Coast to Coast with reincarnation

When I wrote The Big Book of Reincarnation I naturally hoped it would find an appreciative audience. It’s still early days, but I’m delighted to say that the media has shown great interest in the subject. As a result, I’ve already been interviewed for eight radio programmes – most of them U.S.-based – and I have another 14 interviews scheduled over the next few months. The biggest audience was undoubtedly the listeners who tuned in to George Noory’s very popular Coast to Coast AM show, one of the longest running and most popular radio shows that specialises in paranormal topics and guests. Thanks to YouTube, my appearance on the show can now be listened to by anyone with an hour or so to spare! I’m providing the link at the end of this Blog. Another guest appears at the beginning of this show and my interview starts at 0:38:45.

These interviews are a great opportunity not only to promote the book but to explain why I felt it was important to write it. Much of the evidence for reincarnation comes from researchers who have dedicated themselves to examing promising cases in great detail, interviewing numerous people who can provide testimony that verifies the claims of the subjects who appear to recall a past life, and I felt it was important to get some of that material into the public domain and open up the discussion to a wider audience.

I’ve discovered, however, that some interviewers assume I know all the answers. There are people who believe they have those answers, but I’m more cautious. I make the point that researching reincarnation raises as many questions as it answers. But looking for those answers is part of the fun.

For those who would like to hear the Coast to Coast interview, here it is:


‘The Big Book of Reincarnation’ and synchronicity

Reincarnation book coverAccounts of synchronicity have always fascinated me. So when I experienced a very surprising synchronous event late last month, in connection with my new book, it made me reflect a little deeper on this phenomenon. Was it just a coincidence or did it have special significance? Here’s what happened.

In order to publicise The Big Book of Reincarnation, which was published a week or so ago, Hierophant Publishing (part of the U.S.-based Hampton Roads Publishing group) asked me to provide various documents to be used in the book’s promotion. One of these was an article that summarised the book and my reasons for writing it.

I decided to cite just one of the almost 100 cases referred to in its pages, and I selected the impressive example of Aiz Nouhad Abu Rokon, a Druze boy living in the village of Usfiyeh, northern Israel, who claimed not only to remember being a truck driver, who was murdered near his home in Baalbeck, Lebanon, but who also recognised his past-life wife in the street when she visited Israel.

For readers unfamiliar with that part of the Middle East, I decided to indicate in my article the distance between Usfiyeh (sometimes spelt Isfiya or Ussefiya) and Baalbeck. To do that I opened up Google Maps on my computer and searched for both locations, then calculated that they were about 200 kilometres apart.

I also noted, as I continued with my research, that Usfiyeh is a Druze village on Mount Carmel, in a district dominated by Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. It has a particular significance for the Druze – a religious offshoot of Islam that believes strongly in reincarnation – because it is the site of the tomb of Abu Abdallah, one of three leaders chosen by Caliph Al-Hakem in the 10th century to proclaim the Druze faith.

My research completed, and my article written and dispatched, I turned my mind to other matters. Later that same day, I checked my email and saw I had received a message from someone with whom I had not had contact for more than a decade.

Rona Hart was information officer at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main representative organisation of British Jewry, when I first met her in 1995. We both lived and worked in London. Rona had interviewed Rabbi Philip Berg, the man who made it his mission to explain and make relevant the mysteries of the Kabbalah, including reincarnation, to non-Jews. His 1984 book, Wheels Of A Soul: reincarnation and Kabbalah, has influenced the lives of many people, including Madonna and Barbra Streisand.

Rona’s interview with Rabbi Berg was first published in The Guardian on 8 July, 1995, and I received her permission to reprint it in Reincarnation International which I was then publishing. After that, she agreed to be a consultant to the magazine, and we communicated regularly and met occasionally.

Our last meeting was probably in 1996 at Jacque’s Wine Bar, close to where she worked in Tavistock Square. After that we lost touch. I moved from London but I assumed Rona was still living and working in the capital. So the arrival of an email from her, 15 years after we were last in contact, was a very pleasant surprise.  An even bigger surprise was the information it contained. She wrote:

“In 2008 I moved back to Israel and now live on Mt Carmel – on the way from town to the Druze villages of Dalilyat el Carmel and Ussefiyeh, in fact!”

It transpired that, on the same day I was looking at that very spot on the map, Rona – who now lives there – was looking at and decided to say “hallo” by email.

