Saturday 4 February 2017

Wellesley Tudor Pole

Wellesley Tudor Pole was one of the more interesting spiritual characters of the last century. Born in 1884, he was associated with spiritualism, to which he brought a calm, objective eye, and the Baha'i Faith (a more universal kind of Islam, originating in Iran and probably strongly influenced by Sufism), which he helped introduce to England without, as far as I can tell, ever becoming a fully-fledged member himself.

But what is most intriguing about him is that, if he is to be believed, he was able to maintain continuity of consciousness during sleep. This means he could remember his activities in the spiritual worlds at night. It might be tempting to dismiss this as imagination or delusion but his books give the impression of a highly rational and level headed person, only too aware of the flights of fancy to which many psychics are prone. They carry a strong sense of wisdom and balance. He made no grandiose claims about himself and shunned rather than sought the limelight, but seems to have been regarded with universal respect in the spiritual communities of the time. He died in 1968 after a life that effortlessly spanned both the things of this world and those of the next as can be seen from this link to a timeline of his life. On the one hand, he had been a soldier and businessman while, on the other, he explored spiritual and psychic matters with a combination of vision and common sense that was as rare then as it is now. From the perspective of this blog he is additionally interesting as the person who set up the Chalice Well Trust in 1959. This was created to safeguard the holy well of the same name at Glastonbury. The Trust's website has more information about him, and a photograph that shows a fine face, here. All in all I would rate him as one of the foremost English psychics and mystics of the 20th century.

Having introduced WTP, as he was known, I'd like to talk about a couple of his books here. He didn't write much, four or five works at most and some of them are collaborations. That is the case with the first book here which is called A Man Seen Afar. It's hard to know how to describe this. Is it meant to be taken seriously, is it complete fantasy or does it, in some way, touch on the truth? When I tell you what it's about you will see the difficulty. The book is a collaboration with the novelist Rosamond Lehmann and purports to be glimpses 'from afar' into the life of Jesus. That is to say, Tudor Pole claims that by some clairvoyant means, not fully defined (as if they could be), he was able to see episodes from Jesus' life as though he had been personally present. Naturally one's first instinct is to reject this out of hand but if you read with an open mind the impression you get, or at least the one I got, is that there is something going on here which has a grounding in some sort of reality. I can't put it any more substantially than that. I certainly can't say I believe it is a wholly accurate account of Jesus as he was in Palestine 2,000 years ago but nor do I feel able to dismiss it entirely. It seems to me, like many things of a psychic nature, to hover on the borderline between the two and what I wonder is that is perhaps Tudor Pole tuning in through his finely developed spiritual antennae to something that exists on a spiritual level and interpreting that through his own mind? This would account for the mixture of truth and a more personal tone that the account has. So I think of it more as a work of art to be responded to intuitively and through the imagination than solid scientific fact. And as a work of art it certainly has plenty of interest. Some of it might be genuine insight and some might not. It is up to the reader to bring his own powers of perception to bear when reading.

The second book is not a book at all. It's a collection of letters written by Tudor Pole to Rosamond Lehmann in the last years of his life. Entitled My Dear Alexias it goes into a whole range of subjects of a spiritual nature from Jesus and the Grail to free will and the nature of evil, and even the truth behind flying saucers (as they were known at the time) and the validity of organ transplants and the Common Market (he wasn't in favour of either). And a good deal more. Again, I would not advise uncritical acceptance. Tudor Pole was a psychic and, though he was undoubtedly a highly spiritual one, you can never dismiss the element of subjectivity from a psychic's pronouncements. The best way to look at these is as the insights of a wise and humble man (and there's little doubt he was that), gained from a lifetime's experience in this field. But he was certainly not infallible and, in fact, was at great pains to say so himself.

His relevance to this blog I would say is as a kind of forerunner to any spiritual revival in England. Amidst all the hyperbole and spurious glamour of New Age spirituality he stands as a beacon of visionary insight and good solid sense. A practical mystic. Part dreamer and part businessman. That's quite English, isn't it?


Bruce Charlton said...

Another intriguing book recommendation - thanks.

Bruce Charlton said...

Here is a recording of WTP giving an lecture: