‘Life Eternal’ Explained by “Titanic” Victim
Posted on 14 September 2020, 7:28
Before writing my 2012 book, Transcending the Titanic, I read everything I could find by or about William T. Stead, the famous British journalist who was a victim of the Titanic. I recently discovered that I missed an important reference, Life Eternal, a 1933 book just republished by White Crow Books. It is the record of afterlife communication said to be coming from Stead through the mediumship of Hester Dowden, aka Hester Travers Smith, and organized into a book by Estelle Stead, William’s daughter.
Stead was on his way to New York to give a speech at Carnegie Hall on world peace when he met his end on the infamous ocean liner. His 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. He has been credited with having introduced the interview technique to British journalism while inventing the “New Journalism,” bringing important topics in bright, colorful prose to the man in the street. Stead (below) was also well known in psychic circles as the founder of Borderland, a quarterly journal devoted to psychical matters, and as an automatic writing medium.
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.” Those qualities and characteristics apparently remained with him in the afterlife.
Dowden, (below) an Irish medium, was the daughter of Professor Edward Dowden, a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, and the wife of a prominent Dublin physician. She was primarily an automatic writing and Ouija board medium, sitting regularly with a small group of friends, including Sir William Barrett, a renowned physicist and psychical researcher. Geraldine Cummins, perhaps the most famous automatist in history, was introduced to mediumship by Dowden.
“[Dowden] is not a credulous or hasty investigator; on the contrary, the trend of her mind is healthily skeptical, and hence the opinions at which she has arrived cannot be dismissed as the product of morbid curiosity or the mere will to believe,” Barrett wrote in the Introduction to her 1919 book, Voices from the Void.
It was on April 15, 1912, when Dowden received a very rapid message stating: “Ship sinking; all hands lost. William East overboard. Women and children weeping and wailing – sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.” She had no idea what the message meant and no more came through at that sitting. Later that day it was reported that the Titanic had sunk. As a spirit claiming to be Stead communicated at subsequent sittings, Dowden concluded that because of the rapidity of the message she got the last name wrong in that very first message.
It is not clear from 1933 book when Dowden received the later communication, but indications are that it was many years after the Titanic went down, apparently during the 1920s or just before the book was published. “I have never been so fully conscious of the presence of a communicator as in the W. T. Stead case,” Dowden wrote in the preface to the book. “I feel that he is entirely outside my personality, using me as an instrument with infinite skill. I find myself conversing with him exactly as I should if his bodily presence was beside me, discussing difficult problems and often arguing with him.” She further noted that Stead communicated at about 3,000 words an hour, which prohibited any thinking process on her part.
Stead communicated that his early attempts at communication were not very successful, because although he knew pretty much what to do, he didn’t know how to do it. Initially, he could shoot only short messages. “When we communicate with you, we have in a sense to form a body, a body that will compress the soul again to the dimensions it had before it cast off the body,” he explained. “The whole thing is a strain. When we speak to you, we are in an unnatural condition.” He added that the initial efforts were so difficult that he gave up on it for a few years (in earth time) before he tried again.
Here are some of the comments made by Stead through Dowden:
Language: “I am going to use the language of the inhabitants of the Earth, although here in my sphere language is no longer a necessity. Therefore, allowances must be made, if what I describe at times seems grossly material…If I speak of food or drink, houses, poverty, wealth, you must not take it that what I speak of is precisely the equivalent of your poverty and wealth, your food and drink, your houses, etc.”
God: “In the sphere where I am now, we can still only speculate who and what ‘He’ is. We look on God as Life, the source of life and being, and we know that he is responsible for the universe and all that it contains. But whether he has a form similar to the human form, where he is a single personality or a vast group of personalities acting together in accord and harmony, we do not know and we can only get as far as the threshold of His house.”
Christ: “Christ came forth from God as a manifestation of God. He was a Son of God in deed and in truth. After His manifestation He entered into God and remained as a personality in His teachings only. Christ as a person does not exist in any of the seven spheres, but His image can manifest there as a symbol of the personality that has passed into the Greater Life.”
Jesus: “Jesus was the vehicle through which Christ worked. Jesus was a man, was not more divine than other men, but He was possessed of the power to give manifestation of the Divine which is not given to the ordinary man. Jesus passed into the creative spheres after He left the world, and now He has passed into the Greater Life.”
Devil: “We know of no devil in the universe, but we do know that certain forces work for retrogression.”
Death: “After death, the soul shoots out of the body, inflicting a terrific strain on itself. The cord uniting the soul with the body, which resembles the cord between the mother and the child, is not always severed at the moment of death; as a rule it is, but there are exceptions, and the term of severance depends to a certain extent on the knowledge the soul possesses of its conditions. With sudden death, the shock being great, the term of severance may be delayed for a long period, but this is the exception not the rule; in most cases of sudden death the cord is severed at once.”
Subconscious: “The soul, being the whole personality, has a knowledge of the purpose for which it was created; it has also a knowledge of the development that is before it, but this knowledge is subconscious. And by subconscious, I mean that it does not take this knowledge into the part of the its consciousness that is active. While a man is on Earth, he only needs a fraction of his personality.”
Corrupt Souls: “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.”
Spheres: “We speak of seven spheres, seven different states, and in each of these there are seven planes. The spheres are of different quality, and the duration of the soul’s sojourn in each is of a different length. The state which I call a sphere, is a mental condition. In each of the spheres we retain ‘form.’ Our bodies become more ethereal as we ascend, or if our choice prompts us to descend, we have more material bodies.”