The synchronicity doesn’t end there. I had first heard of the Aiz Nouhad Abu Rokon case when, in 1995, a reader of my magazine drew my attention to a well-researched, illustrated feature in the Jerusalem Post, written by Sue Fishkoff, which told Aiz’s story in great detail, along with other cases. That person was none other than Rona Hart, a fact acknowledged in my earlier book, Reincarnation: True Stories of Past Lives” target=”_blank”>Reincarnation: true stories of past lives (published in the United States as One Soul, Many Lives.).

Was it just chance? Did I choose that particular case of reincarnation as an example because of some telepathic link with Rona as she was looking at my website? Or was my choice influenced by a premonition that I was about to hear from someone living in that region of northern Israel? I’m undecided. All I know is that when you encounter synchronicity of this kind – as Arthur Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence explored – you can’t help feeling that it has a deeper meaning.

I’ll have more to say about The Big Book of Reincarnation once it gets some reviews. It’s a 300-page in-depth exploration of rebirth covering everything from early beliefs through to the latest and best-documented cases. Right now, I’m pleased to say there’s plenty of media interest and I’m preparing for a series of radio interviews over the next few weeks.

The new book and previous versions of my earlier book on reincarnation are available through and (see links below) and most bookstores.


Andrew Hadley resigns… or does he?

Andrew HadleyJust what is going on within the upper echelons of the Spiritualists’ National Union? A year ago, I broke the shock news that Duncan Gascoyne, chairman of the Arthur Findlay College (Stansted Hall), had resigned, without explanation, after 12 years in that post. For most of that time he was also the SNU president.

Many people concluded that he had issues with Andrew Hadley, an ordinary director (right), who immediately stepped into the chairman’s role. Now comes news, in an exclusive story in Psychic News, that Hadley has not only resigned as chairman, 12 months into the job, but also as an SNU director. David Bruton, SNU president, has taken over at Stansted Hall. The curt announcement on the SNU’s website makes no reference to Hadley’s contribution to the Union or to the college.

Although no reasons have been given for this dramatic development, the Psychic News report offers some insights that, I suspect, may not be far from the truth. As usual, the SNU’s tight-lipped policy has lead to speculation and dismay among its membership as well as other Spiritualists. The headline on the story, written by Sue Farrow, PN editor, says it all: “Andrew Hadley’s meteoric rise ends with shock departure”.

Duncan GascoyneSue quotes extensively from my Blog interview with Duncan Gascoyne (left), in 2011, in which he discussed the issues he had with the way in which decisions made by the National Executive Committee (NEC) were not being relayed to him properly as chairman, though he refused to point the finger at one particular individual. I noted at the time that Hadley, who had ambitious plans for transforming Stansted into an upmarket venue, had responsibility for “NEC liaison” and was presumably the missing link. Now, he’s totally missing!

PN front coverThe story appears in full not only in the 21st April edition of Psychic News (which is available on subscription or at many churches) but also – for free – on its website. The comments that have already been posted reflect the depth of feeling of many ordinary members about the way in which the Union is being run.

It will be interesting to see if the reasons for Hadley’s departure are discussed at this year’s annual general meeting, which is taking place in Blackpool in July. Did he resign or was he pushed? I’d like to think that the NEC has learned from its past mistakes and will choose to be upfront with its membership about the reasons for Hadley’s rapid rise within the Union and sudden demise. But I won’t be surprised if this fiasco is swept under the carpet.

Nobel Prize winning scientist on psi

Brian JosephsonWhy, despite what many regard as an abundance of evidence, does Science – and most scientists – refuse to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena (psi)?

The simple answer seems to be that, so far, no one has produced a theory that encompasses the complex phenomena that are usually bundled under the “psi” label. Without a satisfactory unifying theory and faced with paranormal claims that appear to throw existing scientific principles out of the window, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that psi does not have more supporters within the scientific community.

Today’s Society for Psychical Research Study Day in London invited a handful of the exceptions – some of the best scientific brains within the Society – to give us their take on this challenge and to discuss models and theories that could eventually change the perceptions of the sceptics.

The impressive line-up included Prof Brian Josephson, Nobel Prize winning physicist and director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project (pictured); Prof Bernard Carr, professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University of London; Prof John Poynton, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Natal, South Africa; David Rousseau, who is currently doing research at the University of Wales into new mind-body models in the light of near-death experiences (NDEs); and Dr Paul Marshall, an independent scholar and author.

