Chapter 4: HOME OF REST
As we walked along, at least two of us pondered upon what we had seen – and its implications. Our young friend – who told us her name was Ruth – put a number of questions to us, but I withheld any attempt to answer, since I was but a new-comer myself, in favour of my friend, whose name – Edwin – I have omitted to give so far.
Ruth, it appeared, had never been an active ‘churchgoer’ whilst on Earth, but she was a kindly soul, as it was plain to see, and it plain to see, also, that her abstention from church-going had no difference to her ultimate destination as viewed by the Earth. Her service to others had done more for her Spiritual welfare all the outward display of Congregational religion, which so often is but outward display. Like myself, she was very surprised to find, here in Spirit, the complete paraphernalia of orthodox religion. Edwin told her that she had only seen one example of it so far, and there were plenty of others. Having seen this, however, one had seen them all, more or less. Each denomination, of course, holds to its own particular creed and formularies, such as it had on Earth, with a few minor differences, as we had just seen.
Such Spiritual somnolence is no novelty in Spirit. The Earth world is to blame. Religious contentions and controversies are at the bottom of all the ignorance and lack of knowledge that so many people bring with them into the Spirit world, and if the minds of such people are stubborn and they are unable really to think for themselves, then do they remain shackled to their narrow religious views, thinking it to be all the truth, until a day of Spiritual awakening dawns for them. Then they will see that their slavish adherence to their creeds is holding them back. It is to be so much lamented for every one who leaves, for ever, these misguided congregations, another will come to fill his place – until the time comes when the whole Earth knows the truth of the world of Spirit. Of course they do no harm as they are, here, beyond retarding their own Spiritual progression. Once they realize what they are doing to themselves, and take the first step forward, their joy knows no bounds. They will realize the ‘time’ they have apparently wasted.
Now it may be asked, if, with the acquisition of knowledge and truth, these extensions of Earthly religions into the Spirit world are better done away with, what will you put in their place? It sounds like a condemnation of communal worship.
By no means. We have our communal worship here, but it is purged of every trace of meaningless creeds, of doctrines and dogmas. We worship the Great and Eternal Father in truth, absolute truth. We are of one mind, and one mind only. And no one is called upon to believe blindly – or to profess to do so – something which is utterly incomprehensible to any mind. There are many, many things here which we do not understand – and it will take eons of time before we even have a faint gleam of understanding them. But we are not asked to understand them; we are asked to take them as they are. It makes no difference whatever to our soul’s progression. We shall be able to progress far – and far beyond that – before we shall ever need to think about understanding such things. And so we have one mind in our worship of the All-highest.
Such are the matters we discussed – it was Edwin who expounded – as we walked along in the beautiful air of God’s Heaven.
Ruth espied a rather stately building set among some well-wooded grounds, which also aroused my curiosity. On appealing to our Guide, Edwin told us that it was a home of rest for those who had come into Spirit after long illness, or who had had a violent passing, and who were, in consequence, suffering from shock. We wondered if it would be possible to peep inside, without appearing to be curiosity-seekers. He assured us that it would be quite in order to do so, as he had given his services there, and was therefore persona grata. Added to which was the fact that he knew we had that necessary sympathy which would banish any thought of inquisitiveness. As we drew near I could see that the building was in no sense a ‘hospital’ in outward semblance, whatever its functions might be. It was built in the classical style, two or three stories high, and it was entirely open upon all sides. That is to say, it contained no windows as we know them on Earth. It was white in colour as far as the materials of its composition were concerned, but immediately above it there was to be seen a great shaft of blue light descending upon, and enveloping, the whole building with its radiance, the effect of which was to give a striking blue tinge to the whole edifice. This great ray was the down-pouring of life – a healing ray – sent to those who had already passed here, but who were not yet awake. When they were fully restored to Spiritual health, there would be a splendid awakening, and they would be introduced into their new land.
I noticed that there was quite a number of people seated upon the grass in the grounds, or walking about. They were relatives of those who were undergoing treatment within the hall of rest, and whose awakening was imminent. Although, doubtless, they could have been summoned upon the instant when necessary, yet, following their old Earthly instinct, they preferred to wait close at hand for the happy moment. They were all supremely joyful, and very excited, as could be seen by the expressions on their faces, and many were the friendly smiles we received as we walked among them. Many of them, too, came forward to welcome us among them, thinking that we had come for the same reason as themselves. We told them of our true purpose, however, and they sped us on our way.
I observed that most of the people waiting in the gardens were not habited in their Earth clothes, and I assumed that most of them had been in Spirit for some considerable time. Such was not necessarily the case, Edwin told us. They had the right to wear their Spirit robes by virtue of the fact that they were inhabitants of this realm we were now in. And the robes they wore were eminently suited to both the place and the situation. It is difficult to describe the costume because so much rests in being able to give some comparison with a particular Earthly fabric. Here we have no such materials, and all outward appearances are produced, not by the texture of the material, but by the kind and degree of light that is the essence of a Spirit robe. Those that we now saw were in ‘flowing’ form and of full length, and the colors – blue and pink in varying degrees of intensity – seemed to interweave themselves throughout the whole substance of the robes. They looked very comfortable to wear, and like everything here, they require no attention to keep them in a state of perfect preservation, the Spirituality of the wearer alone accounting for that.
