Chapter 3: FIRST EXPERIENCES
I have already mentioned that when I was first introduced to my Spirit home I observed that it was the same as my Earth home, but with a difference. As I entered the doorway I saw at once the several changes that had been brought about. These changes were mostly of a structural nature and were exactly of the description of those that I had always wished I could have carried out to my Earthly house, but which for architectural and other reasons I had never been able to have done. Here, Earthly needs had no place, so that I found my Spirit home, in general disposition, exactly as I had ever wished it to be. The essential requisites indispensably associated with an Earthly homestead were, of course, completely superfluous here, for example, the severely mundane matter of providing the body with food. That is one instance of the difference. And so with others it is easy enough to call to mind.
As we traversed the various rooms together, I could see many instances of the thoughtfulness and kindness of those who had laboured so energetically to help me reconstruct my old home in its new surroundings. While standing within its walls I was fully aware of its permanence as compared with what I had left behind me. But it was a permanence that I knew I could end; permanent only so long as I wished it to be so. It was more than a mere house; it was a Spiritual haven, an abode of peace, where the usual domestic cares and responsibilities were wholly absent.
The furniture that it contained consisted largely of that which I had provided for its Earthly original, not because it was particularly beautiful, but because I had found it useful and comfortable, and adequately suited my few requirements. Most of the small articles of adornment were to be seen displayed in their customary places, and altogether the whole house presented the unmistakable appearance of occupancy. I had truly ‘come home’.
In the room that had formerly been my study I noticed some well-filled bookshelves. At first I was rather surprised to see such things, but upon further thought I could see no reason, if such as this house could exist at all with all its various adjuncts, why books should not also have their place within the scheme. I was interested to learn what was the nature of the books, and so I made a closer examination. I found that conspicuous among them were my own works. As I stood in front of them I had a clear perception of the reason, the real reason, for their being there. Many of these books contained those narratives that I spoke of earlier, in which I had told of my own psychic experiences after giving them the necessary religious turn. One book in particular seemed to stand out in my mind more than the others, and I came to the full realization that I now wished that I had never written it. It was a distorted narrative, where the facts, as I had really known them, were given unfair treatment, and where the truth was suppressed. I felt very remorseful, and for the first time since coming into this land I had regret. Not regret that I had, at last, arrived in the Spirit world, but sorrow that, with the truth before me, I had deliberately cast it aside to place in its stead falsehood and misrepresentation. For I knew that so long as my name lived, that is, so long as it had any commercial value, that book would continue to be reproduced and circulated and read – and regarded as the absolute truth. I had the unpleasant knowledge that I could never destroywhat I had thus done.
There was, at no time, any sense of condemnation over this. On the contrary, I could feel a distinct atmosphere of intense sympathy. Whence it came, I knew not, but it was real and concrete nevertheless. I turned to my friend, who, during my inspection and discovery, had been standing discreetly and understandingly at a little distance apart, and I asked for his help. It was instantly forthcoming. He then explained to me that he knew exactly what had lain before me concerning this book, but that he was debarred from making any reference to it before I made the discovery for myself. Upon my doing so, and upon my subsequent appeal for help, he was at once enabled to come to my aid.
My first question was to ask him how I could put this matter right. He told me that there were several ways in which I could do so, some more difficult – but more efficacious – than others. I suggested that perhaps I could go back to the Earth-plane and tell others of this new life and the truth of communication between the two worlds. Many, many people, he said, had tried, and were still trying, to do so, and how many were believed? Did I think that I should have any better fortune? Certainly none of those who read my books would ever come within miles of receiving or crediting any communication from me. And did I realize, also that if I were to present myself to such people they would at once call me a ‘devil’, if not the very Prince of Darkness himself!
‘Let me,’ he continued, ‘place a few considerations before you concerning this subject of communication with the Earth world. You know full well that such is possible, but have you any conception of the difficulties surrounding it?