The Study Day’s title, “Making sense of psi”, neatly summed up the challenge that each faced.

It is impossible to do justice to their arguments in a Blog of this nature, but it was clear that Science’s understanding of space and time will need to be refined further, possibly to embrace the mind (or consciousness), if it is to accommodate macro and micro psi phenomena in the grand scheme of things.

During his review of the different models that have been proposed, Prof Carr posed a question which, essentially, underlined the potential importance of psychic research, asking: “Is psi a glimpse of the holistic fabric of the Universe?” Some scientists, including Dean Radin in the United States, believe that to be the case.

Prof Carr’s own view was that “we need a grand unified theory of matter and mind” and, despite their different approaches, the other speakers largely concurred.

Prof Josephson went further, arguing that “physics has things back to front” and that, in his view, an “agent” is required in any theory that explains where mind fits into physics.

“What I am proposing is that before the Big Bang something was done to create the Universe,” Prof Josephson said, adding that even theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had indicated the same proposition. “It’s similar to ‘intelligent design’,” he continued, “but my position goes beyond that.”

UPDATE: Since posting the above, last night, I have received the following communication from Prof Josephson, regarding his theory on agents and ID. He writes: “To clarify my position, the manner in which it goes beyond ID as currently practised is that I don’t want just to say ‘X had to be caused by intelligence’ and stop there, but to include an understanding of that intelligence: one that will try to establish the mechanisms of its functioning and emergence in the same way that we study the way the minds of human beings develop over time.  At present, physicists and cognitive scientists more or less go their separate ways, but I believe the two disciplines can be fruitfully integrated so that we will then get the true story of the relationships between mind and the natural world.

No doubt more detailed accounts of all the contributions to this fascinating Study Day will appear – in the fullness of time and the availability of space! – in one or more of the SPR’s publications. [Check out the SPR website.]

From the sublime to the absurd

Rodin thinkerPhysical phenomena produced at seances are regarded by many as the pinnacle of mediumship. To be able to produce the spirit form of someone who has died, capable of being seen and recognised, and to walk and talk to the assembled witnesses, is the goal of many who sit regularly in home circles. They hold out the hope of emulating the achievements of famous mediums of the past who are credited with these extraordinary powers and in providing incontrovertible evidence for an afterlife.


Some, like David Thompson (about whom I have written several times on this Blog), are happy to take their mediumistic abilities on the road while they are – to put it kindly – still a work in progress. Because they are not developed to the extent most knowledgeable Spiritualists would expect, their seances are judged by some sitters to be no more than performances that can be explained without needing to involve the use of paranormal powers.


As I explained in my last Blog, and have said before, sitters attending the same David Thompson seance often emerge with widely differing points of view about its genuineness. In the end, it usually comes down to belief – or their need to believe – rather than any real, tangible evidence that is provided.


So, I’m going to examine what’s going on at the British-born medium’s physical seances from a totally different angle. To do so, I must start with the premise that David is, as he claims, a totally genuine medium who risks his life every time he conducts his seances. Let us for the time being forget about the burden of proof that we usually regard as so important – and which is usually sadly lacking at his seances – and focus on what has to occur in the spirit world to make these performances happen.


First, of course, his spirit team – William Charles Cadwell, Timothy and May seem to be the main collaborators – have to be satisfied that their medium is protected from harm and that the conditions are harmonious.


That requires cooperation from their earthly associates: the medium, his seance organiser and the hosts of the event. Between them, they make sure the room in which the proceedings take place is pitch black. They ensure everyone is searched before entering the room, so that no objects that could emit light are smuggled into the room.

When all that is done, the medium’s hands are secured with plastic ties to the arms of a chair and other ties are put through the buttonholes of the cardigan he usually wears. He is also gagged with a thin piece of material. Once suitably trussed up, the lights are put out and the expectant sitters wait for evidence that spirit entities are present.


Before long, William, Timothy and May not only speak but apparently wander around the room demonstrating their physical existence while the medium is apparently tied up.


Now, to do this must take an enormous about of teamwork behind the scenes in the spirit world. Large amounts of ectoplasm have to be produced, mostly from the medium’s body, in order to enable the spirits to walk around the room, touch some of the sitters, place a hand on the head on a few individuals, dance or stamp their feet and even play a harmonica. Impressive! Except, of course, that we don’t get to see these marvellous manifestations because they only “appear” in the dark.