The three of us were still wearing our Earthly style of raiment, and Edwin suggested that, for our present purposes, we might change to our natural element in the matter of clothes. I was quite willing, of course, to fall in with any suggestion that he might like to make, as I turned to him for everything in my lack of knowledge. Ruth also seemed very keen to try this change, but the question that puzzled us both, was how it was to be accomplished.
Possibly there are people on the Earth-plane who are willing to believe that such a situation as this would involve the ceremony of being formally presented with a Spirit robe in the presence of a goodly gathering of celestial beings, who had come to witness the bestowing of our heavenly reward, and to be officially invited to take our ‘eternal rest’!
Let me hasten to say that such was most emphatically not the case.
What did take place was very simply this: immediately I had expressed the wish to follow Edwin’s suggestion of discarding my Earthly style of clothes, those very clothes faded away – dissolved – and I was attired in my own particular Spirit robe – of the same description as those I could see about me. Edwin’s had changed likewise, and I noticed that his seemed to send out a greater strength of colour than mine. Ruth’s was the same as mine, and needless to say, she was full of joyful delight with this new manifestation of the Spirit. My old friend had experienced the change before, so his costume was not new to him. But speaking for myself – and I am sure for Ruth – I never at any moment felt the slightest embarrassment or strangeness or self-consciousness in this revolutionary – as it might seem to be – alteration in our external appearance. On the contrary, it seemed quite natural and perfectly in order, and unquestionably it was in proper keeping with our present surroundings, the more so, as I soon discovered when we walked into the home of rest. Nothing would have been more incongruous than Earthly apparel in such a building, which in its interior disposition and accommodations was totally unlike anything to be seen upon the Earth-plane.
As we entered, Edwin was greeted as an old friend by one who came forward to meet us. He briefly explained his mission and our presence there, and we were made welcome to see all that we wished.
An outer vestibule led into a lofty hall of considerable dimensions. The space that would ordinarily be devoted to windows was occupied by tall pillars set some distance apart, and this arrangement was carried out through all four walls. There was very little in the way of interior decoration, but it must not be supposed from this that the apartment had a cold, barrack-like appearance. It was anything but that. The floor was carpeted with some very soft covering in a sober design, and here and there a handsomely-wrought tapestry was hanging upon the walls. Occupying the whole of the floor space were extremely comfortable-looking couches, each of which bore a recumbent form, quite still, and obviously sleeping profoundly. Moving quietly about were a number of men and women intent upon watching the different couches and their burdens.
I noticed as soon as we entered this hall that we came under the influence of the blue ray, and its effect was one of pronounced energizing as well as tranquillity. Another noticeable quality was the entire absence of any idea of an institution with its inevitable officialdom. There was no question of patronage, nor did I feel the least shade of being among strangers. Those in attendance upon the sleepers did so, not in the attitude of a certain task to be done willy-nilly, but as though they were performing a labor of love in the sheer joy of doing it. Such, indeed, was precisely the case. The glad awakening of these sleeping souls was an ever-recurrent joy to them, no less than to the people who had come to witness it.
I learned that all the ‘patients’ in this particular hall had gone through lingering illnesses before passing over. Immediately after their dissolution they are sent gently into a deep sleep. In some cases the sleep follows instantly – or practically without break – upon the physical death. Long illness prior to passing into the Spirit world has a debilitating effect upon the mind, which in turn has its influence upon the Spirit body. The latter is not serious, but the mind requires absolute rest of varying duration. Each case is treated individually, and eventually responds perfectly to its treatment. During this sleep-state the mind is completely resting. There are no unpleasant dreams, or fevers of delirium.
While gazing upon this perfect manifestation of Divine Providence, the thought came to me of those absurd Earthly notions of ‘eternal rest,’ ‘everlasting sleep’, and the many other equally foolish Earthly conceptions, and I wondered if, by some chance or other, this sleep I was now beholding had been distorted by Earthly minds into a state of eternal slumber, whither all souls pass at dissolution, there to await, in countless years’ time, the awful ‘last day’ – the dread ‘Day of Judgment’. Here was the visible refutation of such a senseless belief.
Neither of my two friends had awakened in this – or other – hall of rest, so they told me. Like myself, they had suffered no lengthy illness, and the end of their Earth lives had come quite quickly and quite pleasantly.
The patients resting upon their couches looked very peaceful. Constant watch is kept upon them, and at the first flutterings of returning consciousness, others are summoned, and all is ready for the full awakening. Some will wake up partially, and then sink back again into slumber. Others will shake off their sleep at once, and it is then that those experienced souls in attendance will have, perhaps, their most difficult task. Until that moment, in fact, it has been mostly a matter of watching and waiting. In so many cases it has to be explained to the newly awakened soul that he has ‘died’ and is alive. They will remember usually their long illness, but some are quite unaware that they have passed over into Spirit, and when the true state of affairs has been gently and quietly explained to them, they often have an urgent desire to go back to the Earth, perhaps to those who are sorrowing, perhaps to those for whose care and welfare they were responsible. They are told that nothing can be done by their going back, and that others of experience will take care of those circumstances that are so distressing them. Such awakenings are not happy ones by comparison with those who wake up with the full realization of what has taken place. Were the Earth more enlightened, this would be the more often the case, and there would be a great deal less distress to the newly awakened soul.