‘Let us assume that you have found the means to communicate. The first thing you will be called upon to do will be to furnish clear and definite identification of yourself. Quite probably, upon your first declaring who you are, there will be some hesitation at accepting your name simply because it carried weight when you were incarnate. However important or famous we happen to be when upon the Earth-plane, as soon as we are gone to the Spirit-plane, we are referred to in the past tense! Whatever works of a literary nature we may leave behind us are then of far greater importance than their authors, since to the Earth world we are “dead”. To the Earth, the living voice is gone. And although we are still very much alive – to ourselves as well as to others here – to the Earth people we have become memories, sometimes permanent, more often than not memories that rapidly fade, leaving mere names behind them. We know, moreover, that we are very much more alive than we have ever been before; the majority of Earth people will consider that we could never be more “dead”!
‘You will be commanded, then, to provide a deal of identification. That is quite proper in such circumstances, provided it is not carried to extremes, as so often it is. After fulfilling this condition, what next? You will wish to intimate that you are alive and well. If the people with whom you are communicating are no mere dabblers, no doubt will be placed upon your statement. But if you wish to send such news to the world in general through the customary channels, those who believe it is really you who have spoken will be those who already know of, and practise communication with, the Spirit world. For the rest, who will believe it is you? None – certainly none of your former readers. They will say that it cannot be you, but that it is a “devil” impersonating you. Others will quite probably take no notice whatever. There would, of course, be a number who would imagine that, because you have passed into the world of Spirit, then you will at once have become endowed with the profoundest wisdom, and that all you say will be infallible utterances. You can see some of the difficulties that will confront you in this simple matter of telling the truth to those who still sit in the darkness of the Earth world.’
My friend’s forecast grieved me considerably, but I appreciated the extreme difficulties, and I was persuaded to leave the project for the time being. We would consult others wiser than ourselves, and perhaps some course would be outlined whereby I could achieve my desires. I might find that with the passage of time – speaking in a mundane sense – my wishes might change. There was no need to distress myself. There was much that I could see and do, and much experience to be gained that would be invaluable to me if, in the end, I resolved to try and carry out my intentions. His best advice was that I should have a thorough rest, during which time he would leave me. If, when I was quite refreshed, I would send out my thought to him, he would receive it and return to me at once. So, making myself ‘comfortable’ upon a couch, I sank into a delightful state of semi-sleep, in which I was fully conscious of my surroundings, yet at the same time I could feel a down pouring of new energy, which coursed through my whole being. I could feel myself becoming, as it were, lighter, with the last traces of the old Earth conditions being driven away for ever.
How long I remained in this pleasant state, I have no knowledge, but eventually I fell into a gentle slumber from which I awoke in that state of health, which in the Spirit world is perfect. I at once remembered my friend’s proposal, and I sent out my thoughts to him. Within the space of a few seconds of Earth time he was walking in through the door. His response was so bewilderingly rapid that my surprise sent him into merry laughter. He explained that in reality it was quite simple. The Spirit world is a world of thought; to think is to act, and thought is instantaneous. If we think ourselves into a certain place we shall travel with the rapidity of that thought, and that is as near instantaneous as it is possible to imagine. I should find that it was the usual mode of locomotion, and that I should soon be able to employ it.
My friend at once noticed a change in me, and he congratulated me upon my regaining my full vigour. It is impossible to convey, even in a small measure, this exquisite feeling of supreme vitality and well-being. When we are living upon the Earth-plane we are constantly being reminded of our physical bodies in a variety of ways – are of the mind, and that the Spirit body is impervious to anything that is destructive. We feel through our minds, not through any physical organs of sense, and our minds are directly responsive to thought. If we should feel coldness in some particular and definite circumstances, we undergo that sensation with our minds, and our Spirit bodies in no way suffer. We are never continuously reminded of them. In the realm of which I am now speaking, all is exactly attuned to its inhabitants – its temperature, its landscape, its many dwellings, the waters of the rivers and streams, and, most important of all, the inhabitants one with another. There is therefore nothing that can possibly create any unhappiness, unpleasantness, or discomfort. We can completely forget our bodies and allow our minds to have free play, and through our minds we can enjoy the thousands of delights that the same minds have helped to build up.
At times we may feel saddened – and at times we are amused – descriptions of the Spirit lands. What do these poor minds know? Nothing! And what would these same minds substitute for the realities of the Spirit world? They do not know. They would take away from us our beautiful countryside, our flowers and trees, our rivers and lakes, our houses, our friends, our work, and our pleasures and recreations. For what? What conception can these dull minds have of a world of Spirit? By their own stupid admissions, no conception whatever. They would turn us into wraiths, without substance, without intelligence, and merely surviving in some dim, shadowy, vaporous state, dissevered from everything that is Human. In my perfect health and abounding vitality, and living among all the beauties of this world of strict reality – a mere hint of which I have only so far given you – I am forcibly impressed by the magnitude of ignorance shown by particular minds upon Earth.
