by that contact. The truth of survival and it's implications for human behavior must prevail once and for all over organized dogmatic religion. We need to organize massive lectures at huge venues to present the material and convert the world to the absolute knowledge of survival. Look at the masses who flock to sports events, or rock concerts, or even mega churches, where they hear nothing of any genuine value. Entertainment is fun, good, and has it place, but the information possessed by spiritualists, or spiritists whether secular or with a belief in some some guiding intelligence without dogma of any kind, is essential life knowledge.

  3. I have plowed through Findlay's The Curse of Ignorance, and quite a history of the world it is. What recommends the book is that, once one accepts spiritualism as bona fide evidence of humanity's spiritual nature, a complete re-consideration of history is called for. More such books need to be written, hopefully some in cooperation with our spirit selves, as a foil to show what mythology our contemporary accounts are. We may be beating our heads against a wall trying to convince paradigm-bound academics, but a growing alternative, enlightened culture should be constructed to be there when the paradigm shift happens.