Medium and the Minister, The
You don't have to 'be religious' to believe there may be a life after death!
You don't have to 'be religious' to believe there may be a life after death!
The Medium and the Minister explores psychical and religious approaches to the possibility of an afterlife. The tensions and conflicts between these two approaches and the heated controversies they have generated are illustrated by a number of case studies. These focus on the challenges posed by psychical research and spiritualism to orthodox religion as the ultimate authority for information and teaching about the afterlife. Prominence is given initially to the campaigns of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge which aimed to publicise the psychical evidence and to the Church’s reaction to them. Later developments and initiatives to try to reconcile the opposing positions are then examined in the light of further psychical research. The issues raised are shown to be still highly relevant to current beliefs and attitudes and to the question of what might constitute evidence for life after death.
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Subtitled ‘who on earth knows about the afterlife?’, this book follows up on the author’s 2009 study in survival connected with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reviewed in these pages. It is a timely publication which reminds me of a remark by the then Archbishop of York John Habgood at a Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies (CFPSS) conference where we were both speaking. His opening remarks were that he was sceptical of psychical studies for two reasons: first as a scientist, and secondly as a theologian. Readers will already be familiar with mainstream scientific attitudes to survival, but here they will learn more about theologians in relation to mediumistic evidence posing a challenge to ecclesiastical authority. The author begins with eight possible attitudes to the afterlife and makes it very clear that readers must come to their own conclusions based on an assessment of the evidence on a matter that should concern us all but seldom does. Christianity deals mainly in platitudinous generalities when it comes to the afterlife, and faced the dual but very different challenges of spiritualism and psychical research in the second half of the 19th century. The pivotal figures in the book are on the one hand Sir Oliver Lodge, who lost his son Raymond in the First World War, and Conan Doyle, and on the other senior Church of England bishops and archbishops insisting on faith rather than intellectual apprehension. The war made the issue all the more poignant, and put churches on the spot; Conan Doyle suggested that their common enemy was materialism. Roger gives a vivid account of the report on spiritualism commissioned by the Church of England that should have been published in 1939, but the full text edited by Michael Perry appeared only 40 years later for political reasons. Following his own study and book, Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Lester established the CFPSS in 1953. Even so, it has not proved easy to bridge the gap between the medium and the minister, as Roger explains. There is an interesting chapter on the heretical Bishop Jim Pike and descriptions of other work in the field of mediumship, including that of late SMN member Dr Robert Crookall. Roger wisely concludes that no ultimate proof is possible, but there is a great deal of evidence, argument and experience to consider, as I did myself in my own book Survival? There can be some convergence between psychical, religious and experiential sources, and we do have extensive descriptions of afterlife scenarios, all outlined in a balanced fashion, making the book a valuable resource. ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer
Who on earth knows about the Afterlife? And why bother? Surely these are the most important questions we can ask? The author poses these questions and asks who is qualified to answer? This book then takes us on a journey of investigation and exploration of the evidence for life after death and outlines how the monopoly of the orthodox religions as the authority on this subject was challenged by the emergence and popularity of Spiritualism and by Psychical Research. Although these challengers emerged from polarised positions what they had in common was mediumship – whether demonstrated or investigated. As for the Churches their authority as intermediary between the people and their God had been superseded – now all that was required was a Medium with no particular religious position or experience, Straughan tells us. Psychical Research was also in ascendance and this was enhanced further by two knights on a mission – the man who created Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the President of The Society for Psychical Research, Sir Oliver Lodge. Both men had lost their sons but had received personal communication from them via mediumship – this had convinced them both of life after death. This put the two knights on a collision course with the church hence the title of this book, The Medium and The Minister. This matter became further confused when some Ministers became Mediums, showing that one person could fulfil both roles. The Church had to act. The Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned a report but with instructions that it should never be published – it took 40 years before it was eventually published in 1979. The book concludes by looking at the overwhelming amount of evidence for the proposition that individual consciousness survives the physical death of the body and whilst there can be no definitive proof, it is the vastness of this evidence and from different sources and via a variety of methodology – some without the need for mediums at all, that is