Book Reviews -- Spiritual Exploration -- Afterlife, Spirit World, Near Death Experiences (NDE's)
Author: J. S. M. Ward
Title: Gone West - Three Narratives of After-Death Experiences
Book Review 16.12.2008
(c) 2008 by Heidrun Beer
J. S. M. Ward: Gone West - Three Narratives of After-Death Experiences
ABOUT THE EDITION:
The book is a faksimile reprint published by "Kessinger Publishing's Rare Reprints". Most pages are well readable. On some, the print is too thick and makes reading hard. On two or three pages, the print is so thin that I was guessing at words more than reading them, but I think I guessed them all right :-)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Please don't ask me about the title, I cannot explain it :-) (Remark on 19.01.2009: I have learned that in Native American tradition, West is considered to be the direction of death, and going west means to die.)
The author had a vision early in December 1913, in which he learned about the death of H.J.L, his uncle and father-in-law. The vision continued with the funeral. The uncle was still alive at that time, but soon afterwards, "real life" caught up with the vision and the author learned that his uncle had indeed died. The whole vision seemed to replay itself in very precise detail, including the funeral.
From there on for much of the year 1914, the author had after-death-encounters with his uncle on every Monday (his death had occurred on a Monday), who wanted his nephew to write a book about the afterlife with the material that he was going to provide to him.
First they were dreams, then visions - also called trance visions -, and parallel to that the two co-authors developed a mode of automatic writing. The uncle, H.J.L., reports about the so-called "spirit plane", one plane above the "astral plane", for whose description he calls in another spirit who has spent time there.
Much of the book is dictated by a third spirit, called "the Officer", who has spent a long time in various levels of HELL, and finally made his way out of it. He is remembering it in great detail, and many of the author's sessions are spent with the hellish experiences of the "Officer".
Very fascinating to read, as we typically hear much more about the wonderful "heavenly" experiences from near-death-experiencers (NDEers) and out of body travellers (OBEers), which come mostly from the upper astral plane. It becomes quite clear that the wish to improve is the most important factor in moving to the next higher plane in the afterlife. I believe that by studying these chapters, we might be able to avoid some of the worst spiritual traps on Earth, and never have to touch Hell in the afterlife!
For money reasons, not all of the sessions have been published. Originally the structure, as designed by the discarnate main author H.J.L., who orchestrates the whole project, should have been
1a. The Astral Plane, as seen by a bad man ("the Officer")
1b. The Astral Plane, as seen by an average man of the world
2. The Spirit Plane, divided into -
a. Hell, or the Realm of Unbelief, related by the officer (this plane has, however, several distinct sub-divisions)
b. The realm of half-belief, related by H.J.L.
c. The realm of belief lacking in works, related by J.B.P.
d. The realm of belief shown forth in works, related by "the Monk".
What was actually published, are the chapters of H.J.L., the officer and W.A., but we get some insight into the missing chapters too, because the (incarnate) author summarizes them, while explaining how these levels are defined.
The general rule is that people after their physical death find themselves in the "plane" (other books explain that these "planes" are actually levels of spiritual vibration or frequency) that corresponds with the mindset to which they have developed (or not) while alive, and with the culture which has coined them.
So, "Birds of a feather flock together" is the main principle in the afterlife. In other words, while on Earth a lot of a person's life is determined by their family and their culture and the geography in which they find themselves after birth, after physical death it is the LAW OF ATTRACTION which determines the "place" where they live and the character of their experiences.
Spiritual gravity, if you want. Thieves are attracted to other thieves (they keep stealing from each other), hateful people to other hateful people, while the better characters have the chance to work in the art or profession they have loved in life, or study new subjects.
The main purpose in the afterlife is to evolve. People with a bad character or habits, or no spiritual awareness at all, start at very unpleasant "dark" levels = hell. (The amount of light in the afterlife is equivalent with spiritual awareness, i.e. the less aware the people on a plane are, the darker it is and vice versa.)
But despite the screams of evil spirits who try to convince them otherwise: as soon as a person is no longer content to live on their plane, they can work themselves out of it, typically with the help of "messengers" or "guides" who appear when called for, or from time to time approach them even without being called, in an attempt to inspire them to make more of themselves.
Becoming such a messenger or helper is the most noble "job" in the afterlife. Some individual guides are specialized to work hell, others work the astral planes, others are guardian angels to human people (who still have a meat body).
The book does not tell about the planes above the spirit plane. It is separated from the next higher level by what they call a "wall of fire". What it does tell is that we still have an "astral body" on the astral plane, of a more subtle structure than the earthly meat body but still made of a kind of matter. It does not die, but can feel pleasure and pain. When injured, it will "regrow". We leave that body behind when we move to the spirit plane, where we have a "spirit body", a pure thought form. No more information beyond that in this book.
