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A Review of Psychical Research - Part Five. James Van Praagh

By:Richard Rowley
Date: Sun,19 Aug 2012
Submitter:Richard Rowley

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Medium James Van Praagh recently appeared in one episode of the TV series “Unscripted” in which celebrities and entertainers talk of their life and work in an unrehearsed half-hour monologue. Comedians Bob Newhart and Shelley Berman and actor George Hamilton have been among the contributors. James Van Praagh mentions that [like Lorna Byrne and Sharon Neill] he has seen spirits and auras since early childhood, and that [like them] he also came from a Catholic or Protestant Christian background. The most important point he wanted to make was that we are all spirits inhabiting a physical body – not the other way round, not just a physical person who turns into a spirit at death. All mediums reach this conclusion and share the same spiritual viewpoint of life, whatever faith they are brought up in. The reality they can see and hear forces them beyond the constraints of religious tradition, and like Frances Banks, who renounced her vows as an Anglican nun, they move ahead into a broader vision of life here and hereafter. The opening up of spiritual vision does not necessarily force us to renounce vows, change our faith or drop religion altogether. But it does change our perspective, forever. Van Praagh also mentioned that is no judgment when we pass. We will have a life review sometime, but only our own conscience will assess the good we have done, and the damage, to ourselves and others.

Frances Banks writes that “Whether we think in terms of extra-sensory perception and the powers latent in man, which transcend our space-time limitations even while we remain in physical bodies; or whether we turn our attention to the activities of discarnate spirits who have attained freedom from ‘the body of this death’: both roads lead inevitably to the postulation of invisible intermediary Beings. [There is a whole world, or universe, with many planes of spirit entities between us and God]. This outcome must be fearlessly faced.”

So, first of all, religions have always paid respect to the great spiritual leaders who have had the gift of second sight and other psychic powers and abilities. In the Bible we have the great prophets such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus and St Paul, and all the later saints and mystics. In other traditions we have a long list of prophets including Lao Tse, The Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammad, Rumi, and Krishna. These prophets, healers, saints and sages have their counterparts today in our mediums and spiritual healers.

But these spiritual leaders also have their counterparts on the other side. The scriptures and sacred teachings of all our religions are richly interwoven with stories of the ministrations of angels and archangels, conveying guidance and messages to us mortals from God, the Supreme Being, or from the Tao, the Essence of Life and Ground of Being, the One Mind, or from the Gods of Classical Greece and Rome, and from the gods and spirits of so-called primitive religions, and also E.T.s and wise beings coming from UFOs.. . They are presented to us as of a different order and substance from the human; able to appear, take form – or vanish into space. So the spirit saints, masters and guides of a higher order are conceived of as existing in realms beyond death, in astral and higher planes and states. As they are the “servers of our [human] race and eager to help, we may surely invoke their aid, whether we do it, according to our creed, directly, or indirectly through supplication to God. If, as is averred by some witnesses, they manifest themselves under symbols of various climes and times, this may be but to encourage us in a wider, more universal outlook and sympathy.

“Yet, still the final problem remains: is communication to be practiced or accepted with those who do not yet aspire to these higher regions, who may but recently have passed within the veil, retaining ties of loving concern [or perhaps earthbound] ? It is hard indeed to see what right we have to draw distinctions. Nor, if their light and freedom have been purchased by dedicated service in this world, does it seem reasonable that they should wish to abandon it at a higher stage. Can we then be churlish enough to scorn it and remain deaf to their efforts on our behalf?

“Our wealth of testimony reveals another consideration, whether it be operated through the silent communication of thought between ‘the quick and the dead’, or whether through more specified intermediary channels [materialisations, direct voice, EVP, automatic writing etc.] I am convinced that a relationship begun here may be incalculably enriched and developed even while one of the parties remains on this side of the valley of death. Sooner or later, so it seems to me, this problem will have to be tackled. For how otherwise shall we provide the expert seers who can both diagnose, discourage, and reintegrate the negative psychics; and also select, nurture, and train those who could be safely developed as more precisely controlled vehicles of communication between the worlds?

“A leading contemporary medium has written on this subject in the following positive manner: ‘There are mediums of a very much higher order whose lives are offered in service to advanced souls on the other side of the veil and who give themselves so that their fellow humans may learn of them; thus, on both sides of the veil of separation, are souls aided and given opportunity to hear or serve….I appeal to such movements as the Psychical Research Societies in the world and the vast Spiritualist movement to lay the emphasis on divine expression and not so much on phenomena. The service rendered has been real and essential, but if these movements are to avail themselves of the coming [new] inflow of spiritual energies, they must shift their attention into the realm of true values. The training of the intellect and the presenting to the world of a group of intelligent psychics [and mediums] should be a main objective… We should train rightly and guard them intelligently and so link, through their means, the two worlds of the physical and the spiritual.’ ’’ For this writer there is a clear distinction between higher mediumship, which is controlled, positive and intelligently applied, and lower psychic ability, which is primitive, uncontrolled, negative and an automatic mediumship, which can be seen in ritual magic and sorcery and in cases of malignant spirit obsession and possession leading to insanity. Both groups of qualities indicate our divinity, at different levels of expression, positive and negative. All are expressions of God. [Such divergence from the sublime is ‘allowed’ to happen since our existence is governed by spiritual law, and from our human viewpoint we are unable to see and understand all that is involved].

