William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

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William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by Admin on Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:49 am

Back in 2009 I wrote an article about about William Lyon Mackenzie King Canada's Long Serving Prime Minister and his experiences in becoming a Spiritualist.

This is the article





There have often been claims that leading political figures were Spiritualists. Despite speculation it is almost impossible to definitively prove that interest in or involvement with Spiritualism.

One politician who is known to have explored Spiritualism was William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada from 1921-1930 and 1935-1948. He left his diaries, letters and library behind as a matter of public record to give evidence for his beliefs. These were enough to create a shockwave after his death, as the contents became public.

During his lifetime, knowledge of King’s growing involvement with Spiritualism was a closely guarded secret, kept safely by his friends and those people who he came to know through Spiritualism. The diaries convey that he was very mindful of the way his opponents would use this information if they became aware of it.

The first the Canadian public knew of King’s interests came from a Psychic News article in 1950. Reporter Fred Archer, interviewed the dowager Duchess of Hamilton about King’s Spiritualist activities. The Duchess, formerly Lady Aberdeen, had become close friends with King whilst her husband was Governor General of Canada. The Psychic News article was reported on in the Ottawa Times on 10th October 1950.

The editor of the Canadian bi weekly publication Maclean’s Magazine, Blair Fraser, followed this up. Travelling to England he discovered the extent of King’s séance attendance and the breadth of spirit contact claimed. The story appeared in the December 1951 edition entitled “The Secret Life of Mackenzie King, Spiritualist”. The revelations about King’s Spiritualist activities created shockwaves which died down only to re-emerge when the diaries were released in January 1975.

The Diaries form a truly remarkable history, commencing in 1893 with an eighteen year old King and continuing until his death on July 22nd 1850. Many, though not all, have been placed in digital form on the Library and Archives of Canada. Dying before he could prepare his own memoirs, the diaries alone stand as an amazing record of an astonishing person and his extraordinary life.

There is also a separate ‘Spiritualism Series’ in the collection, which has not yet been digitalised, although it is available to researchers. This contains his book collection, letters to mediums, séance records and correspondence to other Spiritualists. Fortunately, the diaries themselves also have detailed entries on a number of the key sittings whilst conveying a broader picture of the man and his life.

What becomes clear is the intense nature of his character and the deeply religious way he approached life. The diaries include many very moving passages as tragedies struck he and his family. In 1915 his sister Bella, always described in the diaries as Little Bell, passed away. In 1916 his father died. 1917 saw the death of his Mother, and in 1922 his younger brother Max passed from tuberculosis.

The tragedies eventually led him to Spiritualism because as time went by he met trusted friends who shared their experiences of sittings with mediums where contact was made with loved ones in Spirit. They spoke of the comfort they gained from those experiences which persuaded him to seek his own solace.

The diaries show that King, brought up as a Presbyterian, was always prepared to challenge orthodox religious thinking. In 1899, when given a copy of “Religio Medici” (The Religion of a Doctor) published in 1862 from the writings of Sir Thomas Browne MD in the mid 1600’s, King recorded in his diary “I agreed entirely with his liberal viewpoint as to worship”. He also indicated his acceptance of the three heresies that Browne included in his view of religion.

The first, that the soul did not lie in the body waiting for the last day to be resurrected, as King writes, “Death is the signal for freedom”. The second heresy, the rejection of eternal damnation, again King agrees, writing “I cannot and do not believe in such a thing as eternal suffering and punishment”. The third heresy he agreed with was the value of prayers for the dead, where King believed that you may petition for the soul of a loved one but “I believe that each soul must work out its own salvation”.

His thinking was not dissimilar to the Spiritualist position although at that time King had no direct experience of Spiritualism. He had, however, attended a fortune teller, Mrs. Menden, on May 2, 1896 and diary noted that there were some “strange truths” in the reading. As a contrast in 1902 he was given a Spiritualist book; Arthur Chambers “Life After Death,” which he threw away because it “made me blasphemous”.  

