Topic and method

« It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; resurrection is a very natural idea » Voltaire

The topic

What is death? Do we have a soul? Human beings have always been looking for answers. Mythologies, religions, sciences or philosophy offer different interpretations. Does life stop with brain death, when vital functions definitely stop? How can we know if it is just a passage to another life, a separation of our physical and spiritual body? Today in our societies which are free of collective dogmas millions of people are convinced to have experienced in some ways contact with the hereafter. In Switzerland according to the authors of « La nouvelle Suisse religieuse » (2009) 33% of the polled people believe in reincarnation, 45% agree with para-religious such as beliefs in miraculous healing, 30% think that spiritism is plausible.

Before the 20th century, who could believe that it would be possible to talk to each other from a distance, to watch pictures from the other side of the world on a screen or to chat on a mobile phone? Maybe one day communicating with spirits will seem to be ordinary – again – in our culture as it used to be in the past. And since the profession of mediums is – according to them – to establish a link between the world of the living and the one of the dead, to explore mediumnship takes us back to the essential question to all of us: are we going to survive our own death? How not to be interested in it? What is at stake is so important: isn't death our common destiny?

Our method

By Denise Gilliand and Alain Maillard

Film director and journalist: one handles the camera the other the pen. One works in a benevolent immersion, the other looks for objective distance. It is the third time that we collaborate on a subject playing with this complementarity. The topic of the after-life fascinates us both: the journalist driven by an insatiable curiosity, the film director by an almost innate questioning about the meaning of life.

For a documentary film of 2001 « Aux frontières de la mort » (« At the boarders of death ») we collected a lot of stories of people who left their body and who were convinced that there is another world. Some of these accounts give disturbing clues, for example people who could remember of what happened or what was said as they were in a state of clinical death, with a flat electroencephalogramm.

Consciousness would be dissociated from our brain. If our memory and our mind work in immaterially, it just takes one step to believe in the possibility of telepathy between two minds, dead or alive.

This questioning naturally brought us to take an interest in the world of mediums. Without philosophical or religious a priori this film and this book give them a voice, observe them and put them to the test. Through portraits and experiences they offer an exploration of the universe of contemporary mediums.

In the film we wanted to attend live mediumnic sessions to make the audience discover what mediumnship is. We wanted to bring scientists face to face with mediumnic practices rather than ask them for their opinion on something they did not experience. We looked for a medium who was ready to welcome clients and scientists who do not believe in it for a session of contact with the hereafter. Céline Boson Sommer, medium and healer in Martigny in the Swiss Alps accepted to take up this challenge.

In the film we follow her in her daily life and in her sessions of "spiritual healing". with her We meet doctors who are open to the "unexplained" as well as two experts in communication with the hereafter. We discover with her the surprising "university" of mediumnship in England.

The book is an extension of the film. It is essentially based on the transcription of the interviews in front of the camera and completed by research and several readings. It introduces an another person: Hannes Jacob, founder of the Swiss mediumnity school, the only school of this kind in the French-speaking world. You also find in this book some restituted scenes which are not entirely to be seen in the film. Two sessions – of contact and transe – are entirely reproduced as well as experiments of physical mediumnity – voice recording by radio, Ouija board, turning tables.

You can read the book even though you have not seen the film and vice versa. They are designed to be complementary. They do not aim to convince but to make think. Every one of us has to make up their mind.