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MONA VAN DER WATT
It seems to be the fashion today to denigrate physical mediumship and its value to Spiritualism. Many of those who hold temporary positions of authority within what is loosely called 'The Movement' have never had what I call convincing evidence of the continuity of life. In fact, when questioned by the media they are extremely unconvincing and often fail to put the case across. They invariably disappear from prominence as quickly as they rose.
Indeed, I recall how one speaker/medium at Stansted Hall openly boasted that she had never received evidence of survival: she just 'knew'! How can we ever hope to convince others when we lack conviction ourselves? With such an attitude is it any wonder that we fail to attract, as we did in the past, people of intelligent and enquiring minds. After 35 years of investigation - with nine physical mediums and many first class mental mediums - it is my contention that, if you are really sincere in your quest and are prepared to keep an open mind, you will always receive the evidence you need. I will go even further. You will never lose contact with those you really love.
In this article I want to discuss the first two physical mediums who made a tremendous impact on my life, namely Mona van der Watt and Alec Harris, who will be featured next month. Mona, a Scotswoman, had emigrated to South Africa in 1954 with her husband, Eben, a South African psychologist and was living in Cape Town when I first met her. When I was 16 I started to investigate the various religions which advertised in the local paper on a Saturday. Christianity had the most offshoots so it took quite a long time to work my way through them. The last one I came to was the Spiritualist Church where a demonstration of clairaudience was advertised. I decided to attend. So it was that on December 2, 1959, I received my first contact with the spirit world. As I look back now I realise that date had the same impact on me as the March 31, 1848 had on the Fox sisters. Mona had a gift which I believe was unique in modern times. While demonstrating or in private sittings you could actually hear the spirit voices talking to her. Although Mona's gifts unfolded without any obvious development it was eight years before the voices manifested.
Mona told me that at one stage she was given a choice by her guides: she could sit in complete darkness and develop direct voice, which would be limited to a small number of people or reach a larger audience, but the voice would be weaker. She chose the latter. On one occasion she was tested by six doctors. As Psychic News reported at the time: 'They examined the medium with a stethoscope. Wherever they put it, they heard the voice speaking. Yet it was impossible for them to trace the source.' The guide who was entrancing her said that he would stop her pulses one by one and asked the doctors to verify it. When he finally stopped the last pulse in her temple the doctors agreed that by their standards she would be classed as dead. Her guide then said he would put 'power' back into one finger which he did - and then placed the medium's finger on the forehead of one of the doctors who immediately collapsed on the floor as though struck by lightning. One by one the guide restored the pulses and Mona returned to normal.
The reporter told readers that a high-pitched voice emanated from Mona's left shoulder. At times the voice would travel across the audience and speak to people from just above their heads, but that was exceptional. Usually the voice addressed the guide, who then repeated the communication through the entranced medium. The controlled Mona 'walked around the hall without faltering. Her eyes were shut, but the guide knew who was before him.' Occasionally when demonstrating before an international audience, such as at the International Spiritualist Federation Conferences, she would wear a throat microphone so that all could hear the spirit voice which relayed communications to her. During the demonstration, 'everyone had a good opportunity of hearing the voice mediumship.' For a number of years I spent six days out of seven attending the various activities of the church and so had an excellent opportunity of observing her mediumship at very close quarters. Thursday nights were usually reserved for research and experiments. I remember one occasion when I obtained permission to place a microphone as close to her left shoulder as possible. The spirit voices which manifested sounded like a record being played at very fast speed. The guide then relayed what was being said. To my astonishment, when playing the tape back, I clearly heard my grandmother's voice as well as a guide who had frequently been described to me. Both relayed very evidential messages. An interesting point here is that this same guide has given evidence of his identity in private sittings with Gordon Higginson and Gerard Smith.
What I particularly noticed was that though the gist of the communication was relayed by the guide it was not necessarily word for word as said by the spirit contact. Her guide often used African words which when roughly translated meant 'I'm sorry I didn't quite catch that' or 'Give it to me again' which illustrates the difficulty communicators have of getting an accurate message across. I'm often amused when I hear alleged mediums saying with absolute confidence 'they are telling me this or telling me that' when I know how difficult it is to get one sentence over with any degree of accuracy. At another time a spirit who claimed to be Nobel Prizewinner, Wilhelm Rontgen, the inventor of X-Rays, gave a talk on the healing rays used by spirit doctors and guides and, as evidence of his presence, said he would leave a mark on the medium which would disappear within twenty minutes. When Mona came out of trance, clearly visible on her hand was the raised shape of an X which gradually subsided and disappeared. Mona's guides and helpers repeatedly demonstrated their ability to produce the spirit voice even when she was more than 1000 miles away. In transit to the 1960 and 1963 International Spiritualist Federation's congresses, Mona's guide made a promise. While the medium was on the ship they would link with us in Cape Town during the Sunday service and try to make the spirit voice audible.
