Most bereaved people are on the receiving end, at some time or other, of comments that suggest that ‘time will heal all wounds’ or encouragement such as, ‘you’ll be fine in a while ‘ or ‘just give it time’.
Equally, they are frequently on the receiving end of misunderstandings about how long it may take to become familiar with a world profoundly and forever altered and not of their own choosing.
The suggestion that time heals, in my view, does an enormous disservice to the hard work and sometimes overwhelming effort that bereaved people make to adapt to their changed circumstances after the death of a loved one. It gives time some kind of active participation in the process and makes bereaved people appear to be the passive recipients of time’s healing efforts.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Time is simply something that is measured by clocks and calendars.
It is a convention to measure existence. Our perception of time is a fluid thing. Time can go slowly or quickly even seem to ‘stand still.’ We talk about things being timeless. We can recall things in our past and they can feel as fresh as yesterday or a very long time ago.
However we may understand time, I would suggest it is not an entity that can ‘do’ things. To suggest that it works on human heartache in a positive healing way is to deny the very active nature of grieving and rebuilding our lives after a death.
The old saying “time heals all wounds” is simply not true.
Parents do not ‘get over’ the death of their child. There is no amount of time that can pass that will alter the fact that their child has died and that they must continue to live with this unchanging reality. Time does not stop the ache in hearts nor does it erase the missing of those we love.
Notions of time do however play a part in the grieving process.
Initially for many time will stand still…the rest of the world seems to be getting on with things while the life of the bereaved seems to have stopped. People often comment on how their sense of time seems distorted. It can feel like yesterday or forever ago since they did a particular thing. The death can seem incredibly fresh and yet it can be years since it occurred.
I suspect that this may be because the intensity of grief in the early weeks, with its capacity to fill every available bit of one’s being, carries with it an inability to connect to calendar time – the passage of hours, days, weeks and months seem completely irrelevant.
Once time stops standing still, so to speak, bereaved people may not think much beyond the present day and the recent past. It is too overwhelming to think about days beyond because that would mean thinking about a future that does not include their child.
Thinking about the recent past generally involves thinking about all that led up to the death as well as focusing on memories so as not to forget. It is exquisitely painful to think about the many years ahead. For quite a long time it is simply not possible to think too far ahead.
However, gradually and with tiny baby steps, those who are heartbroken do start to function again. It becomes possible again to do the shopping, cook meals, go out, take care of surviving children etc. Time does not do this…YOU DO and frequently with an enormously huge effort.
However, time does provide a different vantage point that enables people to look back and acknowledge the ways in which they have moved from how they were in the beginning, how they may be different in terms of thinking, feeling and doing. This awareness may boost confidence about survivability and may herald the beginning of regaining a sense of mastery and control over overwhelming thoughts and feelings.
Many of us recognise that after a while, the time in between moments of overwhelming sorrow becomes longer and the time spent feeling overwhelmed becoming shorter.
I would suggest that it is not the passage of time that does this but your own greater familiarity with your grief, your own better ability to ensure breaks from pain and your own greater ability to re-engage with life within your broader social world. Such capacities usually occur against a background of learning to live with the experience and discovering ways to build a life around the pain of loss.
All of these abilities are actively engaged in by those bereaved, not always consciously, but nevertheless by the bereaved.
I, as a professional Social Worker, Psychotherapist and bereaved mother of an only child am privy to the painstaking struggle that families make to reconnect with life and rebuild their lives. Time alone does not do this!!! To think that it does is to take away acknowledgement of all the hard work and frequently painful work done by individuals and families.
As families engage in the tough task of rebuilding, they are further subjected to time constraints placed on them by the outside world.
Most of us have had experiences where others clearly underestimate the amount of time it takes to rebuild and in particular, the time that people continue to feel sad.
We allow more time for people to adapt to workplace change or moving house than we do for grieving people becoming accustomed to a profoundly changed world.
Family and friends, perhaps especially after the death of a child, are often very attentive and caring in the beginning.
For many, such support tends to diminish before the bereaved stop needing it. Friends and families may think and some directly say it, that it’s time to move on, that you need to get over it, that you have the rest of your lives to think about, other children to pay attention to etc etc
Others may give various forms of “hurry-up” messages. They want the bereaved person get back to normal and to do so fairly quickly. Our broader society supports and encourages this notion of a speedy return to pre-existing normalcy as if that were possible.
