Early in 1974, a small group of religious friends began gathering periodically at the modest home of Thomas and Olive Ashman in Christchurch, New Zealand. “We would reverently pray for protection, and be silent,” says the Rev. Michael Cocks, an Anglican priest from Christchurch. “Tom would sit upright in a chair, relaxed. After two or three minutes he would begin to pale and to breathe deeply. Then his body would give a slight jerk as Stephen seemed to take over.”
In effect, Tom Ashman was a trance medium and was entering an altered state of consciousness as his body was being “taken over” by the entity called Stephen, who would then speak to the group using Ashman’s vocal cords. Stephen would dialogue with the group, which, in addition to Cocks and Ashman’s wife, Olive, also included a Liberal Catholic priest, a Buddhist, and other curious observers. But this was not just any Stephen; it was Saint Stephen, the first Christian Martyr.
Cocks states that normally Stephen spoke through Ashman in a “rather curious English,” but that he twice spoke in an ancient Greek dialect, which apparently was for the purposes of confirming his identity.
“For myself, I do not speak [English] and I never have,” Stephen related in one of the sittings. “I activate these words that are in Thomas’s memory and are known to him. Occasionally there is a little ‘magic,’ when I join together sounds and symbols that are in Thomas’s mind so that words may be spoken that are not known to Thomas.”
Cocks realizes that the story is difficult for most people to accept. At first, he had a hard time accepting it himself. Even after he came to believe that St Stephen was actually communicating with the small group, he was reluctant to discuss it with many people outside of the group. “Part of it was fear of social ostracism for claiming to receive teaching from a saint,” he explains.
After one of the early sittings in which Stephen spoke in Greek, Cocks consulted a lecturer in Greek at a University about Stephen’s Greek words. “She reported my request to the then bishop, who called me for a chat,” Cocks recalls. “To him, I denied being interested in spiritualism, as was definitely the case in those days.”
Cocks, who earned a Master’s Degree in philosophy at the University of New Zealand and a Master’s in theology at Oxford University, is certain that the Ashmans were not attempting to pull off some kind of parlor trick. “Tom was deeply sincere, as was his wife, and he was plainly undergoing personal change as the result of what was being spoken through him,” Cocks states. “There was no desire to impress, no question of financial gain, and the communications were made in the presence of a group of about twelve friends.”
Moreover, Cocks points out, Tom Ashman’s personal views were somewhat at odds with the teachings coming through him. “He gradually became more and more frustrated because most of the time Stephen spoke through him, he was unconscious, and had to wait a week for transcripts of the session to be printed out,” Cocks continues. “He often felt out of it.”
Cocks remained skeptical during those early sittings. He wondered if Tom had some kind of secondary or fragmented personality that was taking over his dominant personality, as has been reported in multiple personality cases. No doubt this would be the explanation provided by mainstream psychiatry, which is always looking for a reductionistic answer to such a phenomenon. But multiple personality disorder would not explain how or where that secondary personality obtained the knowledge and wisdom flowing from the entity calling himself Stephen. If the wisdom were flowing from Ashman’s subconscious, how did it get into his subconscious in the first place?
Ashman had a Catholic mother and Jewish father, and had always thought of himself as a Jew, although he had no strong belief system. Nothing in his history had exposed him to such profound teachings. What was most convincing to Cocks was the verification that the Greek spoken by Stephen in those early sittings was a version of Attic Greek of 2,000 years ago as spoken in Thrace where St Stephen’s parents had lived. Stephen himself was born near Ancyra, in Galatia. While familiar with Greek from his university days, Cocks did not know enough to rely on that alone. He consulted experts in the field and did extensive research into Stephen’s Koiné Greek, all of which he discusses in the appendix of this book.
Stephen was not the only communicator. On October 23, 1973, these words, apparently coming from Christ, flowed from Ashman’s vocal cords: “The task of your servant Stephen is that of messenger and he speaks with great authority. The task of yourselves is the decision as to which way you choose use those messages…”
Christ spoke through Ashman on several other occasions. “We believed it to be the voice of Christ, partly because Stephen agreed that it was, and partly from an awe-inspiring presence that had a very strong emotional and spiritual impact,” Cocks says. “The messages were of course very appropriate if they were from Christ.”
