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Ferry Over Jordan by Margery Lawrence 1944

 

II. ON BEGINNING AT THE BEGINNING

A friend of mine put a rather interesting question to me the other day.

“ Supposing,” she said, “ I was suddenly widowed - that I had just lost Jack” (her husband, to whom she was devoted); “ supposing I longed to find out where he was and what was happening to him, but knew absolutely nothing about how to go about these things. How would you advise me to start?

This question expresses very succinctly the quandary in which many people find themselves who are genuinely anxious to investigate this most important study.

I think that the first part of my answer to this question would be a singularly contradictory one, for I should advise against doing anything at all for at least three months! This may sound not only contradictory, but positively unsympathetic, addressed to a bereaved woman longing to get into touch with the man who has meant her whole life; and yet the very fact that she is in this highly emotionalized state is my reason for advising her to sit back and wait a while.

Quite apart from the fact that nobody in a very worked-up condition is capable of calmly judging and observing a medium (and so assessing her value and the value of the evidence she gives), it is twice as difficult, even sometimes impossible, for a soul who wants to communicate, to “ reach” a person surrounded by a thick “ fog” of tensed-up vibrations caused by a tumult of emotions. You will stand a far better chance of contacting your dear ones if you give yourself - and them - time to quiet down, to settle into their new conditions, and to learn something about how to communicate with the earth-world; how to use the “ telephone” as it were, which is in itself a process subject to various laws and


 

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conditions that have to be studied before communications can be satisfactorily established.

I say “ give them time” for a further and very important reason. While anyone dying under normal conditions (especially anyone already accustomed to the idea of communicating) may well succeed in contacting his family or friends comparatively soon after death, anyone dying suddenly, from accident or violent illness or in battle, experiences a shock that reacts on the ethereal body after the manner of physical concussion (though of course without pain). And many of these cases have to remain after death in a sort of semi-coma for some little time, while doctor; and nurses care for them, until they get over the shock and come slowly to their normal state of mind.'

I have explained this in much greater detail in my next chapter, “ What it Feels Like to Die “ .

Then one may reasonably hope to be able, all other things being well, to get in contact with them. But there are many pitiful cases of wives or sweethearts or mothers rushing to mediums within a few days of their menfolks deaths, and failing, blaming either the mediums or the men in question, and flinging away sore and unhappy, declaring that the idea of communicating is all nonsense.

“ If Jack had been alive anywhere, he would have spoken, I know he would...”

Now that is not fair! Jack may be longing to communicate, even as you are-but many things may for the moment make it difficult or even impossible. Be patient, and don't rush things! Realize that adjustments that you know nothing of must be made on the Other Side, and if your first sitting fails, even your second or third, do not decide hastily that there is “ nothing in it”.

Then comes a very important point. “ How do I find a reliable medium?” That is a vital question, and one not easy to answer off-hand. I would personally advise enquirers, if they live in a large city, to look up the address of any centre of Spiritualist activity in that city (look for “ S.N.U.” , which means “ Spiritualist National Union” , in the telephone book) and attend one or two public demonstrations of clairvoyance given at these centres, to accustom themselves a little to the procedure of these public meetings before venturing upon a private sitting - inevitably a rather emotional business to the beginner. You may get a personal message given to you at this public demonstration, and if so,


 

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do not let shyness, or fear, or the fact that it is sent to you in public, prevent your welcoming and answering it.

These public demonstrations are not merely “ shows” to exhibit the proficiency of a medium, but give proof of the survival of individuals who are communicating from the Other Side to their friends amongst the audience, and give demonstrations of various other aspects of the special psychic powers of the medium demonstrating; they also frequently consist of individual lectures or teachings, given out by the Guides, who teach their followers through their mediums as once Christ taught His disciples. For instance, for many years Red Cloud (the famous Guide of Mrs. Estelle Roberts) gave weekly lectures and demon­strations to packed audiences at the Queens Hall, and later at the Eolian Hall. White Eagle (the Guide of Mrs. Grace Cooke) does the same thing at his headquarters in Kensington. At the moment of writing Ronald Strong, a highly-gifted young medium, gives regular demonstrations at the Wigmore Hall, and many other Guides as great or less great as those mentioned above, hold similar regular meetings. It is my experience that going to these meetings, apart from the teaching and demonstrations given through the medium being of the greatest value and interest, often brings helpful contacts with others seeking the same path. So don't be put off with any dislike of public meetings; they are a very good “ jumping-off place”! Don't forget that the vast majority of the audience come for the same reason as yourself - to find truth and help - and you may well find yourself, not among strangers, but amongst the New Disciples sitting at the feet of another Teacher.

