IN TODAY'S world, how does one approach the subject of life-after-death, Spiritualism, psychical research and the paranormal in general, when these areas of intellectual enquiry are surrounded by,
and associated with, all kinds of misinformation, distortion, systematic ridicule, or commercial exploitation by the Hollywood circus and populist fiction-writers of the
The prospect of speaking or writing on such matters is daunting, since the field of investigation is vast in scope, deeply intriguing and a challenge to the serious researcher. There is a multitude of snares and pitfalls to avoid and much that one will miss, or overlook; nonetheless,
I hope I can sketch in a sufficiently defined outline by describing my own personal pilgrimage into the subject and some of the conclusions
I have found to be inescapable.
As a point of departure, an explanation of the title of this essay might not come amiss. Being a professional actor,
and in common with my colleagues in the world of the stage and broadcasting, I would usually regard it as heresy to challenge any part of the dialogue and utterances of Shakespeare. Being the greatest figure in English literature, his ideas and thoughts are generally revered as sacrosanct. However,
I have always felt that the lines he puts into the mouth of Hamlet, towards the end of that character's most famous soliloquy, to be less than accurate, when he refers to death as 'The undiscover'd country from whose bourne,
No traveller returns...'. Even before I knew anything about the paranormal, it always seemed to me that there was something wrong with this sentiment. Intuition, instinct - call it what you will - but that was how
I felt. In some unexplained way, my response to these words of Hamlet related to the only three questions in life that struck me as having any enduring significance: Where have we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? For me, compared to these three questions, all the rest was dust blowing in the wind. It has been my firm conviction, for many years now, that whichever school of philosophy, religion, or intellectual discipline can provide the most compelling solution to these questions, has the greatest claim on our attention.
After 22 years of close examination, I am obliged to say that, for the moment, Spiritualism and scientifically-supported evidential paranormal phenomena come closer than anything else in making coherent sense of our physical world and man's place in it. Additionally, it is worth bearing in mind that the Survivalist/Spiritualist philosophy refreshingly lacks the enormous, complicated, doctrinal structure that has crippled so many religions and their assorted denominations.
Ten years ago, when
I was asked to give a lecture on Survival and related paranormal matters, I remembered the lines of the 18th Century poet Alexander Pope in his 'An Essay on Criticism'. Pope is commenting on how difficult learning is for those who pursue it:
'In fearless youth, we attempt the heights of art,
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanced, behold with strange surprise,
New distant scenes of endless science rise.
So pleased at first the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales and seem to tread the sky;
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way;
Th' increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills and Alps on Alps arise.'
So, one can see from that, what a long journey confronts the tentative enquirer. The thought also occurs that most areas of study and serious investigation generally assumed to have nothing in common are, in fact, linked by the shared motive and pursuit of truth,
and only differ in the guise in which that truth chooses to manifest itself.
In a series of television broadcasts some years ago, the BBC Religious Affairs correspondent, Gerald Priestland, likened mankind's quest for the truth to various nations and cultures making an ascent of the same mountain from different sides. But he could have extended the metaphor to include the assorted skills of engineering, physics, chemistry and mathematics on the one side; and literature, painting, sculpture, drama, music and dance on the other. In short, as Micawber would say, science and the arts are simply approaching the same questions from different perspectives. They both seek to examine, express and explain multitudinous aspects of the same condition, and reconcile the limits of human capacity and its physical environment with the deep-seated need to achieve our highest ideals and aspirations. For those who may think that science and the arts are poles apart, it is worth recalling that the word 'science' springs from the Latin root 'scientia', which means 'knowledge - to know'. The tendency in our times is to confuse science with technology and the familiar image of a man in a white coat shaking a test-tube about in a laboratory. So, to paraphrase the Bible, truth has many mansions. Unfortunately, man, being the perverse creature he is, loves to impose his own ideas and conclusions on others - frequently in a way that has led to excesses of social, religious and political oppression. One remembers the old adage, 'One man's truth is another man's prejudice'. One might also recall the lines from the Rubaiyat of Omar
'A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.'