The Earth world thinks itself very advanced, very ‘civilized’. Such estimation is begotten of blind ignorance. The Earth world, with all things appertaining thereto, is looked upon as of the very first importance, and the Spirit world is regarded as something dim and distant. When a soul finally arrives there, it is quite time enough to begin thinking about it. Until that time comes there is no need even to bother about it. That is the attitude of mind of thousands upon thousands of incarnate souls, and here, in this hall of rest, we witnessed people awakening from their Spirit sleep. We saw kind and patient Spirits trying so bard to convince these same people that they had really ‘died’. And this hall of rest is but one place out of many where the same service is being carried on unceasingly, and all because the Earth world is so very superior in knowledge!
We were shown another large hall similarly appointed, where those whose passing had been sudden and violent were also in their temporary sleep. These cases were usually more difficult to manage than those we had just seen. The suddenness of their departure added far greater confusion to the mind. Instead of a steady transition, the Spirit body had in many cases been forcibly elected from the physical body, and precipitated into the Spirit world. The passing over had been so sudden that there seemed to them to be no break in their lives. Such people are taken in hand quickly by bands of souls who devote all their time and the whole of their energies to such work. And in the hall of rest we could now see the results of their labours. Had so many of these souls had but a small knowledge of Spirit matters, these awakenings would have been so much the happier.
I do assure you it is not a pleasant sight to see these gentle, patient helpers wrestling mentally – and sometimes almost physically – with people who are wholly ignorant of the fact that they are ‘dead’. It is a most saddening sight, which I can vouch for from first hand evidence, for have I not seen it? And who is to blame for this state of affairs? Most of these souls blame themselves when they have been here long enough to appreciate their new condition, or alternatively, they blame the world they have but recently left for tolerating such blindness and stupidity.
Edwin hinted that perhaps we had seen all that we wished, and truth to tell, both Ruth and I were not sorry to leave. For it must be recalled that we were both comparatively new arrivals, and we had not yet sufficient experience to be able to withstand sights that were in themselves distressing. So we passed out into the open again, and we took a path that skirted a large orchard of fruit trees, similar to, though much more extensive than, that wherein I had had my first taste of celestial fruit. It was close at hand for the use of the newly awakened – and, of course, for anyone else who wished to partake of the stimulating fruit.
It occurred to me that Edwin was expending a good deal of his time upon us, perhaps at the expense of his own work. But he told us that what he was now doing, was, in many respects, his usual work – not only to help people to become accustomed to their new surroundings, but to help those who were just beginning to shake off their old religious ideas, and break away from the stifling of their minds as members of orthodox communities here. I was glad to know this, because it meant that he would continue to be our guide.
Now that we were again in the open, the question arose: should we continue to wear our Spirit dress, or should we go back to our old attire? As far as Ruth was concerned, she would not hear of any changing back. She declared her perfect satisfaction with what she was wearing, and demanded of us to know what possible Earthly costume could ever improve upon it. In the face of such a powerful argument, we were bound to submit. But what of Edwin and me? My friend had only reverted to his Earthly cassock to keep me company and to help me feel at home. And so I decided that I would stay as I now was – in my Spirit apparel.
As we walked along we fell to chatting about the various Earthly notions touching the personal appearance of Spirit people. Ruth mentioned ‘wings’ in connection with ‘Angelic beings,’ and we were all at once agreed that such an idea was nothing less than preposterous. Could any means of locomotion be more clumsy or ponderous, or thoroughly impracticable? We supposed that artists of ancient days must have been largely responsible for this wide departure from actuality. One presumes they thought that some means of personal locomotion was essential for Spirit people, and that the ordinary mundane method of using one’s legs was far too Earthly to be admitted, even as a remote possibility, into the heavenly realms. Having no knowledge whatever of the power of thought here, and its direct application in the literal movement of ourselves through these realms, they were thrown back upon the only means of movement through space known to them – the use of wings. One wonders if there are still Earth people who really believe that we are only partly removed from some form of large bird! Among the thinking, modern science has managed to dispel some of the absurd conceptions so long prevalent.
We had not gone very far when Edwin bethought him that we might like to make our way to the city which we could see plainly not too far away. I say ‘not too far away’, but that should not be misunderstood into meaning that distance here is of any account. It certainly is not! I mean that the city lay sufficiently close for us to visit it without making any deviation from our general direction. Ruth and I agreed at once that we should like to proceed there forthwith, as a city of the Spirit world must be something of a new revelation to us in itself.
