The Turin Shroud Mystery

A Channel 4 program in UK tonight spent a whole hour to say that the carbon testing of the Turin Shroud proving it to be a fake created in the Middle Ages, was flawed because the sample taken was contaminated with a cotton repair made in the 16th Century. It came to the conclusion that the worst possible area of the Shroud, part which had been repaired, was taken for carbon dating and other tests.

The rest of the program went into the history of the Shroud and various tests which proved that stains were of real blood, showing signs of the kind of stress caused by a crucifixion.

While all this may be of great significance to a Christian, and particularly to those of a Roman Catholic persuasion who place great importance in religious relics of this kind, I honestly can’t see what relevance it has to the rest of us.

It seems to me to be of the same sort of significance as whether a certain autograph is that of a famous personality or a forgery, or whether a particular scarf was really one worn briefly by Elvis Presley and given to someone in the audience at one of his ‘live’ shows. Should the Turin Shroud prove to be a first century piece of cloth which probably covered a man who had been crucified, so what?

We know crucifixions took place in those times, and we have no reason to doubt that a man named Jesus existed and was probably crucified. The shroud, if it does date back to those times, could have been wrapped around the bodies of any of those unfortunate men.

Supposing it is the shroud that was wrapped around Jesus’ body, does that prove anything remarkable? Some say that the mysterious markings on the shroud are evidence of his physical resurrection from the dead, but is that really the case? Could they not have perhaps have been produced due to chemicals used to anoint the body, or even to revive it if, as some evidence suggests, Jesus wasn’t actually dead when taken down from the Cross?

Crucifixions usually took much longer to prove fatal than the time Jesus was reportedly on the Cross. He was taken down early because of the approaching Sabbath, and was apparently not finished off by other means before he was removed. So it is quite likely, even probable, that he was not dead when taken down, and that he later was revived, possibly with the aid of his disciples, and one theory is that he went East and is buried there (his supposed grave has even been located, complete with a stone showing crucifixion marks in his feet). An alternative theory is that he escaped to France with Mary Magdelene.

Whatever the truth, it seems even if the Shroud of Turin is the cloth in which Jesus was wrapped in after the ordeal of the crucifixion, it doesn’t prove either the resurrection from the dead, or that he was really dead at all.

However people like relics, and tend to worship them whether of the religious variety or whether associated with pop stars or other celebrities. Good luck to them.

The most that can be said about the Turin Shroud, if indeed it is the one Christ’s body, living or dead, was wrapped in after the cruficixion, is that it gives us a virtual photograph of his face, so is probably the first photograph in existence. This may be of some significance, since even early paintings/portraits are only interpretations of what Jesus looked like, not actual photographs.

I wish people would pay more attention to the message of Jesus and other great spiritual teachers and try to follow their wisdom and advice, rather than pay so much attention to relics. Frankly I couldn’t care less whether this or that relic is really a splinter of the original Cross on which Jesus was crucified, or whether the Shroud once covered his body.

If the Church had paid more attention to the message of peace and tolerance he preached, and less to worshiping relics and creating myths about the man, then we may now be living in a much more spiritually advanced and peaceful world than we are.

For me it is his message which is all important. Personally I think it highly unlikely he was born of a virgin in December (a myth taken from that of a pagan god to win early converts to Christianity), or that he rose physically from the dead. Like all of us will, he survived death, and like many others his spirit or an ectoplasmic apparition as occurs in physical seances, which appear quite solid, could have appeared to people after he died. Or he could indeed have physically survived the crucifixion and made his presence known to them before departing the land of Israel where the authorities would have hunted him down and killed him.

The message is all important. A message which other great spiritual leaders have also given us, and which voices recorded at seances (freely avaialble on the Internet, see my blog of December 13th: Voices from Beyond the Grave) are still giving us and which we are still, by and large, ignoring. A message of peace and love which the world badly needs, and which is vital for our spiritual progress.

This New Bland World

Someone somewhere has obviously decreed that certain things are bad for us, are ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘politically incorrect’, so they have either banned them outright or made them very difficult to obtain. This is NOT my imagination, it is happening everywhere, and other people of my generation agree with me.

No doubt the older generation have always felt like this as things once familiar to them become relics of a distant past, but now I’m experiencing it myself and I don’t like it.

Let’s start with food. Salt has lost its flavor, so has tea (whether in bags or loose). Someone has obviously decided salt and strong tea is bad for us, so both these products have been diluted.

I’ve never been a great tea drinker myself, but whereas one tea bag was always sufficient to give a nice, strong cup of tea which actually tasted of something, now with the popularity of all these fancy herbal teas with no flavor, some bloody yuppy has decided than the traditional English cuppa has also to be diluted so that it has no flavor either. Put one tea bag in a cup or mug (or the traditional one teaspoonful of loose tea and one for the teapot) and you’ll end up with a cup of colored hot water, with no flavor whatsoever. You are forced to double the amount of teabags/tea to get anything like the old strength. This is NOT me losing my tastebuds in old age, other people agree with me. It is someone in yuppyland interfering with the strength of the tea we buy.

