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New Zealand Priest Tells of Mediumship Experiences in Book

Posted on 19 October 2011, 1:18

Not all Christian clergymen believe that messages coming to us through modern mediums are the work of the devil.  The Rev. Michael Cocks, an Anglican priest from Christchurch, New Zealand, is among the more open-minded clergyman.
During the 1970s, Cocks was one of a small group of religious friends who began gathering periodically at the modest home of Thomas and Olive Ashman in Christchurch to observe the trance mediumship of Thomas Ashman.  After Ashman went into a trance, an entity calling himself “Stephen” began talking through him.  This was not any old Stephen, but Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

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.  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.”

At one sitting, Stephen said: “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 another occasion, he was asked about reincarnation and said: “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.”

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.”

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 teachings from a saint,” he explains.

Cocks, who earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of New Zealand and a master’s in theology at Oxford University, wrote about his observations in a 2005 book titled “The Stephen Experience.” That book has now been revised, republished, and just recently released by White Crow Books as Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr.  I recently put some questions to him by e-mail.  Here are those questions and his responses:

Rev. Cocks, how did you become interested in mediumship?
“As a religious person I am primarily concerned with relationship to the God that is in all, through all, and above all. I have explored this relationship in many ways, through prayer, Bible study, reading the great mystics, such as Teilhard de Chardin and Evelyn Underhill, through consciousness studies, and through meditation. In all this I would include reading of great literature, listening to great music, and all of life’s experiences. When I was about 40 years old I had a burning desire to go deeper in my relationship with this God. While still acting as a priest, I joined a spiritual group called Subud, in order to free myself of previous conceptions of God, and encounter him afresh. After several months of participating in their spiritual exercises, I felt able to surrender to Christ at a deeper level, as a result of which I seemed able to receive guidance from Spirit in a new way. For example, on the very day I surrendered I attended a performance by a string quintet. While they played I found myself envying the abilities of each of the players, and scolded myself for it.  By my envy I was spoiling a spiritual experience. When I returned home, I went to my study, where I received mental instructions to look for a book on the floor under one of the bookcases. I was to look up page 15. On this page was Thomas Gray’s Ode for Music, where it spoke of the folly of envying the musicians, thereby spoiling a spiritual experience.  This clearly demonstrated an order of mind independent of my own head.  From then on I experienced thousands of similar mind-blowing coincidences, and I was about to embark on a doctoral thesis on the phenomenon, when I received a book of prophecies about myself from a stranger in the North Island.  I received these prophecies about the same day that Stephen the Martyr broke through the consciousness of Thomas Ashman.

“Shortly after that the Ashmans came from England to live in New Zealand. Three months later I met his wife, Olive, by chance. She invited me home to talk to Stephen as mediated by her husband. These conversations with Stephen continued between 1973 and 1980.”.

Isn’t mediumship frowned upon, even considered demonic, by the church you serve? 
“Traditional churches like the Catholic, Episcopalian/Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and so on, are composed of people of all ages, all levels of education and spiritual development. These churches on the whole, even if they so wished, are not successful in controlling the private lives of their congregations, who if asked, would express a bewildering variety of often conflicting beliefs. In short, in the Anglican/Episcopalian churches you will find people who would accept mediumship, and other people who would think it suspect, or even demonic. In 1937, in the UK, there was published a report on Doctrine in the Church of England. Apparently in preparation for this report, there was a committee of eminent churchmen considering the question of mediumship. The majority were of the opinion that mediums were sometimes genuine, and that one could obtain valid information about spirit through them. A minority disagreed.  The report was however shelved for fear of a backlash from conservative Anglicans.”

Would you mind describing the modus operandi of Ashman’s mediumship?
“It seems that Ashman was initially taken over involuntarily by Stephen. On many subsequent occasions, it was sufficient for Tom to pray for protection, and then to allow himself to go into trance. After a few minutes Stephen would seem to take over, greet us, and the conversations would begin.  More often than not, Thomas would be unaware that anything had happened. At the end of a session, he would drowsily ask to be told what had happened. Often he had to wait a week, until transcriptions of Stephen’s words had been made available. On the occasions when Tom was semi conscious, he would interrupt Stephen to ask a question. In 1980 Stephen indicated that he had finished his teaching. I understand that after that Tom couldn’t function as a medium.”

