Could Anglicans be a little more brave about psychic research?
Posted on 23 October 2014, 8:30
Anyone familiar with White Crow Books, Victor Zammit’s weekly newsletter, or this month’s The Ground of Faith will find compelling witnesses to the reality of the spiritual dimension, to a Spirit that is in all, through all, and above all, as described in the New Testament. The evidence has been available for many years, yet officially at least the churches are almost entirely silent about it. Some churches even decry such evidence as “Satanic.”
Because of many personal experiences, I felt motivated to try and draw the attention of clergy in the Anglican Church (and others) to this wonderful and confirming body of knowledge, and so established The Ground of Faith. I emailed invitations to read this journal to between four and five thousand Anglican clergyman in the US, UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. There were indeed many hundreds who asked not to receive further notifications, including several bishops, yet eleven years later 40 bishops and perhaps 2,000 other clergy are still accepting reminders that the next issue can now be read. 3-4,000 individuals visit our website each month, reading up to 10,000 articles; most of these individuals live in the US, Ukraine, China, France and Germany. Fewer in the UK. The readership now is much wider than the Anglican Church. Only a small proportion read the journal at depth. Whatever the details, at least it suggests that the bulk of Anglican clergy are not hostile to what are now termed “consciousness studies” (which includes psychic research.)
I can only speak from personal experience, so at the risk of boring those who have heard this story before, I repeat it. In my Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr I give an account of 200 conversations with the spirit of that Stephen, through Thomas Ashman, a London Jew, as trance medium. He had not trained as a medium, but Stephen apparently first began speaking through Thomas while he was asleep. In my book I provide irrefutable evidence of Stephen’s identity. Now one might imagine that if I went to an Anglican bishop with a story like this, I would have had a hard time. In actual fact, one English bishop and one in New Zealand were prepared to write favourable reviews of the book. Two other English bishops have been supportive. Another bishop asked me why I thought I was involved with Stephen. I replied that it had something to do with reincarnation and soul groups. The response was that early Christians certainly believed in that. As long as the experience brought me closer to God, and made my prayers more real, then the experience was to be trusted, was the response.
Other clergy and academics have been supportive, and prepared to act as consultants for The Ground of Faith, even though aware of my weaknesses and limitations, as well as strengths. So it is really nonsense to say that “the Church as such is against psychic research.” I think the problem is that in a Community of Faith such as a Church, there are people of all stages of spiritual development, political views, and views on theology. To have a church driven by arguments between opposing views, would destroy fellowship and worship, and hinder the growth of love and mutual support.. and support for the community. Therefore church leaders often avoid controversial topics in public, and are cautious in private. Furthermore few people change their views because they are told to, and a wise priest will respectfully and supportively listen, and try to respond constructively. Confrontation and argument are not helpful to communion with God and neighbour, and with openness to Spirit.
All the above suggests that to some extent, with the journal, I may be knocking on an open door at least so far as many in the Anglican Church are concerned. But it will also be true to say that many church leaders and members are strongly influenced by the dominant Materialist prejudice of Western culture, while in contrast there are those who believe that there is no truth other than words to be found in the Bible. Over recent years the voices of the latter have been heard ever more loudly.
With reference to the Stephen book, the Rt. Rev. Edward Holland (Formerly Assistant Bishop of Europe, and then Bishop of Colchester) wrote:
“– I have been very affected by it. What comes to mind immediately is: 1. the sense of life after death being very close, very normal and not very intimidating; 2. Stephen’s experience of being at first after his death very tied up with his identity as Stephen but later leaving that behind and only picking it up again in order to communicate with Thomas and the others; 3. the way in which individuality becomes much less important but that nevertheless the ‘ego’ is not something to be avoided but something which contributes to this experience of being part of the whole.” . . . . .