I am well aware that anything I have to say on the truth of the after-life and the paranormal generally is informed by my own experience of it, and I can only recommend the caution offered by Niels Bohr to his students, the famous physicist and friend of Albert Einstein: "Treat every statement I make as a question". When it comes to seeking the truth,
in whatever guise, the trick is to keep at it and never let up, in spite of all the tempting diversions and red herrings. Sadly, most people do give up and, as Arthur Koestler reminds us, sleepwalk their way through life.
I have now reached the point in my own thinking where it seems that there are, broadly speaking, two aspects of truth with which to grapple and, if possible, synthesise: the worldly and the spiritual. In our own time, modem scientific and philosophical thought appears to exalt the material at the expense of the spiritual,
which is regarded as a persistent remnant of centuries-old collective superstition. Only that which can be seen and demonstrated by all witnesses, in a laboratory, under controlled conditions, is acceptable to the trained scientific mind of the 21st Century. In brief, the only truth worthy of the name is that which is obliging enough to manifest through approved, orthodox, analytical scientific protocols. Until full recognition of the importance of sub-atomic physics in this regard is understood, what happens to the truths that are, as yet, too subtle and refined to be detected through conventional laboratory instrumentation? As someone once said, "The truth is more important than facts." There is also the additional hazard that the establishment of truth, by practical demonstration in a worldly context, is frequently subjected to the influence of social, political, and, indeed, theoretical preconceptions, which may have a serious impact on the conclusions and
interpretation of the evidence.
So, what triggered my initial interest? I think I have always sensed that human beings have a 'higher self'
and that, indeed, we cannot live by bread alone. We have two needs: spiritual and material. Institutional religion has manifestly failed to provide nourishment for the former; and in our pursuit of the latter, technology, despite its many advantages, has brought us to the edge of darkness - especially in the 20th Century. Two world conflicts, unequalled in human history, and incalculable ecological damage, have both been caused by what Winston Churchill once described as the 'lights of perverted science'. Many years have now passed since an international federation of
enlightened scientists, foreseeing the dangers lying ahead, formed themselves into the 'Four Minutes to Midnight' group, to try to warn society how little time we had left to abandon the folly of our ways.
My own first mental prompting was administered by a book
I casually picked up in 1960, while training for the professional theatre in London. All
I can now remember is that it was written by a Frenchman, whose name I have forgotten, and its title was 'Human Destiny'. The author was as mathematician, and he set out to demonstrate, mathematically, that the odds against organic life being created by a random mutation of atoms - a popular theory at one time - was a billion to one; and that the argument for a guiding intelligence behind the Universe was unassailable. As Einstein said, "God does not play dice with the universe". However, being at that time more concerned with trying to make a living in the theatre, the seeds sown by this book did not germinate for me until many years later, when another nudge of my intuition told me to join a group called 'The Spiritual and Psychic Truth Society'. It was there that, for the first time ever, I met a medium from Yorkshire, a down-to-earth man, who picked me out of a crowded meeting and told me some startling things about myself, some of which
I was able to verify. Talking with him afterwards led me into a quest that has continued to this day: a study of the psychic and paranormal and what they had to say to 20th Century man.
Since Spiritualism and the Survival hypothesis have been inextricably linked down the years, It is inevitable that one may use them interchangeably from time to time. Any discussion about the one cannot really be divorced from the other, although, as terminology, they carry with them quite distinctive associations in the mind of the researcher.
From the beginning of recorded history, there have been references to external intelligence,
powers of a lower and higher type, exercising their influence on human affairs. However, for my purposes,
I think it is reasonable to pinpoint the genesis of current survivalist thinking in the 18th Century, embodied in the life and work of Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is often said that a great intellect stands in the way of psychic development, but Swedenborg was a clear exception to this rule. As a man who could never be described as a pie-in-the-sky character, of a kind so often linked
with psychical matters, he was a mining engineer, metallurgist, military engineer, astronomer, physicist, zoologist, anatomist, political economist
- and a profound student of the Bible.