Did you ever suspect Ashman of being a charlatan?
“Not really. He acted as a medium only for Stephen, and only for a small private group. He was obviously moved by what he was experiencing, and also changed by it. His hearers did have critical minds, and we often discussed whether what we were hearing came from Tom or from Stephen. The personality of Stephen was very different from that of Tom; what Stephen said sometimes contradicted what Tom believed.  Stephen’s teaching was of a high order, and we frequently experienced striking and complicated synchronicities that gave us experience of what Stephen was describing in words.

“In my book, many pages are given over to discussing the meaning and implications of words of Stephen spoken in a little known version of Attic Greek of 2000 years ago. The implications were complex and needed elucidation through study of certain Dead Sea Scrolls, and through study of relevant scholarly works.  Nearly everything that Stephen said, usually in English, but three times in Greek, was consistent with what we learned through scholarly studies. Ashman was intelligent, but certainly not a learned man. Taking what Stephen said in either language as a whole, we would conclude that it would be impossible for Ashman, or any living person, to have produced the material.”

Do you really believe that St. Stephen and Jesus communicated through Ashman?
“Yes I do really believe that we were hearing from St Stephen and Jesus.  And I say this for the same reasons that I conclude that neither Tom nor any living person could have fabricated the evidence that Stephen supplied in his communications.  In saying this we need to be familiar with what Stephen says about the relation between spirit and the physical.  Such a familiarity would prompt us to nuance our affirmation with reference to the oneness of Spirit, and the corporateness of apprehension of truth. The constant synchronicities that we were experiencing in relationship to the teaching of Stephen demand such nuancing.”

Why did you wait so long to write the book?
“We were trying to write such a book while our conversations with Stephen were continuing. And there have been subsequent attempts. The problem was to get the material into a form that readers could follow, and in a form that a publisher would be prepared to print. I was also fearful of my fellow clergy, imagining their reactions to my producing such a book. In 2001 an open-minded skeptic was impressed by the scholarship of my book, and offered to publish it.

Three hundred copies were sold of that edition. Now White Crow is publishing a much more readable version, thanks to many discussions with the publisher, Jon Beecher, and my philosopher son, Richard Cocks.”

How have your fellow clergymen reacted to your book?
“In fact a number of clergy have been supportive, both with regard to my book, and also to my journal The Ground of Faith, where Spirit is considered from the point of view of experience, and of science.”

What effect has Stephen had on your life?

“My life has been transformed.”

Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr is published by White Crow books and available from Amazon and all good online book stores.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.












I’ve started reading “Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr,” and I’m grateful to have been introduced to this profound and personable being.  Thank you to Rev. Cocks for bringing him to our attention, and to Mike for spreading the word.

Elene Gusch, Sun 6 Nov, 08:22

I am also an Anglican clergyman in New Zealand,
and find this report of great interest.  It seems
to me that too many people dismiss this subject simply because they have closed minds. We should always be on the lookout for truth, for truth—wherever we find it—comes from God.

Reg Nicholson, Fri 28 Oct, 09:14

It seems to me that “Jesus” is probably one of many advanced “Spiritual Masters” who now, or perhaps forever, has accepted the responsibility of working with folks on Earth, and perhaps elsewhere - to educate us about the “Afterlife, communication with same, how we should live to best prepare for the Afterlife, etc.

“Stephen” is no doubt right up there with “Jesus” and others in terms of advice and information he can provide ...

This is only one anecdotal experience, as described by Rev. Cocks, of many similar   experiences, as described by others, throughout history.

This experience has “transformed” Rev. Cocks life - the Bible has “transformed” many lives -  People with Near Death Experiences, etc., often say the same ...

To me, this story and Rev. Cocks’ Book should be a front page story of every newspaper and magazine in the world ...

As far as the question “what do your fellow clergy have to say”? - my answer would be “I do not really care” ...

I have not yet read Rev. Cocks’ book, but I hope a number of obvious questions were asked, that “Jesus” or “Stephen” perhaps would have clarified.

Wonderful story!!!

RBB (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Richard Brannon, Fri 21 Oct, 22:23

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