In one of the early messages recorded, Christ said: “The way to your God is through two things alone, and these things are your witnesses. Love and sacrifice. For these are the lances of the Lord. For love to pierce your heart, and the sacrifice to come into your heart are what is needed; for you must sacrifice the lesser for the greater. At all times your ears, your mind and your eyes are assaulted with half-truths and blasphemies.”
Still, Stephen was by far the most frequent communicator. He stated that his death by stoning is reported “quite accurately” in the Bible, but stressed that he was not communicating to tell about his life but rather to help them understand their own lives. He explained that he was no longer the Stephen of the Bible, that he had given up his separateness “to be one with the Whole,” but that to be of service to the Father and make those with whom he was communicating more comfortable he had to “put on again the clothes of Stephen.” When Cocks asked Stephen if he felt like “Stephen” or “The Whole,” or even a figment of Cocks’s imagination, Stephen replied: “For I speak that I am Stephen, I must first create Stephen, and be he. For I cannot be nothing. For once I decided I was nothingness, then I have learned nothing of nothing.”
In one philosophical discussion during 1973, Stephen offered an analogy in explaining why humans do not fully comprehend the physical life. He likened God to a surgeon. “…think how a surgeon would act if, when he had to operate, he had to keep the patient conscious, adjust mirrors so the patient could see the operation that would be beyond his understanding in any case. Should he perhaps have each patient undertake advanced studies before an operation? Or would it perhaps not be better only to operate on a surgeon?” Stephen went on to say that the complexity is such that the patient must trust his surgeon.
Some of what Stephen had to say:
Purpose of life: “Remember, that in the beginning there was the coming away from the Source, for the correction of many disorders…Acquiring a physical body is only one stage in the corrections…It seems a contradiction in itself, unless you understand, that it is for this reason each and every one of you is in the position that you are, for the reason that you may develop; that disorder may be corrected. Each is in the situation where he must learn, develop and correct disorder.”
On Jesus, as Savior: “The saving is the saving of the slavery to your own minds, the release of bondage to imagined ills and wrongs, desires that are not within you, but are created by the environment, and by the desires or imagined desires…We often get an image that in some way the death of the body of Jesus in itself cleanses us, yet we fail to see how he showed that the body itself was meaningless.”
On the afterlife: “Think not that when you are without your body, you are going to be much different, for your needs are different. Except through feelings there is little association, for your tasks and your needs are no longer what they were, and the tasks and needs of them that are still in the body are different. These are the first things you learn.”
On scientific proof of the afterlife: “The facts are there, if one would wish to see. The fact that he thinks, the fact that he has emotions, the fact that time is an exact science, are all there to be investigated. That is, if the investigation would be willingly undertaken. Look then at these results, that cannot be explained by using only limited facts or measurements: you might measure water with a jug or a similar small vessel, you cannot measure the ocean with the same vessel. If we confine what we wish to know to what we already know, we will have great difficulty. Be sure then, that the limitation that is being used, is not the limitation of want.”
On reincarnation: “The answer is most difficult. The understanding of the phenomenon is sometimes beyond even myself, but hear me now. Even as I speak through this body, I am Stephen and reincarnate possibly a thousandfold. The confusion is not in the reality of this. It is on the concept of your conscious mind where it can but think of one body.”
Michael Cocks and more about ‘Stephen’ can be found on http://www.thegroundoffaith.net/stephen/
About the author
All my forebears were early immigrants into Canterbury, New Zealand, between 1840-60, one a Scottish farmer, another a German businessman, another an owner of a stock and station firm, another, great-grandfather Bromley Cocks, was an early Anglican clergyman. My grandfather John, my father Maurice and I, have also been devout but open-minded parish clergy. (The last five years of my ministry were as British Chaplain in Gothenburg, Sweden.) Three generations of us have honours degrees in philosophy, my father and I belonged to the UK Modern Churchman’s Union, and have been interested in the mystics of all religions. I read theology at Oxford, at St Catherine’s, and at Ripon Hall, a Modernist theological college, and in vacation time, lived with its former principal, Canon Dr H D A Major and his wife Mary.
An incident in 1932 may have started my intense interest in the psychic: a pine plantation around our vicarage at Mount Somers caught fire. One of those helping to fight the fire, died. At the height of the fire my grandmother in Christchurch, a hundred miles away, put in a toll call to ask what the trouble was. For whatever reason, throughout my childhood, adolescence and as a young man, I was obsessed by the belief that psychical research was the way to prove the reality of Spirit. I was aided and abetted by a great-aunt whose guiding light was the work of Emmanuel Swedenborg.