The same thing has happened to salt, whether of the ‘table’ or ‘cooking’ variety, it has been diluted with something else so you now have to put two or three times the amount to even taste it. This is quite obviously because the powers-that-be have declared that salt, like so many other things we once thrived on, is  bad for you. Our generation always cooked our vegetables in salt, and then put it on our meals, so we had a nice ‘unhealthy’ intake of the stuff.  Now we still do the same, but have to use much more of the stuff to get any taste out of anything at all.

Then there’s all the products which are now virtually unobtainable, like nice beef dripping, suet for puddings, etc. We ourselves, our parents and grandparents grew up eating all this stuff, meat cooked in lard, plenty of salt, old-fashoned butter, and yet lived to a good old age. My grandparents lived till their eighties, my mother is still going strong at 95, and smoking like a chimney; another thing they are trying to stamp out, though I’ve never been a smoker myself so actually approve of the smoking ban in indoor public places. My mother, however, a smoker for nearly 80 years, just can’t get used to it and keeps lighting up in such places.

Cream, another thing declared ‘bad’ for us, used to come in nice handy cans which you could keep in the larder indefinitely for when you fancied a treat. Now all such cans have disappeared from most supermarket shelves, and you are forced to buy the squirty variety which tastes nothing like the real thing being full of air, or the stuff in cartons on the chilled shelf of supermarkets which has to be eaten by a certain date. Most inconvenient!

Vegetables – all our traditional green ones have all but disappeared. I love sprouts, spring  greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower broad beans, peas (various varieties included garden peas, processed peas, mushy peas, marrowfat peas), green or french beans, etc. All boiled in salt water for a good 20 minutes until soft. Now go to a restaurant or cafe and you’ll be lucky to find any of these on the menu, except peas in some greasy spoons.If you do find cauliflower, broccoli, etc. it will be half raw, just dipped in boiling water for a few minutes then removed.

Butter beans are also unobtainable in cafes and restaurants, and along with the traditional green vegetables we love have been replaced by things like carrots, sweetcorn, corn-on-the-cob, courgettes – all of which I absolutely hate and refuse to eat.

Moving away from food, popular music one expects to change all the time, but do they have to adopt names which describe music we love and use them for something completely different? Rock’n’Roll is Bill Haley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, early Elvis Presley, etc. It is NOT the stuff which has been in the charts since 1963, with few exceptions like ‘Rockabilly Rebel’ from Matchbox in the 1970s, and the odd 1950s recording which has hit the charts decades later like ‘Jungle Rock’ by Hank Mizell and ‘Reet Petite’ by Jackie Wilson.

R&B, or Rhythm’n’Blues, is Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, uptempo Ray Charles, etc., not these modern black singers who have stolen the term for music which bears no resemblance to R&B whatsoever. Ms Dynamite (more like Ms Damp Squib) has even purloined the nickname of Brenda Lee, who was always known as Miss Dynamite.

Films, another area where a good, old fashioned story-line with people who could act like Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Joan Plowright, James Mason, Sir Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and a whole host of stars worthy of the name have been replaced by special effects, animation and wooden actors who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. All violent action and no story, and good British films (kitchen sink dramas, Ealing comedies, old fashioned tales about ordinary people) have disappeared altogether to be replaced by largely American crap.

TV has gone a similar way, with so-called ‘reality TV’ taking over from good dramas and other programs. Sitcoms have become largely unfunny since they decreed that anything that made us laugh is now ‘politically incorrect’. So foreigners, mothers-in-law, wives/women in general and good old-fashioned ‘camp’ as portrayed by the late John Inman, Larry Grayson, etc. are now also beyond the pale. We now have ‘sophisticated’ sitcoms which are about as humorous as a day out at the local crematorium. Thank God for old sitcoms repeated on TV occasionally or available on DVD such as ‘Fawlty Towers’, ‘Nearest and Dearest’, ‘One Foot In The Grave’, ‘On The Buses’, ‘Keeping Up Appearances’.

One of my favorite lines is still the potty old Major in ‘Fawlty Towers’ describing taking a girl to an England v. Pakistan (or India) cricket match and she says ‘these niggers’ are quite good at the game. The Major tells her off for using the term: ‘Oh no my dear, these people aren’t niggers, these people are wogs!’ And I don’t take offense at someone in an old-fashioned sitcom referring to a gay man as a ‘bloody poofter’; if we can’t laugh at ourselves and others and take it all good-naturedly then  it’s a pretty sad state off affairs.

All areas of life have changed beyond recognition, and usually for the worse. Bus drivers no longer receive the training they used to, so can no longer recognize a compulsory bus stop from a request one, nor can they pull up at the kerb but only several feet from it, making the excellent new low-level, easy access buses absolutely useless.

Public transport, as with almost everything else once run efficiently by the State, has been privatized, and I’m fed up with idiots knocking on my door or ringing me up asking if I want my gas from the electric company, my electricity from the gas company, and goodness knows what else. No, I want the gas company which owns the pipes to supply my gas, the electricity company which owns the national grid to supply my electric, and the Post Office, which used to own the telephone network to supply my phone service  (or its hived-off, privatized off-shoot BT will suffice.) I had experience at my last job of using ‘cheaper’ companies to supply these utilities, and you definitely get a vastly inferior service since the lines/networks/pipes are being leased from a rival company who give preference to their own customers.

