Ewan Irvine continues his journey through the strange and unusual. In this episode he speaks with medium, tutor and best-selling author, Karen Frances McCarthy.
Karen grew up steeped in the Celtic mysticism and spiritual traditions of Ireland. As a child, she communicated with spirits. As an adult, her desire to be of service evolved into a passion for social justice and the pursuit of truth, which led her to a career as a major media political journalist and an embedded Iraq war correspondent. A tragic loss became the catalyst that brought her back to spirituality, particularly Eastern philosophy, and working with the mediumistic faculty she’s had since childhood.
She is passionate about writing for mindfulness and spiritual transformation. Her best-selling book, Till Death Don’t Us Part: A True Story of Awakening to Love After Life (White Crow Books, 2020) is a true and transformational story of a former journalist’s extraordinary journey from scepticism, through tragedy, to awaken to the knowledge that her dead fiancé is communicating from the hereafter. It has received considerable media attention and was a #1 New Release on Amazon.
Listen now as Ewan and Karen discuss her colourful life and how Spirit was always present whether she was aware of it or not.
Ewan Irvine 0:25
Welcome to the corridor case group brought to you from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle centre here in Edinburgh. And tonight my guest is canon Francis McCarthy, who's an international medium Best Selling Author and public speaker. Now Karen grew up steeped in the Celtic mysticism and spiritual traditions of Ireland. And as a child, she communicated with spirits. As an adult, her desire to be of service evolved into passion for social justice, and the pursuit of truth, which led her to her career as a major media political journalist and an embedded Iraq war correspondent. A tragic loss became the catalyst that brought her back to spirituality, particularly Eastern philosophy, and working with the mediumistic faculty she's had since childhood. Good evening, Karen. Evening, you and it's nice to be here. And you are you do actually stay in New York? No.
Karen Frances McCarthy 1:32
Yeah, I spent quite an awful lot of time in New York. I'm in Dublin, if you wanted to be here, but yeah, I've later I've been in New York most of the year. So I think it's slightly earlier, New York at the moments have been four hours behind. Yeah, therefore I was behind, but I'm in Dublin at the moment.
Okay, so welcome back to Ireland. So, on that note, tell me a little bit about growing up in Ireland and the spiritual traditions which you grew up in. I grew up in Ireland, you know, when it was still a fairly Catholic country, wherever largely Catholic country I grew up in and so you know, when to do the normal stuff. But, you know, there's all that there's always that sort of knowledge of the folklore that's just sort of there in, in
sort of conversation just went into conversation. And I was given a talk on this for Halloween, actually the other night, on seven and other thin places in Ireland, you know, the Karnes and the dolmens, and the whatnot. And these were just things that were just understood, you know, weren't really questioned weren't really discussed. But so the fairy mounds, for example, they're all over the place, but there was a fairy mound in an industrial estate up the road from where as as the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory, and they built the whole industrial estate around the fairy mound, because these things weren't to be disturbed. Do you know, and it's kind of a nice tradition that we have, it hasn't been overrun. I mean, there was a motorway being built, and it actually was going to go right through a ferry mound, and it was routed to go round it, you know, so, so very matter the demands were the fairies. The fairies are the demonetized version of the ancient gods of Ireland's The two were down and
Ewan Irvine 0:04
Welcome to the Conan Doyle case book where there's always a story to tell
Karen Frances McCarthy 3:18
that became miniaturised, with the coming of Christianity to be able to recognise this happens in most folklore and mythology is, you know, trying to reconcile the pagan gods with the Christian gods. So the sheep, which were the pagan, ancient gods, or demonetised, become fairies, which are gotten all over the world by now, you know, but yeah, I mean, that was just there. I mean, the Banshee was just You just understood that when you heard screaming and crying out in the street, it was the Banshee and you knew not to look at her to throw a coma to all these stories, you just grow up with them as a kid, you don't even think twice about them, you don't even really question them, you know?
