Life After Death

Spirits In the Room.

By Alan Ross


The decade of the sixties planted - for many - the seeds of a spiritual quest for greater awareness and a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. I was one of those caught up in this awakening, and in 1969, decided to leave my Midwest roots and move to Los Angeles. There, I discovered a new lifestyle, practicing yoga, becoming a vegetarian, reading philosophy, attending lectures and visiting every ashram and spiritual center in the city.

The Hindu concepts of karma and reincarnation were taught everywhere I went. I, like many of my peers, accepted these beliefs without question; that is, until one day an unusual series of events started me thinking. They began seven years later, shortly after a move to Santa Cruz, a mecca of consciousness on the Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco. One fine afternoon in the city’s central park, at a New Age fair my number was called and I won the raffle. The prize was a three-hour psychic reading, compliments of the Berkeley Psychic Institute (which had a chapter in Santa Cruz at the time). I was not particularly thrilled with the prize because I thought this was nothing more than fortune telling, and I was definitely not interested in someone telling me my future - just in case they were wrong. Nevertheless, I booked the reading (probably because it was so rare that I won anything I guess I didn’t want to see it go to waste).



On arriving at the Institute, I was led to a first floor room where, to my surprise, I was introduced to not one, but three psychics who were to do the reading. They seated themselves in a row, and I was told “Take the chair in front of us and try not to be nervous”. The first two hours of the reading were filled with interesting and useful information about myself, my life and my future. The last hour was to be dedicated to uncovering my past lives.

In that final hour, I was told that I had had many lives. The first past life they spoke about was that of an ancient Hebrew; it was in this life that I had made a pact with God and died in His service. I must admit that I liked this very much; it not only made me feel important, it also could have been a possible explanation for my burning spiritual desire. Next, they told me that I was in the Crusades and was killed trying to free the Holy Land. From there, I lived as a Frenchman and was robbed and murdered on the road to Paris. Following that life, I was a World War I soldier killed in the trenches of Europe. After that life was revealed to me, my body began to shake. And, with each additional past life they described, the shaking intensified. I didn’t know what was happening I could only think that it was my kundulini rising. Then, all of a sudden, the door swung open, and the director of the school burst into the room and exclaimed, in a huff, “What are all these spirits doing in the room? Get them out of here!” And, she began to order the psychics about, “You, open the window. You, move the chairs. You, do this; you do that. This reading is over!”

I was stunned and bewildered as well as disappointed that my reading had ended so abruptly. On the way home in the car, I kept asking myself over and over, ‘What was that all about and why was the director so upset?’

As the weeks passed, I longed for answers; then, one day, they seemed to pop into my head. It was as if I was told that it was true, indeed, that there were ‘spirits in the room’ and they were hovering around me during the reading and it was their combined soul power that created an energy field strong enough to shake my body. It was also true that the psychics were skilled at their craft and were able to read the identities of the ‘spirits in the room’ and in particular their last experience on earth their death. However, I somehow realized that their mistake was telling me that the lives they were reading were my past lives when in reality, they were the lives of the ‘spirits in the room’.

I immediately thought that if this is true, what about my pact with God?’ Not another disappointment! Then, I realized that I didn’t have to be an ancient Hebrew to make a pact with God. I could do it right now. So I said, “God, if you are there and listening, I will devote myself to you if you will answer this question to help me make sense of the world”.

Not long afterwards my life took a spiritual turn. It appears that I was guided to a small group of spiritualist in the town where I was living. They seemed like sincere people and showed such a genuine interested in my well-being, I continued to attended their meetings. After several weeks I learned that their founder, was a Washington D.C. lawyer named James Padgett. Shortly, after his wife’s passing in 1914, Padgett developed his mediumship on the strength of making contact with her. Although, he chose to keep his mediumship secret and it has remained so to this very day, in my opinion he became an extraordinary writing medium.


After several weeks of reading the lawyer’s automatic writings and, I might add, resonating with them, I came to a message from an ancient East Indian spirit which took me by surprise. In it, he said that he believed reincarnation was a process of purification that was necessary in order for a spirit to attain a state of purification and perfection and arrive at the blissful state of Nirvana. “But in all the years of my spirit existence,” he said, “I had not known of a spirit to reincarnate, and in this, my disappointment has been grievous. Karma exists in the spirit world, and many spirits of my association have become pure and perfected spirits through renunciation; yet, they have remained spirits and have progressed to the highest realms without taking another body.”