This brings us on to Socialism of course, which has been declared a ‘dirty word’ everywhere except Latin America, bless them. In Britain we now have so-called ‘New Labour’ which is of course the ‘New Tories’, following the Thatcherite line of privatization, selling off council housing and boosting the obscene so-called ‘Defence’ budget based on Trident and backing imperialist American escapades abroad. I am firmly Old Labour and will wave and sing The Red Flag, call for reinstatement of the old Clause 4 (common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange) and unilateral nuclear disarmament until the day I die, and thereafter as well.

Yes, there are some good things which have come about in recent decades. Lots of annoying gadgets or those which are handy in emergencies but over-used (such as mobile phones), but also great things like the Internet and blogging.

Orthodox religion is giving way to the new enlightenment of New Age knowledge and noetic science/parapsychology, and Survivalism/ Spiritualism.  Most people now know that when we die we don’t rot in the ground waiting for Gabriel to sound the Last Trump for Judgment Day, then get consigned to eternal damnation or playing harps in Heaven. We see a tunnel and bright light, meet old friends and relatives, and enter a world much like our own initially, only much better, and then progress spiritually to even higher domains. We judge ourselves, and there is no such thing as eternal damnation – all souls have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and evolve.

All this is based on hard evidence backed up by quantum physics, which has revealed that a materialist/rationalist  view of the universe is obsolete. If you don’t believe me, then you have not seen this evidence, which is freely available nowadays via the Internet. Just ‘Google’ the afterlife, or ‘Direct Voice’ mediumship (for recorded voices at seances, etc.), and see for yourself. Scientists and medical people like Dr Dean Radin and Dr Peter Fenwick have YouTube videos freely available on the Net giving the overwhelming scientific evidence of Survival, power of mind over matter, distinction between Consciousness/Mind and the physical brain, etc.

So computers, the Internet and the new spirituality, great! But I still wish restaurants knew how to cook cauliflower until until it was soft, not serve it up crisp and half raw!

A New Soviet Union?

 

I watched Jonathan Dimbleby’s BBC 4 series about his epic 10,000 mile journey across the Russian Federation, and had very mixed feelings.

Statues of Lenin and other relics of Communism are everywhere, and so of course are symbols of the post-Soviet era. Foreign and Russian millionaires, Western multinationals, drug-peddling, prostitution, Mafia-type criminal gangs, corruption, an atmosphere of repression and an increasing trend towards a Soviet-style dictatorship.

Indeed many Russians interviewed seemed unenthusiastic about democracy and felt a strong Russia, or even a revived Soviet Union, was what they most wanted. Moreover, the old brutal dictator Joseph Stalin is being rehabilitated everywhere, including in the new history books. A mosaic of the dictator secretly hidden beneath plaster for years has now been uncovered and put on display in one building.

I was totally against the break-up of the Soviet Union, and I must admit a new version would greatly appeal to me, but it would have to be based on true democracy as well as Socialism. I certainly don’t think they need another Stalin.

The West is largely to blame for the current situation and the hostility of many Russians to Western-style democracy. After the break-up of the Soviet Union the USA recruited the former Socialist states of Eastern and Central Europe, and some former Soviet republics, into the NATO military alliance.

This was a grievous mistake. NATO should have been disbanded along with the Warsaw Pact, and the nuclear arsenals of East and West scrapped. Instead Russia felt surrounded by new, hostile NATO countries in its own backyard, with new weapons and anti-missile systems being planned which threatened Russia and made it clear that that vast federation would never be accepted into the Western fold of democratic countries. China, still ruled by a dictatorial Communist Party, seems closer to the West than post-Soviet Russia.

It is true that Russia has an autocratic history under the Tsars, and apart from two brief periods (the short-lived Karensky government of early 1917 and the immediate post-1991 era) has never enjoyed true democracy.

However the refusal to either disband the NATO military alliance or accept Russia into it, and a similar refusal to even consider Russian membership of the European Union (part of Russia, like Turkey, is of course in Europe) meant the West was firmly slamming the door on the Russian Federation, surrounding it with new NATO states and making it feel threatened.

Is it any wonder a new Russian dictatorship is emerging, with stifling of the Press and other civil liberties? Millions of Russians long for a revived Soviet Union under a new strongman in the ilk of Stalin, who thru his brutal methods made the USSR into a super-power to challenge the might of the United States.

However what I hope for is a revived Soviet Union (under that or another name), based on Socialism and genuine multi-party democracy, a free press, etc. Some of the former Soviet republics would no doubt be eager to join the new Soviet Union, while others would not.

I would also hope for the scrapping of NATO and all nuclear weapons. Both are obsolete and dangerous, and create fear, tension, mistrust and are a spur to dictatorship and even war.

The new Soviet Union, if it emerges, should take up the mantle of Lenin but learn from the mistakes of the past. It should allow true democracy to flourish, and let different political parties and groupings contest free elections so that various models of Socialism can be tried out, and even more importantly, so that any corrupt new political and bureaucratic elite which starts to emerge, can also be rejected by the electorate.