Ewan Irvine 3:57
Autofit that's where Ireland a tale of shares a history of Scotland is absolutely around that and growing up and sessions that go way back. But yeah, here you are growing up with these traditions, but you started seeing spilitt yourself at such a young age.
Karen Frances McCarthy 4:16
I did. And, you know, it was one of those things. And I know quite a lot, this happens quite a lot of kids, my friend has a child who this happens to you as well, where it's just sort of wake up in the middle of the night and you just see somebody standing sort of the end of the bed, just having a just looking at you not doing anything, you know, and, and I will just look at them and be like, I don't even know who you are, you know, and you just get out. I just go back asleep. They just go away. And this would happen a lot and I had some really, really kind of scary incidences when I was like, I mean, a lot of the time they're scary because we don't know what's happening, right? It's just a lack of understanding, but which I actually wrote about in my book, which till death don't just bark would you and I have talked about before you know, just things moving and, you know, to solid, this sort of stuff going on figures per se. But it's, you know, it's I think it's quite common for a lot of kids to see that. And I think what's wonderful is when parents aren't afraid of it, you know, our parents don't try to think, Oh, my kid needs medication because the hallucination or not when parents are able to actually just be open to the idea that this is possible is wonderful, I think just for the for the kids. So I did see that when I was child, but you know, you and you kind of then become a teenager. And then you don't want to know, you know what I mean? Because you just then you just want to go to discos or clubs. So you just want to make boys and she knows me in fashion. And so by the time I got into my teens, 1415, I just stopped seeing them, I think you just I just wasn't open to it wasn't interested in it anymore. They just stopped appearing for me when I look back. Now, there are certain events that happened in those years that I understand now. Were significantly sort of psychic in their in their nature, which I didn't really think about at the time. But yeah, by the time I got to 14, I'd really lost interest in Islam, it just all stopped happening. And as you know, as he got older, got into college and had less and less interest in anything spiritual. So you know, you just kind of grow that in this. So I did anyway,
Ewan Irvine 6:24
it sounds very much like seeing spirit and sensing sped up very much became a normal part of life through childhood. And also seems like family were quite supportive of this as well.
Karen Frances McCarthy 6:37
Yeah, I didn't, I didn't actually really talk to tell my parents about I mean, I have to be honest, I was never scared by these people who came along, you know, to me, I do have a sense of my grandmother at one point I did. My mother would remember it, you know, she took on relator. Like, I would be having a conversation out through the door into the hallway sort of thing. And she said, Who are you talking to? And I'd be like, Oh, that man. And she'd look at the wouldn't be a man there. But you know, so she just thought was imaginary friend. And that was the end of that. And it just won't just take too long like that, you know, so I know now, it wasn't imaginary friends, because if it was an imaginary friend, you probably would have been a purple elephant or something. Just a strange man in Norway, you know? So yeah, it wasn't really. I mean, I think a lot of a lot of Ireland's I'm sure it's similar in Scotland, these things are sort of known and sort of understood, and nobody makes an issue out of that, particularly talks about this a lot. But neither do anybody really make an issue out of it. You know,
Ewan Irvine 7:40
I often find that when you start later on looking back and family, you find that there's these connections, they're back through history, and I'm just wondering if it was similar with yourself and, and looking back into family?
Karen Frances McCarthy 7:54
Well, I know that my father told me, my group, my great grandmother, what she thinks things or see people, and I know that even though my mother was would you write these imaginary friends, I know she had these experiences herself, you know, and she, she didn't really endorse them very much. Do you know what I mean? But, you know, I think it's a lot more common than people realise. And I think that too many people have a tendency just to decide it was a hallucination or imaginary friend, or they know it wasn't, but they don't want to tell anybody. But I think it's extreme. I think this is far more common than we realise.
Ewan Irvine 8:38
So, so LT, your teams, you're saying it kind of left or you're you weren't really interested in at that point, because everything else, of course, was going on and, and then as the years go on, it takes them to a completely new world into politics and a few journalism.