Then the question came to our minds: should we walk, or should we employ a faster method? We both felt that we should like to try exactly what the power of thought can do, but as before, in other circumstances, we were both devoid of any knowledge of how to put these forces into action. Edwin told us that once we had performed this very simple process of thinking, we should have no difficulty whatever in the future. In the first place, it was necessary to have confidence, and in the second, our concentration of thought must not be a half-hearted affair. To borrow an Earthly allusion, we ‘wish ourselves’ there, wherever it may be, and there we shall find ourselves! For the first few occasions it may be required to make something of a conscious effort; afterwards we can move ourselves whither-soever we wish – one might almost say, without thinking! To recall Earthly methods, when you wish to sit down, or walk, or perform any one of the many Earthly actions that are so familiar, you are not conscious of making any very definite effort of thought in order to bring about your desires. The thought very rapidly passes through your mind that you wish to sit down, and you sit down. But you have given no heed to the many muscular movements, and so on, involved in the simple action. They have become as second nature. And so it is precisely the same with us here. We just think that we wish to be in a certain place, and we are there. I must, of course, qualify that statement by saying that all places are not open to us here. There are many realms where we are not able to enter except in very special circumstances, or only if our state of progression permits. That, however, does not affect the method of locomotion here; it merely restricts us in certain well-defined directions.
Being severely practical, I mentioned to Edwin that as we wished, all three of us, to be together, then must we not all wish to be at the same place, and must we not have some very definite locality in mind upon which to fasten our thoughts? He replied that there were several factors to be borne in mind in this particular instance. One factor was that it was our initial essay in thought locomotion, and that he would, more or less, ‘take charge’ of us. We should automatically remain in close contact with each other, since we had voiced the wish and intention of doing so. These two facts together were sufficient to afford us a safe and sure arrival in company at our desired destination! When we became quite proficient in these methods we should have no difficulty in this connection.
It must be remembered that thought is as instantaneous as it is possible to imagine, and there is no possibility of our losing ourselves in illimitable space! I had had my first example of traveling through space in this way immediately after my passing, but then I had moved comparatively slowly with my eyes firmly closed. Edwin then suggested that it would give us some pleasant amusement if we were to try an experiment for ourselves. He assured us that we could not, in any circumstances, come to any harm whatever. He proposed that Ruth and I should project ourselves to a small clump of trees lying about a quarter of a mile away – as measured by the Earth. We all three sat on the grass, and we gazed at our objective. He suggested that if we felt at all nervous that we might hold each other’s hands! Ruth and I were to go alone, while he would remain on the grass. We were just to think that we wished to be beside yonder trees. We looked at one another with a great deal of merriment, both of us wondering what would happen next, and neither of us taking the initiative. We were pondering thus, when Edwin said: ‘Off you go!’ His remark must have supplied the requisite stimulus, for I took Ruth’s hand, and the next thing we knew we found ourselves standing beneath the trees!
We looked at one another, if not in amazement, then in something that was very much like it. Casting our eyes whence we had just come, we saw Edwin waving his hand to us. Then a strange thing happened. We both beheld immediately before our faces what seemed to be a flash of light. It was not blinding, nor did it startle us in any way. It simply caught our attention just as the Earthly sun would do when coming from behind a cloud. It illumined the small space before our eyes as we stood there. We remained quite still, full of expectancy for what might transpire. Then clearly, beyond any vestige of doubt, we heard—whether with the ear or with the mind, I could not then say – the voice of Edwin asking us if we had enjoyed our brief journey, and to go along back to him in exactly the same way as we had left him. We both made some remark upon what we had heard, trying to decide if it were really Edwin we had heard speaking. Scarcely had we mentioned our perplexity at this latest demonstration of the Spirit, when Edwin’s voice spoke again, assuring us that he had heard us as we cogitated upon the matter! So surprised and altogether delighted were we with this fresh manifestation of the power of thought, following so swiftly upon the other, that we determined to return to Edwin upon the instant, and demand a full explanation. We repeated the procedure, and there we were, once more, seated one each side of my old friend, who was laughing joyously at our wonderment.
He was prepared for the onslaught that came – for we bombarded him with questions – and he told us that he had purposely kept this surprise for us. Here, he said, was another instance of the concreteness of thought. If we can move ourselves by the power of thought, then it follows that we should also be able to send our thoughts by themselves, unhindered by all ideas of distance. When we focus our thoughts upon some person in the Spirit world, whether they be in the form of a definite message, or whether they are solely of an affectionate nature, those thoughts will reach their destination without fail, and they will be taken up by the percipient. That is what happens in the Spirit world. How it happens, I am not prepared to say. That is another of the many things we take as we find, and rejoice therein. We had, so far, used our ‘organs of speech’ in conversing with each other. It was quite natural, and we hardly gave the matter any thought. It had not occurred either to Ruth or myself that some means of communication at a distance must be available here. We were no longer limited by Earthly conditions, yet so far we had not observed anything that would take the place of the usual mode of intercommunication upon the Earth. This very absence should, perhaps, have told us to expect the unexpected.
