48 JUNE 2004   THIN ICE?

Thin ice?
If you are subscribing to this journal, you are probably not sceptical about Spirit. You may well agree that the churches are essential in their ways of producing  lives inspired by the Spirit that was in Jesus, lives where we love and serve our neighbour, where we play one's part in making a better world, where we pray for guidance, pray for others, where we worship and give thanks. Perhaps we can agree that these things and more are central or should be,  to our spiritual progress.

      It is not the intention of this journal to detract from any of this, but rather to examine the wider background of philosophic and scientific thought, which so influences our understanding of the Gospel, and indeed our belief in it.
      A Swede, Harry Månsus, called one of his books Den kosmiska katedralen, "The cosmic cathedral": "About spiritual search in an open landscape.. the paths are many... Christian faith.. twelve steps spirituality..." (and we could add the light QM theorists show on spirituality, but also literature and all the arts, music and science, medicine, and most of all, our individual human experiences.) "I want us to sit down together for a bit, where the paths meet, and share our experiences."  ....as we would like to do in this Journal.

  But much too often we find ourselves on thin ice. As a preacher I have encountered a number of barriers to entering the open landscape: There are the literalists in the congregation, who cannot accept that knowledge of Spirit can come from anywhere except the Bible, there are the unconscious materialists, strongly influenced by the majority of scientists under the spell of the inadequate philosophy of reductionism.

  And of course there is a strong prejudice against anything slightly smacking of "spiritualism".   There is a deathly silence from both literalists and materialists about 20th century physics, and its new and often spiritual understandings of reality. A similar deathly silence about psychic research. A huge literature of personal experience, often recounted by highly educated and trustworthy minds, disappears without trace. (Yes, there is ever so much rubbish that is called "psychic". There is also a mass of true gold.)

  So how do we produce church newspapers, how do we communicate amongst the churches, in face of this willful silence?  Are not our spiritual lives the poorer because of it?

40Lets skate on thin ice, in spite of it.

  Last month, May, Friends of the Scientific and Medical Network led by physicist Dr Leo Hobbis and the Rev. Dr David Bell, organised a seminar in Auckland, to study Part Two of my book The Stephen Experience. The book recounts conversations with the first Christian martyr St. Stephen. Part Two details a long scholarly study of words in his own dialect of Koine Greek as spoken in Thrace. Two university Greek scholars had pronounced the words genuine, and in view of the unusual words and revelations of details of Stephen's life, impossible for a living person to construct.  There were 19 at the seminar, including four physicists, artists, a doctor, a psychotherapist, two counsellors, a doctoral philosophy student, a leading Theosophist, and one other clergyman. Used as members were to standards of scholarly research, I expected them to resist the evidence. But the evidence was accepted. Instead members mainly concentrated on the experience of Stephen, and its implications. It was rewarding and encouraging to have letters afterwards, saying how significant the experience had been.  It was a great experience to feel heard and accepted. In such company I felt safe. Would I have felt safe, I wonder,  if seminar participants had all been clergy with their varying theological positions?

Click to study the Stephen Experience  site. Should Christians take such experiences seriously in thinking about our faith, or not?

41   Report of the Auckland [NZ] Friends of the Scientific and Medical Network's seminar studying The Stephen Experience

In that Stephen's Greek was spoken through a channel, it is called "xenoglossy".

42 Read excerpt on Xenoglossy from Victor Zammit's Book:

  Now for more hard evidence of survival. In the book now to be mentioned, amongst many phenomena, there are other examples of xenoglossy.  Once again we are challenged to decide whether we are dealing with fact. If it is fact, should not literalists and materialists not take such happenings into consideration whether thinking about what is real?