By 1925 he had decided to try a sitting, so arranged to see Mrs. Bleaney, a fortune teller who his diary notes, “is the one who told my fortune in a remarkable way 4 years ago”.  She came on March 1, 1925, giving a reading which is described as “a truly remarkable experience, especially the reference to dear Mother and Max. They cannot be gainsaid”. He went on to write up a detailed 3 page report on the meeting. From that day until 1932 he maintained regular contact with Mrs. Bleaney beginning his involvement in spiritual matters. In London in 1926 he discussed these sittings with Sir Oliver Lodge when they first met. Sir Oliver said the messages came because of her powers and his faith.

On March 9, 1925, King was visited by Sir Donald Mann, a Spiritualist, who, apart from formal Government business brought a series of messages to give guidance. At the end of the note King writes “I am far…from making light of his convictions or views, there is something in it.” However, a diary note on October 30, 1925, showed that he had not adopted those ideas, writing “My nature & reason revolt against ‘spiritualism’ & all its ilk – but not against the  things of spirit – the belief in spirit guidance – thro’ intuition – it is the material manifestations I feel charry (sic) about.”

King also visited other psychics. On Feb 18, 1931 the diaries record a sitting with Mrs. Quest Brown who used a combination of astrology and palmistry and on Sept 8, 1932, there is a record of a sitting with Miss Hitchcock who used the Ouija board. He received books from these ladies which started him delving into the literature of Spiritualism and survival.

Then came an extraordinary event. The Fulford’s, friends directed  by King to Mrs. Bleaney to seek comfort on the loss of a loved one, had made contact with a famous American Direct Voice Medium, Etta Wriedt.   Etta was a professional medium, who only charged one dollar for a successful séance, never sat in a cabinet, never went into trance and often would join in the conversation with those communicating from the world of spirit.

The Fulford’s invited King to join them at the sittings they had an arranged with Mrs Wriedt on Feb 21 and 22, 1932. King described both séances as “remarkable”. Two days later he arranged for Mrs. Wriedt to hold more sittings with Mrs. Fulford and another great friend Joan Patterson, a very close confidant, who was a major support to him in his life.

In June 1932, Mrs. Wriedt visited him for a week. The diaries record “I had a truly wonderful talk with Mother and Professor Sharp (Etta’s Spirit Control)”; “there can be no doubt whatever that the persons I have been talking with were the loved ones” and “the ‘conversations’ in many cases have been so loud, so clear that I have felt great embarrassment at the servants....hearing what was said.”

King again visited Mrs Wriedt in Detroit in September 1932. After the evening séance he recorded “dear father, Mr Larkin & Sir Wilfred Laurier, (his predecessor as Liberal leader and great friend) appeared in the order named”. He attended two sittings the next day again recording the visiting Spirits in order of attendance.

In December 1932, after reading “Death Cannot Sever,” written by Norman Maclean, Minister of St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, King recorded this was the “first vol(ume) by a Christian Minister upholding the reality of all I have experienced & know to be true of survival …as revealed by Mrs Wriedt’s mediumship…..linking the Bible and Spiritualism in the true way.”

He returned to Detroit for three further sittings with Mrs Wriedt in January,1933 and arranged for her to visit him that Easter when a number of significant séances took place.  



William Lyon Mckenzie King, Etta Wriedt, Joan Patterson


In June 1933 the diaries begin to record conversations with other Spiritualists. In a meeting on June 18, with Dr Hett, a researcher on cancer, they shared their experiences with Mrs Wriedt. This conversation also revealed that a number of his acquaintances were Spiritualists.

By July 10, King’s diaries indicate a major shift in his early view of Spiritualism. After reading William James’s “Will to Believe”, he observed that when men of such intellectual and scientific minds as “William James and Lord Arthur Balfour, think & speak & believe as they do about ‘Spiritualism’ there is the strongest reason why I should not hesitate to believe I am entirely right in continuing to explore.”

On August 20, he met the famous Canadian Psychic Researcher Dr T Glen Hamilton who showed him all of the photographic evidence he had collated about teleplasm and ectoplasm, and. discussed the mediums involved and the manner in which the photographs had been taken. Mackenzie King was very affected by this visit, in particular, by the Katie King story that was coming through in the séances.

October 15 to 17, 1933, saw King in Detroit for more successful sessions with Mrs. Wriedt. Then on November 16, 1933, he is able to record his “first experience at ‘table wrapping’ (sic) … was amazingly successful”. The table sittings were to become a regular part of his life from this point on.

