Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Ghosts of Politics II: William Lyon Mackenzie King

It's a well known fact that Ronald Reagan, and Mary Lincoln consulted mediums on a regular basis. What may not be so well known is that at least one Canadian political figure did as well.

After World War I, William Lyon Mackenzie King was upset and disturbed by the deaths of his parents, sister, brother, and a close friend. Seeking comfort, he turned to Spiritualism, and started to consult mediums and attend seances. King hoped to gain proof of an "afterlife".

The 1930's saw King meet Henrietta Wriedt, an American medium, during a visit to Detroit. The next year, he was invited to the house of Mrs. Fulford, the widow of a Canadian senator. There, he experienced Mrs. Wriedt conducting Direct Voice Mediumship. Mrs. Wriedt would go on to become one of his most consulted mediums.

A 1933 conversation with Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton about the doctor's psychical research led King to seek more contacts in England. During the same year, King went to a seance attended by Dominion Archivist Sir Arthur George Doughty, where Table Rapping was used to communicate with spirits. Afterwards, he and his close friend Joan Patterson would conduct this form of communication in Ottawa- claiming to contact his mother, brother Max, and even former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

During a conversation with Lady Aberdeen, King revealed that he'd communicated with her husband (who had been Governor-General of Canada between 1893 - 1898), via knockings on a table during a seance. She informed him that she'd confirmed his spiritual existance through Automatic Writing.

After a trip to the League of Nations in 1936, King went to England to visit the London Spiritualist Alliance in his continuing search for insight and reassurance about the "afterlife".

Throughout the 1940's William Lyon Mackenzie King continued to consult mediums, including Lilian Bailey, Hester Dowden, Gladys Osborne Leonard, Mrs. Sharplin, and Geraldine Cummins.

Spirit communication wasn't the only area of interest to Prime Minister King. He also studied dream interpretations, numerology, tea leaf reading, and the meaning of coincidences.

While alive, his spiritual beliefs were known to only a small circle. Since he wanted them to remain private and personal, he shied away from most organized and public groups. He also made sure that the mediums he consulted were discreet, and respected his privacy. When his interests became known after his death, questions were raised about how much of his political career had been dependeant upon advice from beyond.

One medium, Geraldine Cummins wrote that King's, "realistic and critical analysis of evidence presented by other psychic experiments" impressed her, and that he was, "far too intellegent to be credulous, and his observations on the subject were very instructive." The question of whether he relied on spirits to make political decisions was answered after it was revealed by one medium that when advised about potential problems in Asia, he remarked that he "made it a rule to ignore advice" given by spirits, "he trusted soley to his own and his advisor's judgment."

In 1977, King's literary executors had several notebooks of his, where mediums recorded their responses to his questions, burnt. The remaining records were closed to until 2001. They showed however, that while Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King may not have accepted political advice from the supernatural realm, he did derive great comfort from the belief that his loved ones lived on after death.

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