God’s Magic: An Aspect of Spiritualism, by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding
God’s Magic, first published in 1960, is the final volume in a series of four short books written by Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding, on the subject of Spiritualism, all of which have been brought back into print by White Crow Books. Lord Dowding is best known for his distinguished military career, particularly his role in the Battle of Britain, but he was also a committed Spiritualist and Theosophist, and his books are collectively a trenchant defence of the idea of survival of death.
In God’s Magic he urges caution in examining testimonies from those who have passed beyond as even honest mediums can make mistakes, and he readily concedes that mediumship is not an exact science. In addition, those who have died do not necessarily immediately change personalities to become honest and truthful if they were not before, necessitating a degree of caution in accepting what they say. Despite these difficulties, he argues that the messages are still a vital source of information about life after death, and their accumulation will encourage conviction in those studying them.
He addresses the suggestion that we might as well wait for the future to reveal itself in its own time if the messages are problematic. There are a number of reasons why it is worth making the effort, even if what is produced is fragmentary and unreliable. One is the possibility of conversing with those it was never expected to be able to reach in this lifetime, which brings comfort. Also, knowing that there is an existence beyond death removes fear of it, and will assist in the process of integration following the transition. Communication is a two-way street because we can assist the departed, such as those who had been traumatised by war or who had harboured emotions of hatred while alive, to adjust to their new state. This is accomplished using the power of thought, which in Dowding’s opinion is all that prayer represents. He describes cooperating with helpers who have themselves passed over (including his own wife, who died in 1920) in rescue work for those who fell in the war but had not realised it, to encourage them to move on.
Obtaining ‘proof of survival’ is only the beginning, not the end, of the process of contact with the other side. The accumulation of data gives an inkling of ‘the Scheme of the Universe and of the Progress of Humanity’, insofar as we are able to comprehend it. That the evidence may be contradictory Dowding considers a reason to be more energetic, not less, in disentangling the truth. Widespread acknowledgement of survival would, he believes, provide a broader perspective and undermine the materialism which flows from an assumption that death is the end. He emphasises the continuum between this world and the next, that ‘eternity is here and now’. The way we treat our fellow beings has consequences for our True Personality, something that is far more than the traits we develop during the course of a single lifetime. It is not essential to attend services or séances in his view, it is the way we live our lives that counts.
In that sense our behaviour can be said to be ‘enlightened self-interest’, which is what he understands by religion. However, he is interested in the essence of religion, not its outward trappings; those he sees as a distraction because their formulaic nature dulls meaning. While Dowding is operating within a Christian framework, he is adamant that the established Church has been found wanting in the effort to make sense of these matters, particularly its reluctance to delve into conditions in the afterlife, about which it is ‘woolly’. If the Church’s teachings on the subject are vague, he argues, the public is simply going to ignore them. There is a need for intellectual honesty in assessing the phenomena.
He includes some brief talks by ‘Z’, a discarnate Egyptian, received though Dowding’s circle in July 1945. ‘Z’ supplies general Spiritualistic advice on issues such as the state of the world and what Spiritualists should do, the problem of pain and the proper attitude to death – to approach it without fear. The volume concludes with a broad outline of the different levels that the individual ascends, each with finer vibrations than the one below as earthly preoccupations are progressively shed. Dowding’s style is bluff and straightforward, and his practical experience as a military man lends his Spiritualist writings credibility, though the reader may wish for more testing of the evidence that he finds so convincing.