BACK IN PRINT: VINTAGE EDITION
Continuing on from his books After Death: Letter from Julia and The Blue Island, pioneering journalist, William Thomas Stead, who in 1912 went down on the Titanic, communicated additional advice and information from the spheres beyond our physical existence, or what some call, the afterlife.
Following more than twenty years of communication, directly and via mediums Hester Dowden and Geraldine Cummins, Stead’s daughter, Estelle, published Life Eternal in 1933.
In this book, Stead expands on and clarifies “The Blue Island,” the illusory state, he and other passengers and crew on the Titanic found themselves after their physical deaths. He describes that time as “a period following a shattering shock, and a great and sudden change.”
He goes on to say:
“As a matter of fact a “cure” was being accomplished, and … we awoke, rubbed our eyes, and found ourselves in a world not so unlike your own: a world in which we all felt awkward and strange at first. Then we knew that The Blue Island was a dream common to all of us, and that now we should go on our separate ways, and begin our new life.”
Stead discusses a broad range of subjects including the so-called spheres of existence, reincarnation, children in the afterlife, good and evil, the method and challenge of communication between the spheres and much, much more.
Comparing the physical world to where he now resided he remarked, “Your Earth is like the sediment at the bottom of a vessel, the higher you go, the clearer the fluid becomes.”
About the author
Stead, William Thomas (Embleton, Northumberland, July 5, 1849 - Titanic, 1912)
Known to the general public primarily as a dedicated journalist, author, social reformer, and pacifist, William Thomas Stead was on his way to New York to give a speech on world peace at Carnegie Hall when he became a victim of the Titanic.
Stead is remembered in psychic circles as the founder of Borderland, a quarterly journal devoted to psychical subjects, and as founder of Julia’s Bureau, a psychic bureau intended to demonstrate the reality of survival after death as well as to assist in a spiritual revival. In 1891-92, stories from Borderland were compiled into two separate volumes – Real Ghost Stories and More Ghost Stories, and in 1897 they were published under one title, Real Ghost Stories. These true cases of apparitions, hauntings, astral projection, clairvoyance, and premonitions, collected by Stead, have since become a classic under the title Borderland. Stead was also an automatic writing medium when alive and a frequent spirit communicator after his death.
Born on July 5, 1849, at Embleton, Northumberland, England, Stead was first educated by his father, a Congregationalist minister, and later attended Silcoates School, Wakefield. In 1863, he became an office boy in a merchant’s countinghouse in Newcastle-on-Tyne. The poems of James Russell Lowell played an important part in shaping his life’s work, which, he decided, around age 18, was to help other people.
Stead’s career as a journalist and author began during the 1860’s when he became a reporter for a newspaper called the Northern Echo, advancing to editor in 1871. In 1880, he accepted a position as assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, then became its editor in 1883. In 1890, he founded the Review of Reviews. According to Leslie Shepard, who wrote the Introduction to the New American Edition of Borderland, published in 1970, Stead is credited with inventing the “New Journalism,” bringing important topics in bright, colorful prose to the man in the street. Shepard states that he introduced the interview technique to British journalism and was a pioneer of cheap reprints for mass sale in the form of penny pamphlets.
In a story written by B. O. Flower, the editor of Arena, a popular American publication, Stead is referred to as a cosmopolitan journalist “with a rare blending of intellectual force with moral conviction, idealism with utilitarianism, a virile imagination, and a common sense practicality that strove to make the vision a useful reality.”
One survivor of the Titanic reported seeing Stead calmly sitting in the smoking room reading his Bible as other passengers scurried to the decks and the lifeboats. Another survivor recalled seeing Stead calmly holding back men who were attempting to board the lifeboats with the women and children. Stead was also remembered for having frequently discussed spiritual matters during meals on the Titanic. In one of his many stories, From the Old World to the New, a novel published in 1892, Stead described the sinking of a ship called the Majestic in the North Atlantic from hitting an iceberg. The name of the ship’s captain was Edward J. Smith, the same name of the captain of the Titanic. In an 1886 story for The Pall Mall Gazette, Stead wrote about the sinking of an ocean liner and how lives were lost because there were too few lifeboats. Whether these two separate stories were precognition on Stead’s part or merely coincidence is not known, but Stead apparently did not foresee the tragedy when he booked passage on the Titanic.
