Patience Worth - Proof of Reincarnation

Psychics & Mediums

Patience Worth - Proof of Reincarnation?


Patience Worth - Proof of Reincarnation? '
Patience Worth' was the pen name used by St. Louis housewife Pearl Lenore Curran to author a perplexing variety of novels, poems and prose during the early part of the 20th century. What is different about Patience Worth is that Mrs. Curren claimed that she was the spirit of a 17th century English girl who channelled her thoughts and ideas through her. If so, could Patience Worth be proof of reincarnation? Probably not, but it's an interesting story anyway.

Mrs. Curran was born Pearl Lenore Pollard in Mound City, Illinois, on 15 February, 1883. The family later moved to Texas and then to St. Louis when Pearl was 14. Academically below average the young girl did possess a talent for music, taking lessons and training in piano and voice as the family moved yet again, this time to Palmer, Missouri. From the age of 18 to 24 Pearl worked at various jobs in Chicago during the winter, returning home to Missouri during the summer months to teach music. When Pearl was 24 she married John Howard Curran, living a comfortable and uneventful middle-class existence in St. Louis. The Currans did not own books, were not well-travelled or particularly well-educated, and spent their time playing cards with friends, attending the theatre or going out to restaurants.

Patience Worth comes through the Ouija Board  

In August 1912 one of Pearl's neighbours showed her a Ouija board, and persuaded her to place her hands on it, despite Pearl's reservations and complete disbelief in anything connected with spiritualism. Although the results were as negative as Pearl had suspected the ladies continued their experiments, occasionally receiving vague 'communications' through the board, but nothing intelligible. Then on 8 July 1913, a message began to come through, it read - 'Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. If thou shalt live, so shall I.' 

This message was to be the beginning of a 25 year period during which the 'entity' Patience Worth communicated to the world ostensibly through Pearl Lenore Curran. As Pearl became more and more interested in the numerous messages the women were receiving from Patience, she began spending more time on the Ouija board. However, it soon became clear that the Oiuja Board method was far too slow and cumbersome to deal with the sheer amount of material being received, so Pearl turned to direct automatic writing.  

Automatic Writing

Automatic writing, the process of recording material that does not originate in the conscious mind of the writer, had previously been used by the notable English medium and Church of England Minister William Stainton Moses, who experimented with the technique in the 1870s and early 1880s. Much more recently, in the early 1970s, 'psychic healer' Matthew Manning claimed to have made use of automatic writing to record messages which apparently came from a 17th century man named Robert Webbe. In common with William Stainton Moses, Pearl Curran never went into a trance to record the messages. The method she used was simply to sit in a brightly-lit room and wait for the sentences to form in her mind while in a conscious state, and then write or type them out. While the words poured into her head, Pearl would feel pressure and then scenes and images would present themselves before her and she was able to note the details of each scene, the road, trees, landscape and people. Occasionally she would see herself in the scenes.

One problem Mrs. Curran experienced was that the messages were received in a dialect which was often difficult to understand. This was partly explained when Pearl learned from her communications that  Patience Worth was a young girl who had lived on a farm in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England, in the 1600s. Patience's family had subsequently emigrated to America and she had been murdered by Indians there. In all the years of communicating with Patience Worth, this is all that Pearl ever found out about her. However, it  was noted by most of the visitors that sat with Pearl during her communications that the character and temperament of Patience Worth, with her biting, satirical wit, was very different  to that of Mrs. Curran.

In 1916, Casper Yost's book Patience Worth A Psychic Mystery, was published by Henry Holt. Yost was editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and had promoted  Mrs. Curran's claims of contact with Patience Worth in a series of articles in the paper beginning in February 1915. William Marion Reedy, the editor of the weekly St. Louis-based journal Reedy's Mirror, also became a convert and published glowing articles about Pearl Curran / Patience Worth's literary creations. The result of all this publicity was that the name of Patience Worth soon became known throughout the world. 

The Works of Patience Worth

In the 25 years she was 'communicating' Patience Worth dictated a vast amount of literary work to Mrs. Curran, including six novels, hundreds of pages of poetry, proverbs, prayers, and conversation. Many of her works were published under the name Patience Worth, including the novels The Sorry Tale, a story of the time of Christ, Telka, an 'Idyl of Medieval England', and Hope Trueblood, a nineteenth-century tale. Many critics, including those from The New York Times and The Bookman, praised her literary efforts, impressed not only by the beauty of some of the imagery, but also by her use of archaic languages and words, descriptions of objects that had been out of use for hundreds of years, and her knowledge of foreign lands. How, they wondered, could a modest St Louis housewife have acquired such precise historical details and such sophisticated literary skill? Others were not so kind, noting that the appearance of Patience Worth coincided with a revival of Spiritualism in Europe and America, creating an environment where much of the public were only too willing to believe in the reality of the reincarnation of a 17th century English girl in 20th century St. Louis. The sceptics also wondered how Patience, supposedly a resident of 17th century England, managed to dictate a novel set in the Victorian era (Hope Trueblood).

After 1922, communications from Patience became fewer and fewer and eventually ceased altogether. Interest in the phenomenon of Patience Worth soon faded as well, and when Pearl Curran died in 1939, both her and her communicator were virtually unknown. Perhaps because there was never a solution to the mystery and no proof was ever produced that a girl named Patience Worth actually lived in 17th century Dorset, the case is regarded with scepticism by most people today, if they have heard of it at all.

Proof of Reincarnation?

So was there a spirit from the beyond speaking through Pearl Curran? Was Pearl the reincarnation of a 17th century English girl called Patience Worth? Or, as seems more likely, was it  all a product of Pearl's unconscious mind? The case was meticulously investigated at the time by the sceptical Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, research officer of the American Society for Psychical Research from 1920-24, and founder and research officer of the Boston Society for Psychical Research. Although Prince had previously investigated the multiple personality case of a disturbed girl called Doris Fischer, he was inclined to believe that Patience Worth did not fit into this category, as the 'entity' did not replace Mrs. Curran's normal consciousness, it co-existed with it. In Prince's thorough summing up of the evidence The Case of Patience Worth he states - 

'Either our concept of what we call the subconscious must be radically altered, so as to include potencies of which we hitherto have had no knowledge, or else some cause operating through but not originating in the subconscious of Mrs. Curran must be acknowledged.'

Perhaps the progress currently being made by scientists and psychologists in studies of the human personality and its various idiosyncrasies will one day shed more light on the strange appearance of Patience Worth. As Patience herself said, when questioned on her own existence -  

'A phantom? We'el enough,
Prove thee, thyself to me;
I say, behold, here I be
Buskins, kirtle, cap and pettiskirts,
And much tongue!
We'el what has thou to prove thee?'

         
           Sources & Further Reading

           Litvag, I. Singer in the Shadows: The Strange Story of Patience Worth. Macmillan. 1972.

           Prince, W.F. The Case of Patience Worth. University Books. 1964 (1927).

           Tyrrell, G.N.M. The Personality of Man. Pelican Books. 1946, pp134-143.

           Worth, P. The Sorry Tale. Henry Holt & Co. 1917.

           Worth, P. Light from Beyond. Society of Metaphysicians Ltd. 2003 (1923).

           Yost, C. S. Patience Worth A Psychic Mystery. Henry Holt & Co. 1916.


           Copyright 2006 by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.

 

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