The ultimate Marxist goal of a Communist utopia can still be retained, but realistically postponed to the far-distant future when Soviet society truly unites around a single Socialist model which works efficiently, when all class contradictions have been abolished, and the Soviet people have become sufficiently politically mature to really take an active political role thru the local soviets and various national soviets, and to take direct control of Soviet society, constantly vigilant to prevent corruption and attempts to create a new ruling clique and a new dictatorship. That Communist utopia, if it ever comes, would seem to be a century or more away.

Any new Socialist countries, or even better, Socialist federations of countries are to be welcomed as global capitalism is destroying the planet, and can only survive by relying on the prop of endless wars and a huge armaments industry, without which the system would collapse.  However, these new Socialist countries, such as those in Latin America, must be based on true democracy, and the same applies to a new USSR, a new Yugoslavia or any other developing Socialist federation of countries.

The Profit Motive and Incentives

An Italian acquaintance and myself were chatting last week, and the conversation got quite political. He thought Margaret Thatcher was the greatest thing since sliced bread, whilst being an ex-Communist Party member I thought the same about Socialism.

He brought out the hoary old argument that Socialism failed because there were no incentives under that system to be productive and create good quality goods and services, whereas Capitalism due to its competitive nature and the profit motive, did provide such incentives.

This is the classic argument put by apologists for Capitalism, but it doesn’t hold water. Let’s examine exactly what kind of organizations actually provide incentives for people to work harder and produce good quality goods and services:

1. Worker/consumer cooperatives, because the workers (and consumers) share the profits.

2. Firms where there is a profit-sharing  scheme, or bonus scheme for good performances.

3. Family businesses where the family members actually work in the business. (This would also apply to single-person enterprises where that person works in the business.)

The first and third categories would thrive in a Socialist society. The second category provides some degree of profit-sharing and incentive for the workers, but still much of the profits are creamed off by fat-cat directors and totally unproductive shareholders.

All other capitalist enterprises and nationalized State monopolies with no profit-sharing scheme provide little or no incentive for workers to be productive. At least workers in nationalized industries have the knowledge that profits, after fat-cat directors have been paid, will benefit society as a whole and not go into the greedy pockets of faceless shareholders gambling on the stock exchange.

Capitalist enterprises also create a constant battle between management (capital) and the workforce (labor) especially in highly unionized industries and services. Till Maggie Thatcher weakened the power of the trade unions in Britain, there were constant strikes, walk-outs, working-to-rule and other industrial disputes which interrupted production. Indeed this was the only way workers could wring a decent living out of the capitalists.

In the post-Thatcher era of globalization, the trade unions are not so strong and giant multinationals shift factories abroad to cheap labor markets, throwing millions in the advanced capitalist countries out of work.

The cheap labor markets of highly exploited workers (including child labor) are usually not unionized at all, and the cheaply produced goods and services that result are then hawked around the advanced capitalist countries at highly inflated prices to try to achieve maximum profits.

Surely any half-baked fool could see this system cannot possibly work? If you are throwing millions of workers on the dole, how on Earth can they afford to buy the goods and services offered? Those in the cheap labor markets certainly can’t afford them either.  The rich capitalists can afford them, but already have more than enough of what they need including many luxuries.

The result is there is no real market for much of the goods and services on offer, so prices have to fall, production is cut back so creating still more unemployment. The classic capitalist recession.

One temporary ‘solution’ is to offer virtually unlimited credit to people, which again boosts the market. But inevitably sooner or later this will lead to bad debts and bankruptcies. Living on credit is certainly not the answer.

What always props up the outdated and unstable capitalist system and saves it from complete collapse is the profitable arms industry. In order to sustain this, constant wars and terrorist threats have to be created.

The armaments industry, paid for by the taxpayers, creates employment. The incentive to be productive in this industry, or indeed to offer oneself up as cannon fodder for the armed services, is not the juicy carrot of a share of the profits, but the big stick of the Big Bogey Man who will come and take away your freedom or blow you to bits if you don’t do your bit and do it well.

So the capitalist system, being so unstable, cannot exist without constant wars and threats of wars/terrorist activity. If there are no real threats, these have to be created.

It is true that State monopoly Socialism as existed in the Soviet Union and most of the other Socialist countries, and also in the nationalized industries of post-Second World War Britain, was sometimes inefficient, bureaucratic, and had fat-cat directors in charge. There was certainly little or no incentive for the workforce since there were few profit-sharing schemes as such.

Yugoslavia, however, with its worker cooperatives was much more successful, since the workforce not only managed the co-ops themselves and shared the profits they created , but there was a friendly Socialist market place with different cooperatives and publicly owned enterprises, along with small family businesses, all competing and so there was a strong incentive to  match or outdo each other.

The country which was probably most successful in making the more traditional Socialism of State enterprises work was the GDR (East Germany), but then if anyone could make nationalization work it would be the Germans, who are so efficient and industrious. The GDR enjoyed a relatively high standard of living, and was among the top industrial nations in the world.