In 1973 I was the Anglican vicar of a parish in Christchurch, New Zealand, when one day an acquaintance knocked on the door. She had come down from the North Island partly to deliver to me a hand-written book of prophecies, the product of a woman unknown to me who once had belonged to the Plymouth Brethren. There were about a hundred pages of these prophecies, largely based on the Book of Revelation, casting me in the role of one of the Two Witnesses in Chapter 11 of the book. She had plainly taken immense pains with her prophecies and my acquaintance had incurred the loss of time and money to bring them to me. I hope that I received the gift graciously and acknowledged the caring and depth of belief which prompted it. All the same I could not regard it as other than the product of irrationality.
And yet, on the other hand, I found out later that the gift was almost simultaneous with Stephen the Martyr’s first words to my friend Olive Ashman, through her husband, Thomas, who, although not previously aware of his mediumistic abilities, was in trance. They were living at the time in Sevenoaks, Kent. Three months later, the strangest circumstances were to have me talking with Stephen in New Zealand. In the meantime the Ashmans had come to live in Christchurch and I had met Olive in a psychic library that I on a whim had visited. She talked to me about Stephen and I was interested to find out more. When I eventually learned that Stephen and the prophecies had come together in time, and had reflected on how I had come to talk with him myself, multidimensional reality appeared more and more strange, for many of those weird prophecies had close parallels with Stephen’s teachings.
A private group with varying membership, meeting almost 200 times over a period of eight years, asked him many questions, some of which can be read in Afterlife teaching from Stephen the Martyr. Concurrent with these conversations, were complicated and overwhelming synchronicities, which seemed to underline and reinforce what Stephen was saying. The whole Stephen experience brought many of us to view reality in a very different way, and indeed from the point of view of the mystics.
Of course, the Stephen experience has only intensified my interest in psychic research, and research into the nature of the reality to which the world’s great religions point.
47. The Continuous Self and “Reincarnation”.
[If it were possible to perceive souls as entities, separate from each other, then Stephen here would be talking about reincarnation as commonly understood. But since there is no such separation, Stephen’s teaching is more about the Communion of Saints, the unity of living and the so-called dead.]
Stephen: You have questions of course?
Michael: The question on our minds is the nature of what one could call the Continuous Self. Now to talk to you, is to talk to a person with feelings recognisably the same as my own, who experiences and reacts in ways that I might experience and react in. I think of you and then I think of myself, of how my continuous self has worn [other personalities] and myself and confusion begins to come to my mind, because I cannot, we cannot, quite formulate the question. Gerald, just now, to try and express his feeling, has drawn a wheel, with the continuous self as the hub of the wheel and each spoke, each part of the tread, covering fresh ground, rough or smooth, and there is choosing at the hub. Stephen, can you talk about this?
Stephen: I shall be delighted to.
Firstly let me again correct a misapprehension that we are all inclined to be under whilst we are in the physical body: and that is the feeling of separateness.
You will find that you are thinking of separateness when we refer to Stephen, or to Michael and “Charles” [a supposed former incarnation of M’s] as if they were truly separate.
Think of the wheel and the external perimeter of the wheel as the Whole continuously.
With the spokes from the exterior going through the centre, being experiences of the Whole.
The experience of the spoke belongs to the Whole and is the experience of the Whole; the spoke itself is only the instrument of the Whole. *
Think of this concept now and ask your question again, at some other opportunity.
*[In the Upanishads] “the totality of existence is compared to a wheel, and of this wheel the Lord is both the hub and the rim whereas individual ‘selves’ are the spokes that connect the two: they are inseparable from God but they are not identical with him.” [Article on “Hinduism” in Man, Myth and Magic, p.1313]
Michael: All right. But I think of “Charles” as dead. We have also been thinking of wholes. For instance, we have been thinking of what they call a natural theology that will embrace in one whole, animals, snakes (which someone said they did not like) and ourselves into the one Whole. So much of our thinking has so far simply involved the growth of the individual human soul. Can you speak of the Whole?
48. “Christian” being the name that defines the pursuit of what is Christ.
