In the words of George Bernard Shaw:
'I don't know what to say about this book.'
Shaw is one of the few celebrities of the 19th and early 20th centuries NOT quoted posthumously in
THE TWENTIETH PLANE A Psychic Revelation
Reported by Albert Durrant Watson, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and President of the Association for Psychical Research of Canada (this is the entire title, and the date is1919)
Of course, Shaw hadn't died yet.
"I am not an author. I am a reporter", Albert Watson announces crisply.
Should anyone doubt the truth of this remark, Watson has written a lengthy preface to disabuse you of the notion that he, or his friends, wrote any of the material.
"The contents of this volume as quoted were received under the conditions set forth in the Intention. We do not, in a final sense, know anything about their source...No labour of authorship on our part was involved. They were evidently sent from somewhere."
Mr. Watson used an "Instrument" named Louis Benjamin to channel voices from the Twentieth Plane via his Ouija board. Watson claims they have 'long since given up using the Ouija", and that the group, one of whom is identified only as "The Scholar-Girl" use a completely different method involving a heart shaped planchette upon which fingertips are rested, and a board with the alphabet and numbers and symbols on it. They also sprinkle a little talcum powder and use rose colored lights.
And it works! Messages are received from so many important people, even that old rascal Oscar Wilde (even though Wilde initiates one of the meetings, he isn't quoted once--serves him right for being so naughty).
Literary and political lights all attend. Even Jesus drops by, though he is quite rightly saved for last.
Mr. Watson is properly introduced to all of these worthies by his Mother, who is much beloved by the group. Shakespeare in particular has taken quite a shine to her.
The preface is written by Abraham Lincoln and Samuel Coleridge, and all chapters 'revised' by the Group Publication committee consisting of Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Robert G. Ingersoll. A special chapter, or 'nook' is requested by the group for Mother, by popular acclaim.
There were, apparently, those who Doubted the Truth of this Message.
"Did the communications come out of the minds of myself and the circle? In no case had we been reading about the matters that came over", Watson writes peevishly.
Did Mr. Benjamin perhaps write the book? The "Instrument" could not have written in so many different styles because, Watson says, "His limited range of thought and reading, his innocence of academic training, preclude the adoption of this theory. ..he is incapable of producing such a book...This is simply begging the question and wrenching the facts to make them fit a theory."
Mr. Benjamin has 'read widely' but Watson assures us that he is a near-illiterate otherwise. He is also 'Of Hebrew parentage" though he's apparently seen the error of his ways. He is 'well acquainted with the public addresses of Lincoln, DIsraeli, and Ingersoll' but has 'a limited acquaintance with other literature'.
And the writing must be true since it is given 'spontaneously and rapidly'. "Now I submit that none of us could have created these styles in an off-hand, ready way...the Instrument is not a writer...none of the styles is mine...but the book contains forty different styles."
And that, as far as Mr. Watson is concered, is that. He is annoyed that anyone would claim that the writings are similar to those in his other books (including THE SOVEREIGNTY OF IDEALS, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CHARACTER, THE WING OF THE WILDBIRD, and LOVE OF THE UNIVERSE). He says that it isn't. Have you read his other books? Has anyone?
It must be true. In the words of the Great Criswell: "Can you prove it didn't happen?"
So what do these folk talk about on the Twentieth Plane?
The living conditions: a Precious Moments palette of pastel pinks and blues. The occupants live in glass houses and furnish them 'by thought'. "Beds shaped like shells, chairs like a sunflower, window sills like sands golden-heated by the intense sun, cheffoniers all glass-like with drawers that open as noiselessly as the fall of a flower petal. We have rugs something like a blend of fur, silk and the kasmir of Arabia". (William Morris states this, without swearing.)
Their appearance: Pink shrimplike incorruptible.
Q: "What does Booker T. Washington look like there?"
A: (Dorothy Wordsworth) "As we. No difference in soul. Sometimes one wears a brown suit, others in white. We are nearly all here the pale pink of sea-shells."
Food: "We absorb chemicals".
There is advice for the Earth Bound Spirit from Samuel Coleridge: Eat More Vril. "This element is cosmic, a part of life, vril, the most soul-nourishing substance of your plane. It is found especially in lettuce, tomatoes, and eggs."
(This copy of the book has this paragraph set in pencilled parentheses. I can imagine the reader--a Miss Mary E. Evier of Honeoye Falls, New York--rushing out to buy egg and tomato sandwiches in quantity.)
Shakespeare visits from the Thirtieth Plane at the special request of Mother.
He is asked his opinion of Canadian drama and answers that "TECUMSEH has merit."
(An excerpt, full of references to "stony ribs of mountains hoar" and "the congealed north" and "sunburnt savages free" can be found here.)
And it's no longer necessary to inquire about who wrote what, and who was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. It's all revealed here. Shakespeare mentions nothing of Mr. W. S, but of course they didn't ask him.
What else is revealed? Well, some of the Plane Dwellers are now 'specialists' and they only talk about one subject.
Lincoln (The Wisdom specialist) felt no pain during his assassination. "Not near as much as Mary Todd."
William Morris: (The Art specialist) "Stevenson, when he left the Islands of Hawaii to come to this plane, brought with him the ukelele. He brought also the native song of the isle but improved it, and often we here him when alone. His tonal pictures pierce us to the quick".
Elbert Hubbard (the founder of Roycroft who died on the LUSITANIA) is now the War Specialist. He confidently predicts the outcome of the War in a caricatured American dialect. It's all wrong, but he claims "Blame the Huns, not me."
There are painters there, but since the book has no illustrations, the paintings are described in the text, with somewhat unsatisfactory results and even Rembrandt appears to now paint like Maxfield Parrish.
Jesus states: "I bend before you to sprinkle the water of my love on your brows. Good-bye."
But there's so much more. Much too much to write about here.
This is either one of the greatest (and least convincing) literary hoaxes of the Twentieth Century, or else the outpouring of an already unusual mind that became unhinged by grief.
It's very touching to see how he writes of his Mother revered by the great ones in the afterlife...and of course Spiritualism was very popular then due to the great blood-letting that had not ceased, allegedly, when the book was written.
I feel sorry for poor Elbert Hubbard, if he really is there. I recommend reading a copy or two of THE PHILISTINE to indicate how he actually wrote and spoke; this book portrays him as a sort of vaudeville-patter American caricature.
It turns out that copies of THE TWENTIETH PLANE are plentiful--so there's still time to Receive the Message!
I read it with open mouth and glazing eyes.
Hoping you are the same.