Education: “After the fourth sphere is passed, your education is complete. You have arrived at a stage where you no longer learn, you create. The last three spheres through which you pass are spheres of creative activity.”
Group Soul: “Here, in the fifth sphere, you begin to pass into the Group, to create out of yourself, with the strengthening power of the Group that is behind you. There are no incongruities here. Quite naturally, you fall into your Group, or place, and do your work with its support.”
Spiritual Evolution: “When it reaches the seventh sphere, the soul has full realization of itself. It understands its purpose, and then it is free to choose its destiny. It is no longer hampered by the laws which compel it to take the next step. It can choose its own road. But before that, free will is limited.”
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.”
While stressing that it is for the most part beyond human comprehension, Stead elaborated on much of the above and discussed other subjects, including time, afterlife relationships, activities, appearances, music, animals, and religion, in the first section of the book. In the second section, he discusses various types of mediumship and explains many of the difficulties encountered in spirit communication, including the possible distortion of messages by the medium’s subconscious mind and “invasions” by low-level spirits stuck in the “Shadow Plane.”
Next blog post: September 28
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in February 2021.
Thanks for your sharing that interesting experience. I read three of the Seth books many years ago and keep telling several friends who seem to think that Seth’s words alone are all that one need consider that I am going to get back to reading them and other Seth books. I can’t seem to get caught up on current reading, but your comment serves as a good reminder that I must do it soon.
Michael Tymn, Wed 30 Sep, 23:00
Reading the article and the comments, I noticed Michael’s mention of Seth and Jane Roberts.
One fine early spring day in 1982 I took a copy of a small book, _How to Meditate_, by Lawrence LeShan into Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. Although I’d owned the book for years, I’d never read it, never tried to meditate.
A prominent marble tomb included steps leading to a pond. I sat on the steps, not knowing at the time that the tomb housed the mortal remains of Ms. Mary B. Eddy, and gleaned what I could from the book.
Then I relaxed my body, took a few long, slow deep breaths, closed my eyes, and—with beginner’s luck—allowed my thoughts to come to a stop.
At that moment, I was astounded to “see” (with my mind’s eye) a persistent full-color image of the cover of a book—_Seth Speaks_ by Jane Roberts.
Unsettled, I stopped, hiked into Harvard Square, and in a bookstore soon discovered this was an actual book, which I then purchased.
This led to a series of adventures that continue to this very day, including encountering other Seth readers years later, once the Internet came into being. This included a number of people with pronounced psychic gifts, although none were professionals.
In addition, I’m somewhat familiar with the history of modern investigations into the psychic area, while I have also taken classes in evidential mediumship.
Despite occasional successes and rare spectacular experiences, I don’t consider myself to be much of a medium or autotyper, or a master of “reality creation,” but I definitely have a preference for “jumping in the water,” something encouraged by Seth, who included exercises in what is collectively known as “the Seth material” (not to be confused with an early book of the same name) for validating his teachings.
I suggest that Seth has much to offer when it comes to understanding the nature of reality, life, and death, but I wouldn’t say that he or anyone else has the last word, while owing to the nature of things there will always be contradictions and conflicting information in all such material—conveying information from beyond the physical realm into our realm is much more of an art than a science and necessarily involves a degree of creativity, in the sense that even the usual kind of translation does.
On the other hand, I believe that each of us has access to our own unique understanding of such areas—gaining access, though, requires us to at least temporarily suspend a condition Seth referred to as “ego bound”:
“Most of my readers are familiar with the term, ‘muscle bound.’ As a species you have grown ‘ego bound’ instead, held in a spiritual rigidity, with the intuitive portions of the self either denied or distorted beyond any recognition.”
~Seth in _Seth Speaks_
Bill Ingle, Tue 29 Sep, 23:06
I’m just catching up on this thread, as I’ve been in the midst of a major data analysis project for my next book,“Echos of the Christ: Apparitions, Mystical Moments and a Prophetic Future.”
The more I read your various comments, the more I think you might get some value from at least a quick perusal of my first, still unpublished, book on “Spiritual Reality.” Paul and Michael have both seen it, with somewhat different reactions; Michael, understandably, didn’t have time to give more than a cursory “speed-reading” scan of the first portion of it, which he found a bit confusing (it’s not really meant for “speed-reading”). Paul, on the other hand, found it to be of significant interest and value, and “deserving of a wider audience” (paraphrased, but close). Based on what I now know of your interests, you may also.
Don Porteous, Wed 23 Sep, 18:57
I appreciate your comments on Myers’ “Human Personality and the Survival of Bodily Death” and am inspired to go back and look at its final chapter on the strength of your concluding comments.
With regard to Edward and Emily Kelly’s “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century”, it is no accident that the work’s first dedication is to “F.W.H. Myers, a neglected genius of scientific psychology” and the work itself was quite self-consciously conceived as an updating, on the centenary anniversary of “Human Personality”, of Myers’ great work. From the opening preface of “Irreducible Mind”:
Our general strategy was to assess the overall state of psychology, as it exists here at the beginning of the 2 1 st century, from a perspective that deliberately but selectively takes into account its first hundred-plus years of organized scientific effort. The essential driving idea was to step backward, the better to jump forward-“reculer pour mieux sauter.” The tactical opportunity for this exercise was to be provided by the centennial of the publication in 1903 of an extraordinary book by a largely forgotten genius, F. W. H. Myers, titled Human Personality. Deeply admired by William James and other leading scholars of that period, this two-volume work is unquestionably a great but neglected classic of our science. It advances an elaborate but empirically supported theory of the constitution and functioning of human beings, one that in many ways is sharply at odds with current mainstream thinking, but one that we believe penetrates far closer to the empirical truths of the matter. By framing the relevant issues in the context of Myers’s work, we thought, we would be able to justify and to some extent foreshadow what we anticipate will become a major and vitally necessary reworking of central parts of scientific psychology.