After this I should advise you to approach the secretary of the Centre and ask him or her to arrange a private sitting for you with the best medium they can recommend - most towns have such a Centre where reliable mediums are either trained or employed or can be recommended. An alternative is to subscribe to one of the several leading psychic papers or magazines (the Psychic News, Light, the Two Worlds and the Occult Review are reliable ones), and after studying the accounts of various mediums' work contained therein, write to the medium who seems to you promising and ask his or her fees, and if you can have a sitting at a convenient time.

Private sittings - i.e. sittings with only one or two sitters are generally more expensive than others; but the mediums' fees vary, the less famous being, of course, less highly paid than the famous. The average fee ranges from half a guinea to thirty shillings, and a sitting may last


 

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only half an hour or twice as long - it depends upon the Guide who controls the medium, not upon the fee! Some mediums can remain entranced for two hours or more - some only half an hour; so do not feel defrauded if you, sitting with Mrs. Jones, have only half an hour, and your friend, sitting with Mrs. Brown and paying the same fee, gets twice as long. You may well get just as much evidence, teaching, comfort or whatever you are seeking, in the short sitting as in the long; it is only more “ condensed” . But I must give you a word of warning! Do not be disappointed if you have to wait some time to get a sitting, nor if you cannot get one with one of the most famous mediums! These men and women are desperately hard-worked, and cannot deal with half the people who beg for sittings, especially now. But there are many younger, less well-known mediums, doing equally fine work in proving survival; so if you can't get a sitting with one of the great ones, take one of the less great. You may well get all you want, and more.

I know the next inevitable query. “ How do I know the medium is genuine?”

Human nature is fallible; and it would be too much to expect an absolute guarantee of reliability with every medium recommended! Secretaries, editors, all who recommend or arrange sittings, exercise every care, but they cannot do more than that. Mediums are of various grades and types, and while in my experience deliberate “ frauds” are rare, still, they do exist; and besides this, without being “ frauds” , some highly-balanced practitioners are more “ suggestible” than others, and without intending to, tend to “ pick up” your own thoughts or desires, with the result that their messages may be coloured or influenced by yourself or even by their own subconscious impulses. That is an additional reason why I advise a long wait before having one's first sitting, so as to let the first waves of emotionalism die down and allow the normal commonsense attitude of mind to resume control.

You want a sitting - to try and speak to your husband. Good!

But you also want to be quite sure that it is your husband, and that you yourself do not, in your agitated eagerness to be comforted and reassured, “ give yourself away” by impulsively pouring out all sorts of personal details that might enable a not-too-scrupulous medium to “ fake” the sitting, or an over-suggestible one to “ colour” it with the information you have unconsciously provided. Don't run away with the idea, on the other hand, that you should be stiff and suspicious with every medium! Strike a midway course. Be pleasant and friendly, so as


 

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to put the medium at her ease, but do not rush into a flood of excited confidences. This will only mean, if you are lucky and do speak to your husband, that later, thinking it over in a calmer state of mind, you will find yourself wondering thus: “ Was it Jack - or wasn't it? I believe it was . . . but I remember now, I did tell her so and so about him, and that might have given her a lead. I never thought . . . I wonder whether she picked that up from me, or whether it was really him speaking....”

Another thing - and a most important one. If you do succeed in communicating, do not immediately go plunging into more and more frequent sittings!

