Harry Edwards and the
Archbishops' Commission On Divine Healing
by Steve Hume
Healing is one area where Spiritualism has had
an enduring effect upon establishment attitudes, an impact that belies the
relatively small size of the movement today.
All human cultures have had their esoteric healing traditions that have
interpreted a seemingly natural human faculty according to their own
mythologies. Spiritualists, of course, view healing as a type of mediumship and
by the mid-twentieth century Spiritualism had played a central role in
reintroducing healing into western society. Also, one Spiritualist healer in
particular was causing intense embarrassment to both the established Church
(which had largely abandoned its own links with the healing tradition whilst
still claiming to be an authority on the matter) and the medical establishment
which, as a branch of the scientific establishment, saw no room for the
superstitious notion that healing could be brought about by any other means than
surgery or modern drugs.
The healer in question, Mr Harry Edwards,
was not an Establishment figure by any stretch of the imagination; despite this,
he probably did more to permanently affect Establishment attitudes, in the UK at
least, towards a particular type of mediumship (healing) than any other single
Spiritualist before or since.
Edwards was, easily, the most well known and best loved healer of his
generation, and over the course of his long career he fought hard to win
recognition for Spiritual Healing by the medical profession. However, as he
frequently pointed out, he did not see healing as being a substitute for
conventional medicine, it was his greatest wish to see doctors and healers
working together in a common cause with the doctor remaining firmly in charge of
each case.(1) In this respect, Edwards began an approach that has been continued
As far as the Church was concerned, Harry Edwards was outraged that mainstream
Christianity had abandoned healing. It was his view that the Church was
disobeying the instructions of its founder by doing this and he often said so in
public which, no doubt, did little to endear him to the leaders of the Anglican
Church. He would answer Christian critics, some of whom accused him of doing the
'Devil's work', by saying that people should be able to have healing in church
every Sunday, and that if this were done then the problem of dwindling
congregations would be solved at a stroke. But, Edwards also warned all
denominations that healing was the property of no one, including Spiritualists,
'There is not one set of Divine laws for the Church of England and another set
for the Methodists, the Congregationalists, and the Spiritualists. It is our
common heritage. To try and control it by ritual or set performances of any
kind, or to discipline, by set prayers, the healing efforts of healer priests
will likewise fail.'(2)
Ironically, this attitude would also cause
Edwards some unpopularity amongst Spiritualists but to the established Church,
which had probably stifled the healing gift in this very way, it was a double
insult, the other half of which was Edwards' very public success at practising
what he preached at venues the length and breadth of the country. There was also
the fact that clergymen were turning to Edwards instead of the Church
authorities to ask how they could develop the healing gift themselves. Parallel
to this, many doctors, ignoring the threat of disciplinary action, were covertly
referring 'incurable' patients to Edwards.
It was inevitable that matters would come to a head and this happened eventually
in 1953 when the Church organised a commission consisting of assorted Bishops
and other clergymen, doctors and a psychologist to look into the evidence for
'Divine' healing. However, before I relate how the Commission subjected Edwards
to some astonishingly shabby treatment, despite his best efforts to co-operate,
and of how the healer eventually managed to humiliate the Church by guessing the
true purpose of its panel and successfully predicting its 'findings' in
public, a brief account of his career up to this point would be in order.
Henry (Harry) James Edwards was born on May 29, 1893 in Islington, North London,
the eldest son of a print compositor. As a child Edwards was described in the
biography by colleague Raymus Branch, Harry Edwards...The Life Story of the
Great Healer, as being 'a holy terror of the first order' whose most notable
achievements were the derailment of a number of railway trucks from the line at
the back of the Edwards home at Wood Green, and the premature launching of a
hot-air balloon one evening at Alexandra Palace. Edwards' character underwent a
dramatic transformation, however, when he developed a crush on the local
butcher's daughter; in an effort to impress her he even gave up swearing and
joined the local Church Lads Brigade. He also developed an interest in politics
and became a youthful, but avid, supporter of the Liberal party, gaining his
first experience of public speaking at political rallies.
