A Message from our President
As a Fellowship, we aim to be mutually-supportive companions on the same journey. We are always happy to welcome new members who are in sympathy with our aims. We are also happy simply to be of use to visitors to this website.
The Fellowship was founded in the 1950s. Almost 70 years later, we are a vibrant and purposeful group, but also at a point in the Fellowship's history when we are taking stock of our position and thinking strategically about our current role.
Seventy years ago, very few arenas existed in which people could discuss psychic phenomena safely, particularly in a Christian context. In addition, the pattern of life then meant that people turned primarily to public lectures and meetings in order to explore topics of mutual interest. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the 1960s we had several thousand members.
Now we are in a completely different place. Most meetings-based organisations have seen a decline in numbers, from local political parties and football clubs, through to interest groups of every sort. As our members will be aware, we ourselves have reduced our annual conferences from two a year to one – though that one is very well-attended. Online chat rooms and social media now provide the forum in which common concerns and interests can be explored and exchanged. One thing we are now seeking to develop, therefore, is our online presence and ways of communicating.
In any case, our role is now a bit different to what it was when CFPSS was founded. Discussion of many paranormal phenomena is now common-place: there are many ghost-hunting programmes on TV, as well as TV mediums; there are many sites on the internet where people share their experiences and can consult psychics by webcam. In addition there are many accounts, both on the internet and in print, of NDEs, angels, visions of Mary and Jesus, messages from heaven and prophecies of what is to come. There is a 'Mind, Body, Spirit' section in any bookshop or library. The psychic and paranormal have become mainstream.
However, quite a lot of this interest falls outside the mainline Christian churches. A lot of NDEs focus on the person of Jesus and so overlap with Christianity, and some people have joined a Christian church or become a Christian minister as result; but it would be fair to say that there is an assumption in the world at large that these phenomena do not sit easily with orthodox forms of Christianity, and indeed are often seen as a challenge to the churches.
The CFPSS has therefore dedicated itself to the quite challenging task of integrating these phenomena within mainstream Christianity. Mainstream churches can be suspicious of these kinds of phenomena. Similarly, people who have experienced these phenomena do not always turn for help and understanding to the churches.
How do we approach this work of integration? One of the important things we do is listen to each other. We are not expected to agree with each other – indeed, we come from many different denominations and traditions, or none -- but we do undertake to listen respectfully and with an open mind. This in itself can be a healing and clarifying process.
Next, the Fellowship is one of a cluster of societies engaged in serious, careful and discriminating scrutiny of these phenomena, such as the Society for Psychical Research and the Alistair Hardy Society for the Study of Spiritual Experiences. The term 'psychical studies' in our title is important: we do not simply share, describe and perhaps categorise experiences enthusiastically and uncritically. Instead, we are called to ponder, pray, and discern: are we being urged in directions which align with the teaching of Jesus? All psychic phenomena need to be subjected to the test of Christian living: 'By their fruits ye shall know them', as the Gospel says. This is necessarily a slower process than modern society often finds comfortable. It takes time – perhaps years -- for a psychic or spiritual experience to be validated by the fruit it bears in our lives.
A further function of the Fellowship is to support and nurture members who have discovered that they have psychic gifts, and who struggle to reconcile these with their Christian practice and beliefs. These gifts, if rejected or suppressed, do not disappear, but can manifest in negative ways. The Fellowship encourages such members to explore how their gifts can be used for Christ, for example, as part of intercession.
-Dr Santha Bhattacharji, President.