Exploring the psychic world
with Hay House authors

Many of the most important questions people ask of psychics are about the 'other side': the afterlife. Gordon Smith, whose amazing accuracy in psychic readings is known worldwide, has direct experience of the truth about heaven and shows why many of our longest standing traditions have nothing to do with the real experience of those who pass over. These comforting words will not only let you know that your loved ones are looking over you, but also give you an idea of how you contact spirits yourself.

What is the Afterlife? by Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith: The Unbelievable Truth

One of the questions most asked of those in the spirit world has to be: ‘What’s it like over there?’. This is natural enough – wouldn’t you be curious? After all, we’ll all be going there one day...

What Does the Spirit World Look Like?

When I was beginning to learn about mediumship in my twenties, I assumed that spirit people looked like we do, only a little more glowing. This, I suppose, was due to how I would see them clairvoyantly. My instinct told me that the spirit world was a well-backlit place filled with shiny, happy people. When I imagined what it looked like, I saw white buildings and beautiful countryside with colours beyond description. It was easy to accept this, as most of the books I was reading at the time were packed with heavenly realms that fitted my own ideas of the hereafter. It wasn’t until I managed to find some cassette recordings of a very rare type of phenomenon that my view changed completely.

Voices in the Dark

The mediumship of a man called Leslie Flint was different from anything I had encountered at that time. When I say ‘different’, I mean he didn’t give messages to his sitters like mental mediums do or go into a trance and let a highly evolved spirit guide speak through him, and as for ectoplasm, there was not even a hint of the controversial misty white substance around him. It was simply that whenever he sat in a darkened room, voices would be heard in the air around him.

It first began in his childhood, back in the 1920s, when he would go to watch the silent movies at his local cinema. During the picture people around him would ask him to be quiet and stop talking, as it was putting them off the film. Leslie never understood this as he could hear the voices too, only he assumed that they were coming from someone else.

In his late teens, he tried to find out about the strange events that were occurring around him and went on to develop his gift in a Spiritualist circle. It became known as independent direct voice mediumship, so called because the voices were coming directly from the spirit people and were completely independent of the medium. All that was required of him was that he sit in a darkened room.

Now it’s the dark room bit that makes you think ‘fraud’, but over the years that followed, Leslie Flint was tested by many scientists. Experiments would see our medium tied to a chair, gagged and holding a mouthful of coloured water, which he had to empty into a glass at the end of the test to prove that he was not a ventriloquist. I’m certain that if he had been, he could have made a good living on the variety circuit with that kind of act! A Dr Louis Young invented most of these tests and, along with members of the Society for Psychical Research, carried out further tests in infra-red light with a microphone attached to Leslie’s throat. Still the voices were recorded.

During the course of many years and many investigations, no one ever accused Leslie Flint of being a trickster or fake and his gift became known all over the world. People who had lost a loved one would come from far and wide in the hope of hearing the voices of their nearest and dearest speak directly to them from beyond the grave. So many people, as it happened, that Leslie had to hold group sessions to accommodate the demand for sittings.

Each group of people would assemble in the sitting room of Leslie’s London flat in anticipation. Spirit people of all descriptions would come and talk to them, not only their relatives. It was as if there was a microphone in the spirit world and the spirit people would stand in line waiting their turn to speak. Voices would come from all corners of the room and often several would converse at once, giving detailed descriptions of their life on Earth and other pieces of personal information. All of these sessions were taped and on listening to many of them myself, I can draw only two conclusions: either fraud was being carried out by a large group of mimics who could create a wide range of voices and speak in several languages as well as know a great deal about everyone in each group or that the phenomenon, however unbelievable, was actually happening. I tend to go with the latter.

Spiritual Evolution

Some of Leslie Flint’s spirit communicators became regular commentators on their progression in the spirit world and would speak freely to their families about events that had taken place since they last spoke. Common descriptions of the other side included being in great light and feeling a sense of weightlessness and contentment. There was also a sense of being drawn into a brighter light and if the same spirit had the chance to come and speak at a later session there was a noticeable sense of development in how they spoke and in their reaction to the material world.

One young man who became a frequent communicator was David Cattanach, who had died at the age of 18. He made many visits to the Leslie Flint sessions over a period of almost 10 years and spoke to his mother there. I know her personally and she is someone I would describe as very astute, someone who would not easily be fooled, especially when it came to her son, and she had no doubts that she was hearing his voice. In his earlier contacts, he spoke mainly to her, giving brief messages of comfort, but also describing his surroundings. At first these were of a fairly material nature, although filled with a sense of peace and contentment. But each time he managed to come through there was a new strength in his voice and brightness in his personality and there was even a sense of his surroundings changing.

