Eileen Garrett, who became one of the most respected mediums of the twentieth century, continued to study the phenomena of her mediumship throughout her long career, and she consistently questioned the source of the power that guided her for so many years.
Both of her parents committed suicide shortly after her birth in 1893 in Beauparc, County Meath, Ireland, and she was adopted by an aunt and uncle. Garrett had what many researchers recognize as a typical medium's childhood: She was ill a great deal, suffered many family tragedies at a young age, and began to experience visions and to see "people" who weren't there. Little Eileen had imaginary playmates, saw various forms of light and energy around people and animals, and became aware at an early age that life did not end with physical death when she saw a kind of grayish smoke rising up from the bodies of pets after they died.
Garrett was plagued by tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses throughout her childhood, and when she was 15 she left Ireland for the milder climate of England. She lived there with relatives for only a short time when an older gentleman named Clive began to call on her. After a courtship of a few months, she married him, and during the course of their brief marriage, she bore him three sons, all of whom died at young ages. She eventually gave birth to a daughter, Eileen, and succumbed once again to ill health. By the time she had recovered, the marriage had ended in divorce.
During World War I, Garrett opened a hostel for convalescent soldiers. While she was caring for the wounded men, she attracted the attention of a young officer who asked her to marry him. Although she had a premonition that their life together would be very short, she agreed to a marriage just before he left for the front. Within a brief period of time apart, she had a vision of his dying, and two days later she received word that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, she was notified that he had been killed in Ypres. She was recuperating from yet another illness when she met a young man whom she married one month before the armistice in 1918—in spite of the fact that her intuitive abilities informed her that this union would not become any more permanent than her previous states of matrimony.
Eileen Garrett did not learn that she was a trance medium until shortly after the armistice in November, when she accidentally fell asleep at a public meeting in London and the spirits of deceased relatives of the men and women seated around her began to speak through her. One gentleman present was familiar with the phenomenon of mediumship, and he explained to the young woman what had happened to her. He went on to say that he had communicated with an Asian spirit named Uvani that had manifested through her while she was entranced, and the entity had informed him that henceforth he would serve as Eileen Garrett's guide and spirit control. Uvani had declared that together they would do serious work to prove the validity of the survival of the human spirit after physical death.
At first Garrett was horrified at the prospect of a spirit sharing her subconscious and eavesdropping on her private thoughts and her private life. For weeks she slept with the light burning in her bedroom, fearful that Uvani might put in a materialized appearance. Such stress contributed to another bout of illness, and her developing mediumship contributed to the breakup of her third marriage. Until she sought advice from James Hewat McKenzie (1869–1929), founder of the British College of Psychic Science, she was troubled by fear of the unknown and doubts about her sanity. Under the guidance of McKenzie and his wife, Barbara, Garrett was assured that her spirit guide would not be at all interested in her daily life and that his whole purpose was based on a sincere wish to be of service to humanity. Garrett concentrated on developing her mediumship and studied with the college until McKenzie's death in 1929.
Although she had another of her premonitions concerning the transient nature of her role as wife in the state of marriage, Garrett had fallen in love and planned to be married for a fourth time. As strange as it might seem, both Garrett and her fiance became ill on the same day. She barely survived a mastoid operation, and he died of pneumonia. Confused
Hereward Carrington (1880–1958), one of the leading researchers during that period, had devoted decades to psychical investigations, with a special emphasis on the various phenomena of mediumship. After years of scrupulous tests and experiments, he had concluded that 98 percent of all such phenomena are fraudulent. But when he began a series of tests with Eileen Garrett, he declared her to be a "medium's medium." He found that she was a generous woman who had always been "on the fence" with regard to her own highly acclaimed mediumship and who had offered herself to science in a sincere effort to learn more about the spirits who communicated through her.
During the years in which she perfected her ability to communicate with the spirits of the deceased through her spirit guide, Eileen Garrett often expressed doubts about Uvani's spiritual independence and frequently voiced her suspicions that he might only be a segment of her own subconscious mind. Eventually, she had four trance communicators. Uvani, a fourteenth-century Arab soldier, remained always as the control, but there was also Abdul Latif, a seventeenth-century Persian physician, who dealt primarily with healing, and Tahotah and Ramah, who claimed no prior earthly incarnations and who spoke only seldom and then on philosophical and spiritual matters. Such indecisiveness about the source of her abilities dismayed the Spiritualists, who in her developmental years in London, had tutored her with the utmost seriousness.
Eileen Garrett became a persistent and highly qualified researcher in her own right. In 1951, she founded the Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., in New York City, and in 1952 reestablished her magazine Tomorrow as a quarterly journal of psychic science. In 1959, the foundation began publishing the International Journal of Parapsychology and in 1970, the Parapsychology Review. She also authored such books as Adventures in the Supernormal (1949), The Sense and Nonsense of Prophecy (1950), and Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium (1968).
In an article entitled "The Ethics of Mediumship" for the Autumn 1960 issue of Tomorrow, Eileen Garrett stated that she was not one who "assumes that the gift of mediumship necessarily brings with it greater insight into the phenomena of that mediumship." She goes on to advise the serious medium to "withdraw herself from the ideas thrown out by the inquirer" and regard herself "as a mechanism, clear and simple, through which ideas flow." According to an accomplished medium such as Garrett, those who had similar gifts should put themselves into a "receptive mood" which will enable them to "accept the flow of events and ideas to be perceived and known."
Continuing with this line of thought, she wrote:
If the medium allows herself to be thus used, things will happen of themselves—a technique old as wisdom itself, and not contradictory to Zen. One allows the feminine perceptive principle of the unconscious to emerge and thus one is not swamped by the demanding consciousness of the self or the inquirer. This instructive feminine element is, according to Jung, the common property of all mankind. It cannot be coerced. It must be respected and nurtured.
To Eileen Garrett, mediumship was not a "breaking-down of the personality," but a state of wholeness. She regarded the tendency of "enthusiastic sitters to regard the medium as priest or priestess" as the "major danger area in mediumistic activities." She wisely concluded that "…communication with the 'other world' may well become a substitute for living in this world. Understanding that this world in which we live has priority in this existence is the core of mediumship ethics."
Eileen Garrett died on September 15, 1970, in Nice, France, following a period of declining health.