“When comparing the most advanced mortals in mind and soul condition, they are not equal to us in development. This makes me wonder what improvement could be made in our condition in order for us to progress, should we enter into another mortal body. Yet, strangely, we cling to our old belief in reincarnation and congregate together, waiting for something that must happen in order for reincarnation to become the destiny of our souls…”


In the following message from an advanced spirit, he explains that it is impossible for a soul in the spirit world to be reincarnated back into flesh. This is because, upon leaving the mortal body, the soul will inhabit its spirit or etheric body thereafter. The spirit body is the envelope and protector of the soul and is what gives the soul its individuality as a conscious entity. The soul is encased in its spirit body which, though physical in nature, is not of a gross material. The spirit body remains with the soul as long as the soul exists. If a soul enters a mortal body, it would have to shed its spirit body, which it cannot do. Only a soul without a spirit body can enter into a mortal body.

When mortals die, their souls have already achieved the purpose of incarnation, that is, individualization of the soul. A soul may become a purified soul through the exercise of will and the expression of remorse in the spirit world. It is, therefore, absolutely unnecessary for the soul to go back to the flesh for another chance to purify itself.

The spirit continues. Children born with physical defects are not being punished for something that occurred in a past life. These individuals suffer due to a physical imperfection within the mother’s womb, which prevented a perfectly developed fetus. This is not a judgment by God, but simply the result of an imperfect world, to which the flesh is subject.


Then, the thought struck me, ‘How is reincarnation actually supposed to take place? Does a spirit who wants to take another body roam the earth searching for a pregnant woman to invade her womb and attach to her fetus? Is that what happens? If so, what determines if an infant gets one of these old karma-laden souls or a shiny new one.’ Obviously, there must be new souls because of the discrepancy in population between earlier times and today.

I wondered what good it is to have a succession of lives if they can’t be remembered? How can people be expected to shed their karma if they don’t know what it is? And, is it possible to live a life on earth without accumulating more karma and never getting off the monotonous cycle?

I was feeling disillusioned with reincarnation; it was making less and less sense to me, and it certainly didn’t impress me as being a merciful plan. I was perplexed at the thought of how so many people could be wrong about past lives when millions upon millions of people believe in it and millions upon million of dollars are spent each year in the past life industry. Could it be that all these people are being fooled, just as the psychics were when giving me my reading?

Then, I remembered a Padgett message which stated, “Because something is believed for a long time and by a great number of people, that in itself does not make it true. Truths are being revealed today and are constantly being revealed as time goes on. They should be accepted with as much credence and satisfaction as truths that were disclosed in ancient times. The minds of mortals were given to them to exercise by query, investigation and search. Never was it contemplated in human creation that the time would come when man should accept anything as the ultimate truth and cease making inquiries. Truths are so many, so great, and so deep, that humanity has acquired only a smattering of them. To rest now, at this point, in the belief that there is nothing more to be learned in the way of truth, would violate and subvert the very object of human creation.”


I began to think about how many things people believe that I have my doubts about; could reincarnation be a mistaken notion which will eventually be proved wrong? I wanted more evidence to be certain about this important issue, so I decided to go and search for it.

My first destination was Lily Dale, a spiritualist community in Western New York State, located not far from Hydesville, the birthplace of ‘Modern Spiritualism’. I had previously corresponded with the president, Rev. Joseph H. Merrill, and the morning after my arrival, I paid him a visit. As we chatted on the porch of his cottage, I was surprised to learn that he was a non-reincarnationist, as were most of the other board members. Rev. Merrill was so convinced of his position that he had written a booklet aptly titled, ‘Do I Have To Return?’

In it, he stated that the superimposing of spirits can make us believe we have lived in a certain location before this life, or that there is a familiarity with certain individuals. I felt like that as have so many others. One example of particular interest was about General George S. Patton. General Patton spoke eloquently of his experience in France in 1918 concerning his meeting a young French liaison officer who offered to show him around Langres. Although, Patton had not been there before he declined, saying it was not necessary as he knew the place quite well. He then proceeded instinctively to guide his driver through the area. Later, he admitted to his nephew that it was as if he was being directed by an unseen spirit that was whispering in his ear.

