Physical mediumship has long been the ‘hot potato’ of Spiritualism but, like it or not, there would be no modern movement without it. What were those famed Hydesville knockings if not physical?
Since those far-off days, physical mediumship has been dogged by controversy and only a handful of its exponents have escaped accusations of fraud, whether conscious or unconscious.
Nevertheless, at its finest and most highly developed, physical mediumship can provide the ultimate proof of survival. How much more proof would you need after you’d seen and recognised your own loved one, perhaps held them in your arms and conversed with them? It would do for me!
Today’s physical mediumship doesn’t reach the dizzy evidential heights of full materialisation in light, but can still provide compelling survival evidence. In my own case that included lengthy independent direct voice communications (through the mediumship of Stewart Alexander) containing exchanges in Serbo-Croat.
Regular readers of SPN will know that Roy Stemman’s article on his experience of a David Thompson physical séance – first published on his blog, paranormalreview.com – gave rise to heated debate.
Now, David Thompson has agreed to answer questions put to him by Spirit of PN, though he had earlier declined to answer any of the seven questions posed to him by Roy Stemman. This was a matter of regret to Roy, who wrote on his blog:
I am sorry that Thompson has decided not to enter into a dialogue about his mediumship, either on his own website or on others. I think now it is just a matter of time before the voice of reason forces him to change his mind and to be more open, and hopefully Spiritualist organisations will take an active role in putting pressure on him to do so. Needless to say, I will continue to take a keen interest in the claims that are made for his mediumship and the evidence that is produced, despite the snub.”
I believe Roy’s questions were entirely reasonable and I asked David what, if anything, he had found unreasonable or unfair in them. You can read his response below.
David Thompson has made it a condition of this interview that our Comments facility beneath it is disabled.
David, did you come from a Spiritualist family? If not, what led to your initial interest in spiritual matters?
Yes, I come from a Spiritualist family. My maternal grandmother, Alice Carr, was a medium who served the local Spiritualist churches in London. My mother also has a very strong mediumistic ability but has chosen not to use her gift in public. If I need to seek any guidance I’ll go to her, such is my faith in her ability.
You’ve been demonstrating physical mediumship for many years. What was your first indication that you had an aptitude for it, and how did you set about the process of development?
I never had aspirations to be a physical/trance medium – my first love is, and always will be, mental mediumship. I came upon my trance abilities about sixteen years ago when I was booked to do an evening of clairvoyance. At the end of the demonstration, William, my friend in the spirit world, came close to me and said, “Sit down and I will entrance you for the questions and answers.”
Being who I am, I answered, “You have got to be kidding.”
William replied, “Do you trust me?”
“Of course I do,” I said. He then repeated the offer.
At the time, I thought “This isn’t going to work and I am going to end up looking a complete fool!” But true to his word, as I sat down and closed my eyes, I was instantly entranced and William spoke through me with those gathered.
You can imagine my surprise when William later told me that what had happened was merely the tip of something greater. He said I could properly develop my trance work if I wished to. Over the next year I was fortunate to meet very supportive people who gave me a place to develop in a secure environment. My physical mediumship seemed to occur as a natural process as my trance abilities improved.
Throughout Spiritualism’s history physical mediums have faced controversy. Why do you think this is, and from a personal point of view, how do you feel when your work is challenged?
When my physical mediumship started, William warned there would be times when people would ridicule me and that most of the ridicule would come from within the Spiritualist movement.
I have to report that unfortunately that has been the case. It’s very sad considering Spiritualist history is littered with physical mediums who faced controversy only to be proclaimed icons after their passing. I recall Gordon Higginson and Helen Duncan being accused of fraudulent behaviour.
Usually such critics have never sat in a séance, have limited understanding of physical mediumship or have an ulterior motive for creating controversy. In my experience the latter is often the main reason, with detractors having been banned from our séances or not having their needs met in some way.
Some question the darkened conditions of the séances. I use restraints, gags and countless independent witnesses to prove my work is genuine but some people are never satisfied. I accept that.
What I cannot accept are underhanded comments by those who hide behind an alias or a computer screen. Why should I answer misinformed claims done in this cowardly fashion? For the sake of honesty those writers should speak to me so I can give answers that can’t be twisted to suit their ends.
I have said before and will say again, our séance protocol forms clearly state, “All séances are held in complete darkness.” If someone doesn’t understand this they should not attend.
