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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research by Michael Sage

VI Phinuit--His probable origin--His character--What he says of himself--His French--His medical diagnosis--Is he merely a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?

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An interesting question arises at the point we have reached--"What is Phinuit? Whence his name? Whence does he come? Should we believe that he is a disincarnated human spirit, as he himself obstinately affirms, or must we think him a secondary personality of Mrs Piper?" If he is a spirit, that spirit is not endowed with a love of truth, as we shall see, and on this point he too much resembles many of ourselves. In any case we may notice in passing the obstinacy of these controls in wishing to pass for disincarnated spirits; the fact is at least worthy of attention. I am willing to allow that this may be a suggestion imposed by the medium on her secondary personalities; but I ask myself why this suggestion can never be annulled. Numerous efforts have been made, above all in the case of Phinuit; they have ended only in provoking jests from the disincarnated doctor, who absolutely insists on remaining a spirit. However this may be, we will here endeavour to discover the origin of this control.

It will not have been forgotten that Mrs Piper's mediumship blossomed forth, if I may thus express myself, during the sittings she had with the blind medium J. R. Cocke. Now this medium was then, and has, I believe, always since been, controlled by a certain doctor called Albert G. Finnett, a French doctor of the old school which produced Sangrado. This old barber-surgeon, as his medium calls him, is very modest. He says that he is "nobody particular"; I hope he does not mean to say that he resembles Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. There is a considerable resemblance between this name Finnett and the English pronunciation of Phinuit. Therefore we may well inquire whether the medium Cocke, when developing Mrs Piper's mediumship, may not also have made her a present of his control. Dr Hodgson has questioned Phinuit on this point several times. But Phinuit asserts that he does not know what is meant, and that Mrs Piper's is the first human organism through which he has manifested. I will not try to settle the question.

If Phinuit has not varied about his own name, he has certainly varied in its orthography. Till 1887, whenever he consented to sign his name, he signed Phinnuit, with two _n_'s. Dr Hodgson accuses himself of being the originator of the orthographic variation. He carelessly took the habit of writing Phinuit with one _n_, and gave this orthography to his friends. Mrs Piper, in the normal state, often had occasion to see the name thus written. And so, in the first half of 1888, Phinuit also began to write his name with one _n_. Dr Hodgson only discovered the mistake later on looking over his notes.

The reader will perhaps be astonished that I speak of the Phinuit personality as if it were already established that the hypothetical doctor were really a spirit; that is to say, a personality as distinct from that of the medium as the reader and I are from one another. I must hold this point in reserve. The investigators of the Piper case, finding as decided a difference between the controls and the subject in a normal state as exists between individuals of flesh and blood, have adopted the language of these controls for convenience' sake, while warning us that, in so doing, they have no intention of prejudging their nature. I do, and shall continue to do, the same. There is no impropriety in this so long as it is well understood.

To return to Phinuit's character. This doctor in the Beyond is not a bad fellow; on the contrary, he is very obliging, and his chief desire is to please everybody. He repeats all he is asked to repeat, makes all the gestures suggested to him by the communicators in order that they may be recognised; even those of a little child. In his rather deep voice he sings to a weeping mother the nursery song or the lullaby which she sang to her sick child, if the song will serve as a proof of identity. I find at least one such case in Dr Hodgson's report. The couplet sung was probably well-known to Mrs Piper; it is a common one. But as this song had often been sung during her last illness by the child who was communicating, and as it was the last she sang upon earth, the coincidence is at least surprising. Probably Mrs Piper took the air and the words from the source whence she takes so many other details--a source unknown to us.