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Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers and the Victorian Search for Life After Death

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1845402488
ISBN-10: 1845402480
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Editorial Reviews


"Definitely a book for the specialist, but for its insights into the development of Victorian thought and as an examination of one of the lesser-known figures of the age, this is strongly recommended."

(John Van der Kiste Bookbag)

"Whatever one's attitude towards the lasting value of Myers’s and his fellow investigators, labours, it must be mixed with a sense of admiration at their productivity and Hamilton has emulated their energy in grappling with Myers’s life... The result is a worthy addition to the small number of works which deal in a critical but fair way with the efforts of Myers and the other SPR pioneers as they sought to probe, not always successfully, but certainly sincerely and despite their personal frailties, the mysteries of the human soul."

(Tom Ruffles)

"Myers [was] the first to present strong arguments contradicting W.B. Carpenter's notion of automatisms as 'unconscious cerebration’, and they upset the dominant medical view of hallucinations and dissociative phenomena as intrinsically pathological."

(Andreas Sommer, University College London)

"Frederic Myers was one of the great pioneers in the scientific exploration of consciousness. He was original, brave and prolific. In this well-researched book, Trevor Hamilton sheds new light on his life and shows how Myers' work was embedded in the rich social and intellectual life of late-nineteenth-century Britain. I read it with great interest."

(Rupert Sheldrake)

"Hamilton's labours are to be applauded in giving the reader entry into the life and work of this sensitive and significant scholar."

(Kevin Tingay The Christian Parapsychologist)

"No author before Hamilton has presented such a global and integrative perspective of Myers. Hamilton combines well the personal and intellectual aspects of Myers with his psychical and psychological work. Furthermore, he covers areas of Myers that have previously been neglected, or only briefly discussed. In fact, I would recommend that Hamilton's work must be the first step in obtaining a good panoramic view of Myers."

(Carlos S. Alvarado Journal of the Society of Psychical Research)

"The life of F.W.H. Myers – a man of various and remarkable gifts – involved many of the most significant aspects and personalities of the Victorian intellectual scene, yet no full biography of him has hitherto been written. Trevor Hamilton has brought together a good deal of new information about him, and analyses his career and character with sensitivity and insight. He tackles the decades-long commitment to psychical research, for which Myers is now best known, in detail and with admirable balance and lucidity. Altogether a fascinating read!"

(Alan Gauld)

About the Author

Trevor Hamilton retired from his post in higher education at the end of 2006 to write full time. He has degrees from Oxford, London and Sussex Universities. He is the author of a well-received biography of F.W.H. Myers, one of the founding figures of the Society for Psychical Research.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Imprint Academic (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845402480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845402488
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,812,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Tymn VINE VOICE on June 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The latter part of the 19th Century was a time of despair and hopelessness for many. "We were all in the first flush of triumphant Darwinism, when terrene evolution had explained so much that men hardly cared to look beyond," wrote Frederic W. H. Myers, a Cambridge classical scholar and poet before becoming a pioneering psychical researcher.

As with so many other educated people, Myers, the son of a minister, had lost his faith, and life had become a march toward an abyss into nothingness. He recognized that there were many who were "willing to let earthly activities and pleasures gradually dissipate and obscure the larger hope" during life's death march, but, perhaps because he was a deep thinker, Myers was unable to effectively use the defense mechanism called repression to overcome his death anxiety and the concomitant fear of extinction.

Subtitled "FWH Myers and the Victorian Search for Life after Death," this book details the efforts of Myers and several of his colleagues to make sense out of various paranormal phenomena which seemed to suggest that the world is not totally mechanistic and that consciousness does survive physical death.

Although Professor William Barrett, a physicist, is recognized as the prime mover in setting up the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1882, he relinquished the leadership roles to Myers and his two Cambridge friends, Edmund Gurney, and Professor Henry Sidgwick. Their objective was to scientifically study the phenomena, including hypnotism, telepathy, multiple personalities, and mediumship, to see if they offered any evidence that mind was not totally dependent on brain and that there is something beyond the five sense. But they had to do it discreetly, cautiously, and indirectly.
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Based upon letters, articles, public and private records, and the unpublished autobiography of Frederic Myers, one of the founders of the Society For Psychical Research (SPR).

This book is a rare find, indeed, because of the sheer truth of the matter. The first section of the book develops Mr. Myers personality and events that shaped who he came to be. It follows him briefly though childhood and into college, where he lost a medal in poetry when is was discovered he had borrowed a little to much from other classic poets, and he was forced to forfeit his medal.

Mr. Myers then befriended Annie Marshall, who was to be the greatest love of his life. Annie Marshall was a married woman, and their relationship was platonic. But she had a troubling life, and Mr. Myers emotionally supported her. She was in a terrible marriage and suffered greatly from her husband as he battled mental illness. Mr. Myers was devastated when, after feeling unbearable pressure, Annie Marshall committed suicide.

Events such as these, and his burning passion to find out if we really die, helped Mr. Myers to help form the SPR. Originally founded by William Barrett, the SPR was lead by Mr. Myers, Edmund Gurney, and Mr. and Mrs Sidgwick. The SPR was highly controversial in it's day. The world scientific community and intellectuals scoffed at the SPR, but they felt the research was needed, and continued anyways.

During this time, Mr. Myers married Eveleen Tennant, who was to be a central force in his life and the SPR after his death. The book goes into his feeling for Eveleen, and how, although he loved her, he felt disconnected from life and his family. But the greatest love of his life, Annie Marshall, still influenced him, and Eveleen could never overcome that.
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Hamilton spares no expense in getting to the root of Myers and his personality. The work was very thorough and one has the distinct impression that, if indeed Myers did survive death, he is pleased with the work Hamilton put into identifying with who he was.

Trevor Hall and numerous other authors made certain assumptions and blatant errors in analyzing this great historical figure and the present author clears these assumptions and speculations up very nicely, citing the sense of "Platonic love" that Myers had for the likes of Annie Marshall (being, in a sense, his "spiritual" fulfillment and ideal). Misconceptions on the relationship between Edmund Gurney and Myers are also cleared up with due justice. The final concluding chapters were the ones I found the most interesting to read, as it goes through Myers's idea of "the subliminal self", his sittings with Rosina Thompson (that convinced him of survival in accordance with his sittings with Piper), the impact and evaluation of the monumental "Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death", the elusive and complex 'cross correspondences' and, finally, the concluding poem that Myers himself wrote -one which leaves the reader with a pleasant feeling, much like what follows laying witness to a beautiful sunrise, or the first glance outdoors after a night of quaint, winter-wonder.

All in all, I can't recommend this highly enough for anyone interested in the early history of psychical research or its eccentric pioneers.

(the numerous pictures in the book were also appropriate and memorable)
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