In 1909, three years before his death, he published After Death: Letters from Julia, a series of messages purportedly coming to Stead from Julia T. Ames, an American newspaperwoman, for her friend Ellen, during 1892-93. Stead had met both women on his travels, and several months after Julia’s death, Ellen told Stead about seeing apparitions of Julia in her bedroom. Having recently discovered that he had the gift of automatic writing, Stead told Ellen that he would see if she could communicate through him. “Sitting alone with a tranquil mind, I consciously placed my right hand, with the pen held in the ordinary way, at the disposal of Julia, and watched with keen and skeptical interest to see what it would write,” Stead explained in the book’s Introduction. Julia’s Bureau was formed that same year.
Hester Travers Smith, a Dublin medium, recalled a sitting, on April 15, 1912, when she and a “Miss D.” received a very rapid message stating: “Ship sinking; all hands lost. William East overboard. Women and children weeping and wailing – sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.” They had no idea what the message meant and no more came through at that sitting. Later that day they heard that the Titanic had sunk. As a spirit claiming to be Stead communicated at subsequent sittings, Travers Smith concluded that because of the rapidity of the message they got the last name wrong the first time.
According to Rev. Charles L. Tweedale, the Church of England vicar of Weston, Stead appeared at a sitting given by Etta Wriedt in New York on April 17. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician who created Sherlock Holmes, called Wriedt the best direct-voice medium in the world and the plan was for Stead to accompany Wriedt back to England on his return voyage so that she could demonstrate her gift there. Wriedt made the trip without Stead and gave a sitting on May 6 in Wimbledon. In attendance were Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore and Estelle Stead, Stead’s daughter. Moore reported that Stead talked with his daughter for at least 40 minutes. He described it as the most painful but most realistic and convincing conversation he had heard during his investigations of mediumship.
General Sir Alfred E. Turner reported that he held a small and private sitting at his home with Mrs. Wriedt. “We had hardly commenced when a voice, which apparently came from behind my right shoulder, exclaimed: ‘I am so happy to be with you again,’ Turner reported. “The voice was unmistakably that of Stead, who immediately began to tell us the events of the dire moments when the leviathan settled down. There was a short, sharp struggle to gain his breath and immediately afterwards he came to his senses in another stage of existence.” At a later sitting with Wriedt, Turner saw Stead materialize, wearing his usual attire.
Tweedale also recorded that Stead was seen and heard on July 17, 1912 at the home of Professor James Coates of Rothesay, a well-known author and investigator, who had Mrs. Wriedt give a sitting with a number of witnesses. “Mr. Stead showed himself twice within a short time, the last appearance being clearly defined, and none will readily forget the clear, ringing tones of his voice,” Tweedale quoted Coates. “There in our own home, and in the presence of fourteen sane and thoughtful people, Mr. Stead has manifested and proved in his own person that the dead do return.”
Dr. John S. King, a Toronto physician and president of the Canadian Society Psychical Research, reported receiving over 70 messages from Stead, the first one coming within two days of the Titanic disaster. They came through several mediums, including Mrs. Wriedt.
When the Titanic went down, Estelle, Stead’s daughter, was on a tour with her own Shakespearean Company. One of the members of the touring group was a young man named Pardoe Woodman. According to Estelle Stead, a few days before the disaster, Woodman told her over tea that there was to be a great disaster at sea and that an elderly man very close to her would be among the victims. In 1917, shortly after being discharged from the army, Woodman began receiving messages from William T. Stead by means of automatic writing. Estelle Stead then started sitting with Woodman and observing. She noted that the Woodman wrote with his eyes closed and that the writing was very much like her father’s. Moreover, the writing would stop at times and go back to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s,” a habit of her father’s which she was sure Woodman knew nothing about.
