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The story behind Afterlife Teachings of Stephen the Martyr: Part 3: The Search for the Twelve

Posted on 16 January 2019, 18:22

In preparing my book, Afterlife Teachings from Stephen the Martyr, I chose those conversations I thought to be the most helpful to those who read the book. My book could leave the impression that we were saintly people, eager to hear and to put his teachings into practice. But the truth is, that although it was often a delight to be together, somehow in the presence of a better world, we all had our faulty humanity to cope with, and his teachings often seemed beyond putting into practice. In our private lives we were sometimes guilty of questionable conduct.  We remained very human.  We were not without sin, resisting the approaches of Divine Love.

Quite soon after I joined the conversations with Stephen in September 1973, this happened: Tom the medium relapsed into deep trance. There was a deep sense of the numinous.

The hand raised in blessing: the voice loud: it is Christ who speaks.
“”Sic ecclesia spiritus sanctus.” [Thus in the church is the Holy Spirit] When the sheep are scattered in the field, and the darkness and the nighttime come, the sheep must gather together to receive comfort and warmth, and the knowing that together there is security, and there is the care of the shepherd. This you should do also.”

Awe holds us silent. The hand raised in blessing is lowered. There is a long silence, and then the two raised hands, and the smile of Stephen. “You have questions to ask?”  I did not feel able to refer directly to the words of Christ, so I said: “I am concerned about numbers of people who seem to have begun to receive from Spirit. I am walking a path I don’t remember travelling before, and I want help as to how best to support people who are beginning to respond to their receiving”.

Stephen replied: “Firstly, as you have heard from the WORD, let each of these our sheep, if they will, be gathered together. Because as you know, your strength and your learning is coming because of your joining together, and hearing from others, that which you have heard also.”

Stephen sets the Puzzle of the Twelve:

Multiply this by twelve, and you will find many of your questions will be answered with a clarity that will surprise even you, Olive.  Yes Michael? (Stephen has a broad smile on his face.)

I replied: “I see your amusement. I think you are telling me that I may be told more later about the twelve.”

“It will become apparent. You have a list. If you were to choose twelve.”

With these words Stephen was pointing to the essence of teaching and experiences that were to arrive over the years to come.

The path to that goal was strewn with our mistaken ideas, which sometimes got us into trouble.  But perhaps that belongs to the nature of things.  We nod assent to high spiritual teaching, allow our baser instincts to follow, and suffer pain. If we come to our right mind we experience the relief we experience when we stop banging against a brick wall.

I’m not sure how soon after this early conversation this occurred, but it is a good example of how we could get into trouble.

The simple fact of our having conversations with a famous person such as Stephen the Martyr, and that there were usually about twelve of us joining in, led us to think of Christ and his Twelve disciples, Stephen was like Christ and we were a special Twelve. The problem was that there were often more than twelve present. Who then were the special twelve?

So Stephen led us into temptation. “You have a list: find the twelve.”

Now, it seemed that one of our numbers had for some time been under the influence of a Pythagorean spirit. While tending knitting machines at work, he had heard an inner voice saying, “Draw God!”  This led him eventually to draw six pointed Stars of David, which he eventually superimposed on a Cabbala Tree.  He found twelve Sephriroth around the Tree. Kether, Crown was the head.  Other members of the Stephen Group were to be allocated a Sephirah each.  Something like a planchette was used to determine who had which.

Word got to Tom Ashman our medium, about what we had done. He was furious, and wanted to exclude us from conversations with Stephen. Worse still, the diagram thus drawn fell into the hands of one of our church officers.  He was outraged, and quite understandably, said that I as vicar of our church should resign. Another church officer was kind, and said that I should stay and the mattered was not pursued. Afterwards that church officer went to work in Canada.

Several years passed, and one day my wife and were looking to buy a second-hand fridge.  We were in a show room of a central city store and were startled when the church officer who had been so upset stepped from behind one of the fridges. We had a brief amicable chat, and went on our way. Later that day my wife was in a shopping mall on the other side of the city, while I stayed in the car. There, I noticed a small antique shop. I entered. There, facing me, was the church officer who had gone to work in Canada!  Again, we exchanged warm greetings, and parted

But I was soon to discover that the strange meetings with both of them on the same day had occurred on the tenth anniversary, to the very day, of our failed attempt to find the special Twelve fit to talk with Stephen.

Invisible powers had brought our friend from Canada, ourselves and the other church officer, perhaps to underline our consciousness of a spiritual mistake.

“Stephen led us into temptation”

Considering the fact that prior to our conversations with Stephen my spiritual diaries contain many pages of synchronistic receivings about “temptation” “assaying” through fiery trials, that was about to write a doctoral thesis on it all – considering all this, I could now confront the reader with a blizzard of words. Here I will content myself by remarking that Stephen said that our lives on earth are for the purpose of helping to align our spiritual selves with highest level of Spirit which we call Christ. .  He said that the physical realm was the operating theatre where God the Surgeon operated on our spiritually unconscious selves the experiences he sends us. In telling us to search for the twelve, Stephen was leading into temptation, under a fiery trial, and learn.

And we, talking with Stephen, were brought to be a little more realistic about the part we were playing in the scheme of things.

I have often brought to mind the words of St Paul to the Romans 9:19 “ I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;”

Let us be thankful for any pain that we may suffer at the hands of “God the Surgeon.”

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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There is much to be said in favour of the Kabbalah teachings. In the case of the people in our group, some of us continued to be interested in the Kabbalah, but we dropped the idea of assigning a Sephirah to each member, and realise that Stephen was hoping for us to look in other directions in our search for the Twelve.

Michael Cocks, Tue 22 Jan, 05:13

Thank you for this story Michael.

Although I know that this brief interest in Kabbalah caused many problems for the group in 1973, I find it interesting that a similar idea based on a six-fold Star of David geometry cropped up five years later… 1978, I think just as the Stephen circle was ending… in the work of Renaissance English Literature scholar Leonora Leet, who was so fascinated by this that she spent more than 30 years contemplating Kabbalah and the history of Jewish spirituality, before writing a series of books on the subject beginning in 1999.

Here for example is her second book, ‘The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah’, in which she mentions how a study of geometry led her down this line.


I guess this is just to suggest that it might not have been an evil voice talking in 1973. It might just have been a little too far ahead of the time.

Though I am very curious how to get 12 Sefirot, since even the Isaac Luria version of the Tree of Life only gets to 11. But I think it’s part of Leonora Leet’s thesis that the modern Tree may be only part of a much more ancient Jewish temple tradition.

I find it interesting to ask if Jesus’ studies in the Temple when he was 12 might have included the 1st-century equivalent of Kabbalah. His discussions with Nicodemus, for example, particular the concept of ‘second birth’ seems to resonate with the Kabbalistic idea of ‘the two births of Adam Kadmon’. In the Kabbalalistic interpretation, this would mean that ‘new new birth’ is NOT just an individual, personal affair,  but is about the rebirth of all creation… something that I think is more in line with Jesus’ teaching than that modern Protestant/Evangelical interpretation of that idea.

Nate, Sun 20 Jan, 06:20

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The Hidden Door – Introduction by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick – Accounts of dreams are as old as human history. People have always been fascinated by their own dreams, and have always looked for significance· in them. From the most ancient civilisations of Assyrians and Babylonians through to Biblical times it was believed that dreams brought messages from the gods in the form of warnings, omens and portents. In ancient Greece they were seen as prophecies, or instructions from Zeus. Read here
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