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Maurice Barbanell's Memories of Mediumship

Photo from Spirit Healing (1960) by Harry Edwards: "Doctors observe the freeing of the joints of a spastic child."
Diverse occurrences associated with 'psychic phenomena' are recounted in Maurice Barbanell's memoirs Power of the Spirit (1949) and This is Spiritualism (1959).  Maurice wrote in the Foreword of the later book: "As Editor of two psychic journals, I have been invited to many seances that are not usually available to ordinary inquirers . . . I began my inquiry into Spiritualism as a sceptic, with a bias towards incredulity . . . My ambition was to carve out a successful commercial career and make a fortune.  Fate, however, had other plans."

Maurice reported about the cases of 'supernormal activity' he had observed firsthand and knew to be authentic due to such occasions as him having "received spirit messages through different mediums, each confirming what has been said through the other, though normally none of them could have known what had transpired at the other seances."

Maurice explained in This Is Spiritualism:

I write this book for the same reason that all my adult life has been spent in addressing public meetings in every large town in this country, in the U.S.A., Canada and on the Continent, and in contributing articles to national newspapers and journals published at home and abroad.  What is my reason?  I have come into possession of startling facts which have revolutionized the whole of my outlook on religion and philosophy and, indeed, on life itself.

The following passage is the beginning of the first chapter "Beyond The Five Senses." 

Mediumship is the unique contribution that Spiritualism has to offer.  It provides the foundation of evidence from which everything else in Spiritualism follows.  It is, in my view, the basis of demonstrable fact which the honest enquirer can ascertain for himself.

Preceding blog articles report about Maurice's acquaintances with mediums Margery Crandon, Helen Duncan (1, 2), Helen Hughes and Estelle Roberts (1, 2); 'psychic artists' Frank Leah and Coral Polge; and 'psychic photographers' Ada Emma Deane, William Hope and John Myers.  The memoirs provide details of incidents in Maurice's life involving dozens of people experiencing different forms of mediumship, including clairvoyance/clairaudience, automatic writing, and 'psychic healing' (or 'spiritual healing').  The following quoted passages in this article are from Power of the Spirit.

Maurice wrote about England's famous healer Harry Edwards:

This modern saint—a description which I consider wholly justified—divides his time between giving public healing demonstrations in some of the largest halls in Britain, treating patients at his sanctuary thrice weekly and answering a mailbag that at the time I write this has reached the astonishing figure of 4,000 letters a week which pour in from sufferers all over the world.

It was soon after he began his inquiry into Spiritualism that Edwards was told he possessed the gift of healing.  He followed the usual rules laid down for the unfolding of incipient mediumship by joining a developing circle which held regular seances.  It was not long before his gift was strong enough for him to demonstrate to sufferers that he could really help them.  As we all know, nothing succeeds like success.  One cured patient told another and the numbers of those who sought his ministry began to swell.

The spectacular public demonstrations are a recent innovation which started unexpectedly in a small Spiritualist church in Baker Street.

From that small beginning, he has reached the stage where it is usual for him to demonstrate psychic healing before audiences of two thousand people and more at least once a fortnight.  I, who have witnessed four of these demonstrations, regard them as being among the most remarkable happenings of my long psychic career.

To one demonstration in Manchester I brought a friend who has spent forty years in giving manipulations.  He watched with fascination while Edwards took a man's arm made almost rigid by rheumatoid arthritis.  In a few seconds the healer lifted the bended arm above the patient's shoulder and the sufferer was touching the back of his own head.  This was done without causing a twinge of pain.  Afterwards my friend and I saw this man, who had still not recovered from his amazement at the moving of an arm which had been rigid for years.
"What Edwards did in that case," said my friend, "is 'impossible.'  It proves that some supernormal power was at work.  No ordinary individual could have moved that arm without causing great pain."

Let me describe what I have seen accomplished.  At one of his first demonstrations at Tooting, South-West London, I was asked to give an address beforehand.  Then Edwards followed with a simple explanation that he was the medium for a spirit power which was able to help sufferers.  Next he asked for volunteers for healing, choosing two or three people in each category of disease where treatment could be demonstrated, to come forward one at a time.

Edwards always asks for the "incurables" to be treated, the ones who have made all the rounds and have been told their cases are hopeless.

For over an hour and a half I watched him at work.  Within a few moments, after only a few passes had been made over her ears, a woman who had been deaf from childhood was able to repeat the words he spoke, even though he repeatedly increased the distance he stood from her.  Similar successes were achieved in cases of blind people who were soon able to describe the colour, shape and details of objects which previously they could not see.

