The following article was written by Maurice Barbanell and is a chapter from his book ‘They Shall be Comforted’ which was published in 1936. It is based on the teachings of his guide Silver Birch and is the best explanation of life in the spirit world that I have come across. I am sharing it here in the hope that it will help all those who have lost loved ones and help allay any fears of passing. Some of the language is a bit dated but the underlying concepts are very valuable.
Now let me tell you something about life in the spirit world.
One day after “death” you will be the same individual as you were one day before it, except that you will have discarded your physical body. You will express yourself through your etheric body, which is a replica of the physical one. It does not, however, reproduce any of its imperfections. All diseases and infirmities will be left behind. The deaf will hear. The dumb will speak. The blind will see. The cripple will be a cripple no longer.
You must try and understand that life in the spirit world is not dreamy or nebulous. It is full of activity. It is just as real as the life that each one of us lives here.
We are accustomed to think of the material world as being real and solid, although actually this is not so, as the science of physics proves. The things of the mind, or the spirit, seem to us shadowy and vague, but to those who live on the Other Side, the mental is the real and the physical is the shadow.
This doubtless will be hard for you to grasp, but you will find a perfect analogy if you think of your dreams. When you dream, all the things that you encounter are real at the time of their happening. They only become dreams when you wake up. If you never woke up, and dreaming was the perpetual state of your existence, then that state would become your reality.
The spirit world is round and about us. Some people see it and hear it, because they can tune in to its vibrations. It is not situated in some far-off continent. It is a part of the universe, blending and intermingling with the physical world.
You must dismiss from your mind the old-fashioned theological idea that, after “death,” there is an undisturbed eternal sleep. There may be, at first, a short time of rest to enable the newly-arrived spirit to adjust himself to his new life. This usually takes a little time. Then he meets those who have preceded him. Families are re-united. Old associations are re-established. Friendships are renewed.
I know the question you will ask is, “How will I be able to recognise those who have gone before?” This is not a real difficulty. They will know you, having watched over you and kept in constant touch with you. Then, because the spirit world is a place where thought is the reality, they will be able to show themselves to you as you knew them.
There is, however, one great factor always operating in the spirit world – the unalterable law of attraction. Only those of like spiritual qualities can meet on the same plane in the new life. The husband and wife, who were only held together on earth by a legal tie, and between whom no real love existed, will not be together in spirit life.
Sometimes, people are puzzled because they learn that there are houses on the Other Side. You must remember, though, these are not houses made of bricks and mortar, but constructed out of thought. This applies also to the clothing that is worn. The instinct to clothe oneself is deeply rooted and has become habitual. No one would dream of walking through the streets unclothed. This habit is part of our mental make-up. That is why it persists on the Other Side where mental states are the reality.
“What about food?” you may ask. “Do they eat?” As long as there is a desire for food, this mental desire is mentally satisfied. As long as the individual craves for food and drink, he can obtain the illusion of what he requires – and it satisfies him. This is the origin of the famous “whisky and cigars”, referred to by Raymond, the “dead” son of Sir Oliver Lodge. You may call this material if you like, but it is far more sane and logical than pearly gates and golden harps!
In the spirit world, there are no language difficulties. All people of all nations speak the same language – thought. There are no words to be mouthed, for ideas are conveyed telepathically, from one person to another. Words, after all, are but clumsy substitutes for thoughts. They are the artificial means by which we communicate our ideas to one another. But words can never adequately express the thoughts one is trying to convey.
One day, when the human race has evolved, language will be abolished. We will have learnt how to send our ideas to each other telepathically. Then, many of our international difficulties will disappear.
In the spirit world, each person’s thoughts are known and cannot be hidden. There can be no deception of pretence. Every individual is known for what he is. He cannot deceive anybody, for lying is impossible.
“What about age?” you may ask. “What happens to old people who pass on?” Physical age and mental growth do not proceed at the same rate. We rashly judge a man’s mentality by the age of his physical body here. On the Other Side of life, it is the mind which survives, and mental growth consists of progress towards maturity. Little children will grow older. The old people grow younger in spirit.
What work do they do? Each person seeks to express his natural bent. In this earthly life of ours, there are thousands of singers who have never sung; actors who have never acted; painters who have never painted; poets who have never written a line of poetry; musicians who have never composed a note of music. All these talents have never had an opportunity of being expressed, because, through economic circumstances usually, the owners had to follow some other occupation to secure their bread and butter.
On the Other Side, they can express their talents. There are no square pegs in round holes in that world. For them, life is one continuous road of progress, each person striving to eliminate the dross from his nature and perfecting his own being. In that striving for perfection, there is no limit. It goes on for eternity.
The spirit world will not be so unfamiliar as we think because most of us visit it in our sleep state. Unfortunately, few of us remember what transpires. When, however, we pass on, the law of association of ideas will recall our nocturnal experiences.
Of course, it takes some time for the newly arrived spirit to acclimatise himself to the conditions of life on the Other Side. This process of awakening differs according to the knowledge of spirit life that the “dead” man had before his passing. The more ignorant he was, the longer it will take him to familiarise himself with his new conditions.