In one of the later sessions, when one of the group asked him what it was like on the other side, David addressed the whole gathering. He started by saying that he could not conjure up the words to even begin to describe how beautiful it was there and that he felt alive in a way that he never had before. He went on to talk about how he had progressed away from the material world. He said that he was in a state of luminosity and wasn’t aware of having a body any more – he still had some sort of vehicle, but it wasn’t so important. In his new state he could expand his knowledge just by encountering another spirit. Everything that they knew was shared and so each grew in awareness. His knowledge certainly seemed to be vast as he continued to talk about his understanding of the spirit world he had become a part of. He described levels of consciousness that were wonderful and open to all to discover; he described death as a great adventure that none of us should fear; he explained that all levels of life were interconnected and that our earthly level was the darkest of all, that we were limited in our understanding because of our emotions and that it was important for us to expand our consciousness beyond our limited vision of ourselves.

In the last part of his talk he spoke to his mother, telling her that no matter how he evolved, they would always be connected. For her, the most marvellous part of these encounters was hearing how her son had grown over the years.

Leslie Flint died in 1991, but most of his work was recorded and can be obtained from the foundation which was set up in his name.

Truths and Misconceptions about the Afterlife

  • White staircases, pearly gates and Saint Peter with a long white flowing beard... No, these all went out years ago! It’s no longer compulsory to wear white flowing gowns, play harps and hang around on fluffy clouds.
  • You are likely to receive wings and a halo as a reward for your good deeds or be thrown into hellfire for your bad deeds. The truth is that this really won’t happen.
  • Heaven will look like Earth with better backlighting and shiny, happy people will welcome you with hymn singing and tambourine playing. Contrary to what I once thought, it doesn’t and they won’t.
  • Our father’s kingdom has many mansions set out for individual religious groups. There are no religious divisions on the other side. So, Muslims, Jews and Christians, you’ll all just have to learn to get on together over there.
  • On death you become immediately enlightened. No, you still have to progress spiritually and take responsibility for your actions in your last human existence.
  • The spirit world is all there is. The spirit world is but the first step on your development of consciousness, so don’t get too comfortable there.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

I can’t actually say that I have been to the spirit world, though I have experienced altered states of consciousness and mental images of it have been imprinted on my mind by spirit communicators. Either way, even though I know the spirit world exists, I can’t give a true description or pinpoint its location.

Descriptions of the hereafter have been given, however, by people who have experienced a near-death experience (NDE) or an out-of-body experience (OBE) (sound like awards, don’t they?)

A typical NDE, as the name would suggest, happens when a person is close to physical death. Many people have actually been pronounced dead, only to come back with a tale of their marvellous journey.

Although the description may differ from person to person, most have a common thread running through them. First a light appears, which draws the person towards it. This is usually accompanied by a sense of travelling very fast down a tunnel. Ringing noises may also be heard. The journey into the light always seems to end at a point of stillness and contentment. Some say they see a Christ-like figure or angelic beings, others have given accounts of meeting Buddha or Mohammed, many see deceased family members. Another common feature is a voice saying that they should go back now, that it’s not their time. Most people come back to full consciousness with a feeling of spiritual upliftment and no fear of dying. Often they express great joy at the indescribable sensations they felt when in this altered state of consciousness.

Many such accounts have been investigated over the years and much has been said about the cause of the experiences being a lack of oxygen in the brain, resulting in hallucinations and a feeling of euphoria. Experiments do contest this, however. Many of those who have experienced NDEs have claimed that they were conscious of conversations going on around them while they were ‘dead’ and some have said their spirit floated upwards and have given accurate accounts of what they saw in places they could not possibly have been physically. One test involved labels being placed above the lights in the operating theatre, where they could not be seen from the ground, and these were described accurately by several people who claimed to have experienced an NDE.

Recently I had to have a general anaesthetic before having some very intrusive exploratory tests done and I really hoped that I would have some sort of paranormal experience. As it happened, I did, but not of the NDE kind. As I began to come to, I became aware of a lot of people standing around me in the recovery room. Some of them were writing and then I realized that I was speaking. It turned out that I had been talking during the procedure and giving messages from the spirit world to some of the theatre staff. One of the nurses told me that even though many people mumble a sort of gibberish under anaesthetic, I was actually referring to all present by their Christian names and talking about their relatives who had died. Several of the theatre staff had accompanied me to the recovery room to see if anything more would be said and then for a laugh one of the hospital porters had asked if I could give them the lottery numbers. Nobody expected an answer, but then I began to spout numbers in quick succession! Suddenly everyone was digging into their pockets for pen and paper!

