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  Gone West: Three Narratives of After-Death Experiences
J. S. M. Ward

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John Sebastian Marlow Ward, also known as J. S. M., had a vision early in December 1913 in which he learned of the death of his father-in-law, H. J. L. The vision began with a message that he had died suddenly and went on to show his funeral where Ward and his wife Carrie were present.

On January 5th (H. J. L.’s birthday), Ward and Carrie received a telegram to say H. J. L. had suddenly died.

That same night H.J.L. came to Ward in a dream and said, “I have been trying to speak to Carrie, but can’t, so I have come to you. Tell her I am alive, more alive than before I died; that I am mentally clearer than I was for some time before I died”.

This was the beginning of a series of messages from the afterlife from H. J. L. and other communicators who explained the conditions from their different perspectives in the astral plane, the spirit plane, and Hell, also referred to as the Realm of Unbelief.

Gone West is a reminder to us all that the adage ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ is a law that can never be avoided, and the experiences of the communicators demonstrate that hellish states that await some of us when we physically die.

“As to Purgatory, it corresponds roughly to where we all are now. Only it’s more a place of learning than of punishment. Still, we are punished, because I can’t help regretting the time I wasted on earth…” — H. J. L.

About the author

John Sebastian Marlow Ward (22 December 1885 – 1949) was an English author who published widely on the subject of Freemasonry and esotericism. He was also the leader of a Christian sect, and the founder of the Abbey Folk Park, the earliest example of a folk park in Britain.

He was born in what is now Belize. In 1908 he graduated from the University of Cambridge with honours in history, following in the footsteps of his father, Herbert Ward. who had also studied in history before entering the priesthood in the Anglican Church, as his father had done before him.

John Ward became a prolific and sometimes controversial writer on a wide variety of topics. He made contributions to the history of Freemasonry and other secret societies. He was also a psychic medium or spiritualist, a prominent churchman and is still seen by some as a mystic and modern-day prophet.


Sample chapter


The manner in which these communications came to be received is plainly set forth in the book itself. They were due to the desire of H. J. L. to convey to me an account of life beyond the grave. He discovered that I was mediumistic — a fact of which I was unaware, although I have for many years been keenly interested in the occult. The methods employed in conveying the information contained in this book were twofold:

1. Visions. The first of these was prophetic, and foretold H. J. L.’s death. The first one after his death was very vivid, though at first I thought it was a dream, but nevertheless wrote it down. As the visions continued regularly once a week on the day of the week on which H. J. L. died (Monday), I was compelled to alter my views. In particular I noticed four chief differences:

(a) They were coherent throughout. One of the most unsatisfactory features of dreams is the incoherency. Scenes shift from place to place without any regular sequence. People do things they would never do on earth, and the characters change before our eyes.
These visions were real through and through, coherent and logical in their development and, moreover, took up the narrative where it left of the week before.

(b) A normal dream fades almost at once, and it is rarely the case that it can be remembered in its entirety a few hours later.
The visions remained firmly impressed upon my mind until they were written down, which sometimes took a couple of days. Once they were written down they would tend to merge into the general body of remembrances which every mortal carries in his brain.

(c) The information was not due to the conscious or subconscious mind, for much of it was in violent opposition to my preconceived ideas on the subject, and it was some time before I would accept them, though I do so now completely.

(d) These visions contained verifiable facts entirely unknown to me, which nevertheless proved to be true on investigation. Some of these facts were of a personal and private character, known only to the dead man and one living person, and the latter admitted their truth.

Further, there were certain references which, to the writer, were unintelligible, but were recognized by the living person to whom they were related (as requested).

2. The other communications were obtained by automatic writing. With the exception of the first two or three, I was in complete trance, and was quite ignorant of what was written until I became normal again. The possibility of their being the product of my conscious mind is thus eliminated. With regard to the subconscious self, I would like to take this opportunity of protesting that while I am prepared to admit that such a thing does exist, I nevertheless hold that in most cases the word is a bogey set up by scientists to explain phenomena which they are unable to explain by the ordinary material laws, and which they are unwilling to ascribe to spirit influences. Yet, accepting the subconscious self at its highest valuation, it will not explain the presence of information which was quite unknown to me, and which, on its being investigated by others, proved to be correct. As an example of this, but not the only example, the following may be noted as given by J. B. P.