Bereaved people very simply need to be allowed more TIME to adapt and regenerate. Time is not the prime ‘doer’…..it is the context within which all grieving and mourning and rebuilding take place.
with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell
Many bereaved families may have surviving adolescent children who are mourning the loss of their brother or sister.
This is often new territory both for the teenager and also for the parents trying to work out our best to care for them especially when they are feeling so emotionally depleted.
Some things to think about:
1. Grief is not always visible
Grief is not just the outward display of emotion. It is also the thoughts and behaviours that we experience in response to the death of someone we love.
As adolescents are in the process of becoming more independent of their parents and other important adults, they may at times feel reluctant to show feelings or talk about their thoughts as it can reinforce a sense of dependence and vulnerability. They may also choose to inhibit some of their thoughts and feelings out of a desire to protect their families. They may also prefer to share their experiences with their peer group.
Strategy: Be available
It is when we are listened to and heard is when we feel most understood. Create a home environment where open communication is encouraged. Convey to them that it is okay to have the thoughts and feelings that they may have and that you will be available should they decide to let you know what is going on with them.
As with adults, at the beginning of grief, it is sometimes very difficult to communicate what we are thinking and feeling…it is no less difficult for adolescents who have less life experience than adults and who, when they are feeling vulnerable may find it difficult to put things into words.
2. Don’t try to “fix” the pain associated with grief
It is difficult and uncomfortable for parents to witness the pain of their children. They usually want life to be okay for their children and are pained by what they see and uncomfortable about the helplessness it can create in them. This means that we may want to take away or fix the pain of those we love. This may take the form of avoiding conversation about the person who has died or distracting them from thinking or feeling their pain. While this may be momentarily effective, it can result in the adolescent hiding their grief or withdrawing or expressing their grief in destructive ways.
Strategy: Talk about the loss
Invite the adolescent to talk about the person who died. Encourage questions. Should the teenager not want to talk, respect this. Offer others that they may speak with about their feelings.
Always answer questions honestly and clearly. If you do not know the answer to something, say so. Share your memories, thoughts, beliefs and don’t expect that your teenager will always see things as you do.
3) Understand that grief does not proceed in orderly predictable stages.
Young people grieve in doses. Like with adults, their grief is more likely to go in waves. Sometimes adolescents may have outbursts of grief after a period when they have seemed perfectly okay. Know that this is normal. Their grief like yours, may at times seem unpredictable. They are no better at grieving or making sense of the world than adults. The difference is that they may seem unaffected for periods of time and a burst of emotion can catch parents unawares.
Strategy: Allow for adjustment
Because grief does not proceed in an orderly fashion, teenagers need to be allowed leeway as they adjust to a life forever changed. Providing a secure, consistent environment with predictable routines is important. This helps to generate a renewed feeling of safety and security. Be aware of any danger signs such as violence, drug and alcohol abuse, risk-taking behaviour or dramatic changes in personality. Seek help when necessary.
4) Model Healthy Grief
Like all of us, adolescents learn from those around them. They will pick up implicit and explicit messages from those around them on how to grieve. This is how they think they should behave or are expected to behave. They take their cues from important grown-ups in their lives (even if they do not look like they are paying attention).
Strategy: Mourn together
Be aware of the messages that they may be receiving from those around them about how to grieve and offer alternatives when appropriate.
The more adolescents observe healthy communication and the appropriate expression of the many feelings associated with loss, the more likely they may understand, accept and manage the breadth of emotions and thoughts they may have.
Try as much as possible to consider what things might look like from their perspective. Give thought to the closeness of the relationship your teenager shared with their brother or sister. Acknowledge the deep loss it is for them too.
When you can, in the midst of your grief, set aside time, attention and availability for the adolescent. That does not necessarily mean talking about the death but maybe just time spent together doing something that is fun and thereby communicating that they matter and they too are important.
Finally, remember that this is new for all of you and that there will be some trial and error as families become better able to take care of each other.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
— Lao Tzu
An easy way to stay in the present and take control over the thousand little thoughts that bombard our brains on a daily basis is to adopt an effortless technique called breath focus.
Breath focus will enable you to make for yourself a state of calmness amidst turbulent times. One can do it anywhere, in line in the supermarket, waiting for a plane, train or bus, in the quiet and amidst the bustle of a city street.
