Chapter 8: PLANS FOR FUTURE WORK
A short walk brought us to a large rectangular building which, our friend informed us, was the Hall of Science, and my fair companion and I were at a loss to know how science, as we always understood the word on Earth, could have any place in the Spirit world. However, we were soon to learn many things, the chief of which was that the Earth world has the Spirit world to thank for all the major scientific discoveries that have been made throughout the centuries.
The laboratories of the world of Spirit are many decades in advance of those of the Earth-plane. And it will be years before many revolutionary discoveries are allowed to be sent through to the Earth world, because the Earth has not yet sufficiently progressed.
Neither Ruth nor I had any very great leaning towards science and engineering, and Edwin, knowing our taste in this direction, proposed that we should give but a moment or two to this particular Hall.
In the Hall of Science every field of scientific and engineering investigation, study, and discovery was covered, and here were to be seen so many of those men whose names have become household words, and who, since passing into Spirit, have continued their life’s work with their fellow scientists with the full and immense resources of the Spirit world at their command. Here they can solve those mysteries that baffled them when they were on Earth. There is no longer any such thing as personal rivalry. Reputations have no more to be made, and the many material handicaps are abandoned for ever. It follows that where such a gathering of savants can exist, together with their unlimited resources, the results must be correspondingly great. In the past ages all the epoch-making discoveries have come from the Spirit world. Of himself, incarnate man can do very little. Most people are content to consider the Earth-world as sufficient unto itself. Indeed it is not! The scientist is fundamentally a man of vision; it may be limited, but it is there nevertheless. And our own Spirit scientists can – and do – impress their Earthly colleagues with the fruits of their investigation. In many cases where two men are working upon the same problem, the one who is in Spirit will be far ahead of his confrere who is still on Earth. A hint from the former is very often enough to set the latter upon the right track, and the result is a discovery for the benefit of Humanity. In so many cases Humanity has so benefited, but, alas, in so many cases Humanity has suffered sorrow and tribulation through the devilish perversion of those discoveries. Every one of them that is sent from the Spirit world is for the advantage and Spiritual progression of man. If perverted minds use those same things for the destruction of man, then man has only himself to blame. That is why I affirmed that the Earth world has not Spiritually progressed enough to have many more splendid inventions that have already been perfected here. They are ready and waiting, but if they were sent through to the Earth-plane in its present state of Spiritual mind, they would be misused by unscrupulous people.
The people of the Earth have it in their power to see that modern inventions are employed solely for their Spiritual and material good. When the time comes that real Spiritual progress is made, then the Earth-plane can expect a flood of new inventions and discoveries to come through from the scientists and engineers of the Spirit world. But the Earth-plane has a long and sorrowful way to go before that time comes. And in the meantime the work of the Spirit scientist continues.
We in Spirit do not require the many inventions of the Earth-plane. I think I have sufficiently indicated that our laws are totally different from those of the Earth-plane. We have no use for inventions that will increase our speed of travel as with you. Our own method of transit is as rapid as thought, because thought is the motive power. We have no need for methods of saving life, because we are indestructible. We have no need for the hundreds of inventions to make life easier, safer, more comfortable and enjoyable, because our life is all that, and more than that already. But in this hall of science many, many devoted men were working for the betterment of the Earth-plane through the medium of their researches, and lamenting that so much could not be given to the Earth because it would not be safe as yet to do so.
We were permitted to see the progress that had been made in locomotion, and we were amazed at the advance that had been made since the days when we were on the Earth-plane. But that is as nothing to that which is to come. When man exercises his will in the right direction, there will be no end to the enormous rewards that he will gain in material progress, but material progress must go hand in hand with Spiritual progress. And until they do the Earth world will not be permitted to have the many inventions that are ready and waiting to be sent through.
The generality of people of the Earth world are very stubborn. They resent any encroachment on their preserves, or upon what they have presumptuously claimed as their preserves. It was never intended that when the results of our scientists’ researches are communicated to the Earth they were to be seized upon by the few to the exclusion of all others. Those that have done so find that they have to pay a very heavy price for their brief span of Earthly prosperity. Neither was it intended that the two worlds, ours and yours, should be as they are now, so far apart in thought and contact. The day will assuredly come when our two worlds will be closely interrelated, when communication between the two will be a commonplace of life, and then the great wealth of resources of the Spirit world will be open to the Earth world, to draw upon for the benefit of the whole Human race.
