This article was published by Lew Sutton in 2008 and is reproduced here with his kind permission. It was written to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of Gordon’s passing.
The 18th January 2008 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Gordon’s passing to spirit but the memory of him is still fresh in the hearts of those who knew him well. Not only was he an excellent mental and physical medium but also a fine orator. What is not generally known is that he was also a very good healer.
Gordon started demonstrating at an early age as a boy medium. Years later his life was to change dramatically. In 1970 Gordon Higginson somewhat reluctantly became president of the Spiritualist National Union – a role that the spirit world appeared to have deemed necessary for the sake of Spiritualism in the UK.
This was a particularly difficult time for the SNU. In spite of a huge administrative burden and a need to earn a living, Gordon continued to teach and demonstrate his mediumship. This included for many years holding materialisation séances at Stansted Hall and occasionally at other venues. His whole life was devoted to Spiritualism.
Tutor and Orator
The Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall was described by Gordon as his “greatest love” and spent as much of his time as he could teaching and leading workshops there. He was Principle of the college for over two decades.
One of his favourite courses was the very popular twice yearly Spiritual Awareness course. Students couldn’t fail to respond to his warmth and enthusiasm. Spreading the philosophy of Spiritualism was dear to his heart.
Gordon was very keen to encourage the development of trance mediumship, recognising this as potentially one of the purest methods of communication with the Spirit World. He also considered this form of mediumship essential to the development of physical mediumship, which he did much to promote with his physical phenomena courses at Stansted.
Gordon’s passion for trance mediumship no doubt originated in the wonderful demonstrations he witnessed during his early years when trance mediumship was far more common. Some of these experiences are detailed in his autobiography, ‘On The Side Of Angels’ – see ‘Acknowledgements’ at the end of this article.
Although Stansted Hall was his greatest love, Gordon gave much time and effort to supporting seminars across the country. Typical of these is the Paignton Church August Bank Holiday 3 day seminar. This was inaugurated and led by him for 14 years until his passing. Gordon was keen to promote teaching centres, recognizing that training was the movement’s major weakness. In fact Gordon tended to favour naming our churches Spiritual Centres rather than the rather orthodox term ‘churches’. I suspect he hoped this would focus minds more on teaching and attract those who would not attend a ‘church’.
Gordon also regularly gave lectures at the SAGB (Spiritualist Association of Great Britain) in London. I remember one Friday evening lecture he gave at the SAGB where the subject was to be Astrology. Well, he mentioned astrology in the first few minutes and that was it! However, such was his oratory eloquence that it didn’t matter a dot. For here was a man whose mere presence could illuminate the spirit of those around him.
Gordon certainly wasn’t shy in declaring the quality of his mediumship but nevertheless could be very magnanimous in recognising the ability of his students. Typical of this was when Gordon asked one of his students, auragraphic medium Joyce Jamblin, to draw an auragraph of well-known London medium Nella Taylor. Like Harold Sharp’s auragraphs, the top of her drawings depicted the future, the middle the present and the bottom, the past. However, Joyce found she was unable to draw anything in the top area of the drawing, even after Gordon asked her to try again.
Then two weeks later Nella passed on. Gordon was amazed that even he had not sensed the imminent passing – but the auragraph had. However, subsequently, Gordon magnanimously used this event many times during his lecturing to illustrate the potential of auragraphic mediumship even though on that occasion it had eclipsed his own mediumship.
How Gordon became President of the SNU is an extraordinary tale involving instruction from a monk who disappeared into thin air! (Read his autobiography already mentioned!). Although Gordon had been president of the Longton SNU church in Staffordshire since 1947 his chief desire was to work as a medium. He claimed to have had no wish whatsoever to become more involved with the administrative side of Spiritualism, other than his work on the SNU Council as a Class B Representative (under the old structure of the SNU).
However, a sequence of events which bore all the hallmarks of spirit intervention determined otherwise and he became President in 1970 at a time when the SNU faced bankruptcy. Much of his time and energy were taken up raising funds and preventing his beloved Stansted Hall from being sold off. Many SNU members wanted the Union to play safe and sell off Stansted Hall.