On both occasions it was clearly heard by the whole congregation at some point during the demonstration of clairvoyance. Week after week the evidence was so breathtaking it seemed almost too good to be true, yet it was. No super-ESP hypothesis could explain away her mediumship. It was with supreme confidence that I would bring sceptics to her meetings and watch with amusement the look on their faces as they heard the spirit voices and the evidence of survival. Today I would be hard-pushed to find a medium of comparable quality Many people associated with South Africa's political and religious activities came for sittings. One of Mona's regular sitters was Professor T.J. Haarhoff, a Spiritualist, medium, healer and classical scholar whom I met at a healing conference in the early 60's. Haarhoff, a professor of classics at Witwatersrand University, told me that at sittings with Mona, not only did he receive information on ancient, now extinct, languages but much of the evidence confirmed what he obtained from materialisation medium Alec Harris, then living in Johannesburg.On one occasion, Haarhoff took a man to Mona requesting a sitting, saying he would introduce him later. As usual, Mona quickly became entranced and almost immediately the spirit voices began. The guide said he recognised the spirit communicator who was present. It was General J.C. Smuts, a former Prime Minister and national hero. His opening words were 'Hello, Fagan'. It transpired that the sitter was the former Chief Justice of the Appeal Court. He volunteered that though Smuts and he had been friends for very many years he had never called him by his first name, always by his surname. The conversation that ensued cannot be disclosed, but it is true to say that as a result of that sitting Fagan entered politics and became a respected Senator in South Africa's Upper House.
At another time Mona and her husband were invited to address the students at Cape Town University, at which General Smuts had once been Vice-Chancellor. Knowing the attitude of some students, I was filled with a little foreboding, particularly when I saw the poster advertising the meeting which said, simply, 'Seance tonight.' It wasn't the sort of meeting where you could get away with saying 'I see a pile of books with you - are you studying?' or something equally ludicrous as I've often heard in Spiritualist churches since. Dr van der Watt (or Van as we called him) spoke on 'The mind in relation to Spiritualism' which was well received and he then briefly explained how his wife's mediumship worked. When she stood up to demonstrate my sense of foreboding disappeared. As the spirit voice rang round the crowded hall you could have heard a pin drop. The first contact was for a young man whose brother had drowned. In an emotional reunion, evidence of his survival poured forth...and I doubt if there was a dry eye in the house.
It set the tone for the rest of the evening. Indeed many of the students became regular visitors to her home. The demonstration finished with the guide passing on a message to all the students from General Smuts. He stated there was a group of former statesmen working from the Other Side to help South Africa. Great changes were coming and the day would come when she would regain her rightful place in the world. I can still remember thinking how far-fetched it seemed, yet thirty years later...! One of the most moving examples of how helpful her mediumship could be was illustrated in the dramatic account, front-paged in Psychic News, of how her guide located a missing boy. I knew the family concerned and saw the emotional outcome so I cannot do better than quote the story as published: "The parent - Psychic News did not reveal her identity - had a heartbreaking story to tell. While living in the then Belgian Congo she was legally separated from her husband, but was given the custody of their four-year-old boy. "Soon after the separation, her husband's brother stole the boy from the front door of her house. With a false passport, the father took his son to the USA."The wife was frantic because she could not get news of her child. She even made the journey of thousands of miles to the USA. where she searched without success for two years. Then she returned to her family in Cape Town. "Every possible channel for help was tried. In turn the mother consulted lawyers, clergymen and officials responsible for the administration of the Congo. Alas, because of internal troubles there, all official avenues of help were closed. Moreover, none of her legal papers could be traced. "At this stage, almost at the end of her tether, she was brought to Mona. Her guide gave the mother a message which indicated that the spirit world was aware of her plight. He said, guardedly in public, that she had lost what was very dear to her, but this would be found. On no account was she to give up hope. The message stated that her problem was linked with the USA. "After the service, the mother asked for a private sitting with the medium. The guide discussed her troubles fully, saying he knew that she was looking for a child. The parent would be helped by the spirit world, he added. The guide forecast that she would return to the USA. At the right time, guidance would be provided. During the next 18 months, the mother visited the church at regular intervals. Always similar encouragement was given. At one private sitting, she asked the guide if she should leave South Africa and go to Israel, to try and make a new life for herself without her son. She explained that the strain was proving too much. "'No, you must not go to Israel' said the guide. 