The sight of so much activity on the part of my fellow inhabitants of this realm had set my mind to thinking about my own future work and what form it could take. I had no very definite ideas upon the matter, and so I mentioned my difficulty to Edwin. Ruth, it seems, was troubled similarly, so there were the two of us, having, for the first time since our arrival, some small feelings of restlessness. Our old friend was not the least surprised; he would have been more surprised, he said, if we had felt otherwise. It was a sensation common to all, sooner or later—the urge to be doing something useful for the good of others. It was not that we were tired of seeing our own land, but that we had rather a self-conscious feeling. Edwin assured us that we could continue to go upon our explorations indefinitely if we so wished, and that none would criticize or comment upon our actions. It would thus be treated as a matter of our own concern. However, we both felt that we should like to settle the question of our future work, and we appealed accordingly for the guidance of our good friend. Edwin suggested at once that we repair to the borders of the higher realms, where, it will be recalled, he said earlier we should be able to go into this matter. And so we left the hall of science, and once more we found ourselves on the outskirts of our realm.
We were taken to a very beautiful house, which from its appearance and situation was clearly of a higher degree than those farther inland. The atmosphere was more rarefied, and as far as I could observe we were approximately upon the same spot as on our first visit to the boundary. Edwin led us into the house with all the freedom in the world, and bade us welcome. As soon as we entered I knew instinctively that he was giving us welcome to his own home. Strange to say, we had never inquired about his home or where it was situated. He said he had purposely kept our minds off the subject, but that was only his natural diffidence. Ruth was enchanted with everything she saw, and scolded him for not telling us all about it much sooner. The house was built of stone throughout, and although to the eye it might have appeared somewhat bare, yet friendliness emanated from every corner. The rooms were not large, but of medium size, and suitable all Edwin’s purposes. There were plenty of comfortable chairs, many well-lined bookshelves. But it was the general feeling of calm and peace that pervaded the whole dwelling that struck us most forcibly.
Edwin bade us be seated and make ourselves at home. There was no need for us to hurry, and we could discuss our problem at in extenso. At the outset I frankly admitted that I had no particular ideas upon what I could do. While on Earth I had been fortunate enough to be able to follow my own inclinations, and I had consequently, a busy life. But my work was finished – at least in one respect – when my Earthly life ended. Edwin then proposed that perhaps I would like to join him in his work, which principally concerned with taking in hand newly-arrived souls whose religious beliefs were the same as we had held upon Earth, but who, unlike ourselves, were unable as yet to realize the truth of the change they had made, and of the unreality of so much of their religion.
Much as I liked my friend’s proposal, I did not feel competent enough to undertake such work, but Edwin waved aside my objection. I should, he said, work with him – at first at any rate. When I had become used to the task I could continue independently if I so wished. Speaking from experience, Edwin said that two or more people – and here he glanced at Ruth – could very often give far greater help to an individual soul than could one working entirely alone. The weight of numbers seemed to have a greater power of conviction upon one who was particularly stubborn in holding on to his old Earthly religious ideas. Since Edwin felt that I would be of real service to him, I was very pleased to accept his offer to join forces with him. And here Ruth brought herself forward as another candidate for service under him, subject, of course, to his approval. Not only was the latter instantly forthcoming, but her offer was gratefully accepted. There was much, said he, that a young woman could do, and the three of us, working in such complete harmony and amity, should be able to do some useful work together. I was more than glad that Ruth was to join us, since it meant that our happy party would not be broken up.
There was, however, another matter that was in my mind, and it concerned that one particular book that I wished I had not written when I was on Earth. I was not rendered unhappy by the thought of this still persisting, but I wanted to be free of it, and although, no doubt, my new work would eventually bring me that complete peace of mind, I felt that I would like to deal with the matter in a more direct way. Edwin knew what I was hinting at, and he recalled to me what he had already said about the difficulties of communication with the Earth world. But he had also mentioned that we might seek guidance from higher up. If I still wished to try my hand at communication then we might appeal for that guidance and advice now, and thus we could settle the whole question of my future work.