Some individual companies kept their identities under Socialism, so you had excellent, world-coveted cameras and optical products produced by GDR companies like Carl Zeiss of Jena (much envied by its inferior West German counterpart) and the world renowned Meissen (Dresden) porcelain factory. Also many electrical and other goods were made in the GDR and exported all over the world. No wonder the  West German capitalists and the mutinationals were so eager to get their greedy hands on East German factories on reunification!

In Britain the nationalized railways, the London Underground, the bus services and public utility companies (gas, water, electric) all ran much more efficiently than since they have been privatized.  Much time and energy is wasted trying to persuade customers to get their gas from an electricity supplier and vice versa, and is also wasted leasing various grids and networks to other companies for an inferior service. A crazy system, and many of these companies are still subsidized by the taxpayer in order for faceless shareholders to pocket the proceeds.

The facts are that, under a free enterprise system, once you get beyond one-person and family-run private enterprises, and certainly when you have public limited companies and multinationals with shares trading on the stock exchanges, then you have no incentive at all for the workforce to be productive.

In fact you achieve the very opposite: constant industrial action and disputes disrupting production in a never-ending struggle by the workforce to maintain and improve their wages and conditions and keep their employment.

Meanwhile, the capitalists’ drive for maximum profits means they seek lower wages (or at least to limit wage rises) and a smaller workforce (downsizing), so there is a never-ending battle between workers and management, between labor and capital. Capitalism is therefore obviously a very inefficient system.

Nor can you allow market forces alone to decide what is produced in the way of goods and services. There must be some degree of central State control and planning, otherwise whole areas which are not profitable will be neglected. This can be disastrous for society, as unprofitable public transport systems are cut to ribbons, subsidized housing and health services are cut, as is education and other public services. Only Socialism can serve people’s needs efficiently, all the people’s needs.

Global capitalism is destroying the planet with its throw-away culture, encouraging people to own several gas-guzzling, atmosphere poisoning cars and wasteful gadgets and other consumer products, often bought on credit and thus building up huge, unrecoverable debts in the process. What a bloody awful system!

Socialism as practised in the 20th Century had many faults – it was a new system and mistakes were made, serious ones. But it must supercede Capitalism eventually as that system is morally and practically bankrupt.

Even the imperfect Socialism we had in the last century achieved much in the way of good public services, subsidized basic necessities, full employment, abolition of illiteracy and security in old age for the people. It was overall a more caring society than capitalism, with its cut-throat market place resulting in bankruptcies, take-overs, mass unemployment, poor and cash-starved public services and the trend towards ever bigger near-monopolies and multinationals working against the public interest.

I believe the way forward is to introduce a Yugoslav-style competitive Socialist Market Place of worker-consumer cooperatives and  other profit-sharing public enterprises, and also a Socialist Constitution which would allow rival political parties and groups to try out different Socialist models until the most efficient one is found.

Then society can maybe unite around the most successful model and possibly, in many eons, even develop into the self-governing utopia of Communism.

However if this ultimate stage of human development Marx and Engels forecast is not achieved, a caring and efficient Socialist system, which unlike Capitalism doesn’t require constant wars and a huge arms industry to sustain it, is certainly a very worthwhile goal in itself. 

A society in which people are fully rewarded for their work and thus have the incentive to be productive and efficient, where full employment and security in old age is guaranteed. Sounds like a pretty good compromise. I’d settle for that!

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Voices From Beyond The Grave

Many who see my link to the DianaSpeaks site to the right of this article (do click on it and listen to at least one of the podcasts yourself before dismissing it as bunkum) or who have read any of my blogs on Diana, former Princess of Wales speaking thru her voice channel Andrew Russell-Davis may well think me some sort of nutter, but they are probably unaware of the huge volume of recorded voices of dead people speaking accessible on the Internet.

This is the wonderful thing about the Internet, it makes things which were once hidden away in archives somewhere available to everybody. Yes, it also means cranks and conspiracy theorists can have a field day posting their home-made documentaries on YouTube, but for serious researchers there’s an unlimited mine of real information out there at few clicks of a mouse with the help of a good search engine.

The voice of Diana speaking from beyond the grave is not really a unique phenomenom, though the way she does so probably is. I can’t recall another famous person who has chosen to remain Earthbound and channel audibly exclusively thru one person, so that there are, in effect, two personalities living in the same body, a form of possession, albeit in this case by mutual agreement between Diana and Andrew, her chosen voice-channel, and for altruistic motives.

But there is also ITC, which are voices of the dead captured on electronic equipment, a technology still in its infancy, and also ‘Direct Voice’ mediumship, by which the dead speak thru an ectoplasmic voicebox produced during a seance with a physical medium.

There are recordings on the Internet of voices produced at seances by David Thompson, a physical medium in Australia, which claim to be personalities such as Louis Armstrong and Quentin Crisp, and they certainly sound like them. But more important and evidential are the many reunions David is able to make possible between friends and families across that barrier we call ‘death’.