I particularly love doing my breath focus in the shower. There is something magical about having a focused shower. You already know where the soap goes; you do not need to think about it. A perfect time to practice breath focus, under the soothing flow of shower.
So, what is breath focus? It merely is paying attention to the breath. Being an observer to this most basic of all our functions that we take for granted.
Imagine if you will that you are in your shower, you absentmindedly reach for and start soaping yourself, your mind is wandering to a thousand different thoughts. Now, while you are in the imaginary shower with the warm water cascading over you bring your attention to your breath is it in or out, continue to search for your breath.
Now you have located your breath consciously decide to work with it. Start by taking a deep breath and as you do notice the feeling of your expanded chest. Note how far you can stretch your ribcage.
Now exhale, this time put your mind to your stomach and as you exhale notice it deflating, notice it relaxing, notice it becoming soft.
Notice your breath as it passes your nose, is it warm? Notice the speed, the pressure. Now push the breath all the way out, out, out.
Now repeat, as you breathe in pay attention to every tiny part of your in breath all the in and all the way down.
Repeat, until no thought enters but those of you following the breath.
Congratulations you have just meditated. Move on with your day in a calm and relaxed manner and when you remember it be present to the breath.
Everything in life is in constant movement and change. Nothing ever stops. The only constant is change itself.
Through our life, we experience change in many forms, from key development milestones, as we witness our bodies growing and ageing, to life-changing shifts such as having children or losing loved ones. In between is a myriad of other episodic life moments, where we experience the effect of change cast over a backdrop of a moving culture, a fluctuating economy and a constantly shifting environmental landscape.
Change can be hard to deal with, especially when it is dropped down on you in the most unexpected and abrupt ways. You can suddenly lose balance, disconnect from your inner resources and feel unable to respond adequately to changing circumstances. In short, you enter into a crisis.
This is what the typical life crisis is made of–the inability to respond adequately to change. It is when your inner world–beliefs, emotions and attitudes–do not reflect the outer world as it changes. Anxiety and stress often stem from this inability to deal emotionally with change. Ironically the wrong response to change is often stagnation.
Resilience and adaptability to change are extremely important life skills, often associated with emotional intelligence and a healthy attitude or perspective towards the self and life in general.
Here are eight ways to help you not only adapt to change, and deal with crises, but actually thrive in it.
What is the first emotion you feel when you suddenly face an unexpected change that doesn’t have a known outcome? (basically you don’t yet know whether it’s good or bad). For most people, fear or anxiety is the first thing that comes up. Fear of the unknown is one of the deepest and most pervasive of fears. If you let this fear overcome you, it starts creating negative thought patterns and other unwanted self-sabotaging patterns.
Positive people usually get immediately excited about the prospect of change because their view on life is, in general, an optimistic one and therefore they expect that good things will happen more often than bad. They might initially hesitate for a while but then cheer themselves up and end up looking forward to it. They embrace change. They get curious. Curiosity is an important trait to have because it engenders movement and the power to get out of a comfort zone.
People who are most likely to deal effectively with change implicitly know that life is in constant movement and they cannot stop and gather moss. They need to move and circulate the energy around, whether it’s the energy of their thoughts, money, body, work, etc. This is a secret very few people know and follow consciously.
Stagnation goes against life because life is–by its own nature–movement. When they face unexpected change, they make an effort to flow with it and keep themselves from getting stagnant. By stagnation, I mean following the same thought patterns and doing the same things. So these people think sideways, try new things, follow new paths or divert their attention away from the same patterns.
They own and take response-ability of how they are affected by a situation. Resilient people know that how they respond emotionally to life is everything. Experience is not something that happens to them but something they make out of a situation.
This simple but basic attitude changes everything and most certainly, it helps you deal with any form of change and disruption. When you are emotionally responsible you do not blame life or others. You try to find new ways to look at things and people. In fact, people who are emotionally intelligent find it instinctive to quickly change the energy of a situation, or people around them, by first changing how they feel about it. They know that responding negatively or falling victim to their own emotions is not helpful and will ultimately stop them from moving forward and adapting to change.
Perspective is key because it can change your feelings, attitude and will. Give two people the same situation and they will respond to it differently, if their perspective is different. Difficulty can become a useful challenge and an opportunity to learn. Disappointment can become a life lesson that teaches more about self mastery.