Comforting as they doubtless are to you, you should try to realize that to renew this contact too often will not be wise for either you or him. Your beloved has passed on a little before you to the world that lies just ahead, and there he has work to do, things to learn, progress to make . . and you should not delay or hamper him by continual calls upon him. Here in this world you have to make the best of life, go ahead with your work, courageously, cheerfully - so make up your mind to limit your contacts with your loved ones to an occasional rare talk, as a treat and as encouragement to both of you.

I have known women insist on trying to talk to their “ dead” men-folk as often as three or four times a week; and it cannot be too clearly understood that this is definitely unfair to both, and acts as a hindrance, not as the help it should. Contact with the Other Side should be an occasional tonic, not a crutch constantly used, as though one could not stand or move without it. There is a good deal of truth in the old story (I think it comes from Grimm's Fairy Tales) of the dead child whose mother wept for him so bitterly that his shroud was constantly wet and he could not fly to Heaven because its weight held him down. An angel came and told her she was hindering her child's progress by her continual grief. So she dried her eyes and took up her life bravely, and that night saw her child, smiling and happy, with his shroud dry once more, fly up to Heaven holding the angel's hand. A charming tale, with a large grain of truth hidden beneath its fantasy.

This comment may be made.

“ How, if I may not communicate as often as my heart longs to do, can I learn, advance, find out something of the world to which my beloved has gone, so that when my own time comes to die I shall know something about it all, and so find the passing over easier? Shall I attach


 

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myself to one particular medium? Shall I join a home circle or a psychic club? Shall I try to develop my own inner knowledge via the crystal or planchette, or by sitting for automatic writing, or by study - and if the latter, what books shall I read, and how shall I get them?

First, I should never advise anybody to attach themselves permanently to only one medium, no matter how good. You may well come to prefer one medium and become especially attached to her Guide, and so sit more often with that medium than with others - but even so, it is well to contact other Guides from time to time. Every Guide has his own individual “ slant” on things, and just as it is good, when studying on earth, to work with various masters, it is good to contact different masters from over There; and further, it saves one from being permanently “ annexed” by any one group, which is apt to happen if one only works with one medium and the people about her. However excellent the medium and her particular group, to sit only with that one group narrows down one's field of experience.

Private circles, or “ home circles” as they are often called, have done and are doing some very fine work. But unless the enquirer is sure that the circle in question is “ managed” by somebody who has had considerable experience of this work, I should go warily, as a group of completely ignorant people, no matter how earnest or well-intentioned, starting a circle on their own, without knowledge of how to handle it properly, may attract either idle and useless or sometimes positively unpleasant entities from the lower Astral, and at the best learn little of real worth. (I do not say that this would necessarily happen - but it might!)

Regarding the development of personal mediumship, the crystal, automatic writing, (*) planchette and kindred things are all useful means of assisting concentration - and provided, again, these are not overdone and are preceded by a short period of quiet, concentrated thought (or you can call it mental prayer if you like) on the part of the sitter, I have known some very interesting results develop from them. But I have also known some appalling nonsense produced, especially via planchette and automatic writing!

(*) I have elaborated this point considerably in Chapter 4, “ On Mediums and Mediumship”.

Moreover, these methods of personal training entail sitting alone a great deal in a subdued light concentrating upon one's loss and the loved one that is gone-and this is not, generally speaking, a wise practice for anybody recently bereaved. The Guides advise against it, as it is apt to lead to a morbid over-dwelling upon one's pain-and certainly


 

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I should never advise experimenting with solitary concentration until the violence of one's grief has thoroughly abated. And here again, as when sitting with a medium, if results are attained I urge caution, deliberation, and a most careful and balanced analysis of any such results, bearing in mind that in these purely personal experiments one must allow a very large margin for one's own subconscious personality taking a hand in the game, even though one may feel utterly ' certain that one has made one's mind a blank.

And last, but by no means least, a study of well-chosen books (which in any case I advise as an adjunct to sittings, demonstrations, etc.) can be of enormous help as well as interest. There are quantities of these, some written by people in this world and many dictated (through mediums) by people in the next, whose practical knowledge makes them qualified to speak; and though it is difficult to give a list of books that will suit everyone, as so much depends on the stage of knowledge and development of the person concerned, I think it would be hard to beat this group, as a beginning at least!