Even though I had no experience of Heaven, maybe one of the hospital staff found material Heaven in the following Saturday’s lottery draw...

My First Out-of-Body Experience

Thankfully I have never had a NDE, but on many occasions I have found myself in an out-of-body state.

The first time I remember this happening to me was when I was in my early twenties. I was sitting at home in my flat in Glasgow when my mind began to drift to memories of my childhood. These were happy thoughts and I began to feel more relaxed as I drifted down memory lane. Then suddenly I became aware of a sense of vibration engulfing me. At first I thought that the chair I was resting in was shaking, but as the vibrations got faster I knew that it was more to do with me. Then I felt as though I were floating up from the chair and moving towards the ceiling. I was aware of how light I had become and that I was now looking down on someone, but it took a moment to realize that that person was me!

I have no idea why, but the first thought to enter my mind was one about my workmate Sandra. No sooner had the thought registered than I was somehow in her bedroom observing her. She was sitting in a basketweave chair reading a book and looking very peaceful and calm. Then I noticed the clock on her bedroom wall and shot back into my body with a start.

The sharp return to my body startled me, yet I felt amazing. I assume that the limited thought that I had about time was what had brought me back. My body was stone cold, because even though the whole episode felt as though it had taken no more than five seconds, two hours had actually passed.

The following morning I asked Sandra what she had done the previous evening and was astounded when she told me that she had stayed at home and read a book in her room until late. I had to ask, ‘Do you have a basketweave chair in your bedroom?’.

‘Yes, but how do you know?’

It wasn’t easy to explain.

Heaven Knows

It is very difficult for anyone to describe the feeling of being outside their own body, for there are no words to describe the sensations of lightness or stillness experienced in such a state. Similarly, it is difficult for any of us to know what life is like after death. Even with all of the spirit communications I have passed between the two worlds, it would appear that everyone who tries to describe their new surroundings gives a different account of what it looks or feels like. Is this because we all perceive things in different ways or because we gravitate to different levels of understanding in the spirit world?

One way of trying to understand what might be going on is to imagine a group of alien visitors coming to our planet and each one being sent to a different location. One might find itself in the jungles of Africa, another in the middle of New York City and another on a desert island in the Caribbean. If each of these visitors tried to describe Earth based on what they had observed in their own small corner, there would be no corroboration at all. Each would feel that their description was accurate but put together, it would not form a complete picture of this planet and all the life that exists on it. What happens in the spirit world may be something along these lines. The best we can do is speculate.

Many people have already speculated on this very subject. The 18th-century scientist Emanuel Swedenborg gave us the theory that on death the human spirit is held in a between-life waiting area where it may encounter spirit people who are familiar – family, friends and associates. His belief was that the spirit would remain in this state for a period, but would eventually be drawn to a level of like-mindedness, where it would encounter others of a similar essence, according to spiritual merits.

The idea of a between-life state also features in other religious beliefs and practices. Tibetan Buddhists believe that when we die we must go through what they call the Bardo state. This is seen as a journey taken by the consciousness at the time of physical death. At that moment it is said that a clear light will appear and if you recognize this light, you will become enlightened. Unfortunately, not many of us do so. However, there are other chances with another five coloured lights that follow. The rule of thumb is to go to the brightest one you see, as the paler, softer lights can lead you in a backwards direction. Your consciousness will move through seven stages of the Bardo during a period of 49 days. During this time, your consciousness will come face to face with many demons, which are projections of your own mind. You must try to accept them rather than run away in fear, in order to reach the brightest light that you can. Whatever state you have reached at the end of 49 days will determine your conscious state at the beginning of your new life.

Both the beliefs of Swedenborg and the practices of the Tibetan Buddhists encourage us to be more aware that we should carry out good actions in this life in order to build up a spiritual bank balance to help us in the life to come. Even if both views are wrong, they still encourage us to become better in this life and that can’t be bad.

Having a belief that there is a life after death, no matter what religion or spiritual practice you follow, at least gives a sense of hope. There are of course some people who think that when we die we are dead, deceased and defunct. I think they will wake up to a great shock on the other side, a bit like having a surprise party!

The flip side of this coin was put beautifully by my good friend Professor Archie Roy, when he said, ‘If I find that when I die there is no afterlife, I shall be extremely disappointed’.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Robert Parker was a man who had no belief in God, religion or life after death. After the loss of a son early in his marriage he became totally opposed to the idea that the human spirit could continue in any way, shape or form. At the age of 68, having no known illness, he went to bed one night with his wife Barbara. Before turning to go to sleep, she kissed him on the forehead and said, ‘Good night’. The following morning she was shocked to find that he was dead.