Everything can be turned around with the right perspective. Successful people will always look for the right perspective to get a better angle on an apparent problem. A sudden change can be turned into a springboard that helps you leap forward, if seen from the right perspective.
We often hear the cliché of facing one’s own fears. I think this is sometimes interpreted as being confrontational or aggressive. Successful people don’t bust their fears. Nobody really does. They understand them more, and respect them for what they are, but make it a point not to be controlled by them.
In fact, mentally strong people are ones who have a healthy internal dialogue. They do not push their fears away and they don’t fight or resist them either. They are just more conscious of which of those fears are holding them back, and understanding them. They befriend them, they talk to them and they might even give them names. In the end, they dance to the music of life by recognizing their fears and overcoming them (not fighting them) through self love, courage and faith.
The last point above brings me to the following. To successfully deal with the currents of life, you have to most of all keep faith in yourself. Know that you have all the resources needed to deal with any life situation. Do not be sidetracked by your mind that tries to make you believe you are inadequate or that you need something from somewhere, or someone, to solve a problem. You don’t.
People who successfully deal with change and crisis, time after time, believe that they always have the resources to push through. They do not look outwards for answers–they look inwards. They have faith that they will always look into themselves and summon up the courage, the ideas, the will, the attitude, the answer. They believe that they are connected to a creative life force that they can always tap into, without any consensus from anyone.
‘Self love’ is always misjudged by many because it sounds selfish or narcissistic. It certainly isn’t. Quite the contrary, self-love is the key to opening up to the world, and others, with kindness and compassion. Self-love means being open to yourself. You allow yourself to be human, to err, lose and find yourself again. Most of all, it means not to be harsh to yourself by criticizing or judging all the time. This would only create a negative internal dialogue that would generate more negative thought patterns.
As mentioned earlier on, successful people have a healthy internal dialogue. They communicate with their subconscious and their feelings/emotions in a positive way–lovingly and accepting. They don’t judge themselves; they just learn and move on. So when the going gets tough and the world around you changes too quickly, the first step is to love yourself more.
This is very close to the first point, where I mentioned that resilient people are optimistic about change and unknown circumstances. They do not cocoon themselves in but open up their arms and trust the flow of life. They are, in general, optimistic because they choose to believe that life is supportive and not conspiring against them.
If bad things happen, they change perspective, take emotional responsibility and move on; but they do not lose trust in life because they know that once their attitude and perspective is good, life will respond and support them all the way.
Adapted from an article by Gilbert Ross on Friday November 24th, 2017
Today I have a short story for you…
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which read, “I am blind, please help.”
There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks as they hurried past.
A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words.
Then he put the sign back in the boy’s hand so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.
That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were.
The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”
The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.”
Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to see…
When your life seems full of troubles, it seems difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude, doesn’t it? All we see are our problems, like a blackened storm cloud casting a dark shadow over our lives.
And the times when everything just seems to be going smoothly? We often take these precious moments for granted too, don’t we? Caught up in the bliss, comfort, and familiarity of it all, we can simply forget to be thankful.
So what, then, is gratitude?
Simply put, gratitude is a habit. It’s a way of looking at the world and all the good things in it with a feeling of appreciation, regardless of whether or not your current situation is to your liking.
Gratitude is a heart-centered approach to being at peace with yourself and with all you have. When you practice this feeling of gratitude, it attracts even MORE things into your life for which to be grateful.
Go ahead, try it out right now. What or who do you have in your life to be thankful for? 🙂
With thanks to Cyrus Kirkpatrick for permission to reprint his article. Cyrus also has written a book about “Understanding Life After Death” available through Amazon, Book Depository, links below.
Those of us who’ve read any amount of spiritual literature will find more than a few contradictions. Among the most noticeable relates to the conditions of our existence immediately post death. There are two camps:
The first camp believes that when we die, we more or less retain things like our individualities, personalities, and level of knowledge before we died. In other words, “the journey continues.”
The second camp believes we are instantly transformed into Beings of Light. Any flaws or issues we had in this life are immediately purified. You may hear this camp say things like, “Everything in this world is a stage when we die the play ends, and we return to Source.”
And, there’s a reasonable third “grey area” that may be a mix of both elements.