Swedenborg's general proposition was that the world is a laboratory of souls,
a forcing-ground, where the material refines out the spiritual. Swedenborg was gifted with something known as 'travelling clairvoyance', where the soul personality appears to leave the body to acquire information at a distance. The implications of this are, of course, immense. The most famous demonstration of it was when Swedenborg reported that he had 'observed' a fire, taking place 300 miles away in Stockholm, while he was sitting at dinner with guests in Gothenburg. His description of the fire, as seen in his vision, was later reported to be absolutely accurate. The incident caused such a stir that it was investigated by the eminent philosopher Immanuel Kant. Swedenborg's latent psychic power came to full fruition in London, in April 1744, where his chief books were published and where he finally died. From the day of his first vision, he continued to have similar experiences for the next 27 years and be in touch with the 'other world'. In his own words: "The same night, the world of spirits, heaven and hell, were convincingly opened to me, where
I found many persons of my acquaintance of all conditions". Swedenborg also speaks of "a kind of vapour steaming from the pores of my body. It was the most visible watery vapour and fell downwards to the ground upon the carpet". Now, this is a close description of what subsequently came to be known as 'ectoplasm' which is the basis of so much psychical phenomena,
especially materialisation. This curious, mercurial substance has been called 'ideoplasm', because it takes on the shape with which it is impressed by the communicating spirit.
Was Swedenborg mad, or deluded? Since his time, the main spiritual observations that he made have been confirmed by all kinds of research into the subject - confirmed and extended. His vision of the 'other world', or 'after-life', is similar in many ways to the experience of subsequent mediums and sensitives down the years. He discovered that the world in which we all find ourselves after death consisted of different levels of existence, represented by various shades of light and happiness, each one of us being naturally drawn to that for which our spiritual development and condition has best fitted us. Like is drawn to like by some etheric law, the result being determined by the total character of our lives; so that ecclesiastical absolution, or a death-bed repentance, is of no avail whatsoever and simply doesn't signify. Swedenborg also found that in these spheres of post-mortem existence the condition and appearance of the physical world are closely reproduced. The passage through death was made much easier by the presence of celestial beings who helped the newcomer into his fresh existence. Such newcomers had an immediate period of complete rest before regaining consciousness, the length of this period being governed by how difficult or otherwise their death had been. 'Angels' and 'devils', as they have been traditionally represented to us down the centuries, were, in fact, developed,
or undeveloped, souls. We are not suddenly transformed at the moment of leaving earthly life, but take with us all our acquired modes of thought, belief and prejudices.
Although we now have a greater understanding of how the mechanism of the spirit-world operates, Swedenborg's psychic perception, in broad terms, reflects the discoveries of investigation made since his time and the experience of authentic mediumship. Speaking to a friend who had recently died, a man called Polheim, Swedenborg says, "He died on Monday and spoke with me on Thursday. I was invited to the funeral. Polheim saw the hearse and saw them let down his coffin into the grave. He conversed with me as it was going on, asking me why they were burying him when he was alive. When the priest pronounced that he would rise again at the Day of Judgement, he asked why this was, when he had risen already. He wondered that such a belief could obtain, considering that he was even now alive." It seems clear from this that Swedenborg could converse with the dead,
in the way that Christ spoke with Moses and Elias as related in the Bible.
As might be expected, the Church took a very dim view of such claims and had always condemned those who seemed to have some kind of esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters. A prime example of this is the Church's policy towards those whom they described as
'witches' - many of whom were psychically gifted. They were summarily condemned as heretics and their fate is well-documented. There is an interesting point here concerning the word ,witch'. If one removes the last two letters of the word, you are left with the origin of the term
'wit'. In 16th Century Elizabethan English the word 'wit' originally meant 'one who knows - one who has a special kind of wisdom, a deeper knowledge of things natural and
'supernatural'. As already mentioned, there have been numerous recorded examples of paranormal communication and psychical phenomena from biblical times onwards, and it's worth noting that there are no less than four examples of psychic phenomena in the first two chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel alone.
We must now turn to what is termed
'Modern Spiritualism', which was born in a small hamlet in New York State called Hydesville, in the year 1848. In
March 1848, a murdered pedlar was responsible for the beginnings of intelligent methods of communication between embodied and disembodied humanity. A Mr. John Fox, a tenant of a house in Hydesville, reported strange knockings all over his house that seemed to occur most vigorously in the presence of his children. The Fox family was not the first to experience such manifestations, but they
were the first critically to examine the phenomena while in progress and devise methods of communication which were later duplicated all over the world.
