Melissa : So, I wanted to start by asking how long you've been involved with the Spiritualist Church.
Paul : It all started with a mentor in Buffalo, where I had my first career (history professor). She introduced me to palm reading twelve years ago... I've learned the hard way. She mentored me, and then I went out into the streets, so to speak. I moved back to my hometown in Garder, MA, and became involved with a small Spiritualist church there. I immediately started doing psychic faires- and before I knew it, I was doing psychic faires in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, etc. Then I was ordained as a pastor in a little church in the Wildwoods. Then I left home and came to New York, where I'd always wanted to be. I came to the spiritualist church here, went through the minister training, so now I'm certified as a medium, a seance conductor, a healer, and I've gotten the designation as Master Palm Reader. I was in Salem Mass for two years in a row during the entire month of October, where I read palms, did psychic readings, and seances. I'm going back this October, so what I'm doing now is conducting seances and doing psychic faires.
Melissa : So, when many people approach the occult for the first time, the word "church" can be a bit triggering, especially if those people come from a staunchly Christian background. What "church" type elements distinguish the Spiritualist Church, since most people don't associate the occult with organized services?
Paul : Good point. And I should get away from using the term "church", having been brought up Roman Catholic myself. It is a religion- it has been recognized by the IRS, so we know it's perfectly legit. It's basic concept is that we are all part of the divine. The divine is everywhere, including within us- and it's up to us to tap the divine within us. Spiritualism seeks to help us tap into that divinity, and also tells us that there is life now, and there is life on the other side. One of the major goals is to connect with the spirits of loved ones and other spirits on the other side, which is what we in Spiritualism are trying to do. Thus, when we do Seances, for example, or spirit message circles, if you want to call it that, we invite spirit to come to speak to us, focusing on a particular individual.
Melissa : So, does the Spiritualist Church share any common aspects with "churches" that people might be familiar with- things like masses or the concept of a 'Supreme Being'?
Paul : Well, Supreme Being or Divine Spirit are interchangeable. That's what they are. Our service is not about the sacrifice of Jesus. We feel that Jesus was one of the world's greatest teachers- and he was also a medium! - but he was not divine. We do not believe in Jesus' divinity, and we do not believe that Hell exists. Hell is basically a Christian concept. [We believe that] Hell is within us. We know evil exists, and it's within us. Everything deals with us as human beings.
Melissa : I know that, when some people come to a Seance, they might be nervous, or they have questions, or they come a little bit afraid. What are some of the things that people can expect out of a Seance?
Paul : With me, I'm slowly getting better. I think I'll be a perfect seance conductor the day after I've passed away. I'm always learning, and I'm always growing. The best we can do for any individual is welcome them into the circle, do a meditation and a prayer to relieve their anxiety, and then, as a conductor, I surrender to spirit, and then the spirit begins to come through. Sometimes I will see a spirit next to a person. I had a seance two months ago, and the girl was definitely nervous. I looked at her and said "Was your grandmother's name Estelle?" And she said "Yes!". I said "She's on the other side." I couldn't describe her, but the grandmother gave me her name. And when I'm looking at a sitter - that's what we call the folks - if the spirit is on the left side, it's from the mom's side of the family, and if it's on the right side, it's on the dad's side of the family. If it's anywhere else, it's from nobody's family, you see. And there are times when messages to individuals get pretty specific. Other times they are more general. There are sometimes where I wish I could say I was perfect all the time, but there are times, for some people, I get very little. I give what I get. And it depends how open the person is, too.
Melissa : So there's no guarantee of one of these detailed warning messages from beyond- it relies upon how open the sitter is, as well as what you're able to get. Is that right?
Paul : Yes. I'm eventually going to pursue more in terms of working with animals for healing and communication. I have four spirit guides that are animals. And inevitably, at every seance I've conducted, since I was given these guides over two years ago, with somebody in the seance, there's an animal waiting for them.
Melissa : So even animal spirit guides come through?
Paul : Oh yeah. Any human, animals, angels, archangels- those are the ones you're used to hearing. Because I will not allow any negative spirits to come through.
Melissa : So you specifically bar those spirits from entering? So if someone, god forbid, as a demon spirit guide, that's not going to happen?
Paul : -laughs- No, that's not going to happen. I send them trying to get in at times, but I just use a few cuss words to myself to them, and they don't get in. And folks that come here, sometimes I tell them "This is not Hollywood, so don't worry about all those negative things coming through. And if we have a message that really is doom and gloom for that person, we do not give it to them.
Melissa : Oh really? Not at all?
Paul : No. I have said, though- I saw one girl in Salem, when we were doing seances, and said " I see you morphing in front of me into this very very old lady with long white hair. Does that mean anything to you?" and she said "Oh yeah, that's my grandmother!" and I said "Well, but it's you. Your grandmother's showing me that you're going to pass away at around her age. How old was she when she passed away?" and she said "94." I said "You stay well, keep healthy, do your veggies" - you know, I like to inject humor with it, because humor raises positive vibrations - and so, she thanked me afterward, she said "Oh my god, this is wonderful, I didn't know granny was near me!" So, sometimes, people go away completely unconvinced, there are always a few who go away thinking they've peed away their money, but most people go away with a message.