I know from your former circle leader Paul Barker that, when you sat with the Haymist Circle in England, red light was almost invariably introduced into your public séances. Reports of your recent séances mention only complete darkness, which seems like a retrograde step. Can you say anything about why the red light has now disappeared?
While red light was used on a few occasions during the UK sittings before 2004, the fact is more red light has been used since then to show ectoplasm and other phenomena during my sittings.
One example was in 2009 during a public séance in Auckland, New Zealand. The photo can be seen on our website (www.circleofthesilvercord.net).
But something even more profound has been developing over the past year.
My circle has been aware of our spirit team experimenting with a form of natural or spirit-induced lighted conditions. We’ve been told this would hopefully allow more phenomena in natural spirit-lighted conditions within the séance room. William has explained that the technique being experimented with is similar to the process that causes the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Anyone with any understanding of the fragile nature of physical mediumship and the energies required to create phenomena in the séance room will understand such light could take years to properly develop.
As a circle (and on the guidance of our spirit team) we don’t feel the need to compromise our work by exposing ourselves to testing by people who think they know better than the spirit world. Of course critics will claim we have something to hide but we don’t. We are simply protecting what we are doing.
It’s well known that in order to have a place at one of your séances, advance information must be provided. To the best of my knowledge this includes full name, address, email, telephone number, plus presentation of photo ID on arrival at the séance. When Arthur Findlay first sat with John Sloan, the direct voice medium who would transform him from sceptic into Spiritualism’s greatest ambassador, he sat entirely anonymously. Why do you need such details when physical mediums of the past did not?
We introduced séance protocol forms for protection.
I have been burned, cut and badly bruised in the past in séances by participants acting dangerously.
Readers might recall the attack on materialisation medium Alec Harris. During one infamous sitting in South Africa, two journalists jumped on a materialised form only to have it dissolve in their grasp. Alec Harris was badly injured and his mediumship was never the same. Helen Duncan’s death only weeks after a police raid mid-séance is well known.
In the past we have received threats that sceptical individuals were trying to get into a séance to cause harm. Recently, in an article on the internet a “sceptical-believer” journalist encouraged people to grab materialised spirits in our séance despite knowing it could cause me great harm!
Sadly, the other reason is legal protection, not only for me and my partner but also our hosting venues.
These days most people working in the public domain have some sort of legal safeguard. It would be unwise not to. We never have a problem with decent, honest people filling out these forms. The only complaints come from those who feel the need to discredit us. Those who think I research information on the internet from names on a form don’t understand the true nature of mediumship.
The kind of evidence that comes through during a personal reunion is not the kind of thing that can be researched online, like what was put in the coffin of a loved one, pet names, the way a loved one spoke, the idiosyncrasies of an individual’s personality, etc.
In one recent séance a gentleman’s grandfather came through and touched him on the face. He could feel that he was missing the fingers he lost while on the physical plain. How could this information be found from a name and an email address?
The hosting venue distributes and retains all séance protocol forms at all times. We do not view these forms, nor are we privy to them prior to or after a séance.
You have been described by others as a materialisation medium. Is that how you would describe yourself?
I describe myself as a seeker of spiritual truth and a spiritual medium. I demonstrate trance, physical and healing mediumship. I have been demonstrating mental mediumship for twenty-eight years; trance/physical and healing mediumship for about fifteen years.
Some misguided and vengeful critics have tried to attack me over what type of medium I am. I’m aware of one with a criminal record who was recently expelled from a healing organisation. That person and two individuals from South Australia have taken great pride in making some very ignorant claims about my work.
But they don’t matter. Their ranting is cancelled out by the overwhelming number of written and recorded testimonials I’ve received (many can be viewed on our website).
Manifesting through Maurice Barbanell, Silver Birch presented himself as a North American Indian, though he stated clearly that this was merely a persona he had adopted. He declined to give details of his earthly life (or lives), believing that his earthly status was irrelevant to his message. Much has been written about your own guides – William and Timothy – and the detailed information they have given through your mediumship about their earthly existences. You’ve described William as your “close friend”. Have you asked him why his information has not so far checked out through expert genealogical research, and does it bother you that no records of his or Timothy’s earthly lives can be found?
If William or Timothy had wanted to deceive they could have picked the details of someone whose details could be confirmed. Quoting a gravestone would be simple enough to satisfy a researcher.
William has stated consistently he wishes for the mediumship to ‘stand on its own feet` and like Silver Birch he doesn’t want people influenced by his earthly identity.
William has also informed us that he has slightly changed his details and those of his spirit team to protect the privacy of surviving descendents.