Karen Frances McCarthy 8:58
I went, I went out to Hollywood first, and ran around Hollywood for a while and had a bunch of interesting experiences out there, and travelled around the travelling circus for a while and outside that sort of like life in your 20s when you're just sort of Irish to live as big as you can for as long as you can, you know, I eventually did. I hide when I was younger, I was always interested in writing. And when I was younger, 17 1617 I would ride to the local newspaper and did this. I eventually kind of came back around to journalism, after running and walk around Hollywood for a while, and decided I started covering US politics with the Irish Examiner, and then ended up in Iraq, covering some stories in Iraq the Irish Times during the war in like 2006. And, you know, it just kind of suited me at the time to be sort of folk I was more interested in what is going on in the world than I far more and had really practical The zero interest in any request even existential question, and to be honest at that point, you know, but I Iraq was people often to ask me to do to come back to us because we're ragged, I really wasn't. I mean, I think about Iraq is those experiences, they, that maybe they brought some people back to spirituality. But for me, it was just horrible to see the things that human beings are capable of doing to each other, you know, so I didn't really find that at all to be spiritual. It wasn't really until many years later, as you know, that when my fiance died, that, you know, it's kind of like dropped kicked back into it, you know. But, yeah, I was just, you know, you go to college, you're living that life, you're just sort of more interested, I was just more interested in the world, you know, than that this world. Then contemplating another one, you know,
Ewan Irvine 10:53
I was just you lead on there to, you know, meeting your husband and the tragedy that happened. And you speak about that openly in your book. And I was just wondering if you could just give us a few details about what happened.
Karen Frances McCarthy 11:10
Well, we had known each other for some time, you know, in New York, and he was an avid cyclist. And one day, he was a sceptic, we're both atheists, both atheists and sceptics, and which even didn't even label it at the time, just because that's just your Halyard, you know, and but he went out for a bike ride one afternoon, and noticed sudden, massive heart attack. And I was actually in Virginia working on a story and got a phone call to say that he had heard a certain mass Vorschlag 41 and was dead. You know? And, you know, I mean, that he just, that's just not that was just so sudden, it was just, it took me days to even comprehend it. You know, I was like, No, it can't be. And like I said, did talk about that. But how is that possible, we were only we've only gotten engaged seven weeks thing before that, you know, and after a long time of trying to get ourselves together, and and then you know, is just one day, it was just like that phone call, and he's gone. You know, and I know a lot of people have these sudden, shocking revelations, but I think when somebody passes, it's got all its own sort of element of shock and creative and, you know, shock and adapt, you know, having to adapt and the grieving process, because sometimes, people when you know, somebody is about to pass, there is a whole set of grief with that. And there's a whole set of grief, which, you know, with a certain passing, so it's not any greater or lesser trauma than anybody else, but certainly took me a long time to took me quite a few days, just wondering about this big old house in Virginia, just trying to absorb what I just been told, you know,
Ewan Irvine 13:00
you threw out the US, you know, often see, you know, the journey of suppose grief is a very personal process. Yeah. And different to each and every one of us where there's no right or wrong, but you had quite an incredible journey, because you mentioned that scepticism the, that you had. But that changed,
Karen Frances McCarthy 13:23
yes. there and it took an awful lot of work on the part of those in the unseen world and him included and, and quite a lot of time and quite a lot of helpful people on the path to kind of coming around from Mars because, you know, it was such a you in like, such a hard turn to get from where I was into believing by consciousness survives death, you know, and it took a long time, it took a lot of people that are sort of, when you look back now you can kind of see this pattern of helpful people showing up in the most unexpected places. A Catholic priest was one of the first people who helped me told, you know, what started happening was, within a couple of days, two or three days of his passing, all sorts of these things started happening. You know, the bed would shake some things would pick up my hair, I would smell him I would, you know, it sees these black shapes again, and I mean, just endless, very physical forms of manifestation were happening, you know, and it was I first I thought, you know, I've got must be having a nervous