Milking the Muse in This World and the Next
Michael Whiteman, mathematician, musician and mystic, turned 100 last week, but is far too busy with his music and his writing to think of dying.
"I feel I still have a tremendous amount of work to do," said this remarkable Bergvliet centenarian who, until a nasty fall the day before his 99th birthday, was driving his own a car (albeit with some anxiety from his daughter Sibyl) and reading the telephone directory without the benefit of spectacles.
"By the end of this year, six of my books will be published - I've already proof-read my latest book, Universal Theology, or Life in Other Worlds, which should be out before my birthday. (To be published by Colin Smythe.) My last book The Dynamics of Spiritual Development was more than 600 pages long.
"I've only published about 300 of my 7 000 out-of-body experiences and I've not yet published the thesis for my doctorate in mathematics."
His reference to "out-of-body experiences" explains his enigmatic answer to my first question when I asked him how old he actually felt.
"It depends on what state I'm in," he replied, in his crisp and somewhat clipped English voice, often breaking into a little laugh.
"If I'm in the ordinary state in the world, I suppose I feel about 40. Even younger. But out-of-the-body it is something quite different.
"I've diarised, graded and classified my 7 000 out-of-body experiences. They vary enormously. From a few seconds to one which lasted almost a whole day. They also take different forms.
"I've been blessed with precognition - which is seeing the future before it happens physically and retrocognition, where I live through scenes of the past. They've gone right back to 3 500 years.
"I have contact with lots of people in England and America who are very supportive and recognise these out-of-body experiences do exist."
That Professor Michael Whiteman should turn out to be an extraordinarily gifted man is no surprise.
Born in London in 1906, the youngest of four children, he grew up with an exceptionally talented father. Frederick Carl Whiteman owned a publishing house, was for a time the editor of the London Daily Sketch as well as a theatrical impresario and dramatic critic, using his stage name, Sydney Carroll.
He also founded the popular Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, where, as an extra feather in his already plumed cap, he discovered the actress Vivienne Leigh.
The brains of his son Michael Whiteman came to the fore at Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained an MA in mathematics and was a top wrangler, obtaining first class in the maths tripos.
A spell working for his father's publishing business ended when he was appointed scholastic head of Stafford's schools, where he met the love of his life - Sona Eavestaff.
She was his devoted wife for many years as well as his piano partner at concerts and an outstanding piano teacher.
Since her death in 1982, Whiteman has lived alone in his double-storey house without a house-keeper or daily help. He cooks simple meals for himself and has a domestic helper once a fortnight. He eats now and then with his daughter (also an accomplished musician) and her husband Alan Morris, who live just a block away.
We're chatting in his sitting room, which is graced with two grand pianos where Michael and Sona played together, and Michael accompanied his wife's students in concerto performances. …