'You will find your child. Just hold on a little longer.' "At the next seance the guide volunteered, 'Now is the time that you must write, as a mother, to Mrs Kennedy because she is the first lady of the land, and ask for her help.' "He stated again that she would return to the USA and find the boy. The mother complied with the spirit request and wrote to Mrs Kennedy. Later she received a letter from the American Consul in Cape Town asking her to call at his office. This official explained that the letter she had sent to Mrs Kennedy had been handed to the FBI. "The Consul disclosed that, at the time she wrote to Mrs Kennedy, her husband had applied for a permit to practise as a dentist in America. Once more she consulted the medium, who advised her to go to the USA, which she did with the Consul's help. Meantime, her husband was questioned by the American authorities. "Realising that something was amiss, he fled again with the boy. When his wife arrived in America it was a bitter disappointment because she could find no trace of either of them. Now strained to the uttermost, she wrote to Mona for help. "The guide replied, counselling her to stay in America. He insisted that she should continue with her quest and not return to Cape Town. Once more he repeated his assurance she would find her child. "The mother then decided to employ a private agency, but alas with no results. Once more she asked for spirit help. The reply was that she should write to Mrs Kennedy again and this would lead to co-operation with the FBI. At the time Mrs Kennedy was the President's wife. "The medium heard nothing for a while. Then one day her telephone rang. It was the woman's mother to say that she had received a cable from her daughter. "She particularly wanted Mona to know that after four years her little boy had been found. The FBI did co-operate, as was foretold. They succeeded in tracing the husband in Canada. "Because all her legal papers had vanished in the Congo troubles, the mother had to go through the ordeal of another court case in Canada before obtaining full custody of her boyite definite hump.
Each guide had his or her own
characteristic personality which was evident before they spoke. Over the years I
got to know at least thirteen different guides, each specialising in a
particular aspect of mediumship. Only three or four would demonstrate in public,
the others manifesting in private or research groups. I have deliberately
refrained from giving examples of the evidence and help I received which could
probably fill a book but I can say that my father, a renowned sceptic of things
psychic, was instantly healed through her mediumship. After the healing he
demanded to know where the electric heater was, which he said had been placed on
his back. I explained that she had placed only her . "When she saw Mona she said
to this medium, 'You gave back my God, peace and hope - and then you gave me
back my little son'". Those of us in the church who knew of the case were
delighted when the lady brought her little boy to say 'Thank you' for all the
prayers that had been offered for his safe return. Another prominent feature of
Mona's mediumship was healing with the help of a spirit doctor who said that on
earth he had been a hunchback. It was noticeable how, when entranced by him, her
body would change showing a quhands on his back, a fact he never really came to
Mona's healing successes were legion but the most spectacular case was a 12-year old boy in 1970. Blind from the age of four, his sight was restored during a public demonstration at Durban's City Hall. When I left South Africa in 1965, her guide promised to confirm his identity through another medium. It was 1974 before the spirit promise was fulfilled. Travelling in a car to Euston station with Gordon Higginson, he suddenly turned to me and relayed a message from Mona's guide. Again, in 1978, through the mediumship of Betty Wakeling, at a public demonstration, he not only stated that he had been responsible for bringing me into Spiritualism, but even gave the name of the medium. Mona's philosophy was based on the biblical injunction to 'comfort the mourner, bind the broken-hearted and heal the sick' all of which I have tried to illustrate. Mona van der Watt passed to the Spirit World in August, 1980 but within days made her return through Edinburgh medium, Mary Duffy. At that time news of Mona's passing, in South Africa, had not been made public. In a trance sitting Mrs Duffy's guide indicated Mona's spirit presence without naming her, but said she was a medium who came from the same city as mine does.' Mona's mediumistic career began in Edinburgh.
A little later that year Mona and her guide manifested at a Silver Birch sitting which I was privileged to attend. She has since continued to communicate through Betty Wakeling, Mary Duffy, Gordon Higginson and regularly through Gerard Smith. In fact at a private sitting with Gordon Higginson, both Maurice Barbanell and his guide, Silver Birch, returned with some extremely good evidence.
Barbanell also stated that he had met Mona on the Other Side, and had recently had a sitting with her. He explained that very often when they wanted to make contact with spirits further on they use a medium to make contact between the spheres. Neither Gordon nor I could recall ever hearing of this before yet the very next day I picked up a book by J. J. Morse, which fell open on a page, which said that those who had been mediums on this side were often used as mediums on the Other Side! The latest communication has been through the mediumship of 'Lincoln' at a recent Home Circle when 12 red field poppies were apported (the first time flowers had been produced) through the narrow end of the trumpet, and the guide said that Mona was hoping to speak in the direct voice very soon.
Our thanks to The Two Worlds Publishing Company for their kind permission in allowing this article to be reproduced here, This article was originally published in the Two Worlds Magazine, and then on
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