breakdown, I must be losing my mind. Like it took me quite a long time to come to accept that this was something different and quite a lot of decisions. I was. I was in Virginia at the time, which is kind of like the area 51 of the afterlife. That's what I call it in my book, Diego Casey Sandra was there, the Monroe Institute, the work of Robert Monroe, and you You know, the out of body experiences research. There was a spiritualist who had never even heard of spiritualism, but there was a spiritualist church right there. There was all of this stuff happening in this small little area in Virginia. And I actually started by bumping into a Catholic priest basically. And wanting to ask him thinking, I need to help, I'm losing my mind here from grief. And I burst into tears and Boerboels crying to this priest. And he was the first one to say to me, no, no, these are signs this is quite common, is up to lots of our parishioners, which I'd never heard of. But I went, and I did a bit, a bit of research on that. And I spoke to the lovely Professor Lula grand who had written a beautiful book about this. And we had a couple of phone calls about that. And I just more and more and more incidences were happening, and they were becoming more complex and more, you know, just sort of more synchronistic, and more elaborate. And eventually, I don't want to give away exactly what happened because it's sort of the, it's a turning point in the first part of the book. So I don't want to give it away if anyone wants to read the book. But it became eventually, after a few months of this constantly happening. And then me saying very informed and helpful people along the way that it became ventually, the penny dropped. Eventually, I had that epiphany, just that sort of moment of awakening of the holies. You know, this really, is you. But it was a very, very difficult shift for me to make a bad point. Because you know, I'm so much older than I was, as a kid, I really couldn't remember half of that. It was only later, my mother kind of reminded me some of the things and Pete played encountered in the living room as a child. But it was very difficult. So I was not an easy convert, I have to say, and it took an awful lot of work, an awful lot of help, and an awful lot of energy on the part of those in the unseen world. Before.
Ewan Irvine 17:07
Did you constantly wonder how all these coincidences were happening? You know, almost on a daily basis. Where was this from?
Karen Frances McCarthy 17:17
Yeah, well, I mean, you know, initially, like I said, I, you know, I was just thinking, Well, that was odd. But that's just coincidence, you know, I wasn't seeing them as synchronicities or as, I wasn't seeing intelligence behind these, I thought they're just, this is just literally a coincidence, you know, anything that else, you know, things touching me took me on my hair, I suppose I'm imagining it. There was some very, very vivid experiences I had that I just said, There must had to be a dream, you know, and, and I wish everything off for some time I was I was trying to excuse it away. Because to be honest, you at first, I actually thought I was having a breakdown, because it wasn't wasn't natural, normal for me to be imagining stuff like this. So I thought I must have gone out of my mind with grief, but that I don't even understand a strong minded individual. I don't even understand how that could have happened. And, but that's where I was initially. Then I started when people started pointing things out and luda Grande and the priest and people Tiagra, Casey centre, started pointing out things, then I started noticing patterns. And then I started giving just the tiniest bit of credence to some of the things they were suggesting was kind of more like, what if what they said was true? What would that mean? So for a while I was in the sort of, then the what if let me just entertain just for the tiniest moment, that some of the things they're telling me are true, and that these are intelligent, organised sequences of events? What would that mean? And that, and I was a long time on that, just trying to understand what's moving the furniture, you know, and eventually, I got it. And that didn't for me even equate with survival of consciousness. You know, that was just something's moving furniture. There's some kind of energy, it could be kinetic. It didn't employ it didn't necessarily follow for me that this was just kind of consciousness, you know. And so that was a whole other step, quite a long and difficult road that I went down, but the situate the events kept happening. You know, if they had stopped, I probably would have given up but but they kept happening. And so there really was nothing else to do, but to continue to try to investigate to find an explanation for these things. And ultimately, that explanation that from A to B to C to the recognition that intelligence survives, consciousness survives with intelligence. There's intelligence behind it
Ewan Irvine 19:50
wasn't an absolute significant moment or something that happened that just said, Yes, well, this is your office. accumulation?
