In Psychic News of July 25, 2009, Geoff Griffiths wrote an article entitled ‘Is it Time to Abandon Platform Clairvoyance?’ He observed that at any one time there are likely to be only a relatively small number of mediums “who can do it superbly,” a number of others who may “display reasonable competence,” while the rest are only capable of what he chose to call “Evidence-free Clairvoyance” (EFC).
The main thrust of his argument was that to continue to allow sub-standard mediumship onto our platforms could only have a corrosive effect on the movement, and ultimately put the survival of Spiritualism at risk. He advocated replacing the clairvoyance part of our meetings with a number of alternative approaches, particularly those which might offer greater participation for the congregation.
Geoff’s article struck a chord, for at that time here in Adelaide our Spiritualist organisation was facing a dilemma. Due to retirements, ill health and other issues, the number of mediums available to us had declined, and there were no longer enough to take every Sunday meeting.
We were forced to make some hard decisions. One option was to increase our use of EFC, that is, to allow well-intentioned but non-evidential mediums or psychics to take the service. This idea was rejected because it was felt it would only lead to a further reduction in mediumistic standards. Better to have no medium than to settle for a demonstration that would not convince or reflect positively on Spiritualism.
Having determined to use only the best available mediums, we needed to consider what might be done to fill the gaps. We looked at and quickly rejected the option of moving to fortnightly or monthly meetings, believing this would only result in a further decline in attendance. A programme of four alternative events for those Sundays when no suitable medium was available was then decided upon.
On a regular basis throughout the year, an open circle is run. It incorporates modified elements from the usual Sunday meetings. While retaining healing and the absent healing meditation, the address is amended to become a short presentation on a subject related to Spiritualist philosophy or practice, followed by an opportunity for discussion.
To this is added a variety of exercise-based activities, ranging from simple psychometry techniques through to more challenging mediumistic approaches. The format enhances participation, brings in an element of education, and allows attendees the opportunity to discover, practise and develop their psychic or mediumistic potential in a relaxed setting.
On a three-monthly basis a film afternoon, followed by discussion, is offered. Again, by choosing appropriate material, this is a great opportunity to educate and inform people about Spiritualism. Among the films shown recently has been Visitors from the Other Side with Tom Harrison’s wonderful presentation of the story of his mother’s physical mediumship circle.
In addition, we altered our approach to Open Days, which are now run at regular intervals as alternatives to Sunday meetings. In reducing the length of such events, it has been easier to gather sufficient readers, enlist volunteers to help organise, and provide a useful opportunity for developing mediums to gain practical experience. In terms of fund raising, they have proved just as effective as previous approaches, and have resulted in drawing new people to the Mission.
At the same time, it was recognised there was a need to encourage the development of new mediums. Without this, the current shortfall in competent mediums will reach crisis proportions in the future. A programme specifically geared to develop platform mediums was put in place, run by an experienced medium with known teaching skills.
Over time it has been possible to offer regular opportunities for these students to demonstrate at Sunday ‘Mediums in Training’ meetings, followed up by assessment sessions, where they are guided to recognise the strengths and the weaknesses of their efforts, and ways to improve.
All these alternatives to the standard Sunday service have been willingly embraced by our membership. Coupled with an ongoing programme of public demonstrations, workshops and seminars by good local, interstate and overseas guest mediums, they provide a programme that is interesting, innovative and constructive.
While this varied approach requires careful planning, and a high level of commitment to be successful, it has helped us to recognise that what was first seen as a problem is in reality an opportunity for growth, and a way to expand and enrich what Spiritualism has to offer.