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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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The story behind Afterlife Teachings of Stephen the Martyr: Part 2

Posted on 10 January 2019, 18:19


White Crow Publisher, Jonathan Beecher, invited me to write a blog on what convinced me that we were truly hearing from Stephen the Martyr, and at first I thought that the best thing I could do would be to refer once again to an issue of The Ground of Faith, where I study some dialectical Ancient Greek that Stephen had implied that he had spoken to Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, on the occasion that Stephen, after spending a two year novitiate, was to join a group of Essenes called Nazarenes in Galilee. Other linguist experts at least ruled out fraud on the part of the medium, and that the words were genuinely from the period of time in which Stephen had lived.  For me, struggling with the enormity of the proposition that we were really and truly hearing from the historical Stephen, the Greek words were decisive It had to be Stephen.

In the séances we had before us the physical presence of medium Tom Ashman, a London Jew, faulty like the rest of us, and out of his mouth came came English words allegedly spoken by Stephen. Certainly the teachings were fine, and often conflicting with the opinions of Tom Ashman when he was awake. But how much was his mind mixed up with the teachings we were hearing? I wondered whether we could talk with Stephen in another language, (which Tom didn’t understand.)  When I suggested this Tom was offended, thinking I was accusing him of faking things. In spite of this, in the next session began with Greek words that even an advanced academic linguist would have struggled to construct.

But Tom never accepted the significance of the Greek, and neither did his wife Olive. Such study they maintained was valueless, and that to focus on the Greek was to focus away from the spiritual message of Stephen. Another non-linguist couple in the group were also opposed, and were sharply critical. They maintained that Tom was having us on. They never relented in their opinions.  So I, in turn, felt hurt, because I was to consult many academic authorities about his words which yielded such interesting information about Stephen’s Celtic origin, and the circumstances in which he had Joined Joseph and Mary in the Nazarene sect of the Essences in Galilee. When I wrote my book about Stephen I included the results of my studies of Stephen’s Greek, defending myself against incredulous eyes of my clergy peers. Two Anglican bishops were in fact willing to support the proposition that our encounter with Stephen was real. In their book about Stephen, Tom and his wife Olive made no mention of the Greek.

The words in question were the subject of scholarly study for thirty years. The consensus was that they genuinely belonged to the early First Century CE, that they could not have been put together in modern times. They only make sense, if, as already said, Stephen had spoken them to Joseph as he joined the Essenes.

The two non-linguist couples never varied in their dismissal of the Greek, and I continue to feel hurt and baffled by it.

So we are no longer friends then? On the contrary, we have remained close friends for getting towards fifty years.

So, how am I to answer Jonathan Beecher’s question? For a while I have felt conflicted about how to answer. To make things harder I have been thinking during a period when I was celebrating my ninetieth birthday was being celebrated, when we were writing Christmas greetings and finding presents. Three Christmas parties, several Christmas services.  Two friends were very sick and needed to be visited. I spent some days at the bedside of a dying friend, and of course time with this wife. We spent time with elderly friends. The Christmas period is stressful for most of us, and ours was also.

It is now the New Year, and I am recovering from the stress. Such a stressful December, and so tired I became. But do I regret the last weeks? I do not, because there was much love given and received,

Now, in the course of our conversations with Stephen, we asked him what we should call our proposed book containing his teaching. He suggested a very short title, “Us”.His answer was in line with the prayer he taught us; “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.”

The prime truth about us all, is that we are children of God, Who is in all, through all, and above all.  Stressful Christmas is a time when we celebrate our oneness with our friends and relatives, where we cultivate every relationship we can.

For very many years, if you asked me what ultimately convinced me of the reality of Stephen, I would have referred to my studies of his Greek, but the events of the last month have led me to change my mind.
While I would still maintain that Greek can provide intellectual proof for receptive minds, the real proof is the love to which he bears witness, along with Jesus and the great mystics of all religions and all times.

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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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.

Paperback               Kindle




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W. T. Stead: Spiritual Lectures From the Afterlife – SPIRITUAL LECTURES Comprising a SERIES OF TWELVE LECTURES on various subjects from W. T. STEAD Read here
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