It is hard to know what to expect when you meet a spiritual healer. I envisaged rainbow-coloured robes and an odd hat. Suffice to say: someone a bit batty. So I was taken aback by the normal, affable-looking man in chinos and a blazer who greeted me at High Barnet tube station.
While I was surprised by his unremarkable appearance, it will be a matter of even greater astonishment for many in the community to learn that long-time communal volunteer and former Board of Deputies vice-president Aubrey Rose was the spiritual healer in question.
And everything is completely normal at Rose's spacious, light-filled home in Hadley Wood. He prepares tea and sets out a plate of cakes and biscuits. Despite his 89 years, Rose is sprightly and runs up and down the stairs, cheerfully fetching various books and documents for me to look at.
He has led an extremely full life. He was a senior partner in a London solicitors' practice for 25 years and worked on numerous human- rights cases. He was a founder member of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, and his accolades include a CBE from the British government and an OBE from the Barbados government.
On top of a busy professional life, London-born Rose contributed a huge amount of time to the community, working on the Board of Deputies and leading study tours in Israel.
It was this same retired lawyer and community volunteer who, in December, published a book called Beyond The Rainbow, a spiritual autobiography. Once again, it does not all seem to add up. But, as is perhaps the case for many, Rose's interest in the spiritual world was born out of a traumatic experience.
Rose has two adult children, and two grandchildren, but his third child, David, became ill with cancer and died aged 21 in 1978. "I moved heaven and earth to try and solve the problem of overcoming the cancer," recalls Rose.
"The medical world had no answer to the problem and so I sought advice and expertise in that spiritual world."
At the height of David's illness in 1977, Rose took him to visit healers from the National Federation of Spiritual Healers in London. One healer advised Rose to put his hands on David's back and this seemed to give him some relief from the pain, he says.
Rose says his first successful attempt at healing someone was a legal client, a Mayfair hairdresser, who had a problem with his hands that meant he could no longer hold his scissors. "I was very sorry for him and I just ran my hands over his hands and said I'm sure something will happen and you'll get better. The following day, I got a very excited telephone call, 'Aubrey, what did you do?' 'Why?' 'My hand is normal'," recounts Rose. After this incident, Rose says he went to the College of Psychic Studies where he began to research the subject. A healer at the college told him he was a natural.
From there, it spiralled and, throughout the 1980s, Rose would treat people secretly in his law office.
"What ensued was a number of people, clients, coming to my office, ostensibly on legal matters but mainly to get better from some illness or some difficulty. I kept the door closed. My partners had no knowledge of this," says Rose. "To my amazement, I was helping all kinds of people with all kinds of illnesses, bad necks, bad shoulders, wrists, all kinds of things, and they were all getting better."
In many of the cases Rose says his patients described a kind of heat emanating from his hands. He claims he even managed to help a friend 5,000 miles away in Sri Lanka who had a frozen shoulder, explaining it was not always necessary to physically touch the patient. "You concentrate on the person, you concentrate on the healing process, and you heal by your thought and your mind. You heal by thought and by colour. I regard certain colours as having a healing quality. You will find that many hospital wards are painted light blue because that is a calming colour. I use white, gold and rose."
Spiritual healing is not something you hear a lot about in your local United Synagogue and I ask Rose, who attends alternately the US shul Hadley Wood and the Reform community at Alyth Gardens, how he reconciles his belief in healing with his Jewish faith.
Rose says: "It is very much part of the Jewish tradition. We talk about Refuah Shlema [a prayer for speedy recovery] time and time again, of helping people, of healing people. We have the examples in the books of Elijah of healing people."
It is a point worth considering. The Refuah Shlema is recited regularly in shul, but is putting your faith in prayer any more rational than doing so with a healer? Rose credits his Polish émigré parents and Jewish upbringing for instilling in him his values of hard work and high moral standards. He says: "I was always guided by what my mother taught me as a young boy. She said: 'Aubrey there is nobody superior to you and nobody is inferior to you' and that has guided my life."
Rose says he wanted to become a lawyer because "Professions seemed to give security". Having never gone to university, he worked his way up beginning as an articled clerk in the City where he earned £1 per day. His desire to heal people was reflected in his work style. "I was often the despair of my partners. They were very efficient, I was more concerned with people. When a person came to see me, I always went out myself, I never said 'send the person in'. And I used to sit with the person rather than opposite the person at a desk."
Rose's foray into the spiritual world was not limited to healing. When David died, he also sought out mediums in an attempt to reach his son, and claims he heard his son speak on several occasions. To realise that a son of that quality and so loved continued was an enormous help," he says. "I believe people die physically and continue spiritually and go to a level based on their behaviour in this world and their motives - in fact, that is good Jewish teaching."
He describes his late wife Sheila as "loving and practical", and someone who "bravely put up with all my enthusiasms including healing and mediumship." Rose says Sheila was doubtful at first, but when he brought her with him to visit the medium, she was "quite amazed" by what happened.
While he may have convinced his wife, I ask what he would say to the many people who are dubious about the spiritual world.
His response is indicative of his legal career. "The more doubts the better. Really examine the evidence. My life has been based on evidence and you should examine the evidence," says Rose.
It is a level-headed response, and the former solicitor puts forward a good case. While I remain unconvinced, it is clear that Rose's spiritual beliefs have brought him comfort during distressing times. When he shows me a colourful tapestry, made by his wife, and based on a painting David did during his final months, he is serene.
Today Rose fills his days with writing books, walking and singing in a choir. He has not seen a medium in several years. "There's nobody I'm trying to contact at the moment," he explains. Then he smiles sunnily at me and adds, "Because I'm quite sure all is well with them."