Mediumship: An overview of my personal experience from early childhood to Lily Dale Part Five

Imagine a fourteen year old in a “youth group” of twenty-something people with a thirty something brick layer as a leader. That was my first experience with the Charismatic Christian community. For those of you who may not know, the term “Charismatic,” in this context, does not mean “charming.” I am referring instead to a specific religious experience or movement within the greater Christian church.

I could check my histories and get all scholarly but I lived the Charismatic Movement the way I lived the sixties and the seventies. I remember the horrible assassinations of the 1960’s here in
America. I remember the Vietnam War and the impact that war had on those who fought it and on those that did not. And, I remember the Charismatic Movement.

I am quite sure that some of the “facts” I will recount here could be disputed but this is a personal memoir and these are my recollections. I do not intend for this to be a scholarly historic piece.

As I recall the Charismatic Movement began in either the Episcopalian or the Roman Catholic traditions or both. Pentecostalism had been around since the turn of the twentieth century but it was an entirely separate stream from Charismata although there were similarities. Both Charismatics, as we were called and Pentecostals believed in a “second definite work” of grace, a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” characterized by speaking in tongues. In other words a distinguishing feature of both the Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions is prayer in a language unknown to the person praying.

The so called “supernatural” elements associated with the Charismatic Movement were attractive to me and over time they became a normal part of my every day spirituality. The Charismatics taught me to speak in tongues, to commune with spirit, and to “cast out devils.” But I might have never discovered the Charismatics if my parents had not given me the freedom to do so.

I was raised and confirmed a Lutheran and to this day I am grateful to my parents for the religious freedom they afforded me. My experience in the Lutheran church was not a positive one. As a pre-adolescent, it seemed to me a form without substance, a ritual without life.

In my seminary years I would come to understand that ritual can have life as long as the ritual is clearly understood by those engaging in it. In fact, during my seminary years, one of the richest encounters with God I had was ironically in a Lutheran Church.

It is only when ritual is performed without meaning or deliberate intention that it becomes a lifeless form. One purpose of confirmation is to explain the meaning behind the ritual, to provide the substance that gave shape to the form.

Martin Luther was a genius in my opinion but genius is fluid, vital, and alive. Over time the genius behind every great religious movement becomes fossilized in dogma and ritual and in my young and uneducated mind this was the case in Lutheranism, specifically Missouri Synod Lutheranism.

I wanted to leave the church but my father told me I must be confirmed. He said that once I understand what the church is about I will be in a better position to decide if it is for me or not. I could not leave until I was confirmed but once confirmed I was free to worship as I please or not at all.

To this day I believe this is the healthiest way to raise a child in faith. Faith cannot be forced. If faith is to be genuine it must be discovered along ones individual journey. If my parents had taken a more dogmatic approach, I might not have made the crucial discoveries I made that literally saved my life.

Like many other people I thought I knew what Christianity was about and I didn’t like it.
Whoever Jesus was I certainly didn’t see him in the people that claimed to represent him.
In my heart I knew there had to be more to spirituality than what I witnessed in church but I had no idea what or how to find it.

Then one day my Tae Kwon Do instructor asked me to attend a meeting with him.
I did.

I heard songs I had never heard before.
I saw beautiful people (and I mean “beautiful” in countenance rather than in physical appearance) in their twenties, hippies for the most part, lifting their hands as if to reach out and touch a formless, shapeless God.

Pictured below is one of the houses on the campus of the church where we used to meet:

house church

For the first time in my life I felt what love is.
Not romantic love, or sexual love, or even family love.

I felt what Paul described in 1st Corinthians 13: 4 – 12

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”

Love was no longer a word; it was an experience.
God was no longer an abstract concept; He/She was a living spirit being that I could engage whenever I wanted.

This “religious” experience is not confined to Christianity but for years I did not know that.
It wasn’t until I encountered the work of William James in a college comparative religion class that I would learn that this spirit being so many refer to as God has many ways of manifesting. But for a troubled fourteen year old, I had found paradise.

My personality is such that I never engage unless I engage fully, I never dip my toe in the water; I dive in. So it was with my new found faith.

Within a few short weeks I was teaching my first lesson, a fourteen year old teaching twenty plus year olds. In reality they were encouraging the ambition in me that desperately wanted to devote my life to faith, to someday want to pastor and lead. This ambition would eventually take me through seminary but in 1974 it manifested in Friday night bible studies and most importantly for the context of this discussion, a deliverance ministry.

Deliverance ministers are what they called exorcists in the 1970s. In retrospect I think the film; The Exorcist did a lot of damage. It tainted the reputation of the Ouija board and it convinced people that there was a demon out to get them and hiding behind every habit or so-called sin.

In those days international ministers like Bob Mumford and Derek Prince were teaching demonology and deliverance technique to lay people and lay people were standing in line waiting for a deliverance minister to cast the devil out of them.

Like hospital visitation, deliverance work was messy and many of the established minsters preferred to delegate the messier tasks to the want to be pastors like me.

When I started, I started in the church after the service on Sunday morning. People would stay late for special prayer and we would engage in rites of exorcism.

Pictured below is the altar around which I first practice the ministry of deliverance:

alter

Some interesting exorcisms are available on YouTube and if you want to see what I saw way back in the day, search exorcism on YouTube. Screaming, hitting, biting, spiting, and cursing were all a part of the normal experience.

Today I have serious doubts about the alleged demonic activity we were battling in those days but at the time I was convinced that I was doing what Jesus had done. A casual reading of the Gospel stories will show a Jesus that actively engaged people that were under the influence of some external spirit entity. He would sometimes engage the entity in brief discussion and then command it to leave often into some other object or animal.

Whatever else might have been going on in the lives of the people I tried to help, one thing that I learned in the seventies and early eighties was to engage spirit beings. As a result of repeated exposure I lost my natural inhibition or fear. I learned to be comfortable in the astral. I learned how to see spirit beings, how to feel them, smell them, and hear them. In essence I was learning to be a medium though at the time mediumship was not my intention.

Much love and many blessings,
David

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