On Mediumship

Lisette Coly, President of the Parapsychology Foundation

So many mediums or channels abound on television these days. Whereas in the past, while mediumship has always existed the public at large, the public en masse, were not as familiar with the phenomenon as they are now. These days, on talk shows, reality television, and in many plot lines in both drama and comedy, references and examples of mediumship abound. But have we progressed in our understanding of the meaning and ramifications of mediumship? My grandmother Eileen J. Garrett, the founder of Parapsychology Foundation, has often been referred to as one of the best mediums of the twentieth century. When she passed in 1970 her voice was stilled, but her writings live on.

Taken from her book, Awarenessbrought back into print and available from Parapsychology Foundation’s Helix Press both in soft cover, Kindle and DVD—, it occurs to me that her attempts at trying to come to an understanding of what she was able to do might indeed be helpful as we all  continue to explore not only how it works—if it indeed does—but also its underlying meaning for us all. Here are some excerpts I selected from her commentary in Awareness. I have emphasized in italics those statements that resonate to me:

“My conflict within was whether I was indeed establishing communication with the dead?  And if so, was it the thing that ought to be done? So long as research was the issue, my questioning was appeased. Research for the purpose of establishing knowledge and understanding in the public mind was important. Convincing the individual was important, but only if that conviction allied him to the ultimate findings of true objective research.

There were many facets to the problem. I realized that while I saw the apparently living dead, it was always I who made the overtures. I also noted that the tempo of their being had to be considerably slowed down to meet my tempo, which had to be considerably quickened in order to get response from them. Of their presence, then, either in reality or in a form of reflection that took on all the semblances of reality, I had no doubt.  But it was obvious that they became relatively denatured in the lowering of their tempo—as though inhibited—when they entered the area in which exchanges between us took place. I came to believe that, at their best and in their own condition, the departed gave of themselves to humanity, in enlightenment and grace. If this were true, then continuing to ask of them, continuing to hold them in a kind of devotional bondage to do their work according to ‘our’  needs and desires, seemed wrong. I came to the conclusion that the dead are entitled to their freedom and their peace.

There seemed always to be guidance, quick and definite, if we needed it—answers to prayer and many blessings arising out of interchange between the two worlds; but a large part of our demand amounted to no more than the seeking of a sign—doubting ‘unbelievers’ in the very thing we sought. We were asking for grace on ‘our’ terms rather than accepting it at the wiser hands of those who possessed it more fully than we. There also entered my mind the possibility that out of my own symbolism I had myself unconsciously rendered some part of the supposed communication. If, by any chance, this was true, I had a lasting doubt that I should continue to carry on communication at the old level and tempo.

Eileen J. Garrett

The whole matter finally summed itself up in the conviction that, among all my psychic capacities, ‘communication’ was therefore the weakest. This is my present viewpoint. I may be mistaken. But this brief statement will explain why I gave up my mediumship work which was considered both useful and highly evidential. I should also add that I found that, on the whole, people very easily took communication for granted. Or they used it as a means of escape from the responsibilities of living. Even, sometimes, it was a game—a device used for amusement. But I saw many people progressively hurting themselves by simply presenting their problems to the departed and following the suggestions they received in response. So, I felt finally, that ‘communication” was not the way for me. And if I could see farther than those who could not see, then I must determine my own problem—which was not their problem—according to my own light.

No one who has had a life-experience at all resembling my own could possibly doubt the continuity of consciousness and the survival of the human entity after death. But in my own opinion—and I am sure this is so—there are vast differences between the entities who survive in the hereafter, just as there are vast differences between the people who are living here and now. But I believe that, apart from my point of view, all of these individualistic differences may be divided into two broad classes—those who seek the means to communication with humanity, and those who do not.

I am convinced that in the usual condition in life beyond death the interest in our current human world is no more keen and intense than is our interest in the hereafter. If we stop for a moment to consider how little thought ‘we’ give to that future condition that awaits us all, we shall realize, that generally speaking, the ‘dead’ are probably not yearning back toward the conditions of this life with any very special intensity.

There are many people who carry in their hearts so deep an affection for some dead relative or friend that an assurance of the continuity of survival, and a consequent ability to ‘contact’ the dead person, constitute a primary need of their lives. The files of psychic research societies are full of records of the fulfillment of such needs. But if I am to express honestly the values which have accrued from my own experience in years of work as a sensitive, I must frankly say that most of the people who request the services of a medium or communication are not always of this deeply affectionate and attached type.

During my years of such service, I was many times assailed by the realization that the work I was doing was of little or no value or consequence to either the living or the dead. On the one hand, in many cases the seeking of communication became a habitual and established practice. There developed, unconsciously, a psychological dependence upon the information communicated which tended to rob the inquirer of initiative and creativeness, so that his life was in danger of gradually sinking into a condition of relative lassitude and lack of personal energy. On the other hand, as one examined a great many of the communications which such persons received, it became clear that their substance was of the slightest—no more, usually, that the receiving person could have arrived at for himself if he had put his mind to it.

Such realizations as these caused me a confusion of mind at the time. Yet, I continued with the work, because I was myself in very much the same state as those inquirers of the dead—depending upon the assurances of living persons, in whom I had confidence, that the work ‘was’ of value and importance. Looking back over the years, I am of the opinion that the work ‘was’ and still is of value and importance. It is necessary  for each new development, of whatever kind, to establish itself in the common mind. Once adequately established in the general consciousness, it is then destined to be dealt with according to its deserts and according to the capacity of public opinion to receive it. Thus, through the early practice of Spiritism, we have come to a high measure of assurance of individual survival of death, and to the beginnings of scientific investigation of supersensory faculties.

I have a very real sympathy for the bereaved person whose devotion is so deep that assurance of the survival of the dead friend seems imperative if he is to accept the change which has occurred in his own life. I believe that such an assurance should be given, and I shall help distressed people in this way whenever I can. But, I am firmly of the opinion that when communication has been established, and when the assurance of it has been accepted, the whole event should be treated with gravity. Every communication should be held up to the light of reason, good sense and caution. Each communication has to make its way through the freed consciousness of the sensitive and penetrate curiosity, need, and expectancy of the received, as somewhere in the process it is possible for it to take on colors that are not strictly its own.

It seems to be obvious that the mind may sometimes draw upon the frame which has been established in the subconscious agency, and it is my opinion, that each communication must be sifted for verities and realities.  Communication cannot be an easy process even under the best circumstances. A judgment of its values should NEVER be hasty. Patience and perseverance are necessary if results are to be of sound value.

At the same time, I deeply believe that there is a positive and practical need for these communications to be studied and understood. We need to discover the methods by which communication is established between the two states of being.

 I make a sincere plea to the scientists that they have patience with the ‘follies’ of psychic researchers. Many of them  have no hesitation in condemning genuine psychic experiences, without even considering the possibilities of many legitimate claims that have been offered—offered sometimes even by their more sensitive brothers in science. To condemn the practice of communication wholesale is to condemn the very foundations on which all religion philosophy is founded—a most unscientific attitude. I earnestly ask that the scientific methods of inquiry and cautious declaration be exercised here as elsewhere.” … Eileen J. Garrett,  1943.

To  be continued…

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