Karen Frances's mother looked around the empty living room. "Who are you talking to?"
The three-year-old spouted off the names of long-dead relatives she couldn't have known.
Her mom was rattled.
As Frances neared adulthood, the supernatural visits stopped. The Dublin native became a political journalist. Her devotion to hard facts led her to embrace atheism.
Years later, Frances fell in love, but her fiancé died unexpectedly. During her grieving period, metaphysical incidents convinced the writer she had the ability, once again, to communicate beyond the grave.
Now accredited in healing mediumship by the Spiritualist National Union, the governing body of London's world-renowned Arthur Findlay College, Frances is an author and inspirational speaker.
Her upcoming lecture, What Happens When We Die?, is a benefit for the New York City Edgar Cayce Center. I recently had the chance to interview Karen Frances about her thoughts on the afterlife.
Stroud: How did you become involved in mediumship?
Frances: As I got into my teens, I had my fill of Catholic school and was far more interested in art and politics, so gradually, I stopped seeing people and made my way towards atheism, which made a lot more sense to me. I was very, very skeptical for many years. I became a political journalist and embedded Iraq war correspondent. I did practice Zen, but that's as non-theistic as you can get.
Then my partner died suddenly. The strange events of my childhood returned. Electronics were turning on. Things were moving and making noise. A whole host of extraordinary events started to happen, and all of them with the distinctive mark of his personality. Finally, I realized what on some level I'd known--that the spirit world could communicate with me. So I embarked on a journey to educate myself, heal myself, and develop my faculty and grow spirituality to the best of my ability to be able to help others.
Stroud: What happens when we die?
Frances: We don't! Actually, in modern society, our concept of the words "death" and "dying" largely imply the end of existence. My own experience as a medium and sitting with the dying tell me this is not so. As does the near death experiences that Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Eben Alexander write about. Robert Monroe also did some interesting work on out of body experiences.
What I have experienced is that no one dies alone. There are always loved ones in the spirit world at the bedside. The closer the dying person gets to death, the more they are able to see these loved ones for themselves.
From communication after death, my experience has shown me that there is some sort of initial life review, which is consistent with near death experiences, and there is continued personal and spiritual growth on the next plane of existence.
A lot of the doctrine of different world religions subscribes to multiple planes of existence--usually seven to 14--through which we travel on our way back to the source. What I do know is that people who loved us here will be there to greet us when we arrive. And those who love us remain close to us and help us if we ask as we progress in this life.
We can learn to have healthy relationships with our loved ones even after they have passed through the proverbial veil.
This sort of education is important to me. I have seen so much harm done to the bereaved from people (and mediums) imposing biases and conditioning and fears on them, such as their loved one is lost or earthbound or tormented after a suicide. This has not been my experience in the thousands of contacts I have made for people. People continue to heal, love, and be loved.
Stroud: Is there a consistent afterlife story across the planet?
Frances: In secular communities or among the scientific reductionists, the story is consistently that nothing happens after we die other than our atoms decompile and our energy is reabsorbed into the universe. Most religions subscribe to an idea that the soul or some essential aspect of the individual continues after death.
In some religions, such as the Abrahamic traditions, this continues in a spiritual realm, such as heaven, hell, or purgatory. In other traditions, such as Hindu, Buddhist, Kabbalistic, among others, it continues in a process of rebirth that occurs until we reach a state of consciousness and are freed from karma and can return to the source. Spiritualists, Spiritists, Rosicrucians and even Sufis to some extent believe in the continuous existence of the human soul across multiple planes of existence and certainly they have all written about near death experiences.
Stroud: How do you know for certain?
Frances: Can we prove the continuous existence of the human soul? I don't think we can prove anything for certain while we're on this planet living a physical existence.
Part of the issue is that language breaks down when it comes to the spirit. We can only apply logic and reason to a certain point and beyond that we are into an area that requires visceral understanding. We are into an area beyond the frame of reference that language was designed to describe. So we need to feel what feels right for us. Information by itself won't lead to an awakening to our true nature like the Buddha or Saul on the road to Damascus.
But there is very compelling evidence that the soul continues. I've communicated with thousands of individuals in the spirit world and passed along information from them to their loves ones here that I couldn't have known.
Do I know for certain that the loved one is living and communicating from the Spirit world? Yes.
Can I convince you if you haven't experienced it? Probably not.
Can I offer you very compelling evidence? Absolutely.
But at the end of the day the choice to believe is up to the individual. This is what I like about the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson who has compiled some compelling case studies, which he says are suggestive of reincarnation, not proof of reincarnation. Proof is a hefty term in our society. We'd be wise to use it cautiously.
In the meantime, if we want certainty, we'll have to wait till we die.
Stroud: How do you respond to skeptics who doubt you?
Frances: Each to their own. I'm not here to proselytize, so I don't respond.
The skeptic is, like everyone, free to believe what he or she wants as long as it doesn't transgress moral codes. If a skeptic doesn't believe in the afterlife, then that's his or her affair, not mine.
I was a skeptic for many, many years, so I know the turn from skepticism to belief is very sharp and something monumental needs to happen. If the spirit world hadn't communicated with me like a burning bush, if I hadn't had so many experiences that forced my rational mind to eventually throw in the towel, I wouldn't have made that turn.
I try to help people as best I can with the ability I have and with what I know when they ask for help. I try to be of service where service is needed. But I'm not trying to impose my beliefs on anyone else. The skeptic will die. And then he or she will know. That much is certain.
Stroud: What can death teach us about living?
Frances: There's a great documentary called Flight from Death that explores how we respond to our own mortality. It shows how the fear of self-annihilation affects our behavior and can lead to wars, violence, etc. But it's also uplifting in that it become evident throughout how interconnected we are, how there is really oneness amongst us if only we could get past our fear.
What I feel the transition we call death teaches us about life is that we don't die. We may fear the process of dying, but death itself, we don't need to fear. The knowledge that our consciousness continues shows us that we have an unimaginable vastness in this single plane of existence.
When we think about everything physics has discovered, it can still only explain five percent of the known universe. The power of the mind that created the Big Bang is incomprehensible. And yet we are part of it. We are connected to each other atom for atom, and we also transcend this existence.
So how can we be anxious? Why would we not want to be of service to humankind?
What Happens When We Die?
A Benefit for the New York Edgar Cayce Center
Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 7 p.m.
A.R.E. of New York Edgar Cayce Center (241 W. 30 Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10001)
For advance tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com or click here. $35, Members save 15%.