I am only going to give you the name of a friend I met in this city. He is a Baptist, not a Congregationalist. His name is Richard Gresham Barker, born Oct. 20th, 1807, was Sheriff of Nottingham and a colliery manager at Babbington, near Notts. He died June 21st, 1892. His brother John was twice Mayor of Nottingham.

It was only after considerable search that Mr. K. was able to prove these facts to be correct, even to the minutest detail.

But without devoting more space to these problems, for those who desire verifiable evidence may obtain it from any ordinary spiritualist society, let us turn to consider the matter given in these pages.

The original plan of the work as arranged by H. J. L. was as follows:

The Astral plane.

(a) As seen by a bad man, viz. The Officer.

(b) As seen by an average man of the world, viz. W. A. The Spirit plane, divided into:

(1) Hell, or the Realm of Unbelief, related by The Officer.

(2) The Realm of Half-Belief, related by H. J. L.

(3) The Realm of Belief lacking in Works, related by J. B.P.

(4) The Realm of Belief shown forth in Works, related by The Monk.

Owing to the enhanced cost of production due to the war, it was found necessary to reduce the book to a manageable size. To do this we were reluctantly compelled to publish only The Astral Plane, Hell, and the Realm of Half-Belief. As these are set forth in full, it will not be necessary to deal with them here, but a few words may be devoted to the two higher realms.

The Realm of Belief lacking in Works, as depicted by J. B. P., is much brighter than the Realm of Half-Belief, the light being as the light in England at about 8 a.m. on a summer’s day.

To this realm go all those whose faith was strong, but narrow and rather bigoted, and who failed, as many do, to act up fully to their beliefs. In the lowest division of this realm the spirits are still strong believers in their own particular sect, and there is a marked tendency for them to remain there segregated into narrow communities. Their principal failings are self-complacency and an unwillingness to make any effort to progress higher, being often well satisfied with their surroundings.

In the next division the smaller differences between the sects tend to disappear, and a few broad communities take the place of the numerous narrow religions from which the individual spirits have risen.

Those who have come up from the Realm of Half-Belief, like J. B. P., do not drift into the narrow sects of the lowest division. They arrive freed of preconceived prejudices, and devote considerable attention to the study of the various faiths they find there, and endeavor to draw from each the vital truths which are enshrined in them.

Some of the most interesting revelations J. B. P. made were that the Gods exist, or, at any rate, the forms of the Gods, and condescend to answer the prayers of their worshippers. In particular, he describes a service in a great Egyptian temple at which Osiris appeared. Similarly, he has visited a Hindu temple, where Kartikeya, the God of War, presided.

He also gave a most striking account of a library in the Realm of Belief. “These libraries are on so vast a scale that they look almost like cities; there are many of them, of course, but each is divided into three sections. The first contains the forms of books which have ceased to exist. I mean by this, the actual volumes themselves. Of course all books do not come to us, many go to Hell”

“The second section is very different, for in it the books are not the forms of books made on earth but those created here. The best way in which I can describe them is to compare them with picture books. In short, they contain ideas in picture form, and can be read by us just as the thought-pictures of our friends can be understood by us…. Few books are written for the first time over here in script….”

“The third type are difficult to describe as books at all, for the picture idea has been carried out to its logical conclusion. The nearest thing to it on earth is the modern picture-palace. Imagine a large room; at one end is a kind of stage, on which perform what at first sight appear to be real men and women. These are thought-forms, strongly visualized by the committee of scholars in charge of the room…. Thus an episode in History will be enacted in all its detail before our eyes.”

His description should be compared with the account by “The Officer” of a library in Hell.

The Realm of Belief shown forth in Works is seldom attained immediately after death. Thus to reach it a man must have been not only endowed with a strong faith, but must have risen above any narrowness of spirit, and, moreover, have lived a life full of love of his fellow men. His faith must have been shown forth in good works. Indeed, those who so attain it may well be considered to have been saints on earth.

To this realm the spirits after death rise, but often by slow degrees, and once there, must remain a very considerable period. The light there is as the tropical sun at midday, and less advanced spirits would be unable to bear it.

The development of the various religious beliefs towards unity is set forth plainly in the plan contained in this work, but it should be borne in mind that this unity is attained not by watering down all faiths to one nebulous creed, but by the absorption into one community of all the facets of truth which each faith held, while what is false is shed.

The spirits in this plane devote themselves very largely to helping their fellow-men, especially in Hell, and continuously journey down to that place to save those who are in bondage.