Even though her husband had been totally against the idea of visiting mediums and on many occasions had ridiculed people who spoke of such things, Barbara could not accept that he had gone out of her life forever and so she decided to look for a reputable medium to see if there was any chance that her husband was wrong about life after death.

I was sitting in a small room in a Spiritualist church in Glasgow waiting for my last appointment of the day when the door opened and in walked a nicely dressed, good-looking woman in her sixties. I began at once giving my usual spiel: ‘Have you had a sitting with a medium before? This is how it works... Please don’t give me any information about the person you hope to contact’, etc. No sooner had I tuned into the spirit world than I heard a man’s voice saying, ‘I was wrong, I was wrong, please tell Barbara I was wrong’.

Once he got started, there was no stopping him! He told me that his name was Bobby, which was how his wife had always referred to him, and that he was with Raymond, who was the son they had lost early in their marriage. The sitting was packed with information about his life and with small details which his wife understood and which were relevant to their life together.

Near the end of the sitting the mood changed somewhat, as Bobby began to relate how he had found himself in the spirit world. He recalled that he had gone to bed in his home and had woken up after a beautiful sleep in a room that was filled with light. To his surprise, there was a nurse there holding his long-lost baby son Raymond. He then talked of meeting his parents and other family members and friends who were dead – only they weren’t! His wife was able to place all of the people he claimed he had met. He gave no great description of his surroundings, but spoke of a state of grace and comfort that he said he could not explain in words.

The message ended with Bobby reminiscing, ‘The last thing that you said to me was “Good night” and I remember that you turned and kissed me on the head’. He said this was the first thing he remembered when he woke.

Bobby may have been dead against the idea of an afterlife, but he is a good example of what mediums have said for years: that you cannot die for the life of you!

God’s Waiting Room

For most of my adult life I have tried to understand what it feels like to actually die (I know, it’s sad, isn’t it?). During that time I have seen, heard, felt and held conversations with spirit people, at times under the strictest of scientific conditions. I have also experienced leaving my body, being engulfed by white light and having what I can best describe as spiritual experiences. Yet no matter what I have felt or witnessed, I still find it very difficult to comprehend what it is like in the spirit world. No matter how we try to envisage it, all we can do is compare it to our earthly lives. Maybe that’s why so many of the descriptions of the afterlife still seem to be based on a materialistic world and involve loving reunions with radiant departed relatives.

As a medium I find it hard to believe that when we die we hang around God’s waiting room for all of our relatives and friends to arrive, with no other purpose than to act as a welcoming committee. I’m sure there’s more to the next life than that. Certainly, though, it would seem that there is some kind of reunion with our loved ones. So many nurses and carers have witnessed a dying person reach out and speak to an unseen person who they claim has come to collect them and take them into the other side. Similarly, many of those who have experienced an NDE have mentioned spirit relatives waiting to greet them, as did many of the communicators over the years at the Leslie Flint sessions. There may also be a connection to other individuals who have shared a part of our lives and have formed a spiritual bond with us.

It has occurred to me that the welcoming committee is there because becoming a spirit in a realm of bright light may be too much for the conscious mind to take in. Is the afterlife so bright that we have to wear shades? We may have to acclimatize and limit our view of the true spiritual experience with what our mind can accept at that moment. So the afterlife may appear to be a brilliant version of this life until our consciousness can adjust and gravitate to its own level of awareness. Even in this human form we have the ability to create different views of reality – so often we choose to see what we want to see and not what is real. Does the same apply after death? Yet the more we grow in spirit and adapt to our new reality, the less attached we will become to human ways and conditions and the clearer our vision will become.

From our current standpoint, dying is the most major event we will ever have to face. What can make us more accepting of death? Is it the hope that stems from the knowledge that we live again? Or could it be that we have to reach a point of understanding that we are spirits already and that physical death is no more than a change of environment?

After thinking long and hard about what life will be like when we die, I’m convinced that so much is dependent on our life now and on our state of mind at the moment of death. To prepare yourself for that inevitable journey you must begin to take responsibility for all that you are in this life, to look at your life with clarity and assess it with truth. It seems that our delusions about what life holds for us in the hereafter arise from our delusions about who we are in the here and now. If we can accept that we are already spirit beings living in a spirit realm, we can accept that death is not so much a journey to a different world but to a different state of mind.

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