Although we can thus send our thoughts, it must not be assumed that our minds are as an open book for all to read. By no means. We can, if we so will, deliberately keep our thoughts to ourselves; but if we should think idly, as it were; if we should just let our thoughts ramble along under a loose control, then they can be seen and read by others. One of the first things to be done upon arrival here is to realize that thought is concrete, that it can create and build, and then our next effort is to place our own thoughts under proper and adequate control. But like so much else in the Spirit world, we can soon learn to adjust ourselves to the new conditions if we have a mind to do so, and we shall never lack the most willing helpers in any or all of our difficulties. The latter, Ruth and I had already found out with relief and gratitude.
Ruth was by now very impatient to be off to visit the city, and she insisted that Edwin should take us there immediately. And so, without further delay, we rose up from the grass, and with a word from our guide, we set forth.
Chapter 5: HALLS OF LEARNING
As we approached the city, it was possible for us to gather some idea of its extensive proportions. It was, I hardly need say, totally unlike anything I had yet seen. It consisted of a large number of stately buildings each of which was surrounded with magnificent gardens and trees, with here and there pools of glittering water, clear as crystal, yet reflecting every shade of colour known to Earth, with many other tints to be seen nowhere but in the realms of Spirit.
It must not be imagined that these beautiful gardens bore the slightest resemblance to anything to be seen upon the Earth-plane. Earthly gardens at their best and finest are of the very poorest by comparison with these that we now beheld, with their wealth of perfect colorings and their exhalations of heavenly perfumes. To walk upon the lawns with such a profusion of nature about us held us spellbound. I had imagined that the beauty of the countryside, wherein I had had all my experience of Spirit lands so far, could hardly be excelled anywhere.
My mind had reverted to the narrow streets and crowded pavements of the Earth; the buildings huddled together because space is so valuable and costly; the heavy, tainted air, made worse by streams of traffic; I had thought of hurry and turmoil, and all the restlessness of commercial life and the excitement of passing pleasure. I had no conception of a city of eternal beauty, as far removed from an Earthly city as the light of day is from black night. Here were fine broad thoroughfares of emerald green lawns in perfect cultivation, radiating, like the spokes of a wheel, from a central building which, as we could see, was the hub of the whole city. There was a great shaft of pure light descending upon the dome of this building, and we felt instinctively – without Edwin having to tell us – that in this temple we could together send up our thanks to the Great Source of all, and that there we should find none other than the Glory of God in Truth.
The buildings were not of any great height as we should measure and compare with Earthly structures, but they were for the most part extremely broad. It is impossible to tell of what materials they were composed because they were essentially Spirit fabrics. The surface of each smooth as of marble, yet it had the delicate texture and translucence of alabaster, while each building sent forth, as it were, into the adjacent air, a stream of light of the palest shade of colouring. Some of the buildings were carved with designs of foliage and flowers, and others were left almost unadorned, as far any smaller devices were concerned, relying upon their semi-classic nature for relief. And over all was the light of Heaven shining evenly and uninterruptedly, so that nowhere were there dark places.
This city was devoted to the pursuit of learning, to the study and practice of the arts, and to the pleasures of all in this realm. It was exclusive to none, but free for all to enjoy with equal right. Here it was possible to carry on so many of those pleasant and fruitful occupations that had been commenced on the Earth-plane. Here, too, many souls could indulge in some agreeable diversion which had been denied them, for a variety of reasons, whilst they were incarnate.
The first Hall that Edwin took us into was concerned with the art of Painting. This Hall was of very great size and contained a long gallery, on the walls of which were hanging every great masterpiece known to man. They were arranged in such a way that every step of Earthly progress could be followed in proper order, beginning with the earliest times and so continuing down to the present day. Every style of painting was represented, gathered from all points of the Earth. It must not be thought that such a collection, as we were now viewing, is only of interest and service to people who have a full appreciation and understanding of the painter’s art. Such could not be farther from the case.
There was a goodly number of people in the gallery when we entered, some of whom were moving about wherever their fancy took them. But there were many groups listening to the words of able teachers, who were demonstrating the various phases in the story of art as exemplified upon the walls, and they were, at the same time giving such a clear and interesting exposition that none could fail to understand.
A number of these pictures I recognized as I had seen their ‘originals’ in the Earth’s galleries. Ruth and I were astonished when Edwin told us that what we had seen in those galleries were not the originals at all! We were now seeing the originals for the first time. What we had seen was an Earthly counterpart, which was perishable from the usual causes – for example, from fire or the general disintegration through the passage of time. But here we were viewing the direct results of the thoughts of the painter, created in the etheric before he actually transferred those thoughts to his Earthly canvas. It could be plainly observed, in many cases, where the Earthly picture fell short of that which the painter had in his mind. He had endeavoured to reproduce his exact conception, but through physical limitations this exact conception had eluded him. In some instances it had been the pigments that had been at fault when, in the early times, the artist had been unable to procure or evolve the particular shade of colour he wanted. But though he lacked physically, his mind had known precisely what he wished to do. He had built it up in the Spirit – the results of which we were now able to see – while he had failed to do so on the material canvas.
