World Wars

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World Wars

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The two World Wars and their aftermaths were times of great renewed interest in Spiritualism. With so many people killed, it was perhaps natural that many people would want to try to make contact with the spirits of their deceased loved ones. Additionally, this was a time when there were many instances of apparitions, clairvoyance, extrasensory perception, near death experiences, premonitions, and similar phenomena. Many parents, wives, and sweethearts sensed when a loved one was in danger, or was injured or killed. There are untold instances of a service member appearing or making some form of contact at the time of death or grave danger—what are known as “crisis apparitions.”

In his book Apparitions (1953), G. N. M. Tyrrell points out that the spirits do not appear as they might at the actual moment of death itself—struck by bullets or blown to pieces by a bomb—but “adapt themselves almost miraculously to the physical conditions of the percipient’s surroundings,” so that the images may appear in mirrors or seem to have shadows (normally unusual in such cases) and appear as the recipient would best know them.

The time between the two World Wars was a time of great empowerment for Spiritualism. The bereavements of World War I provided a steady support for Spiritualism. As Kevin McClure says in Mysteries of Mind, Space and Time; the Unexplained: War—What War? (1992), “Spirit guides and communicators were powerful and important figures—in the 1930s, the pronouncements of guides were taken seriously by many, and they received excellent publicity.” But interestingly, in 1939, both Psychic News and Two Worlds, the leading Spiritualist journals of Great Britain, continually emphasized that there would be no war, up until a day or so before the actual announcement that Britain had indeed gone to war.

On March 19, 1938, Psychic News ran a headline that said “No War for England!—a Spirit Prophecy.” This was a promise apparently made by medium Kathleen Barkel’s guide White Hawk. On August 18, 1939, Two Worlds had a lead story: “World Peace Not to be Broken! Will there be a World Peace Pact?” in which it gave the contents of a number of spirit messages, each claiming that there would be peace. Medium Estelle Roberts’ guide Red Cloud said that the crisis of September, 1938 would pass; Maurice Barbanell, Spiritualist leader, medium, and publisher/editor of Psychic News, spoke at the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and assured everyone that the spirits spoke only of peace. As late as September 2, 1939, Psychic News contained a variety of messages from spirit guides, including from the automatic writing of Geraldine Cummins, all stressing that there would be no war. With the actual outbreak of war, the two journals did some fast backpedaling, acknowledging that although human personality survives bodily death, that does not give spirit knowledge of future events—a point that was obviously overlooked in the emotional time leading up to World War II.


McClure, Kevin: Mysteries of Mind Space & Time; The Unexplained: War—What War? Westport: H. S. Stuttman, 1992
Tyrrell, G. N. M.: Apparitions. London: Society for Psychical Research, 1953
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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