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The Persistence of the Soul, by Mark Ireland

The Persistence of the Soul:  Mediums, Spirit Visitations, and Afterlife Communication, by Mark Ireland
Inner Traditions, 9781644117187, 288 pages, October 2023 

Mark Ireland’s book, The Persistence of the Soul:  Mediums, Spirit Visitations, and Afterlife Communication, marks his journey from the death of his 18-year-old son to the creation of a group to support grieving parents called Helping Parents Heal. Ireland is the son of famous psychic Medium Richard Ireland, who was a medium to the stars in Hollywood. Ireland grew up going to many of his father’s meetings and appointments. After the passing of his own son, Ireland decided to do research and learn more about psychic phenomenon and after-death communication. 

This is his second book on this topic; he has also published a manuscript written by his father.  He runs a medium certification program where he tests mediums in blind studies. You can learn more about this at his website.

In his “Note to Readers” Ireland does a great job of laying out the book, offering several different ways to enjoy the material. He lets you know that the book is about real people and real situations and that real names have been used. He begins the Introduction with his son Brandon’s story and shares his journey of grief. He also shares a story about his conversation with a woman who came to him during her grief:

“I explained that I had written down my feelings, visited with close friends and relatives, and openly shared my emotions with other people. I told her that writing about my son and telling people about his nature as a person, allowed me to purge my feelings–fully exposing them and embracing the essence of my grief. Family members, Brandon’s friends and I each wrote a letter to him, explaining what we loved about him and how much he meant in our lives.”1

Ireland goes on to say that he wrote Brandon’s eulogy and began writing a series of emails that became the basis for his first book. Soon he began to share these practical tips as well as refer people to mediums that he knew and trusted. In 2011, he founded the group Helping Parents Heal, which now has 24,000 members.2

This book has a little of everything, ranging from research and history to personal stories of people that have lost children, siblings, or other friends and family members. The chapter titled “Psychic Phenomena and Mediumship in Religion and History” is a chronicle of everything you need to know about this subject. Within this chapter he hopes to “address the fear and apprehension that some people harbor towards psychic phenomena and spirit communication as a result of their religious upbringing.”3 It was interesting to learn that his father never really understood the fear and negative connotations of mediumship. Ireland is interested in not only understanding this fear but also dispelling it for the grieving people that he ministers to.

In another chapter, Ireland presents his thoughts on reincarnation and includes a personal story of a conversation he and his dad had when he was between three and four years old. In this conversation Ireland recounts a past life where he lived a full life and died at 83.

Ireland also sprinkles in information about research and scientific studies regarding mediumship. Early in the book he quotes Julie Beishel, Ph.D. who is director of the Windbridge Research Center. The results of her study indicate that mediumship readings may be helpful for grieving people. Beishel relates:

“The combination of traditional psychotherapy and mediumship readings may prove to be more beneficial than either intervention separately. … Spontaneous and induced ADCs (after-death communications) can have tremendous impacts on the grieving process, and my observations as well as pilot data we collected at Windbridge suggest similar positive effects after readings with mediums.”4

My favorite chapter is the one entitled “Robin’s Flight”. Ireland tells the story of his sister Robin– her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and the journey they took together before her death. Although he had only previously read about deathbed visions and near-death experiences, he came to know first-hand about both through his sister and her passing.

I love the structure of the book and the personal stories of actual people that are woven throughout the narrative. With the Table of Contents, the reader has a great way to refer to chapters or passages of interest. He also includes a nine-page index with additional ways to find information, people, or stories. Additionally, Ireland includes a section called “References” which is a type of bibliography, where you can go to find more specific information. The book is easy to navigate and easy to read. It is written in a conversational style that is almost like sitting across the desk from Ireland himself.

The Persistence of the Soul is great for anyone who is interested in mediumship or after-death communication. It would also be a comfort for someone who is grieving a loss. The stories that Ireland shares of hope and optimism are very encouraging. I plan to give this book to a friend of mine who is beginning her training to become a psychic medium. I feel that the book will inspire her on her journey to learn how to support those who are grieving.

Censored Angels, by Zara West

Censored Angel: Anthony Comstock’s Nemesis, by Zara West
Tidal Waters Press, 1959318128, 350 pages, June 2023

Censored Angel: Anthony Comstock’s Nemesis by Zara West, the second book in her Forgotten Women series, is a historical fiction novel about the life of Ida Craddock, a mystical marriage counselor and advocate for free speech. West tells Craddock’s tale in first-person narrative form, opening a doorway for reader’s to enter Craddock’s fascinating inner world.