Karen Frances McCarthy 20:02
Well, there was definitely an accumulation. But there was one point in time, that was the holy moment, you know, where which the whole first 100 of the pay 100 pages the book leads up to. So I don't really want to give it away in case anyone wants to read the book. But there definitely was that Penny dropping moment where it would have finally realised, oh, my God, this really is you. You know. So if it's all right, I'll leave it for anybody who wants to read the books, you don't want to spoil it on them? Because it is it is a really good sort of twist in the first half of the book. You know,
Ewan Irvine 20:37
I think it's extremely interesting. You were talking about you and your husband both being atheist. So both, yeah, it tooks yet here you are in your child to having this, which we just seem to know, is something from an odd realm somewhere else to then enter into this year, sort of scepticism. And then to come back to it and perhaps being reminded of, do you remember as a child, what you saw and what you saw in the living room and understanding?
Karen Frances McCarthy 21:09
Yeah, you know, it's funny, the things that were able to sort of, well, I should speak for myself. I just noticed, you know, as I got older, I mean, there were so many weird things in my youth in my childhood. And, you know, there's a whole scene in the book where went on Girl Guides camping week, you know, when I was 13, and the bunk bed moved and shotgun rattles big, huge military army bond boats that couldn't 12 kids couldn't have moved, you know, and the thing just started spontaneously shaking shimmied out into the room, and it frightened Jesus, those was at the time, do you know? But But then afterwards, you kind of sort of can rationalise the stuff? If you really want to rationalise something away? You really well, you know, and that became like that some of the incidences that happened after my partner died was, if you want to rationalise them away as an earthquake, moving the bed, even though nothing else moved, you can convince yourself of these things, if you try hard enough, you know, and if you blink, or if you put enough blinkers on, it is possible to ignore stuff. I mean, people walking around the world doing it all the time, right? I think it becomes, how are you? How open? Are you to really honestly, looking at all of the various different possibilities that this could be? Or are you only trying to convince yourself that this is not possible? And I think a lot unfortunately, a lot of people you see why don't know the words are robbing themselves of extraordinary experiences, because they just really want to be able to rationalise something away, and I was one of those people. And I just know that I wouldn't give up these experiences now in the world for anything in the world, because they're so enriching in life, just to understand the presence and the magnitude and the majesty of life. I mean, it makes life so much bigger than just the 7 billion of us running around the planet.
Ewan Irvine 23:05
And that remarkable journey that you've had, of course, has taken me on to do a PhD, which covers such things as nd ease near death experiences.
Karen Frances McCarthy 23:15
Yeah, so I'm doing what I'm researching. You know, just so I've noticed this really interesting trend. And 24 is very contemporary goes literature were very sophisticated, like boogeyman Prize winners, and people are the winners, I've started writing, rewriting the ghost story, not as story like screwed, or not as a haunting or anything like this, but a relocation creating these entire worlds and alternatives in the afterlife dimensions like Lincoln in the Bardo, or, you know, hotel worlds, I mean, these really highly respected and prize winning authors, and very sophisticated plots, very sophisticated characters, all of which are dead, so to speak. And there's no such thing as coming back through all of these old scenes, we will no come back to haunt come back to do Avenger murder, or The Lovely Bones is another one. All of these old, old traditional themes have gone out the window. And something very new and very sophisticated is being explored now in the literature. And so I started researching, why is that? And so I started looking into how have we shifted our thinking and our understanding of consciousness, our place in the world or the possibility of afterlife. So this literature now is exploring things like eco devastation like trauma and trauma, recovery and spirit world, you know, and it's really, really interesting stuff to me to see this very sophisticated shift in how life and the continuity of life is being perceived and the possibilities for what is being entertained. Now, that was never entertained in the 2000s While many 2000 years or 2000 years since we are nearly at you know it's we're seeing very sophisticated interpretations. About. And I started asking, how is the shift happened. And so I'm looking at, you know, we've got the emergence of quantum physics. I know that's been around for 100 years, almost no. But we also have now on the back of that sort of consciousness theory, we have the medical advancements that have given us so many nd ease to to be able to study which people weren't able to be resolved, stated where they are today. And that's really, there's the sort of impact of counterculture and Eastern influences, and just this sort of mind opening way of starting to look at the world a bit differently. And so for me, it's kind of like, this has all come together in one big melting pot. And it's like the dialectic, there's the the original idea, there's the argument and other some the third point, the third stage is arising out of all of this, which I think is fascinating. You know, for us, we're interested in the afterlife,
Ewan Irvine 25:56
it does seem that Sciences has kind of come a long way into looking at ideas such as, for instance, we there was the belief the brain is consciousness, the brain is the consciousness to where the brain and consciousness can be two separate things. Yeah. And it seems to be in a way grey, but science is starting just to just to dabble a bit into this.