During the First World War Edwards served
in India and the Middle East, eventually attaining the rank of Captain and it
was here that he showed the first signs of the extraordinary healing gift that
was to make him famous the world over. As 'Assistant Director of Labour, Persian
Lines of Communication' he found himself, equipped with little more than
bandages and iodine, having to act as an unofficial doctor to the native
workforce. Edwards was surprised to observe an unusual rate of recovery even
amongst those with serious injuries but he thought nothing more about this until
many years later after his introduction to Spiritualism.
After returning to England Edwards married and set up his own print business in
Balham, South London. By now his early interest in politics had turned into a
burning ambition to right the wrongs of society and he stood unsuccessfully as
the Liberal party candidate for North West Camberwell twice, in 1929 and 1935.
It was after his second election defeat, in 1936, that Edwards received a
message that would change his life at a small Spiritualist Church at Clousdale
Road in Balham.
Up until then he had adopted the views of
his father who, as a religious rationalist, had no belief in an afterlife.
Edwards was also a keen amateur conjurer and 14 years previously he had visited
a Spiritualist Church for the first time with every intention of exposing the
medium's tricks. Instead he was given a message that he could not account for
and his interest was aroused. So when, during his second exposure to
Spiritualism at Clousdale Road, the medium told him that he was 'born to heal'
and despite the fact he had no idea what a healer was, he joined a development
circle to see what would happen. Edwards quickly developed trance mediumship and
this was followed closely by his first cautious attempts at absent healing.
One of these came after a distraught woman, a Mrs Newland, whose husband had
been sent home to die of lung cancer, wandered into Edwards' print shop quite by
chance and he offered to try absent healing. Two days later, Mrs Newland
returned to say that her husband's condition had improved radically. Later,
x-rays showed no signs of the malignancy but a doctor at St Thomas' Hospital who
was unfamiliar with the case concluded that Mr Newland had never had cancer in
the first place.
Edwards soon found that his early
self-conscious attempts at contact healing often brought similar results, and
soon his reputation had spread to such an extent that his home was regularly
filled by people seeking his help. He eventually found that many of the
elaborate gestures employed by healers, such as blowing on the patient and
flicking away 'diseased' energy from the fingers, were quite unnecessary and he
developed the simple, straightforward approach that became his trademark. It was
not long before his efforts were being reported in Psychic News and the
In his autobiography, On The Side Of Angels, Gordon Higginson remarked
that some aspects of Edwards' healing bore the hallmarks of physical mediumship
and it was during this early, pre-war phase of his career that the healer
sponsored the mediumship of Jack Webber. Edwards' photographs of seance-room
phenomena are some of the best ever obtained and his careful documentation of
Webber's mediumship was published as The Mediumship of Jack Webber.(3)
Edwards also ensured that some very sceptical members of the press were able to
report on some of the Welsh ex-miner's remarkable seances. Montague Keen,
writing recently in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research,
has remarked that the name of 'Webber' has been remarkable by its absence from
the sceptical literature and that 'The record of his physical mediumship...constitutes
a challenge that seems to have been ignored even by our own society.'(4)
It was after World War Two that Edwards'
career really took off, with his public demonstrations of contact healing at
venues ranging from the humblest Spiritualist Church to the Albert Hall. During
these, Edwards would usually ask for those suffering from conditions that he had
found to respond most rapidly to contact healing, but he was always careful to
point out that, in most cases, patients would require further treatment and that
a complete cure was not always to be expected. Even so, he began to experience
foretastes of the treatment he would receive later at the hands of the medical
members of the Archbishops' Commission. One such case was reported in the Cambridge
Daily News in 1948. At a demonstration at Cambridge Guild Hall Edwards had
given healing to four-year-old Phillip Goodliff who, being crippled by polio,
had to be carried onto the platform by his mother. A minute after receiving
healing, the child, after discarding his leg-iron, was 'romping' around the
front of the hall and creating such a disturbance that his mother had to remove
his shoes. However, the orthopaedic surgeon who had treated the boy, Mr Noel
Smith, despite the fact that the child could now walk, declared that Edwards had
merely used 'an age-old chiropractic stunt' and that the treatment for infantile
paralysis should be on 'scientific and proved lines'.(5)
Of course, the case of Phillip Goodliff represented the only the tip of a very
large iceberg of successful healings. By the time that he received a request to
submit evidence to the Archbishops' Commission, Edwards was a national figure
who was answering thousands of requests for absent healing from around the world
each week at his Sanctuary, 'Burrows Lea' in Surrey, which he had acquired in
1946. Edwards was also keeping records of each patient's progress. Ostensibly,
the task of the Commission was to assess the evidence for Divine Healing with a
view to issuing guidelines to the clergy as to how requests for healing should
be handled and how healing should be given.(6) As we shall see, however, the
former aim somehow vanished from the Commission's agenda once it became apparent
that Edwards could actually meet the criteria for evidence specified by the
panel. And, tragically, the 'guidelines' that were eventually issued were little
better than an insult to the sick.