First let’s explain briefly how ‘Direct Voice’ works. It involves materialization either of just a voice box or of a complete person or the top part of a person out of ectoplasm or some other form of energy drawn from the medium and the sitters. Fantastic as this sounds, the voices do NOT emanate from the medium but from several feet away, and remember the seance rooms are always rigorously checked for hidden speakers, trapdoors and any other tricks which illusionists might use.  (The Diana phenomenom is different, as the voice does come from Andrew himself, so we have to rely on the content of the messages, the ‘energy’ of Diana, the emotions and the phraseology to judge whether it is her or not.)

There is a problem with celebrities in that everybody, or at least a lot of people, know what their voices sounded like in life, so they can be imitated either by people here on Earth or by spirits impersonating them. Just because a spirit says ‘I am Henry VIII’ doesn’t mean it necessarily is his spirit, even if it is a genuine spirit communication.

So far more evidential are the personal reunions mediums like David Thompson make possible, as these mediums could not possibly know what the dead friends and relatives of most people sounded like in life, nor of the many things they speak of which the medium would know nothing about. Everything about celebrities is more or less known or can be researched. But if you hear the voice of a loved one who was not famous, and they tell you things only the two of you knew, then that is pretty conclusive.

One of the greatest Direct Voice mediums was the late Leslie Flint, and there is an archive of some of the Direct Voices he produced at seances on the Net which can be accesssed here: http://adcguides.com/librarynames.htm

I have only just dipped into this, but what I have heard so far not only amazes me, but is so very informative and interesting.

For example, why demonstrations of clairvoyance at Spiritualist churches sometimes fail to live up to expectations. Most mediums receive telepathic pictures in their heads from the Other Side, because this is how, we are told, people over there communicate, telepathically. We are not used to doing this here on Earth, and it is quite an art to get it right.

Some mediums, like Colin Fry and Tony Stockwell, get extremely accurate and specific messages across, but many who do the rounds at Spiritualist churches and centers around the country are not nearly as developed.

Take the case of Alfred Higgins, who died when he fell off a ladder. He desperately tries to contact his wife from the Other Side to let her know he is all right, but she can neither see nor hear him when he visits her. He concentrates all his thoughts on her and she looks up and runs from the room and starts crying. Naturally he finds this very upsetting, and eventually he tries to contact her thru a medium at her local Spiritualist Church, but she is never there in the audience. So Alfred tries to send her the idea mentally to go to the Church, and eventually she does.

This is one of the Direct Voice messages in the archives at the above site, and you can hear Alfred relate how frustrated he becomes when the stupid woman, meaning the medium, picks up the image of the ladder he is trying to convey but instead of saying Alfred died when he fell off it in the garden, says something about seeing a ladder of success, a sort of symbol of good luck. ‘She got it all wrong’ he moans, but finally manages to get across the fact that the wedding ring his wife is wearing is not the original he bought her. His wife is shocked by this, as she lost her wedding ring but never told her husband while he was alive, and secretly replaced it.

Another of the recordings is by a soldier who died in the First World War, Alfred Pritchett (you can see I’m going thru them alphabetically by first names) and it tells, as do some of the others, how the dead don’t always realize they are dead. Alfred is ordered to go ‘over the top’ which he does and can’t understand why German soldiers are running by him and taking no notice of him. He thinks well if they are not bothering him he’s not going to worry about them, so he eventually finds himself a shell-hole or crater to hide in, and falls asleep. Then he sees a friend of his coming towards him and greets him, but suddenly remembers that this soldier was killed some time ago.

Only gradually does Alfred realize he is dead, not dreaming, but that he still has what seems to be a physical body, but that those alive on Earth can’t see him or hear him. Eventually he meets his sister, who died as a baby and is now grown up.

Neither of these two Alfreds is famous, so only their relatives or friends would recognize them, but their down-to-Earth way of relating their after-death experiences are so convincing. At first they just can’t fully understand what is happening. You have to listen to the recordings to see what I mean, and remember Leslie Flint was not using trickery. He was checked many times and produced loads of different Direct Voice messages, none of them coming from his lips but from the ectoplasmic voicebox which was created at the seance.

Alfred Pritchett’s message is very anti-war, and talks about how wrong it is for so-called priests to hold a bible in one hand and a sword in the other. Also how the generals and politicians send young lads to kill each other while they sit safe away from the front lines, and that they’ll have a lot on their consciences when they pass over.

He says, although he died in the First World War, he helped in the Second World War – by helping receive and comfort those who were killed in that carnage as they reached the Other Side, so they could adjust and accept their new situation. Alfred says it’s one thing to die in old age or after a long illness, but an awful thing to be alive and full of vitality one minute, and dead the next thru war, violence or an accident. Many just don’t realize they are dead at all.

Another recording is that of Dean Inge, who was my mother’s first boss when she went into service at the age of 14 at the Deanery of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Recorded in 1960, six years after he died, the ‘gloomy dean’ as he was known talks of how he and many other Christians got it all wrong about Christ. He was not ‘God’ come to Earth to give salvation to sinners, but a very brave man who showed us by example how to live our lives. If only we would try to live like him, then we would save ourselves, for that is the way to develop spiritually. Again the message of Alfred Pritchett: Christ-like pacifism is the way to develop spiritually - by loving others unconditionally.

