Britain - indeed the whole Commonwealth - was plunged into a crisis in far-off 1936 when King Edward VIII announced his abdication so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Never before had modern day monarchy faced such a testing, turbulent time.
Not surprisingly this headline making event was raised at the Hannen Swaffer home circle where Silver Birch gave a spirit view of the abdication.
“The conditions of your world have been very difficult,” he said, “but now they begin to clear away. I want to remind you all that there is a great lesson to be learned from it.”
“In all moments of crisis, fix your minds upon the eternal things of the spirit. Do not dwell too much on the kingdom of empires and dominions, but on the Kingdom of Heaven, which has yet to descend on earth.”
“Do not have excessive adoration for those who are only men. Remember that there is only one King in the universe, the King of all life, Whose kingdom embraces every child of the Great Spirit and Who wants all His plenteous bounty distributed freely.”
“Do not let your attention be diverted, because of glamour, from the great eternal realities. Remember the conditions of those who dwell in misery and in darkness, those who lack food, those whom the sun seldom reaches, those who are prevented from breathing as they should the air which comes from the Great Spirit of life.”
“Remember the greater tasks, the greater problems. Remember the masses who cry out, whose pain, bitterness and sorrow are far, far greater than the difficulties of only one. That is the great lesson for all in your world of matter to learn.”
At this point Hannen Swaffer asked whether his view of the crisis - it was printed in “Psychic News” - was too harsh. The paper swiftly received several letters, one saying that Swaffer’s stand was “The most heartless thing that has ever been written.” Another declared that his comments were “ungentlemanly, unmanly, ungenerous and un-Christian.”
“No,” replied Silver Birch. “When you speak truth, truth finds its way into their hearts. Sometimes it meets with the resistance of superstition and prejudice. But those walls will crumble gradually. You could not have said it many years ago, but you say it today.”
“A few complain, but they are nothing. They are those within whose minds traditional things die hard. They do not reason with logic and understanding. You told them of the natural laws. They are the only ones that matter.”
“When the passions created in men’s breasts die down, they will have to confront reality. That is your task in your world of matter - to tear away the veils of illusion and to reveal truth. Some cannot behold truth’s blinding light, but it is of no account. They are not ready.”
“The truth reigns supreme. Ignorance flees before its approach. It is because our message is true that we one day will reign supreme - not we who are the instruments, but that which we represent, the love of the Great Spirit, the infinity of His bounty, the love, the wisdom, the knowledge that watches over all mankind.”
“Away must go every obstacle that prevents the fullness of the Great Spirit being revealed. Away must go all servitude. Away must go all barriers. That is the task upon which we are all engaged.”
“I only try to tell you a few of the things that I have learned, because I know that they can help you even if they make you examine again the fundamental principles of life.”
“Sometimes, when you are engrossed in your daily tasks and the problems of your world surround you, you are apt to forget the great eternal spiritual principles upon which all life is based. If I remind you of these things, they help you to focus your minds so that you can get the true balance and are able to render still greater service.”
“Your world has yet to learn so much. The greater the responsibility, the greater the sacrifice. The greater the knowledge that you possess, the greater the responsibility. You can gain nothing without a price. There is a price always to be paid.”
A month earlier Silver Birch gave his then customary Armistice Day message. He told those present:
“I want you all to remember when, in a few days’ time, the thoughts of the whole of your nation are centered on the many who laid down their bodies of matter in service, that it is a great reminder to you all of the way in which millions of the children of the Great Spirit have been for years betrayed by those who lead in the affairs of men.”
“The sacrifices have all been in vain, and the sacred reminder comes to each one of you to realize that there are only a few very simple ways by which peace, harmony and happiness can reign.”
“You build up systems based on greed and selfishness and, as result, you reap war and poverty, starvation misery, distress and chaos. And then you ask us how we can help you, when all the time the message of the Spirit has been forgotten and neglected, even by those who should preach the word of the Great Spirit.”
“Temporal power is as naught beside spiritual realities, and, although many sneer at the things of the Spirit, the solution of all the troubles of your world will only be found when all people, in the spirit of goodwill, apply spiritual truth to material problems.”
“You are nearer disaster today than you were when it was announced that war had ceased. You are nearer to grave and terrible troubles. The world is heading straight for that which spells bloodshed, great bloodshed.”
“I speak with gravity because of that which I know. It may be that the world will be saved from itself, but only if the efforts of all those who seek to serve, not to aggrandize self, triumph over the power of greed and selfishness. Peace will not come to your world from war. Happiness will not come from misery. Laughter cannot come from tears of sorrow.”
“There is plenty for all. But greed stands in the way. Those who seek to rule by the sword must perish by the sword. That same truth prevails today.”
