ANECDOTES FROM MY PAST
THE SOBERING POWER OF AMETHYST
From a very young age, my father was an obsessive collector of antiques: coins, glass, paintings, furniture and objet’s d’art. Whilst growing up, my siblings and I used to half-joke that we lived in a private museum and my father would earnestly ponder whether he had some sort of elusive “collectors gene” that led to this impassioned zeal.
During his life he amassed what was possibly the largest collection of 19th century coloured drinking glasses. It was really quite spectacular and he bequeathed it to the State. When he passed away in 2010 it went on permanent display at The Victoria Art Gallery in Bath where it can still be viewed.
His passion rubbed off on me, although not to the same degree, and over the years I’ve built up a small collection of similar antique coloured glass. One of my favourites is this gorgeous amethyst drinking glass. And herein lies a fascinating tale …
Amethyst gets its name from the ancient Greek word “amethustos”, which means essentially “not intoxicated” or “sober”. The Greeks believed that wearing amethyst or drinking from a glass made of it would keep you from getting drunk.
Throughout history the special virtue of amethyst has been that of preventing drunkenness and overindulgence. Ancient Greeks and Romans routinely studded their goblets with amethyst believing wine drunk from an amethyst vessel was powerless to intoxicate, and a stone worn on the body, especially at the navel, had a sobering effect, not only for inebriation but in over-zealousness in passion. Catholic bishops also wore amethyst in a ring to protect from mystical intoxication. Kissing the ring kept others from similar mystical intoxication and kept them grounded in spiritual thought.
I always wondered why I felt sober after drinking wine from my amethyst glass!
SOME OF MY ARCHIVES HAVE FOUND HOMES IN SURPRISING PLACES
As I searched out new illustrations for the forthcoming updated edition of The Link, I discovered how far and wide some of my archives have become distributed.
For example, in early 1974 I had a photo shoot with a long-established and old-fashioned photographic studio in Cambridge - Ramsey and Muspratt - but none of the original images were in my own archives. The studio has long gone but a bit of research led me to the Cambridgeshire Collection of the Cambridge Central Library who are now custodians of these photographs.
The Senate House at the University of London hold the majority of my automatic writing and drawings, together with much other archive material, and if you’re interested in looking at my early work it can be viewed by appointment.
I then learned that unbeknownst to me, Cambridge University Library also hold extensive archives including a full photographic record of the signatures on the walls of our former family home, Queen’s House. They also have copies of many of the reports of scientific research in which I was involved, together with numerous press cuttings. These too can be viewed by prior appointment or accessed online.
The College of Psychic Studies in London were gifted the door panel covered in signatures around a poetic verse (top right corner of the accompanying image for this post) and it is on display there for anyone to inspect.
I’m quite flattered that so much of my archive material is held by two prestigious universities and is available to the public.
However, I have enormous personal archives comprising of thousands of photographs many of which are now stored on our computer and on memory sticks. I’ve got reams of press articles from around the world dating back to the early 1970s together with old TV footage of programs on which I appeared. I also have original copies of dozens of recordings and video material made for my early self-help cassettes. Everything is currently stored in large plastic boxes and held in a secure storage container for safety.
One day, when I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, I’d like these various archive collections to be held in one place so that in the future everyone can access them. Sixty years or more of archives would be a fascinating insight into the experiences I’ve had in my life. In the coming months I hope to talk to both London and Cambridge Universities with a view to all this material ultimately being held in one location.
I’ve enjoyed finding material that I’d long-forgotten, some of which has not been previously published, but will now be included in The Link. It’s been a trip down memory lane.
REFLECTIONS ON ALMOST 50 YEARS OF PUBLICITY
Next week it will be 47 years since The Link was first published and I’ve been reminiscing about those early years. I was young, quite naive and just 19-years-old, and nothing could have prepared me for the maelstrom into which I was unwittingly thrown.
Virtually overnight I found myself in almost every newspaper and magazine in this country and around the world - including Paris Match and Time magazine as well as the satirical magazine Private Eye - as tens of thousands of articles were written about me.
On one occasion in late 1974, two men were found rummaging through our waste bin outside. They were a couple of journalists hoping to find a new “exclusive” story whilst poring through our rubbish. I quickly learned that no area of my life was now sacrosanct and some red-top tabloids would stop at nothing in search of a story. It felt like a enormous invasion of privacy but was sadly par for the course once I became ‘public property’.
I was taken unawares by the level of aggressive scepticism towards me from some people. Larry Adler, the mouth organ player, wrote a vicious in a Sunday newspaper, tearing me apart - even though we’d never met and as far as I understood he had neither interest nor experience of psychic phenomena. I was at a loss to comprehend his motive. There were unrelenting attacks by magicians although I quickly realised that these were primarily for their own self-publicity. In retrospect I was incredibly lucky to have had the late Sir David Frost, with whom I did much television work, acting as a kind mentor. “Today’s newspapers carry tomorrow’s fish and chips”, he would tell me. “Don’t worry about anything they write.”
On one occasion I was driving around Hyde Park in London with my mother as a passenger. We were stuck in traffic and my window was wound down when a man on a bicycle pushed his head into the car and began shouting angry abuse at me. Such angry and vitriolic scepticism was not uncommon but I learned after that event to keep my car windows closed.
When you’re in the public eye you become accustomed to inaccurate reporting or false stories. The irony was not lost on me that whilst I was sometimes accused of fraud or lying, those same journalists had no compunction whatsoever in publishing deliberately false or misleading stories. This was decades before we had even heard the phrase “fake news”.