Stephen: You can see even whilst you are speaking where your confusion is.
At one time, we ask a question of the continuous self of an individual.
Now we ask the same question, but of the Whole.
Think again simply of the parable of the Gardener.
He did not make flowers or a border.
He made a garden where each of these parts are [make up] a garden.
The teaching of this you already have.
Let me again make this clearer, for it may answer another question. Many felt troubled when the question “What is a Christian?” was asked. You have even asked this, this night. Perhaps if I answered this question for you, it will answer many questions you may wish to ask.
“Christian” is the name that defines the pursuit of what is Christ. The example of the successful pursuit was in our Lord who indeed was the Christ. Therefore, a Christian in the terms that you wish to think or, indeed, in the terms in which you should think, should be defined as: “Any cell, each and any part of the continuous self, which acts in a like manner (in pursuit of what is Christ)”; whether it is called Christian, “yellow” or “rain” is immaterial.
For to be Christian is to be conscious not of separateness but to be conscious as part of the Whole.
In the past, for joining of the Whole, parts of the Whole had experiences, continued to choose and gained further experiences in differing incarnations. This is the case with the part of the Whole with which we are blessed, called Michael. He is also a part of the Whole that gained the experience of “Charles”. And backwards as it shall be forwards.
The knowledge of this part of the Whole (which is also called Michael) which was to be gained through experience was decided before the separateness of Michael was felt.
Therefore we can say that the experiences gained would be of the whole self of Michael, the choosing of the whole self of Michael.
But let this not go as far as to specify details of the incidents that occur to the body which the Whole, through Michael, is using.
For this body has a mind that has many functions. This body has a mind that can be influenced and this body was chosen by the Whole through the whole self, the continuous self of Michael, because of its situation and because of the probability of the influences that will be made to bear on the mind of that body that we know as Michael.
Incidents will happen that were not planned and yea even should not be planned; but the total of the experience of that part of the whole which is the whole self of Michael (whilst that part is in the body) was requiring that total experience,
not the separate incidents.
Should it be necessary for the “Charles”-Michael* to become a “George”, then it will be decided at which stage the “George” should possess a body, where the body should be situated and also the time in evolution, when it would gain the experience that the part of the whole (which the whole self of Michael) wishes to obtain.
*[ Charles is a presumed former incarnation]
I need to feel and grasp this, and to grasp that I am Michael, that Michael is Stephen and that what I experience now is experience for the You which is also I.
I need to feel and grasp that this is so, that I am but a part that could be described as a spoke in the “wheel” which is the Whole
and that together at the outside perimeter we cannot be separated.
Michael: I get confused about this Whole. Are not you, Stephen, also Bill and Olive and everyone else as well as Michael?
Stephen: We are all each other though we are not sharing at this time the incidents of the separate bodies.
But the experience that we are sharing in these separate bodies belongs to us all.
* * *
[ “For to be Christian is to be conscious, not of separateness, but to be conscious as part of the Whole.” This is the starting point, in thinking about this Christian version of “reincarnation”. No question of a separated soul leaving a body, and then entering another. “I am but a spoke in the wheel which is the Whole” and “at the outside perimeter we cannot be separated.” On the one hand, Stephen gave us reincarnation names that at first embarrassed us and then led us to self-centred feelings of importance; then, on the other hand, he said that we are all each other, including of course, you the reader. You could say that Stephen was the cause of emotional disturbance for which we needed prolonged counselling before we put things into proportion. Those of us who were talking with Stephen were learning about our own spiritual selves but the message that we hope will be heard is that we are all spokes in the wheel and most of what is said of us can be said of everybody.]
49. I am called by an unwelcome name.
Stephen: You might recognize me as distinct from Thomas! You have questions?
Michael: I have questions and I am pleased that you are here to answer them. I am asking them because perhaps they are questions that trouble me more than the group. I was confused about an answer you gave to a former question. When I asked about mental disorders I heard you as saying “mental disorders are confused with spiritual orderliness”. I thought it should have read “disorderliness”.
Stephen: It would have been correct to have written “disorderliness” rather than “orderliness”.
Michael: What is the distinction between a mental disorder and a spiritual disorder?
