IT’S NOT everyday that a Spiritualist book is published by a world renowned physical medium. As such, I was delighted to receive Stewart Alexander’s Memoirs recently and have spent many a happy hour savouring the treasure trove of anecdotes and thought provoking views expressed therein.
Stewart Alexander has been involved with Spiritualism for over 40 years, firstly as a researcher and then combined with his work and development as a physical medium. For these reasons, this book offers the reader a quite unique perspective on the subjects he covers.
For we are not reading the views of a purely ‘armchair observer’ of physical phenomena here. We get to see things from the actual medium’s point of view - from behind the seance room curtain. This in itself offers the reader an invaluable opportunity.
The book is in two parts. The first - titled My Journey - details Stewart’s life excursion through Spiritualism. In it, we begin with Stewart coming across a copy of Arthur Findlay’s ‘On the Edge of the Etheric’, which was given to him by his brother. From there, Stewart gently takes the reader along with him as he describes how he first began to sit for and develop his mediumship. We hear how his first mentor, Kath Matthews, helped to bring about physical manifestations within Stewart’s home circle.
From there, Stewart describes meeting his second mentor, Alan Crossley, and the formation of The Elton Circle which met once a month at Alan’s home near Chester. It was here that the idea to film the phenomena of Stewart’s seance room was first proposed, and Stewart descibes in detail the events surrounding what was to become known as The Project . This was to turn out to be the most controversial episode in his life as a physical medium.
The Noah’s Ark Society for Physical Mediumship - which Stewart was the President of for several years - also gets a chapter devoted to it. And from there Stewart continues ‘onward’ to recount many more episodes and events in his mediumistic career such as “Evidential Communications”, his visits to Switzerland and much more.
The second part of the book deals with Stewart’s “Observations and Deductions.” And those looking for a ‘cosy’ essay on how nice and wonderful Spiritualism is - be warned! Stewart pulls no punches as he discects the problems affecting the Movement today:
“For a time the Movement appeared to be firmly on course to achieve its aims, and yet, following the passing through Parliament of the Fraudulent Mediums Act in 1951, it all started to go wrong. Instead of capitalising upon its hard fought victory for legalisation, it turned in upon itself and went into decline. The fighting spirit which saw its leadership, together with its rank and file, present a united front in the face of legal injustice slowly became a memory. The Movement’s central message became fragmented, diluted and corrupted, with the result that gradually it lost direction.”
The final two chapters encompass a valient and intelligent defense of probably the most controversial physical medium of all time - ‘Margery’ Crandon. Stewart has devoted many years of meticulous study and research into this remarkable woman and the fruits of his endevours are put to good use in his fine rebuttal of the sceptics’ allegations.
Stewart Alexander’s An Extraordinary Journey offers the reader a rare glimpse into the mind of a physical medium. Anyone interested in Spiritualism - and psychic phenomena in particular - will also delight in the varied, fascinating and detailed accounts contained in this most enjoyable book. As such, it is a welcome and most needed addition to the Spiritualist catalogue.
To order from Amazon.co.uk, please click the link, below:
To order from Amazon.com, please click the following link:
The end of Psychic News was confirmed by the SNU at its A.G.M this weekend, as shocked and disgusted delegates looked on.
Founded in May, 1932 by Spiritualist legend Maurice Barbanell, Psychic News served the Spiritualist community steadfastly through good times and bad. It was a vehicle of truth and light, bringing forth each week reports of evidential mediumship. It was a beacon for the Movement - its voice.
This is why the ‘criminal’ decision by the SNU to terminate its existence will be so hard to take for so many. Reports suggest the SNU pulled the plug due to the paper’s financial difficulties. However, inside sources report that funds from benefactors was offered - but turned down.
The SNU has previous history of struggling with the ownership of Psychic News. In 1946, Barbanell resigned his editorship when news reached him that the paper’s financial backer, Arthur Findlay, intended to pass his shares to the SNU. In 1962, he was persuaded to return as it was slowly sinking amidst heavy losses.
Later, Barbanell formed the Spiritual Truth Foundation which owned the shares in Psychic News - partly to prevent the SNU from ever taking control of the newspaper again.
How he must now be shaking his head in dismay.