I recall two cases of patients suffering from curvature of the spine, an affliction which, alas, is easily discernible.  A young woman sat on a chair with her back to the audience.  Edwards outlined the curvature with his fingers.  He placed one hand over the affected region, put his other arm round the patient and seemed to jerk one hand.  That was all.  Yet now her back was almost straight.  The woman felt no pain, but so intense was the concentrated power that streamed through the healer that he was covered with perspiration.

. . . Edwards makes no charge for his services.  He accepts voluntary donations towards the upkeep of his sanctuary, but until recently the expenditure exceeded the income.  The deficit was made good from a printing business in which he was formerly engaged but which is now directed by his brother.

The last time he compiled statistics he discovered that eighty per cent of his patients reported improvement and thirty per cent testified that they had been cured.  And remember that the large majority of correspondents are of the class described as incurable.  Now it is not uncommon to find letters from doctors seeking help for themselves, relatives and patients.

Another healing medium profiled by Maurice in his book is trance healer Mrs. Margaret Lyon of Glasgow, "the woman who can X-ray with her eyes shut."  Maurice mentioned that the manifesting 'guide' was known by the name 'Kahasdee,' a pen name which translated means 'I serve.'  Some accounts of successful treatments of sufferers are related in the book.

I, who have spoken to Kahasdee, can testify that she is a separate individual from her medium.  She possesses a wide range of medical knowledge, is familiar with all the technical phraseology used by doctors and is conversant with the latest research on the subject.  She speaks softly and works with a competence that is highly impressive.  Her sense of humour is of the quiet variety, except that she chats merrily all the time she gives treatment.  Typical of her humour is her statement, "I expect I am the chattiest ghost you have ever met."

"I was taught by a Jesuit priest who had belonged to Stonyhurst College," she told me.  She was a [Japanese] woman doctor attached to the royal household at Korea in 1895, at the time it was attacked by the Japanese.  The invaders burned and buried alive the queen and all members of the royal household.  Kahasdee ended her earthly life at the early age of twenty-three as a result of exposure.

Kahasdee has stated that she had attached herself to Mrs. Lyon for the best part of her medium's life.  The spirit doctor knew that it would need some great experience, like the sorrow caused by her son's passing, to pave the way for her mission to begin.

For the last ten years, she [Mrs. Lyon] has specialized in utilising her healing gift.  Kahasdee's skill in diagnoses has brought her in touch with some of Glasgow's leading medical practitioners.  She asserts that when patients consult her, their bodies are transparent to her spirit gaze and thus diagnoses and treatments are simplified.

Generally, the treatment consists in laying on of hands, by means of which the spirit doctor says she transmits spirit power to the affected parts of the body.

When it comes to cases of arthritis, Kahasdee resorts to manipulation.  Bearing in mind that her son's passing by tuberculosis was the means by which Mrs. Lyons was drawn to psychic healing, it is interesting to record Kahasdee's statement that this disease is the easiest to cure.  She declares that it only takes fifteen minutes for the spirit rays to become effective.

Apart from healing at a distance, Mrs. Lyon told me that personal treatment is given to four thousand people each year.  When a sick person first consults the medium, an hour is devoted to the case, because a diagnosis is necessary.  After that, treatment generally lasts about half an hour.  A charge is made except where the patient is unable to pay it.  No case is ever refused because of lack of means.

Helen Duncan is among the well-known mediums whose seances were personally witnessed by Maurice Barbanell and among his books is The Case of Helen Duncan (1945).  Helen was known as a 'materialization' (or 'physical') trance medium.  Maurice recalled:

I must have sat at her seances at least a score of times, and these include one memorable occasion at which a remarkable demonstration of her faculty for materialization was given a few hours before her trial.  At the zenith of her powers, Helen Duncan's mediumship produced full-form materialisations that were completely identifiable.  I recall the appearance of my old friend, Alfred Vout Peters, one of the outstanding clairvoyants of his day.  Peters materialised and I saw his face, complete even to his moustache and beard, which at his request I handled.  Not only was there evidence of identity in the appearance of these solid-looking spirit forms, but frequently I have heard them give their names and mention incidents that added to their testimony.

In Power of the Spirit accounts of Direct Voice seances include those of medium Frank Decker in New York City and in England during a visit. Maurice remembered:

I was on a lecture tour in America when he [Frank Decker] invited me to attend a voice seance which was held in a cellar, the coolest place available, but even then the temperature registered ninety five degrees!
Decker's spirit control is Patsy, a perky and vivacious youth whose wit and repartee produce rounds of laughter.  Because of the heat, I had left my jacket in a room two floors above the cellar.  