But, for the sake of argument, I’m giving David Thompson the benefit of the doubt and accepting that everything he produces is 100 per cent genuine. If so, that still raises serious questions about the spirit team who accompany him around the world to give these sought-after performances. For example:


1. Why go to all the trouble of producing ectoplasm to allow spirits to materialise if we cannot see them? Thompson will argue that although they cannot be seen, they can be felt – or to be more precise, they can touch the sitters. As far as I am aware, sitters are not invited to conduct full body searches on the materialisations. But, if they cannot manifest in even a red light, why doesn’t he just confine himself to trance mediumship and allow the communicators to speak through him?


2. Why go to the trouble of producing ectoplasm just to cloak mostly famous dead people, when the majority of those attending Thompson’s seances are hoping to hear from their own loved ones?


3. Why is it that Louis Armstrong, famous trumpeter and singer, can entertain the sitters vocally and on a harmonica for several minutes, but most sitters fail to receive any evidence of a personal nature from their family and friends?


4. Why is it that the spirits of famous Spiritualists and mediums, including Gordon Higginson, Maurice Barbanell and even Emma Hardinge Britten, apparently assist Thompson’s spirit team by making fairly regular appearances, but offer nothing in the way of evidence that they are who they claim to be? And yet, when they were promoting Spiritualism on the earth plane, they all appreciated the importance of using mediumship to comfort the bereaved with incontrovertible evidence.


Maurice Barbanell, for example, often took newly-bereaved individuals to seances with gifted mediums, including direct voice medium Estelle Roberts. He never identified them. They weren’t asked to produce photo ID, as you are before a Thompson seance, nor were they searched and asked to remove jewellery, but they often received dramatic evidence. I cannot believe Barbanell would participate as a communicator at a Thompson seance, in the way that is claimed. He would have stood aside and asked that someone in need of after-life proof would be given the opportunity to receive it from a loved one.


And David Fontana, a former president of the Society for Psychical Research, who apparently recognised me at the Thompson seance I attended, knew better than most the importance of communicating information that is beyond the knowledge of the medium, as anyone who has read his Is There An Afterlife: a comprehensive overview of the evidence will know. Yet he expressed surprise at seeing me at the seance – didn’t the spirit team tell the spirit participants who was attending? – and slapped me on the shoulder, telling me he had been helping me with the book I was writing.


I don’t believe for one moment that Fontana, if he really had gone to all the trouble to materialise – a feat that takes considerable effort, apparently – would squander the opportunity. He would have used it to provide me or anyone else present with evidence that would need checking and verifying by others.


5. Why does Thompsons spirit team choreograph each seance in the same, predictable way – just as the famous Davenport Brothers did with their vaudeville act in the early days of Spiritualism? They end with a large bang as Thompson and the chair in which he sits are apparently lifted into the centre of the circle. And when the lights go up, his cardigan is shown to be back-to-front although he is still tied to his chair. Surely, if Thompson’s spirit team are capable of such feats of levitation and dematerialisation, they could be a little more imaginative and try some new tricks?


Better still, why don’t they advise Thompson to stop touring with what is little more than a repetitive variety show and return to his home circle in order to develop his mediumship to the point where such absurdities are thrown out and sitters can actually see the spirits they are talking to and real evidence is provided?


Wouldn’t it be great if the majority of communicators who materialised were the loved ones on the sitters, not celebrities – like Quentin Crisp – whose involvement appears to depend solely on the fact that on earth their voices were easily recognisable? And a bonus for Thompson, if his mediumship developed to that point, would be that there would be no need for him to be trussed up like a turkey, because sitters would judge him on what they could see and hear, rather than on trusting that he is not wandering around the darkened seance room.


Mediumship is all about evidence and in my view any reasonable person reviewing the conditions under which David Thompson’s seances are held, and the results that are produced, must conclude that evidence is the one element that is in short supply. However much one accepts the reality of a spirit world and the abilities of mediums to communicate with it, one should always apply logic to what is experienced.


For some reason, when the lights are turned out at physical seances, logic – for many sitters – seems to disappear, too. The golden rule should be: if it doesn’t make sense, reject it. I would urge people attending his seances in future to adopt the pose of Auguste  Rodin’s famous statue, “The Thinker”, and let the light of logic penetrate the darkness that shrouds Thompson’s performances, and see them for what they are.