Gurney, Edmund

Gurney, Edmund (1847–1888)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Edmund Gurney was the son of an English clergyman. As a young man he studied classics, music, and medicine. He became a Fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge and was a founder and Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). He was editor of the SPR journal Proceedings, to which he contributed many important papers.

Gurney attended a number of Spiritualist séances between 1874 and 1878 though he did not make public what he learned from these. He became especially interested in telepathy and studied hallucinations and the psychological side of hypnotism. Between 1885 and 1888, he devised a large number of experiments which, according to Nandor Fodor, “proved that there is sometimes, in the induction of hypnotic phenomena, some agency at work which is neither ordinary nervous stimulation, nor suggestion conveyed by any ordinary channel to the subject’s mind.” With Frederick W. H. Myers and Frank Podmore, Gurney authored the classical work Phantasms of the Living (1886).

After Gurney’s death, several mediums including Mrs. A. W. Verrall, Mrs. Forbes, and Mrs. Holland, claimed to have received communications from him through automatic writing. When Sir oliver Lodge sat with the medium Leonore Piper in 1889–1890, messages were received regarding matters known only to Lodge and Gurney.


Fishley, Margaret: The Supernatural. London: Aldus, 1976
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
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