The first camp is supported, in particular, by researchers of direct spirit communication. That includes information presented through physical mediumship sources (such as David Thompson, Scott Milligan, Leslie Flint, and others) as well as most information from Spiritualist sources dating all the way back to Swedenborg in the 1700s. This opinion is also commonly supported by out-of-body practitioners who have experienced leaving their bodies and communicating with the deceased – often discovering people from this world living surprisingly similar lives as before they crossed over – within a different, albeit modified or enhanced, version of our current universe.
These are not the only sources. Another example is Paramahansa Yogananda, the Indian yogi/guru who penned “Autobiography of a Yogi.” This highly influential spiritual teacher from the early 20th century famously recounts what the astral realm is like – and it matches up in a consistent way. He describes the other side as amazingly similar to our world. According to Yogananda, this is because the astral plane is also a bodily incarnation (and counts as a realm that one may reincarnate into). He teaches his followers to be mindful of their journey and their karma, because death will not provide instant spiritual attainment, but is merely a continuation of another physical existence. No matter what, we must walk the path of spiritual attainment ourselves, no matter how long it takes.
The Instant-Enlightenment Camp
The second camp is primarily reinforced by literature from near death experience books, pop mediumship, and channelers. It’s also part of an overall culture in various pop-spirituality circles.
As an example, the popular “Channeling Erik” community has included alleged communications from highly negative people in this life, such as Hitler. In the Channeling Hitler video, a medium suggests that Hitler was an “angelic” entity; and apparently suffering no great consequences in the afterlife. The Channeling Erik community also published an alleged channelling of the San Bernadino ISIS-affiliated shooters; who lost their lives during a 2015 terrorist attack. Going by the narrative that all who die are transformed into Beings of Light – there was no mention of consequences for their actions.
Another site that proposes this theory is Afterlife 101. This highly singular perspective of the other side proposes all who cross over enter a purely non-physical domain as Light Beings, that our individualities blend and dissolve, negative emotions do not exist, and we each become spiritually omniscient. In this view, there is no physical element to the afterlife and the dichotomy of mind influencing matter dissolves into the afterlife being pure “mind.” This creates a common interpretation that the afterlife itself is a dream-like, insubstantial realm (this is in conflict with the reports by direct spirit communication).
(To be fair, I am uncertain what the Afterlife 101 alleged channellers say about negative consequences for actions in this life. I find their work to be unbearable to read—but they may, in fact, warn about negative consequences of actions somewhere in their essays. I haven’t seen it, though.)
Today, this point of view is commonly associated with the New Age movement and sprinkled throughout metaphysical books, TV shows and communities.
Why the Instant-Enlightenment Idea is a Philosophical Nightmare
Now, at last, I am going to editorialise about this subject. The second camp—the Instant Enlightenment people—have been drawn in by a seductive, albeit highly limiting, point of view.
What this philosophy teaches is that no matter how messed up your life is—all you have to do is die and all your problems are instantly solved, because we are each a “Being of Light” waiting to emerge.
You can be utterly useless in this life—not lifting a finger to help people around you—in fact, you could even be a murderous monster—and you will STILL become a “Being of Light” as, after all, life is just a stage and we are its actors.
There is the very little conception of what we even do in our Light Being form. Literal descriptions of the afterlife from this camp are often negligent and devoid of details. As our imaginations are left to wander, most of us conceptualise a form of the religious imagery of sitting on top a cloud—basking in only positive emotions for eternity.
Nonetheless, the heavenly cloud concept where we all become angels is a fun way to completely alleviate oneself of responsibility. It’s also an extremely marketable message. It’s the pinnacle of the pop self-help movement; where adherents of “The Secret” believe they can visualise chocolate cake making them thin—and now they can indulge in whatever they desire. Now, their endless issues, addictions and personality problems too can be alleviated through the simple act of dying.
I am absolutely amazed by the stunning lack of critical thinking in this community. No proponent of this point of view that I’ve met has stopped to think, “You know, if there are no consequences and we all become angels, this means life can be spent in an utterly nihilistic fashion. I could rape, murder and pillage without consequence because every action is pre-determined as part of God’s plan.”
This point of view also makes our individual existences highly transient; that we essentially dissolve who we are at death.
