An Extraordinary Journey – The Memoirs of a Physical Medium
Sue Farrow reviews Stewart Alexander’s new book.
Stewart Alexander is a one-off – not just a physical medium, but a physical medium to whom not a whiff of scandal has been attached. He is also the first PM in many a long year to sit down and write the story from the inside of the cabinet, so to speak.
The book is in two parts. The first – ‘My Journey’ – opens with Stewart’s discovery of Spiritualism via a second-hand copy of Arthur Findlay’s classic On the Edge of the Etheric, purchased on a whim by his brother. “As I turned its first page, I did so knowing nothing of Spiritualism, nothing of mediumship and having given little thought as to the possibility of life after death,” Stewart writes.
Findlay’s book was ultimately to alter the whole course of his life. In his own words: “…it launched me on a serious investigation and a personal journey both inside and outside the séance room, which has now extended for over forty years and which has finally culminated in my determination to write this book.”
Those forty years have seen Stewart develop his innate ability as a physical medium to the point where he has been able to bring conviction of the reality of an afterlife to thousands around the world. But just how difficult was the journey? Reading the book, it’s clear that patience has been a vital ingredient in the process. Chapter by chapter, the reader accompanies Stewart on his long and dedicated journey of development, complete with its joys and frustrations, and is introduced to those mentors and friends (on both sides of life) who have played a significant role in his personal story.
There is perhaps an important lesson to be drawn from Stewart’s lengthy experience, particularly in today’s climate when those running highly profitable one-week courses in trance development seem to convey the erroneous impression that such things can be achieved in a matter of seven days.
Part two of the book – ‘Observations and Deductions’ – is at times strong meat. It moves away from the author’s own story into far thornier territory, opening with a damning indictment of the present-day Spiritualist movement, particularly in respect of what Stewart describes as “a vacuum of self-imposed denial.” He goes further, suggesting that the passing of the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act has in fact led to a situation where “it [the movement] all started to go wrong. Instead of capitalising on its hard-fought victory for legalisation, it turned in upon itself and went into decline. The fighting spirit which saw its leadership, together with its rank and file, present a united front in the face of legal injustice slowly became a memory. The Movement’s central message became fragmented, diluted and corrupted, with the result that gradually it lost direction.”
Neither is Stewart impressed with much of today’s mediumistic work. Describing mediumship as “the very bedrock of the Movement,” he suggests that in recent years it has mainly been “transmuted into mediocrity. As a direct result, Spiritualism has paid a heavy price so that today it bears little comparison to what it once was.”
Stewart moves on to tackle emotive issues such as fraudulent mediumship and sceptics, and brings his extensive knowledge of the history of physical mediumship to bear on two of its more controversial exponents – American mediums George Valiantine and Mina (‘Margery’) Crandon. In the case of Mrs Crandon, he offers the reader “a brief overview of now largely forgotten facts,” in the hope that they may afford “a more balanced insight into the extraordinary séance room world of the Crandons.”
The book closes with a postscript entitled ‘Some final thoughts’ in which the author acknowledges that while perhaps accepting the chronicle of his mediumistic development, some readers will “object, disapprove and reject” some of his observations on the current state of the Spiritualist movement. Nevertheless, he adds that everything he has written “has been infused by ‘truth’ as I sincerely believe it to be.”
All in all, Stewart’s book offers a unique and fascinating insight into the life of a physical medium, and tackles a wide range of issues relating to Spiritualism in general. If you’re looking to settle down with an unusual and challenging read during the festive season, this could well be the book for you.
An Extraordinary Journey – The Memoirs of a Physical Medium (ISBN 978-0-9557050-6-9) is published by Saturday Night Press Publications. Priced at £13.99, it is currently available from Amazon.co.uk with a 70p discount.