Stephen: Your questions, Michael, can be apparently simple. Try to imagine the concept that the physical mind is a manifestation of the physical body. Then with regard to our true self, or cell, should the body that is being used have physical or mental defects, it does not necessarily follow (in fact it is most improbable) that the cell which is part of the Whole would manifest any defect of a similar nature.
Michael: This is what I have felt on two or three occasions this week when, to my surprise, a service of worship went, what I felt, entirely right! It surprises me when things go completely right. On Sunday night we had ten people and it appeared to me that at least two of them were speaking with your voice or with the voice of the Source. We felt close to each other in love and caught up into the Whole. Although with our physical selves we might have disagreed, yet we felt one so I felt no disorder. And I felt this again on Wednesday, that there was no disorder when we had been bickering almost and yet underneath there was no disorder.
Stephen: And this surprises you, Michael?
Michael: Yes it does…Although, when I say that we felt caught up into God, of course then there can be no disorder…
Stephen: Pray continue.
Michael: Well, there are two things that would relate to this. Let us take Judas. Was there a disorder in him? In his cell?
Stephen: Again, you have asked two different questions. Was there a physical (and this includes mental) disorder within the person, or is there a disorder in the cell that was known as Judas? Now why each cell and soul has been separated from the Source and has come away as such…
Michael: As you have said, to correct a mis-arrangement, or disorder. Therefore, the cell is disordered.
Stephen: The word disorder is only the best concept available but you do have the correct concept. Do not confuse cell disorder as being the same concept as physical disorder*
*Remember Stephen’s words already quoted “the mis-arrangement of the self-consciousness, or cell, that acts as I have said, through the emotions, taking and acting upon the emotions or the sense-consciousness of the body, and not of the spirit, or God-consciousness.”
Michael: We are not to think of “badness” or “sickness” with regard to the cell?
Stephen: That is correct… Judas.
Michael: What did you say?
Stephen: Judas, to continue; to answer your question. The re-arrangement that was necessary for the cell and the cell’s choice in the purpose that it should serve in the body of Judas, though unconsciously so, and any disorders that the physical body of Judas may have had, can be considered two entirely separate discussions. Of the physical body that was Judas I know little.
Let us think about the experience and the guidance necessary to carry out the purpose, not only of the cell that was Judas, but also of many close cells that were in physical bodies near what was the body of our Lord: I would have to start even before the birth of our Lord’s body, and explain happenings which have neither been written down or in most cases even been remembered.
Therefore let it be sufficient to say that Judas the man, or the physical manifestation, may indeed have caused experiences that added in a minor degree to those things that needed correcting but the consciousness of the cell that chose and was assisted in doing those things that needed to be done, was the cause of other mis-arrangements being corrected.
On the one hand, we have the separateness of the life experience that was Judas.
It was not unique, it gained way and lost way, as all of us do whilst we are in the physical body.
This was the pattern.
This was no more startling, in that it was Judas, than it would be even in yourself.
The purpose and the usage for the Lord’s purpose of the cell that was recognizable as Judas is another story which at some time you will know of.
Am I clear with this answer? For I wish to be.
Michael: I think when I hear it [the recording of this conversation] it may become clearer because as you speak my mind flits back to the name you called me by.
Stephen: We have again now, Michael, developed our separateness. If we did this of course the burden of Nero could fall heavily on a non-illustrious shoulder at some later time. Therefore do not be concerned for the burden that may be thought of as being Judas.. it would not rest upon you.
Michael: It sounds like saying that I was that cell but that we are yet one and share it.
Stephen: You have answered yourself well. We are but one and share it [the burden]. Is there clarity in the concept of the two actions that are now possible: that which is the mental-physical attitude and its actions and those actions that are required by the cell, from the cell to the group, to the group from the Source?
Michael: This feels clear to me. Now could I approach this question from a different angle? You - talking to me. It seems natural, and feels natural but is miraculous to my mental self.
Stephen: Indeed, it is miraculous. That Thomas should speak in the same manner is likewise. Let me explain more. Consider Thomas. For it is necessary that this time he is not with us. Let us consider the physical mind of Thomas.
Then we add to that the cell that has knowledge of what requires re-arranging. That knowledge must work in harmony with but with influence on the physical mind.
The cell chose that body which we see here now for the probabilities in time, environment and many other things.