Melissa : It must be very rewarding to do this kind of work.
Paul : I find it very rewarding. Especially when you get an email from somebody in Salem- now, this was a reading. She said "what's wrong with me? I can't get a job, and I just graduated from a criminal justice college, and I still can't find a job." And I saw her looking over catalogues, and I said "You're short a bunch of credits in something specific. You haven't paid enough attention. Go back to the drawing boards. I'm seeing you with a blue pamphlet, and it's at the public library." She emailed me one month later, saying "I found out where I was deficient." She needed a 45 hour class to qualify for some positions. She thanked me. And as I said, for others, the messages are so general, but that's what comes through. I have learned through the help of my mentors here in NYC that you need to trust yourself and surrender to spirit, you'll get the messages you're supposed to get.
Melissa : What's an example of a more general message that you might get?
Paul : Well, at a seance about a year and a half ago, there was this woman from the UK there, and I saw her driving in the UK- I knew it was in the UK because it was on the other side of the road- and she kept grinding her gears. I told he this and she said "But I don't know what to do!" And I said "Have you considered an automatic shift car?" and her daughter was with her, and she started laughing and said "I've been telling mum that for a long time!"
Melissa : Oh wow! So even if it's a mundane message about their car, it's still getting through.
Paul : Oh yes. It is making an impact. The hardest people- the stones, the rocks, the people you try to give messages to but they don't go through- tend to be boyfriends or girlfriends of someone who wants to come to the seance and drags them there.
Melissa: Ah; so you encourage people, if they want to have a powerful and positive experience, to come here willingly and with interest, rather than because their friend brought them?
Paul : Well, we tell them to enjoy this, let it happen, because if you're going to say "no, no, no" to yourself, you're going to get a message and you're not going to take it. We'll give it to you, but it won't be powerful. I've said to people "Perhaps you've wasted your money coming here." I have no qualms about telling it like it is. And it's not to hurt anybody, it's to make a point. At least, here at Catland, people come out of curiosity, not under threat. We've noticed here that our clientele tends to be a younger group of people. I have to admit that I enjoy very much doing seances here for that reason.
Melissa : Is there a huge difference between leading a seance with a group that is younger versus a group that is older?
Paul : Sitters who are older have done this a number of times- that's the biggest difference.
Melissa : If people come to one seance- I mean, I know that you can never have too many tarot readings, because everyone's life is changing so constantly. Can the same be said of Seances?
Paul : Yes. I know some people who come to seances at the Spiritualist Church twice a month. I like to call them "Seance Groupies". And the message might come from me one month, and somebody else might give them the message the next month, and it will be completely different. But there have been instances where spirit has felt strongly enough for me to revisit old messages with new information added. That's a little unusual, but it has happened.
Melissa : Would you say that people who come to seances more than once become more open, or easier to give messages to, or is that not quite the case?
Paul : Yes, in general, that is the case. Because we as seance conductors do our best to be open to receiving messages from spirit. But those who become more and more used to it and easy with it will probably get deeper messages. But if there's something a person needs to know and they're hesitant and spirit says "You've got to give this person this message", it's going to come through anyway. I'm going to say that if a person is ready to receive a message, he or she will. People who come often enough might be the kind of people who develop their own psychic talents, and might themselves become mediums. The best thing to do in that case is to seek training, to put you in the right direction.
Melissa : Is there anywhere in the city for people who are interested to receive mediumship training?
Paul : Holistic Studies Institute of New York. HSI. And, again, look that up on the Google Search. They teach classes on psychic mediumship training- a whole series. That's where I did my mediumship, minister training, energy, and seance certification.
Melissa : Now, do you teach mediumship classes?
Paul : No. There might come a time I do, but for the moment, I'm still very busy- I only moved here three years ago! Still settling in, and loving New York. And I love to travel. If I don't travel, I will kill people. This month of June, I'll be going to the Arthur Findlay College, outside of London, which is truly one of the better schools in the world to help give my mediumship an upward push. It's going to be for an entire week, and that's my next gig.
Melissa : If someone wanted to find out more about how to become involved with the spiritualist church, where could they go for that informtion?
Paul : At this moment, you should do a Google Search for "Spiritualist Church New York City". That will give you the website, which I don't remember. After having retired as a professor and a dean, I vowed I would never remember anything more than I absolutely had to -laughs-
Melissa : Is there only one spiritualist church in New York City?
Paul : Yes. For now!
Melissa : Is there anything else you'd like to add for people who are interested in coming to a Seance here at Catland, or who have reservations about coming?
Paul : Anyone who is curious- open your mind, even if its for one Seance, come and try it. Hopefully, you won't be disappointed. Hopefully, you won't be offended. - laughs-