SILVER BIRCH, as we call him, is not a Red Indian (sic). Who he is, we do not know. We assume that he uses the name of the spirit through whose astral body he expresses himself, it being impossible for the high vibration of the spiritual realm to which he belongs to manifest except through some other instrument.
He is the spirit guide of what is known as “Hannen Swaffer’s Home Circle.”
“One day I will tell you who I am,” he told us recently. “I had to come in the form of a humble Indian to win your love and devotion, not by the use of any high-sounding name, and to prove myself by the truth of what I taught. That is the Law.”
Once, he nearly gave himself away, for, in describing his mission, in the words used in his own story, printed on page 19, he began: “They said to me … I nearly used my real name then.”
Now Silver Birch came into my life soon after I became a Spiritualist in 1924. Ever since then, I have listened, for an hour and more at a time, to his teaching, his guidance and his counsel, and learned to love and respect him more than I love and respect any earthly being.
He first functioned in an extraordinary way. A young man of eighteen, an atheist who was making a study of Spiritualism, went mockingly to a circle in one of the poorest of London’s suburbs. He laughed outright when, to use his own words, “old women became Chinamen and all sorts of things,” only to be reproved by a medium who, in trance, said: “You will be doing this before long.” Although he went away incredulous and sceptical, he returned the next week to the circle and then, half-way through, apologized for having fallen asleep.
“You have been in trance,” said someone sitting next to him.
“Your guide gave his name and said that he has been training you for this for years and that, before long, you will be speaking on Spiritualist platforms.” Again, the young man laughed … In those days, Silver Birch spoke very few words of English, and those with a very crude accent. As the years passed, for he began to control his new-found medium often, his knowledge of our language so improved that his simple eloquence now often transcends that of any speaker to whom I have ever listened.
“How do you know that the medium was in trance?” I have been asked.
On more than one occasion Silver Birch, speaking through his medium, has told us to stick a pin in the medium’s hand, and then to stick it in deeper. When coming out of trance, the medium has not remembered feeling anything. Nor has any mark been visible.
“How do you know it does not come from the medium’s subconscious mind?” is another question. Well, in some ways, the two contradict each other. Silver Birch teaches Reincarnation.
The medium himself turns down this theory and yet, in trance, confounds himself. Then another curious little thing is the fact that until, so that the guide’s words could be printed in Psychic News, a reporter started to take them down, the medium always remembered, just as he was going to sleep that night, what had been said while he was in trance. This was because, when consenting to be a medium, he had extracted from Silver Birch a promise that he would know what had been said. Directly we started to record it, all this stopped.
Now, the medium reads, next morning, the report of the sitting and is amazed at the beauty of the language that is uttered through his lips.
Silver Birch is a teacher. He does not heal. He seldom gives evidential messages. Now and then, he apologizes for that, saying that he often regrets that he confined his mastery of the medium to teaching. Although he regards this teaching as all-important, he recognizes that the world needs evidence of Survival.
During recent years, I have taken all sorts of people to hear Silver Birch talk—ministers of religion, journalists, people from all parts of the world. I have never heard from any one of them a word of criticism of anything he said.
One parson who took to him his theological difficulties found himself reduced to silence when, in simple words, Silver Birch explained what he calls “the Law”.
“Write down the most difficult questions you can think of,” I had said to the minister, beforehand. He went along, eager to challenge one of those spirit guides he had heard so often condemned by men of his cloth. He came away confounded.
Silver Birch had made difficult theology too simple for a theologian.
Now my home circle, of whom Silver Birch is the guide, sits every Friday night. Regularly every week, Psychic News prints a verbatim record of what he says. It is given to our home circle not for our private use, but so that it can be broadcast right across the world.
As a consequence, Silver Birch has more followers than any earthly preacher. They belong to every clime and to almost every race, and are people of all shades of colour.
Yet, put down in cold print, Silver Birch’s words cannot do more than convey a little of the nobility of his character, the warmth of his friendship and the natural dignity of his utterance.
Sometimes, they compel tears. We know that we are in the presence, however humbly he may speak, of a high, exalted spirit. He never reproves. He never finds fault.
The Churches talk of Jesus of Nazareth, of whom they know little, and of whose existence they have no proof. Silver Birch talks of “The Nazarene”, as he calls him, as the highest of all the spiritual beings with whom he has contact, and, as Silver Birch has proved to us, after years of close association, that lie could not lie, we know, if only because he says so, that the Jesus of the New Testament is still functioning, still engaged on that divine mission which once brought him to this earth. So, to us, the words, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” have a meaning which the Churches cannot explain.
When, in the pages which follow, you read Silver Birch’s teaching, you must understand that it is all written down in the dark by a reporter who uses Braille notepaper, and who, expert stenographer though he is, is often tested severely to keep pace with the rapidity of Silver Birch’s speech. On no occasion has a single word to be altered. Silver Birch’s words flow in perfect English. Only the punctuation marks have to be put in, and even for these there is always a natural place which could not be mistaken.
Silver Birch’s philosophy, as you will easily understand, is that of a Pantheist, a man who realizes that God is found in Nature itself, that there is an unalterable Law which governs everything, and that God is the Law.
“You are within the Great Spirit,” says Silver Birch, “and the Great Spirit is within you.” So we learn we are all potential gods, part of the great creative principle which is everything.
Yet Silver Birch does not stop at unapplied philosophy. He forces home, always, the lesson that we are here to do a job.
He sums up religion in the one word “Service,” and strives to teach us, clumsy instruments though we may be, that we are in this world so that we may make an end of war, abolish poverty and hasten the time when God’s bounty will be spread in all its lavishness among all the peoples of the world.
“Our allegiance,” says Silver Birch, “is not to a Creed, not to a Book, not to a Church, but to the Great Spirit of Life and to His eternal natural laws.” So it is that the members of his circle, six in number, include three Jews and three Gentiles, who find in Spiritualism no racial or creedal difference. Three were Agnostics and a fourth was a Wesleyan minister who, just before he joined our circle, had left Methodism because no longer could he accept its teachings.
Sometimes, to vary the sittings, Silver Birch allows some other spirit to control his medium. So we have been visited by Northcliffe, Galsworthy, Hall Caine, Gilbert Parker, Horace Greeley, Dick Sheppard, Abraham Lincoln and personal friends of the sitters. Still, all that is for another book… During my years of sitting with Silver Birch, I have never known him to forget anything, although we may do so.
And never, by any syllable, does he depart from his self chosen mission to instruct the children of men in a simpler and more beneficent way of life.
Who is Sliver Birch? by Hannen Swaffer is an Extract from Teachings of Silver Birch edited by A. W. Austen.