That was one major difference that I noticed in the pictures, by comparison with what I had seen on the Earth-plane. Another great point of dissimilarity – and the most important – was the fact that here all these pictures were alive. It is impossible to convey any idea of this paramount difference. These Spirit pictures must be seen here to understand it. I can only just suggest an idea. These pictures, then, whether landscape or portrait, were never flat; that is, they did not seem to have been painted upon a flat canvas. They possessed, on the other hand, all the completeness of relief. The subject stood forth almost as though it were a model – a model whereof one could take hold of all the elements that went to the making up of the subject of the picture. One felt that the shadows were real shadows cast by real objects. The colours glowed with life, even among the very early works before much progress had been made.
A problem came into my mind, for a solution of which I naturally turned to Edwin. It was this: as it would be undesirable, perhaps, as well as impracticable, to hang in these galleriesevery painting that emanated from the Earth-plane, any idea of preferential treatment based upon the judgment of others did not seem quite consonant with Spirit law, in so far as I was acquainted with it. What system is used for the selection of paintings to hang upon these walls? I was told that it was a question that is frequently asked by visitors to this gallery. The answer is that by the time an artist, whether he be good, bad, or just commonplace, has adjusted himself to his new life, he has no further illusions – if he ever harbored any – of his own work. Usually an extreme diffidence sets in, fostered by the immensity and the superlative beauty of this realm. So that in the end the problem becomes one of scarcity rather than superabundance!
When we gazed at the portraits of so many men and women whose names had worldwide fame, whether they lived in distant times or in the present day, it gave Ruth and me a strange feeling to think that we were now inhabitants of the same world as they, and that they, like ourselves, were very much alive, and not mere historic figures in the chronicles of the Earth world.
In other parts of this same building were rooms wherein students of art could learn all that there is to be learnt. The joy of these students is great in their freedom from their Earthly restrictions and bodily limitations. Here instruction is easy, and the acquisition and application of knowledge equally facile to those who wish to learn. Gone are all the struggles of the student in the surmounting of Earthly difficulties both of the mind and of the hands, and progress towards proficiency is consequently smooth and rapid. The happiness of all the students whom we saw, itself spread happiness to all who beheld it, for there is no limit to their endeavours when that bugbear of Earthly life – fleeting time – and all the petty vexations of the mundane existence have been abandoned for ever. Is there any wonder that artists within this hall, and, indeed, in every other hall in the city, were enjoying the golden hours of their Spiritual reward?
To have made a really exhaustive study of all the pictures in the gallery would have taken us too long for our present purposes, which were to acquire as comprehensive an idea of this realm as we could, so that later we could find our way about the more easily, and return to such places as had the most attraction for us. This was Edwin’s idea, and Ruth and I were heartily in agreement with it. And so we tarried no longer in the hall of painting, and we passed on to another immense building.
This was the Hall of Literature, and it contained every work worthy of the name. Its interior was divided into smaller rooms than in the Hall of Painting. Edwin led us into one spacious apartment which contained the histories of all the nations upon the Earth-plane. To anyone who has a knowledge of Earthly history, the volumes with which the shelves of this section of the great library were filled, would prove illuminating. The reader would be able to gain, for the first time, the truth about the history of his country. Every word contained in these books was the literal truth. Concealment is impossible, because nothing but the truth can enter these realms.
I have since returned to this library and spent much profitable time among its countless books. In particular I have dipped into history, and I was amazed when I started to read. I naturally expected to find that history would be treated in the manner with which we are all familiar, but with the essential difference that now I should be presented with the truth of all historical acts and events. The latter I soon discovered to be the case, but I made another discovery that for the first moment left me astounded. I found that side by side with the statements of pure fact of every act by persons of historical note, by statesmen in whose hands was the government of their countries, by kings who were at the head of those same countries, side by side with such statements was the blunt naked truth of each and every motive governing or underlying their numerous acts – the truth beyond disputation. Many of such motives were elevated, many, many of them were bitterly base; many were misconstrued, many distorted. Written indelibly upon these Spirit annals were the true narratives of thousands upon thousands of Human beings, who, whilst upon their early journey, had been active participants in the affairs of their country. Some were victims to others’ treachery and baseness; some were the cause or origin of that treachery and baseness. None was spared, none omitted. It was all there for all to see – the truth, with nothing extenuated, nothing suppressed. These records had no respect for persons, whether it be king or commoner, churchman or layman. The writers had just set down the veridical story as it was. It required no adornment, no commentary. It spoke for itself. And I was profoundly thankful for one thing – that this truth had been kept from us until such time as we stood where we were now standing, when our minds would, in some measure, be prepared for revelations such as were here at hand.
So far I have mentioned only political history, but I also delved into church history, and the revelations I received in that direction were no better than those in the political sphere. They were, in fact, worse, considering in whose Name so many diabolical deeds were committed by men who, outwardly professing to serve God, were but instruments of men as base as themselves.
Edwin had forewarned me of what to expect in consulting these histories, but I had never anticipated the degree of fullness I should find in the narration of the true facts. The supposed motives given in our Earthly history books were wide of the mark of the real motives on so many numberless occasions!
