ANECDOTES FROM MY PAST
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.”
THE EVENING I WAS INVITED TO SPEAK IN THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
In 1997 I was invited to talk to the Parliamentary Group for Alternative and Complementary Medicine about healing. The group had been set up in order to try to give legal status to the various different complementary therapies.
Thanks in no small measure to the enthusiasm of David Tredinnick, MP, it had succeeded in getting such protection for acupuncture and osteopathy and was looking to extend it to include other complementary therapies, including healing.
My visit to the Houses of Parliament on 28 October was quite an experience. The committee room was completely packed with a wide cross-section of MPs who had never previously attended the group’s meetings. I was surprised at the high level of interest shown in healing.
After talking about my work I told them about the antagonism towards healing shown by the German authorities. Earlier that year I had been scheduled to do a healing demonstration in Berlin. Upon arrival at the airport I presented my passport which was promptly taken away whilst I was left waiting, without explanation, for a considerable time. I’d obviously been recognised by the advertising and posters for the event. I was eventually allowed entry but presumably only after the relevant authority had been alerted.
When I later reached the venue, I was met by police officers ready with a threat supported by the relevant documents: if I gave a healing demonstration, I would be arrested and the organiser would be fined the equivalent of £20,000. I had no doubt that they would keep their word and the event was cancelled at the last moment. It wasn’t the first time I had run into problems with the police preventing me from demonstrating healing in public in Germany.
In a letter of thanks David Tredinnick sent me a few days after my talk to the parliamentary group, he seemed to have taken my concern seriously:
“Your experiences in Germany gave a stark warning of the threat to healing in this country, which we must address in Parliament, perhaps at some stage in the near future. Certainly it is essential for us to be vigilant concerning all European legislation and Directives.”
It was later brought up in the House of Commons but was of less importance than other EU subjects being debated. The rest, as they say, is now history - although healing still lacks the same legal protection afforded to acupuncture and osteopathy.
THE DAY I HAD TO CHOOSE DIFFERENT MUSIC AT A HEALING CIRCLE ...
In rather strange ways my life has sometimes been entwined with Mike Oldfield’s music. We’re about the same age and come from not dissimilar backgrounds. Finally, in 1996 our paths crossed although the story had begun decades earlier with the release of the horror film ‘The Exorcist’ in 1973.
Some of the scenes in the film were disturbingly reminiscent of the poltergeist activity I’d endured in 1971, including an event when a bed in which a 12-year-old girl was lying began to shake and levitate violently. Mike’s debut album ‘Tubular Bells’ formed much of the soundtrack and launched his career. In the meantime, my first book ‘The Link’ was published in America and I spent three weeks promoting it with coast to coast press interviews.
Time and again I had to endure the sounds of ‘Tubular Bells’ as I made my way on set for another TV chat show. Every producer believed he was the first to have cleverly associated my story with that of ‘The Exorcist’ and thought it would be funny to play the theme tune as I appeared. I rapidly became irritated by it and was unable to ever listen to the album again.
Thankfully, Mike has been prolific over the years so I enjoyed his later work. In late 1994 he released ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’, a concept album based on Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel of the same title. Beautifully crafted it was chilled, restful and relaxing without being boring or lifeless, I listened to it over and over. I also used it during my healing sessions and found that children particularly loved it.
Becoming a little more adventurous, I would sometimes play it during healing circles as it often led participants on a very visual journey to inner and outer worlds.
I planned to use it during a healing circle in London in 1996 and before the event began, as I was meeting and greeting those who were joining me for the healing, Mike Oldfield walked in. For once I was pretty much dumbstruck! Knowing that he would probably not relax particularly well while listening to his own music during a 50-minute healing circle I had to make a last minute change and instead played the album ‘Mandala’ by Kitaro.
Afterwards Mike told me he loved the music - I never told him that my original choice was ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’. But we did have a laugh about my aversion to ‘Tubular Bells’!
A HEDONISTIC EVENING WITH THE ARTIST FRANCIS BACON
I only met Francis Bacon a few times but have recently been asked by the archivist for the Estate of Francis Bacon to share my memories of him. It’s an interesting read - I’ve partied with rock musicians but Francis even towards the end of his life could out do them all.
Francis produced some of the most iconic images of wounded and traumatised humanity in post-war art and he was one of the most successful British painters of the 20th century. After his death, he became regarded by some as one of the world’s most important painters. A painting of his friend and fellow artist Lucien Freud became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after it fetched £89m in 2013. The price eclipsed the £74m paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream the previous year.
I met Francis as his partner was the brother of one of my closest friends, and coincidentally he owned a country home in the Suffolk village in which I then lived. He was charismatic, articulate and well-read. A bon vivant, he’d spent much of his life eating, drinking and gambling in London’s Soho with like-minded friends.
He invited me for a drink one autumn evening at the village pub. Dressed in a large black cape and wearing a bright red fedora hat, he looked quite regal as I joined him. He was surrounded by a group of young men and I wasn’t sure if they were hangers-on or minders - but they were certainly intimidating. From the numerous empty champagne bottles littered about it was obvious that a lot of alcohol had already been consumed. I’d have liked a pint of beer but Francis was insistent that we all drank champagne.
We discussed existentialism, a recurrent theme in many of his paintings, which is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence and centres on the experience of thinking, feeling, and acting. Existentialist thinkers often explore issues related to the meaning, purpose, and value of human existence. Francis was intrigued by my work as a healer and although I think he struggled to place it within his view of the world, he was certainly not sceptical.
He wanted to know the origin of healing energy, whether it worked on people who didn’t want to be healed, and whether I believed in God. I explained that I felt healing was an energy of universal love, although I didn’t feel that he understood this concept.
Interestingly, Francis had once said: “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.” It could have been written by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness and suggests that we had more in common than we perhaps realised.
As inebriation set in and the pub’s stock of champagne was completely consumed, Francis invited me back for dinner - or so I naively thought. He said he had a nice joint in the oven that we could share. Not wanting to miss the chance of dinner with him, we all returned to his home.
Once in his kitchen he opened the oven to retrieve his joint - it was the variety that is smoked and the size of a cigar. I never knew why he kept it in the oven. The champagne flowed like an endless river and the air was thick with smoke from the joint. As my brain started to separate from my physical body I recalled the words of the song A Whiter Shade Of Pale:
“I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away”
I remember using the downstairs toilet where on the wall hung a small Francis Bacon self-portrait. It’s impossible to guess how much that would now sell for. By the time I made my way back home across the village I felt really ill - and was horribly sick!
Tracey Emin says: “His life was pretty chaotic and he just did whatever he wanted to do, drank whatever he wanted to drink, slept with whoever he wanted to sleep with. He was a maverick within society.” Maybe, within different fields, we were both mavericks and for that reason were fascinated by one another.
It was the last time I was to see Francis. While on holiday in Madrid in April 1992, he died of a heart attack at the age of 82. Since then many books have been published about his life and his work has become among the most acclaimed, expensive and sought-after on the art market. But our evening together was one of the most bizarre I’ve had - you don’t forget experiences like that!