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Van Morrison:
the truth behind
 
the ‘Spiritualist’ headlines


IS THE Northern-Irish singer-songwriter Sir George Ivan “Van” Morrison, OBE, a Spiritualist?

Yes, according to rock music magazine Uncut, which interviewed the enigmatic singer and atheist in August, learning in the process that he is a good friend of Michael Beckwith, founder and spiritual director of Agape International Spiritual Centre in Culver City, California, and regularly attends its services.

Morrison consulted Irish medium Sharon Neill
Morrison consulted Irish medium
Sharon Neill


  

Despite the fact that Morrison explained that Agape “is no place for religion and is much ‘deeper’”, the magazine decided to describe it as a Spiritualist church and that claim has made headlines in several publications around the world.

“I’m a member and I am a friend of Dr Beckwith,” Morrison told his interviewer. “I can’t tell you much right now. If anyone wants to find out, I’d rather they looked it up themselves. It’s spiritual, but it’s not religion. It’s beyond religion.”

According to the Belfast Telegraph (2 September), “Members of a controversial Californian Spiritualist church have chanted unusual Happy Birthday messages to their ‘brother’ Sir Van Morrison – days after he spoke about his involvement with the organisation.

“And at the same service, the evening before the east Belfast singer turned 72, the congregation … wished him ‘Happy Earth Day’. The greetings came after Morrison sang three songs at a packed Agape gathering on Wednesday night and he acknowledged their chants by clasping his hands in front of him and bowing to the congregation.”

The songs he performed included Transformation, inspired by Agape, from his forthcoming album Roll With The Punches. It includes the line: “Gonna be a transformation down in your soul”. He also sang one of his biggest hits, Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?.

Agape has approximately 9,000 members who follow its New Thought spirituality and is endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities. Although it hosts New Age speakers at its services, it does not claim to be a Spiritualist organisation nor does it offer demonstrations of mediumship.

Morrison had said, two years earlier, that he “wouldn’t touch religion with a 10-foot pole”. He sees religion as a way of identifying with a faith group, whereas spirituality is personal.

Though the newspaper and magazine headlines will add to the public confusion about his spiritual beliefs, Morrison is unlikely to be too upset about being described as a Spiritualist. After all, his name, along with groups Ash and Coldplay, was mentioned in media interviews more than a decade ago by blind Irish medium Sharon Neill as being among her private clients.

In an interview with John Preston for the Telegraph (25 August 2017), he gave an insight into the factors, inspiration and influences that have helped shape his career over more than five decades, during which time he has written over 400 songs.

Morrison performing in 2015 (Photo: Art Siegel)
   Morrison performing in 2015       (Photo: Art Siegel)
 

Early on, he had to battle crippling stage fright. “It’s always been a dilemma for me. I’m a very private person and in order to perform I have to be something I’m not – namely an extrovert. I’ve had several psychic readings about this stuff and I remember one woman saying to me once, ‘You have the devil to pay’. And that is what it often feels like.”

Preston notes: “It was [his album] Astral Weeks that really catapulted Morrison into the big league. Mysterious, poetic and hypnotic, it was – and remains – unlike anything else that’s ever been recorded. ‘There was a lot of change around that time – 1966/67 – and I was trying to get in everything that was going on. I had a feeling when I was writing it that I was plugging into what Jung called the Collective Unconscious’.”

With other albums and songs having titles like Enlightenment, Into The Mystic, Dweller On The Threshold, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and Whenever God Shines His Light, it’s clear that Sir Van Morrison’s music is often a meaningful reflection on the progress of his continuing spiritual journey.


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