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  • Deciding Canadian Policy with Seances? March 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    Numerous politicians have dabbled in spiritualism in and out of office. There are claims, for example, that Lincoln in the US, Arthur Balfour and possibly Gladstone in the UK, not to mention Alfred Deakin in Australia all went to mediums and possibly were influenced in their decisions by séances. However, in this catalogue none come close to the passion of the longest-serving Canadian prime minister: William Mackenzie King (obit 1950).

    Mackenzie King was a technocrat rather than a gifted orator, an operator rather than an inspiration. But, if he lacked the charisma of his contemporaries in the Commonwealth and in the Western Hemisphere – he paled besides Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt – then he seemed to have worked for a Canada that was, in those years, gradually coming out of its shell. He certainly proved an exceptional war leader: defending Canada’s interests while bolstering the alliance of the democratic nations.

    His reputation, however, as a quiet, sensible leader, a grey but efficient politician would have been exploded if his private beliefs in the spirit world had been made public in ‘the living years’.

    The roots of his spiritualism probably came in 1915-1922 when MK lost, in rapid succession, four darling members of his family. Combined with his strong Presbyterian Christianity – MK had considered become a minister – this then developed into a fascination in the 1920s.

    It was a fascination, of course, matched in society at large. Here was the period, after the First World War, when millions were asking similar questions about where their recently deceased relatives had ended up. In some senses it was the golden age of séances and mediums: though a more vulgarised version than that found in the late nineteenth century.

    MK continued to visit spiritualists up until his death including Geraldine Cummins! If he had lived in a tabloid age – think Nancy Reagan and her astrologer – then he would have been publicly barbecued.

    The news that Canada’s leader had been a spiritualist only leaked out after his death. A letter was sent to Psychic News that was then picked up by Macleans, Canada’s celebrated news magazine in the December of 1951. The evidence was incontrovertible and left the nation in shock. By the 1950s spiritualism had again become a minority interest and most spiritualists – even after a World War and tens of thousands of Canadian deaths – were seen as, forgive Beachcombing, loons.

    MK’s estate, in an attempt to salvage something of his reputation, burnt the notebooks with records of his contacts with the other side in 1977, almost certainly in response to a work by the military historian C.P.Stacey, A Very Double Life.

    The million dollar question is to what extent Mackenzie’s contacts influenced Canadian policy.

    Certainly, he asked a series of luminaries and loved ones about political questions: the apostle Luke, Gladstone (!!), his mother (naturally) and several dead pets. But no one has yet managed to pin down a political decision that relied on his table rapping.

    Probably – Beachcombing thinks of Jung in the garden with his I Ching – what we have is a man who used gnomic and cryptic messages from beyond to reinforce his own prejudices and channel his  instincts.

    For example, from the great beyond, where Franklin Roosevelt no longer tied down to his broken earthly body was doubtless playing volleyball, the spirit of the American president warned MK to be cautious over the Soviet spy ring uncovered in Canada in 1945.

    Cautious… Well, doh!

    The contacts, especially with his family, gave too a lonely, unmarried man, isolated by power, some nurture – whether imaginary or from out of the seventh heaven Beachcombing will allow his readers to decide for themselves.

    Beachcombing has recently become interested in ‘normal’ modern politicians whose fringe spiritual beliefs may have changed national policy: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    15 March 2011:  Canadian History Student has sent the link to MK diaries online with an excellent searchable database. Beachcombing has wasted enjoyably much of the morning – God help him if Mrs B finds out – reading the Canadian Prime Minister’s allusions to his contacts with the other side. A chance reference from 28 Sept, 1933: ‘This has been a day of impressions, evidences, revelations, inspirations, all associating themselves with dear father and ‘communications’ from him. I was up about 8 and spent a little time after reading, seeing to work of construction on the forge. The morning mail came out at 10.30 and I drove into town at 11. In the mail came a loose leaf book from Margaret Hamilton containing ‘Communications’ she had typed out for me, from Spurgeon, Robert Louis Stevenson and others. These I read aloud to Joan tonight – they are quite beautiful, reveal the nearness of the other world to us, and the growth of mind and spirit. They help to relate our lives immediately to the lives of those who have passed away and the life beyond to our present life.’ Extraordinary stuff really the way that it mixes with the day to day. It clearly suffused MK’s life. KMH, meanwhile, adds:  ‘There is nothing like unexpected death, disability or divorce to radically alter former beliefs and attitudes. According to Jeane Dixon, she was in the White House conferring with FDR before his death. She could tell him how long he had left, but not how to prolong his life. Even Hitler had an astrologer, at least until things began to go badly. I think Stalin believed in mentalists.’ Beachcombing will write about Hitler and astrology on another day: in the meantime he’d love to know about Stalin and mentalists… Thanks to Canadian History Student and KMH!

    4 April 2011: Again Canadian History Student to the rescue – ‘I stumbled across this rather odd CBC radio episode from the 1970s. Canadians have always been intensely interested in King’s spiritualism.’ Thanks CHS!!