Balfour, Arthur James, First Earl of

Balfour, Arthur James, First Earl of (1848–1930)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Arthur James Balfour was born in Whittinge-hame, East Lothian, Scotland, on July 25, 1848. He was the eldest son of James Maitland Balfour and Lady Blanche Gascoyne-Cecil (sister of the third Marquess of Salisbury). He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, in the great Victorian struggle between science and religion, Balfour was on the side of religion.

The Earl of Balfour was one of England’s most prominent researchers of psychic and Spiritualist phenomena. He was a British statesman and considered a brilliant aristocratic intellectual. He was Prime Minister of England from 1902 to 1905. In 1882, his sister introduced him to Spiritualism, and his brother, the Rt. Hon. Gerald W. Balfour, was also very much interested in psychic research. His sister was married to Professor Henry Sidgwick who was the first president of the Society for Psychical Research. The Earl himself later came to serve as president of the society.

Balfour had been very much in love with Alfred Lyttleton’s sister, Catherine Mary Lyttleton, who died suddenly of typhus on Palm Sunday, 1875, a month after they became engaged. Balfour never again seriously considered marriage. Many years later the medium Winifred Margaret Tennant—known in psychical research literature as “Mrs. Willett”—played an important part in cross correspondent spirit communications that came from the then deceased Edmund Gurney and Frederick. W. H. Myers. These were received by automatic writing and by trance utterances, between 1912 and 1929. In them Mrs. Willett revealed intimate details of the relationship between Balfour and Catherine Mary Lyttleton. These became known as the “Palm Sunday” case.

Nandor Fodor states that Balfour’s paper on the Ear of Dionysius cross correspondence, attributed to the discarnate minds of Professors Butcher and Verrall, which Balfour read before the Society for Psychical Research in November 1916, “is a most constructive presentation of an excellent piece of evidence for survival.”


Broad, C. D.: Man, Myth & Magic: Mrs. Willett. London: BPC Publishing, 1970
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: William Benton, 1964
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
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