Michael Tymn was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, The Articulate Dead. For those of you not familiar with Michael, he is vice-president of the Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, Inc., and editor of the Academy’s quarterly magazine, The Searchlight. So, he certainly knows his stuff!
The main focus of The Articulate Dead is presenting the best evidence for post mortem survival gathered during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Michael presents this information in a clear, easy to read style that made his book an absolute pleasure to read.
Upon reading the various accounts of the scientific investigations of such notable mediums as D.D. Home, Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard, one cannot help but look at the situation today with some disappointment. But that is another topic entirely….
Beginning with the early pioneers of psychical research, the book moves on to a description of how Spiritualism hit France and Allan Kardec’s involvement. We are then treated to an account of how celebrated scientist Sir William Crookes validated D.D. Home’s mediumship.
The seance on April 12m 1871, Crookes recorded, was the most exciting and satisfactory he had experienced, probably because two other mediums were present and added to Home’s psychic force. At first, they had very rough manifestations, chairs knocking about, a table floating above the floor and then being slammed down, loud and unpleasant noises, what Crookes termed “phenomena of a low class”. It was well known by this time that harmony among the sitters was necessary for good results and this harmony could often be achieved by singing. Thus, they began singing in hopes of improving conditions.
After the group song, Home sung solo, what Crookes referred to as “a sacred piece,” after which one of the other mediums “was carried right up, floated across the table and dropped with a crash of pictures and ornaments at the other end of the room”. When Home sang again, both of the other mediums were lifted up by the invisible spirits and placed on the table. Crookes surmised that the other two mediums brought low-class influences with them and Home’s singing drove them away, allowing his good ones to enter.
Sceptics have always labeled scientists as rather gullible and naive in their ability to detect fraud. This may very well be true in certain cases, but as Michael Tymn describes, strict precautions against fraud were by no means lacking:
When the table was levitating, he [CROOKES] would check Home’s legs and feet to be sure that they were not somehow involved in lifting the heavy table. On several occasions, he also measured the foot pounds of pressure on the table as it levitated. Unlike many mediums, Home did not insist upon darkness and so there was no problem in observing him while the phenomena was taking place.
An interesting footnote to Crooke’s investigations and the sceptics’ attitude is also mentioned - and it is just as relevant today as in the last century.
[Alfred Russel] Wallace defended Crookes and Home against attacks by other scientists who had concluded that Home was a magician. One of them, Sir David Brewster, sat with Home and saw a table levitate right in front of him, but still concluded that since there was no natural explanation for what he saw that Home had to be a magician.
James Randi eat your heart out!
Michael Tymn then continues to fascinate us with accounts of Patience Worth, Frederick Bligh Bond’s excavations of Glastonbury Abbey with the alleged help from spirit helpers and much more. While it is true to say that most of the information can already be found in the literature of the time, it is refreshing to have it all to hand in just one volume.
Michael Tymn brings the events of so long ago back in to modern day focus, and his efforts will delight readers interested in the details surrounding some of the most convincing evidence for life after death. As Michael himself says in his preface, his goal was to “resurrect some of the most interesting and credible personalities and cases in the annals of psychical research from the period 1850 to 1940, what might be called the ‘heyday’ of mediumship, or spirit communications.”
Michael Tymns book certainly lives up to this ambition, and will form a valuable part of any book collection on the history of life after death research.
Certainly, an articulate read!
I am always intrigued when sceptics proclaim that they can reproduce the occurrences of the seance room. Commonly, such claims are made by armchair ‘experts’ with no knowledge or experience of the actual events of the modern day seance room.
So sure are they of their superior understanding of how trickery is the only explanation for the phenomena which occur, that they deem it unnecessary to actually attend a seance in order to match their conjecture with actual events.
If they did, they would have to admit that their explanations are lamentably ill-considered and completely irrelevant to the modern day seance room.
A lot of sceptics seem to have a pre-conceived, stereotypical view of seance room phenomena. They seem to think that all that happens is that a few objects - be it a trumpet, tambourine, bell or whatever - move about a bit on the seance table and that’s about it.
‘How can people be so gullible?’ they smile. ‘We can tell you how it’s done!’ They then proceed to offer up explanations of trickery which any schoolboy could have worked out.