Stead informed his daughter that there were hundreds of souls hovering over their floating bodies after the big ship went down, some of them apparently not comprehending their new state as they complained about not being able to save all of their valuables. After what felt like a few minutes, they all seemed to rise vertically into the air at a terrific speed. “I cannot tell how long our journey lasted, nor how far from the earth we were when arrived, but it was a gloriously beautiful arrival,” Stead recorded through Woodman’s hand. “It was like walking from your own English winter gloom into the radiance of an Indian sky. There, all was brightness and beauty.”
As for his initial attempts to communicate through other mediums, Stead said that there were souls on his side who had the power of sensing people (mediums) who could be used for communication. One such soul helped him find mediums and showed him how to make his presence known. It was explained to him that he had to visualize himself among the people in the flesh and imagine that he was standing there in the flesh with a strong light thrown upon himself. “Hold the visualization very deliberately and in detail, and keep it fixed upon my mind, that at that moment I was there and they were conscious of it.”
He added that the people at one sitting were able to see only his face because he had seen himself as only a face. “I imagined the part they would recognize me by.” It was in the same way he was able to get a message through. He stood by the most sensitive person there, concentrated his mind on a short sentence, and repeated it with much emphasis and deliberation until he could hear part of it spoken by the person.
Biography courtesy of Micheal E. Tymn
Theosophical doctrines teach that every soul must return to the Earth sphere and live in the body in order that it may exhaust what is called its Karma or original sin. This is considered by Theosophists to be the only theory which accounts for the unevenness of the conditions in the Earth life. It is an absurd contention, for if it were so, it would seem that free will were non-existent, and that there was a supreme and cruel purpose behind that punished or rewarded us, at the cost of centuries of suffering, both mental and physical.
No, this is not the case. Those who reincarnate do so through their own desires, the decision comes from themselves. It may be that in some cases the Watcher of the soul thrusts it back into incarnation because he believes it will benefit by a second life, but it must not be imagined that reincarnation is forced on anybody.
I will not try to explain what “original sin” is, for candidly I do not know, but I shall try and explain under what circumstances a human soul can escape reincarnation.
The first question you ask is: does the larger proportion of souls who come over from the Earth sphere return to it? No, by far the larger proportion continue their development on our side, and do not enter the restriction of the physical body again.
The Souls who do not Return
Let us deal with those who do not return. It is most improbable that the soul who has no desire to return, will be obliged to do so. Its Watcher may force it for some special reason, but this is very rare. The uneven fates of those who are still on the Earth sphere is a problem which can be explained in many ways. Explanations differ in various cases, but I should say that, as a rule, things are evened up in the journey through the spheres. If the life has been very hard or very miserable on Earth, the soul will be happier in the same proportion in the next sphere. If it has spent life in an evil manner, it need not go back to the Earth, it can be held up in its course through the sphere above it, and cleanse itself through this delay. Those who spent the Earth life badly may desire to return, in fact they often do, but they cannot be forced to do so. They run the risk after death of being held in the web of the astral, but many are not caught in it.
Hungers Which Cannot be Gratified
They enter our sphere and remain in the lowest plane until they have lost the tendency to evil, having achieved this they rise and pass through the sphere more rapidly than the average individual. This is what we believe in my sphere, and you may well say that in the last case I speak of, there is no punishment or suffering for the evil doer. But you must understand that those who carry over coarse or lustful tastes into the spheres above them suffer from hungers which cannot be gratified, that those who suffer from evil or revengeful passions cannot allay them by slaying or injuring their fellow beings after they have gone from the Earth. They must wait on the lower planes until these tastes or passions have burnt themselves out.