The time had come, I felt, when I would like to see something of this wonderful land, and so, in company with my friend, we set forth on what was, for me, a voyage of discovery. Those of you who have travelled the Earth for the sake of seeing new lands will understand how I felt at the outset.
To obtain a wider view, we walked to some higher ground, whence a clear panorama unfolded before the eyes. Before us the countryside reached out in a seemingly unending prospect. In another direction I could clearly perceive what had all the appearance of a city of stately buildings, for it must be remembered that all people here do not possess a uniformity of tastes, and that even as on Earth, many prefer the city to the country, and vice versa, while again some like both. I was very keenly interested to see what a Spirit city could be like. It seemed easy enough to visualize the country here, but cities seemed so essentially the work of man in a material world. On the other hand, I could advance no logical reason why the Spirit world should not also build cities. My companion was greatly amused by my enthusiasm, which, he declared, was equal to a schoolboy’s. It was not his first acquaintance with it, however; most people when they first arrive are taken in the same way! And it affords our friends a never-ending pleasure to show us round.
I could see a church in the distance built on the usual lines externally, and it was proposed that we might go in that direction, and include other things on the way. And so we set off.
We followed a path that led for part of the way beside a brook, whose clear water sparkled in the light of the Heavenly sun. As the water pursued its course it gave forth many musical notes that constantly changed and weaved themselves into a medley of the most dulcet sounds. We drew to the edge that I might look at it closer. It seemed to be almost like liquid crystal, and as the light caught it, it scintillated with all the colours of the rainbow. I let some of the water run over my hand, expecting it, by its very look, to be icy cold. What was my astonishment to find that it was delightfully warm. But still more it had an electrifying effect which extended from my hand right up the arm. It was a most exhilarating sensation, and I wondered what would it be like to bathe fully within it. My friend said that I should feel myself being charged with energy, but there was not a sufficient depth of water to immerse myself in it properly. I should have the opportunity, as soon as we came to a larger body of water, to indulge in a bathe. When I withdrew my hand from the brook, I found that the water flowed off in flashing drops, leaving it quite dry!
We resumed our walk, and my friend said he would like to take me to visit a man who lived in a house which we were now approaching. We walked through some artistically laid out gardens, crossed a well-turfed lawn, and came upon a man seated at the outskirts of a large orchard. As we drew near he rose to meet us. My friend and he greeted one another in the most cordial fashion, and I was introduced as a new arrival. It was explained to me that this gentleman prided himself upon the fruit in his orchard, and I was invited to sample some of it. The owner of this pleasant retreat seemed to be a man of middle years, as far as I could judge, though he could have been much older than he appeared to be at first sight. I have since learned that to try to guess the ages of people here is a difficult and almost dangerous task! For you must know – to digress a little – that it is the law that, as we progress Spiritually, so do we shake off the semblance of age as it is known on Earth. We lose the wrinkles that age and worldly cares have marked upon our countenances, together with other indications of the passage of years, and we become younger in appearance, while we grow older in knowledge and wisdom and Spirituality. I am not suggesting that we assume an exterior of extreme juvenility, nor do we lose those external indications of personality. To do that would make us all of a deadly uniformity, but we do, in truth, return—or advance, according to our age when we pass into Spirit towards what we have always known as ‘the prime of life’.