Ironically, one of false stories helped The Link to become a bestseller in America in 1975. I’d been zigzagging the country for three weeks, appearing on TV and radio shows and giving countless Press interviews. One night I’d flown late into a city only to find that my publishers had arranged yet another interview with a journalist whose articles were nationally syndicated. I always had to remain polite no matter how tired I might be.
The journalist asked if I had a girlfriend - a question nobody had previously asked. I replied, perfectly honestly, that I didn’t have time for one. A couple of days later I was mortified by the headline across United States newspapers that pronounced “Psychic Is Not Wasting His Energy On A Sex Life”. The accompanying article bore no relation whatsoever to that late night conversation with the journalist - but it gained huge attention and massively boosted my book sales.
Sometimes there were unexpected and amusing benefits to fame. I once visited a nightclub - probably the first and only time in my life - and the owner had understood that I was a “famous cyclist”! I couldn’t understand why there was a flow of free drinks all night - until I left and hadn’t the heart to put him right.
Fame is wonderful for opening doors to people you might otherwise never have had the privilege of meeting. I’ve had such enjoyment over the decades spending time with musicians whose albums I bought as a youngster, film stars who have told stories never to be repeated that made me hoot with laughter, leading scientists and doctors, deep-thinking visionary writers and novelists, and royalty.
Personally, I cannot imagine why anybody craves fame yet it is now something for which many youngsters seem prepared to sell their soul. It takes away infinitely more than it gives and the pressures are unbelievable. Whilst I never sought it out I sometimes feel fortunate to have survived it as the strain was often immense and unrelenting.
I’ve had an amazing journey through life and like to think that I’ve managed to mostly keep my feet on the ground and to retain some sense of humility. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way - as we all have - but there’s not much that I’d change.
AS MY FIRST BOOK ‘THE LINK’ IS SOON TO BE REPUBLISHED, IT BRINGS BACK MEMORIES
I’m currently working on a new edition of my book The Link, first published in 1974, which will be available in October. With completely new illustrations and photographs and some minor updates, it’s looking wonderful - and bringing back memories for me!
I’ll always remember being given a postal sack of letters that I received shortly after The Link was first published. I’d never seen so many letters and was completely overwhelmed by their sheer number. Amongst them was a rather expensive-looking envelope with lovely handwriting.
It was a charming letter from Lady Browning, also known as the novelist and playwright Daphne Du Maurier, whose books included Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, and The Birds. Her stories have been described as moody and resonant with overtones of the paranormal - hence her immediate interest in The Link. Rather kindly, she told me that I had “the X-factor” - a phrase I’d not heard of before.
In turn she introduced me to one of her Cornish neighbours, the writer Colin Wilson, who invited me to stay for a few days so as to get a break from the relentless media attention. We all wanted to have dinner together but Daphne was unable to join us as she had a house full of grandchildren when I visited. Colin and I shared a similar path of early success as his first book, The Outsider, was published in 1956 when he was just 24-years-old and he too had been subjected to enormous publicity. To this day it has never been out of print and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
He was a prolific writer and by the late 1960s had become increasingly interested in the metaphysical and paranormal, focusing on the cultivation of what he called “Faculty X”. He saw this as something that could lead to an increased sense of meaning, along with abilities such as telepathy and the awareness of energies.
I last saw Colin in 1995 when he was in the audience of the first Beyond Belief show that I co-hosted with Sir David Frost for ITV. He’d been invited by the production team who had no idea that we knew each other. After several years Beyond Belief was replaced on a Saturday night by The X-Factor - that very same phrase that Daphne Du Maurier had used in her letter to me 20 years previously! The irony of these “energetic connections” was not lost on me.
Sadly, Daphne Du Maurier, Colin Wilson, and Sir David Frost have all passed away but I cherish the memories of such wonderful friendships and associations.
FROM MY ARCHIVES: A TOUCHING STORY FROM A HEALING CIRCLE
During this lockdown I’ve been collating boxes full of archive material stretching back decades. I came across this lovely story from the 1990s, from a lady who had taken part in one of my healing circles:
“One year ago today I participated in your healing circle in Kensington. I remember you saying how much you’d welcome feedback and I have been meaning to write for some time.
“I had been trying to have a baby for five and a half years and had almost given up hope when a friend suggested I went to one of your circles.
“During the course of the hour we sat linked together, I had many thoughts. I worked quite hard at constructing positive mental images of people I knew who were ill but then an astonishingly clear picture of myself with a fully pregnant belly, and one even more clear of a wicker cot on which holly leaves were attached just spontaneously came to mind with no effort on my part.
“My husband is half Chinese but has little contact with his family on that side. I found myself conversing with his Grandfather who had long since died and saying how much I wanted to extend the ‘Lee’ family.
“After the session I went to buy bread in a department store. The cashier was Chinese. I signed a cheque with my married name ‘Lee’. He commented that it was his name too. When I said that mine was also from China, he held the queue up and wrote the Chinese characters on the back of the till receipt saying that the ‘Lee’s’ were a very big family.
“Two weeks later I was pregnant. I hardly dared to bring myself to write to you because I couldn’t believe my luck. On November 23rd, exactly nine months after that day in Kensington, our little girl was born. She is absolute heaven and I am totally convinced that this is as a result of your healing circle.
“For this gift I cannot possibly convey enough thanks. To my mind it is also an extraordinary string of events which can be added to what must be a vast collection of similar such anecdotes from people who have had the benefit of your healing.”