Paul, Wed 23 Sep, 13:51
The basic plan of the book was to be threefold. First, we would provide an exposition of Myers’s theoretical and empirical contributions. Second, we would systematically and critically examine subsequent research on a variety of empirical topics that were central to the theoretical position he developed. Finally, we would attempt to assess, in light of this review, where things now stand in psychology and where we need to go. The goal throughout would be not simply to celebrate Myers’s project as he himself left it, but to carry it forward in the context of relevant substantive and methodological achievements of the intervening century.
Oliver, the diversity of thought and open-mindedness of many 20th Century theologians, now carried over into the 21st, should IMHO provide ample opportunity to take a hard look at Meyers’ proposed religious synthesis, especially for those concentrating in the expanding areas of religious pluralism and universalism. Check out David Bentley Hart, to cite only one example, a leading orthodox scholar who recently translated the entire New Testament and believes that there is truth to be found in all of the world’s major religious traditions, as well as error. There’s a short video on YouTube in which Hart specifically addresses this subject, a video you might enjoy watching.
Newton Finn, Wed 23 Sep, 13:24
I think you are going to have a difficult time finding a true theologian expressing much interest in anything Frederic Myers may have proposed regarding human personality, the subliminal mind and survival however subtly he presented it. After all a professional theologian has spent years learning his craft and tending his flock and knows what he knows literally by chapter and verse. He is not going to allow any person with no training or experience in religion of any variety to shake his understanding about what man is and God’s plan for man. This applies not only to Frederic Myers but to all others who attempt to provide new thought about God and the afterlife. (Actually Frederic Myers is not even mentioned in medical school to those specializing in psychiatry even though Myers was the first to propose the subconscious or subliminal mind. Edward and Emily Kelly et al put together an opus compendium called “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century” in which they made reference to Myers many times as I recall.}
In the case of Patience Worth most theologians will not even consider her version of events surrounding the time of Jesus even though two thirds of the book has little or nothing to do with Jesus. What should be of interest to theologians is Patience Worth’s description of the cultural milieu of the location, the people she describes and culture in which Jesus lived. The description of the Romans, the Jews, The Greeks and Arabs and people of the desert is worthwhile to consider in my opinion as not just an attempt to describe the times but as a written photograph of the way things actually were then by someone who was actually there. Interestingly the names given to the characters in “The Sorry Tale” should be of interest in that Pearl Curran, having never left the Midwest of the United States, through the dictation of Patience Worth correctly gave names to her characters—-which are many—- appropriate to the country or race from which they came. I venture to say that no one without great study and reference books before them while writing a 500-page novel could use cultural names without error as Patience Worth did without any reference material at all. That alone should be of some interest to people who say they are knowledgeable of that period of time especially those who have devoted their professional career to knowing all about the life and times of Jesus. I think that provided credibility to the information in The Sorry Tale that it did not come from the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran but came from someone who probably actually was living there at the time. (My vote is that Patience Worth was Theia, mother of Hatte, illegitimate son of the Emperor Tiberius and heir to the throne; the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus)
Patience Worth’s depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus and the thief beside him is beyond words to tell. That section alone makes the book worth reading. I would think that there is no other like it anywhere in accepted theological texts. Patience describes it as someone who was part of the crowd viewing the naked Jesus dragged through the street of town where all the women had to turn their eyes aside at the sight of the naked man. He was spit upon and offal and worse thrown at him, some of it hitting his mother and others around him. Patience’s depiction of Jesus’ journey to the cross and his death are unforgettable in “The Sorry Tale”.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 23 Sep, 02:39
Now is not the place or time for me to pontificate about the writing of Patience Worth but suffice it to say, I believe that few professional religious people will take the time to read “The Sorry Tale” about the times and life of Jesus of Nazareth as written by Pearl Curran a semi-literate housewife of Missouri. Such being the case, why would they want to read anything the erstwhile psychologist Frederic Myers had to say about survival of the human personality after death. - -AOD
Thanks to all who responded to my initial comment. Amos Oliver Doyle observes that “Patience Worth refrained from describing the ‘afterlife’ in detail as Myers and Stead purportedly did demurring that it would mar God’s plan if she did.” This jibes with Michael’s position of focusing on the basic outline of the afterlife without getting caught up in the details, and also accords with the near universal experience of afterlife researchers concerning the immense difficulty of getting even the most elemental communication across the veil with specificity and clarity—the dreamlike nature seemingly inherent in all such communication. Patience Worth does indeed seem to be “a sign and wonder,” and I’ve much more to learn about her. For right now, however, I remain utterly transfixed by Frederick Meyer’s “Human Personality”—both his prescient and profound understanding of depth psychology, far surpassing IMHO the theories of Freud, and what Meyers says—and refuses to say—about the nature of the afterlife based upon the thorough and hardheaded research of the SPR. Meyers’ sketch of a new religious synthesis, drawing upon both Eastern and Western spirituality, strikes me as being as fresh and fruitful today as on the day it was written…perhaps more so. I would go so far as to say that I now read the last chapter of “Human Personality” devotionally, as a spiritual exercise to supplement other, more traditional, religious works. Why has no theologian picked up on this gem that Meyers left in our hands? If one has, with whom I’m not familiar, please alert me to him/her.