Edwin then left us and retired into another room. I had hardly been chatting with Ruth for a moment about our new occupation when our old friend returned bringing with him a very striking looking man who, I knew at once, had come from a higher sphere in answer to Edwin’s call. He did not appear to be one of our own countrymen, and my observation was correct, since be was an Egyptian, as Edwin told us later on. He spoke our own tongue perfectly. Edwin introduced us, and explained my wishes and the possible difficulties of their fulfillment.
Our visitor was possessed of a very strong personality, and he gave one the strong impression of calmness and placidity. He would, one imagined, always remain perfectly unruffled.
We all seated ourselves comfortably, and Edwin acquainted him with the extent of my knowledge concerning communication with the Earth world.
The Egyptian placed some considerations before me. If, said our visitor, I was fully determined that by returning to the Earth-plane to speak I should retrieve the situation that was giving me cause to regret, then he would do everything to assist me to achieve my purpose. It would not be possible to do what I wanted, though, for some years to come. But in the meantime I was to accept his definite assurance that I should eventually be able to communicate, and he made me a promise to that effect. If I would have patience, all should be as I wished. I was to leave the whole matter in the hands of those who had the ordering of these things, and all would be well. The time – to use an Earthly term – would soon pass, and the occurrence of certain events, meanwhile, would make the path clear and would provide the requisite opportunity.
It must be remembered that what I was asking was not merely to return to the Earth-plane to endeavor to record the fact that I still lived! What I wanted was to try to undo something that I wished I had never done. And it was a task, I could see, that could not be accomplished in a moment. What I had written I could never un-write, but I could ease my mind by telling the truth, as I now know it, to those who were still on the Earth-plane.
The kindly Egyptian then rose and we shook hands. He congratulated us on the way we had accustomed ourselves to our new conditions of life, wished us joy of our new work whenever we should start, and finally gave me a repeated promise that my own particular wishes should have their certain fulfillment. I tried to express my gratitude for all his help, but he would not hear of it, and with a wave of the hand he was gone. We remained for a while discussing our plans – I was looking forward keenly to starting our work.
It must not be thought that we were part of a campaign to convert people, in the religious sense in which that word is used on Earth. Far from it. We do not interfere with people’s beliefs nor their viewpoints; we only give our services when they asked for in such matters, or when we see that by giving them we can effect some useful purpose. Neither do we spend our time walking about evangelizing people, but when the call comes for help we answer it instantly. But there comes a time when Spiritual unrest will make itself felt, and that is the turning point in the life of many a soul who has been confined and restricted by wrong views, whether religious or otherwise. Religion is not responsible for all mistaken ideas!
There is a surprising number of people who do not realize they have passed from the Earth in the death of the physical body. Resolutely they will not believe that they are what the Earth calls ‘dead’. They are dimly aware that some sort of change has taken place, but what that change is they are not prepared to say. Some, after a little explanation – and even demonstration – can grasp what has actually happened; others are stubborn, and will be convinced only after prolonged reasoning. In the latter case we are oft-times obliged to leave such a soul for a while to allow a little quiet contemplation to work its way. We know we shall be sought out the instant that soul feels the power of our reasoning. In many respects it is tiring work, though I use the word ‘tiring’ in its strictly limited sense of the Spirit world.
Ruth and I were both more than grateful to Edwin for his generous help in our affairs, and I was particularly so, both to him and the Egyptian, for the excellent prospect of communicating with the Earth world. In view of our decisions to co-operate with Edwin in his work he made the suggestion that as we had seen a little – but only a very little – of our own realm, we might now profitably make a visit to the dark realms. Ruth and I both concurred, adding that we had by now sufficient self-confidence to withstand anything of an unpleasant nature that might be before us. We should, of course, be under the immediate protection and guidance of our old friend. Needless to say that without this we should not have attempted to go, even had we been permitted.
We left Edwin’s beautiful house, quickly traversed our own realm, and again we were on the borders of the lower realms. Edwin warned us that we should feel that sense of chilling which we experienced before, but that by an effort of will we could throw it off. He placed himself in the middle of us, Ruth and I each taking one of his arms. He turned and looked at us, and was apparently satisfied with what he saw. I glanced at Ruth and I noticed that her robe – as had Edwin’s – had taken on a dull colour, approaching almost grey. Looking at myself I discovered that my own dress had undergone a similar change. This was certainly perplexing, but our friend explained that this toning down of our natural colours was but the operation of a natural law, and did not mean that we had lost what we had already gained. The practical application of such a law meant that we should not be conspicuous in uncongenial surroundings, nor should we carry the light of our realm into those dark places to blind the vision of those who dwelt there.