As Raymus Branch has noted, if it had not
been for Harry Edwards then the Archbishops' Commission on Divine Healing would
probably never have been formed.(7) It was, after all, Edwards' public
demonstrations of contact healing that had made the subject a matter of public
debate in post-war Britain. So, although Edwards was not the only healer to be
asked to co-operate with the Commission it was inevitable that, in the public
mind, he would be seen as its chief subject of investigation. As the most famous
healer of the day, it was Harry Edwards, a Spiritualist, who bore the burden of
responsibility for proving the worth of spiritual healing to the bishops and
their panel of medical advisers.
The panel formed to investigate healing was formidable indeed, including five
bishops and an array of senior doctors and academics.(8) The most notable and
hostile of these was Dr. David Stafford-Clark (later to become known as 'the
television psychiatrist'). Ironically, the panel also included the Rev. Maurice
Elliot who had long campaigned for a liaison between Spiritualism and the
Church. Elliot had been one of the prime movers behind an earlier Church
Commission, formed by Archbishop Cosmo Lang, to investigate Spiritualism itself.
It was Elliot who had courageously spoken out after Lang had tried to suppress
the resulting 'majority report' which was favourable to Spiritualism, and the
nature of the Healing Commission may be judged by the fact that the then
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Fisher, reacted with dismay at Elliot's
participation. Upon finding him present at the first meeting of the Commission,
Fisher had demanded of Elliot 'And what are you doing here today?' closely
followed by 'Who sent you?' upon which Elliot merely pointed upwards and walked
Edwards was later to comment that Elliot was the only friend amongst a panel
that was otherwise 'horse-faced'.(10) However, if the healer's account of his
interview by the Commission is to be believed, there must be some doubt as to
the fitness of at least one panel member to have participated in such an
Although the Commission had been announced
in 1953 it was not until July 7 1954 that Edwards (accompanied by his assistant,
Olive Burton), arrived at Lambeth Palace to present his evidence for healing.