His love of Stansted Hall was kindled by his very first visit when Arthur Findlay was still in residence. He had a long discussion with Findlay and also gave him a private reading. No doubt Findlay had been formulating his plans for the Hall after his earthly departure and hoped that Gordon would play a significant role.
As president, Gordon faced a mammoth task and he praised the undivided support he received from Eric and Heather Hatton. Eric was vice-president at the time. Gordon also said that he could not have fulfilled this role without the full support he received from his friend and business partner in the retail trade, Frank Tams. Frank took on more than his fair share in the business to allowed Gordon to devote time to solving the SNU’s survival problems.
Unfortunately Gordon was only to have Frank’s support for a few more years as he passed on in 1975. In three more years he was to lose his mother as well, a lady whose dedication to spirit played the major role in preparing him for his destiny.
Gordon remained SNU President until his passing on 18th January 1993. My wife and I turned up at Stansted for a physical phenomena course just a few days after his passing and it took a determined effort by the students, tutors and staff to rise above the sadness of the totally unexpected news.
Although Gordon was an excellent mental medium, he claimed his mother’s mediumship to be superior – although others strongly contradict this claim. Fanny Higginson tutored her son from an early age and Gordon became known as a boy medium. At the age of 12 he gave his first public demonstration. At the age of 18 he was unexpectedly called upon to give his first address. Gordon praised his mother’s thoroughness in preparing him for a life of mediumship.
Gordon and his mother’s involvement in mediumship appear to have been pre-ordained. Fanny’s role was set in motion when at the age of 14 she received remarkable evidence from that great trance medium Annie Brittain when she attended a spiritualist church with her Aunt. The shocked Fanny was told that “…your mother has passed away while you’ve been sitting here”.
What truly superb dramatic but very sad proof of survival. This was just the beginning of a remarkable series of events which were to influence and guide their lives. The full story of the Spirit World’s unfolding plan for Fanny and her son is told in Gordon’s autobiography, acknowledged at the end of this article. This book is a must read for anyone wishing to know more about this great man who inspired so many. No doubt his book will reach out to inspire many more who never had the privilege of meeting him.
Gordon sat for many years to develop physical mediumship leading on to materialisation phenomena which first occurred in 1964. It was not until 1970 that he gave public demonstrations which became a regular feature of the Physical Phenomena weeks at Stansted Hall. These courses were usually held twice a year but sometimes more. Such was the demand that one had to book many months in advance to attend.
There were many within Spiritualism who considered physical mediumship to belong to the past and to be inferior to mental mediumship. It was Gordon and his staunch band of tutors who for over two decades ignored this mentality by providing regular courses at Stansted on physical mediumship. Foremost among these tutors were Jack and Betty Wakeling, Vera Blunn and the unforgettable Nan Porter.
The séances were almost always held in the library, usually under red light conditions for part of the proceedings. The room would be blacked out with the cabinet sited at the far end of the room from the door. Gordon’s controls Cuckoo, Paddy and Choo Chow would communicate whilst the energy built up for materialisations.
Two events stand out in my mind from the many séances I attended. One featured a lady materialising in a long full gown that glistened all over, as if covered in thousands of sequins. The other was the arrival of lovely pink rose complete with dew still on it. This apport appeared from in front of Gordon’s navel area.
The very first time Heather Jamblin (my wife to be) attended a séance in the early 1970s she sat as far way as possible from the cabinet – not knowing what to expect! Her Grandfather materialised, spoke to her parents who were seated near the cabinet. He asked where Heather was and then proceeded to walk across the room to speak to his Grandchild. What an experience for the first attendance at a séance!
Heather also related another story involving apports. At a séance she attended a lady’s husband materialised and told her to look in her handbag after the séance. On reclaiming her handbag after the séance (belongings were not allowed in the séance room) she found paper tissues in her favourite colour, pink, in side the bag. Not only that, upon entering her bedroom she was amazed to find the floor covered in pink petals!