Rev. Merrill goes on about how spirits are continually interacting with the mortal world; child prodigies and child geniuses are said to be old souls who have come back in re-birth. Do people not know that children are most susceptible to spirit influence from birth to six or seven years of age, whether that influencing spirit is a musician, mathematician, poet or writer of prose? How easy it is to forget that spirits are around us at all times, mingling and co-mingling.

In the days that followed, I socialized with visitors and residents alike and soon realized that not everyone at Lily Dale shared Rev. Merrill’s views. As I relayed my experiences, I was met with skepticism and even outrage. Then, one afternoon I met a very spiritual looking man from Toronto. As we talked, I learned that he was a non-reincarnationist and knew of considerable literature to support his position. He offered to make me a list, which I graciously accepted. On it, there were some obscure sounding titles, such as the ‘Osaphe Bible’ and the ‘Urantia Book’. However, the title that intrigued me the most was ‘Thirty Years Among the Dead’.


I found my way to the Marion Skidmore Library on the Lily Dale grounds. There I located the book and discovered that it was written by a Chicago physician, Carl A. Wickland, M.D. Dr. Wickland was a dedicated researcher in the fields of Psychic and Abnormal Psychology, who for 30 years, together with his wife, Anna’s, mediumship, treated hundreds of patients with unusual disturbances who could not be helped by conventional therapy.

Dr. Wickland told of a colleague, Dr. Lydston, who reported that a patient of his, without any musical training or knowledge of French, sang the ‘Marseillaise’ in flawless French while under anaesthetic. Dr. Lydston explained this phenomenon as unconscious memory. To support his theory, he cited a similar case of an uneducated domestic who recited Latin while in delirium, just as her former employer, a Latin professor, had done. However, for Dr. Wickland, these cases proved the posthumous existence of spirits and their ability to communicate through mortals. The French singing patient later contacted Dr. Wickland and told him, “I don’t know anything about French, but I do know that I am bothered to death by spirits.”

Through Mrs. Wickland’s inspirational writing, a personal friend, the late Dr. J. M. Peebles (author, lecturer, and diplomat), stated, “When I reached the spirit world, I found such glory and happiness and beauty that I now realize this little earth is a grammar school, not a university or even a high school; it is only the first lesson of life.” Why should anyone want to come back again, to be confined in a body? In the spirit world, you are free to travel everywhere. Why go back to that prison again? Dr. Peebles continued, “You can learn in one day here what takes years to learn on earth. Forget reincarnation, because it is a sandbag around your neck. You will have it so centered on your mind, that you will think of nothing else, and you will stay just where you are. You cannot progress because your mind will always revert to the earth again. You cannot live on the earth more than once. Life is progression, not retrogression.”


The most powerful testimonial came from Helena Blavatsky. Madam Blavatsky was a spiritualist medium of considerable talent and co-founder of the Theosophical Society. She was a pioneer of the New Thought Movement, the early forerunner of New Age. She stated, “I studied reincarnation in India and thought there was truth and justice in the theory that we come back to learn and grow. I taught the theory and wanted to bring it to the world. I felt that I remembered far back into my past, but I was mistaken. When you become sensitive and can feel the spirits around you, they speak to you by impressions, and their past will be like a panorama. A person feels it and will relive the past of spirits, but the mistake is made of taking this for the memory of past incarnations. I did not know this when I lived on earth, but when I came to the spirit side of life I learned differently. Once you reach the spirit world, where all is congenial, where all is life, where all is bliss, where there is no jealousy, no envy, where all is one grand harmony, do you think for one moment that you would want to leave that beautiful condition to come back to earth and be a little baby, restricted in mind and knowing nothing whatever?”

Memories of past lives are caused by spirits that bring such thoughts and represent the lives that they lived. A spirit impresses a person with the experiences of its life and these are implanted in the mind as one’s own, causing you to think you remember your past. I thought to myself, “This could account for why so many people are told they were either Napoleon, Cleopatra, or Joan of Ark. Is it possible that the spirits of these people have visited the earth plane many times and have impressed mortals with images of their identity, lives and death?”

