Over the years I’ve sat through dozens of trance demonstrations. Well, to be strictly accurate – dozens of events that were advertised as trance demonstrations. . .
Bottom line: I believe I’ve only ever witnessed five people who were actually in trance. This is not to say the others were frauds – just suffering from that well-known ailment, Clairdelusion.
Mediumship should never be taken as read. It has to be assessed rationally. We do the spirit world (and ourselves) no favours by being credulous. Silver Birch put it beautifully:
“Our desire is to win you and your co-operation through the assent of your reason. We do not want to offend it, because it is one of the gifts the Great Spirit has bestowed.” I’ll paraphrase that more bluntly: “You were given intelligence, so use it!”
I remember attempting to use mine while attending a trance dem a decade or so ago. The communicating ‘guide’ struck me as pompous and condescending, full of self-importance. He rambled at length about his knowledge of Latin and Greek, saying what a great scholar he had been while on earth. Afterwards he invited questions.
Awkward so-and-so that I am, I said I had one. “Go ahead, young lady,” he replied in an indulgent drawl. Bad move. I hate being patronised. So I asked in Latin what his name was and where he had been a scholar. Cue anxious twitch of ‘medium’s’ face, followed by “I see the young lady is trying to be clever!” (In English, naturally.) Trance? I don’t think so.
But I digress. One of the five I mentioned above was Midlands-based philosophical trance medium Robert Goodwin. I was first taken by my late companion Eric Hatton to see him work. Knowing I was a tad sceptical when it came to trance, Eric had given Robert one hell of a build-up when telling me about him. I had massive faith in Eric’s judgement but still went along with my cautious ‘Sounds promising, let’s wait and see’ mindset. The demonstration turned out to be the finest I’ve ever witnessed.
Robert never seeks the limelight but kindly agreed to give me this interview. I started by asking how he’d first discovered his ability in this rare form of mediumship.
“I suppose like many who possess mediumistic ability I was aware of being ‘different’ as a child, although I never understood quite why,” he explained. “I was always happy in my own company and content to amuse myself in my own world. When I reached adolescence, I became increasingly aware of being a loner who preferred silence and solitude to visiting pubs and clubs, as many of my friends were doing.
“I became more aware of a deep desire to serve others in some way, but didn’t know quite how this would materialise. I began meditating regularly and during my meditation became aware of what can only be described as ‘a presence’, as if someone was standing close to me. This was always accompanied by feelings of love and warmth and I never felt threatened or insecure in any way.
“Even though none of my family were Spiritualists, it was suggested that I might be interested in going to the local Spiritualist church. I did this, attending Earlsbury Gardens in Birmingham each Sunday morning. I seemed to be getting messages each week from visiting mediums and was asked if I would like to join the development group. I said I had an interest in spiritual healing, and put forward the idea that perhaps I might be able to develop as a healer.
“Spirit, it seemed, had other ideas and it was after only a short time of sitting in the closed circle that I began to develop a strong urge to speak. As a naturally introverted person, this didn’t really appeal, but the feeling grew more powerful with each passing week until I could no longer contain it, and a voice (that of a deceased farmer, I think) uttered a few words through me. Shortly after this, a more eloquent presence began to emerge and speak regularly, and so began my long association with White Feather – although it was several years before he told me his name.”
The importance of a no-nonsense mentor
With trance, more than any other form of mediumship, experienced, frank guidance is essential. I wondered who had mentored Robert’s development.
“I was extremely fortunate that an ‘old school’ trance and platform medium by the name of Arthur Phelps, whom Eric would have known, was the one who saw my potential and asked me to sit in his circle,” he told me. “We used to meet every Friday evening and I rarely missed a sitting for over seven years.
“Arthur was known for being a ‘no nonsense’ kind of teacher and if something wasn’t right he’d tell you straight out. Those who couldn’t take his forthright ways were sometimes offended by this approach, but I knew he always acted out of kindness and because he wanted his sitters to develop in the right way.
“Like me, he had little or no time for egotism and his stock phrase when speaking about those whose self-opinion was over-inflated was ‘There goes I am the great I am’ – meaning ‘Look at me everyone!’ He certainly taught me that humility should be the byword of all aspiring mediums and I’ve never forgotten that. My parents were also very helpful, even though it was all new to them. Had they not given me the support I needed at that time, I could not have gone on to achieve what I have over the years.”
Pleased to meet you
As Robert said earlier, it was some years after White Feather’s initial manifestation that he confirmed his identity to his medium. How did it happen?
“I began my mediumistic development around August 1973 and the guide began speaking through me the following year. He didn’t reveal his identity until he was well established with me and knew that it would not interfere with our two-worldly relationship – guides often take this approach. This was around 1980 I think.
“I remember the moment it occurred. I was sitting in meditation at home when I saw his features quite clearly in my mind’s eye and the words ‘I am White Feather’ came so strongly into my thoughts. I was taken aback and didn’t tell anyone for ages, particularly the other sitters in the development circle. He did prove his identity through another medium, as he has since done on more than one occasion. I think he wanted to do this as confirmation that I hadn’t imagined it.”