The text sounds authentic. It is also congruent with other afterlife books that I have read, although this one is more fascinating because it is not written by "visitors" but dictated by actual afterlife residents - people who no longer have a body, but whose memory of human life is still vivid, so that they understand both worlds and how they are related.
Most interesting are also the (incarnate) author's descriptions of some of his trance sessions. They are actually fully grown OBE's, where he describes exactly how he leaves his body and how his perceptions of the Earth environment get foggy and fade out, while the perceptions of the spirit plane fade in. Then follows the chapter that H.J.L. wants to show him on that particular day, and at the end he tells us what he sees while getting back to the body.
THE LEVELS OF HELL:
In hell we find all the people who have died after a mainly negative life, but also people without spiritual awareness and - strangely - children and mentally handicapped people who didn't have a chance to develop spiritual awareness (these have separate, quite pleasant places of learning, called "schools" - also we find peaceful houses of rest and regeneration for those who are working their way up through the hell levels).
Warriors will forever fight each other (until they grow tired of it and start to long for an upgrade). Hateful people will "make each other's life hell" with their habits. Hell is the place for people with physical addictions to lust or drugs, but also the place for the thoroughly materialistic who never developed a concept of spirituality.
The main pattern of hell is that the specific scenarios that are characteristic for the level are replayed and replayed over and over, until occasionally one or the other resident grows tired of it or so disgusted that he calls for help, which is where his guardian angel (whom he typically cannot perceive) gets active and will instruct him how to get to the next higher level.
Most hilarious is one scene described where people on hell's plane of materialism discuss whether there is life after death! They have the funniest reasons to believe that they are still alive in a body and that there is no afterlife! How it comes that none of them ever dies, they cannot explain...
The author mentions that while he has to "translate" them into words for the purpose of writing a book, the actual communications in the afterlife are non-verbal, in concept or image form.
So the question arises how accurate his translations are.
"God" is the concept most high in all of the afterlife, and "faith" or "belief" is what connects us with God; he also describes guides fighting evil spirits by making the sign of the cross in several places, but obviously he is of a Christian upbringing and an author with a different background may have "translated" differently (visual images are also "translations" dictated by our our own "visual dictionaries", as explained by afterlife retrieval specialist Bruce Moen in his 5 volume series).
In any event, the author mentions that there are parallel areas in the afterlife for each religion and sect, and that the afterlife evolutionary structure has been in place long before Christianity first emerged.
Another question: Earth is described as a separate level, the "coarsest" of all, as far as matter is concerned, but where in the whole structure of spiritual evolution does it really have its place? If I look at the levels of hell, Earth should be in there somewhere - only that it is not as homogenous. Pain and pleasure, awareness and dullness, cruelty and kindness, responsibility and neglect are so thoroughly mixed - it really cannot be sorted into the hell levels which are so cleanly layered.
Still, a "plane" where I have to eat other life forms in order to stay alive, and spend most of my time to not starve or freeze to death, and comply with the most disgusting bureaucracy, and tell my kids that the rest of the world is teaching them bullshit, and whatever I create will fall prey to entropy sooner or later - looks basically hellish to me, compared to the spiritual plane, where all worthy creations are preserved once they are destroyed on the physical plane. I really don't want to be a spoilsport, but I kind of understand the people who want to blow this place to pieces.
RANDOM QUOTES FROM THE BOOK:
- Here we found the spirits just as they came in from Hell. Rescuers were constantly arriving, bringing some poor unfortunate being with them. These they handed over to others, who received them kindly, reasoned with them, and urged them to undergo 'medical treatment'.
It was not always easy to persuade them to do this, and even while I was there, several went out of the House of Refuge back to Hell. Perfect freedom is the law here, and if a man wishes to be foul, foul he will be.
- On the astral plane we are still to a certain extent material. We have, as it were, an etherealised material body. The astral plane consists of particles of very fine matter, much more etherealised, of course, than the gross atoms of the earth, but still matter. They stand somewhat in the same relations to the ordinary physical world that gases do to solids on earth.
This material body, being so ethereal, is of course much more completely dominated by the spirit for good or evil.
It is the same thing with the astral landscape. In the spirit plane, however, matter has, for all intentes and purposes, been left behind. It is with our 'forms' that we clothe our souls, and the landscape and the buildings which you see now before you are the 'forms' of those things when on earth.
- (From a chapter about dreamers visiting the astral plane): I noticed a woman; in front of ther floated a thought visualisation of a little child. The thought seemed to float away from her, and she kept following, crying bitterly. Then suddenly the real astral form of the child came running up, and in a moment the thought child was shattered, but the mother gave a glad cry and flung out her arms towards the astral and took it in her arms...
