One Yom Kippur a few years ago, Marilyn Kapp sensed that a group of children was sitting with her in shul. They had all passed on, but Kapp was unfazed. She spoke to these out-of-body children, as she always does.
“I said ‘Oh, are you from the Holocaust and would you like me to tell your story?’” Kapp, a spiritual medium with a bright, effusive voice, recalled. “And they said ‘No, we’re children that you won’t get to channel because our parents would never think to go to a medium or their clergy tells them it’s not the right thing to do. You have to get something out there.’”
After over a decade of practice as a professional medium and a lifetime of seeing those who have passed, Kapp has published her first book, “Love is Greater Than Pain,” a record of her healing sessions with bereaved families and a primer on how to open one’s self up to the vibrations of the out-of-body world. One of the book’s early readers was Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Kapp’s mentor at Boston University.
“I always wanted to write a book and gift him back because he let me study with him for years,” Kapp said from her home in San Diego, where she is in self-quarantine. “I didn’t do it until now and he’s out of body now, but in a vision I was holding a tallis bag. I could feel books inside and he took them from me; he nodded and took them.”
When she first met Wiesel as a college student in the 1970s, Kapp says, she would see him surrounded by beings of light that looked almost like photo negatives. When the professor suffered a physical ailment — say, an earache that was keeping him from taking a trip to Washington, DC — she would feel it in her own ear. After urging him to take better care of himself, she confided her visions to him. She says Wiesel gave her permission to use her ability to heal, and in that time she learned a kind of shorthand from the spirits who were trying to reach her.
Kapp’s practice is called channelling, though she also calls it “downloading.” Over the phone or in person with her clients she senses their relatives. The mother’s side of the family stands over to the person’s left, the father’s side to the right. She says she can hear those who have passed in her mind and feel them entering her body — though not in a “horror movie” kind of way. Sometimes she’ll register a kink in her neck and infer that someone had a problem with their neck, died by breaking their neck or simply that a spirit is indicating that someone was a pain in the neck.
“It feels like I’m high as a kite after,” she said. But also, she feels a tremendous joy.
Joy and the Jewish tradition are a pivotal part of Kapp’s life. Recently, a friend of hers who also channels sensed a presence standing near her and offered Kapp a description of the person: It was the Baal Shem Tov, the Jewish mystic and founder of the Hasidic movement, who Kapp tells me is one of her direct ancestors. She believes he’s been guiding her her whole life.
But not all of Kapp’s clients, mostly referred to her through a whisper network, are Jewish.
“A woman called me and said, ‘I’m not going to tell you who I am, but can you just channel for me and don’t censor anything,’” Kapp said. She’s used to this. A friend who is a casting director suggested Kapp offer her services to more than family and friends, and now a good portion of her client list consists of celebrities. She channelled the client’s mother, “a lovely woman who swore like a sailor” and had a successful session.
“At the end she says, ‘I need to tell you why I didn’t give you my name,’ and I assumed she was famous, because that happens. And she says, ‘I’m a nun and I’m not supposed to do this. Please don’t tell anybody.’”
Evidently the nun was less principled in her secrecy. More nuns started calling Kapp, who estimates that at least half of her clients are Catholic.
While Judaism has its own mystic tradition, Kapp was initially leery of communicating with the dead for others because parts of the Bible forbid it. Many years back, Wiesel offered her assurances that those particular passages only mean not to use one’s gifts for personal gain. But Kapp recently allowed herself to explore another function of her abilities: Using her channelling to help heal herself.
Several years ago Kapp received a bleak cancer diagnosis. She’s now cancer free, and credits doctors — Albert Einstein among them. In a Philip Glassian turn, he helped her on the beach.
Kapp says that some time after Einstein and his daughter first appeared in her living room, he told her to go to the ocean, where he asked her to focus on the waves as they expanded and contracted.
“Let your cellular structure expand along with your breath and the ocean’s waves,” Kapp quotes Einstein as saying in her book, “In that expanded state, let the cancer cells go.” After this encounter, Kapp says the cancer retreated from her lymph nodes.
But while Kapp channels some recognizable names, and told me during our conversation that many children were chiming in to tell her what to say, she insists she isn’t special. Anyone can do what she does. Especially now.
“It’s an unprecedented time,” Kapp said, referring to the global health pandemic. “It’s never happened in our written history that all around the world people are looking up and, whether they believe or not, asking why and begging God what’s going on. They’ve had someone pass that they couldn’t comfort and be with for their process of passing.”
With so many people appealing to God, she tells me, the division between the realms of the physical and the spiritual is thin. We’re all vibrating at a higher frequency, one that comes closer to the vibrations of those who have passed on and leaving us receptive to their presence.
“Because of our collective and global need it’s easier than it’s ever been,” she said. “The spirit world is closer to us because of our need. Now is really the time to look up and ask and communicate if somebody wants to.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.