This point of view is ultimately what some in the afterlife community have dubbed McSpirituality, where instant enlightenment is handed out with the same level of discrimination as a fast food clerk handing out cheeseburgers. In this view, we do not need to practice a path of service to others to raise our vibrations—nor a path of raising our own consciousness—because we automatically become All-Knowing.
What Spirits Actually Say
All reputable spirit communication warns against the mythology of death alleviating all problems. Mature spiritual information, like that which is taught by Silver Birch (brought from the highly reputed medium Maurice Barbanel), is that we are inexorably linked to our actions in this life, that the afterlife is only one step above the world where we live now and higher realms must be earned. Far from all souls becoming Beings of Light, if we perform cruel actions against others we will fall back into dismal, dark planes and conditions—such as the horrific realms described in Anthony Borgia’s seminal work “Life in the World Unseen” (written through the channelled spirit Monsieur Hugh Benson).
Through my own experiences in out-of-body states (as I describe in, ” Understanding Life After Death”), I’ve interviewed those living on the other side of the veil who describe their lives as being similar to before they died. Many have jobs, friends and interests—dwelling in physical existences, often at the prime of their lives (28-32) and in perfect health. While this condition is less physical than how we are now, it’s far from existence as an orb of light devoid of human characteristics.
As this realm closest to us in the astral is more like a continuation, it also means a realm filled with varied personalities and interests, with both a negative and positive spectrum. This astral existence is consistent with reports throughout the long history of spirit contact, including the concept that many of us go on to work in “rescue teams” to assist people trapped in dark, dismal or even hellish conditions.
The denial of the existence of the negative spectrum flies in the face of centuries of contact with the other side. Essentially, it’s like throwing out libraries of knowledge and replacing it with some New Age authors who appeared once on Oprah.
Where Some of this Information Comes From
My personal theory about this philosophy is that it’s a gross mistranslation of sporadic reports stemming from channelled spirits of a higher density (keeping in mind that channelling is one of the least reliable ways to glean spirit information).
It’s safe to say the astral plane is a real density we transfer our consciousness to at death—due to an endless amount of reports of physical realms similar to our own Earth. However, there’s a smaller but relevant amount of reports (especially in NDE literature) of cosmic or celestial realms where our individual minds connect to our Higher Selves.
These realms are often beyond description, and are certainly not dismal existences on clouds, but are realms where the individual soul is completing a timeless journey of self-refinement and knowledge, coming into being in a realm where they have merged almost entirely with a “divine” level of their existence commonly known as the Higher Self.
I think at times a person has incarnated on Earth who is an extremely “old” soul. Such a soul may belong naturally to these celestial realms, and during an NDE for instance—they glimpse such a realm and report their experiences.
(As a side note, these types of realms are generally “beyond” the scope of an incarnated existence, which includes both this realm and the astral—which as Yogananda described is also an incarnation. However, just because a soul may journey beyond physical incarnation does not mean the inhabitants of those realms are disconnected from incarnated realms and exist forever floating on some cloud. In fact, it would seem even exalted spirits attuned to their Higher Selves and originating in such realms can appear as physical humans in not only the astral dimension—but even as incarnated persons on this planet.)
The mistake occurs when “the masses” read these accounts but fail to apply critical thinking. They come to the incorrect conclusion that these celestial realms are accessible by everyone—even the most dismal or cruel souls. In a desire to avoid the responsibility of spiritual progression (a long, hard process) they reaffirm their belief system by convincing themselves that even an entity as dark as Hitler is just as progressed as Buddha—that everyone is on the same page, and everyone is instantly enlightened.
Finally, I believe this point of view is heavily influenced by Western Christianity infused into our ways of thinking. Since the rise of the New Age movement, we’ve found a convergence occurs between Christian thought and Spiritualist thought. In some cases, people cling to the ideas of theological merging – that our individual existences are forfeit in the light of God. They may also cling to the imagery of “angels” and the idea of becoming perfect or exalted merely through being “saved.” The idea of death creating instant enlightenment is reminiscent of Christian theory that a cruel, dark person can merely renounce Satan and praise Jesus at the end of his life – and instantly go to heaven and become an angel.
It’s nothing short of wishful thinking.
Link to Cyrus Kirkpatrick’s book from:
Maurice Barbanell (1902-1981) was an accomplished journalist and superb medium for the Teachings of Silver Birch. The description of “life after life” in his book “They Shall Be Comforted” is well worth sharing.
