Psychical Research and Spirituality

Many mansions by Lord Dowding Many Mansions (1943), Lychgate (1945), The dark Star (1951), God’s Magic (1960) by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding

Reviewed by David Lorimer

Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding (1882-1970) was educated at Winchester and was already a pilot at the outbreak of the First World War. In 1936, he took command of the RAF and was responsible for successful strategy in winning the Battle of Britain in 1940. His tactic was not to engage the Luftwaffe until their planes were over England, and he had a detailed defence plan in the background. He is therefore credited for victory, but was removed from his post for political reasons a few months later. The quotations below may help explain why – he was known as “Stuffy” owing to a lack of humour. Sir Frederick Pile writes that he was“……a difficult man, a self opinionated man, a most determined man, and a man who knew more than anybody about all aspects of aerial warfare.” He therefore made many enemies through his blunt manner. Sir Douglas Bader was one of those instrumental in removing him, but he later admitted that “without his vision, his planning, his singleness of purpose, and his complete disregard for personal aggrandizement, Fighter Command might have been unable to win the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940.”

After his summary dismissal, he sent the following heartfelt note to his officers:

My dear Fighter Boys,

In sending you this, my last message, I wish I could say all that is in my heart. I cannot hope to surpass the simple eloquence of the Prime Ministers words, “Never before has so much been owed by so many to so few.” The debt remains and will increase.

In saying good-bye to you I want you to know how continually you have been in my thoughts, and that, though our direct connection may be severed, I may yet be able to help you in your gallant fight.

Good-bye to you and God bless you all.

Dowding’s wife had died in 1920, and I am not sure what influence this had on his becoming a spiritualist. These four books are the result of his reading and personal investigation. Of course, like many of the pioneering SPR scientists such as Sir Oliver Lodge, many of his skeptical friends thought he had lost his marbles, and he needed the very qualities of single-mindedness and determination referred to above in putting up with scorn and ridicule. People like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had the same experience during the 1920s. The first of these books based on reading rather than experience, but he takes a common sense and practical view, as one would expect, writing that the book is written for ordinary men by an ordinary man. This was shortly after the Church of England had suppressed a favourable report into spiritualism. He uses Lodge’s book Raymond about the death of his son in First World War as one of the principal sources. He expects readers to arrive at their own conclusions on the basis of the evidence he adduces.

A key feature of all four books is transcripts of accounts of servicemen – many in the RAF – describing their experience of death in vivid terms. Most did not immediately realise that they had died and some found themselves in a no man’s land and therefore in need of help. This rescue work therefore becomes an important function of Dowding’s group. His subjects describe themselves as more alive than before. By contrast, one high-ranking person found himself in a hovel after death and when enquiring how this could be, a messenger told him that this was all the material he had sent over… More generally, Dowding discusses the subtle bodies and spheres of continuing existence. He is impressed by the writings of W. Stainton Moses on a more spiritual level, and adds many inspiring addresses from one of his sources, Z. It is also clear from the perceptions of clairvoyants that Dowding was performing an important spiritual function by speaking from various platforms.

Lychgate is based more on his own experience and it is here that he realises the enormous power of thought, of which prayer is a concentrated version. This enables us to tune into Light and Love and make our own contribution to positive human evolution. He comes to accept the existence of reincarnation as well as the reality of a spiritual world beyond the material – he often remarks how his work is designed to counter the materialism of his time. Not surprisingly, supports the power of the Silent Minute. His vision is that a combination of the ancient mysteries and Christianity can form the basis of a world religion that will satisfy the aspirations of the mystic and the intelligence of the scientist. He always presents his theories as working hypotheses but does profess astonishment at the general lack of interest in life after death among the public; he is also critical of the Church’s rather woolly pronouncements on the subject. He is convinced, as I also am, that if it is clearly demonstrated to those who believe in extinction at physical death that they are wrong, it must have some effect on the way they lead their lives.

As the reader will see, two of the books were written during the chaos of Second World War. Given his military seniority, it is interesting that he observes that between nations there is neither adequate morality nor any agreed code of behaviour, which he highlights as the weakness of systems of international organisation. He advocates an international code of conduct as a basis for universal international law. Metaphysically, this corresponds to what he calls the illusion of separateness in that we are all parts of God and therefore of one another. The psychic and spiritual message of these books is as important as ever and it is good to see them back in print, especially this year as the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Had he lived a little longer, Dowding would undoubtedly have been a Network Member like his friend Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard (1897-1987) who described Dowding as ‘by far the most important British commander of the entire war.’ Goddard had a fascinating experience in 1936 when he was flying over a near derelict airfield in Scotland and suddenly had an accurate vision of how this place was to be in for five years time, with yellow mono planes being wheeled out by mechanics in blue overalls, neither of which had come in at the time. For a detailed account see www.llewellyn.com or search in Google under Sir Victor Goddard where this is on the front page.