Self-confessed sceptic JOANNA DELLA-RAGIONE went along to the world’s biggest spiritualist school to find out
ing for his own truth. “I want to believe in life after death I suppose,” he says. “I’ve always been terrified of death, my own and other people’s, and I want to know what happens after if there is anything. If I can experience a tiny glimpse for myself I’ll feel better.”
Then there is friendly Maxine whose 21-year-old daughter died in a freak road accident just 18 months ago. “I went to see mediums afterwards and the fact they were talking to her, that she was talking through them and telling me she was OK, that I shouldn’t be sad, consoled me,” she tells me. “My husband thought I was mad at first but he’s more open to it now.”
The multi-million-pound industry that includes personal readings, stage shows and séances has been criticised for fakery, for taking advantage of vulnerable people and exploiting them for profit. “Certainly there are a few bad people out there who can give us a bad name,” says Stella.
But at the college there is no sense of exploitation at all, only goodwill. And yet do I believe in any of it? Not a jot. No part of me has been convinced by any of the “evidence” presented. Not by the psychometry class where I correctly ascertained James’s watch was a birthday gift that cost in the realm of £100, nor from my healing session with Steven – where he accurately told me that I once injured my left knee but didn’t manage to gauge the rest of my medical history. Or even from my sitting with Stella, during which she spoke to my dead grandfather and told me that he had a cracking sense of humour and would come out with funny phrases (true) and that his passing was unexpected to him and he still had things he wanted to do (true but is anyone ever ready for death?).
BUT then I am stringently agnostic. Judaism, Christianity, Islam alike, I don’t find any of their explanations of God or our existence convincing. No more or less so than evidential mediumship – the spiritualist’s proof – which to me is a heady mixture of coincidence and cold reading that allows the willing sitter to jump to conclusions they so desperately want to be true.
However there is a fine line between believing something is true and it actually being so and if you’re going to subscribe to something, spiritualism seems one of the nicer, more peaceful religions. After all, we are all just searching for answers, aren’t we?
For more information about spiritualism visit snu.org.uk
RECEIVING: Seances have a mixed reputation as in this scene from 2009’s Drag
Me To Hell
SEARCHING: Maxine, who visited mediums after her daughter died, practises tarot reading with Joanna