Thursday, November 02, 2017
Spiritualism today: 'I was mugged by a medium'
You don't expect to be mugged in a place of religious practice or contemplation. Especially not at the top-end premises of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, set amid the standard piste-white of London Belgravia's many CCTV-protected embassies [it has since moved to the Victoria area]. No one karate-chopped me and made off with my wallet. And the SAGB itself wasn't to blame.
But I was taken for a mug, by a fraudulent medium and her 3,000-year-old "spirit guide", and left £45 the poorer.
So this is what happened. On a whim I'd decided to attend one of the SAGB's weekday afternoon demonstrations of clairvoyance. I can't remember the name of the guest medium but the chairperson sticks in my mind, a theatrical man draped in long silky robes, his head crowned with a fez. Sort of Lawrence of Arabia meets Tommy Cooper meets ... Madame Arcati.
A small congregation had assembled in the pretty ground floor chapel: tourists, mother-daughter couples, lone males at the sides and back, a lone American woman (who'd laden the two chairs flanking her with bags and books), other single females dotted here and there, and two extremely old, chicly dressed Arab women at the front in their silky Hermes scarves (perhaps slumming it after cappuccinos at Harrods, just round the corner).
In fairness, the guest medium's messages were "evidential" - that is to say, she received positive responses from the individuals she came to with memories from the other side. This is not always the case. Today, the medium was on a roll. She was a feisty one, brisk and light-hearted, not shy to pass on some sharp criticism from astral loved-ones. Such mediums give Spiritualism a good name in that it is not easy to dismiss what they say as cold or body reading.
Then she came to me. She said a lot, some of it evidential, but in essence her message was "pull your socks up". I could live with that. It was fair given the personal detail she came up with. But once the demonstration was over a woman in the congregation approached me with a distressed look on her face. "Oh you poor thing," she said, gently gripping my arm and establishing instant eye contact. "I thought she [the guest medium] was a bit harsh on you. There's much more I could tell you that's positive. I can see, you see. I'm a medium, too."
Perhaps I was feeling vulnerable but her psychic pity found its audience. I instantly felt that here was a person who might dish up some reassurance - from an authentic source of course. She gave me her name, Liz Leake [actual name], she described herself as a trance medium and she had things to tell me that I would find constructive. Not like that nasty harridan on the stage. Would I like a "consultation"? Yes, of course. We exchanged telephone numbers. And a few days later I made an appointment to see this woman at her home.
About a fortnight later I rang the door to a house in north London. Liz led me through a dingy corridor up to her studio flat. My instincts were on alert the moment she locked the door behind me and hid away the key on her person. My instant thought was: what if I wanted to leave now, would she let me?
Liz sat me down in an armchair in front of her queen-sized double bed and she took a standing position by the fireplace. She began by telling me how the spirit world had first come knocking in her life years back. One night she'd awoken in her sheets to find her bed on fire. She did not say what caused the fire; nor did I ask. Once she'd doused the flames (presumably with water) she formed the idea that the spirit world had rescued her from an untimely roasting by waking her up.
That was the sign; she had been "called". Since then she'd practised - or at least, advertised herself - as a medium.
Now Liz explained how she worked. Shortly, she said, she would pass into a state of trance and her "3,000-year-old" male Chinese spirit guide (I can't recall his name so let's call him Mr Yao) would take her over. I was to remain calm and simply respond to any questions he might ask. Then Liz closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply and rhythmically - after a minute or so she emitted a curious sound: "Ahhhhhhhhhhh."
"Ahhhhhhhhh, I am Mr Yao, please to stay calm…" These were the first words spoken by the Oriental spirit guide via Liz. Her voice had dropped an octave or two. "You old soul yourself," he continued, sounding not unlike Christopher Lee's fiendish Dr Fu Manchu. "Instrument (he meant Liz) cannot know what I will tell you ... "
In fact he was to tell me nothing I couldn't have read in any number of self-help books. He launched into a long lecture on reincarnation and the laws of cause and effect. All the while Liz's eyes remained shut. After about 20 minutes of this, Mr Yao's monologue was interrupted - by the telephone ringing on an adjacent side table.
"Should I answer it?" I asked. Liz looked a little perplexed. Eyes stayed shut. "It will stop ringing," replied Mr Yao prophetically, betraying a surprising familiarity with modern communication devices for a 3,000-year-old soul. But it did not stop ringing so I picked it up. "Hello," I began.
"Who is this?" barked the caller, a man.
"Um, er, I am having a sitting with Liz."
"A sitting. Er, may I ask who is calling?"
"What? Is she there? A sitting?"
"She is in a trance ... "
"Oh my God! Not that nonsense again. Put her on the phone now - this is her father!"
I placed a hand over the mouthpiece and whispered to Liz/Mr Yao: "It's your father - he sounds rather cross."
"Oh, uh, er …" For a moment Liz/Mr Yao didn't seem to know what to do. "Ahhhhhhhh," began Mr Yao, "please to tell caller that instrument is in trance."
I replied: "I have told Liz's father she's in a trance - I think you should talk to him."
At this Liz's eyes shot open and she silently took the phone from my hand. "Ahhhhh, this is Mr Yao," she said still in Oriental character, "instrument is in trance but she will call you back moment she returns." And then Mr Yao replaced the receiver. I'd heard garbled angry noises at the other end of the line.
Liz shut her eyes again and Mr Yao gave me a faint smile before continuing for another 10 minutes on the theme of reincarnation. "You have questions?" he asked me at the end. "No, no," I said, "I have to go, it's all been very interesting." Mr Yao offered to give a "health analysis" (declined), wished me a happy life and on that cue Liz regained control of her vocal cords and her modulated London accent.
Indeed, Liz's eyes may well have opened to the sight of my fishing out cash from my wallet. She did not appear embarrassed or in anyway offended by my obvious rush to get away - I did however mention en passant that her father had called. "Oh really," she said distractedly.
Now, you may wonder why I paid the £45 to such an obvious fraud. Am I a man or a mouse? Surely I could have simply insisted she unlock the door and let me out. Or even called the police. But it did occur to me, as she babbled on as Mr Yao, that she might accuse me of all sorts of things if the cops were called - such a delusional and dishonest person might be capable of any concoction. It felt safer just to cough up - and swallow my medicine, as it were.
Because in the end it was my fault that had I found myself in that low-rent bed-sit. I'd allowed myself to be hoodwinked for "reassurance" and "comfort". I didn't ask myself why a person would solicit my custom in a place of worship for personal gain, playing all the while on some perceived vulnerability in me.
So I decided I would "fine" myself £45. That sum was self-punishment for being such a desperate clot.