On August 25, 1934, Mrs. Wriedt visited King again and a number of sittings were held. One of the sittings disturbed him because of a talk by the Spirit Control Dr Sharp, with King recording “each talk …. has led up to this anti Christ effort”. King was clearly convinced that the communications had been manipulated by Dr Sharp for his own purposes. He decided “that there is something sinister in Spiritualism” and while “the ablest and truest can sift the false from the true . . . “satan enters I am sure.” He added, “the ‘spiritualist’ school so-called are not intellectual & spiritual enough to get the fragmentary nature of the evidence … but it has yet to get the significance of Christianity. The Christians have not yet accepted the part of their own belief which the Spiritualists make the foundation of theirs.”

In October 1934, King travelled to England where he went to the College of Psychic Studies and arranged sittings with Mrs. Vaughan (daughter of Sir Oliver Lodge), Mrs. DeCrepigny and Mrs. Brennon, while the Duchess of Hamilton arranged a sitting for him with the medium Hester Dowden held on October 24, 1934.

In December 1935, King was able to arrange a sitting with the great Medium Eileen Garrett, born in County Meath, Ireland, one of the few mediums who had managed to convince Harry Price of their veracity. This was an exceptional event for King. Conducted entirely by Urvani, Mrs Garrett’s Spirit Control, it was so extensive that he took the unusual step of transcribing a full 11 pages of conversations into the diaries. He commented, “I told her of how remarkably true I thought much of what had been said”. Surprisingly, after such an experience he went directly on to see a Tea Cup Reader at the Roma Gypsy Tea Room also noting the entire conversation in his diary.



Example of his written séance transcription.

In June 1937, while on his extended trip to Europe, in part to meet Hitler for peace talks, the Duchess of Hamilton introduced him to Gladys Leonard Osborne. He remarked that the conversations with Osborne were exceptional and this was the start of another ongoing friendship.  Then in January 1938, he had what turned out to be the last visit with Mrs. Wriedt. His diary notes “the evidence of survival of personality is convincing and overwhelming.”

During the war his diaries seldom record any direct meetings with mediums although he frequently received written messages from Gladys Leonard Osborn with news from his loved ones in Spirit. These years saw a friendship form with Miss Elliott, the first female editor of Macmillans in Canada. In her he found a kindred Spirit who shared his interest in Spiritualism. Indeed on August 5, 1942 they arranged a séance with a new medium, Alma Brash, with some remarkable results which impressed both of them.

However, in contrast to the diaries, the Spiritualism Series shows that on his wartime visits to Britain he had several sessions with mediums, notably Mrs. Sharplin, Mrs. Helen Hughes, Mrs. Hester Dowding, and on occasion with Mrs. Leonard. The end of the war saw him back in Britain and visiting Mrs. Leonards house for a sitting on 27, October 1945. Returning to England in 1947, he had his first sitting with Geraldine Cummins. In her memoirs, “Unseen Adventures,” she described him as an “experienced investigator and “no credulous fool”.

He described this first sitting with Cummins as “most remarkable, as evidential indeed as any sitting can be”. Then in 1948 on his last visit to England he fell ill and Miss Cummins and her fellow medium Miss Gibbes were urgently brought to his hotel.  This saw 50 minutes of automatic writing including a warning from Franklin D Rooseveldt of trouble in the Far East in two years. King replied “that he made it a rule to ignore advice volunteered in sittings.” Interestingly, in two years the Korean War started.

The diaries make clear the “conversations” King had with spirit never impacted upon his political action. The sittings formed a counterpoint to his life and gave him great comfort in what was personally a lonely, solitary journey as a political figure of note.

William Lyon Mackenzie King passed to spirit on July 22, 1950. While it is clear that he had a great interest, even fascination with mediums and Spiritualism, it is difficult to say whether he would have called himself a Spiritualist. The diaries suggest he believed he was still a Christian but with a new understanding. King was never directly involved with the Spiritualist movement although he corresponded with many who were. It seems his interest in Spiritualism was, in part, an intellectual one, supported by his amazing experiences with mediums of the highest ability. What can be said with certainty is that Mackenzie King has left our movement with a priceless legacy. His diaries and the Spiritualism Series provide a rare insight not only into the life of the man but offer very convincing and credible evidence to verify the truths of Spiritualism.