“It has to be said that most people do not really believe in God at a rational level, though probably most do at an emotional level. This is why almost everyone fumbles over the resurrection of Jesus. For most it’s an impossibility. What Stephen confirms for me is that it is an entirely natural event, which if only they believed should surprise no one. As Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, the great Russian Orthodox leader in this country who died a year or so ago said - I paraphrase him: ‘How strange to believe that life can die and not believe that life can live!’ “
It was good of Bishop Holland to write this, and it underlines the need for not only the Anglicans, but everyone, to come to grips with the vast body of evidence for the world of Spirit.
In 1937 Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the Church of England appointed a committee to investigate Spiritualism which carefully studied the subject for two years and handed in its report. It was expected by the Committee and by the general public that the guidance contained therein would be made available to the rank and file of the Church of England who, up to them, had been given no official lead whatsoever regarding communication with the dead.( Here is the full text of the report.) But, perhaps out of fear of controversy, the report was shelved.
As I read the report I find myself agreeing with many of the cautions expressed in it. “It is pointed out, on the evidence of the “communicators” themselves, that the communicators and guides are themselves at very different levels of spiritual development and of very partial knowledge, and that the “controls” of which they make use may often be very undeveloped personalities.”
“It seems necessary to distinguish between the sense of contact with departed friends or with “guides”, and the assurance that messages have necessarily any high value because they come through this unusual channel”.
The report is lengthy and a little repetitive, but basically it accepts that communication with the “dead” is real, and often helpful, but adds several cautions, with which I agree. I add now one final quote:
“There is no reason why we should not accept gladly the assurance that we are still in closest contact with those who have been dear to us in this life, who are going forward, as we seek to do ourselves, in the understanding and fulfilment of the purpose of God.
“We cannot avoid the impression that a great deal of Spiritualism as organised has its centre in man rather than God, and is, indeed, materialistic in character. To this extent it is a substitute for religion, and is not in itself religious at all.
“We are impressed by the unsatisfactory answers received from practising Spiritualists to such questions as, “Has your prayer life, your sense of God, been strengthened by your Spiritualistic experiences?” This explains in great part the hesitancy of many Christians to have anything to do with it.
“But if Spiritualism does, in fact, make so strong an appeal to some, it is at least in part because the Church has not proclaimed and practised its faith with sufficient conviction.”
I think there can be several reasons why we in the church don’t preach our faith with sufficient conviction:
We can lack sufficient experience of the spiritual dimension.
We can fear rejection from fellow Christians who are deeply suspicious of anything that is “unbiblical”, “Satanic” and so forth.
The greater fear however is that a Materialist academic “establishment” will seek to discredit us, and if we belong to Academia, deprive us of funding, status, jobs, and so on. This is very real for “middle class” Anglicans, who tend to predominate in Anglican churches. So strong is academic prejudice, so widespread its influence that to be interested in Spirit is to be far from being respectable in polite society.
I feel this fear myself, and hesitate to name people who support me, fearing to damage their reputations. I fear this even though I am retired and therefore cannot lose my job. Two university professors checked my research with regard to the authenticity of the dialectal Greek spoken by the spirit of Stephen the Martyr. A leader of a branch of the Skeptics was persuaded by my studies and actually published my book. I do name these people in my book, but not otherwise. I am afraid of hurting them.
All this in spite of an ever increasing huge literature providing more and more evidence that Materialism is bankrupt and has no scientific basis.
So that is why I entitled this blog: “Could Anglicans be a little more brave about psychic research?”
We should be braver for the good of humanity. We should be braver because the philosophy of Materialism is in the process of being discredited. Recently I attended a lecture conducted by a member of the Skeptics. He was remarking on how laughable so many Nobel Prize winning physicists were and how they were saying cooky things about an imagined spiritual dimension. But the fact is that 40% of scientists are not Materialists, but have to be careful in what they say, to protect their jobs. But when you become a Noble Prize-winner, you become a bit harder to sack. In any case, the Skeptic was acknowledging threats on the horizon.
Let us be strong in our faith, acquaint ourselves with trustworthy witnesses to the world of Spirit, and share such trustworthy witness with others.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
His forthcoming book, Into the Wider Dream will be published Winter/Spring 2015 by White Crow Books.