I have reminded so-called Christians that Christ lived in an occupied country, yet never raised a fist in anger against the Roman occupiers, rather the reverse. He healed the centurion’s ear, forgave his executioners, and told his fellow-subjects to ‘render unto Cesar what be Cesar’s’. Christ’s message is crystal clear: it is wrong to violently resist occupation of your country – ‘those who live by the sword shall die by the sword’. Maybe a hard pill to swallow, but that is what true Christianity means.

We still have to work out for ourselves how we deal with crime and atrocities, and there are no easy solutions. Many, including myself, believe minimal violence is sometimes necessary to maintain law and order and prevent atrocities, but maybe I too still have lessons to learn in this area. I’m not a Christian myself, but regard him as a great spiritual teacher. And, according to the Bible, he said if someone steals something from you, give them something else as well. That would suggest we should’t even stop theft. As for atrocities, well what could be more terrible than nailing someone to a piece of wood and leaving him to die, yet he tells Peter to put away his sword and let the terrible torture and execution take place. Orthodox Christianity says this is because Christ had a mission to save sinners on the Cross, but Dean Inge says this is wrong, and Spiritualists believe this is wrong also. We are all personally responsible, and can only repay our debts thru karma.

So why did Christ tell Peter, and us, not to even use violence to stop atrocities occurring? Because only love can overcome evil?  Think about it. We all have some very hard lessons to learn.

It is not easy by any means, and I don’t profess to know all the answers. Some choose to be vegetarians, I regard this as impractical and against the laws of Nature. Christ didn’t appear to be vegetarian, and do vegetarians let rats, mice and other pests run riot in their homes? Life and death are intertwined, every time we fight off a disease we kill organisms invading our bodies.

I’ve put the case on these blogs for armed police on the streets to stop knife and gun gangs killing and mugging, but if we accept the teachings of Christ and other great pacifist spiritual teachers, perhaps this is not the way. ‘Hug a hoodie’ may have some spiritual validity. Maybe anarchy and all its horrors must occur before we can spiritually progress as a planet.

We do have to decide our own rules and our own lines to draw in the sand which we will not cross. At the moment, I cannot just sit back and accept anarchy on our streets or watch people commit torture and atrocities and limit myself to only non-violent methods to try to stop it.

These after-life messages are so important, such a rich library of wisdom from the Other Side, yet many are unaware of them, or dismiss them as fraudulent.

The trouble is most people have no framework into which to put such things. They are told time and time again that the dead don’t speak, but they do. People are coming back on operating tables all the time after dying for a few minutes or even longer, all vital functions stopped, and many report near-death experiences which confirm what these voices from those who died and did not physically return are telling us: there is another world, in fact many other worlds, which appear just as physical as our own.

Quantum physicists say exactly the same thing, that there are many universes or dimensions existing side-by-side. Since what the Voices are saying is backed up by Science, you’d think by now we’d pay a bit more attention to them.

Leslie Flint was not a faker. He did not use conjuring tricks to produce these voices. They are what they purport to be, fantastic as that may sound, voices of the dead speaking about what the after-life is like, and telling us what they have learnt since passing over.

Diana in her messages speaks mainly about Earthly things since it is her Earthbound essence which is speaking thru her voice channel. So she talks about her boys, the Monarchy, the Paris car crash and lots of other things, but not much at all about the after-life because she hasn’t really experienced it yet herself, she’s chosen to remain Earthbound as do many other spirits who feel they have unfinished business here on Earth. Though she is not exactly  the Diana we knew when alive; she has already gained wisdom and insight she didn’t have when here in her own physical body, and this she does constantly relay to us.

However if we want to hear about the after-life and get their wisdom we need to listen to the Alfred Higgins and Pritchetts and many other voices Leslie Flint left for posterity in his archives. Not just about the after-life, but where we are all going wrong in this life as well.

The churches and organized religions have all got it wrong, it’s no good listening to them. They’ve had us fighting each other for centuries.  Doesn’t matter one hoot what religion you are, what nationality, what color – we are all inter-linked, and we’re all essentially spirit. We’re going to be around for eternity, so we have to learn to live together because, essentially, we are all One. A thing called consciousness, which is the prime force of the multi-verse. Without consciousness, which is eternal, there can be nothing.

Again, ask a quantum physicist. Examine matter at the subatomic level and it effectively disappears and does all sorts of weird things when not being observed. Turns from particles into waves, appears in two places at once, etc.  The act of observing affects how matter behaves, indeed Mind or Thought seems to actually create matter. All worlds and universes which appear physical, like our own, are essentially a virtual reality or elaborate illusion created by Mind, by the universal consciousness, which is the only real thing. Spirit or consciousness (some call it Source, God, Allah, the i-ther) is real, everything else is a virtual reality created by thought or mind.

Mind, Source, Consciousness, God, Allah, the i-ther, unified conscious energy field – whatever you like to call it is the reality behind everything we see and sense around us, and we are all part of it - the living, conscious multi-verse.

You’re around for Eternity, so is everyone and everything else, so we’d better get used to it!

