Psychic Phenomena, Mediumship, and Religion by Mark Ireland (includes material from my new, forthcoming book).
Since the release of my first book, Soul Shift, I've found two camps that are most apt to disparage psychic-mediums and all things paranormal; skeptics and religious fundamentalists. Skeptics were addressed in the last newsletter so I'll now turn my focus to the other group: religious fundamentalists.
People holding a fundamentalist perspective (usually Christian fundamentalism) often challenge psychic-mediums in the same way. They site carefully selected Bible passages that admonish such phenomena while failing to consider authorship and other key factors...they also conveniently ignore favorable sections in scripture. Such individuals also tend to read the Bible literally, seeing everything in absolute terms, rather than viewing passages figuratively or symbolically. More often than not their arguments lean on dogmatic positions learned from others. They rarely demonstrate scholarly knowledge of scripture (and its origins) qualifying them to argue these points from a position of true understanding. Given this backdrop, I'd like to shed some positive light on the subject.
When evaluating psychic phenomena and mediumship through the eyes of various religious traditions an interesting dichotomy is revealed. Views on the paranormal fluctuate significantly between different creeds and cultures. And in some cases individual perspectives may be at odds with their church doctrine-especially in the western world. In practice, most members of the clergy typically seem content to steer clear of discussions involving these sorts of anomalies.
People often come to their conclusions about said phenomena by virtue of a deeply moving personal spiritual epiphany that outweighs traditional religious considerations. Such individuals may feel they have actually been touched by God or a divine benevolent spiritual energy and who is to say they are wrong? These people know what they have experienced. They may have an inner sense-an arcane knowledge or awareness that transcends convention and tradition but reaches to the core of their soul.
In western culture, the "miracles" referenced in scripture seem to have been relegated to the past as if to imply that they were reserved exclusively for certain historical periods. But it is these miracle stories that resonate with paranormal phenomena-lending greater credence to scripture and providing support for the greater body of spiritual philosophy. This seems important, at a time when western society remains intensely focused on the "material realities" of our world-with less regard for the inner dimension of spiritual life. Such dismissals or disapprovals of psychically-related phenomena also serve to aid some atheistic secular humanists who wage war against all things spiritual.
In Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, psychic phenomena are viewed with reverence. Faithful Hindus consider their scriptures, The Vedas, to be revealed knowledge. The word "Veda" actually means "knowledge" and comes from the term "Vid" in Sanskrit. Within the Vedas, specifically the "Upanishads," it is acknowledged that psychic phenomenon is often a natural byproduct of development, in one's pursuit of enlightenment.
Historically, western culture finds many of its roots in ancient Greek thought, which offers a perspective far different than the materialistic worldview pervading people's outlook today.
In his Allegory of the Cave, the Greek Philosopher Plato depicts people mesmerized by shadows which they accepted as truth and reality. Unfortunately, these individuals had fallen victim to delusion, failing to discover a deeper, underlying reality, imperceptible to the senses.
In The Republic, Plato refers to a concept called, "The Good," which he describes as "the light, which illuminates the world of the mind." When Plato states that from the perspective of The Good, "we can understand all things without sensory experience," he seems to imply that the term is synonymous with intuition.
Moving to the Bible, numerous miracles are referenced in both the Old Testament and New Testament for which psychic-related phenomena seem a rational explanation. In the latter chapters of the Old Testament, extensive contributions are attributed to the "Prophets," from Amos to Daniel, each of whom prognosticates extensively.
Despite the biblical presence of such miracle references and prophecies, which essentially constitute "divination," mediums and seers still take a hit in some passages, such as Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:9-yielding an apparent contradiction.
Most negative biblical commentary on things construed as psychic or mediumistic phenomena are found in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Within these texts are admonitions about activities described as "wizardry" and "divination" and also people described as "witches" and those "having familiar spirits."
But these Old Testament books also suggest that questionable practices such as slavery are acceptable, which doesn't seem to fit with the concept of a loving God-creator of all sentient beings. Following is such a passage:
"Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life..." Leviticus 25:44-46
Today, it seems self-evident that such an edict would be immoral and barbaric. So I would ask, is it possible that at least some portion of these texts reveal more about a specific set of ancient human norms, and cultural mores, rather than a series of divine insights?