In the jacket was an envelope containing four photographs purchased that afternoon at a museum.  During the seance Maurice found himself suddenly handed a postcard while Patsy was heard to say: "I have brought the one of Joan of Arc.  I like your choice."

There was on one postcard, a reproduction of a painting of the Maid of Orleans listening to the voices of her spirit inspirers, one of whom was depicted.  When the seance ended, I went up the two flights of stairs to the room where my jacket lay.  I took out the envelope in which previously there had been four postcards.  Now there were only three.
Patsy does not hesitate or fumble.  He makes positive statements, such as the following which I recorded, "Your grandfather John is here and he wants to send messages to your sister Emily, your aunt Susan, and your nephew Henry."  I counted a score of spirit voices, each different and characteristic, always giving evidence that they emanated from those who are called dead.  One spirit voice maintained a long conversation in a foreign language with a sitter, who afterwards told me that it was Polish.

. . . he ['Patsy' or 'They'] removed, unerringly in the dark, a pair of spectacles from the nose of one woman and placed them on another who was already wearing a pair.  He handed me a harmonica, which I was asked to put inside my pocket and then cover the musical instrument with my hand.  While I did so Patsy played a tune on it!  He showed what he called his spirit light, a soft ball of phosphorescence which appeared in different parts of the room.  Another surprise was a welcome breath of cold air . . .

This strong, cool breeze, accompanied by the scent of violets, was wafted round the circle.

The climax of the seance was a demonstration by another guide who, unlike Patsy, spoke in a deep, cultured voice.  He asked two members of the circle to take their seats, one on each knee of the medium in the middle of the room, while I stood behind Decker.  "Where is my voice coming from?" boomed the guide.  "From the right of me," answered the man on Frank's left knee.  "Where is it now?" was the next question.  "From my left," was the answer by the same man.  Then, making his voice travel right round the circle, the spirit guide repeated his question.
A few months later, on a visit to this country, Frank gave a sitting in my flat.  Soon after the first spirit voice was heard, we had to make a break in the seance because brilliant sunlight was filtering through the curtains.  We tried to make the room completely dark, but we were unsuccessful.  Streaks of light were visible during the rest of the seance.  Yet there was a remarkable variety of phenomena.
This seance was held shortly after an International Spiritualist Congress, to which a lawyer, G. C. Sajnani, had come from India.  He was addressed by his fiancee, who had died in the terrible Quetta earthquake.  It was a touching moment when she told Sajnani that she heard his nightly prayer and mentioned its chief request.  "Krishna, Krishna," she called to him in pleading tones, "this is your Krishna."  Her body was buried beneath the debris of an earthquake five thousand miles away, but she had successfully communicated with the man she loved in a London flat which they had both visited for the first time.  While an affectionate reunion took place between them, these two seemed to be the only real persons in the room.  Sajnani told me that not only was the pronunciation of her name striking evidence, but that she gave the name of her dead sister, which was unknown to anyone in England, and referred to his mother's spirit presence.

A friend of mine who had arrived from America the previous day was invited to attend, to have her first experience of a seance.  She and her sister were asked by their dead mother's voice to stand up.  The mother was able to materialise sufficiently to embrace both daughters and to kiss them.

Lastly, Patsy enlivened the proceedings with a demonstration of what he could do when he really tried.  Three men were asked to sit on the medium's knees and to control his hands, while all the other sitters had to clasp the hands of their neighbours.  Thus everybody in the flesh was accounted for.  Then the fun began.  Coats were removed from two sitters and thrown across the room to two others.  A necklace was taken from one woman's neck and placed round that of another.  A row of pearls was unfastened and handed to somebody seated in the opposite direction.  In response to a mental request, Patsy removed treasury notes from one man's pocket and placed them in the hands of a sitter ten feet away.  These feats were accomplished without any trace of fumbling.

Patsy sat on the lap of one man, who declared that he could feel the guide's face and hair.  There was laughter as each sitter announced what was happening during Patsy's playful performance, with a reporter recording each statement as it was made.  Finally, he declared that he could not do any more recording because Patsy had stolen his note-book!

The following passage from Power of the Spirit again reminds the reader of the gamut of manifested phenomena universally witnessed and documented throughout America and Europe with the commencement of the modern Spiritualism Movement during the mid-19th Century.