Although these books bore witness against the perpetrators of so many dark deeds in the Earth world’s history, they also bore witness to many deeds both great and noble. They were not there specifically for the purpose of providing evidence for and against, but because literature has become part of the fabric of Human life. People take pleasure in reading. Is it not quite in accord with this life that there should be books for us to read? They may not be exactly the same as the Earth books, but they are in precise keeping with all else here. And it is found that the pursuit of knowledge is far greater here than upon the Earth-plane, since the necessity of turning our minds to the pressing needs and exigencies of incarnate life no longer exists here.
We passed through many other rooms where volumes upon every subject imaginable were at the disposal of all who wished to study them. And perhaps one of the most important subjects is that which has been called by some truly enlightened soul ‘psychic science’—for science it is. I was astonished by the wealth of literature under this heading. Upon the shelves were books denying the existence of a Spirit world, and denying the reality of Spirit return. Many of the authors of them have since had the opportunity of looking again at their own works—but with very different feelings! They had become, in themselves, living witnesses against the contents of their own books.
We were very much struck by the beautiful bindings in which the books were encased, the material upon which they were inscribed, and the style of inscription. I turned to Edwin for information upon these points. He told me that the reproduction of books in the world of Spirit was not the same process as in the case of paintings. I had seen for myself how the truth had been suppressed in the Earthly volumes either through deliberate intent or through ignorance of the real facts. In the case of the paintings the artist had desired to depict in truth, so to speak, but through no real fault of his own he had been unable to do so. He had not perpetuated untruth, therefore; on the contrary, his mind had recorded what was entirely true. An author of a book would hardly write it with intentions diametrically opposed to those expressed within it. Who, then, writes the book of truth in Spirit? The author of the Earthly volume writes It – when he comes into the Spirit world. And he is glad to do it. It becomes his work, and by such work he can gain the progress of his soul. He will have no difficulty with the facts, for they are here for him to record, and he records them – but the truth this time! There is no need to dissemble – in fact, it would be useless.
As to inscribing the books, are there not printing machines upon the Earth? Of course there are! Then surely the Spirit world is not to be the worse provided for in this respect? We have our methods at printing, but they are totally unlike those of the Earth. We have our experts, who are also artists at their work, and it is work they love doing, or else they would not be doing it. The method of reproduction here is wholly a process of the mind, as with all else, and author and printer work together in complete harmony. The books that result from this close co-operation are works of art; they are beautiful creations which, apart altogether from their literary contents, are lovely to look upon. The binding of the book is another expert process, carried out by more artists, in wonderful materials never seen upon the Earth, since they are of Spirit only. But the books thus produced are not dead things that require a concentration of the whole mind upon them. They live just as much as the paintings we saw were living. To pick up a book and begin reading from it meant also to perceive with the mind, in a way not possible on Earth, the whole story as it was being told, whether it be history or science, or the arts. The book, once taken in the hand by the reader, instantly responds, in very much the same way as the flowers respond when one approaches close to them. The purpose is different, of course.
All the vast numbers of books we saw were there for all to use at their leisure and to their heart’s delight. There were no restrictions, no tiresome rules and regulations. Standing with all this enormous wealth of knowledge about us, I was staggered at my own ignorance, and Ruth felt the same. However, Edwin reassured me by telling us that we must not let the sight of so much knowledge frighten us, as we have the whole of eternity before us! It was a comforting reminder, and strange to say, a fact that one is inclined to overlook. It takes time to shake off finally that feeling of impermanence, of transience, that is so closely associated with the Earth life. And in consequence we feel that we must see everything as quickly as we can, in spite of the fact that time, as a factor in our lives, has ceased to function.
By now Edwin thought it due to Ruth to show her something that would have an especial appeal to her, and so he took us into the hall of fabrics. This was equally spacious, but the rooms were of greater dimensions than those of the two halls we had just viewed. Here were contained the scores upon scores of beautiful materials and cloths woven throughout the centuries, and of which practically nothing remains upon the Earth-plane. It was possible to see here specimens of the materials that we read about in histories and chronicles in the descriptions of state ceremonies and festive occasions. And whatever may be said for the change of style and taste that has taken place throughout the ages, the Earth world has lost a vast deal of its colour in exchange for a dull drabness.
The colourings in many of the old materials were simply superb, while the magnificently-wrought designs revealed to us the art that has been lost to Earth. Though perishable to the Earth, they are imperishable to the Spirit world. After making due allowance for the etherealization of these fabrics by their being in the Spirit world, there remained in our minds a sufficiently vivid conception of what these rich fabrics must have looked like in their Earthly element. Here again, it was possible to observe the gradual progress made in the designing and making of Earthly materials, and it must be admitted, as far as I was able to judge, that progress proceeded up to a point when a retrograde movement was noticeable. I am, of course, speaking in a general sense.
A room of tapestries contained some superb examples of the artists’ genius, the Earthly counterparts of which have long since gone out of existence. Annexed to this apartment were smaller rooms where many happy, industrious souls were studying and practising the art of tapestry weaving, with other equally happy souls ever at their side to help and instruct. This was not a tedious work of pupil and teacher, but the enjoyment of pure pleasure, which both could terminate for other things at any time they so wished. Ruth said that she would dearly love to join one of the groups engaged upon a large tapestry, and she was told that she could do so whenever she wished, and that she would be welcomed with all the joy in the world into this community of friends. However, she would, for the present, remain with us upon our expeditions.