© Lis and Jim Warwood with rights also to Psychic News
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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by mac on Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:15 am

That's interesting, Jim. I'm cooking lunch right now so I'll take a proper look at your piece later - thanks!

mac


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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by mac on Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:26 pm

fascinating! much enjoyed, Jim  Smile 

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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by Admin on Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:34 am

I have two big lever arch files of the downloaded diaries plus many other materials. By the time I finished this piece I could almost feel his presence around me Mac. I have always intended to use the diaries as part of a retrospective on Etta Wriedt as well. I think she is one of the most unsung mediums given how impressive her record was.

Sad that there is no space for this type of article in the new Psychic News which has naturally gone into a different direction to seek readers. It was probably always going to be important for them to break into new ground outside of a reliance on the UK Churches. I will probably have to use one of my two blogs, which have been gathering dust, for this type of story. http://spiritualismfacts.wordpress.com/ or http://spiritualistblog.wordpress.com/

Jim
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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by mac on Mon Apr 21, 2014 7:42 am

Admin wrote:I have two big lever arch files of the downloaded diaries plus many other materials. By the time I finished this piece I could almost feel his presence around me Mac. I have always intended to use the diaries as part of a retrospective on Etta Wriedt as well. I think she is one of the most unsung mediums given how impressive her record was.

Sad that there is no space for this type of article in the new Psychic News which has naturally gone into a different direction to seek readers. It was probably always going to be important for them to break into new ground outside of a reliance on the UK Churches. I will probably have to use one of my two blogs, which have been gathering dust, for this type of story. http://spiritualismfacts.wordpress.com/ or http://spiritualistblog.wordpress.com/

Jim

Let us know when you've done that, Jim, as I for one would like to take a look.

Interesting, I found, how he had to keep his views secret and interesting also that he appeared never to have made the simple transition from being a Christian to thinking of himself as a Spiritualist.... I wonder if he now ever thinks back to those times, or did actually draw near to you when you were working on his diaries?

I wonder if any of us will think back to our time incarnate once we've shaken off the shackles of our material bodies?  Wink 

mac


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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by Admin on Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:45 am

Working on those diaries was amazing Mac, it frustrates Lis and I that, for all our ability on the internet and the expansion of digital archives, even allowing for our own pretty decent library we are so far from the best resources. To get to the Spiritualism Series would have meant several thousand dollars in air fares and 40 hours air travel.

Yes I do think that by the end, when I visually had scanned the entire diaries twice and painstakingly downloaded them he got pretty close in Spirit.

Given they record all his experiences, even throughout the Second World War, as Prime Minister of the country our Royal family was to go into exile to if Hitler invaded (My father was a Warrant Officer First Class in the War Office, he refused a commission but went back to active service for the D Day landings ended up retiring just before his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel (not bad from boy bugler at 14 in Hong Kong), was under instructions to abandon our family and go as well, he even gave my Mother a gun and instructions what to do), those diaries, carrying little in the way of secrets but many personal thoughts are very engrossing.

Jim


Last edited by Admin on Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:57 am; edited 3 times in total
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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by Admin on Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:47 am

Oh yes and I think Etta Wriedt has been ignored by history. I took up a free trial of a Lexscience data base accessing the SPR files and many other key databases and she received one mention.
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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by mac on Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:24 am

Admin wrote:Oh yes and I think Etta Wriedt has been ignored by history. I took up a free trial of a Lexscience data base accessing the SPR files and many other key databases and she received one mention.

Yes I was fascinated to learn from your piece about the way she operated.  Why-oh-why do we not have someone like her nowadays?  

It might almost appear that our friends-in-spirit discontinued engaging with this world deliberately before the time arrived when phenomena could be posted to the Web and could spread 'virally' within seconds, like so much of the tripe that's posted daily.  

Why might they decide that was the way to go, one wonders?  Maybe mac is reading too much into too little?

mac


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Re: William Lyon Mackenzie King The Spiritualist Prime Minister

Post by Admin on Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:01 am

Mac a very good question, I have been thinking about this too. I will let this mull in my mind for a little longer.
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