To resume. Our host led us into the orchard where I beheld many trees in a high state of cultivation, and in full fruit. He looked at me for a moment, and then he took us to a splendid tree that looked strongly like a plum tree. The fruit was perfect in shape, with a deep rich coloring, and it hung in great clusters. Our host picked some of it, and handed it to us, telling us that it would do us both good. The fruit was quite cool to the touch, and it was remarkably heavy for its size. Its taste was exquisite, the flesh was soft without being difficult or unpleasant to handle, and a quantity of nectar-like juice poured out. My two friends watched me closely as I ate the plums, each bearing upon his face an expression of mirthful anticipation. As the juice of the fruit streamed out, I fully expected to spill an abundance of it upon my clothes. To my amazement, although the juice descended upon me I could find, upon examination, no traces of it! My friends laughed uproariously at my astonishment, and I thoroughly enjoyed the joke, but I was much mystified. They hastened to explain to me that as I am now in an incorruptible world anything that is ‘unwanted’ immediately returns to its own element. The fruit juice that I thought I had spilled upon myself had returned to the tree from which the fruit was picked
Our host informed me that the particular type of plum which I had just eaten was one that he always recommends to people who have but newly arrived in Spirit. It helps to restore the Spirit, especially if the passing has been caused by illness. He observed, however, that I did not present the appearance of having had a long illness, and he gathered that my passing had been fairly sudden—which was quite true. I had had only a very short illness. The various fruits that were growing were not only for those who needed some form of treatment after their physical death, but all enjoyed eating thereof for its stimulating effect. He hoped that, if I had no fruit trees of my own – or even if I had! – I should come as often as I liked and help myself. ‘The fruit is always in season,’ he added, in great amusement, ‘and you will never find any of the trees without plenty of fruit upon them.’ In response to my question as to how they grow, he replied that like so many other questions in this land, the answer was only possible from those of the higher realms, and even if we were told that answer, there is more than a strong probability that we should not understand until such time as we, ourselves, went to dwell in those realms. We are quite content, he said in effect, to take so many things just as they are, without inquiring into how they come about, and we know that those things provide a never-failing supply because they come from a never-failing Source. There is no real need to delve into such matters, and most of us are quite content to enjoy them with heartfelt thanks. As to the actual supply of fruit, our host said that all he knew was that as he picked his fruit other fruit came and took its place. It never over-ripened because it was perfect fruit, and, like ourselves, imperishable. He invited us to walk through the orchard where I saw every kind of fruit known to man, and many that were known only in Spirit. I sampled some of the latter, but it is impossible to give any indication of the delicious flavor of them because there is no Earthly fruit that I know of with which comparison can be made. We can only, at any time, give such an indication to the senses by comparison with that which we have already experienced. If we have not had that experience then we are at a complete and absolute loss to convey any new sensation, and nowhere is this more appreciable than in the sense of taste.
My friend explained to our genial host that he was escorting me round to show me the land of my new life, and the latter gave us many good wishes to speed us upon our way. He repeated his invitation to visit him whenever I wished, and even if he were not about at the time of any call I might make, I was to help myself to the fruit to my heart’s content. He said I should find that the fruit trees would perform the duties of a host as well as – even better than – he could! And so with further expressions of thanks and goodwill, we again set forth.
We returned to our former path beside the brook, and continued our walk in the direction of the church. After we had proceeded for a little way, I noticed that the brook began to broaden out until it expanded into the dimensions of a fair-sized lake. We could see many groups of happy people gathered at the side of the water, some of whom were bathing. The lake was bounded by an encirclement of trees, and there were flowers in abundance arranged in such a way that although a certain orderliness was observable, yet there was no hint of distinct ownership. They belonged to all in equal right, and I observed most particularly that no attempt was made by anyone to pick, or root up, or otherwise disturb them. One or two people were to be seen with both their hands placed round some of the blooms in almost a caressing manner, an action which seemed to me so unusual that I asked my friend for enlightenment on the matter. He replied by taking me over to a young girl who was thus curiously occupied. I was rather diffident of so intruding, but I was told to ‘wait and see.’ My friend bent down beside her, and she turned her head and gave him a friendly word and smile of welcome. I concluded that they were old friends, but such was not the case. In fact, he told me afterwards that he had never seen her before, and he explained that here in Spirit we need no formal introductions; we constitute one large united gathering in the matter of ordinary social intercourse. After we have been here a little while, and become accustomed to our new environment and mode of living, we find that we never intrude since we can read at once the mind of a person who wishes for a period of seclusion. And when we see people out in the open – in garden or countryside – we are always welcome to approach and hold friendly converse with them.