We were walking along a great tract of barren country. The ground was hard under foot; the green of trees and grass was gone. The sky was dull and leaden, and the temperature had dropped very considerably, but we could feel an internal warmth that counteracted it. Before us we could see nothing but a great bank of mist that gathered in density as we advanced, until finally we were within it. It swirled round in heavy, damp clouds, and it seemed almost like a dead weight as it pressed upon us. Suddenly a figure loomed out of the mist and came towards us. He was the first person we had met as yet, and recognizing Edwin, he gave him a friendly greeting. Edwin introduced us and told him of our intentions. He said he would like to join us, as perhaps he could be of some help to us, and we readily accepted his kind offer. We resumed our journey, and after a further passage through the mist, we found that it began to clear a little until it vanished altogether. We could now see our surroundings clearly. The landscape was bleak in the extreme with, here and there, a dwelling-house of the meanest order. We came closer to one of the latter, and we were able to examine it better.
It was a small, squat house, squarely built, devoid of ornament, and looking altogether thoroughly uninviting. It even had a sinister look in spite of its plainness, and it seemed to repel us from it the nearer we approached it. There was no sign of life to be seen at any of the windows or round about it. There was no garden attached to it; it just stood out by itself, solitary and forlorn. Edwin and our new friend evidently knew both the house and its inmate quite well, for upon going up to the front door, Edwin gave a knock upon it and without waiting for an answer opened it and walked in, beckoning us to follow. We did so and found ourselves in the poorest sort of apology for a house. There was little furniture, and that of the meanest, and at first sight to Earthly eyes one would have said that poverty reigned here, and one would have felt the natural sympathy and urge to offer what help one could. But to our Spirit eyes the poverty was of the soul, the meanness was of the Spirit, and although it roused our sympathy it was sympathy of another kind, of which material help is of no avail. The coldness seemed almost greater within than without, and we were told that it came from the owner of the house himself.
We passed into a back room and met the sole occupant seated in a chair. He made no attempt to rise or give any sign of welcome. Ruth and I remained in the background while the other two went forward to speak to our unwilling ‘host’. He was a man just past middle years. He had something of an air of faded prosperity and the clothes he wore had been obviously neglected, whether through indifference or other causes – in the light of my Earthly recollections! – I was unable to say. He rather scowled at the two of us as Edwin brought us forward as new visitors. It was a moment or two before he spoke, and then he railed at us rather incoherently, but we were able to gather that he deemed himself to be suffering under an injustice. Edwin told him in plain terms that he was talking nonsense, because injustice does not exist in the Spirit world. A heated argument followed, heated, that is to say, on the part of our host, for Edwin was calm and collected, and in truth, wonderfully kind. Many times did the former glance at Ruth, whose gentle face seemed to brighten the whole dingy place. I, too, looked at Ruth, who held my arm, to see how this strange man was affecting her, but she was unperturbed.
At length he quieted down and seemed much more tractable, and then he and Edwin had some private conversation together. At the end of it he told Edwin that he would think about it, and that he could call again if he wished and bring his friends with him. Upon this he arose from his chair, escorted us to the door and showed us out. And I observed that he was almost becoming affable – though not quite. It was as if he was reluctant to submit to being pleasant. He stood at his front door watching us as we walked away, until we must have been nearly out of sight.
Edwin seemed very pleased with our visit, and then he gave us some particulars of the strange man.
He had, he said, been in Spirit some years now, but in his life he had been a successful business man—successful, that is, as far as the Earth-plane judges such things. He had not thought of much else than his business, and he always considered that any means were justified in gaining his own ends, provided they were legal. He was ruthless in his dealings with all others, and he elevated efficiency to the level of a god. In his home all things – and people – were subservient to him. He gave generously to charity where there was likely to accrue the greatest advantage and credit. He supported his own religion and church with vigor, regularity, and fervor. He felt that he was an ornament to the church, and he was much esteemed by all those connected with it. He added some new portions to the edifice at his own expense, and a chapel was named after him as the donor. But from what Edwin had been able to glean from his story, he had scarcely committed one decent, unselfish action in the whole of his life. His motive was always self-aggrandizement, and he had achieved his purpose on Earth at the absolute expense of his life in the Spirit world.