“But, throughout all the darkness, there is a glimmer of hope. Do not despair. Hold fast to that which you know to be true.”
A year later in another Armistice Day message the guide referred to the Spanish Civil War in which, incidentally, Maurice Barbanell and his wife were inadvertently caught up! Happily both escaped injury and were escorted to the French border by gun-toting soldiers. The ever-eloquent guide commented:
“Each succeeding year makes the futility of this human sacrifice more apparent. Your world will pay for just two minutes of its time and silent tribute in memory of the ‘glorious dead,’ and after that they will be forgotten for another year, until they are taken off the shelf and dusted once again.”
“Their sacrifices were all in vain. They have been agonized for nineteen years. The Great War! Its greatness consisted in the amount of slaughter, wasted slaughter. The Great War, that was to end all war! How hollow, how full of mockery do those words sound!
“Do you not consider that those who made every sacrifice that they could make in the world of matter, even to laying down their physical lives, have not spent years in bitter disillusionment? They were cut off in the prime of earthly life. They were sent unprepared into the world of spirit. They passed on cheerfully for an ideal, that your civilization might be saved, and they have been betrayed ever since.”
“War has not been driven from the face of the earth, for, even as you will pay tribute to the ‘fallen dead,’ as you call them, of your last war, there will be no armistice in the East or in Spain, where the killing will continue even without a cessation of two minutes.”
“Does your world of matter realize that peace can only come from the application of spiritual laws to worldly matters?”
“It is selfishness that brings not only war, with its train of bloodshed, misery and weeping, but chaos, confusion, disaster and bankruptcy.”
“They must learn that only by substituting service for selfishness can peace come, that the old ideas of materialism and power and desires to aggrandize nations must be swept away and in their place there must reign the desire to live for one another, the stronger to help the weaker, the richer to give to the poorer.”
“Do not insult those who have been translated to spirit realms with tributes that come from the lips and not from the heart.”
“All other methods have been tried and they have failed you. But not yet has the application of spiritual truths been tried. Unless your world does so, it will continue with war and bloodshed that will, in the end, destroy your much vaunted civilization.”
Perhaps at this point it is pertinent to include the guide’s words upon civilization. Asked to comment on it, Silver Birch replied that free will “is a gift of the Great Spirit, but if it is not used aright then the price must be paid.”
“The laws must be obeyed,” he went on. “If the world lives with the law, it reaps the benefits. If it lives against the law, it reaps the results. One way brings peace and happiness and plenty, the other way misery and war and bloodshed and chaos.”
“We are despised in your world of matter by those who should be the leaders of the children of the Great Spirit. We are rejected by those who should welcome us because we come in the name of the Great Spirit and His love. Filled with the desire to serve, we seek to reveal those laws and that power which will show your world how to save itself.”
“And those who are steeped in the ignorance of spiritual blindness, and who surround themselves with ceremony and ritual, and at the same time deny the power of the Great Spirit to descend today, must pay the price.”
“We are the friends of all who seek to serve. We are the enemies only of those who seek to destroy. We come on wings of love and service ready to help wherever we can. That is the great task that we all have to perform.”
“Your world pays too much attention to old fables because they are old. Truth and age do not always march together. I know it is difficult to surrender the dearly held beliefs learned in the days of childhood, but when the soul becomes free it must discard all that reason rejects. How many are prepared to do that?”
“It does not occur to many people to test their beliefs by reason,” said a sitter.”
“No, they prefer the shelter of that which they have known for so long rather than journey into the speculative unknown,” the guide remarked. “And remember, also, your world does not acclaim its prisoners with much applause. It usually condemns them.”
Another sitter wanted to know why so much was said about a spirit plan to help the world, “and yet we see such little apparent result of it?”
“You do not see the results of a plan,” said the guide, “because you look at these things with the eyes of matter. You judge progress in relation to your own short span of life, but we see progress because we look at things from another plane.”
“We see the spread of knowledge, a greater understanding of spiritual things, a rise of tolerance, an increase of good will, a breaking down of barriers of ignorance and superstition and fear and spiritual slavery.”
“It is not as if there were to be a sudden revolution. That could never happen, because all spiritual growth must be slow and progressive.”
“Do not think that there is need for despair. There is on one hand - when you see the growing masses of materialistic forces - but on the other hand there is growing hope as the light of spiritual truth penetrates the fog of materialistic selfishness. And, as long as knowledge spreads, truth will be victorious.”
“That is why our message is so important. It is not for us - it is for you. It is we who strive to serve you, to make your world realize the price it must pay for its selfishness, for its wanton ignorance, its deliberate cruelty. We strive to serve you, to help you, because we love you.”