Lis Warwood, who researched William and Timothy, stated on one of her many postings about my mediumship and about all spirit contact:
“We are obliged to question the genuineness, not only of the apparent ‘spirit’ contact but also its value as evidence of survival over death. Non-existent people cannot prove they have survived death or can they be used to support the argument for the reality of human survival over physical death. Real people, whose existence can be verified, and who are known to those present in the séance room, and who give accurate and legitimate information about their earthly life which information can be objectively verified is what is needed to prove the case for survival.”
If what Lis Warwood says is to be believed, then in her opinion we must dismiss all the teachings and existence of the controls/guides and all the hard work of the mediums below:
- Silver Birch – Maurice Barbanell
- White Eagle – Grace Cooke
- Ramadan – Ursula Roberts
- Chan – Ivy Northage
- Silver Belle – Ethel Post Parish
- Abdullah – William Eglinton
- Chlorine – Leonora Piper
It would be interesting to see if the “expert in genealogical research” could dismiss the above guides as swiftly as she seems to dismiss William and Timothy. Over the years William has displayed a consistent personality, patience and concern for the spiritual development of each individual. We know who he is by his level of spirituality, his integrity and dedication to our circle and my mediumship.
What priority do you place on personal evidence of survival beyond death? How important is it to your reasons for demonstrating publicly?
One of the reasons The Circle of the Silver Cord exists is to prove that life continues after physical death – and personal proof is very strong evidence.
Early in my physical mediumship development I had the opportunity to reunite grieving parents with their young daughter, who had died of cancer. During the séance she sat on her mother’s lap and held her father’s hand. The memory of how those people were changed that night is what makes me willing to endure negative comments, long-haul air travel, living out of a suitcase and giving up the security of a normal job and life.
Over the years of demonstrating my physical mediumship many people have received personal proof in the séance room. We have recordings and a wealth of personal testimonials from people who’ve communicated with passed loved ones speaking in their normal voice and displaying known personality traits. Many have spoken in their native tongues, including German, Swedish, Yiddish, Russian and Mandarin.
As you can see, I encourage personal proof in the séance room as well as from the public platform. As a believer in the next life I feel we all should try to raise the bar which is something The Circle of the Silver Cord is endeavouring to do.
Some controversial pronouncements have been made by your healing guides. If I were a medium (which I am not) I think I would have ethical concerns and a sense of responsibility about information being communicated through me. The much-publicised suggestion that pregnant women should take aspirin to avoid delivering a Down’s syndrome baby has caused particular controversy, since research suggests that aspirin can lead to an increased risk of placental abruption. Do you feel a responsibility for information that comes through you regarding health issues?
As any self-respecting medium/healer would, I have a responsibility about information that comes through my mediumship.
In regards to the much publicised aspirin events, as soon as we began to see that the same negative people were misrepresenting what had been actually said, we immediately removed the audio from our website while it was double-checked.
In the recording William clearly says, “There are investigations being conducted in the USA in respect to how aspirin may help in the prevention of Down’s syndrome as well as AIDS and also as a possible connection between the two.” At NO time does he say aspirin should be used as a cure to AIDS or by pregnant woman to prevent Down’s syndrome.
The website disclaimer stated: “No information should be taken or substituted for sound medical advice from a health care professional.”
In subsequent séances William has made it clear that what he originally said had been “unfortunately grossly misinterpreted” and at no time did he say it was a cure for any physical or mental ailment. Alas, it seems that people with other motives saw it necessary to misinterpret what was actually said.
Recently I have also been made aware of the same individuals saying that my healing guide Dr Slavinski told a lady with cancer to “tie a piece of string around it to stop the cancer.” How totally absurd!
When I hear comments like this I shake my head in disbelief at the levels some people will stoop to. I wonder if they think about the effect of their words. It’s strange how they never mention the many people who’ve truly benefited from my healing gift.
Two of your previous circle leaders have commented on your refusal to answer questions about your mediumship, and to undergo any form of testing. This suggests that even those who have been intimately involved in your mediumship also have questions about it, or the conditions under which it takes place. What is your reaction to that?
While you haven’t named names, I am aware of comments attributed to Paul Barker, my circle leader for about 2 ½ years prior to 2004, but at no time has he approached me to seek answers to any such questions.
In respect to the second circle leader in question, I notice that Jim Warwood made some reference to a comment written under a pseudonym that appeared to be linked to the email address of one of my previous circle leaders. The comments were cut and pasted from Paul Barker’s previous comments. Am I to take this seriously?