Mr. Fox, his wife, and two daughters, Catherine and Margaretta, aged twelve and fifteen respectively, moved into their Hydesville home in December 1847. They were frequently disturbed at night by a knocking on walls and doors and sounds of furniture being moved about. A curious vibration accompanied the sounds. In
March 1848, the wind rattled the sashes. Thinking they might be loose, Mr. Fox shook them and Catherine remarked that the rapping seemed to respond. Every time he shook a window, the raps would imitate the number. A new situation then arose. The two girls started
talking to the spirit. Catherine snapped her fingers and said, "Do as I do". To their surprise the spirit responded with as many raps as the child snapped her fingers. Margaretta then joined in the game. Clapping her hands a number of times, she called out, "Now do as
I do." The rapper correctly responded. Catherine now varied the game, by making motions
as if snapping her fingers, but without producing any sound. The spirit responded correctly, which produced the child's comment, "Only look, mother, it can see as well as hear!" It was
from that moment that it was recognized that human consciousness possessing both sight and hearing was the operator of the telegraphic code at the other end.
At this juncture, it is as well to remind ourselves of the enormous implications of this event in the Fox household. Hundreds of houses had been similarly 'haunted', but nobody had recognized the possible human intelligence behind the manifestations. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, recorded that similar hauntings occurred in his house at Epworth. There had been other reports of a kindred nature, but nobody had previously established definite communication and
tested the manifestations while in operation. Many great scientific advances have started from such simple beginnings: Newton noting the fall of an apple,
Stephenson seeing the significance of steam rushing from a kettle.
News of the 'rappings', as they became known, spread far and wide and hundreds of enquirers from miles around tested these knockings. Trickery was excluded by all forms of investigation. At the suggestion of a Quaker named Isaac Post, the spirit rappers were asked to tap out their replies by means of the alphabet. When the correct letter was named, the raps responded. This was a great stride forward, permitting more detailed information to be given. The results were so startling that people began to follow the spirit instructions to form investigating
sťances in their own homes. Each family became independent researchers on a systematic basis. These were to form the backbone of Modem Spiritualism and became known as development circles. Following the simple rules originating from the Fox sisters, phenomena were found to occur. The centre of power always lay in one member of the circle, who was the
medium through whom the psychic energy could manifest most effectively, hence the origin of the descriptive term 'medium', which remains to this day. The one
essential pre-requisite, often subsequently overlooked, was harmonious co-operation amongst circle members.
Despite the apparent authenticity of the phenomena, the Fox family found themselves treated with suspicion and open derision. Active persecution soon followed. The family was Methodist and their parsons prayed that the 'curse' might be removed. Failing to exorcise the spirits, they accused the family of being in league with the Devil - an accusation that is levelled even today about Spiritualists. As a result, the Fox family begged the spirits to cease manifesting their presence. The spirits retorted with a request that the family should hold public meetings and prove their authenticity. The family refused. The spirit intruders then told them that they would leave, as the family wished, and not communicate any further. But having done this, the family felt deserted and begged the spirits to return, which they agreed to do, provided the family promised to hold public demonstrations. Committees were then formed to test the medium. Three successive meetings were called in which the appointed committee did all it could to expose fraud and trickery. They failed, and when they duly presented their report validating the phenomena, it was recorded that disturbances broke out in the crowd. Matters became so serious that a burly Quaker, by the name of George Willets, forgot his passive resistance doctrine, stood in front of the mediums and declared that nobody would touch them except over his dead body! And so began what continues to this day - an intensive investigation into all kinds of phenomena purporting to prove survival after physical death. These phenomena take the form of levitation, telekinesis, apports, psychic photography, direct-voice, materialisation, clairvoyance, clairaudience, automatic writing, trance-mediumship, spirit-healing ... etc ... etc. A brief description of these will follow in a concluding appendix.
The events in the Fox household in Hydesville resulted in a soaring interest being shown in life-after-death as a subject worthy of serious enquiry. Arguments for and against swept the continents of both Europe and America and, in order to give some focus and framework to this new area of endeavour, to legitimise it, in a sense, we see the birth of several organisations, each representing its own particular point of view: The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain; The College of Psychic Studies; the Society for Psychical Research and the Spiritualists National Union - all of these born during the closing years of the 19th Century.
