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It also encourages its followers to base beliefs on rational enquiry rather than external authority. And rational enquiry is at the heart of the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies (USPS) in the UK which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Yet it was a young man’s death that led to the creation of USPS.
Roger Whitby was 21, had achieved a first-class honours degree in civil engineering at Sheffield University and had beaten 340 other applicants to secure a job in London with a major building company.
It was the summer of 1963 and with six or more weeks before he was due to start his first job, Roger went on holiday to the Mediterranean island of Corsica with his sister Vivien and their parents, Unitarian ministers Rev George S. Whitby and Rev Florence Whitby.
George Whitby enjoyed a long and distinguished career as both a lecturer in philosophy for adult education and an examiner in moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. For 30 years he was a minister of the Unitarian Central City Churches in both Glasgow and Sheffield.
Florence Whitby had a degree in history and was a highly-regarded teacher before she trained to become a Unitarian minister.
What began for the Whitbys as an idyllic holiday in the sun turned to tragedy on 12 August when Roger went “free diving” (without breathing equipment) to collect dead coral for his sister.
The last photo of Roger, sitting on rocks in Corsica shortly before his tragic accident.
He never came back to the surface and his body was found floating at 50 feet. It appears something happened that interfered with the blood supply to his brain.
“Roger’s death nearly broke our father – but it did not,” his sister, Vivien Elliott, reveals.
"He already knew there was some type of continuing consciousness and had written of it, but now he decided to explore it to even deeper levels. So the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies was formed, for the benefit of humanity as a whole and the Unitarian movement.”
Last month, the USPS celebrated with a 50th Anniversary Conference at Buxton, Derbyshire (18-20 September), with various presentations and an address from guest speaker Dr Serena Roney-Dougal who led a one-day seminar.