By way of a contrast let me tell you about a home circle which developed the direct voice.  It was a joint mediumship belonging to Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Hodges, the husband being a hairdresser in Brighton.  They started a developing circle with friends as regular sitters, determined to get the direct voice if it was possible.  Once a week for four years they met and held their usual seance.  There was no indication that psychic powers were being developed by the Hodges.  If there was any suggestion that a sitter might go into trance or give clairvoyance the Hodges discouraged it at once because they thought it might retard to coming of the direct voice.  They continued to sit patiently until they received their reward.  First they felt the cold psychic breezes that are characteristic of the physical phenomena of Spiritualism.  They then heard what sounded like the snapping of fingers.  Finally, there came the Voice.

At the seances I attended, husband and wife remained normal and conversed with the spirit voices, which were distinctive and characteristic of their owners.  When a breezy voice acclaimed me with, "Hullo, Mate!" I recognized the speaker immediately.  So that he should provide the evidence, I asked, "Tell them what I did for you."  Without hesitation came the reply, "You put my body into the grave."  That was true.  He was an old fisherman named Bridges, a member of a Spititualist church at Southend-on-Sea, who had made me promise to conduct his funeral.  This may sound gruesome to the non-Spiritualist, but at the time of writing I have made at least a score of similar promises.  Spiritualists do not regard death with the dread that fills other people when they contemplate its coming.

Several times during one seance I heard two and three voices speaking simultaneously, with the Hodges breaking into the conversation.

Before the sitting, when we were having tea, the heavy table on which all the food was laid—and I am referring to pre-war days—was levitated in full light!  It rose several inches clear of the ground.  After the seance while we were discussing this phenomenon, the table was levitated again.  I tried to raise it myself, but could shift it only a little with the utmost effort.

Maurice was able to observe British medium Mary Methven at a sitting where he "received first-class evidence of Survival from friends and relatives who had passed on."  Mary was "a trance medium who has consoled and helped hundreds of people."  Maurice wrote about the Mary Methven seance:

My father, who frequently communicates at seances, proved his identity and repeated the nickname by which only he and other members of my family knew me in my youth.  I had not heard it for over thirty years.
The Red Indian guide of my own home circle manifested and cleverly indicated his identity.

Another good communicator was my mother-in-law, whose references to her daughter and to myself were both characteristic and evidential.  And her messages were similar in content to those she has sent through other mediums.
I felt, when the seance ended, that though they were invisible to me the room was filled with living presences who had triumphed over death to prove their closeness.

One of the well-known clairvoyant mediums with whom Maurice Barbanell was acquainted is Tom Tyrell of Blackburn, England.  A passage from Power of the Spirit offers a remembrance of his mediumship.

As a young man, I went, while on holiday, to a Spiritualist church in Paignton, and Tom was giving clairvoyance.  He specialised in reading memorial cards.  His recital included the full name of the communicator, the address where he had lived on earth, complete with the number of the house, the street or road, the district and town, the age when he passed on and the date, and a word-by-word recital of the memorial card. 

. . . he had another extraordinary gift.  Small articles, such as coins or a penknife, would fly from his pockets and be scattered all over the floor.  Sometimes they would vanish and be hidden where no one could find them and later on they would as mysteriously reappear.  He used to joke with his friends by getting them to make a search of his pockets to be sure there were no holes in them.  Then he would ask them to fill the pockets with coins.  As fast as the money was put into his pockets the coins fell to the ground. 

The power of the spirit takes many forms. . . .

In the final pages of Power of the Spirit, Maurice Barbanell wrote about "personal application" in relation to "the power of the spirit" revealed through many and varied forms of mediumship.  Here are some of the insights shared by the author
As a spiritual being, you are an integral part of the infinite spirit which is responsible for the whole of the universe and all the manifold activities which it embraces.  You are part of the vast cosmic power which controls every facet of universal life.  You are God, and God is you.  By virtue of your spiritual nature, you are in possession of an eternal relationship with God which no event in life or death can sever.

If we practice goodness, kindness, toleration and unselfishness, we are better off, because our spiritual natures thrive as a result. 

When these facts are known by all mankind, then the whole of the earthly scene will be transformed. 

The world will have realised that malnutrition and slums are not consistent with man's spirit.  And the body, the temple to the spirit, will live in conditions more appropriate to its setting as the casket of a brilliant jewel. 

The same spirit which is within you is within every human being in the world.  This is a divine and eternal relationship, stronger than the ties of blood or family.  They will not persist, but our spiritual relationship will endure for ever.

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Maurice Barbanell's Memories of Mediumship


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