This young lady was, like myself, a new-comer, and she told us how some friends had shown her the method of gathering from the flowers all that the flowers had so lavishly to give. I bent down beside her, and she gave me a practical demonstration of what to do. By placing the hands, she said, round the flower so as to hold it in a sort of cup, I should feel the magnetism running up my arms. As I moved my bands towards a beautiful bloom, I found that the flower upon its stem moved towards me! I did as I was instructed, and I instantly felt a stream of life rushing up my arms, the while a most delicate aroma was exhaled by the flower. She told me not to pick the flowers because they were for ever growing; they were part of this life, even as we are ourselves. I was very grateful for her timely admonition, since it was the most natural thing in the world to pick flowers that were already in such profusion. It was not quite the same in the case of the fruit, I learned, because the fruit was meant to be consumed. But the flowers were themselves decorative, and to cut down the flower by picking it was equivalent to cutting down the fruit trees. There were flowers, however, that were growing expressly for the purpose of being picked, but these under immediate consideration had as their principal function that of health-giving. I inquired of our young friend if she had tried some of the good fruit we had just sampled, and she replied that she had.
My friend suggested that I might like to go closer to the water’s and that if the young lady were alone, perhaps she would to join us in our excursions. She responded that nothing would give her greater pleasure, and so we all three moved towards the lake. I explained to her that my friend was a seasoned inhabitant of these lands, and that he was acting as my guide and adviser. She seemed to be glad of our company, not that she was lonely, for a thing does not exist in this realm, but she had had few friends while on Earth and had always lived something of a solitary life, although she had never, on that account, been indifferent to, or unmindful of, the cares and sorrows of others. Since coming into Spirit she had found so many kindly souls of similar disposition to herself, and she supposed that perhaps we had been in like case. I told her briefly a few things about myself, as I was still wearing my Earthly attire—that is to say, its counterpart! – she knew me, more or less, for what I had been professionally. My friend being similarly clothed, she laughingly said that she felt she was in safe hands!
It was recalled to my mind what had been said about bathing, was I rather at a loss how to broach the matter of the necessary equipment for the purpose. However, my friend saved the situation referring to it himself.
All we needed for the purpose of enjoying a bathe was the necessary water in which to bath! Nothing could be simpler. We were just to go into the water precisely as we were. Whether we could swim or not, was of no consequence. And I must say I was astonished at this strange departure from the usual procedure, and I naturally hesitated a little. However, my friend quite calmly walked into the lake until he was thoroughly immersed, and the two of us followed his example.
What I was expecting to result from this I cannot say. At least I anticipated the customary effect of water upon one in similar circumstances on Earth. Great, then, was my surprise – and my relief – when I discovered that the water felt more like a warm cloak thrown round me than the penetration of liquid. The magnetic effect of the water was of like nature to the brook into which I had thrust my hand, but here the revivifying force enveloped the whole body, pouring new life into it. It was delightfully warm and completely buoyant. It was possible to stand upright in it, to float upon it, and of course, to sink completely beneath the surface of it without the least discomfort or danger. Had I paused to think I might have known that the latter was inevitably bound to be the case. The Spirit is indestructible. But beyond this magnetic influence there was an added assurance that came from the water, and that was its essential friendliness, if I may so call it. It is not easy to convey any idea of this fundamentally Spiritual experience. That the water was living one could have no doubt. It breathed its very goodness by its contact, and extended its heavenly influence individually to all who came within it. For myself, I experienced a Spiritual exaltation, as well as a vital regeneration, to such an extent that I quite forgot my initial hesitancy and the fact that I was fully clothed. The latter now presented a perfectly natural situation, and this was further enhanced by my observing my two companions. My old friend, of course, was perfectly used to the water, and our new friend seemed to have accommodated herself rapidly to new usages.
My mind was saved further perturbation when I recalled that as I withdrew my hand from the brook the water ran off it, leaving it quite dry. I was already prepared, then, for what ensued as we came out of the lake. As I emerged the water merely ran away, leaving my clothes just as they were before. It had penetrated the material just as air or atmosphere on Earth will do, but it had left no visible or palpable effect whatever. We and our clothes were perfectly dry!
And now another word about the water. It was as clear as crystal, and the light was reflected back in every ripple and tiny wave in almost dazzlingly bright colours. It was unbelievably soft to the touch, and its buoyancy was of the same nature as the atmosphere, that is to say, it supported whatever was on it, or in it. As it is impossible to fall here by accident, as one does on Earth, so it is impossible to sink in the water. All our movements are in direct response to our minds, and we cannot come to harm or suffer accident. It is, I am afraid, rather difficult to give a description of some of these things without going beyond the range of Earthly minds and experience. So much has to be witnessed at first hand to gain any adequate idea of the wonders of these lands.