The Commission had requested details of six cases for investigation by the
medical panel. Edwards, who by this time was dealing with thousands of requests
for absent healing every week, had little trouble in forwarding seventy
such cases from the previous three months, the details of which could all
be checked by the panel with the doctors concerned via the patients
After a talk, during which he invited the panel to witness a contact healing
session at Burrows Lea, Edwards faced a barrage of hostile, critical
questions.(12) He related later how one doctor had stood up and contemptuously
cast the papers relating to the healings to one side declaring 'There is no
evidence of spiritual healing here for they could all have been spontaneous
(natural) healings'. When Edwards pointed out the absurdity of this suggestion
(that seventy patients who had been declared by their doctors to be 'incurable'
just happened to recover 'spontaneously' after being given healing), the doctor
retorted that 'Too many doctors are declaring people to be incurable when they
are not'.(13) When, at another stage in the proceedings, Edwards attempted to
give details concerning the healing of a 'blue baby', this brought a shout of
'impossible' from Dr. Stafford-Clark. When the healer persisted in trying to
give an account of this case, Stafford-Clark swung his chair round and Edwards
found himself addressing the doctor's back!(14)
After their in-depth, minutes-long
'investigation' of the seventy cases presented by Edwards the panel then asked
him to provide a further six 'case histories' for scrutiny, perhaps knowing
that, owing to the confidentiality of such information, the healer would be
denied access to official medical histories. In 1950, Edwards had helped a
doctor from St. Bartholomew's Hospital who was conducting a private study of
healing by supplying ninety-five cases for examination. Even the doctor himself
had not been able to get access to the medical records for fifty-eight of these
cases but when Edwards pointed this out to the panel he was told, incredibly,
that 'he only had to ask' for the details.(15)
Nevertheless, Edwards managed to meet the new criteria for eight cases which
were duly supplied to the Commission with a request that he be allowed to see
the medical panel's comments in advance of publication. In view of the evasion
tactics already employed by the medical panel this was an understandable request
from Edwards who, by now, was beginning to suspect that even these cases would
not be investigated properly and that the Commission was likely to be misled.
Edwards simply wanted to be able to correct any likely mis-statements or
evasions concerning the cases to prevent this from happening. As we shall see,
however, Edwards had to wait two years, despite repeated requests, before he
received an assurance that his plea to see the findings in advance would be met
and, even then, this proved to be a waste of paper and ink.
In the meantime Edwards continued with his healing work. Shortly after the
fiasco of his interview at Lambeth Palace he gave a healing demonstration at the
Albert Hall, on September 25 1954, in front of an audience of 6,000 which
included 17 members of the Archbishops' Commission, representatives of the BMA
and members of the Church's Council of Healing. Accordingly, Edwards made a
point of asking for people with 'incurable' conditions: a girl of eight who was
spastic from birth raised her arms above her head for the first time; a man
crippled by arthritis for 30 years walked away from the platform as did a woman
who had not walked for five years. During the demonstration, Edwards made
numerous asides that were obviously intended for the ears of the Commission,
such as 'Would it not be a fine thing if this healing was taking place in
Canterbury Cathedral and in all our Parish Churches? It should be happening
there, for that is its rightful place!'(16)
During the coming months, Edwards voiced his increasing frustration with the
Commission more directly with a series of letters to Lambeth Palace repeatedly
asking, to no avail, that he be allowed to comment on the medical panel's
findings. Gradually, he became so disillusioned with the Commission that he
started to complain publicly about his treatment in his own magazine The
Spiritual Healer, and this culminated in an open accusation of 'conspiracy
and negligence' when he found out that the patient from one of the cases, a Mr
William Olsen, had been asked by the Commission to provide his own medical
corroboration and that five of the other patients and their doctors had not even
By May 1956 Edwards had just completed a
book, The Truth About Spiritual Healing, in which he gave an account of
the Commission's behaviour. On May 8, after the book had gone to press he
received a letter from Lambeth palace signed by the Bishop of Lincoln and the
Secretary to the Commission, the Rev. Eric Jay, saying that a Dr. Claxton of the
BMA had no objections to granting his request and would write to him shortly
with the medical panel's findings. Edwards was so pleased with this that he
suspended his book's publication immediately, only to find that the conclusions
of the medical panel (on which the Commission's report was eventually to be
based), were published in the British Medical Journal on May 12
anyway.(18) And, to rub salt into the wound, Edwards received Claxton's letter
containing the findings two days afterwards.(19)
As Edwards was to write later in an updated version of his book...'the offer of
co-operation was a sham - a case of "thank you for nothing"', but what
made matters much worse was the fact that the BMA report amply confirmed his
worst fears as it contained evasions and downright errors concerning the eight
cases that were scarcely believable. This suggested that the panel had either
not bothered to conduct its investigation with anything like the scientific
detachment and thoroughness that one would expect, or had actually chosen to lie
rather than admit that the cases presented evidence in favour of Spiritual
Edwards wrote back to Rev. Eric Jay, to
whom he had already predicted this very outcome many times over the previous
'As I anticipated, and as I have told you several times, the BMA findings are
purposefully evasive, misleading and a distortion of the truth...It is obvious
that the doctors are hostile. To ask them for an impartial judgement is asking
them to agree that spiritual healing can succeed when they have failed, and this
they do not want to do, whatever the evidence...If the commission is willing to
accept the BMA report at its face value, that is its responsibility, but if, on
the other hand, it cares to question this report, I shall be prepared to
Edwards included details of the BMA's errors but, apparently, the Commission was
prepared to accept the report at face value as he received no reply to his
A full commentary on the BMA report was
included in the final version of The Truth About Spiritual Healing.(21)
Fairly typical is the treatment the panel gave to the case of a patient, Mr.