This growing involvement in psychical research aroused the concern of the scientific establishment and came to the ears of the Royal Society, whose members are amongst the most eminent in their own specialities. The general consensus of opinion among these men was that the whole business of Spiritualism and the paranormal was superstitious nonsense, to be officially debunked as soon as possible. In order to accomplish this as effectively as they could, they asked Sir William Crookes, one of their most respected members, to conduct an investigation into the claims made for David Dunglas Home, a medium who had acquired an enormous reputation. However, having reluctantly carried out the wishes of his colleagues and subjected Home to the most rigorous tests under controlled conditions, Crookes presented a report to the Royal Society that testified to the genuineness of Home and completely exonerated him from accusations of fraud and trickery. The report caused an uproar amongst his colleagues, and he was immediately denounced as a dupe and unworthy to be a member of the Royal Society, having previously been acknowledged as one of their most respected men of science. Clearly, the theology of orthodox science is as sensitive to challenge as was the mediaeval Christian priesthood.
Another fellow of the Royal Society, Sir Oliver Lodge, a pioneer of wireless telegraphy, also investigated a celebrated Italian medium called Eusapia Palladino and verified the claims made for this woman. But Lodge also, like Crookes, encountered the derision of his colleagues, none of whom was even prepared to check his findings. So it is more than apparent that orthodox institutions, both scientific and religious, are more concerned with justifying their own prejudice than examining phenomena, which may call into question their entrenched theories and beliefs. What a pity they don't take the view of Carl Jung, who said, in 1919, "I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything
I cannot explain as a fraud."
Most of us, from time-to-time, have some kind of paranormal experience, but are not always consciously aware of it. As an illustration of this, I shall relate something that happened to my wife, when, as a little girl, she went on a picnic with her parents in the New Forest.
My wife was seated with her parents beneath a tree, after having just eaten their picnic, and her mother and father were dozing in the warm afternoon sun, but she was very much awake. She stood up and was looking out across a glade, when she suddenly became aware of two figures at the far side of it, who seemed to be engaged in a fierce struggle with each other. As she watched these two men wrestling, she also noticed that they were dressed in curious costumes, quite unlike any modern clothes. The bracken around them was tall, so she could only see the two figures from the waist up; but what she could see she remembers clearly. Both men were young and had long hair - one blonde, the other dark. They were wearing what she recognized as mediaeval doublets, one pale blue, the other scarlet. As she watched, they continued to wrestle with each other in a strangely graceful fashion, without making a sound,
in total silence. Then, they both appeared to fall over together, into the tall bracken, with the same liquid, smooth motion as they had fought,
and without crushing the vegetation which surrounded them. My wife, being the daughter of theatrical parents, assumed that they must be rehearsing for some kind of pageant, and after they had disappeared from view, she waited expectantly for them to stand up again. But she waited in vain. They had vanished completely. They had fallen in total silence and seem to have melted into the ground. When
I heard of this incident, I was reminded of the opening lines of 'Burnt Norton', the poem by T.S. Eliot from 'Four Quartets':
'Time present and time past
Are both present in time future,
And time future contained in time past'.
So what are we to make of this New Forest experience? Bearing in mind that my wife was standing at the edge of a woodland clearing, fully awake, when the event occurred, it is difficult to dismiss it as delusion or hallucination. Moreover, it is
well known that a child's mind is free from so much of the clutter and conditioning imposed in later years by a predominantly materialistic society,
especially in the West. At that young age, spontaneous intuition has not yet been imprisoned by the adult need to rationalise. Perhaps the psychic faculty in an eight-year-old child has not yet been squeezed into extinction by a culture more concerned with outward rather than inward development.
Returning to my main theme: how can we define the function and purpose - if any - of paranormal studies in today's world? Despite the many off-shoots from the central root, the core objective, to my way of thinking, remains the same. The primary purpose is to provide evidence that the human personality survives death, which is merely the threshold of a newer and wider form of existence.
