In the dark days of winter, some of us celebrate the Festival of Lights, while others remember the Star of Bethlehem shining for the new-born Infant. That Star, whether nova, planetary alignment, or pious invention was not the final word in celestial revelations.
As Spiritualism’s star waned after the horrors of the First World War began to fade, and as the 20th century advanced, “channeled” revelations often took on the guise of messages from the heavens, reminiscent of later pronouncements from Our Space Brothers, Cosmic Masters, and astral councils of advanced beings with enormous heads, as seen on Star Trek.
From 1918 to 1920, Dr Albert Durrant Watson, a Toronto physician, astronomer, and author held a series of séances with medium Louis Benjamin. In 1919, Dr Watson had a chat with one of Benjamin’s spirit guides, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who brought tidings of a revelatory sign in the heavens.
The Message Star
On the twenty-fourth of June in the year nineteen nineteen, a dialogue took place in the library at number ten Euclid Avenue, Toronto. Mr. Louis Benjamin was with me and was in trance, appearing to be unconscious at the time. The communicating intelligence claimed to be Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His words are given here in quotation marks; mine are without them. This, substantially, was the dialogue:
“Take your telescope at nine-thirty P. M. on the fifteenth of July and turn it on Venus.”
But Venus will not be visible that evening, will she?
“You are an astronomer, but you are mistaken this time.”
I thought Venus was now nearing her inferior conjunction.
“No, she has not yet reached her greatest eastern elongation.”
You are positive, and no doubt you are right; I was not sure. What then?
“Get Venus in the centre of the field and keep her there. A star will float into the field and move slowly about in the space near the planet. It will be our signal to you from the Twentieth Plane.”
Will it be a real star?
“No, but to you it will have the appearance of a star.”
Will any other see it? There are sure to be many astronomers observing Venus whenever she is open to observation.
“None of them will see it unless they look through your telescope.”
The conversation now turned to other themes. Meanwhile, thought was raising astronomical questions: Why would astronomers not see the star? Why not the sensitive photographic plate? If this was not to be a star, then what was it to be? I hesitated to ask as the voice seemed prone to change the subject.
On July fifteenth at nine thirty P. M., I was engaged at other absorbing work and did not get a look at Venus till nine forty-five. When I had Venus in focus, a hazy object was noticed at the south-west of the field, and this, when the telescope had been lengthened sufficiently, appeared as a first magnitude star. The definition was very clear. The night was cloudless in the west. There remained a few minutes before the planet would disappear below the house roofs. I examined the lenses of the telescope, removing and cleaning them to be sure of no foreign substance. Replaced in their tubes, they gave the same aspect and appearance of the mysterious star, except that the strange point of light had moved and was moving on to other parts of the field. This movement was quite irregular. The story of its appearance, coupled with its actual movements, suggested to me the adjective “deliberate” as applied to its irregular motions. They were not astronomical motions. It seemed as though someone were moving it to whatever part of the field he chose. It was wilful and capricious in direction.
Nothing in the instrument could account for the strange object or its motions. I resolved to discover whether anything in nature’s own telescope, the eye, was the cause of the apparition. I called four adult members of my own family. These all looked and saw it in succession. Five persons of intelligence had clearly seen it moving about the telescopic field in the neighborhood of the planet. One of those who saw it was not a member of the Inner Circle of the Twentieth Plane.
By this time Venus was disappearing behind the obstructing roofs and the observation ended. The leaders of astronomical science of Toronto were, most of them, out of the city. I was away the next evening, but on the second I looked again at Venus, using the same telescope, and found nothing of the star. It had disappeared.
On the nineteenth of July, speaking with one who claimed to be the same personality, in the same room and under the same conditions, I asked further about the experience. The following is my record of the conversation:
“You saw the star?”
Yes. But what actually was it you did, and what was it we saw?
“We focused great quantities of light on a certain point, that point being in your line of vision with Venus.”
Why was the focal adjustment so different from that required to define Venus?
”Would you expect an object five hundred miles away to be in the same focal adjustment as that of an object, say, thirty-five or forty millions of miles away?”
Since the distance of Venus was about eighty thousand times as great as that of the “star,” and the nearest observatory was two miles away, the mathematical mind will readily comprehend that one looking at Venus from our own observatory would sidetrack the star by nearly two miles, since that would still be approximately the distance between our lines of vision five hundred miles from the earth. The photographic plate would miss the “star” because of its constant motion which would prevent any image being shown on the plate at the distance of the Twentieth Plane (500 miles).
I asked on one occasion if any useful object would be served by a repetition of the experience so that several scientists might observe it. The answer was a negative. The object of the signal was not to convert skeptics, but to help those who had faith, as shown by their acceptance of reasonable evidence. Skeptics would doubtless explain it away or deny its possibility even though it were attested with indubitable proof.
The “star” appeared, on July fifteenth, nineteen nineteen, because the members of the Mother-group on the Twentieth Plane felt it necessary that the Inner Circle on earth should know that they had been signalled out of the heavens. The story is given here because of its profound effect upon persons to whom the wonder was described. To it the Inner Circle owes the advent of one of its most helpful members. The reporter was loath to publish so intimate a matter, for he regards the incident as intended chiefly for the encouragement of the Inner Circle; but realizing the effect of the relation on the lives of others, he put aside all hesitancy, assured that the full account of the experience should be given to the public.
Birth Through Death, the Ethics of the Twentieth Plane: A Revelation Received Through the Psychic Consciousness of Louis Benjamin, Albert Durrant Watson and Louis Benjamin, New York: The James A. McCann Company, 1920
I am not an astronomer and have no idea what, if anything, Dr Watson was seeing. The fact that other people saw it is perhaps significant or perhaps indicative of a group delusion. The note about “None of them will see it unless they look through your telescope,” struck me as a modern variant on fairy seers who instruct the unseeing to put a foot on theirs in order to see the Good People. Since it was not observed by other observatories and Watson did not capture it on film, we are left with the announcement that this was a private revelation for the Inner Circle so they would know that their celestial brethren were thinking of them. It’s the eternal specialness of the experiencer, singled out as the recipient of Divine Illumination from Heaven.
Any thoughts on what Dr Watson saw? Contact me at the 19th Plane: chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
This just in, from Chris Savia:
The sun was already close to, if not under, the horizon. A prominence would be visible through a telescope using a solar filter. Any prominence or feature on the sun which would extend across the sky towards Venus would be “brown trousers time”.