Private Dowding. With Notes by W. T. P. Published by J. M. Watkins, 21, Cecil Court, Charing Cross, London, W. C. Perhaps few things have been more remarkable in these years of war, than the great acceleration and development of interest in the Unseen, and of curiosity regarding after death conditions. That this should be so, is of course not unnatural, while the thought of death is forced upon us almost at each moment, while scarcely a family in the land has not suffered sad bereavement of relative or friend, or lives in the fear that any hour may bring them such bereavement. This sudden interest in the things of the Unseen and this curiosity, arising as they often do amid strained and highly emotional conditions of mind, it is obvious cannot escape bringing with them some amount of danger; increased credulity in many cases and a disposition susceptible to deception by the unscrupulous, to the more subtle powers of self deception and the danger of mistaking mere superstition and the materialistic in the many disguises of psychic manifestation, for spirituality.
It is never wise to begin the study of any of the great number of books purporting to deal with after death conditions, with spirit manifestations, or communications from those who have died, without due regard to these very real dangers.
My intention in saying this will not be misunderstood, if I hasten to add that I am not thereby suggesting the advisability of avoiding altogether the consideration of such books. Far from that. For I am persuaded that this manifestation of popular interest in the things of the Unseen, flows from sources far below the surface, and may be the expression of some real need, while I am assured that I for all real need there is prepared in Divine Providence, full satisfaction. And it becomes our business therefore, not to condemn any expression of desire for knowledge, or any cry of the heart and mind for light, as idle curiosity or vulgar love of the sensational. Nor to condemn too hastily and arrogantly those, who feeling vaguely the stirring of some need of the spirit within and knowing not what light it is they seek, are pleased with the glitter of phantom fire and follow it into danger—as one who travels by night, seeing the phosphorescent gleam over a morass, may be led from the path of safety but rather, refraining from hasty judgment and condemnation of the ways of others, should we try to seek for and for those whom we would aid, separate the desire of the immortal within us, the desire which is the voice of the real need of the soul, from many voices of the little undisciplined wishes and wants, that are the of what Emerson has named "our own fantastic will." Having faith, that the natural instincts and impulses and tuitions of the soul are not towards evil but towards good, and following these instincts, guided by these intuitions, seeking only what is "true and level and of good report," we need have fear to investigate for ourselves many messages and records from Unseen, which, not only in books, seem to claim our attention so persistently now-a- days.
It is not without thought and that I preface my notes on the "Private Dowding" with these for which I ask my readers’ patience. But because this subject of survival, and the possible communion with the of those who have passed the barriers of death, agitates the minds of so many today. It seems to me to be necessary to attain a wisely balanced and unprejudiced attitude towards it. And while claiming the right of the free soul to seek for oneself—unhampered by orthodox or conventional authority—these things that are "true and lovely and of good report." To question closely whether it is indeed these things that we seek, and not the vain gratification of selfish and foolish curiosity.
Because I believe that the book Private Dowding does indeed offer help to the realization of the spiritual origin and destiny of all human life and that life's certain immortality. And because its teaching seems to me to tend to establish belief in the unity of our human life in what we call time, with the life eternal.
And because I believe, its publication is one of the many signs that the barrier between the seen and the Unseen, the illusory and the Real, the material and the Spiritual, are indeed being broken down (though I recognize also that these barriers exist only in men’s minds and in their dim vision). I would venture to recommend this book to the readers of the Epoch, and to ask for its teaching the consideration it deserves from sympathetic and open minds.
The messages set down in this book, purport to come from Private Dowding, a soldier who was killed in the war, and to be transmitted through the brain of W. T. P. and by him written down almost automatically. They describe the experiences in dying of Private Thomas Dowding, and his after death conditions. While W. T. P. tells us in his explanatory notes, that until these messages were received, he was unaware of Private Dowding’s existence, and says of the method of the communications reception, "The thoughts were not my own, the language was a little unusual—it would really seem as if some intelligence outside myself were speaking through my mind and my pen. Some of the ideas are not in conformity with preconceived notions of my own."
"I am satisfied that I have been speaking with a soldier who was killed in battle seven months ago, I have set down the experience in writing exactly as it came to me."