I am a great believer in having the respect and courage to deal with people in person. Conversely I would hope that other people extend me the same courtesy. If they don’t wish to then they shouldn’t expect me to answer, especially if they are not willing to be fair in their assumptions and comments.
In regards to testing of my mediumship, people have to understand that it is not the testing that is the problem, it is the energy involved in the testing.
Physical mediumship is so sensitive that even if one person in the séance room is sceptical or has a strong expectation, the quality of communication can be seriously impaired. Now consider the introduction of infrared and thermal cameras, probes, etc and the expectation of the operators. Think for a moment the type of vibration this will create. Is it any wonder we leave the control of any testing to our sprit team?
Our spirit team has said repeatedly that the circle needs to focus on harmonious vibrations needed to produce advanced phenomena. At this stage, running formal tests and the controversy that publishing the results might create would not be helpful to that aim.
In the past we have allowed a number of highly experienced investigators to sit in our séances and observe closely to their satisfaction what is taking place. Montague Keen, respected member of the SPR for many years, applied to sit with me and was welcomed along with his wife.
I had confidence that he knew what he was doing and would be fair in his finding of my mediumship. His conclusion was that I was a genuine medium and that my mediumship is legitimate – he stated that there was no cheating, no fraud and no trickery and all that he experienced was genuine.
Recently I conducted three séances in Spain during which Robin Foy, who has enormous experience with physical mediumship, was given complete access to examine all procedures before and after (and even during one séance). After his experiences and the evidence he received the veteran of the Scole experiments wrote three favourable reports about my mediumship.
For more than five years I have allowed Dr Victor Zammit (PhD) who has university level qualifications in law, psychology and scientific method, and his wife Wendy – who has university qualifications and professional experience as a psychologist and in scientific method, to sit with me as members of my our circle. They have been in the position to see me before, during and after many séances and have made public their findings during their investigations into my mediumship. Dr Zammit has also put a report explaining his testing of me in chapter 3 of his book, A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife.
Other credible witnesses who have experienced my mediumship and have written favourable testimonials include Dr Fiona Bowie (a social anthropologist specialising in the anthropology of religion), Dr Stuart Roll (specialising in psychology and parapsychology) and Ron Pearson (B, Sc.Eng. (Hons)*C.Eng.M.I.Mech.E). Many others have submitted positive testimonials about their experiences in our séances. Can all these people be wrong?
Roy Stemman’s article, written after he attended one of your physical séances, has drawn a lot of comment. He presented you with a list of seven questions but you declined to answer them. Do you accept that they were reasonable questions, and if so, would you be willing to answer them here? If you believe some of Roy’s questions were unreasonable, are you prepared to say which, and on what grounds?
Roy Stemman expressed the view in a book published in 2005 that my mediumship “…raises more than a little scepticism.” He also expressed this view to Dr Victor Zammit when Dr Zammit told him that his sister, Carmen, had communicated during one of our séances. To me this was a good indication he had an existing prejudice towards my mediumship.
Secondly, Mr Stemman rushed into print the day after sitting with me, without checking his facts with others who were there during the séance. Also, he didn’t have the courtesy to introduce himself after the séance, or share with us that he was planning to produce a report or ask me or any of my circle members if they wished to make comment for inclusion in his report.
Mr Stemman presented me with seven questions sometime after his initial report but due to his previous discourteous behaviour, and having answered such questions elsewhere on various websites, I didn’t and still do not feel obliged to answer his questions directly. Besides, the usual suspects would attack whatever I said, like sharks in a feeding frenzy (as I expect they will do as soon as this interview is published). Personally I don’t think that kind of energy is helpful to anyone and certainly it is not good for Spiritualism.
Finally, what are your personal hopes for the future progression of your mediumship?
One of the things I have learnt about physical mediumship is the importance of having a loving, harmonious vibration and absolute trust in the spirit team. So in order for our circle to progress we have to give up any expectations, surrendering ourselves to spirit and trusting that our team knows how to develop the mediumship so that the right people will be touched. I have said over and over again that our aim is to remove the fear of death, which should be the aim of all Spiritualists. Other things have been mentioned about our future but William has requested that we keep these things to ourselves.
Finally, I would like to place on record that if anyone has any fair and sensible questions about my mediumship, could they approach me first to seek an answer? Making wild, damaging accusations in public not only harms my good name but also adversely affects the progress of Spiritualism, especially when enquiring minds are misled by lies about such a wonderful truth.
David Thompson (September 2011)