'B', whose son had sought absent healing from Edwards on his father's behalf for
bladder cancer which was diagnosed after a biopsy. An operation was planned but,
according to the son, shortly after healing commenced his father's 'appearance
was transformed, pain ceased, and he appeared to regain his perfect health'. No
cancer was found during a preliminary examination prior to the operation at the
Royal Masonic Hospital and so the actual surgery was not performed and the
patient was found to be cancer free on several occasions up to December 1954. In
1955, the same patient became very seriously ill with bronchitis but again,
after healing, recovered. Three months later, however, Mr. 'B' died suddenly of
a heart attack.
Doubtless, Edwards would not have objected if the BMA report had told the truth
concerning this patient's demise (after all he was not claiming that, through
healing, one could achieve immortality) but it claimed that Mr 'B' had succumbed
to the original 'carcinoma of the bladder', completely ignoring the actual
Another case concerned a Miss E. Wilson who had been suffering from back pain
for more than forty years and was diagnosed in 1950 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
as having 'gross Kyphosis deformity'. After one contact healing session with
Edwards in 1951 her spine was straightened considerably, she became completely
pain-free and was able to discard her back-brace and walking
sticks...improvements that were acknowledged by her consultant, a Mr. Ross.
However, the BMA report stated wrongly, without even calling Miss Wilson as a
witness, that she had 'improved whilst receiving physiotherapy in addition to
Mr. Edwards's administrations' when she had, in fact, received no further
treatment because, as Edwards pointed out, she did not need it.
There were similar inconsistencies with all of the other cases and it would be
no exaggeration to say that the report was scientifically worthless. Yet, the
panel still managed to conclude from its non-investigation that... 'We can find
no evidence that organic diseases are cured by such means [spiritual healing]'.
Edwards' immediate response was to issue a
statement to the press in which he gave the true details of the eight cases and
challenged the BMA to have them independently assessed.(22) Of course, this
challenge was not taken up and, in the eyes of many, the BMA must have appeared
rather foolish. The authors of the report also seemed to have been blissfully
unaware that Edwards had many friends in the medical profession and he was
particularly annoyed that they had reminded doctors that they were liable to
disciplinary action if they co-operated with healers. In a speech made in
Bloomsbury the following year, Edwards was able to produce a fistful of the 200
letters he had received from doctors requesting his assistance in the short time
since the report's publication. He warned the BMA that if they should be
'ill-advised' enough to discipline even one of them that... 'we are in a
position to provide a great amount of support to that doctor through the medical
It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that, in
1958, Edwards received a letter from the Chaplain of the Commission telling him
that none of the evidence he had supplied would be used in the final report.(24)
After all, the Commission had been totally out-manoeuvred by the healer who had
managed to publicly discredit the 'findings' of their eminent medical panel; any
reference to this in the final report would have amounted to a public admission
of everything that Edwards had accused the Commission of unless they had taken
up his challenge to have the evidence independently assessed.