On one occasion at Stansted Gordon said he would sit without using the cabinet. It was a very dark evening and he decided to sit on a chair in the middle of the Sanctuary with the students in a large oval-shaped circle around him. I was one of the closest to him being sited nearly directly in line with him at the narrowest part of the oval. Illumination was by a low intensity red light set in the ceiling.
The highlight of the séance was seeing ectoplasm slowly flowing out of his solar plexus area, travel down along the floor and start to build up into a form half a metre or so from his feet. However, the ectoplasm struggled to reach up to about 1m high and could not mould into an identifiable form. We heard afterwards that this was because no cabinet had been used to consolidate the energy.
It is a shame that Gordon could not devote more time to his physical mediumship as he said “I was never as good as I could have been…..I was never able to give the time and attention to physical mediumship that I should have needed to get the best results”.
Gordon didn’t enjoy the best of health and one of his problems was one so common to mediums – diabetes. In particular, this seems to have been a problem for physical mediums. The Spirit World has been well aware of this problem and we have been told of efforts being made to reduce the strain put on mediums’ bodies. No doubt reports of circles producing phenomena without using ectoplasm is one way of overcoming or reducing strain to the medium.
In spite of long-standing health problems Gordon worked very long hours. Often he arrived in the middle of the night at Stansted to start lecturing first thing in the morning after maybe only 2 or 3 hours sleep. He was forever driving across the country from one venue to another in order to fulfil as many commitments as possible.
Demonstrating physical phenomena is, of course, notorious for putting incredible demands on the human body. There is also the risk that something may go wrong which happened to Gordon on at least two occasions to my knowledge.
I remember Gordon showing us a nasty blister on his torso after a small light was switched on during filming at one of his séances. On another occasion someone stood on a chair to get a better view at the SAGB in Belgrave Square, London. He fell off the chair with a loud crash whilst long ectoplasmic rods complete with little sucker shaped ends were stretched across the room. The rods shot back at high speed and no doubt Gordon suffered pain for several days afterwards.
There is absolutely no doubt that there would be no Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall and probably no college on anything like the scale we know today if Gordon had not played the part he did. Such was the financial burden the Hall placed on the SNU for many years that only Gordon’s determination staved off repeated demands for the SNU to cut its losses and sell. It is rather sad when one now hears occasionally of attempts by spiritualists to play down his contribution to the College and Spiritualism.
It was Gordon who kept alive physical mediumship within the SNU by promoting courses on physical mediumship and demonstrating such at Stansted Hall and occasionally elsewhere. Many in the movement had no time for physical phenomena in spite of the fact that was how modern Spiritualism started. It was Gordon and his staunch band of tutors who for decades ignored this mentality by providing regular courses at Stansted on physical mediumship.
However, his greatest legacy is the way he inspired us all with his mediumship, his teachings and by being a living example of what is important in life. He showed us that we shouldn’t let bureaucracy swamp the message of Spiritualism. He was no saint by any means but his negative points pale into insignificance compared to Gordon the man who dedicated his life to serving spirit.
Since Gordon’s passing many mediums have claimed to have made contact with him. The authenticity of many of these contacts is difficult to verify, but one in particular, I have no doubt about whatsoever.
At a séance held in the Devonshire town of Axminster with Colin Fry, an entity materialised and spoke to us by what I took to be independent direct voice. He spoke just like Gordon, commented on current SNU matters and recognised the few people present whom he had known.
To be absolutely sure it was him, I carefully crafted a question that required a very specific response, both in knowledge and attitude, to a situation hidden within what appeared to be a very simple question. Needless to say, I received abundant evidence that it was Gordon communicating. He confirmed a situation that involved a close friend of his, Lillian Hurst MSNU, who had passed on just over a year after his own passing. Gordon’s significant and overwhelming reaction to the question with its hidden agenda was totally appropriate and confirmed his continuing interest and association with Spiritualists, both in this world and the next.
I’m indebted to Gordon’s autobiography for additional information and short quotes. The book is called ‘On The Side Of Angels’ and was compiled by Jean Bassett, published in 1993. Also, many thanks to Eric Hatton MSNU for information and confirmation of various dates.
Lew Sutton 2008