“Truly it is the knowledge of our selves, in the infinite gradations of our subtle invisible bodies, which makes normal our invisible citizenship in a world of countless spirit presences with whom we may commune at every level within the range of our own vibratory development. This might be wonder enough. But conversely we may add to it the assurance that thereby an inconceivably vast transcendentalism of Deity is brought nearer than hands and feet through these subtle bodies of ours and theirs, within the Unity of his immanence in whom we live and move and have our being. In this universe, wherein matter is but spirit at its lowest level and spirit is but matter at its highest, we are in truth not orphaned by cosmic immensity. Instead we are warmed by a divine identity through the spirit of wisdom, love and power, which reaches from one end to another mightily; and we are illuminated by the light of the sun, that spiritual sun which lights every human who comes into the world with a spiritual body. The prophets of all religions cast such a light on us.

“Perhaps this inescapable responsibility for a more conscious cooperation in our crucial era of transition would be well-nigh intolerable [in this still restless world of hostility and terrorism] were it not for the great fellowships which have passed down with us throughout the eons of history, knitting us into interdependent groups between the visible and invisible worlds. For we are indeed involved in a great new reformation of synthesis – without enmities and without partisanships [because of the one common source of our origin]. Its immediate impact on us must owe much to that church invisible formed not only from the spirits of just men made perfect, among whom must figure the great figures of our bibles and scriptures; but also from those whom we have known in the flesh in their various positions of responsibility.”

These great spirits, and humans, past and present come from societies and traditions far beyond the orthodox religions and organizations. “For there is a yet higher level from which separatism looks as narrowly finite as the checker-board of our hedgerows inevitably appears from an aeroplane [airplane]. We labour patiently within the man-made boundaries of these field; but our spiritual flights have given us a glimpse of the illimitable freedom.

“As I conclude, an understanding fellow worker writes; ‘Yes, it seems to be a long, lone and impassioned struggle, [the work of an enquiring mind] but how good to know that there are, for certain, living beings who understand and help, who push, prod, and open paths before us, if we wish to take them.’ I thank God that this is so, not only for the individual traveller, but also for the Church at large [of all religions], and for the human race. For we live in a time of new releases, as in science so also in spiritual revelation. It cannot be said of our day that there is no open vision. The initiative comes ever from the realms above. But as we echo the prophet’s prayers, for mankind, ‘Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see,’ the burden is laid upon us of striving to master the techniques of a new optical focus which shall more clearly reveal God’s Plan for our crucial age – lest indeed ‘the night cometh when no man can work.’”

Those were the last written words of Frances Banks to be published before her passing. Her “Four Studies in Mysticism” were published posthumously in 1967. But we have already looked at some of her wonderful communications from the other side, recorded in “Testimony of Light” coming through the mediumship of Helen Greaves. I will conclude this episode with a few more contributions given in answer to the questionnaire examining religious and psychic experiences.

“When resting in the garden, I was suddenly conscious that the same life – spirit – was in all living things, animal, bird, fish, trees, flowers, rocks, etc., as in me. That I was as much part of the tree as the tree of me; that there was only one spirit manifested variously – in short, God, and nothing else. But I cannot express how vivid it was at the time. Now I know it, then I felt it.”

“During the war, on the night my son was shot down, and lay in and out of water for seven hours before he was picked up, I heard the front door open and I heard him come upstairs and go into the room next to mine which I kept ready for him. I was deep in sleep and thought, ‘I’ll let him fall into bed.’ Next morning I went on tiptoe into his room, but it was empty. I didn’t hear for a month that he was a prisoner of war, but I FELT he was alive.”

“I experienced a terrific feeling of power when just starting healing by contact about seven years ago. Physical body actually expanded considerably. When sleeping about six months before the above experience, I felt myself being made to sit up in bed, and I saw a beautiful vision of Jesus shining in silver light, in the corner of the room. Nothing was said, but I had the feeling of being called. I was tremendously uplifted and was walking on air for at least a fortnight afterwards. I subsequently took up this healing work.”

A hospital worker.

Frances Banks writes of the above case:- “I went to see this man and his wife, who incidentally had had a complementary day-time vision, which had no doubt enhanced her loyal support in his exacting vocation…..He explained that he had wanted to indicate that, though his physical body had remained prone, yet he had been caused to sit up in his spiritual body for the purpose of the vision. Then something made me ask what he meant by ‘walking on air’. He said without hesitation that he had seemed to himself to be about a foot off the ground for the next fortnight, as though his subtle body had not entirely re-coordinated with the physical. While we sat in a group meditation, I saw his manly and decided profile softened and transformed with an inner radiation, which one of my companions also commented on afterwards.”

More experiences recorded in the questionnaire to follow. Richard R.

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