The Commission had clearly decided to fudge the issue by not mentioning Edwards'
evidence at all. But, Edwards had pre-empted the Church even here. Anticipating
the likely outcome years before, he had devoted a whole chapter in The Truth
About Spiritual Healing to predicting what the Commission's recommendations
to the clergy regarding healing would be. He would now see just how accurate his
predictions had been. Today, nearly forty years after the Commission's findings
were published, we can see that the Healing Movement has continued to flourish
in the manner envisioned by Edwards, albeit without the co-operation of the
It must have seemed obvious to Edwards that
the Commission, rather than take advice from a Spiritualist who was providing
powerful evidence that genuine healing of organic and mental disease was
possible without placing any religious preconditions on the act, would uselessly
try to cram the healing gift into its own dogmas to avoid losing face. This
belief that one can magically confer the gift of healing on someone by dressing
them in priest's robes and asking them to perform set rituals and prayers was,
as Edwards had maintained all along, how the Church had managed to mislay its
healing ministry in the first place. Edwards' predictions of the Commission's
recommendations may be summarised thus:(25) (i) It would admit that healers from
outside the Church may be able to bring about healing but there would be
references to evil spirits and the Devil; (ii) It would 'suggest that applicants
for spiritual healing should receive devotional education', and it would also
expect patients to become members of the Church, placing its own preconditions
on 'Divine' healing; (iii) It would accept that healing may be possible with
'nervous diseases' but not with organic conditions; (iv) It would disparage
public demonstrations of healing such as those given by Edwards.
This forecast was remarkable in its
accuracy.(26) After the report's publication in June 1958 Edwards gave his
reaction to it in his own magazine, The Spiritual Healer. There was,
indeed, an acknowledgement that Spiritualist healers 'may be...gifted men' but,
despite Edwards' efforts to give an understanding of this they were 'gifted in
ways which as yet we do not understand'. There were references to 'demons' and
how churchmen should 'exorcise' patients.
There was the recommendation that 'Sickness...often presents a unique
opportunity for instruction' and that the patient be 'prepared', 'instructed'
and encouraged to 'confess' to 'bring the patient to a real sorrow for his sins'
before healing. The clergy were also advised that if they were asked to give
healing to a stranger they would 'need to discover whether the patient is a
Christian,...a churchman, whether he has been baptised...confirmed and is a
communicant'. In other words, the report inferred that non-Anglicans should be
left to suffer, something which Edwards described as 'downright cruel'. There
was also the disingenuous comment that 'If the investigation was sufficiently
complete, there might arise scientific evidence for unparalleled physical cures'
followed by a 15 paragraph dismissal of apparent healing successes as being due
to wrong diagnoses, 'spontaneous' remission etc. Edwards remarked 'So illogical
is the report that after ruling that any investigation of Spiritualist healings
were outside its business, it devotes pages to explain them away'.
As far as public healing was concerned, the
report, although not ruling it out, recommended that it should only be held for
the 'instructed', otherwise 'attendance at a healing service could have
disastrous results'. This prompted Edwards to retort that 'The only disastrous
result will be that the patients may die while they are waiting for all this
"preparation" before they are allowed to enter the Church to be
The popular press reacted with bewilderment and a certain amount of outrage to
the report. The Daily Express commented that its 'jungle of theological
jargon' reached back to 'the dark superstitious beginnings of man himself' and
was a 'tremendous attack' on other denominations including Spiritualists. The
Star, a leading evening newspaper of the time, obviously unaware of the
irony of the situation, asked in a leading article 'Why, for instance, didn't
the Commission probe and test the evidence of a man like Harry
Edwards...Because, they say, it was outside their terms of reference.' Needless
to say, Maurice Barbanell, editor of Psychic News was also outraged, he
wrote that the report was a 'waste of the paper on which it was printed'.
Perhaps the most ridiculous of the report's recommendations had been its
suggestion that to induce healing the priest should bless a bottle of olive oil,
soak a piece of wool in this, draw a cross on the patient's forehead and, after
reciting a prayer, burn the wool. Edwards commented that 'If Spiritualist
healers did this, they would be rightly laughed at'. He also predicted that,
until the Church came to its senses the sick would continue to seek healing from
Spiritualists. Which, indeed, they did.