Then, too, those who were trained in very orthodox ideas, with rigid conceptions of after-“death” states, experience a great difficulty, because the next stage of life being a mental one, they live in the mental world they have created, until they have evolved sufficiently to dispel this illusion.
When we pass on, we do not enter Heaven through “pearly gates”, neither do we descend to Hell through lakes of “fire and brimstone”. Nor do we sleep for ever.
Each one of us naturally gravitates to the spiritual sphere for which we are fitted, according to the life we have lived and the character we have evolved here. We cannot occupy a higher sphere than the spiritual status we have reached, nor will we desire to occupy a lower one. Automatically, we shall go just to that plane of spirit life for which we are fitted. We shall not be able to pretend that we are better or worse, for stripped of our physical body, we shall be revealed and known for what we are.
People who have lived normal lives will not find anything to disappoint them when they arrive in the spirit world. It is the selfish man who has to face great difficulties, due to this earthly habits which act as a barrier to be overcome by progress before he is fitted to associate with those he loves. If, by virtue of life he has lived upon earth, he has cut himself off from those who love him, that will be his hell.
What is heaven? It is the reward of a life wisely spent on earth, for it will mean that automatically we reach those we love. To the Spiritualist, heaven and hell are mental states. Of course, those who dwell on a higher plane can, if they so desire, visit spirits on relatively lower spheres. This they often do. But it is impossible for those on lower planes to visit those on higher.
In many cases, those who “die” go through a difficult period of stress, due to the fact they cannot reach the ones they love on earth. When they have awakened to an understanding of their new life, they naturally return to their loved ones to try to tell them of their survival. They find it hard to understand that while they can see the earthly members of their families, the bereaved are unable to sense the presence of those for whom they are mourning. This is a very poignant sorrow that thousands of spirits experience. They do all they can to attract the attention of earthly friends, but too often they fail, and have to leave them disconsolate.
Then they try to communicate at seances in the hope of sending a message to the ones who are grieving over them. Sooner or later, they become reconciled to the fact that, although they can see their loves ones, they cannot make their presence felt. Usually the position is explained to them by teachers on the Other Side who do all they can to help them.
According to the knowledge that we have received, it is fairly easy for spirits to know our mental lives and to read our thoughts, for they are living in a mental world. To them, the things of the mind are real. Material objects present no difficulty to them. They can pass through walls with ease. There are laws which they have to master to enable them to get into our environment, but they are not permitted to engage in promiscuous curiosity.
You can easily realise from all this what a great moral force Spiritualism is to people who understand its implications. When you realise that our minds are an open book to those who live on the Other Side, you can see how we often distress them by our thoughts and by actions of meanness and selfishness. After all, when you know that every unkind thing you do distresses your loved ones who have passed on, it should, if you are wise, enable you to strengthen your character.
By some law which we do not understand, those on the Other Side know a little beforehand when somebody is going to pass from this world. They make the necessary preparations to greet them and to help them with their passing. This explains the fact that on hundreds of occasions people before they “die” have named “dead” relatives they said they could see in the room. Sometimes these spirit relatives have been seen by those in attendance on the “dying” person.
Clairvoyants who have witnessed the “death” of an individual tell us that they see a replica of the physical body gradually rise, connected for a while by a thread (it is what the Bible describes as the “silver cord”) which is attached to a vicinity near the brain. When the thread is snapped, “death” takes place. This etheric body is then seen to rise upwards until it disappears from view.
The one thing that brings the greatest sorrow to those who have passed on is our excessive grief. This, curiously enough, acts as a deterrent to their getting close to us. They do not like the constant visits to the graveyard as they know they are not there. Most Spiritualists make a habit of placing flowers near the photograph of the one who has passed on, particularly remembering anniversaries. This serves to perpetuate the idea that the spirit is constantly in the home.
Spiritualists, too, indulge in the habit of mentally communing with those who have passed on, by sending them messages, treating them as if they were actually present in the room. I know that these messages are received for, again and again, I have heard a spirit return thanks for this communion and give evidence that he has received it by repeating to the medium some of the ideas expressed.
You will realise from all this that when the spirit has accustomed himself to his new life, he soon fits himself into his place and learns to use his talents.
Spirit life is not a state of vagueness or eternal sleep, but one of activity and labour. Idleness and unemployment do not exist there. There is plenty for all to do, although I know it is difficult for us who are immersed in material affairs to appreciate the activities of the spiritual world. Apart from labour, there is opportunity for recreation and enjoyment. There are means of education and instruction in all branches of life – in just that particular form of knowledge which the spirit desires.
Of course, many of them are engaged on tasks which mean co-operation with people in this world. Some of them are hard at work helping to make communication between the two worlds easier. Others, attracted by people in our world who are following similar lines of research, industry, art or reform, naturally return to inspire those efforts, although often people in this world are unconscious of spirit interest.
You can more easily understand this when you recognise that all inspiration is dependent upon the individual receiving aid from influences outside himself. Sometimes, these people have recognised that the inspiration comes from the spirit world. At other times, they have senses an outside influence although they were not conscious of its origin. You can easily see what a vast field of activity this is for denizens of the spirit world, and how this world has been aided again and again.
Source: They Shall Be Comforted by Maurice Barbanell and Silver Birch published in 1936
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