Changing times, evolving philosophy
Robert has given demonstrations in numerous churches and centres, enabling White Feather to answer philosophical questions from the audience with his outstanding fluency. Along with his wife, Amanda, Robert also holds regular seminars. This suggests that despite the current insatiable appetite for messages, messages, messages, there’s still a significant body of people who appreciate the importance of the philosophy underpinning Spiritualism. I asked Robert to what extent, if any, the popularity of philosophical communication had changed during his years as a trance medium.
“For almost forty years I’ve demonstrated around the UK and beyond, publishing several books, including one in Danish. Amanda has been by my side during demonstrations for the last nineteen of those. I sometimes think she knows White Feather better than I do and they seem to share the occasional humorous moment at my expense – initiated by the guide but always with love and respect!
“In an age where the human attention span seems to be shorter than ever and the desire for instant gratification is all too apparent, there remain those who still desire the deeper knowledge and wisdom that guides such as White Feather offer. This pleases me greatly. Even though I’ve sometimes been disappointed at the lack of response in some areas, we do generally attract good audiences that want to connect more directly with spirit. They ask some wonderful questions on a wide range of subjects. White Feather treats everyone with the same love and respect and I have never known him fail to answer instantly any question put to him, whether simple or profound.
“The kind of questions he is asked seem to have shifted over the years with the advances in individual and collective awareness, particularly relating to aspects such as quantum physics and the nature of life, both here and hereafter. We had a period leading up to 2012 when each meeting seemed to include the question ‘Is the world about to end, as prophesied? He always reassured people that it was not, sometimes in a humorous way, much to their relief!
“I also sense that the philosophy imparted by White Feather has itself evolved over the years. This makes sense because spirit always respond to the level of awareness placed before them. For example, you’ll often hear the guide use language and terminology relative to current human understanding that his predecessors did not, simply because back then people would not have understood terms like ‘DNA, Cloning, Cloud Computing because these terms didn’t exist. It would have been no use Silver Birch referring to this kind of information because it would simply have gone over people’s heads. Today, though, they can relate to it more fully and so the guide weaves it eloquently into his philosophy. I guess the saying ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ applies.”
Born or made?
The prevailing view in today’s Spiritualism seems to be that anyone can ‘become’ a medium. I was interested to know Robert’s view on the plethora of courses claiming to ‘train’ students to become trance mediums – sometimes in a single weekend!
“I recall chatting with Gordon Higginson years ago and it was his belief, I think, that mediums are born, not created. I largely agree with that, particularly when it comes to more evolved forms of mediumship such as trance and physical. To even suggest that someone could be trained in becoming a trance medium over a single weekend is complete nonsense.
“I do think that many people have the potential to connect to some degree with other frequencies beyond this physical one and receive information, whether this is referred to as ‘speaking with the spirit world’ or some other term. That doesn’t mean they should refer to themselves as mediums, as some seem to do.
“However, because we are all part of the divine creative intelligence we have the capability to rise above and beyond the limitations of the human mind. When we do, opportunities to see the bigger picture begin to emerge.”
On vegetarianism, euthanasia and war
Maurice Barbanell, medium for Silver Birch, maintained that the few occasions on which he disagreed with an opinion that Silver Birch had expressed through him (reincarnation was one example) were highly evidential to him as a medium. I was curious to know if there had been times when White Feather expressed views that didn’t accord with Robert’s own.
“Yes, there have. Until about three years ago I used to eat meat regularly. White Feather would sometimes gently chastise me for this, much to the delight of my wife. He would never tell me what to do because human free will is an essential part of his philosophy, but I got the sense that he liked to drop the odd hint whenever the opportunity arose! It must have worked, anyway, because I would never go back to eating meat again.
“He also expressed the view that euthanasia flies in the face of natural spirit law and that the taking of life is essentially wrong. I recall disagreeing with that view and later inquired of him what we were to do in such difficult circumstances. He explained that if the motive was alleviating the suffering of one in obvious distress, who was unable speak or act for themself, (animals and some humans come to mind) there would be no long-term spiritual recriminations.
“I pressed him further regarding situations such as war, where we could be called upon to defend ourselves and our loved ones by taking the lives of others. His response was again that the motive was paramount. He expanded on this with a wonderful teaching about the oneness of life and the fact that when we act aggressively towards others, we are really hurting ourselves. His phrase ‘You cannot sow seeds of destruction and expect to reap a harvest of peace’ is one that has always resonated deeply with me. I believe he is a pacifist at heart, which you would expect from such an evolved soul.”
Cutting-edge science and spiritual values
Finally, I gave Robert the tough task of summing up his hopes and fears for the future of Spiritualism in just a hundred words.
“I think Spiritualism has lost sight of its initial aim, which was not only to prove the existence of the human soul beyond death but most importantly to educate humanity regarding the true nature and purpose of life and the science of spirit laws that underpin it. The over-emphasis on giving ’evidence’, combined with the almost showbiz presentation and celebrity-style promotion of certain mediums is something I find irritating, to say the least. I would like to see the movement modernise through embracing the latest cutting-edge scientific discoveries whilst also returning to the core spiritual values set out by the early pioneers.”
If you’ve never witnessed philosophical trance mediumship, a visit to one of Robert’s demonstrations would be the perfect starting point. You can see a full list of forthcoming events at www.whitefeather.org.uk