- (Also from the dreamer's chapter): Then I saw a man about thirty, wo came with eyes wide open and evidently expecting to find someone. In a few moments he was met by a young woman. 'Who are these?' I said, 'for I can see that they are both alive upon earth.'
H.J.L. replied, 'I cannot say who they are, but I can tell you this about them: that man is twin soul to that girl. He has not met her yet on earth, but he has on the astral plane. Whether they will ever meet on earth I do not know, but I hope so.'
- (About the booty from a battle in hell): "The goods we plundered were useless to us; the wine we tried to drink made no impression on our ghostly gullets; the whole thing was a fraud. There was not even the satisfaction one gets in a dream, when one appears to taste the food one eates, and so forth. Even in our dreams we are still in touch with our physical bodies, and so can supply the full and proper interpretation.
In Hell, though we can still suffer pain, yet we cannot enjoy pleasure. That is the first great law in Hell, if I could use the word law in a place which is essentially the negation of all law.
- (H.J.L. speaking): The word judged is misused. It implies that someone outside ourselves judges us. This is not so; we stand self-condemned. Our spirit cannot rise to higher realms than those for which it has fitted itself. There is no necessity to enforce any law, for the law is self-acting.
Suppose a complete materialist, one who neither believes in God nor in a future life, and one who does his best to dissuade others from believing in these essentials. This man may be a real philantropist, actuated by a noble desire to promote the material well-being of his fellow-men.
This man dies. How can he come even to the realm of half- belief? His spiritual body has never developed. He could not bear the light. He must develop this spiritual body and lose the materialistic ideas before he can possibly come to us. No hard judge dooms him to Hell. He goes there naturally of his own accord. Like attracts like.
- Hell is a state, not a place, and thus, though we perceive others in that state, and perceive also the evil atmosphere they draw around them, we do not ourselves partake of that state. In this world, where thoughts and forms are as real as the physical is on the earth, we can only feel the evil effects of Hell by becoming part of it.
That, unfortunately, is possible. Many a soul who has come here with the desire to do good has fallen and become a part of hell, just as on earth men who go to work among the fallen, alas! may be led astray by those whom they come to save.
- (About a hospital on the spirit plane): Some spirits come here whose minds have for long been clouded, and these need treatment. Mental cases may be roughly divided on earth as follows: I. Idiots. II. Lunatics.
The latter fall into at least three divisions: 1. Lunacy caused by physical defects, (a) early, (b) late in life. 2. Lunacy caused by evil life, or at least evil passions. 3. Lunacy caused by religious mania and such kindred mental disturbances and lack of balance, e.g. excessive sorrow.
With regards to idiots (No. I). The cause is some kind of physical defect, and its result is that the individual to a greater or less extent comes here ignorant and in need of teaching. [...] They owe their mental difficulty to some physical, not spiritual defect, and therefore, once clear of the physical, need teaching, but not medical treatment in any form.
Group II, the lunatic, includes (a) and (b). In the case of the former, it all depends what stage of spiritual development they had attained before the physical defect occurred which rendered them insane. In the case of those thus afflicted in early life, it is probable that they will have to go to the 'elementary' schools in the seventh division of Hell. [...]
Those afflicted later will have had time alike to acquire knowledge and therefore faith, and also time to do evil for which they will have to suffer. Their spiritual development, in short, will be that which they had reached when the insanity came upon them. [...] The spirit feels no need of remorse for offences it had no intention of committing, and for which it cannot be responsible. It, of course, regrets any evil that may have been caused by its being unable to control its body, just as a motorist would grieve if his motor ran away and hurt someone [...]
- (It's 1914 and the first world war has started): Of course the majority of the men who are passing over are young men, and go first to the astral plane. Huge crowds of spirits are pouring over, most of them still convulsed with hate, nearly all having died a violent death, and you can easily imagine the condition there [on the astral plane]. Many indeed do not even realise that they are dead, but ascribe their changed condition to some wound which has temporarily clouded their brain.
The chief way, however, in which it [the war] affects the spirit plane is that a great call has gone forth for more enlightened spirits to come to the aid of the newcomers, and already countless hosts are pouring down to help.
- (Upon finding a cave with many people fast asleep): Son, these were men who stoutly maintained that after death there was no life. They were strong-willed men who, had they believed, might have done much good; as it is they led many astray, and since they held this view so strongly they have, as it were, self- hypnotised themselves into a state of coma, from which it is very hard to rouse them. Here they lie, age after age, and while men whom the world considered far worse then they, and who had sunk far lower in Hell, have been able to see the error of their ways and progress, they remain unconscious, and cannot learn.
A rare and most remarkable book - recommended reading!