The only problem, as I’ve said, is that their explanations don’t actually fit in with what actually occurs in the modern seance room. And indeed, in many cases, the seance rooms of earlier times as well. They are irrelevant because the phenomena produced are totally different - and it is produced in completely different conditions to that which the sceptics portray.
This is not to say that some fraudulent mediums may have used the trickery the sceptics suggest; but to offer up such explanations as damning evidence to denounce all physical mediums is both naive and terribly unfair.
An illustration of my points can be seen in the video, below. In the introduction, the presenter begins by announcing:
“Next, we unmask the seance. A century old scam in which the medium gains the trust of an unsuspecting victim by exposing them to a series of seemingly apparent paranormal occurrences under the shield of darkness. The seance is still very much alive today. Unfortunately, the victim’s loved one is not.”
The statement that they will “unmask the seance” is completely misleading since what they actually “unmask” is not the kind of phenomena which occurs, and has occurred, in various seance rooms across the world.
However, the average viewer with no experience of physical mediumship, can be forgiven for accepting this misleading video as a representation of all which occurs in the seance room; and agreeing with the sceptical view promoted.
Watch it for yourself. Anyone with actual experience of sitting with a physical medium, such as Stewart Alexander for example, will soon see the absurdity of this video as a ‘catch all’ explanation of seance room fraud….
The viewer will note that the trumpet/megaphone does not whizz around the room at high speed, it just ‘limps’ across the table a little. Wow. I have personally witnessed two trumpets flying around a very small seance room at very high speed. The room was so small that all eight sitters completely surrounded the four walls. Yet the trumpets flew about without hitting anyone or the small table in the middle of the room.
I could go further and mention various other phenomena recorded in the history of physical mediumship: Such as the materialisation phenomena of Helen Duncan, which magician and founder of the Magic Circle, Will Goldstone, witnessed and couldn’t explain by normal means.
If the sceptics are going to attempt to debunk physical mediumship fairly, then they should reproduce the exact same phenomena, under the exact same conditions.
Then their arguments would have more substance and relevancy. As it is, videos such as this just illustrate how lame and misleading the sceptical ‘explanation’ of physical phenomena can be. For, far from offering a full and comprehensive debunking of the realities of seance room phenomena, videos such as this merely show the kind of seance a schoolboy would put on for his friends on Halloween.
As a sceptical answer to the more complex happenings of the seance room, this video just leaves us completely in the dark…
Speaking about his last public séance, held in Devon last month, Stewart said:
“I have to tell you that for me it was somewhat emotional as you can imagine. From start to last, both my friends Alf and June and I met with considerable kindness and we knew that everyone who attended the events did so because they genuinely were taking the opportunity to hear about and experience the physical phenomena of the séance room.
“From what I understand - the spirit world responded and produced séances that I know will never be forgotten by anyone who attended. The final day at the Newton Abbot Church was a full day seminar with me, Alf Winchester, and Peter Egan giving various talks followed by the evening séance.
“What a wonderful day it was - for me it was literally like ‘home from home’ and I had no fears of sitting for them. The planning for the day and the preparation of the Church was undertaken by Sheila and Phil Scott (President and Vice President) and their team and - it must be said - that they did a wonderful job.
“Whatever success we had on the day - they all truly deserved. For me - it was literally the end of an era.
“I spent so many months agonising over this matter - was I doing the correct thing or was I being selfish? These were the questions that revolved constantly around my mind. But - I have to say that now - following Devon - I feel a tremendous relief that for 15 years I worked publicly and that I have come out the other end unscathed.
“I have definitely done the correct thing - I have no doubt. And if - people wish to sit with me then they can still do so but not at the large public séances that I have done for so long.
“Of course, the sceptics will place a different interpretation upon my decision to withdraw but that is of absolutely no concern to me. Sceptics are sceptics and will - with their open minds that are ever willing to be convinced - remain sceptics until they themselves pass into that world that awaits us all beyond death.
“I have no interest in their self opinionated pronouncements, delivered always with such certainty, and of their veiled dishonesty which equally matches that of the gullible Spiritualist who performs such a terrible disservice to the movement of Spiritualism.”
Stay tuned for forthcoming reports of Stewart’s final séance…
UPDATE. Report: http://thepsychictimes.com/devon-seance.htm
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