Barely a month after the report's
publication Edwards held another healing demonstration at the Albert Hall. He
shared the platform with 300 healers from the non-denominational National
Federation of Spiritual Healers (of which Edwards was President) which had been
formed in 1955 by John Britnell with Edwards' help.(27) Also there to speak in
support of healing was the MP for Kensington, George Roger, but it was Edwards
himself who delivered the coupe de grace to the Archbishops' report. After
accusing the medical panel from the Commission of 'shameful negligence' for not
examining the evidence he had provided, he declared... 'We present the evidence
for the judgement of public opinion'. Then two of the eight patients whose cases
had been misrepresented in the earlier BMA report, before being ignored
completely by the Commission, stepped up to the microphone. William Olsen who
had recovered from spinal collapse and Elizabeth Wilson, a former hunchback,
stepped up to the microphone to testify to their recovery at Edwards' hands. A
Mrs Blowes whose eight month old daughter had been sent home to die of a
malignant growth told the audience that the girl was now nine years old thanks
to healing. The audience were also told that the patient from one of the other
cases, a boy who had been crippled by a strange condition that had bent his body
'like a question mark', would have been present were it not for the fact that he
was taking his school exams.
The Archbishops' report was then finally laid to rest by none other than the
Rev. Maurice Elliot who, as a member of the Commission, had been present when
Edwards first presented his evidence
Many years before, during his army career
in the Middle East, Edwards had been entrusted with the task of building a
bridge over a wide, fast flowing river. As he only knew how to build bridges
over roads Edwards simply ordered the bridge to be built to one side of the
river which was then diverted underneath it with dynamite.(29) In retrospect it
can be seen that Harry Edwards used a similar approach to paving the way for the
increasing acceptance of healing by the medical establishment that we see today.
Edwards already had considerable covert grass-roots support amongst doctors,
indeed he recalled that after a lecture given to a division of the BMA several
doctors had taken him to one side and told him how they were his 'best friend
here', 'your strongest supporter' etc.(30)
In 1959 healers from the NFSH, of which
Edwards was the first president, were given permission to give healing in 1,500
NHS hospitals,(31) but Edwards continued to fight for recognition of healing by
the BMA and the General Medical Council. During his long presidency of the NFSH,
whose early headquarters was Edwards' own healing sanctuary at Burrows Lea, he
was responsible for the organisation's early training courses,(32) and he
continued to demonstrate healing internationally, even touring Zimbabwe at the
age of 82, shortly before his passing in 1976.(33)
It has been estimated that, over the course of his 40 year career, Edwards gave
healing to around 14 million people, from the most humble to members of the
royal family, without ever charging a penny for his services.(34) One year after
his passing, in 1977, the GMC issued a policy statement in which permission was
given for doctors to refer patients to accredited healers if they saw fit.(35)
1981 saw the formation of the Confederation of Healing Organisations, an
umbrella organisation for healing associations from all denominations who are
prepared to accept a common code of conduct prepared in consultation with the
GMC, BMA and Royal Colleges of Medicine.(36) In 1988, the Doctor Healer Network
was formed by psychiatrist Dr Daniel Benor for Doctors who wished to employ
healers at their surgeries and an increasing number of Doctors, such as Dr
Barbara King of Birmingham have become healers themselves.(37)
Today Britain is the only European country to have a strongly established
healing movement and an attempt to make complementary therapies such as healing
available on the National Health Service was defeated in the House of Lords by
only 4 votes in 1990.(38) It would seem that the realisation of this central aim
of the CHO is only a matter of time, especially since an attempt by the Lannoye
Committee of the European Parliament to severely restrict complementary medicine
in the UK was met with a threat by the last government to use the Maastricht
treaty to veto any such move.(39)
It is difficult to imagine that any of the
above would have been possible without Harry Edwards although, of course, a
great deal of the credit belongs to many others also. Despite his own
Spiritualist interpretation of how healing is achieved by attunement with 'God's
Healing Ministers in Spirit', he wisely recognised that this must take second
place to the healing act itself. His insistence that healing should be
non-denominational was an act of humility that ensured its wider acceptance by
an increasingly secular society and an Establishment that is still largely
hostile to the concept of mediumship as such. Of course, such an approach would
be vastly more difficult with mediumship as a form of evidential communication.