Karen Frances McCarthy 26:27
Yeah. Yeah, it's absolutely I mean, you know, David Chalmers is doing some interesting work on consciousness. And you know, and there's, well, you know, Dean Raiden, you've heard quite a lot of them give the Tuesday Talks. Rupert Sheldrake is does wonderful work. And Penrose, I mean, there's just as long list of, of great scientists exploring these. I mean, I do think it's, we need to be careful that we don't make scientism religion, you know, where the science is true, then it's true. And if science doesn't say it's true, it's not true. I think this is all of this stuff is not measurable, which it needs to be to be scientifically proven. And so, but I think it's really interesting that people are opening up these avenues. I mean, a lot of these great scientists like Niels Bohr, or Irving Schrodinger, when they were working with these early days in quantum physics, admit that they went to the Danta, that they went to the Upanishads. For inspiration, they were going to Eastern spiritual traditions to be able to understand science. So I think, to be honest, I know the scientists would hate me for saying this. But I think that spirituality can inform science, to be honest, more than science can inform spirituality, if that makes sense. Because spirituality when they started looking at these concepts, allows them to start thinking in different ways. Well, this is what we know from Schrodinger and Bohr and quite a few other people. I mean, David Bohm used to work to a Krishnamurthy, you know, so I think that it's great that this research is being done. And I think it's great that these are being seriously entertained as possibilities. And because we have to be able to ask the why, I think, what's important with scientism, sometimes, and I know, Alexander says this a lot, too many scientists are there to disprove the theory, you know, and he says this about the near death experiences, site sciences, by and large, so to set out to debunk and to explain away the near death experience, rather than to look at how is it possible, but fortunately, we do have handful of very open minded scientists who are asking these very philosophical and existential questions, which to me, which I think can only further to discussion, because the minute you start trying to limit anything, discussion ends, so I love the fact that, you know, people like Penrose and Sheldrake and, you know, Raiden and the others are actually really starting to explore what could be, what could this be?
Ewan Irvine 29:02
Yeah, exactly. I was gonna, I was gonna ask, this may put you on the spot a wee bit. But where do you see maybe in 50 or 100 years time, science and spirituality?
Karen Frances McCarthy 29:12
Well, I think we need to stop seeing science, treating science, like it's a religion. I mean, scientism is almost like religion, people. It's not a theistic religion. Obviously. There's like people believe that science is the be all and end all which we know it's not because science is always proving itself fit. Here's what we believe today, we always do is look at relativity to Quantum. There's always advances in science. I would it would be fantastic. If in 100 years, there was an actual understanding of the nature of consciousness. You know, I know David Chalmers is trying to do put forth consciousness as a fundamental property of the universe like light and electromagnet magnetism, strong weak forces. It will be great if that we had made that breakthrough to start really starting to look at consciousness in an entirely different way. So that it is something that is a fundamental property of the universe, that the brain is more like an antenna tuning into, you know, and to understand that these things are actually separate. That would be to me a huge stat way forward for science.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai