Maurice Barbanell, a poor Jewish man living in London’s East End was by all accounts, an atheist. Spirituality was on a slow decline in the early 20th century though mediums still provided their demonstrations in private parlors throughout Britain and America. Barbanell was just 18 years old when invited by a friend to a mediumship circle and he did so mockingly. “Old women became Chinamen and all sorts of things!” he declared with a laugh. But the medium reproached him with a warning, “You will be doing this before long.” Barbanell scoffed, but returned a second time and promptly fell asleep, or so he thought. When he awoke, he was informed that he had been in trance and the spirit who came through gave his name and declared that Barbanell had been in training for years and would, ‘before long, be speaking on Spiritualist platforms’.
Thus, the medium’s prophecy came true and the wisdom of Silver Birch was ushered into the world through a publication called Psychic News, though Barbanell himself kept anonymous as the source of the mediumship transcripts he was producing. In 1938, the first printing of “Teachings of Silver Birch” was published. It is, as of 2006, still in print. All of the quotes on this page are contained in this work, though the teachings are so timeless its hard to remember that they were spoken first in the 1920’s and 30s, long before many popular new-age ideas were common.
Silver Birch calls himself a messenger of “The Law”, which may be interpreted as a universal set of truths that govern reality. The name Silver Birch is a pseudonym. As Silver Birch himself says, “I had to come in the form of a humble [native American] to win your love and devotion, not by the use of any high-sounding name, and to prove myself by the truth of what I taught. That is the law.” Whether Silver Birch actually lived once as a Native American, he uses the term ‘Great Spirit’ to reference God often through the text.
Like other great channels, such as Jane Roberts, for example, the teachings speak for themselves. Silver Birch, like Seth, offers no proof of his existence; evidential claims are not his purpose. The teachings must stand on their own, regardless of the source. Like the mind-blowing teachings of Seth, I believe Silver Birch deserves to be heard, even if we have no mechanism to prove their origins. As with any spiritual teaching; you take what is meaningful to you.
Silver Birch comments on why teachers choose to communicate with humans on earth and their struggle against the “falsities” of misunderstood ideas in religion:
“Our work is to give that which as a purpose, significance, so that, while it demonstrates the existence of Law, it also enables comfort to be given and knowledge to be spread. Our work is not only to reveal the existence of laws beyond the physical but to reveal truths of the spirit. We have a gigantic system of misrepresentation to oppose. We have to undo the world of centuries. We have to destroy the superstructure of falsity that has been built upon the foundations of creeds. We are striving always to teach the children of matter how to be free and how to bask in the sunlight of spiritual truth..”
Silver Birch’s teachings are prescient, especially in light of the division and turmoil our world is facing. Silver Birch does not mince words. For example, it was asked of Silver Birch if it was wrong to go on a fox hunt. The hunter in question justified shooting the fox because the fox had eaten 20 chickens. Silver Birch’s response was priceless, “Suppose I gave the fox a gun and told him to shoot you because you had eaten twenty chickens?”
The book from which these quotes are sourced, Teachings of Silver Birch, edited by A. W. Austin and first published in 1938 is a great read all around, but as this is a blog dedicated to research of life after death, I am most fascinated with Silver Birch’s descriptions of the death process, entry into the spirit world, and the mechanics of our new afterlife. As you read the questions and answers below, keep in mind that this was occurring right around the beginning of the second world war. If you are knowledgeable about the kinds of wisdom passed along from near-death experiences, channelers, life-between-life regression transcripts and other more modern spiritual sources, note the interesting similarities of Silver Birch’s teachings.
Much of the book is in question/answer format, so I will include the questions in bold and Silver Birch’s answers in italics.
Silver Birch on The Afterlife
Q: What exactly happens after death, just after the breath has left the body?
SB: When the soul is conscious, it sees the spirit body withdrawing gradually and it opens its eyes in the world of spirit. It is conscious of those who have come to welcome it and it is ready to start its new life. When the soul is not conscious, it is helped through the passage and is taken to whatever place necessary – it may be a hospital or a house of rest – until is ready for it to become aware of its new life.
Q. When we pass out of the physical body, is the one we use in the spirit world as real and solid as the one we leave behind?
SB: Far more real and far more solid than the one that you leave behind in the world of matter, for your world is not the real world at all. It is only the shadow cast by the world of spirit. Ours is the reality and you will not understand reality until you pass into the world of spirit.
Q. Are there separate spirit worlds connected with all inhabited planets?
SB: That which you call the spirit world is but the spiritual expression of the universe, which embraces all life expressed in all planes.
Q. Is there only one spirit world?
SB: Yes, but it has an infinite number of expressions, and life on planets other than earth is embraced as well as your world of matter, because they have their spiritual expression as well as their physical expression.
Q: Will one recognize, after death, one’s child who died when very young?
SB: Yes, because he will be shown the child as he knew it. They always forget that the child will know the parent, for the child has been watching over him all the time and will be the first to greet him when he comes to my world.
Q: Shall we will with those we love in the spirit world, although separated by convention in the physical world?
SB: It is impossible to separate love from its beloved.
Q: If it is true that we have been through countless lives before this one, why is it that we are not more progressed and ideal than we are?
SB: You can be in the world of matter and be a saint; you can be in the world of matter and be the lowest of the low. It does not depend on the earthly plane. It depends of the evolution of the soul.
Q: Have we still an infinite number of suffering and struggling lives to go through in the future, as in the past?
SB: Yes, Infinite. Struggle, suffering, through the crucible of pain does the Great Spirit express itself. Suffering tries the Great Spirit. Suffering enables the Great Spirit within to emerge purified, strengthened, refined, even as the gold emerges from the ore by crushing, by refining. Until it has been through these processes, it is not revealed as gold.
Q: If that is so, what is the use of the idea of heaven after death?
SB: That which you consider heaven today you will not consider heaven tomorrow, for happiness consists in striving, always striving, for the higher and the higher beyond that.
Q: What is the limit to speed of travel by spirits?
SB: We have no limitation of time or space in our travels. To those who are experienced in spirit life there are no limitations. we can travel to any part of your world of matter with the rapidity of thought, which to us is our great reality. those who dwell in any grade are limited in their travelling to that grade. They cannot exceed it. They cannot travel higher in the realms of spirit than the unfolding of their character has reached. That is their limitation. But that is the limitation of spirit in spirit life.
Q: Is it possible to sin on the other side? If so, what is the most common form of sin?
SB: Of course it is possible to sin in our world. The sins of the spirit world are the sins of selfishness, but in our world they are speedily revealed. They are known as soon as the thought is in the mind, and the effect is seen far more quickly than it is in your world of matter. It registers on the one who commits the sin and makes him spiritually lower than he was before. It is difficult to define more clearly in your language what these sins are, expect that they are sins of selfishness.
Q: Are the heavens or spirit spheres, relative to this earth, real and substantial, ruled over by wise chiefs, lords or gods? Have a history of these heavenly kingdoms been made known to us earth dwellers?
SB: There have been many to whom the organization of the world of spirit has been revealed, but we do not have spheres with chiefs. The only chiefs are natural laws. The world of spirit is not a world where spheres are marked off with boundaries such as you have. It is a progressive life from lower to higher stages, with no boundaries, because they all merge into one another. As the soul gradually unfolds, it expresses itself on higher planes of spirit.
Q: When we pass out of the physical body, is the one we use in the spirit world as real and solid as the one we leave behind?
SB: Far more real and far more solid than the one that you leave behind in the world of matters, for your world is not the real world at all. It is only the shadow cast by the world of spirit. Ours is the reality and you will not understand reality until you pass into the world of spirit.
Q: Is the spirit world as natural and as material to the spiritual senses as the physical as the physical is to our present senses?
SB: For more, for this reality. You are at present prisoners. You are hampered by the material body to which you are restricted on all sides. You are only expressing a very small portion of your real selves.
Q: Do you converse mentally in the spirit world, of is language as we understand it used?
SB: Until people learn how to commune without speech, speech is used.
Q: do the spheres of the etheric country in which you live surround the earth or sun or planets?
SB: They do not surround any of them. They are not bounded by geographical distinctions. They are not located in forms of spheres or planets. They are part of the vast universe. They blend and interblend with all phases of life experienced in all planes of life. Some of these planes you know about. Others you do not know yet, for there are planets on which there is life as yet unknown to your world.