Newton Finn, Tue 22 Sep, 18:02
I take your point. I agree, I wasn’t thinking about Pearl Curran when making that claim - perhaps I should have been.
Paul, Mon 21 Sep, 20:26
I must have used my fingers and toes to count on. Pearl Curran received dictation from Patience Worth for 25 years not 35 years. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 21 Sep, 14:07
I surmise respectfully that you have read little about Pearl Curran and her spirit muse Patience Worth. Because I am well acquainted with their works my vote would always be for Pearl Curran as the most accomplished automatist of the 20th century. Both she and Geraldine Cummins had a similar way of visualizing scenarios from communicators in another reality. Sometimes their descriptions of how they accomplish their tasks were almost identical. Pearl Curran’s association with Patience Worth lasted almost 35 years and the quality of the works is exceptional and compared by some as almost equal to Shakespeare (I don’t think so) but in some cases much better than other respected poets of the time. And some of the poems are unequaled by any writer of today.
Patience Worth refrained from describing the ‘afterlife’ in detail as Myers and Stead purportedly did demurring that it would mar God’s plan if she did. But throughout her writing one can read of her intense love of God and his works on earth and on rare occasions she alluded to the way things might be at least on the next plane after the earth plane. (Although she never talked of spheres or planes.)
Pearl Curran was unique in that she transcribed from Patience Worth in several different styles of English, writing complete novels and poems; several works in a medieval style, in another a Victorian style and in her opus “The Sorry Tale” a long story comparing the life of Jesus and the life of the murderer and thief who was crucified next to him on the cross she dictated in a language that was unique and almost modern. In other so-called “table talk” Patience Worth spoke in an English usage consistent with living in the trade crossroads of 17th century England where various spoken English dialects and other languages crossed paths. Her language, I think was similar in composition to English spoken in various regions of the United States, it that it too consists of many dialects with a mish-mash of languages other than English. The language of Patience Worth was not the language in books written by erudite educated Englishman but was the language of the common people as spoken in the streets and byways at the time.
Those unacquainted with the life of Pearl Curran and Patience Worth might want to read Dr. Walter Franklin Prince’s study of the Curran/Worth phenomenon. The book can be found in several reprinted editions on line as “The Case of Patience Worth.” Irving Litvag’s book “Singer in the Shadows” is a highly readable book adding additional information about Pearl Curran—- but not in detail—- until her death in 1937. There are a few other books by other authors which one can find if interested in the case. The Smithsonian Magazine had a good article about Patience Worth several years ago.
As well acquainted with Christian theology as you appear to be, I would be extremely interested in your evaluation of the incidents as depicted in “The Sorry Tale” by Patience Worth. The book is long , over 500 pages and one has to get used to the language composition, not that it is particularly difficult but there is a certain style that one has to get used to. It might be best to read Prince’s study before reading The Sorry Tale. Characters are sometimes difficult to identify in the writing as they often walk in to the story without being introduced just as if the writer were in the room with them and knew who they were. (as Patience Worth may have been)
I believe that the story of Patience Worth and Pearl Curran holds the key to understanding a part of the afterlife or as Dr. Prince said after more than a year of study of the case, “Either our concept of what we call the subconscious must be radically altered, so as to include potencies of which we hitherto have had no knowledge, or else some cause operating through but not originating in the subconsciouness of Mrs. Curran must be acknowledged.”
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 21 Sep, 13:56
Prince’s statement at the end of his study is often quoted ad nauseam and sometimes used to sort of wrap-up the case, but I think the story of Pearl Curran and Patience is much, much more than that simple statement. Only by reading all of the writing of Patience Worth and Prince’s study of her can one begin to understand the immensity of what Pearl Curran and Patience Worth have accomplished. They have given to the world a clue as to what may lie beyond, if only people will read and consider it. - AOD
I rather like the phrase “Cummins-Myers combo” and fully agree that it was of a very high-type. In brief, Cummins was the most accomplished automist of her generation, perhaps of the 20th century. “Swan on a Black Sea” alone is sufficient to establish her capability and credibility. [See also instance Charles Fryer’s, “Geraldine Cummins: An Appreciation”; Fryer’s own “A Hand in Dialogue” is also of interest, although unrelated to the present topic.] Similarly, prior to “The Road to Immortality” and “Beyond Human Personality”, Myers spent a quarter-century (of our time) discarnately establishing survival – both his own as well as more generally – via the Cross-Correspondences. Further yet, Myers’ capacity as a writer and researcher was already well established while alive.
As for Newton Finn’s comparison of “The Road to Immortality” to his magnum opus “Human Personality”, I don’t think one can make such a narrow comparison, but rather need to look at the entirety of his writings while alive, including his poetry and more general prose works. As those who knew him and his writings well considered the ‘voice’ of his posthumous writings through Cummins to be recognizably his, I’m not sure how much of a position individuals such as ourselves at this late hour might be in to make claims. I would not say, by any means, that any posthumous communication purporting to come from Myers should be accepted as such. For instance, the book “Vanishing Night” (1923), purportedly communicated by Myers through Juliet S. Goodenow, is one I find wholly unconvincing.
It would be interesting to carry out a formal stylometric analysis comparing his two books through Cummins with his embodied writings, but who among us has the capability and resources to carry such a project through? As a general note for some aspiring PhD looking for a dissertation topic, carrying out stylometric analyses on known individuals with a considerable written legacy on both sides of the veil strikes me as a highly interesting study to undertake, one with a significant promise of evidentiary weight. William Barrett is another obvious candidate; William Stead might qualify as well.