The monk Ambrose, who died in the fourteenth century, devoted most of his life to this work, and at length obtained his desire, and passed through the “Wall of Fire “ and was lost to us. Animal lovers will be glad to know that his faithful dog followed him through the “Wall of Fire.” With him passed also the spirit of a woman whom he had always loved, but being a monk could never marry on earth.

They passed through the “Wall of Fire,” or light, as it was described, to the mystic union of soul with soul, which it is understood takes place in the regions which lie beyond the “Wall of Fire.”

What is this great “Wall of Fire” which cuts off the Sixth or Spirit Plane from that which lies beyond?

I am unable to answer this question. By some of the spirits it is called “The Second Death,” although this phrase is also employed to describe the transference from the Astral to the Spirit Plane.

We are told that some of the spirits fear it as men fear mortal death, but whereas death comes whether we wish it or not in its due course, this Second Death takes place only when the spirit is ready and anxious to pass on.

It appears to affect the form, which seems to pass more completely under the control of the entity, but the entity itself is not destroyed. This was made clear by an angelic form who guarded the entrance leading from the Realm of Belief lacking in Works to the Highest Realm. For when J. B. P. questioned him on this point he informed him that he had passed through the “ Wall of Fire “ long before, and had now returned to labor on the Sixth Plane, adding, “... but on this plane forms are needed, and therefore we assume one. This is not my original form — it is not the form of an earthly man, but that of an angel. I create it by willing so to do.

As I think myself, so I assume a form. If I desired I could assume the form of an animal or of a flame. Behold.”

J. B. P. “Before my eyes he took the form of a great flame.

“‘The pillar of fire!’ I cried. As I spoke he seemed to change at once, and became like a cloud. Then the cloud became all light, and once more I saw him in his angel shape.

“‘Cannot the evil spirits also do this,’ I inquired.”

“‘The Officer has described something similar. Those spirits whom you call devils can, but I may allow you to probe no deeper into these mysteries as yet.’ he replied.”

This Angelic Being, while refusing to give any details of what lay beyond the Wall, yet stated emphatically that the personal entity was not destroyed, though the form was affected.

Beyond this I have been unable to obtain any information. The spirits on the Sixth Plane do not know, and the guardian spirits who come thither from the higher planes refuse to speak.

Some people believe that on passing the “Wall of Fire,” the spirit returns to earth in a fresh incarnation, hut while this is probably the case with some, I am doubtful whether it covers all. We are informed that there are seven planes in all.

This work deals with the two lowest only, and since these Higher Planes must be peopled, it appears more likely that the most exalted spirits rise higher and higher without the need of reincarnation, whereas more lowly spirits need to return to earth to develop certain characteristics.

As to the difficulty of obtaining information from these higher planes, it seems probable that if received it would be so far above the heads of us mortals that we should be unable to comprehend it.

Even the highest realm of the Spirit Plane is so exalted that the monk declared that much of the information he could give would be beyond us on earth, and therefore devoted most of his narrative to accounts of his missionary work in Hell.

I am still continuing my investigations into life beyond the grave, and if this book should prove acceptable, hope at no distant date to publish a second volume containing an account of the two remaining realms, and a more detailed description of life on the Astral Plane.

Since the death of my brother in the trenches of Flanders, I have devoted most of my attention to conditions on that plane, and especially to the spirits of those who have died in battle. Their state is somewhat abnormal, and indeed the whole Astral Plane is greatly disturbed. My brother is now engaged in making a survey, as it were, of that plane, and is being assisted in his task by H. J. L.

If any reader has a question on life beyond the grave to which he desires an answer, I would endeavor to obtain it, but wish it to be plainly understood that I do not mean thereby that I will endeavor to trace any particular persons, nor to obtain messages from them. To do so is not my object. As an example of what is required, I was asked to make inquiries as to the fate of animals after death — and the result is seen in this book.

As to what opinion the reader will form of the present work I know not, but, for myself, I have been profoundly impressed with the reality and the reasonableness of what I have seen and what the spirits have related of Life beyond the Grave.

J. S. M. WARD.

P.S. — Exception may be taken to the publication of the Officer’s narrative, on the grounds that it is so gruesome that its appearance will serve no useful purpose but my justification is (a) that the communicating entities desired its inclusion; (b) that on the astral plane there are grave dangers of which it is important that newcomers should be warned; and (c), that the Officer is now helping those who are passing on to the astral plane from the Great War.

Publisher: White Crow Books
Published October 2015
338 pages
Size: 229 x 152 mm
ISBN 978-1-910121-59-7
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