A short walk brought us to the church that I had seen in the distance, and which I had expressed a keenness to visit.
It was a medium-sized building in the Gothic style, and it resembled the ‘parish church’ familiar on Earth. It was situated in pleasant surroundings, which seemed the more spacious by the absence of any railings or walls to define its ecclesiastical limits. The surface of the stone of which it was constructed had the newness and freshness of recent building, but in point of fact, it had been in existence many years of Earth time. Its exterior cleanliness was merely consonant with all things here – there is no decay. Nor is there any smoky atmosphere to cause blackening and discolouration! There was, of course, no churchyard attached. Even though some people cling so tenaciously to their old Earthly religious predilections and practices here, it is hardly to be supposed that in erecting a church in which to carry them on, they would also include an entirely useless burial-ground!
Close beside the main door there was the customary notice-board, but this gave only the nature of the services, which were those of the Established Church. No mention was made at all of the times of the services, and I wondered how any congregation of this kind could possibly assemble where time, as it is known on Earth, has no existence. For here there is no night and day by the alternation of which time can be measured. It is perpetual day. The great celestial sun for ever shines, as I have already told you. Neither do we have the many other indications of time that force themselves upon the Earthly consciousness – such, for example, as hunger and fatigue. Nor in the more lengthy passage of time such as the ageing of the physical body and the dulling of the mental faculties. Here we have no recurrent seasons of spring, autumn and winter. Instead we enjoy the glory of perpetual summer – and we never tire of it!
As usual, I turned to my friend for information on this point of Congregational assemblage. To gather the people to the church was perfectly simple, he said. Whoever is in charge has only to send out his thoughts to his congregation, and those that wish to come forthwith assemble! There was no need for bell-ringing. The emission of thought is far more thorough and exact! That is simple so far as the congregation is concerned. They have merely to wait until the thought reaches them, either in a direct call to attend, or by the urge to attend. But where does the ministering clergyman obtain his indication of the approach of service-time? That question, I was told, raised a much greater problem.
With the absence of Earth-time in the Spirit world, our lives are ordered by events; events, that is, that are part of our life. I do not refer now to incidental occurrences, but to what, on Earth, would be regarded as recurrent happenings. We have many such events here, as I hope to show you as we proceed, and in doing so you will see how we know that the performance of certain acts, individually or collectively, are clearly brought to our minds. The establishment of this church we were now inspecting saw also the gradual building up of a regular order of services, such as those who belong to its particular denomination on Earth are familiar with. The clergyman who is acting as pastor to this strange flock would feel, by his duties on Earth, the approach of the usual ‘day’ and ‘time’ when the services were held. It would be, in this respect, instinctive. It would, moreover, grow stronger with practice, until this mental perception would assume absolute regularity, as it is considered on the Earth-plane. With this firmly established, the congregation have but to await the call from their minister.
The notice-board gave a list of the usual services commonly seen outside an Earthly church of the same denomination. One or two items were noticeably absent, however; such as the provision for marriages and baptisms. The former omission I could understand; the latter could only imply that baptism was unnecessary, since only the baptised would be in ‘Heaven’ – where presumably they deemed this church to be situated!
We went within, and found ourselves in a very lovely building, conventional in design, and containing little that is not to be seen in any such church upon the Earth-plane. There were some beautiful stained-glass windows portraying scenes in the lives of the ‘saints’, through which the light poured evenly from all sides of the church at the same time, producing a strange effect in the air from the colours of the window-glass. Provision for heating the building was, of course, quite superfluous. There was a fine organ at one end, and the main altar, built of stone, was richly carved. Beyond this, there was a certain plainness which in no way detracted from its general beauty as a piece of architecture. Everywhere was there evidence of a lavish care being expended upon it, which, considering where this church was existing, is not surprising, when it is remembered under what dispensation such a building can exist at all!
We sat down for a little while, finding a calm and peaceful air about the whole place, and then, we decided that we had seen all there was to be seen, and we made our way out into the open.