Myers did not act through an intermediary with Cummins, but rather interacted with her directly in her automatic writing. This is all the more impressive, as Myers states in “The Road to Immortality” that he had undergone the ‘second death’ and was no longer in the ‘third plane’, but the ‘fourth plane’. It is impressive that he was able to ‘reach back’ to directly communicate with Cummins from this level and likely that many souls similarly placed would not have been able to do so without an intermediary. However, if Cummins was a highly accomplished automist from this side of the veil, Myers was a highly accomplished ‘operator’ from the other side of it. It is interesting to note that by the time of the Scole Experiment, some half century on, Myers was clearly involved with that project, but no longer directly participatory, his discarnate advancement presumably having carried him clear of that possibility.
Paul, Sun 20 Sep, 21:39
I don’t know, Ian. On the one hand it sounds like being a choir member for eternity with nothing else to do, or perhaps a military boot marching in step for eternity. It’s got to be something better than that and beyond our comprehension. The closest I have come to complete bliss is in the dentist’s chair under the influence of nitrous oxide. I recall thinking that I didn’t want that bliss to end, even though I couldn’t comprehend it continuing without activity and challenges of one kind or another. Taking time out of the picture is the part that is beyond most of us. Strange that a dentist’s chair, the symbol of pain, would bring the greatest bliss.
Michael Tymn, Sun 20 Sep, 17:21
I like your explanation. The diamond metaphor –which I think as the ‘over-soul’—-has been well-used to try to explain the fate of the personality and it is my preferred one but the wave/ocean idea is new for me. I like it, although each individual wave is actually lost in the vastness of the ocean and does not remain distinct, nevertheless it is a good way to start thinking about what might happen to our personality after death of the physical form. Keeping with the ocean idea one might say that each over-soul is like a beach and each personality is a grain of sand, remaining distinct and taking its place with other grains of sand making up the whole beach.
This is a difficult concept to get at because when we are incarnated we are what we are physically and behaviorally; we know nothing else but what we see ourselves in the mirror to be or is reflected back to us by others. We gain a reputation which sometimes we are all too happy to accept as what we are. That all becomes our personality, But at the core of our being we are something else, something non-physical. We are neither male, female, comely or unattractive, wise or ignorant, black, white, or other shades of melanin. We are not goofy, quirky, forgetful, thoughtful, morose, threatening, warrior or peacemaker or other traits usually associated with making-up one’s personality. We are a spark of God without form and without personality!
What we are floats over and above all of those traits of personality and that is what survives. Over and over again, people who have had an NDE report meeting beings of light, sometimes in human form and sometimes without a distinct shape but regardless of the appearance the light it has intelligence, warmth and emanates forgiving all-encompassing love. Whether shedding of the personality is gradual or immediate, it seems that according to those who have had an NDE that personality is retained during the experience at least for a while. Meeting with deceased family members and recognizing them as many NDE-ers do, suggests that personality is retained at least for a while since deceased family members are able to appear as they did when on earth. But, some think that spirit entities are able to shape-shift, so to speak, and appear in whatever form they wish.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 20 Sep, 16:20
I am beginning to agree with Michael Tymn that this is all beyond human comprehension. Maybe as a spirit we are like a blackboard that is wiped clean of all of those marks of the lecture of life and are now ready for the next class. - AOD
‘As I recall, Stead says that we lose our personality as it merges in the seventh sphere, but Silver Birch and others says that we don’t lose our individuality. Understanding what it means to lose one’s personality but not his individuality is beyond my comprehension.’
The best explanation I’ve found regarding this is that each of us is a small, individualized expression of a larger spiritual entity. Like the waves in an ocean, or an individual face on a diamond (Kudos to Michael Prescott for that one), each personality is distinct and individual, yet part of a greater whole. Our larger selves sends out hundreds, thousands, or millions of little pieces of itself (us) to live every type of life imaginable so as to gain experience and understanding.
When we die, we return to the spiritual world and gradually become part of our greater selves, but unlike, say, a Borg drone, we don’t have our personality or memories wiped. Instead, we’re more like a wave that washes back into the ocean: it still exists, but as part of a much larger whole, and will not return. Yet, aspects of ourselves (such as, say, a love for deep-fried food or a passion for sports) may find their way into other lives.
Does that help?
Ian, Sun 20 Sep, 06:30
Thanks for your thoughts on the individuality vs personality distinction. I dealt with this somewhat in my blog of October 28, 2019, but I am struggling to fully grasp it. Your explanation seems to suggest that we discard the entire personality at death, but Stead’s explanation would have us gradually shedding the personality as we advance in the spiritual world and not totally discarding it until we have achieved “Oneness.” I may have misinterpreted your explanation and will have to ponder a bit more on it while looking for a better earthly analogy.
I agree with Paul that there are many degrees of mediumship and that the Cummins-Myers combo seems to have been of a very high-quality type.
Michael Tymn, Sun 20 Sep, 06:10
As I understand it, the medium, the communicator, and the control must all be in synch for the messages to get through. If one is out of synch, then the medium’s subconscious can distort the message. As I recall, Myers didn’t require a control at that point, but I don’t recall for certain.
I try to think in a more precise way when ruminating about what survives—-if anything—after death of the physical form. I read about the soul, spirit, spirit entity, personality or individuality. I am sure that there are other terms not coming to mind used to try to describe just what it is that might survive death.
People who have an NDE feel that when outside of their body they are identical (in spirit) as to what they were when in physical form, at least for the short time they were conscious of being outside of their body. That is, they seem to be the same “personality” they were before they left their body. A few that I have seen reporting their out-of-body experience on video experience no change at all in their perception of themselves and often rush to assist the fallen body on the ground until they recognize that the body on the ground is their own.
