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SNU Physical Séance Protocol

 
David Bruton, President of the Spiritualists’ National Union and Principal of both the Arthur Findlay College and Arthur Findlay Centre, responds to PN readers

Further to the extensive coverage in last month’s PN relating to the SNU’s introduction of a physical protocol for the Arthur Findlay College (pictured) and Centre, and the subsequent withdrawal of physical medium Scott Milligan from working at the College, I would like on behalf of the Union to make the following points in an attempt to answer the concerns expressed in the printed letters: 
 

In my view – Eileen Davies

I have great respect for Eileen as an outstanding medium, tutor and course organiser at the AFC and I support much of what she says. However, there are one or two points contained in her article which need to be corrected to provide your readers with a true and balanced view of the facts surrounding the introduction of the protocol.

“When Scott was presented with the new rules, it was stated by Minister Judith Seaman that his séances were not evidential enough because they were held in the dark.”

This statement is totally false and these words were never spoken at the meeting. Minister Seaman has never sat with Scott, so I am sure that as a well-respected minister, medium and officer of the SNU she would not have and did not make such a judgment in relation to Scott’s work. Scott invited Judith to sit in one of his séances, an invitation which was readily accepted, but to date no firm details of a venue or date have been supplied to Minister Seaman.

“There are many who have chosen to pass judgment on Scott’s physical mediumship – a number of whom have not even had the decency to experience his séances.” 

The introduction of the protocol was never about any one medium but rather about adopting a rational approach to the conduct of physical mediumship at the College with a view to upholding Arthur Findlay’s wish for the advancement of Spiritualism and the Psychic Sciences.

“How much better the outcome of this situation might have been if the opinion of Scott – the person most directly affected – had been sought on the best course of action before the protocol was finalised.”

This is exactly what the AFC committee did at a meeting when Eileen was present. We offered to work with Scott in developing both the protocol and the testing equipment to find a mutually acceptable solution and take account of guidance from his spirit team. Scott was assured that he could continue to work at the College during this process, which would take place in his home circle. The College would supply the necessary equipment at no cost to Scott.

Sadly, some 48 hours after providing both Scott and Eileen with these assurances, Scott informed us he was withdrawing from the College; this was his decision and in my view we have by his actions jointly lost a great opportunity to progress the causes of both physical mediumship and Spiritualism. The protocol is in fact still a work in progress and although it has been issued in draft form the committee are more than ready to review it in the future as experience dictates.
 
 
“The introduction of the protocol was never about any one medium but rather about adopting a rational approach to the conduct of physical mediumship.”

 

Minister Eric Hatton – Letters

I fully support Eric’s view and bow to his lifetime of experience with many great physical mediums, which is the very reason we planned to work to better understand both the phenomena and the latest technology at our disposal. Experimentation with infrared photography in the séance room was occurring as far back as 1934 but technology has moved on considerably since that time; if we never seek to expand our understanding through working with the conditions and different mediums, how can we hope to progress this potentially highly evidential form of mediumship?

Roy Stemman – Letters

I am more than happy to propose dropping the requirement for infrared recording of all dark séances. The camera equipment we have identified for testing is not actually an infrared camera; it is, instead, the latest thermal imaging equipment developed for the military and emits no light that could be damaging to the medium. However, in my mind this underlines the need to test this equipment to establish its suitability and I am not wholly convinced that the College is the best place for this to take place. Surely the safety and protection of a home circle would provide a far more suitable test-bed before introducing this technology at the College, a point made very clearly to Scott and Eileen.
 

Derek Skeels – Letters

Derek is quite correct in saying that the SNU has a long history of exposing fraudulent mediums, whose work only seeks to damage the movement in the eyes of the general public. Personally, before I became president I worked closely with Sue Farrow when she was first appointed editor of Psychic News, to test the physical mediumship of Warren Caylor, and the claims he was making for his work. Sadly, after months of close negotiations, Caylor withdrew at the last minute, claiming our demands and safeguards to be excessive.
 

Lew Sutton – Letters

Mr Sutton has written to me regarding his observations on the protocol and given his experience and background I welcome his input with open arms. He has kindly offered to critique the protocol, drawing on his personal experience, and the College committee is more than happy to consider his views and opinions going forward.

The protocol is not set in stone; we are more than prepared to work in developing a document which meets the aims and objectives of the College whilst supporting the work in the field. I have already been approached by several physical mediums requesting test sittings using the protocol and over the next few months we will be arranging appropriate times to further investigate this important area of work.
 

“The Physical Protocol is still a work in progress. I look forward to working with many people in the future to develop this document and continue to enlarge the boundaries of our understanding.”
   

Freddie Giddings – Letters

I have to take issue with the statements of Mr Giddings. The SNU offers its members and students an internationally well-respected standard of education. Never in the 38 years I have been in Spiritualism have I said or heard said that the SNU approach is the only way. We are a progressive organisation and I can assure Mr Giddings that we are well aware that conditions in the séance room potentially affect the phenomena.

I cannot see any justification for naming the mediums who sought the guidance of the spirit world; this would simply have acted to make them targets, to have their standing and credibility questioned and undermined. What would this achieve?

I also cannot subscribe to Mr Giddings’ view that there are very few people in the SNU who have a deep knowledge of physical mediumship. What is the basis of these comments? Can Mr Giddings claim to have in-depth knowledge of our whole 2,800 membership?

I can, however, assure Mr Giddings that the protocol affects only the work at the College and the Centre. Our 340 churches around the country, and the many home circles emanating from those churches, are not in any way affected by the introduction of the protocol, unless, of course, they wish to adopt it to further their research in this field.

Yvonne Adriaensen Pols – Letters

Whilst I appreciate Yvonne’s personal opinion, it is not supported by fact. The many thousands of students attending the College year by year from around the world seem not to share her view about her “awful feeling” at the AFC. Most of the AFC committee are also working mediums; does Yvonne seriously believe we would put our colleagues, peers and students at risk? This is a totally ridiculous suggestion, not worthy of publication in a serious magazine.

In drawing my response to a close I would like to state for the record that the Spiritualists’ National Union takes its responsibility very seriously in furthering and promoting the Spiritualist movement. I repeat my regret that Scott took the decision to walk away from the College; what a lost opportunity this was, but I wish him well in his future development wherever that may take him.

The Physical Protocol is still a work in progress. I look forward to working with many people in the future to develop this document and continue to enlarge the boundaries of our understanding. I have no doubt that Spiritualism and the Union need to change to face the challenges of future generations; let’s not, in our efforts to appease the sensitivity of a few vocal souls, throw common sense and a rational and balanced approach out of the window.

How can we expect to be taken seriously in scientific and academic circles unless we are prepared to establish a framework for the development and testing of our work? Personally, I would subscribe to a view of the spirit world as a thinking, intelligent power wishing to progress the understanding of humankind; are we as Spiritualists ready to provide this or should we keep looking back to the past, hiding behind glories which have long since passed into distant memory?

The future lies before us: development in the understanding of mediumship and spirituality will continue with or without us. Personally, I would prefer to be part of this important research and create an understanding of Spiritualism which resonates in the minds of thinking people everywhere.

“The introduction of the protocol was never about any one medium but rather about adopting a rational approach to the conduct of physical mediumship.”

“The Physical Protocol is still a work in progress. I look forward to working with many people in the future to develop this document and continue to enlarge the boundaries of our understanding.”


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