So much for the medical establishment. The Church, for its part, seems to have
learned nothing from its encounter with Harry Edwards. The Churches Council for
Health and Healing, unlike the NFSH, is not a member of the CHO, and therefore
is not bound by a code of conduct which forbids forcing the belief system of the
healer upon the patient. Consequently, the vacuum left by the mainstream
church's rejection of Harry Edwards' advice has been filled, in part, to the
dismay of many clergymen, by the rise of the so-called 'Toronto Blessing': in
this, people cavort around like chickens in a disco, baying like animals while
they exorcise various imaginary demons. This practice has even been encouraged
in church by some of the more evangelically minded clergy and some 'patients'
who have been exposed to it have claimed that they suffered long-term
psychological damage as a result. Some may remember a TV documentary about this
phenomenon a few years ago during which one man alleged that his 'healing' had
involved being forcibly held down whilst blackcurrant cordial was poured into
his underwear to purify him. One wonders whether the Archbishops' Commission
would have regarded this as a 'disastrous' result.
Naturally, one also wonders what Harry Edwards would have thought of such
antics. A number of years ago I was present at a contact healing session at
Burrows Lea, during which Ray and Joan Branch gave healing to a lady whose neck,
hips, and wrists were chronically affected by arthritis. As she walked away from
Edwards' old healing chair (carrying her support collar) she turned and asked
Ray whether he ever heard anything from his former mentor. He replied, with a
smile, 'Oh, we never do anything without him!'.
(1)Harry Edwards (a), A Guide to the Understanding and Practice of Spiritual
Healing (Guildford: Healer Publishing, 1982), pp.111-112.
(2)And all other general biographical details, Raymus Branch, Harry Edwards: The
Life Story of the Great Healer (Guildford: Healer Publishing, 1991), p.174.
(3)For an excellent account of Jack Webber's career see 'The Mediumship of Jack
Webber', The NAS Newsletter, December 1995.
(4)Montague Keen, 'A Sceptical View of Parapsychology', JSPR, Vol. 61, No. 846,
Jan. 1997, p.298.
(5)Raymus Branch, Ibid., pp.139-140.
(6)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.167.
(7)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.166.
(8)For full details see 6.
(9)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.168.
(10)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.170.
(11)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.169.
(12)Harry Edwards (b), The Truth About Spiritual Healing (London: Spiritualist
Press, 1956), pp.146-151.
(13)Harry Edwards (b), Ibid., pp.31-32.
(14)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.175.
(16)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.176.
(17)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.181.
(18)British Medical Journal Supplement, May 12 1956, pp.269-273.
(19)Harry Edwards (b), Ibid., pp.33-39.
(21)Harry Edwards (b), Ibid., pp.40-84.
(22)Harry Edwards (b), Ibid., pp.152-153.
(23)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.188.
(24)Raymus Branch, Ibid., p.190.
(25)Harry Edwards (b), Ibid., pp.124-126.
(26)Ramus Branch, Ibid., pp.190-196.
(27)Don Copeland, 'Harry Edwards and Healing Training', NFSH Region 14
Newsletter, Summer 1997, p.4.
(28)Ramus Branch, Ibid., p.198.
(29)Ramus Branch, Ibid., pp.41-40.
(30)Ramus Branch, Ibid., p.145.
(31)Anthea Courtenay, Healing Now (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1991), p.112.
(32)Don Copeland, Ibid.
(33)Ramus Branch, Ibid., illustration facing p.227.
(34)Estimate given by Ramus Branch at seminar, Burrows Lea 1996.
(35)Ramus Branch, Ibid., p.147.
(36)Anthea Courtenay, Ibid., p.13.
(37)Jo Ind, writing in the Birmingham Post, July 6 1993.
(38)News and Views, Journal of the Surrey Spiritual Healers Association, Autumn
(40)Anthea Courtenay, Ibid., p.13.