The burr under my saddle regarding use of these terms is when ‘personality’ is equated with the spirit entity or whatever it is that survives death for longer than several minutes or a day or more as in people in coma. Personality is inherently the result of the effects of physical form and circumstances that surround that form including the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” If one grants reincarnation even for a “part of the personality” how can that “personality” remain the same as it moves from form to form? If spirit is prime and in my belief system inhabits many different forms not only on earth but on other planets in other life forms then personality is ephemeral and only is manifested and developed because it is in a physical form and even then, due to various circumstances, including medication, disease and the environment effects the personality, which may change and change permanently during one lifetime. I am not the same personality I was 30 years ago, or 50 years ago or on the day I was born. What has remained unchanged throughout my 81 years is my inner being, my spirit entity. Through the luck of the draw my ‘personality’ could have developed in a female body, in a body with innumerable disabilities or in a non-human form on earth or another planet. In each situation my personality would be different. Personality eventually falls away or is filed away in an ‘over-soul’ when one leaves a physical form.
William Stead and Silver Birch make perfect sense to me when Stead says that we lose our personality and Silver Birch says that we don’t lose our individuality. I know what that means. One’s personality of the nonce is not the same as one’s individuality which is the spirit entity, that spark of God that lives for eternity. Individuality is the soul, the spirit the entity that evolves and eventually merges with the Source consciousness, not disappearing in that consciousness but becoming a part of that consciousness
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 19 Sep, 15:02
It is, according to Patience Worth, the “in-man” the soul, the over-soul, the spirit entity—- that part of God that is a thinking being; the thinking being that is in my head; the entity that I am in dreams and what NDE-ers experience when they are out of their bodies and are met by other spirit entities sometimes without human form but composed of light or energy often presenting in an indistinct human shape. Personality is not what survives after the physical form disintegrates. It is the ‘individual’ that survives. Personality is like a character an actor plays on stage. The costume and make-up are put aside when the show is over. - AOD
In reply to Newton Finn’s post, I have an entire chapter of an unpublished manuscript dedicated to evaluating Frederic Myers’ discarnate bona fides. I will share only a brief excerpt here, but in brief, I disagree strongly with his expressed view regarding “The Road to Immortality”, which I view, on grounds of multiple lines of evidence only very partially cited here, as being authentically Myers’. The excerpt is as follows:
We have already had occasion to mention the automist Geraldine Cummins in connection with the highly veridical set of scripts communicated by Mrs. Coombe-Tennant, published as “Swan on a Black Sea”. Some considerable time prior to this collaboration, Ms. Cummins was, it appears, approached by the discarnate Myers and invited to collaborate in the communication of what would eventually become two books, discarnately authored by Myers and communicated via automatic writing through Cummins. The first, communicated over the periods 1924-25, 1927 and 1931, was published as “The Road to Immortality”. [Geraldine Cummins, “The Road to Immortality” (1932)] The second, communicated over the period 1933-34, was published as Beyond Human Personality. [Geraldine Cummins, “Beyond Human Personality” (1935)] In these two volumes, the posthumous Myers attempts a comprehensive description of the nature of discarnate reality, its various demarcations and levels and the character of the soul’s possible progression. Taken together, they comprise one of the most coherent and detailed accounts of postmortem existence available. The researcher Arthur Oram has, after judicious consideration, commented with respect to “The Road to Immortality”, that “…the book is probably the best record we have of a set of descriptions of the higher dimensional world. It can possibly be treated as our main guide as to what it is that we are seeking evidence about when we consider evidence of survival after death.” [Arthur Oram, “The System in Which We Live” (1998), pp.136-7; the relevant chapter may be found at ]https://web.archive.org/web/20080110074454/www.survivalafterdeath.org/articles/oram/studying.htm] Further, a number of leading authorities in the subject have made reference to one or both works in their own writings, including Robert Crookall, Paul Beard, Raynor Johnson, Ian Currie and Colin Wilson.
On what ground are we to accept that the two volumes in question may indeed be accredited to Myers? This is, of course, a critical question, all the more so as the nature of the subject matter, dealing entirely with the discarnate world, is not subject to verification by normal means. One basis for judgment lies in the details of the subject matter conveyed, a number of which Oliver Lodge considered largely characteristic of Myers. Another is the style of writing, which bears its own characteristic stamp and was recognized by those familiar with Myers’ incarnate writing and person as again being characteristic of him. Also worthy of note is the dissimilarity from Cummins’ own knowledge and writings of both the knowledge conveyed and the style of its conveyance, as well as the radically different mode of its composition, written nonstop at a very rapid pace and in a distinct hand. Perhaps the most suggestive is a record of separate sittings, the first with Geraldine Cummins and the second with the medium Mrs. Osborn Leonard, both with the purported communicator Myers. The mutual corroboration and cross-references in the information conveyed in the sittings with the two mediums, as detailed in Part III of “The Road to Immortality” [Cummins, “The Road to Immortality”, pp.135-55], strongly suggests that both were communicating with the same discarnate person, namely Myers. On yet another occasion, as related by Oliver Lodge in his forward to the unabridged work, following the commencement of communication in earnest of the scripts that were to comprise “The Road to Immortality”, Lodge communicated separately with Myers through Mrs. Leonard: [Ibid., p.10]
To clinch matters, I took an opportunity, when having a private sitting recently with Mrs. Osborne Leonard, to ask my old friend Myers, who was in touch with me through Raymond [Lodge’s deceased son], whether he knew anything about Miss Cummins’ writing, and whether he adhered to the things he was represented as saying in her script. His reply was to the effect that he had communicated through her, and that in a general way he had managed to get through what he wanted; though he admitted it was difficult, and he couldn’t be sure that it was always exact, but still on the whole he was willing to pass it on as fairly representing what he had intended to say.