In evaluating such references, one needs to consider that these books reflected the thinking of early Hebrew leaders. Biblical scholar Bishop John Shelby Spong refers to the authors of these Old Testament texts as "Priestly Scribes." And the writings these scribes produced were primarily intended to establish rules and guidelines for followers. They were also fighting for the hearts and minds of their people, fending off differing ideologies from competing factions.
Interestingly, specifically relating to the subject of mediumship, the Old Testament tells of a corrupt leader named Saul who exiled mediums and wizards from the land, simultaneously outlawing practices of divination. On the contrary, Saul's predecessor, Samuel, was viewed as a righteous leader and faithful servant to God. As the story goes, fortune had turned against Saul...his adversaries, the Philistines, were assembling for battle and God was no longer speaking to Saul in his dreams.
Desperate for answers about his destiny, Saul asked one of his servants to locate a medium. In pursuing this course, Saul actually defied his own decree-which expelled "those who trafficked with ghosts and spirits," forbidding their practice on the penalty of death. The servant told him there was a medium in En'dor, so Saul went there in disguise-knowing the medium would likely fear for her life-but Saul's cloak did little to ease the woman's fear.
When he asked her to contact the spirit of Samuel, the medium retorted, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!"
After assurances were made that no harm would come to her, the woman proceeded in making contact with Samuel's spirit. Unfortunately for Saul, the message that was shared offered him no comfort. The Spirit of Samuel told Saul the he had become an adversary of God and his army was about to be defeated. "...the Lord will give Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me..." (I Sam. 28:3-19.)
Unlike Saul, the medium in this story was referenced in a positive light. She also offered evidence that mediumship involves communication with the spirits of deceased persons, rather than demons - as alleged by some fundamentalists.
In the New Testament, miracles abounded as Jesus and his disciples displayed a wide array of paranormal phenomena. A clear example of clairvoyance occurs when Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman who is drawing water from a well. In this dialog Jesus asks the woman-a complete stranger-to call her husband.
To this request the woman replies, "I have no husband."
Jesus responds, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband:' for you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband."
Stunned by his insight the woman confirms Jesus' accuracy, in responding, "Sir I see that you are a prophet." John: 4, 1-19
The story of "The Transfiguration," found in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, as well as 2nd Peter, reports on the ultimate form of mediumship. In plain view of the disciples, the spirits of Moses and Elijah are reported to have materialized and met with Jesus, who was glowing in white light. Interestingly, this description aligns with reports of spirit etherializations and materializations, described by observers of such phenomena, said to be facilitated through rare and uniquely gifted mediums.
Some might argue that it was acceptable-perhaps even expected-for Jesus to facilitate such miracles and that he alone could accomplish them. Yet that line of reasoning ignores many other miracle stories found throughout the New Testament, not just carried out by Jesus but by his disciples as well. Also, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus encouraged followers to develop and utilize these gifts, saying, "Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these he will do." (John 14:12).
The Gospel of Mark also reports Jesus as saying that his followers would be able to perform a wide range of phenomena. "...they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." (Mark 16: 17-18)
The New Testament contains other verses that validate the legitimacy of these gifts and spirit communication in general.
One particular verse goes so far as to provide specific instructions for the process. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see they are of God." (1 John 1:4)
This passage supports the idea that mediumship is acceptable, for without spirit communication there is nothing to test.
Further, I do see validity in the suggestion that a medium should prepare in order to avoid the possibility of opening up to "lower energies." In other words, the medium must be on guard to ensure that only positive, enlightened, and truthful sources are allowed to communicate. To this end, my father would often recite the Lord's Prayer or use other mantras to heighten his level of consciousness prior to any reading or trance-state session.
From my perspective psychic and mediumistic phenomena are tools, which should be used for the highest purposes and with the right preparation. Just as a hammer may be utilized to build a house, it can also be used to tear one down.
I would submit that the key factor is the motivation and makeup of the person involved. If you are seeking to develop psychic gifts, spiritual growth should be your primary goal. If you would like to have a reading, choose a spiritual medium that comes to you with solid recommendations from trusted sources. Finally, enter the process not from a perspective of fear, but rather joyfulness and love. As Jesus so aptly put it, "By their fruits you will know them. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit." (Matthew 7:16, 18.)
I know a number of mediums who bear very good fruit-operating from a place of love, as reflected in their deep sense of compassion and understanding for others. These mediums don't "conjure the dead"...instead they are sought out by the deceased, as well as the living-both of whom desire to connect so that a necessary healing process can be facilitated.