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The story behind Afterlife Teachings of Stephen the Martyr: Part 1

Posted on 04 January 2019, 10:12

As Athene Sprang Fully Formed from the Head of Zeus

As Athene sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus, so the spirit of Stephen the Martyr emerged from the ocean of relationships that we call God, in all through and above all. Currents in this ocean swept almost a dozen of us into all those years of conversations between dimensions of consciousness, 1973 to 1980.

Looking back over the first forty years of my life, it seems clear to me that the important experiences of my life were drawing me towards this inter-dimensional encounter. Others of my participating friends also had their stories, drawing them to the Stephen experience, but I shall begin with the experiences I know most intimately: my own. 

I was born on a Sunday, and baptised on Christmas Day. My father was an open-minded clergyman, whose spirituality was nurtured by the (mainly) Christian mystics. Teilhard de Chardin, Evelyn Underhill, Julian or Norwich, Simone Wel, Martin Buber, and more. Listening to an all-inclusive God.

Over my bed, as a child, I had a large reproduction of a painting by Harold Copping, of a kneeling Infant Samuel, saying, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

One day when I was two years old, the pine plantation around our vicarage in Mount Somers caught fire, and numbers of people in the village came to save our house. They succeeded, but tragically, one fire fighter died of a heart attack, and, I am told, they laid his body on a table in our house. In the middle of all this, an expensive toll call was received from faraway Christchurch: it was my grandmother, who had sensed that something was very wrong.

Perhaps, from this, I developed an obsession for experimenting, with telepathy, thinking that was a way of demonstrating the reality of the world of Spirit. This fitted in with what a loved great aunt was telling me about the writings of the great Swedish Scientist-Mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg.  When I was reading Theology at Oxford, one of the highlights was high tea with Gilbert Murray, of Oxford Dictionary fame, who lived not far away from our hall of residence.  He told me about telepathy experiments he had conducted with his daughter Mary. His   daughter read Russian in the original, and when she asked him what scene she was envisaging in a Russian text, Gilbert correctly replied, “You are thinking of a man sitting in a Viennese restaurant, eating female lobsters. “ That gave me more satisfaction than any theological treatise!

I had found my studies in New Zealand of greater interest, philosophy, psychology, English literature Latin, French and Greek, all giving me ample opportunity to think about the nature of mind.  My thesis was on the Jewish philosopher-mystic, Martin Buber and his book “I and Thou.”

For my 21st birthday, my parents gave me, “The Book of Margery Kempe” This early Christian mystic who died in 1439, and whose life largely overlapped with that of the better known Julian of Norwich. I was fascinated how she had heard teachings from God, and had something in common with Emmanuel Swedenborg, who also “heard from God.”

From childhood, I had a never-ending desire to prove the reality of Spirit, and to hear from God. But I was not diligent in prayer, I think because my physical mind got too much in the way. I was sometimes a good friend, and sometimes competitiveness and lack of empathy got in the way. I sometimes forgot to be grateful for many kinds of generosity I received from others, I was not a good team player, I say all this, to emphasise that although I was not a bad person, I was not as “good” as one might have imagined, given my obsession with hearing from God.

“Good” or not, the currents of Spirit continued to draw us to our encounter with Stephen.  Although there is much that is precious in our hymns, and the readings we have from Scripture, I sought to find Spirit for myself, putting concern about church doctrines to one side. I was attracted to Buddhist methods of meditation, and a spirituality focusing on love of Spirit or God, and neighbour, and avoiding judgement. In my ministry I hope I was helpful at least those sympathetic to such simple spirituality.

While an active vicar, I also participated in an Indonesian based Islamic group called Subud, where the emphasis was on submitting to a God which they refrained from defining. After almost two years, in their spiritual exercise room, I was able too drop my defences against Spirit. It felt like a little death. On the evening following this experience, I attended a performance by a string quartet. I found myself envying the musicians for their great skills, and then chiding myself for thus spoiling a spiritual experience. Went I got home I went to my study where there were many sets of bookshelves. Instructions came into my mind that I should look on the floor under one of the bookcases, where I would find a blue covered book. I was to look up a certain page, and a certain line. It turned out to be a book of poems by Thomas Gray, with Ode for Music at the indicated page. The poem advised against envying the musicians, thereby spoiling a spiritual experience. I took this as strong evidence that I was participating in a wider consciousness than my own.

I began noticing many other remarkable synchronicities, which I describe in my book Into the Wider Dream. They led me to agree with the sentiments of the well-known hymn, St Patrick’s Breastplate, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me…”

Stephen was to give us a prayer, with similar meaning: “Lord, let me forget that I am me. Let me know that I am with thee. Let me not separate myself from Thee because I am me.” My analytical mind wanted to make an academic study of this, and my subject of study was accepted as a thesis towards a Doctorate in Divinity at the University of Melbourne. I had collected much material for such a study, but did not proceed, because of an unexpected visitor.
In May 1973 a relative, Patricia Matson, knocked on my study door to hand me a black note book.  Natalie Copinga, A friend of hers, in Te Puke, in the North Island of New Zealand (I live in Christchurch in the South Island) had prepared a book of prophecies specifically about myself.  The prophecies related to the Apocalypse, of the Book of Revelations of St John. I would witness the Second Coming, and that I an others belonged to the church of Thyatira, whose main function was teaching. 

I did not know what to make of all this, and mystified, I put it to one side.

But it was that same month, and I think the same day, that Stephen the Martyr made himself known to Olive and Tom Ashman who were at that time living in Sevenoaks, Kent in England.  Olive heard her sleeping husband uttering the words, “Sic Ecclesia est Spiritus Sanctus” “Thus in the Church is the Holy Spirit”.  The next day Tom appeared able to go into trance, with Olive as questioner.  So the conversations with Stephen began.

Just three months later, 18,900 kilometres away, in Christchurch NZ, I felt the urge for the first time to visit the Bycroft Psychic Library.  There, acting as librarian, was Olive Ashman, She mentioned her conversations with Stephen and invited me to participate. I was very interested to do so.

The currents in the ocean of Spirit are very accurate in their timing. If I had not thought to visit that library that day, the Stephen experience might not have occurred and Natalie Copinga might have prophesied in vain. Currents of Spirit were soon to draw a number of spiritually alive and creative people to participate in these conversations. We were all very human and flawed, and sometimes behaved in ways unworthy of people receiving teaching at such a high level.  Our failures really troubled me.  But I now see these lapses and troubles as necessary fires of purification that we need to experience   to achieve the growth in love, empathy and self-understanding. We, with our flounderings and mistakes cannot be other than “in Christ”, the agent that brings all things into being.  In one sense there is “good and evil”, in another sense “God is working his purpose out.”

To be continued ...

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.

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