If you are currently grieving the passing of a loved one, you are urged to read this extract.
One day after “death” you will be the same individual as you were one day before it, except that you will have discarded your physical body. You will express yourself through your etheric body, which is a replica of the physical one. It does not, however, reproduce any of its imperfections.
All disease and infirmities will be left behind. The deaf will hear. The dumb will speak. The blind will see. The cripple will be a cripple no longer.
You must try and understand that life in the spirit world is not dreamy or nebulous. It is full of activity. It is just as real as the life that each one of us lives here. We are accustomed to thinking of the material world as being real and solid, although actually, this is not so, as the science of physics proves. The things of the mind, or the spirit, seem to us shadowy and vague, but to those who live on the Other Side, the mental is the real and the physical is the shadow.
This doubtless will be hard for you to grasp, but you will find a perfect analogy if you think of your dreams. When you dream, all the things that you encounter are real at the time of their happening. They only become dreams when you wake up. If you never woke up, and dreaming was the perpetual state of your existence, then that state would become your reality.
The spirit world is round and about us. Some people see it and hear it because they can tune into its vibrations. It is not situated in some far-off continent. It is a part of the universe, blending and intermingling with the physical world.
You must dismiss from your mind the old-fashioned theological idea that, after “death,” there is an undisturbed eternal sleep. There may be, at first, a short time of rest to enable the newly-arrived spirit to adjust himself to his new life. This usually takes a little time. Then he meets those who have preceded him. Families are reunited. Old associations are re-established. Friendships are renewed.
I know the question you will ask is, “How will I be able to recognise those who have gone before?” This is not a real difficulty. They will know you, having watched over you and kept in constant touch with you. Then, because the spirit world is a place where thought is the reality, they will be able to show themselves to you as you knew them.
There is, however, one great factor always operating in the spirit world – the unalterable law of attraction. Only those of like spiritual qualities can meet on the same plane in the new life. The husband and wife, who were only held together on earth by a legal tie, and between whom no real love existed, will not be together in spirit life.
Sometimes, people are puzzled because they learn that there are houses on the Other Side. You must remember, though, these are not houses made of bricks and mortar but constructed out of thought. This applies also to the clothing that is worn.
The instinct to clothe oneself is deeply rooted and has become habitual. No one would dream of walking through the streets unclothed. This habit is part of our mental make-up. That is why it persists on the Other Side where mental states are the reality.
“What about food?” you may ask. “Do they eat?”
As long as there is a desire for food, this mental desire is mentally satisfied. As long as the individual craves for food and drink, he can obtain the illusion of what he requires – and it satisfies him. You may call this material if you like, but it is far more sane and logical than pearly gates and golden harps!
In the spirit world, there are no language difficulties. All people of all nations speak the same language – thought. There are no words to be mouthed, for ideas are conveyed telepathically, from one person to another. Words, after all, are but clumsy substitutions for thoughts. They are artificial means by which we communicate our ideas to one another. But words can never adequately express the thoughts one is trying to convey.
One day, when the human race has evolved, language will be abolished. We will have learnt how to send our ideas to each other telepathically. Then, many of our international difficulties will disappear.
In the spirit world, each person’s thoughts are known and cannot be hidden. There can be no deception of pretence. Every individual is known for what he is. He cannot deceive anybody, for lying is impossible.
“What about age?” you may ask. “What happens to old people who pass on?”
Physical age and mental growth do not proceed at the same rate. We rashly judge a man’s mentality by the age of his physical body here. On the Other Side of life, it is the mind which survives, and mental growth consists of progress towards maturity. Little children will grow older. The old people grow younger in spirit.
What work do they do? Each person seeks to express his natural bent. In this earthly life of ours, there are thousands of singers who have never sung; actors who have never acted; painters who have never painted; poets who have never written a line of poetry; musicians who have never composed a note of music. All these talents have never had an opportunity of being expressed, because through economic circumstances usually, the owners had to follow some other occupation to secure their bread and butter.
On the Other Side, they can express their talents. There are no square pegs in round holes in that world. For them, life is one continuous road of progress, each person striving to eliminate the dross from his nature and perfecting his own being. In that striving for perfection, there is no limit. It goes on for eternity.