compelling. What I like about this book is that Personal Experience is given as much credence and status as the evidence from any other sector. This is an area that is often neglected in my opinion by many academic researchers but as stated in the book, it is only after the personal experiences of many of the contributors, that their own ‘missions’ begin in earnest. This mirrors my own personal experience and I am aware that the author too has encountered something similar which he outlines in his book, A study in Survival: Conan Doyle Solves the Final Problem. ‘Another reason for highlighting the role of personal experience here is the degree of conviction that it can carry. One can study all the religious arguments for life after death and read all the reports of psychical researchers, and find this mass of data intellectually convincing. Yet a single direct personal experience of the kind we have mentioned can bring with it a level of psychological certainty that second hand material cannot.’ I thoroughly commend this book for the thoroughness of the research and the ease with which it is presented. It is crammed with facts and findings yet it is a real page-turner – very enjoyable and enlightening. Needless to say, it is another well-written book by Roger Straughan who has a knack of delivering his evidence in a format which takes the reader with him on his journey of exploration. I would recommend it for anyone with an open mind and enquiring spirit. ~ Ann Treherne , Founder, The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, Edinburgh
5 Star Rating. The Medium And The Minister by Roger Straughan is a fascinating book studying the afterlife. The author produces evidence and viewpoints from both points of view. Ultimately it is up to the reader to decide what we choose to believe as no one really knows what happens after we die. Roger Straughan shows the emergence of spiritualism from the mid nineteenth century. It had supporters in the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is interesting to read their findings. During World War I many strange phenomena happened to grieving relatives and soldiers still serving in the trenches, who claim to have seen those already passed on, but at the time the relatives and soldiers had no knowledge of the deaths. It is amazing to read, totally fascinating and unexplainable. The author also presents the churches view of the afterlife as seen in the Bible and decided by academics. Gone is the view of forever burning in hell or singing eternal songs in heaven. We are presented with beliefs from a Christian viewpoint. I was interested to read about Bishop Hugh Montifiore (of Birmingham in the late 1970’s, as living in Solihull with my parents meant I had seen Bishop Hugh on several occasions) and his beliefs. It felt like a personal connection to the book. There are also sections on mediums and Near Death Experiences which seem to have grown up with the advent of television. I found the whole book interesting, well laid out and fascinating. Ultimately none of us know what happens in the afterlife but as a Christian I put my hope and trust in Jesus, believing that I will spend eternity with Him. ~ Julia Wilson, Amazon
5 Star Rating. As author Straughan states in the concluding chapter, this book is “all about the wide range of evidence about a possible afterlife that is available to anyone who is prepared to look at it.” He stresses that evidence is not necessarily proof and it is left to the reader to give a verdict on the evidence offered. The title of the book is based on the conflicts between the evidence coming to us through psychical research carried out by a number of esteemed scholars and scientists and the faith-based teachings offered to us by orthodox religions. While the research supported the basic tenets of religions, including that of consciousness surviving death, it also challenged certain beliefs, the result being that church authorities were forced to ignore or repudiate the research to retain credibility with their flocks. There were, however, a number of Church clerics who disagreed with the church in this respect and even several who were gifted with mediumistic ability. As Straughan explains it, “an intriguing story of power politics, clashes of strong personalities, alleged cover-ups, leaks of secret information, documents filched from fling cabinets” plays out, most of it during the first half of the 20th Century. Straughan summarizes some of the more intriguing cases in the annals of psychical research, including the R-101 Airship Disaster, the Cross-Correspondences, the experiences of Colonel Reginald Lester, the Bishop Pike mystery, and the Scole Experiments. Although I have authored six books on the general subject matter, I learned a few things from this book and it further served as a refresher course on things I had forgotten. It has prompted me to reread the books about Colonel Lester and Bishop Pike. Those not familiar with the subject matter and those who have only scratched the surface of it should discover much food for thought. As Straughan points out, there can be few more serious concerns than death and the ultimate destiny of ourselves and others. ~ Michael E Tymn, Amazon US