When one reads the massive amount of research documentation on what is known as 'Survival', there is abundant evidence to suggest that from the day we are born, we have two bodies: the corporeal, or earthly body, which can be seen; and the spiritual, or astral body - as it is sometimes known,
which is unseen during life, but is a counterpart of our physical body. These two bodies are linked with a cord, in the same way that before birth a baby is joined to its mother. When it is born, the cord must be cut. When we die, the cord linking corporeal and astral bodies must likewise be severed. The material body returns to earth, whence it came, and the astral body moves into the next phase of its growth - the
If the spirit-guides who speak through the agency of a medium are to be believed, the important point to keep in mind is that we are
'spirit' here and now and don't have to wait until death to become 'spirit'. Death, as a rule, seems like sleep - there is no pain. When we awake, conditions are much the same to us as they were before we died. Of course, we take no material
possessions with us, only our character and individuality. In every way we are the same personality immediately after death as before it, with all our faults and virtues. The home that awaits us in the after-life depends on the life we have led here on earth. If we have honestly tried to do our best, there is really nothing to fear. We have fitted ourselves for a happier life, when we are re-united with friends and loved ones. If, on the other hand, there has been more selfishness than service in our lives, then there is a price to pay. This is part of the law of sowing and reaping, which is another way of saying effect must inevitably follow cause. In either case we find ourselves in the company of 'kindred spirits'. Acts of service increase spiritual status, and sins of omission and commission will retard it. But there is no 'Hell' in which the denizens are condemned for all eternity. Once self-realisation dawns and the soul is ready to advance, there are enlightened spiritual beings who will show the way to progress. Heaven and Hell are really states of mind, not geographical locations; the world we inhabit after death is not far away up in the sky somewhere, but all around us, inter-penetrating the world in which we live now. And this is why there are sometimes leakages, so to speak, from the next world into this one. Sometimes this happens by accident, in the form of unexpected ghosts, or apparitions; or by intention, through the 'medium', or 'psychic', tapping in to the 'other side' and picking up information of various kinds.
There are many spheres of existence that are invisible to us, because they operate outside the scope of our five senses and are on a different vibrational level. For instance, millions of sound vibrations are outside the range of our normal hearing,
and millions of sight vibrations fail to register, being beyond the range of our optic nerves. Microphones and radio-receivers enable us to hear further than our normal hearing, and the telescope, microscope and television bring into focus what is beyond our normal range of vision. But when it comes to explaining
how those in the next world get in touch with our plane of existence, it is like trying to describe
radio waves to a man living in the 16th Century. Spirit-guides frequently tell us that we have not progressed far enough technologically to understand the explanation,
even if they were to tell us.
Nevertheless, there are these individuals who appear to possess a mental capacity, gift, or skill, of rare sensitivity, that we term 'mediumship', that makes them very like a human radio, or television, in touch with those who are no longer with us in the bodily sense. They can tune in to an elusive
wavelength, which is not supernatural, but it is supernormal - an important distinction not always recognised. A natural law that we at present can only dimly apprehend is responsible for this phenomenon. Even if we simply regard Spiritualism as no more than an eccentric form of religion, it does offer a crucial variant to the more generally accepted orthodox faiths. It by no means claims to know and understand everything, but it
does claim to have caught a unique glimpse of a truth that is both logical and uplifting in the evidence of survival after death - a truth that is also finding rapidly increasing support on the frontiers of sub-atomic physics. It is, in effect, proposing a conviction based on evidence, rather than a hope based on doctrine. Much of its philosophy is Eastern in flavour, with more than a tang of Buddhism in its advice to seek 'the middle way'; and the nearest it comes to a creed is embodied in its Seven Principles, which have a distinct echo of the Quaker approach in their simplicity.
It has to be acknowledged that much of the information coming through mediumship has been duplicated by worldly sources and, for this reason, it has been discounted by sceptics. "Why bother?", they say. Well, it
is worth bothering, if the counsel is indeed emanating from those on a higher level of the spiritual journey; because, by its very nature, it will be untainted by worldly corruption and personal or political influences. If these voices from beyond the grave are authentic, their vision will not be as clouded as ours, unless they are what is known as 'earth-bound', in which case they might well go out of their way to be misleading, or mischievous.
The principles and truths enunciated by after-life communicators are clear enough, but the physics and mechanics of human survival,
and the techniques employed to make contact with us, are another matter. They are vastly complicated and of enormous delicacy, involving an understanding of mind, energy, sub-atomic physics and the vibrations of the spectrum. Natural laws of physics are brought into operation, which are, as yet, beyond the frontiers of the current scientific paradigm, adding confusion to scepticism. Even to begin to understand, one would need a working knowledge of quantum physics and Einstein's theories of time and space.