‘On the Edge of the Etheric’ - Findlay. An admirable and absorbing account of a business man's enquiries into Spiritualism, with details of sittings, methods on this side and the other, etc.

‘The Doorway’ - Vivian. Reports sent over by an officer dead in the Boer War, which gives vivid descriptions of life and conditions on the Other Side.

‘Red Cloud Speaks’ and the ‘Teachings of Silver Birch’. These are beautiful and moving lectures by two of the leading Guides at present working in London, which tell of the working of the Cosmic Law, the future of mankind and other similar matters.

‘When Your Child Dies’ and its companion volume, ‘When Your Animal Dies’, by Sylvia Barbanell, will bring help and comfort to many, and Sylvia's husband Maurice (who is the Editor of the Psychic News and has worked with several of the leading mediums for years), in ‘Across the Gulf’, has recorded a whole series of absorbingly interesting talks held with many famous people now on the Other Side. Happenings at Hannen Swaffer's famous Private Circle are recorded by A. W. Austin under the title of Home Circle, and Stead's ‘Blue Island’ and Vale Owen's ‘The Highlands of Heaven’(although these two are not of the newest vintage!) are still well worth reading; and for more advanced “ pupils” Lodge's ‘Raymond’is of absorbing interest. New publications


 

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are continually appearing, a list of which are contained in the pages of most leading psychic papers. But a careful study of the above short list should give anyone at least a good start - and once started the student should, I think, be able to go ahead and find fresh books for him or herself.

Boiled down to essentials then, my advice to my widowed friend would be - “ wait till you have steadied up your emotions and are ready calmly and quietly to begin your investigations” . Then I should go to several Spiritualist demonstrations to learn the procedure and “ tune in” to things, and if you like the medium who is demonstrating, write to her and ask for a sitting. Then, if you are lucky enough to establish contact with your husband, follow, up your luck by settling down to a course of study and reading, flavoured - if circumstances allow it - by a very occasional talk to your husband to cheer and encourage you to keep steadily on your chosen path. For many the mere contact with their loved one is sufficient - and for those, Spiritualism begins and ends with that contact, which is all they need. But many others find themselves becoming interested in the subject for its own sake, and these may form a developing group, or join a circle, and as time goes on, establish a feeling of real friendship and happiness with one of the Guides with whom they sit regularly; and this in its turn may lead to their inclusion in the regular “ Inner Circle” meetings which are held by most Guides for the teaching of their more advanced “ pupils”, where material of immense interest is disclosed, questions answered, discussions held, etc., between the Guide and his audience; and the interest and value of these meetings, and the help the lessons there learnt can be in life, is tremendous. Of this I can speak from experience.

I feel, on reading this chapter, that in some respects it may seem rather “ hard-boiled” - but I make no apology. The study of Spiritualism has for far too long been regarded as exclusive to the idle, the hysterical, the morbid, the neurotic and the emotionally unbalanced! And, while one cannot banish emotional values from it, since it deals, for many of us, with the most highly emotional matter of all, the contacting of our loved ones who have passed ahead of us to the “ Happy Land” I am sure that in the study of those contacts and of the conditions that rule them, one must endeavour to avoid emotionalism as much as possible, and maintain as practical and commonsense an attitude as we can. I deplore the half-awed, mentally-tiptoe attitude adopted by many people (particularly beginners) towards mediums and mediumship and


 

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Spiritualism in general. Spiritualism is not magic! It is the sane and practical study of the conditions of the next world where we, sane and practical people, are going to live one day.

And, therefore, I urge the adoption by us all, especially beginners, of a sane and practical attitude in which our critical faculties will not be swamped by the emotional urge to accept anything as long as it brings comfort, nor our natural fear of being deceived act as a barrier of suspicion and distrust that may prevent our recognition of the glorious truth when it is presented to us: the knowledge that life is continuous, and that the death of the body does not mean separation after all.

ON WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO DIE