If ‘killing’ means extinguishing existence in any form then you can’t actually kill anything and you can’t actually die either, since death is just a transition from one existence to another. But what seems to be the case is that halting another human being’s life-plan prematurely by sending them to the next world will rebound on yourself as bad karma. I certainly don’t buy the theory, expounded by some, people have ‘murderer’ and ‘victim’ designated as part of their life-plan when born. We all have free will, that is the whole point of life on Earth – to make decisions, sometimes make mistakes, learn from them and progress.

Strong and comic Northern women of Corrie

Ena

Ena Sharples (Violet Carson)

Conceived by a gay man, Tony Warren, it is perhaps not surprising that part of Coronation’s Street longevity (50 next year) is the constant stream of strong Northern women who have appeared in the serial.

The very first scene featured Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) in Florrie Linley’s corner shop. Ena was the street’s first sharp-tongued battleax, and she shared what was then known as ‘The Snug’ in the Rover’s Return with Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Martha Harley/Longhurst (Lynne Carol). The three old ladies, all with different characters, were a mainstay of the program back then.

Ruling supreme over her Rover’s domain, determined to keep it a cut-above your average Manchester backstreet public house, was Annie Walker (Doris Speed) who talked and acted like a northern version of The Queen.

The pub rather lost the superior image she wished to portray by its working-class clientele, and the brassy barmaid who eventually became landlady, known for her taste (or lack of it) in huge earrings – Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear).

Another stalwart, probably the longest serving TV actress the world has ever known, is the incredible Betty Driver (who plays Betty Turpin/Williams). Now in her 90s I believe, Betty started out as a singer on pre-War BBC television in the 1930s. She still looks and acts nothing like her age. Amazing.

Another long-serving female member of the cast, coming in during the first few episodes soon after William Roach (Ken Barlow) is Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Nugent/Bishop). Always a rather timid character, I still remember her working in Gamma Gowns under Leonard Swindley for the owner, Mr Papadopoulos (my father’s surname), who now seems to have taken over the Laundrette in Corrie’s main rival, ‘EastEnders’, but then these two soaps always did steal each other’s characters and plots. Both have garages, pubs, corner shops, doctor’s surgeries, and often similar plot lines, though Corrie has more comedy and EastEnders more violent crime, even though the Tony Gordon character tried to put the balance right, with murder and attempted murder.

Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) was another very strong female, as was of course Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix). These strong female characters are irreplaceable, though when Pat left the series temporarily Rita Sullivan/Fairclough/Littlewood (Barbara Knox) was brought in as a similar character, a feisty redhead, and has remained in ever since.

Her sidekick for ages in The Kabin was Mavis Riley/Wilton (Thelma Barlow), a dithering creature whose most famous line (probably like Mae West’s ‘Come up and see me sometime’) was rarely, if ever, actually said on screen: ‘Well I don’t really know.’ It did, however, sum up her character.

Ivy Nelson/Tilsley/Brennan (Lynne Perrie) was another memorable female character, but perhaps one of the most loved was Vera Burton/Duckworth (Elizabeth Dawn), another one sadly missed recently.

Audrey Potter/Roberts (Sue Nicholls) is the Northern version of Camilla Parker-Bowles, with similar aspirations. She only managed to marry the Mayor of Weatherfield and become Lady Mayoress, Camilla is reaching rather higher!

Eileen Grimshaw (Sue Cleaver), is another very funny, strong female character, as is the local aging ‘tart’ Liz McDonald (Beverley Callard)

The latest strong female character to suddenly leave The Street is sadly the great Maggie Jones (Blanche Hunt) who first appeared as Deirdre Barlow’s mother way back in 1974, but much later became a regular cast member. She will be very sadly missed, because of her cynical attitude and acid tongue. Again, totally irreplaceable.

A token ‘female’ is Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden) who now owns The Kabin. His penchant for gossip and scandal is as avid as any of the women characters, but he has never been portrayed as ‘gay’, just the henpecked husband of a broken marriage.

How these old female characters/actresses will ever be replaced I don’t know. But one odd fact remains. Despite the corner shop now being run by Asians – wish they could find one that could act, instead of the appalling, cringe-making Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin) - Coronation Street must be one of the few working-class communities in the UK without a regular black family, the only token representations of that ethnic group being one of the factory girls – Kelly Crabtree (Tupele Dorgu) and taxi driver Lloyd Mullaney  (Craig Charles).

There are, of course, many other female characters in the present show, and many more in the past, but these are some of the ones who stick in my memory for their wit, humor and sharp tongues and strong characters.

Poor old EastEnders tries to compete with Dot Colwell/Cotton/Branning (June Brown), Pat Harris/Evans (Pam St Clement), Mo Porter/Harris (Laila Morse), Shirley Carter (Linda Henry) and Peggy Mitchell (soon to depart the series) played by Barbara Windsor. The sour-faced Pauline Beale/Fowler (Wendy Richards) is sadly missed.  But the first EastEnders matriarch was of course Lou Beale (Anna Wing).

I’ve watched these two soaps from the first episodes, but Coronation Street will always have the edge largely because of the comedy to off-set the more serious story-lines, and the strong female characters with their Northern ways. Mo Butcher selling dodgy goods obtained from the unseen ‘Fat Elvis’ off the back of a lorry can’t really compete I’m afraid.

Blanche

Blanche Hunt (Maggie Jones)