The spirit world will not be so unfamiliar as we think because … most of us visit it in our sleep state. Unfortunately, few of us remember what transpires. When, however, we pass on, the law of association of ideas will recall our nocturnal experiences.
Of course, it takes some time for the newly arrived spirit to acclimatise himself to the conditions of life on the Other Side. This process of awakening differs according to the knowledge of spirit life that the “dead” man had before his passing. The more ignorant he was, the longer it will take him to familiarise himself with his new conditions.
Then, too, those who were trained in very orthodox ideas, with rigid conceptions of after-“death” states, experience a great difficulty, because the next stage of life being a mental one, they live in the mental world they have created, until they have evolved sufficiently to dispel this illusion.
When we pass on, we do not enter Heaven through “pearly gates”, neither do we descend to Hell through lakes of “fire and brimstone”. Nor do we sleep forever.
Each one of us naturally gravitates to the spiritual sphere for which we are fitted, according to the life we have lived and the character we have evolved here. We cannot occupy a higher sphere than the spiritual status we have reached, nor will we desire to occupy a lower one. Automatically, we shall go just to that plane of spirit life for which we are fitted. We shall not be able to pretend that we are better or worse, for stripped of our physical body we shall be revealed and known for what we are.
People who have lived normal lives will not find anything to disappoint them when they arrive in the spirit world. It is the selfish man who has to face great difficulties, due to these earthly habits which act as a barrier to be overcome by progress before he is fitted to associate with those he loves. If by virtue of life he has lived upon earth, he has cut himself off from those who love him, that will be his hell.
What is heaven? It is the reward of a life wisely spent on earth, for it will mean that automatically we reach those we love … heaven and hell are mental states. Of course, those who dwell on a higher plane can, if they so desire, visit spirits on relatively lower spheres. This they often do. But it is impossible for those on lower planes to visit those on higher.
In many cases, those who “die” go through a difficult period of stress, due to the fact they cannot reach the ones they love on earth. When they have awakened to an understanding of their new life, they naturally return to their loved ones to try to tell them of their survival. They find it hard to understand that while they can see the earthly members of their families, the bereaved are unable to sense the presence of those for whom they are mourning.
This is a very poignant sorrow that thousands of spirits experience. They do all they can to attract the attention of earthly friends, but too often they fail and have to leave them disconsolate.
By some law which we do not understand, those on the Other Side know a little beforehand when somebody is going to pass from this world. They make the necessary preparations to greet them and to help them with their passing. This explains the fact that on hundreds of occasions people before they “die” have named “dead” relatives they said they could see in the room. Sometimes these spirit relatives have been seen by those in attendance on the “dying” person.
Clairvoyants who have witnessed the “death” of an individual tell us that they see a replica of the physical body gradually rise, connected for a while by a thread (it is what the Bible describes as the “silver cord”) which is attached to a vicinity near the brain. When the thread is snapped, “death” takes place. This etheric body is then seen to rise upwards until it disappears from view.
The one thing that brings the greatest sorrow to those who have passed on is our excessive grief. This, curiously enough, acts as a deterrent to their getting close to us. They do not like the constant visits to the graveyard as they know they are not there. Most Spiritualists make a habit of placing flowers near the photograph of the one who has passed on, particularly remembering anniversaries. This serves to perpetuate the idea that the spirit is constantly in the home.
Spiritualist also indulge in the habit of mentally communicating with those who have passed on by sending them messages, treating them as if they were actually present in the room. I know that these messages are received, for again and again I have heard spirit return thanks for this communion and give evidence that he has received it by repeating to the medium some of the ideas expressed.
Spirit life is not a state of vagueness or eternal sleep, but one of activity and labour. Idleness and unemployment do not exist there. There is plenty for all to do, although I know it is difficult for us who are immersed in material affairs to appreciate the activities of the spiritual world.
Apart from labour, there is the opportunity for recreation and enjoyment. There are means of education and instruction in all branches of life – in just that particular form of knowledge which the spirit desires.
Of course, many of them are engaged in tasks which mean co-operation with people in this world. Some of them are hard at work helping to make communication between the two worlds easier.
Others, attracted by people in our world who are following similar lines of research, industry, art or reform, naturally return to inspire those efforts, although often people in this world are unconscious of spirit interest.
(from “They Shall Be Comforted” by Maurice Barbanell,
published by the Psychic Book Club, London. Not dated.)