I now felt I was really onto something and returned to the library for more research. There, I discovered ‘The History of Spiritualism’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Sir Arthur wrote, “If reincarnation were true, there must have been millions of spiritualists, who, upon entering the other world, have sought in vain their kindred, children and friends. Has one whisper of such a woe ever reached us from the thousands of communicating spirits? Never !”


It was my good fortune to be in London the week of ‘Mediumship 94’. This was an extravaganza of mediums demonstrating various types of mediumship. It provided me with my first glimpse of a young medium, new on the scene, going by the name of Lincoln. I remember his demonstration as though it were yesterday. Lincoln went into trance - his voice changed, and he gave an fascinating address from his spirit guide, Magnus. When he finished, there were questions and answers. The one question which stuck with me was asked by a woman concerning reincarnation. The spirit guide, Magnus, replied that he had seen many spirits waiting to return to earth, but had never seen any spirits actually leave the spirit world. Furthermore, he added that he and his companions were more advanced than mortals and, therefore, could not imagine what would be accomplished by returning to the earth. I quickly glanced over at the woman to see her reaction. She was visibly taken back; obviously, this was not what she had expected to hear. I was elated by this unexpected validation of my new belief and left the theater in high spirits.

In Colin Fry’s (Lincoln) book, ‘Inspired of Spirit’, his spirit guide, Magnus, states, “Reincarnation implies repetition, and it is a hideous distortion of life’s fear of change. The insidiousness of reincarnation has been used throughout the centuries to control people by those who have assumed authority. Those in lowly positions have been told, ‘Accept this, for you are being punished, for you shall come back on the next occasion as a prince, so tolerate what happens to you because you deserve no better.’


The public’s fascination with the afterlife has been greatly enhanced by the gifted medium, James Van Praagh. His rise in popularity is due to his numerous television appearances and his best-selling book, ‘Talking to Heaven’.

In it, Van Praagh validates that the death experience can be picked up by a sensitive medium. “As a clairsentient, I feel the death condition associated with the individual making contact. When a spirit returns to the earth’s atmosphere, its memory recalls the events associated with its last visit on the physical plane. For most of us, the death experience is our most vivid. For example, if a person passed over from a heart attack, as a clairsentient, I may experience the spirit’s presence through a gripping pain across my chest. If someone died of cancer or AIDS, I may sense a wasting away in my body. If someone took pills, I might feel a heaviness in my stomach and a sudden drowsiness. If a person shot himself, I may feel a sharp pain in the area where the bullet entered.

This reminded me of that fateful day at my reading when the death experience accompanied each past life given to me by the psychics. Van Praagh continues, “Spirits with the most traumatic deaths, say suicide or murder, are subject to reliving that final experience. The spirit sees his or her death over and over again, and it repeats itself like a bad movie. The spirit is trapped, and there is no way out of the theater. Suddenly, I realized that all the past lives given to me at my reading ended violently, none were due to natural causes.

Van Praagh further validates, “Spirits are not limited simply to transmitting their death experience; their personality and their preferences may come through via telepathic links. Spirits are constantly around us; we are all mediums in our own right. Artists, doctors, musicians, chefs and almost every living creature is inspired by thoughts. Many times we think these thoughts are our own, but, more often than not, they emanate from spiritual realms.”


I believe that people embrace the idea of reincarnation because it is a far better alternative than “heaven or hell”. I also believe that people feel comfortable with the idea of returning to the familiarity of the earth - the only home they have ever known. I am now convinced that the earth is a mere “way station” on the souls eternal journey from a formless soul to a perfected spirit, and in this process the soul does not retrace its steps or method of existence. It will not go from being a spirit back to being a mortal.

I realize, for many people, the idea that reincarnation will not be the destiny of their soul may be disappointing and difficult to accept. They may think that they cannot shed their karma, attain enlightenment and reach Nirvana if they cannot return to the earth to accomplish it. I, however, am convinced to the contrary, that it is far easier and more merciful to be able to attain enlightenment without the encumbrance of the physical body and the earth life.

I now have total conviction that a great spiritual world exists for the eternal habitation of the human soul. A world which contains the knowledge and wisdom of the ages and abounds with wonders to experience that, for now, are beyond our comprehension. If people could only realize the happiness that awaits them, they would not be attached to returning to the earth; but, instead, would strive to progress through the spheres of consciousness towards the very source of the Spiritual Light of God.

Alan Ross

Copyright © 2000 Alan Ross

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