It may be thought that what we had seen as yet were nothing more than celestial museums, containing, it is true, magnificent specimens not to be seen upon Earth, but museums, nevertheless. Now Earthly museums are rather cheerless places. They have an aroma of mustiness and chemical preservatives, since their exhibits have to be protected from deterioration and decay. And they have to be protected from man, too, by uninspiring glass cases. But here there are no restrictions. All things within these Halls are free and open for all to see and hold in the two hands. There is no mustiness, but the beauty of the objects themselves sends out many subtle perfumes, while the light of heaven streams in from all quarters to enhance the glories of man’s handicrafts. No, these are no museums; very far from it. They are temples, rather, in which we Spirit people are conscious of the eternal thanks that we owe to the Great Father for giving us such unbounded happiness in a land of which so many upon Earth deny the reality. They would sweep all this away – for what? They know not. There are many, many beauties upon the Earth-plane, but we in Spirit must have none! Perhaps that is another reason why such deep sympathy is felt for us when we pass into Spirit – because we have left behind us for ever all that is beautiful, to pass into a state of emptiness – a celestial vacuum. All that is beautiful, then, becomes exclusive to the Earth world. Man’s intelligence is of no further use once he has passed to here, because here there is nothing upon which to exercise it! Just emptiness! No wonder that the realities and the immense fullness of the Spirit world come as such a shock of revelation to those who were anticipating an eternity of celestial nothingness!
It is essential to understand that every occupation and every task performed by the inhabitants of this and higher realms is done willingly, for the pure wish of doing so, and never from the attitude of having to do it ‘whether they like it or not’. There is no such thing as being compelled to undertake a task. Never is unwillingness felt or expressed. That is not to say that the impossible is attempted. We may be able to see the outcome of some action or another – or if we cannot, there are others of greater wisdom and knowledge who can – and we shall know whether to commence our task or withhold for the time being. We never want here for help and advice. You may recall my own suggestion earlier of trying to communicate with the Earth to set right some matters in my own life, and that Edwin advised that I should seek advice later on upon the practicability of that course. So that it is the truth to say that the wish to do and to serve is the keynote here. I mention these matters so that a better understanding may be obtained of a particular hall that Edwin took us into after we left the hall of fabrics.
This was, to all intents and purposes, a school where souls, who had had the misfortune to miss the benefits of some Earthly knowledge and learning, could here equip themselves intellectually.
Knowledge and learning, education or erudition do not connote Spiritual worth, and the inability to read and write do not imply the absence of it. But when a soul has passed into this life, when he sees the great, broad Spiritual thoroughfare opening before him with its opportunities both manifold and multiform, he sees also that knowledge can help him on his Spiritual way. He may not be able to read. Are all those splendid books to remain for ever closed to him now that he has the opportunity to read, while lacking the ability? Perhaps it will be asked: surely it is not necessary to be able to read in the Spirit world? Things being what they are, there must be some form of mental perception to be gathered from books without the material aid of printed words? The same question might be asked of pictures and of all else here. Why the need for anything tangible? If we pursue this line of thought it will take us to that state of vacuity I have just mentioned.
The man who is unable to read will feel with his mind that something is contained within the book that he takes into his hands, but he will not know instinctively, or in any other way, the contents of it. But one who can read will, immediately upon his commencing to do so, find himself en rapport with the author’s thoughts as set down, and the book will thus respond to him who reads.
To be able to write is not necessary, and many who have been unable to do so before passing here, have not bothered to supply the omission after their arrival.
We found in this school many souls busy with their studies, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. To acquire knowledge here is not tedious, because the memory works perfectly – that is, unfailingly – and the powers of mental perception are no longer hampered and confined by a physical brain. Our faculties for understanding are sharpened, and intellectual expansion is sure and steady. The school was the home of realized ambitions to most of the students within it. I chatted with a number of them, and each told me that what he was studying now, he had longed to study on Earth, but had been denied the opportunity for reasons that are all too familiar. Some had found that commercial activities had left no time, or that the struggle for a living had absorbed all the means to do so.
The school was very comfortably arranged; there was, of course, no hint of regimentation. Each student followed his own course of study independently of anyone else. He seated himself comfortably, or he went into the lovely gardens without. He began when he wanted, and he finished when he wanted, and the more he dipped into his studies the more the more interested and fascinated he became. I can speak from personal experience of the latter, since there is much that I have studied in the great library since my first introduction to it.
As we left the school, Edwin suggested that we might like to sit in the grass beneath some fine trees and rest ourselves. That was simply his way—a perfectly natural one—of expressing it. We do not suffer bodily fatigue, but at the same time we do not continue endlessly at the same occupation; that would mean monotony, and there is no monotony here such as we used to endure on Earth. But Edwin knew from experience the different emotions that take place in the minds of newly arrived souls into Spirit lands, and so he halted for the time being our further explorations.