The experiences that happen to the physical mind and how the influence of the cell can guide, the influence the cell exerts on the physical mind and the success or otherwise of that influence, are the means by which that mis-arrangement may be corrected. Therefore, we have a mind that is completely free in choice to think and act as it wishes.
The exercise is then that the cell records experiences and gains knowledge on how to influence [the physical mind]; the cell’s success is measured and the mis-arrangements are corrected by the influence that the cell has on that mind, leaving it always, the physical mind, with its free will.
Michael: Just as you are having practice in doing now.
Stephen: Exactly. But whereas I the cell have the body of Thomas I am not hampered (poor word) by the physical mind which has choices of its own. It is the cell that activates. The cell, as you see, is (not to use another wrong word) as dexterous as the physical mind in manipulating the body. It can but physically stimulate some simple electrical impulses that operate the features and voice. When the physical mind is not currently attached, or present, (and again, please do not think that Thomas may be a distance away) when the physical mind is not attached as it normally would be the cell-mind can only operate limited bodily functions.
Michael: Hearing this makes me feel like a puppet; when I die is it that the strings are cut and I the puppet fall lifeless to the floor…and where am I? All my thinking is gone! Yet I guess, dear Stephen, that this will not be so.
Stephen: Michael, dear Michael, this is exactly what happens, of course. When the cell is rearranged or the body can no longer function for the purpose or becomes aged or is destroyed, then all that is left is the shell. The mind for a short time relatively speaking is still in a mind body and can gain further experience whilst the cell transcends finally out of its separateness to the Whole.
If there are further rearrangements to be made, then the cell does not transcend completely into oneness. It retains separateness until what has remained of the mind, such as personality, and I think you might say some character traits and some traits that will influence the shape of the physical features in a minor way, are then, with the cell, transferred into another physical body.
[Following on after his own previous words, after a break when we changed the tape and Stephen rested Thomas. He takes up the body of Thomas:]
Therefore, as we have just demonstrated, the whole process can begin again.
Michael: Might I ask, Stephen: you are here when we request that you talk to us, but what are you doing when we are not requesting? Because you have a life of your own. You cannot just be there, day after day, waiting for us to call you.
Stephen: I can explain this better. Michael. When you are not talking where are you? I do not have a life of my own but I have a life of our own. Where does Michael go when he is no longer conscious?
Michael: Where does the candle flame go when it is blown out?
Stephen: Michael delights me at times. For, Michael, you know your answers so well.
Michael: I don’t know - to talk about the candle-flame only confuses my material mind. Because Stephen, you are me, I am Olive and Olive is you and so on. We are part of the tree and we are caught up into the whole when we receive and yet, surely, you said, I remember, you said to be you is like swimming in the ocean and to be a thousand miles away and to caress a friend.
Stephen: This is the conscious (or what is remaining of the conscious) mind of Stephen, not cell. Not the cell as such.
Michael: Yet the conscious mind of Stephen remains?
Stephen: In part. Think of it like this. I shall demonstrate. [Lifts leg.] In this body as a whole we have nerves that we can think of as the conscious mind of the individual person. We have in this body, muscles that we may think of as the cell and its conscious mind.
Therefore, if I move this body, my [Stephen’s] conscious mind has activated the conscious mind of the cell (the muscles) which has moved the body. The feeling that has come to the conscious mind (of the individual) is the nerves. In the demonstration, the nerves represent the personality of Stephen, the muscle is the conscious mind of the cell.
Michael: I begin to understand, so… I think perhaps that we can experience this now, in the physical body. Would this be right?
Stephen: This would be correct.
Michael: Because when we had the experience of group receiving, the group all reported that they felt caught up into the spirit of God. Perhaps this is the muscle?
Stephen: This is very close to correct. Remember that I give the closest approximation that I am able, and that approximation that you have given is sufficient.
I must soon depart. Even I begin to talk of departing. I must return this body to Thomas.
[I see this session as containing some of Stephen’s basic teaching. Remember his earlier words: “The knowledge of this part of the Whole (which is also called Michael) which was to be gained through experience was decided before the separateness of Michael was felt.” We could substitute the name “Judas” here, or, in general, the name of the reader. “We are all each other” and, as we have noted from Stephen’s parable of the Reflections in a pool, we are basically spiritual entities learning about ourselves and experiencing by immersing our consciousnesses in the pool, or in the physical.]
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published october 2011
Size: 229 x 152 mm