The story begins with Craddock as a teenager in 1875, highlighting her trying relationship with her mother, who continually undermines her career ambition and spiritual pursuits. Craddock’s one place of peace is her Quaker school where she excels academically. Upon learning her beloved teacher has passed away, after she had come to Craddock for advice about the pain she feels during material relations, Craddock is devastated. She was too late to save her teacher, but is now determined to help other women in similar situations.

This sets her on a path of study focused on the religious history of sex worship, along the way gaining knowledge from doctors, activists, and spiritualists who share her mission. She also has the divine support of her angels, most notably her spirit husband Soph, who guides her in the art of heavenly love. Her rebellious, unconventional ways continue to put Craddock at odds with her mother, who is a staunch Christian temperance member.

Craddock yearns to gain some independence. Working as a typist and escaping her mother’s roof, she begins to cultivate her own dreams. Even though Craddock had dreams of becoming a scholar, to stay afloat, she resorts to publishing her instruction manuals about human sexuality and the correct way to have appropriate, respectful sexual relations between husband and wife. Her most famous works include Heavenly Bridegrooms, Psychic Wedlock, Spiritual Joys, Letter To A Prospective Bride, The Wedding Night, and Right Marital Living. These publications soon become the focus of Anthony Comstock, the notorious Anti-Obscenity PostMaster General known for his staunch laws about what was and was not appropriate to send through the mail.

Craddock’s continual effort to prove herself as an intellectual comes up against sexism, censorship, and ill-will from Comstock who see her as a deviant. But she doesn’t allow her mother or Comstock to stand in her way. Pinching pennies to pursue her path, she moves from city to city to have the freedom to continue her studies. The book covers her time in England, California, Chicago, and her home city of Philadelphia. Finally, in New York City, Craddock stands her ground against Comstock. She advertises her services as a marriage counselor and proclaims herself High Priestess of the Church of Yoga. She openly sees clients and hands out her work, baiting Comstock to come after her.

Eventually, Comstock does bring charges against her. And this time, unlike her previous arrest where she took a plea deal, Craddock refuses to back down and uses the trials as an opportunity to take a stand for what she believes in. With the assistance of other open-minded reformers and activists, Craddock used her publicity to advocate for free speech. Ultimately though, facing serious jail time, Craddock decided to end her life as a free woman, writing in a letter to her mother, “I maintain my right to die as I have lived, a free woman, not cowed into silence by any other human being.”

Personally, I absolutely loved this book and think Kosher did an incredible job of portraying Craddock. I first learned about Craddock when reading the work of Emma Goldman, who really looked up to Craddock and sung her praises. I then read The Man Who Hated Women: Sex, Censorship, and Civil Liberties in the Gilded Age when it was released in 2021. That book gave me insight into Craddock’s significant role in advocating for women’s rights and free speech.

However, even with all this information I had read about Craddock, she never really became someone I connected with personally until West’s writing in Censored Angels. Kosher drew from Craddock’s letters, diaries, published work, as well as first hand material such as newspaper and magazine articles and court records to create this narrative. Even though this book is historical fiction, the way Kosher weaves in actual quotes provides the readers with insight into Craddock’s inner world.

Kosher also does a very good job of setting readers within the time and place of Craddock’s life. Small details about the way people dressed or the current trends ground readers in the historical period of Craddock’s life, further situating the significance of her work in comparison to the repressed Victorian values that dominated the Gilded Age.

I also was simply blown away by how well Kosher seemed to understand Craddock. The level of commitment she must have put into this research, the time truly contemplating Craddock’s motives and what she was trying to do, along with respect for her spiritual truth, most notably her angelic husband Soph, demonstrate considerable talent on West’s part. It’s one thing to write a biography, it’s a whole other thing to tell the fictional autobiography through a first-person narrative and make it feel so real.

All in all, I highly recommend Censored Angel to those interested in spiritualism and feminism. Craddock is not given enough recognition for her life’s work, which truly paved the way for others to advocate for women’s rights to have knowledge about their own bodies and agency over their sexual and marital affairs. West’s writing is sure to keep you amused (I was hooked from the first chapter!) and make you feel admiration for the sacrifices Craddock made to share her divine wisdom with the general public to ensure Americans maintained their freedom of speech.