As Myers alludes, the difficulty faced by the discarnate both of communication at all and communication with precision would seem to be a large one. In one of the early scripts of the cross-correspondences, Myers related his frustration: [Rosalind Heywood, “Beyond the Reach of Sense” (1961), pp.84-5]
Oh, if I could only…leave you the proof…that I continue. Yet another attempt to run the blockade – to strive to get a message through. How can I make your hand docile enough – how can I convince them?…I am trying… amid unspeakable difficulties….It is impossible for me to know how much of what I send reaches you.…I feel as if I had presented my credentials – reiterated the proofs of my identity in a wearisomely frequent manner….Surely you sent them what I strove…to transmit….The nearest simile I can find to express the difficulty of sending a message is that I appear to be standing behind a sheet of frosted glass – which blurs sight and deadens sound – dictating feebly – to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary. A feeling of terrible impotence burdens me….Oh it is a dark road.
For a fuller account of the details and analysis of the communications ostensibly conveyed from Myers to Cummins, we recommend review of the Foreword, Introduction and Part III of “The Road to Immortality” (unabridged version) as well as the Introduction to “Beyond Human Personality”. The closing essays by Ms. Cummins – ‘Personal Background’ and ‘The Lines of Communication’ – in “Swan on a Black Sea”, are also of interest in this context. [Cummins, “Swan on a Black Sea”, pp.147-68]
Paul, Sat 19 Sep, 02:43
Another person just put much the same question to me by email and below is my response to him:
Yes, it is difficult to reconcile all the afterlife accounts, although we do seem to get the same gist from them all.
As I understand it, the medium’s beliefs can color the messages to some extent as it comes through her or his subconscious. The other problem is that the communicating spirit may be at a level where he doesn’t fully grasp everything, although it may come through as “gospel.” As often noted, the more advanced the spirit, the greater the vibrations between medium and communicator and the more difficult it is to get messages through. The advanced spirit has to relay the message through a lower level spirit and that lower-level spirit may color it with his own beliefs before it even gets to the medium’s mind. So there may be coloring of the messages at two or three levels before humans get it. I never take any one of them as gospel. I just try to meld it all together to get the gist of it. The gist on reincarnation seems to point to only a small part of the individual’s personality being reborn and that could have been interpreted as only a small percentage of humans having been reincarnated. So much of it seems beyond human comprehension. As I recall, Stead says that we lose our personality as it merges in the seventh sphere, but Silver Birch and others says that we don’t lose our individuality. Understanding what it means to lose one’s personality but not his individuality is beyond my comprehension.
I’m pretty much satisfied with getting the gist of it all. If we had all the answers, it might not be very interesting.
Michael Tymn, Fri 18 Sep, 23:36
No, you are not alone. I have refrained from commenting about Estelle Stead and Hester Dowden’s book titled “Life Eternal” purportedly transmitted by William T. Stead from the afterlife 21 years after he drowned in 1912. I noted that Geraldine Cummins, friend of mentor Hestor Dowden was writing her book purportedly coming from Frederic Myers at about the same time and published it in 1932 one year before Estelle Stead published her book from her father in 1933. These Irish women (Hester and Geraldine) and the English Estelle were good friends and had similar interests in spirit communication and most likely were well aware of each other’s activities. Many other women and a few men were also reporting and documenting contact with spirits during that same time, 1920-1940. Pearl Curran was somewhat earlier publishing her communications with Patience Worth than Cummins, Dowden and Stead but their period of interest and writing communications from the ‘dead’ all overlapped. (Curran died in 1937 of pneumonia writing up until the end.)
In Dowden and Stead’s book I can’t help detecting a feminine style and tone to the writing. It doesn’t sound like it is from a male writer at all, unless William Steed was somewhat of a fop which I don’t think he was. I made a half-heartedly attempt to compare the writing in the book with William Stead’s actual writing and it may have been somewhat similar, but after all Estelle Stead was his daughter and transcribed many of his actual séances with various spirits, e.g. ‘Julia’. She assuredly knew how such communication transpired. It is not beyond belief that Estelle Stead allowed some of her own belief systems about the afterlife to creep into the book. After all she and Hester Dowden probably had friendly discussions with Geraldine Cummins about what Myers ‘told’ her about the 7 spheres of the afterlife.
Actually I found “Life Eternal” to be an attempt of William Stead’s daughter to keep his memory and his spiritual interests alive. The writing seemed simplistic and superficial to me, not up to the standards of William Stead a career journalist, editor and writer and not as good as Cummins’ books from Myers. But maybe that had more to do with the ability of the actual writer that anything to do with the purported spirit doing the dictation. It may be the William survived death from drowning and there are other people who provided reliable communications with him, .e.g. Etta Wriedt, but I would not include Estelle Steads’s book as good evidence that her father continued to exist somewhere and knew almost everything there was to know about the 7 spheres of the afterlife and had the answer to questions proposed by (?) somebody as included in Estelle’s book.
In defense of Estelle Stead I will use William Stead’s own words when speaking about automatic writing generally and previously quoted by Michael Tymn in his article about William Stead in PSI Encyclopedia.