In conclusion, a long treatise by Silver Birch describing the spirit world:
Silver Birch on “Life in the Beyond”
When you have tasted and enjoyed with your full consciousness all that my world has to offer, you will realize that it is the love we bear for you that makes us come back to work amongst you. You have not tasted the joys of the world of spirit. There is nothing in your world of matter with which you can compare to the life of the spirit, freed from the trammels of the flesh, escaped from the prison of the body of matter, with liberty to go where you will, to see your thoughts take shape, to follow out the desires of your heart, to be freed from the troubles of money. No, you have not tasted the joys of the world of spirit.
You who are encased in matter, do not yet comprehend the beauty as it can be. You have not seen our light, colors, scenery, trees, birds, rivers, streams, mountains, flowers – and yet your world fears death.
Death strikes terror into their hearts. But you will only begin to live when you are ‘dead’. Now you live, but in reality you are almost dead. So many are dead to the things of the spirit. The little life-force flickers in their puny bodies, but no spiritual things can find any response within them. But gradually we make progress. Gradually the force of the spirit increases in strength all over your world of matter.
Gradually darkness retreats, as it must when confronted by the light of spiritual truth. There are no words to compare the life in your world of matter with the life in the world of spirit. We who are ‘dead’ know so much more of life than you do. This is the world where the artists finds all his dreams come true, where the painter and the poet realize their ambition. Where genius has full power of expression, where the repressions of earth are swept away and all gifts and talents are used in the service of one another.
This is the world where there are no clumsy words to express inspiration, but where thought is the living language and reveals itself with lightning rapidity.
This is the world where we have no money to worry us, where there is no competition, no driving of the weaker to the wall, where the strong are strong because they have something to give to those less fortunate than themselves.
We have no unemployment, we have no slums, we have no selfishness. We have no sects, we have only one religion. We have no sacred books, only the operation of the divine laws to instruct us. And the nearer you get to the world of matter, the more clumsy and difficult it is for the spirit to express itself. I never like to come back. The only things that make me do so are the promise that I have given to serve and the love of all of you, which gives me some compensation.
To die is not tragic. To live in your world is tragic. To see the garden of the Great spirit choked with the weeds of selfishness and greed and avarice, that is tragedy.
To die is to enjoy freedom of the spirit, which has been imprisoned behind the bars of the material body. Is it tragic to be released from suffering, for the soul to come into its own? Is it tragic to see wonders of color, to hear music that does not belong to material expression? Do you call it tragic to express yourself in a body that has no pain, to be able to roam all over the world of matter in a flash and to taste the beauties of the spirit life too?
There is not in your world one artist who could capture with his paints some of the glories of my world. There is not one musician who could record some of the glories of the music sphere within your notes. There is not one writer who could describe in physical words the beauty of parts of this world.
What a pleasant surprise you will all have one day, when you become conscious of our world. Your world is in beauty flow (the sitting was held in May). You see all around you the manifestations of the Great Spirit, as the dawn of life seeps over your surroundings again in its cycle, and you marvel at the beauty of the blossom and the fragrance of the flowers, and you say: “How great is the handiwork of the Great Spirit”. And yet, that which you see is but a very, very, pale reflection of the beauties that we have in our world of spirit. We have flowers such as you have never seen, we have colors such as your eye has never beheld, we have scenes and forests, we have birds and plants, we have streams and mountains. You have nothing to compare them with. And you will be able to enjoy them for even though you will be ghosts, you will be real ones.
You come to our world now, but you do not remember. You visit the spirit world every night. That is your preparation. Otherwise, it would be such a shock when you come here to start your real life in earnest. When you pass on, you will remember your visits.
You will then be freed from the limitation of the body and you will able to express to the full all the consciousness which has been released during your sleep. In its new expression, it will bring to you all of the memories that you have, the memories of all of the experiences that you have enjoyed.
The Teachings of Silver Birch to:
- Jurgan Ziewe’s Vistas of Infinity
- Dr. Michael Newton’s Journey of Souls
- Jane Robert’s Seth Speaks
- Emanuel Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell
- Anthony Borgia’s Life in the World Unseen