“We are not evil spirits, seeking to lure you on to paths of destruction. We do not seek to make you debase yourselves, to practice cruelty or sin. Rather do we strive to make you realize the divinity that is yours, the powers of the Great Spirit that you possess, how you can practice the law of service and help the Plan of the Great Spirit.”
At a different gathering the guide was asked if it would be a good thing “if our present civilization were destroyed.”
“It is much better for your civilization to be saved, even in spite of itself,” was the spirit sage’s reply.
“Don’t you think it has gone so far wrong that it would be better to start all over again?” the sitter persisted.
“No, because the light of spiritual truth is breaking in upon your world,” said Silver Birch. “Where there are channels for the power of the spirit to penetrate, so there comes to you that energy that enables your world to exist.”
“Your world must realize that it depends for its existence upon the reservoir of spirit.”
Another sitter suggested that Silver Birch was rather harsh in his declaration that the sacrifices of those “killed” in the war were all in vain. He thought it would hurt many people to be told that.
“Sometimes stark truth is bitter and hurts,” said the guide, “but, because it is true, it will do good.”
“But did not any good at all come out of their sacrifices?” the sitter said.
“I can see none,” answered Silver Birch. “Your world of matter is nearer chaos today, and is more filled with destruction, than it was when your ‘Great War’ began.”
“Can so much heroism be spent in vain?” the sitter queried. “Is there no spiritual repercussion?”
“There is on the part of the individuals who made the sacrifice, because their motive was good,” the spirit guide replied. “But do not forget that your world has betrayed them. It has made their sacrifice pointless, because it has continued in its materialism.”
“Is it of any use that these Armistice services should go on, year after year?” asked another sitter.
“It is better to remember those you call dead for two minutes than not to think of them at all,” added the guide. “But I do not see what good can come when you celebrate the Armistice with a display of military might, with rifles and bayonets, with soldiers, with the firing of maroons and with all that comes with war. Could you not have an Armistice that was a spiritual service”?
“Are you in favour of the continuance of Spiritualist services of remembrance on that date?” was another point put to him.
“Wherever truth is expressed good is done, if speeches are given as an incentive to service. Vain speeches that lead to nothing are valueless. It is not sufficient to have speeches, and for audiences to be smugly satisfied with the feeling that they are in favour of peace.”
“I want them active. I want them serving. I want them uplifting the weak. I want them healing the sick. I want them comforting the mourner. I want them sheltering the homeless. I want them to put an end to all the abuses that are a blot on your world of matter. Only through service can peace come. It will not come until all are imbued with the ideals of service, until all practices service.”
At the same circle gathering the guide was asked if he agreed with the Pacifist movement which today is probably stronger than ever before.
“I belong to no party,” he replied. “I wear no label. I see service, motive. Do not be confused with titles. Ask what is the aim, what is the desire, because there are men of honesty and good intent even in opposing camps. The teaching that we have to give you is very simple, but it requires courage to put it into practice.”
“Whenever a start is made, whenever there is the determination that comes with knowledge of the spirit and the truths of the spirit, whenever service and not selfishness is applied to all the affairs of everyday life in the world.”
“It will not come through any party, but through the children of the Great Spirit, who, realizing these things are true, apply them in their lives, in their politics, in their factories, in their governments, in their international transactions.”
“We can enunciate principles that we know are founded on truth, and tell you with certainty that their application will bring results. You are in the realm of matter. Yours is the responsibility. We can only strive to guide you, with all our love and helpfulness, and co-operate with you whenever your feet are on the right paths ....”
“So many in your world cannot get out of the groove in which they live. Sometimes the groove is religious, sometimes it is political, sometimes it is a self-made prison that has no reality beyond the imagination of its creator.”
“Learn to be free. Do not imprison yourself. Do not hedge yourself around and refuse to allow new inspiration to come to you. Truth is a constant search. Its boundaries are ever widening, for as the soul evolves the mind responds.”
“How can one become free?” asked a sitter.
“You are never completely free, because the measure of your freedom is related to the growth of your soul,” said the guide. “You become free when you realize there is no limitation to knowledge, truth, wisdom, growth. You become free when you discard at once that which you know in your heart is false, that which reason rejects, because your intelligence cries out in revolt. You become free when you are not afraid to discard error in the face of new light. But how many are prepared to do that?”
One present suggested that sometimes economic conditions prevented people from becoming free.
“No, for they cannot imprison the mind though they can imprison the body,” said Silver Birch. “You imprison your own minds. There is knowledge for all when you are ready to seek knowledge, but you must journey on the great adventure.”
“You must be prepared to start on a search where even sometimes the boundaries are not known, sometimes be prepared for hazards and dangers, sometimes be prepared to walk in uncharted territory, yet always prepared to follow truth wherever she leads and to reject all that is false, no matter how old it may be.”