“This writing may proceed from his [the automatist] sub-conscious mind or it may be due to the direct action of independent, invisible intelligences. What is certain is that it does not emanate from the conscious mind of the writer,. . . “
So, maybe the book was transmitted from William Stead and maybe it was from the subconscious mind of his daughter after years of absorbing her father’s belief system. May the reader decide.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 18 Sep, 16:16
For real quality in spirit writing see the works of Patience Worth as dictated to Pearl Curran. There is no question that these many writings did not come from the conscious or subconscious mind of Pearl Curran or anyone else living or present at the time. - AOD
I must confess that I am suspicious of alleged narrations by deceased people years after their earthly demise. Frederick Meyer’s magnum opus, “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death,” rings true to me on many levels, one of which is the inherent difficulties Meyers identifies in all communications across the veil. Also, not only the scientific caution but also the personal spirit and verve of “Human Personality” seems somewhat lacking in “The Road to Immortality.” In short, I find both credibility and meaning in Michael’s excellent series of books about postmortem communications in reasonable proximity to death, but longer and substantially delayed expositions purporting to explain in detail the nature of the afterlife (as distinguished from evidential cross-correspondences and such), leave me largely unpersuaded. Am I alone here?
Newton Finn, Fri 18 Sep, 13:57
I don’t recall anything about a single reincarnation. Stead is a bit vague on that subject, but as I interpret it, he says many souls choose not to reincarnate and those that do are mostly unadvanced souls, but he also says that only a small part of the individual’s personality reincarnates at any one time, the bulk of it remaining in the spirit world. I could be misinterpreting what he said, but that seems consistent with other reports.
Michael Tymn, Wed 16 Sep, 18:22
Dear Stafford Betty ,
Nandini Sinha Kapur, Wed 16 Sep, 09:52
Thanks for your interesting comments and your interest in our work. Please read the following two books ...’‘Laws of the Spirit World ‘’ by Khorsed Bhavnagari ..........’‘Sounds of Silence ‘’ by Nan Umrigar…. Fascinating read….Both these authors are Parsi Indians ( not exactly Hindus but close to us ) . Both were bereaved mothers. Both practised automatic writings to reach out to their children and it was very healing.
Very interesting. Looking forward to future comments. Thanks.
Jean, Wed 16 Sep, 03:42
Yes indeed, Stead is quite the character in the history of British Spiritualism, and Life Eternal is well worth reading. I have copy, must be twenty from or thirty years back. Maybe I should read it again?
Gordon Phinn, Tue 15 Sep, 23:03
A B SCOTT_HILL, Tue 15 Sep, 22:56
Fascinating as usual, I enjoy looking for comparability among similar esoteric literature and note as with all I have read this Stead one mentions 7 spheres in the Afterlife which is great, as this aligns with all others. Not so with the suggestion that most souls only experience a single reincarnation - which certainly is at odds with just about all others I have ever read. All others I have read suggest multiple reincarnations to accelerate development and that this is necessary so that we experience everything. Any comments on this Mike?
Michael I"m always interested in Wm Stead so really enjoyed reading this especially about death and the subconscious. Thank you so much! Blessings to all Karen
Karen E Herrick, Tue 15 Sep, 20:31
Did any of you take special note of Nandini Kapur’s comment above? Mediumship has long suffered from having too few, in any, accounts from India, China, and other non-Western countries. Yet here is one at last! Or am I late to the party? Do any of you know of a collection of such accounts from India, or is Kapur’s account unique? In any case, would any of you let me know if such literature exists? I’d love to compare a Hindu’s depiction of an afterlife with the usual depictions we get from mostly Christians who lived in Europe, America, and Brazil. I would especially appreciate a response from Ms. Kapur herself.
Stafford Betty, Tue 15 Sep, 18:52
Harry, I sent you an email.
Jon, Tue 15 Sep, 17:30
Only slightly off topic: I’m a bit concerned that your reprint of Stead’s ‘The Blue Island’ apparently contains markedly fewer pages than a copy of the original that I’ve found online. Why is this? Is your version a faithful reprint of the entirety of the original?
Harry Warren, Tue 15 Sep, 16:18
Thanks Michael. Most interesting.
Paul, Tue 15 Sep, 15:13
Dear Michael Timny ,
prof.Nandini Sinha Kapur, Tue 15 Sep, 14:11
Hello from New Delhi , India. I am a member of Spiritual and Consciousness Academy and my paper was published in the proceedings of 40th Annual conference about my husband’s communication with me after his physical death. It is fascinating to read about Stead’s messages from your latest book.I can see resemblance between what Stead says about the mystry of the place where he lives in heaven and what my husband , Prof.Vijay Kapur says9 automatic writing messages ) about his plane that they are trying to figure out the nature of their place and that he seems to be in Group soul what Stead mentions . Vijay mentions that now he lives with educated , like minded people who help others and dedicate themselves to humanity. Congratulations for this book.
Nandini Sinha Kapur , 7.40 PM ,Indian Standard Time , Tuesday 15th September
C.M. Mayo, Tue 15 Sep, 12:22
Thanks for this. (I am endlessly astonished by the sheer quantity of this type of literature!)
Mike: As usual, another informative blog. I will definitely check out the new book. I can’t help but notice from your summary the multiple similarities in message between Stead and the “Seth” personality communicating through medium Jane Roberts, particularly regarding the nature of Christ and God. My guess is that readers finding Seth books interesting will also find this book equally fascinating
Michael Schmicker, Mon 14 Sep, 17:56
Fascinating material. Thanks, Michael.
Stafford Betty, Mon 14 Sep, 17:00
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