In September, a mysterious flyer went viral. Titled “No-Deal Brexit? Margaret Thatcher’s message from Spirit World!!”, it advertised an event that promised to answer the burning questions of the day about Margaret Thatcher: “Was she an Angel or Devil [sic]? Where is her spirit now?”, “her current messages to people in the UK” and “what does she think about the current Brexit issue?”
This séance was to be hosted by the intriguingly named Happy Science. The spiritual movement, founded in Japan in 1986, claims to have 12 million global members and more than 10,000 local branches and temples in 100 countries.
The movement has sparked controversy in practically every country in which it has launched. In 2012, reporting on a visit to its French branch, VICE dubbed it the “laziest cult ever”, concluding that it’s made up of “the most contradictory, gross, bizarre ideas the world has ever mustered”.
They believe that Japanese CEO and founder Ryuho Okawa is their prophet on earth today. He can supposedly communicate with the spirit world as well as the inhabitants of other planets, and it is he who will summon Thatcher’s spirit for us.
Okawa is described by the leader of the event, Happy Science Europe’s Director – a self proclaimed “former doctor and former atheist” – as “the world’s greatest psychic, with higher powers than Jesus Christ, Muhammed or Buddha.”
The movement believes we can improve ourselves and “create an ideal world on Earth through studying, practising and spreading the universal Truth taught by Ryuho Okawa.” Much of that “truth” talks about love and harmony, but Okawa’s more specific teachings seem to be revealed by the organisation's political wing in Japan, the Happiness Realisation Party, founded in 2009. The fiscally conservative political party wants to expand Japan’s military and population by arming it for conflict with China and North Korea.
So I was about to find out – could Margaret Thatcher be the real leader we need to return to illuminate this, our darkest post-war hour?
I pay my suggested £5 donation and ascend to a small room in Happy Science’s London HQ, nestled up five flights of steep narrow spiral stairs in the heart of London, spitting distance from Sports Direct on Oxford Street.
Just over 30 of us fill the small room ready for Maggie’s spirit to be tempted out of her repose in the afterlife to give us a steer on Brexit.
We start with videos explaining more about our organisers and their stated mission to, somewhat ambitiously, “unite all people beyond religion, culture and ethnicity.” Our physical bodies are apparently mere empty vessels for “soul training.” To drive this point home, they show a video with pictures saying “This white American woman today could’ve been a black man in a previous life!”
In the small conference room, a PowerPoint screen is juxtaposed with an altar displaying an ominous looking sword, some ornate golden phallic wall decor and fresh yellow roses.
Curiously, there are no candles or ouija board; but an array of books on display include one titled A Spiritual Interview with Diana.
Then, a bombshell. What we’ll actually be doing today isn’t holding hands, closing eyes and summoning Thatcher into this small room just behind Sports Direct. No, instead we’ll be watching a video of Ryuho Okawa summoning her spirit and “embodying” her just 19 hours after she died in 2013. Disappointed sighs are heard around the room but that disappointment rapidly transforms back into intrigue.
The video involves some Japanese “news reporters” poised to get a big scoop by asking Thatcher’s spirit, summoned through a middle-aged Japanese man, questions on her time on power.
“It may take time,” Okawa says in a deep man’s voice. “You may have to be patient in the beginning.” He rapidly rubs his hands together, throws his head back, then sideways, then cranes his neck an inch and speaks. Except this time it’s in a high-pitched, shrill, staccato voice.
“DENIS?” he shrills. “DENIS? DENIS? DENNNNIS!”
“She’s here!" one of the reporters mouths on screen, elated.
“I AM THE PRIME MINISTER,” Okawa thunders. “I AM STILL IRON LADY!”
He then frowns and becomes confessional: “I have very short temper. I get angry very quickly. I am the hot-iron lady!”
Then, the four Japanese reporters – notebooks in hand – start asking questions, from socio-economic policy to trade unions (“I hate them!” Okawa shouts). When asked of her opposition, Okawa raises his fists and blusters “Bring it on!”
Thatcher’s confused who the US president is in 2013 (Roosevelt? she asks). Obama, she’s corrected. “Obama?” she asks in a tone of appalled incredulity. “KILL HIM!” she instructs. “Then FIRE HIM!”
The room I'm in enlivens into a combination of gasps and muffled giggles. The Director of Happy Science sits, stern faced, behind his altar, a yellow scarf, exuding some sort of authority, and the tittering quietens.
An extremely pugnacious version of Thatcher’s spirit has evidently been conjured. “Attack Korea!” she advises Japan. “And attack China! Attack! Japan must attack!” She then says she cannot for the life of her understand why the Japanese don’t use nuclear weapons. “Just buy them from the USA or UK,” she instructs.
These are all – purely coincidentally – the stated aims of Happy Science’s political wing.
We learn that Hitler and Stalin are the Anti-Christs and that the EU has “always been a problem because of the sin Germans carry around since WW2”.
Okawa’s head swings from side to side and he cups his ears. “Headache,” the Thatcher spirit murmurs, still higher pitched, but feebler than all the preceding fist banging and shouting.
“Any questions?” our official looking director asks, stopping the video.
“That was advice for Japan – what was her advice for the UK?” an audience member asks.
“Thatcher was right – the EU won’t make the UK prosperous and we made the right decision [to leave],” the director responds, fiddling with his yellow official scarf.
“Is she in heaven or hell then?” another inquires.
“Hell... I mean heaven!” he says, blushing.
The last word comes from Happy Science’s PR manager, who jumps up right at the end saying he must make something clear.
“That was Thatcher’s subconscious expressing her inner thoughts,” he says. “I doubt in real life she would’ve spoken aloud that she wanted to kill Obama.”