Conditions in the Lower Planes
You ask about the lower planes: what are the conditions there: surely above the Earth there can be nothing that is not superior to Earth conditions? Yes, the place we are in is superior to the Earth, and it has much greater possibilities than the Earth sphere, but if you enter it trammelled by evil tendencies you have not the power to enjoy it nor the desire to expand. You are thrown into a condition which harasses you. You long to get back to the familiar, encompassing body. You are oppressed by the light and sound, yet you are too lethargic to return to the place from whence you came.
The inhabitants of these lower planes often complain of the darkness there, by this they mean mental and spiritual darkness, and not the ocular sensation you call light.
The larger number of evil doers who come over and escape the astral web remain a very long time in these low planes: then suddenly they develop and ascend rapidly.
They have rid themselves of nearly all the ballast that held them down, and therefore progress easily.
I want you to realize that those souls who are caught in the web of the astral plane suffer far more, and experience greater unhappiness, than those evil doers who dwell in lower planes. They generally succeed in getting back to the Earth after a long period of horrific and evil dreams. And always remember, that to them the dreams are “reality”, but those who do manage to get back are in the minority. The difficulty in extracting a soul from the astral web is very great, for the astral web, is the state where there are no moral responsibilities, and these poor souls prey on, and torture each other. The astral web, though inevitably a temporary abode, is the worst fate that can befall the soul.
Return, a Choice, not a Law
I have said that the majority do not return. That is true. In the mass, life does not desire to repeat an experience. In nature, you do not see repetition, until full development is attained, and it is so with the soul’s development.
There is an innate and subconscious desire to gain perfection, and a reluctance to retrace its footsteps. But there are exceptions and I will not deny for a moment, that those who believe in reincarnation are not to some extent justified. The mistake they make is, that they speak of return to Earth as a law, or necessity, whereas it is a matter of choice. The memories or recollections of vague lives before Earth life are no proof of reincarnation.
They may be memories of former lives on the Earth, or, as is more often the case, they are pictures which are shown by the guides, and are visions of a far distant ancestry. This is the usual explanation of these vague and fleeting memories.
The only real proof that a soul has been on Earth before is a definite memory which begins with its death, and continues to its birth in the former incarnation. This does not occur often, but it has been known. In cases of this kind there is no doubt about there having been a previous life on Earth.
You must not confuse obsession with memory of previous incarnation. An obsessing entity can appear to give a memory of another Earth life, which is merely its own memory, and has nothing to do with the life of the soul it has thrown out.
Good and Evil
I will now attempt to give you my views on the question of the predominance of good or evil, in certain individuals. Every soul that is born into the world contains all potentialities of good and evil in itself. If it reverses the course of its being, if it lives on its evil parts, rather than on the parts of itself which are capable of expansion, all growth is impossible. The force of evil will always pull the soul downward towards its roots, while the force for good will push it upwards. Evil can be defined as the opponent of development. The desire to keep the soul from a full realization of itself is an evil desire. This cannot be treated as a personal matter. We know of no devil in the universe, but we do know that certain forces work for retrogression.
The criminal corrupts his power to grow. He just stays where he is, opening himself up to the forces of evil. He lives in his evil parts, and attracts evil towards him. When he dies he remains in a dream, or rather in a nightmare condition until the desire to grow returns to him, the desire to have another chance and to forget the past. This comes in time to all who have lived in their evil parts, and then they are born again, and often in the new incarnation they are extremely fine people.
When Evil Predominates
I will try and explain some of these cases. There is the person who is too indolent to use his higher powers, who finds it easier to open himself up to evil than to good. These are the worst cases, for evil works through them and increases. Then there are the weak ones who sink under the burden of growth, and let the evil winds blow them where they will.
These are not as criminal as the first class, they merely act as channels for evil. Then there are others who are so open, that though they may begin as ordinary individuals, they end by becoming a counterpart of their environments. Through their astrological aspect there is the natural tendency, for instance, in some to evil. Some are born under influences which give them little chance. With the enormous mass of life pressing into the world, some must be unfortunate. This seems unjust, but we cannot look for what you call justice at every stage of our journey.
