Barbanell, Maurice (1902–1981)
Veteran British lecturer, journalist, and author in the field
of Spiritualism. He served as editor of the Psychic News and
The Two Worlds for over three decades. Many in North America
first heard of him through his book This is Spiritualism
(1959), a survey of the phenomena and personalities associated
with Spiritualism. Barbanell was noted for his vigorous journalism
in support of Spiritualism, and he frequently lectured
across both Europe and North America. Born in London, May
3, 1902, he was the son of a barber who also practiced dentistry.
Young Barbanell’s first job involved sweeping up hair and acting
as lather boy.
As a young man Barbanell was an atheist like his father. He
became unpaid secretary of a social and literary club in London’s
East End. One evening, there was a talk by a young man
on the subject of Spiritualism. Although antagonistic to the subject,
Barbanell said that this was a subject on which only those
with personal experience could venture any worthwhile opinions.
When challenged as to whether he was prepared to back
this position by undertaking a six-month period of personal investigation
of Spiritualism, he said yes. He joined a home circle
with the medium Mrs. Blaustein, who was controlled by various
entities who spoke through her while she was in a state of
Barbanell was not very impressed by this phenomenon and
at one sitting he ‘‘fell asleep.’’ When he awoke he learned to his
surprise that he had been in a mediumistic trance himself and
that an Indian spirit guide had spoken through him.
Barbanell subsequently formed his own home circle at which
the Indian guide, ‘‘Silver Birch,’’ gave regular teachings
through Barbanell’s mediumship. Later, the famous journalist
and Spiritualist Hannen Swaffer became a member of this
home circle and an enthusiastic proponent of the teachings of
‘‘Silver Birch.’’
In 1932 Barbanell married Sylvia Abrahams, who had attended
the home circle sittings with Mrs. Blaustein. The newsBaptism
of the Devil Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
paper Psychic News was also founded in 1932, as a result of a
message from ‘‘Red Cloud,’’ the spirit guide of the medium Estelle
Roberts. Barbanell edited the newspaper for 14 years, resigning
in 1946 when unable to agree with J. Arthur Findlay
on terms for purchase of Psychic News. However, 16 years later,
in June 1962, Barbanell was able to resume editorship of the
newspaper, which by then was in some difficulty. His tireless
and enthusiastic work restored the position of Psychic News as
the preeminent British Spiritualist publication.
Meanwhile, Barbanell’s own role in the ‘‘Silver Birch’’ messages
continued to be anonymous. Hannen Swaffer thought the
teachings should reach a larger audience, but Barbanell believed
that he would be open to criticism if he publicized his
own mediumship in Psychic News. Eventually it was agreed that
the ‘‘Silver Birch’’ teachings should be published, provided that
Barbanell’s identity continued to be withheld. However, these
communications attracted so much attention that after some
time Barbanell was obliged to make it known that he was the
During his active life as editor, lecturer, and author in the
cause of Spiritualism, Barbanell was a friend of every major
British medium. Less than a week after his death at age 79, on
July 17, 1981, spirit messages from him were claimed through
the mediumship of Gordon Higginson, a close friend.
In addition to Barbanell’s vast output for his two periodicals,
he wrote books on psychical research and Spiritualism.
Barbanell, Maurice. Across the Gulf. N.p., 1940.
———. Where There is a Will. N.p., 1962.
Barbanell, Sylvia, ed. Silver Birch Speak. . . . London Psychic
Book Club, 1949.
McCulloch, Joseph. The Trumpet Shall Sound. London, M.
Joseph, Ltd., 1944.
Naylor, William, ed. Silver Birch Anthology. London Psychic
Book Club, 1955.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
The Wisdom of Silver Birch. London Psychic Book Club,

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