Yet he adds, and l feel the admission will enhance the value of his record for all who must recognize its sincerity—
"I cannot, however, prove the genuineness of the experience to anyone else, I cannot even prove it finally to myself."
"Imagination of a subconscious order is capable of playing strange tricks with the mind."
I do not think it will be out of place to remark here that this reservation of W. T. P.’s "Imagination of a subconscious order is capable of playing strange tricks with the mind," might suggest a theory, which while it must by its nature be speculative, might yet if it could be substantiated, establish the authenticity of many communications from the Unseen. If we must concede that these communications, seeming to come from those who have died, do indeed arise from within the sub-consciousness of those who receive them, need that for one moment throw doubt upon their genuineness as communications from other individual conscious minds? For what is the subconscious mind (I say mind because it is difficult to conceive of consciousness without mind or mind without consciousness). Is it too extravagant or too mystical a speculation, that all mind having—as we trust—its origin and real existence in the universal Spirit, may hold within it, below the level of normal consciousness, knowledge of that Spirit, and thus, the power inevitably, of communication with all other spirits.
Is there—in short—a region of mind that might be likened to a sea, wherein a multitude of rivers meet; that while all of one element and all united in one, yet retain their individuality and are capable of that correspondence which individuality and diversity make possible? Is it such a region of consciousness that is referred to as the subconscious? A vast Universal or Cosmic consciousness, where all limited consciousness may converge. A Cosmic mind and memory, a great intelligence holding all intelligences, a vast spirit wherein all spirits may meet and hold communion, keeping yet their identity, while knowing their unity. From some such depth—or height—of consciousness would it not be possible to conceive that these messages of Private Dowding's and those of the other entity whose teaching is recorded as that of the "Messenger" in this very remarkable book, might arise?
But if such speculation be not altogether too vague, too transcendental, and if it could be established as a truth that they and other similar communications are received from any such source. It yet remains that they are no less subject to "tricks" of "the imagination" and to be mingled and obscured in their transmission through the brain of their interpreter. For what mortal brain is capable of registering with absolute accuracy any message of the spirit of which it is the instrument? And yet it remains for us to consider these, as all other records of their kind, with careful thought and balanced estimate. And, if we are wise, with less concern for the manner of their conveyance, than lest we should miss any truth that may be conveyed in them, any true word, which if it be of wisdom and love indeed, can come but from One Source, by whatever channel it may reach us.
Of such words there are many within the pages of Private Dowding bearing none the less seal of their divine origin, when they are expressed in the language of a simple soldier and would seem to bear witness that it was the spirit of such a soldier with whom the mind of him who transcribes them had communion than when they are transcribed in the more exalted and less simple language of one who is called the Messenger, language which may be taken as more fitting to express the ideas of a soul more advanced in wisdom and knowledge.
Like Raymond and other accounts of after death conditions which have been published recently; these describe no sudden transition to a state of perfect bliss and supernatural perfection.
For some time, the soul of Private Dowding is described as not having left the scene, where it was separated from his body.
"How does it feel to be dead?" He says, through his transcriber, "One can't explain because there's nothing in it. I simply felt free and light, my being seemed to have expanded. These are mere words. I can only tell you this: that death is nothing unseemly or shocking, so simple is the passing along experience, that it beggars description. I am simply myself, alive, in a region where food and drink seem unnecessary. Otherwise ‘life' is strangely similar to earth life. A ‘continuation' but with more freedom."
It is not possible here, nor would it be fair, to quote much from this extraordinary book, which in justice to its author (or transcriber) should be read in its entirety; and no quotation can give more than insufficient impression of it. It is enough to say that nothing in its description of after death conditions shock one's sense of what is reasonable, or controverts the idea that what is true in our life here on earth, is true still in the larger life beyond death: each soul makes its own conditions. In his earth life Private Dowding had been something of a recluse. He was a schoolmaster before the great war called him to join the Army, who preferred the society of books to that of his fellows. He says,—
"I suppose my loneliness of life and character have followed me here."
"I begin to see now that my type of mind would find itself isolated, or rather would emanate isolation, when loosed from earthly trammels.
I shall remain near earth conditions whilst learning lessons I refused to learn before."
"It is dangerous to live to and for oneself. Tell this to my fellows with emphasis."
"I must dwell on this. Live widely. Don't get isolated. Exchange thought and service.