The Astrological Aspect
All we can demand is that the soul will be fully developed at some stage. If it is incarnated on Earth at some unfortunate time, it will probably pass into the next sphere at a particularly fortunate time, and find itself benefited in the process. But let us hold on to the comforting assurance that all and each will eventually attain perfection.
Questions and Answers
Q. “Some must be unfortunate” – This doesn’t seem just.
A. There is no injustice to any morsel of life which comes into the world. If there are uneven chances whilst on Earth, in the sphere above they will find things much better for them, than for others who have had an easier Earth journey. Justice is Justice when all is fulfilled, but it cannot be measured by your sense of justice on every plane.
Q. What happens to those who commit murder?
A. If the crime is caused through obsession, the man who has committed it, is set free through a special ritual, allowed to rest for a time, and then goes back to the world if he wishes to do so. Criminals of this type generally desire to return. But if the crime is committed for material gain, without obsession, and from sheer perverted love of cruelty and suffering, these people spend a long time in darkness. Not in our sphere, not in yours, but between the two – the astral web of dreams. The dreams such criminals have are nightmares. They return, not of their own free will, but because they must be remade.
Q. Does remorse after committing murder help?
A. Yes, in a sense it is wiped out, it is expiated. Part of the life force is taken from the murderer and given to the murdered. This means that the murderer’s path is blocked. He cannot go forward until he has made expiations, he has to stand still on his spiritual road.
Q. What happens to intellectual criminals?
A. It depends. It is difficult to put them all into one class, in fact, it is impossible. If the intellectual side is highly developed, and there is a criminal tendency, the person is completely uneven. One half of his personality soars, while the other is face downwards. It has to be readjusted. The lower and evil half has to incarnate again, before any progress can be made.
Q. How do suicides fare?
A. That also is difficult to put under one heading. If the suicide is committed because pain cannot be endured, there is only the natural result of sudden death, a longer period of unconsciousness. But if the suicide has been committed to escape consequences, the memory of what has occurred can go on torturing the victim to an extent that may be compared with obsession. That may continue for years of your time. Eventually he will awake from the trance, realize that the thread of life was cut too soon, and will plunge back of his own accord into the Earth life again.
Q. If one commits suicide to make life easier for others?
A. That person would not suffer much. There would be a long period of confusion, but eventually he would continue his road like any normal being.
Q. What happens when obsession causes suicide?
A. Then the man is allowed to purify himself of the obsession. Then, when he is free, he is compelled as a rule to come back through his own desire to complete his life.
Q. What about monstrosities of the Jack-the-Ripper type?
A. These are badly made human beings, or in some cases, a double soul, an evil one having entered with the good one. It may be that the soul is weak and small, and allows itself to be a prey to an evil influence that dominates it. That does not happen often, but occasionally, and this is the explanation of dual personality. All monstrosities, whether of the mind or of the body, should be regarded as incomplete articles turned out too hastily in the hurry of creation.
Q. What happens to these eventually?
A. The misshapen soul has to be divided again into the two parts of spirit and mind, and can be remade so that where there had been disharmony between these two, there would be perfect harmony. This would take time. The newly made soul might not return for several years. The reason these monstrosities occur is because the “parts” do not harmonize, they jangle. The soul in such a case as that of Jack-the-Ripper would go on to our world, and as I have explained, it would be remade so that the proportions of good and evil were more balanced.
Q. Do “parts” of the personality ever reincarnate separately?
A. It is extremely rare that “parts” or what is generally known as “split-offs” of the personality return to Earth: but it does occur. I will try to explain by taking Napoleon as an example. His passion for cruelty, and his faithlessness to friends – these we may take as the worst parts of his character. After passing over, he would not be able to rise to high planes in the spheres above, because of these passions being round him. If he returned as a whole, there would of necessity be another upheaval, and another series of disasters. A personality such as his would not desire to return, but it would desire to complete itself, so it would subdivide and permit the incomplete parts to return to Earth for development. These split-off personalities would not have long lives. They would complete themselves as quickly as possible and return to set the entire personality free as a whole. I should describe such cases as Napoleon’s as “group personalities”, for in reality they possess more than the mental strength of one soul.