5 Star Rating. At one level this little book is an unrivalled survey of the wealth of literature suggesting (to my mind proving) that there is life after death, and that communication with the so-called dead is not just possible, but important for all in the human condition to at least consider. Most of us, it seems, are ignorant that such a mass of evidence exists, and how persuasive the evidence is for those bothering to study it. Yet the scepticism that so many of us inherit from our eighteenth century forebears still largely holds sway, even today, and bars us from even giving it the time of day. Highly readable and clear, it is the best introduction to the subject that I have seen, and certainly the most up-to-date (having, for instance, three pages on the Scole Report, which by itself recorded 500 extraordinary individual phenomena, none ever shown to be fraudulent, however much the whole exercise is comprehensively denounced by opinion-formers (loud on the net) who have clearly never read a page of the material, let alone studied the report with anything approaching an open mind. Straughan details how serious scientific study of afterlife phenomena has been going on for well over a century, dating back at least to the formation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 (with American SPR founded on similar lines three years later). It has increasingly become the subject of painstaking academic study, under ever more rigorous scientific controls. However there is another equally impressive strand, those who participate in and record such phenomena through the many spiritualist circles and churches in the English-speaking world, along with a chapter on those who have written or otherwise recorded their personal experience. Over the years these two empirical strands have forced the Christian churches out of their initially hostile stance, as more and more of their number, and indeed of their clergy, have experienced such phenomena themselves, and have moderated their understanding of the afterlife accordingly. Though Straughan sees the churches rather as antagonists to both, in some denominations specialist groups have been set up to investigate such phenomena from a Christian standpoint, as neutrally as they find possible. Straughan shows how much the resulting controversies, often bitter, had to do with declining church-going over the period. Straughan himself maintains a neutral stance, stressing throughout that the book is designed to help his readers themselves to decide. Given the accumulation of increasingly watertight evidence, this must have been hard to maintain, but his underlying courtesy towards those who continue to rubbish the data, or at least seem determined to remain unconvinced by it, is clear and commendable. ~ James Gordon, Amazon UK
.....The introduction immediately puts one at ease since the author’s aim is not to provide conclusive answers which are “probably impossible”, but instead to explore the various arguments to allow readers to make up their own minds. Commendable! ...I like this book. It is written in a style that makes it comfortable and informative to read, without having to reach for a glossary to understand technical terms that too often flood parapsychological works. The author presents the facts and leaves the reader to decide how to interpret them. His final statement quotes the words of Arthur Balfour, a former Prime Minister and President of the Society for Psychical Research: "Our highest truths are but half-truths. Think not to settle down for ever in any truth. Make use of it as a tent in which to spend a summer’s night. But build no house of it, or it will be your tomb." https://www.spr.ac.uk/book-review/medium-and-minister-who-earth-knows-about-afterlife-roger-straughan ~ Nemo C. Mörck/Melvyn Willin, Society for Psychical Research
The Medium And The Minister by Roger Straughan is a fascinating book studying the afterlife. The author produces evidence and viewpoints from both points of view. Ultimately it is up to the reader to decide what we choose to believe as no one really knows what happens after we die. Roger Straughan shows the emergence of spiritualism from the mid-nineteenth century. It had supporters in the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is interesting to read their findings. During World War I many strange phenomena happened to grieving relatives and soldiers still serving in the trenches, who claim to have seen those already passed on, but at the time the relatives and soldiers had no knowledge of the deaths. It is amazing to read, totally fascinating and unexplainable. The author also presents the church's view of the afterlife as seen in the Bible and decided by academics. Gone is the view of forever burning in hell or singing eternal songs in heaven. We are presented with beliefs from a Christian viewpoint. I was interested to read about Bishop Hugh Montifiore (of Birmingham in the late 1970s, as living in Solihull with my parents meant I had seen Bishop Hugh on several occasions) and his beliefs. It felt like a personal connection to the book. There are also sections on mediums and Near-Death Experiences which seem to have grown up with the advent of television. I found the whole book interesting, well laid out and fascinating. Ultimately none of us knows what happens in the afterlife but as a Christian I put my hope and trust in Jesus, believing that I will spend eternity with Him. I received a free copy from the publishers. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own. REVIEW LINK: http://www.christianbookaholic.com/2022/05/02/the-medium-and-the-minister-by-roger-straughan/ ~ Christian Bookaholic, Review
Covered with an almost intense desire to fully bring forth the relevant cornucopia of information that is dedicated within the world to this thoroughly engrossing conversation, the tensions and conflicts between these two approaches and the heated controversies they have generated are finitely illustrated by a number of case studies here in The Medium and The Minister: Who on Earth Knows about the Afterlife? So, regardless of your own personal viewpoint on the posed question of Is there life after death? My suggestion would be to read this book, allow your mind to freely embrace the debate, the discussion, the viewpoints reviewed and allow yourself to, perhaps, see things a little clearer (one way or the other). Full Review: https://annecarlini.com/ex_books.php?id=324 ~ Exclusive Magazine, Review