Further obstacles have been placed in the way of public perception as a consequence of what can only be described as fringe occultism, the popular commercialisation of allied subjects by the film and publishing world, all of which has conditioned our society to think of the paranormal as part of that lurid fiction based on mankind's continuing fascination with the bizarre and grotesque: the realms of Devil-worshipping covens, vampires, ghosts, gremlins, goblins
and anything that goes bump in the night. However, it should be noted nonetheless that, although this obsession with ghouls is, by and large, no more than a product of the darker recesses of our feverish imaginings, yet it does reflect a tiny glimmer of awareness, buried deep in our collective race memory, of something else - something apart from the mundane, daily lives we all lead, and the corporeal existence in which we are presently locked. This sense of 'something other' is a seed that, if properly nourished, could lead us to a fresh revelation about out our destiny on earth, rather than simply being diverted into escapist, cheap sensationalism. And given our perilous moral status at the present time, we can no longer afford to ignore the warnings and continue to fiddle while Rome bums.
So what conclusions can we draw from the story so far? Briefly, as follows.
Mankind, as a species of life on our planet, has evolved down the millenia as a physical, biological, emotional and rational creature. Just as there has been development of physical faculties, so there has been an evolution of higher consciousness and spirituality. And since 'spirit', by definition, is immortal, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that each of us possesses an enduring, spiritual identity that, for the sake of argument, we might describe as a soul-personality; not merely as a nebulous abstraction, but as a definite and tangible reality. In this sense - and in survivalist terms - the Holy Spirit of Christian doctrine, the third part of the Trinity, is the fundamental creative force of the universe, known as Divine Mind. This is the force that pulsates through us all, like a cosmic current, linking us like an infinite number of light-bulb filaments. When a bulb bums out, the current is still there, although no longer visible to our eyes. We are not simply extinguished by death, with the spirit destroyed along with our earthly parts, or left in some mysterious limbo of suspended animation until the Day of Judgement; nor do we find ourselves in a fiery Hell, or Purgatory, or prancing around the throne of some Godhead, playing harps, provided, of course, that we have paid the entrance fee to the right religious club and are wearing the correct credentials on our lapels.
As already mentioned, the logic of the notion that we continue to develop morally and spiritually after death is a sound one: a learning process not unlike the one we work through on earth. It is a reflection of the old maxim, 'As above,
so below'. The hereafter is reputed to have numerous levels, in order to accommodate all departed personalities and their varying degrees of moral status, determined by their conduct here on earth. One finds a reference to this concept even in Christian teaching: 'In my father's house there are many mansions'. There is also the school of thought that we are given the opportunity of reincarnation, if we feel that there are lessons still unlearned that can only be satisfactorily resolved on the earth-plane. This is a controversial area and gives rise to much debate; but there is certainly an impressive body of evidence and research that appears to substantiate many reincarnational claims.
The human brain is still the most refined and sophisticated instrument at our disposal, even in our supposedly advanced technological age. We know very well that we have as yet learned to use only a fraction of our cerebral capacity, and that we all have the latent mediumship ability to communicate with discarnate souls in the after-life. However, most of us, for a variety of reasons social and cultural,
have been taught to suppress our psychic faculties, or simply deny their existence. Either way, we cripple our potential. We are all capable of opening up the deeper intuitive channels with wiser souls who have passed on, and who seek to reduce the level of fear, greed, ignorance and prejudice with which our cultures are so heavily afflicted. The list of those eminent people who have expressed a serious interest in paranormal studies is a long one,
including Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Crookes, Queen Victoria, Edward VII
and Air Chief Marshal Dowding, who master-minded the Battle of Britain and later wrote the book 'Many Mansions', pleading the cause of Spiritualism in a hostile climate.
It has been well said that probably some of our greatest mental mediums have appeared on earth in the guise of inspired poets; and when we think of such giants as Shakespeare and Wordsworth, it might well be true. By the same token, I can think of no more appropriate way to end than to offer the reader the following lines, taken from Wordsworth's masterpiece, 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood'.
'Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home;
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy;
But he beholds the light and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the East
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid Is on his way attended;
At length, the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day'.