Napoleon was a colossus who was so vast that he was unable to steer himself wisely through life. He was very unevenly developed. Parts of the colossus would return, probably in humble environment, while he as an ego, would be helped on his journey.
Q. Would the parts of Napoleon functioning on this Earth, resemble him in character?
A. No, they would be the parts that were suppressed when he was whole.
Q. Can a soul time its own incarnation?
A. No, it cannot, but it will be hastened by its desire to return. You need not, and do not always live out your full life on any of the spheres.
Q. Is it possible to delay the date of passing from this plane?
A. If an individual man has an overwhelming desire to remain longer on the Earth plane, that desire might, and sometimes does, push the date of his passing further on in time. This depends entirely upon the strength of the desire.
Q. Then the day of death is not determined?
A. It is true that the man is born with the day and manner of his death, but so strong is the force of desire that it is possible that the day may be postponed, but merely for a short time, and then part of the personality would have passed over to our sphere already. This would occur in the case of very old people.
Q. Can people advance the day of death?
A. Yes, again desire would push back the date. It would have to be concentrated desire. It is a very rare happening, but it does happen occasionally.
Q. Does the presence of a younger person enable an older person to live longer?
A. Yes, it can do so, but the old person would lead a feeble mental existence, and would have lost a good many characteristics of his personality.
Q. What about very old people passing over?
A. With old people the arrival is hardly worthy of the name, they have come over gradually, and are quite familiar with our side. They are somewhat in the position of an infant, because these people who are familiar with their surroundings (which of course the infant is not) are slowly accepting the new conditions and are taking them into their consciousness. Those who come to us in full vigour of manhood have a harder struggle and a longer period before they can say they begin to live.
Q. If they are so familiar with your side, why should so many old people have such a strong desire to remain here?
A. That is the fault of the body. The old body clings to the young soul and depends on it. This enters the subconscious mind.
Q. Are there sudden passings on through accident from your sphere to the next?
A. Yes, there can be too rapid development which shoots the soul forward before its time.
Q. Does it return – reincarnate?
A. Not necessarily, but it may.
Q. What happens in the case of supermen?
A. They can choose and select the body that can hold them. Having had the whole experience they leave nothing to chance. The reincarnation is deliberate.
Q. Do affinities progress together through the spheres?
A. Yes, of course they do. If they reincarnate, the last incarnation would come when they had full understanding of their relation to each other. After that they would travel on through the spheres until the two became one in reality.
Q. Can one affinity reincarnate and the other not?
A. It is possible for one of these affinities to go through the Earth-incarnation at a stage of lower development than the other. That condition would mean the lesser developed of the two would not fully recognize the other, and in that case the lesser developed would probably reincarnate, while the other would remain on the sphere immediately above the Earth until the two were equalized and united, when they would continue their journey together.
Q. Can souls reincarnate in groups?
A. No, certainly not. It is impossible: remember I use the word “impossible” for a group of persons to time their re-appearance on the Earth sphere.
Q. Is there a reason for some passing over through accidents?
A. Planetary influences. A man is born with the day of his death decided, and even the manner of his death.
Q. Then if one is to be killed – say, run over by a motorbus – that cannot be avoided?
A. An accident would be in his horoscope. I was born with shipwreck and drowning, for instance.
Q. Had your father some subconscious knowledge of this? He was always so fearful of letting you go on the water, and yet never minded your playing with gunpowder?
A. Yes, he knew subconsciously that it was dangerous for me.
Q. Would a warning have averted it?
A. Not in my case. I was bound to go. Psychic warnings are given when there is a chance of injury which can be averted, not when there is a certainty of death.
Q. Do the souls clothed in deformed bodies reincarnate?
A. These people often do reincarnate, but if they have borne their trouble patiently, and have developed the soul, they need not return.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published July 2020
Size: 6 x 9 inches