43 MATTHEW MANNING THE LINK The extraordinary gifts of a teenage psychic. Colin Smythe 1974.

  "Matthew Manning has been an outsider since he was eleven. It was then that strange phenomena manifested themselves in his presence. Dr George Owen, one of the leading authorities on poltergeist phenomena, had comfort for the unhappy parents: it would all stop in a few weeks and life would be back to normal.... When Matthew was fifteen, the phenomena recurred, more powerfully than before and far more disturbing. By now Matthew was a pupil at a well known public school as a boarder. The chaos that followed, the fear of parents of some of the other pupils at the school, that Matthew's affliction might be contagious, the nightly drama in the dormitory, even the rituals of exorcism which the 15 yr old boy was asked to carry out, all this appears like a nightmare from another century...

  It was Matthew, then sixteen years old, who stumbled across a solution which seemed to stop the destructive force of the poltergeist. By allowing himself to be used by some unknown force or forces, the hitherto destructive powers now seemed to create the most beautiful drawings, (ostensibly inspired by Albrecht Durer, Matisse, Picasso, Aubrey Beardsley and others) write the most extraordinary letters in hundreds of different handwritings and several languages and scripts, even Arabic, Russian, Greek, medieval Latin, French and German and a never ending stream of English scripts and messages. All these had one thing in common: they were signed by people whom we know to have died, some many years ago (1600-1700s) others more recently."  (From the dustcover)

Are you going to treat the following as deception, and having nothing to do with your faith?

44 MATTHEW MANNING: The Strangers. London, W H Allen, 1978

"In this account of strange phenomena brought about by the presence of a country gentleman, Robert Webbe, the original owner, and builder of the eighteenth century home in which Matthew Manning lives. It details the first communications in automatic writing between the author and Robert Webbe, who died in the 1730s, and the disturbing psychic phenomena that ensued as Webbe tried to assert his dominance over the household, unaware that he no longer owned the house. The automatic writing contains accounts of his everyday life and dealings with contemporary villagers and tradesmen. Later the author was able to verify through original documents most of the names and information contained in the messages. There are descriptions of objects from past ages which appeared in the house, as well as untraceable odours and noises. Anybody who has ever had personal experience of the supernatural will find the story particularly familiar. But what makes this book so different from scores of traditional ghost stories is that not only is the identity of the apparition known, but communication with it occurs over an extended period of time. Perhaps the highlight is Webbe's account of who he believes is communicating with him and his belief that he is still alive but going mad as he a hears a voice in his head - that of the author - frequently asking questions. One cannot help feeling great sympathy for Robert Webbe in his plight as his ambivalent and  bombastic personality leaps from the pages. What happened to Robert Webbe could happen to you."  (From the dustcover.)

  45JOHN G FULLER The Ghost of 29 megacycles Souvenir Press 1985
[In a former edition of our journal, it was mentioned that the Vatican had approved as scientific and permissible, this development of electronic communication with those who have passed over.Can you dismiss this also from your consideration of what is real, as you expand your conception of the Christian faith?]
  "It is possible that when certain audio frequencies are combined with a tape recorder, the dead can communicate with us, not through a medium but using their own voices?

  When this theory was first outlined to John Fuller his reaction was scepticism mingled with incredulity; when a tape was played to him, purporting to be a conversation between a living man and a doctor who had died five years previously, he was staggered and confused, but still cautious.

  If the phenomenon could be proved beyond doubt the implications were enormous: it could be the biggest breakthrough in the history of mankind. If the evidence remained open to speculation, a lot of time and money would have been wasted. After studying a mass of transcripts and documentary evidence, John Fuller decided to delve deeper. The fact that Marconi, the inventor of radio had been working on this very subject at the time of his death, was a persuasive factor.

So began a long period of probing, questioning testing interviewing. The group of people involved in the research were no credulous cranks, but level headed scientists, electronics engineers physicists, doctors and clergymen - professionals who would not lightly lend their names to an apparently lunatic theory. The evidence they produced, still part of an ongoing research programme that may ultimately allow those who have passed into the next life to communicate visually as well as aurally, is presented in this astonishing new book

46 A detailed account of what happened: The Research of George W. Meek, Founder of the Metascience Foundation

Further Reading