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ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE

“I see pounds, shilling,s and pence. You are going to England very soon, both of you. You’ll stay over there a short time, but won’t like it well enough to stay. Then you’ll come back and spend the rest of your lives in western Canada.”

I was astounded because, at that time, Katie and I were indeed making arrangements to go to England to live. (Neither of us had the slightest interest in western Canada, however.). Then, a short time after our visit to the tea room, I met an acquaintance whom I told about it. He laughed. “Oh, I know Andre,” he said. “You remember when you and I were in line at the post office? Andre was right behind you, and he has big ears.”

Katie and I dismissed the whole tea-reading episode as a fraud. But Andre turned out to be right. I had hoped to get back into university teaching in England, but could only find employment as a lecturer in a technical college. We stayed there for two years, at the end of which I accepted a teaching position in a university in Louisiana. One day, while chatting with a colleague at the campus hot dog stand, I learned that the University of Manitoba was offering summer teaching positions. I applied for one in history, and this, in turn, led to my appointment to the faculty of Brandon University, in western Canada, where we remained.

At the time we had our tea leaves read, I asked Andre about tea-leaf reading:

“The leaves make little shapes in the cup,” he said, “and, with a lot of imagination, you can read them as signs. The further down the cup they are, the more important. Or, you can look into a crystal ball, or read tarot cards, or the lines in your hand. But all of that is just to attract the client’s attention. It really means nothing at all. When I consult with a person, I see images in my mind. I have intuitions about that person’s future,and that is what it is all about. I’m psychic.”

This fascinated me, and still does. It is the area which we call parapsychology (para (beside) + psychology. During the 1950s, an institute for research in parapsychology was founded at Duke University in North Carolina. Here J. B. and Mary Rhine and their colleagues conducted systematic experiments in the phenomena classified as extra sensory perception or ESP: clairvoyance (seeing what is out of sight), telepathy (action of one mind on another without using the senses), and psychokenesis (the physical movement of objects by psychic means). These experiments have been inconclusive.

During the late 1950s, there was also much popular interest in experimentation with hypnotism, particularly in age regression, as in the famous case of Bridie Murphy. In a hypnotic state, a woman in Colorado was (apparently) regressed back to the time of her birth, when, to the alleged astonishment of the hypnotist, another woman’s voice with a deep Irish brogue was heard. She told of her life in early ninteenth-century Ireland. The investigators later found her grave, and confirmation that there actually had been such a person. Bridie Murphy was later discredited as a fraud, but, for a time, the experiment seemed to prove the reality of reincarnation.

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