A nd now his grievance was that after having lived such an exemplary life – in his own estimation – he should be condemned to live in such comparative squalor. He refused to see that he had condemned himself to it, and that there was none other to blame but himself. He complained that the church had misled him all along, since his munificence had been received in such fashion that he believed his gifts to the church would weigh heavily in his favor in the ‘hereafter’. Again he could not see that it is motive that counts, and that a happy state in the Spirit world cannot be bought for hard cash. A small service willingly and generously performed for a fellow mortal builds a greater edifice in Spirit to the glory of God than do large sums of money expended upon ecclesiastical bricks and mortar erected to the glory of man – with full emphasis upon the donor.
This man’s present mood was anger, which was all the greater because he had never been denied anything whilst upon the Earth. He had never been accustomed to such degrading circumstances as those at present. His difficulties were increased by the fact that he did not know quite whom to blame. Expecting a high reward, he had been cast into the depths. He had made no real friends. There seemed to be no one – of his own social position, he said – who could advise him in the matter. Edwin had tried to reason with him, but he was in an unreasoning frame of mind, and had been so for some long time. He had had few visitors because he repelled them, and although Edwin had made many visits to him, the result was always the same – a stolid adherence to his sense of injustice.
Upon Edwin’s latest call, in company with Ruth and myself, and with the friend whom we had met on the way, there were distinct symptoms of a coming change. They were not manifest at first, but as our visit drew to a close he had shown signs of relenting from his stubborn attitude. And Edwin was sure that it due as much to Ruth’s softening presence as to his own powers of reasoning with him. He felt sure, too, that were we to return to him on our way back, we should find him in a different frame of mind altogether. He would be unwilling to admit too soon that the fault was his entirely, but perseverance will work wonders.
Ruth was naturally pleased that she had been able to be of service so quickly, though she disavowed any claim to have done anything but merely stand there as an observer! Edwin, however, at once pointed out to her that while she disclaimed any action an external order, she had shown a real sympathy and sorrow for this unhappy man. That explained his frequent glances at her. He had felt that commiseration, and it had done him good, although he was unaware of the cause of it. And here Ruth begs me to add that her very small share would have been of little use in this man’s recovery had it not been for Edwin’s long and unceasing work on his behalf.
This was our first encounter with unfortunates of the lower spheres, and I have been somewhat protracted in giving details of it. It was, in many respects, straightforward by comparison with what we met later, and in recounting it I have done so because it was an introduction to our future work. For the present, however, it was not intended that we should do anything but make observations of the dark realms.
The four of us resumed our journey. There were no paths to follow, and the ground was becoming decidedly rocky in formation. The light was rapidly diminishing from a sky that was heavy and black. There was not a soul, not a house, nor any sign of life to be seen. The whole district seemed colourless and empty, and we might have been wandering in another world. We could see dimly ahead of us, after the passage of some time, something which had the appearance of dwellings, and we moved in their direction.
The terrain was now rocks and nothing else, and here and there we could see people seated with their heads down, seemingly almost lifeless, but in reality in the depths of gloom and despair. They took no notice of us whatever as we passed them, and soon we drew level with the dwellings we had viewed distantly.
Chapter 9: THE DARK REALMS
At close view it became clear that these dwellings were nothing more than mere hovels. They were distressing to gaze upon, but it was infinitely more distressing to contemplate that these were the fruits of men’s lives upon Earth. We did not enter any of the shacks – it was repulsive enough outside, and we could have served no useful purpose at present by going in. Edwin therefore gave us a few details instead.
Some of the inhabitants, he said, had lived here, or hereabouts, year after year – as time is reckoned upon Earth. They themselves had no sense of time, and their existence had been one interminable continuity of darkness through no one’s fault but their own. Many had been the good souls who had penetrated into these Stygian realms to try to effect a rescue out of the darkness. Some had been successful; others had not. Success depends not so much upon the rescuer as upon the rescued. If the latter shows no glimmer of light in his mind, no desire to take a step forward on the Spiritual road, then nothing, literally nothing, can be done. The urge must come from within the fallen soul himself. And how low some of them had fallen! Never must it be supposed that those who, in the Earth’s judgment, had failed Spiritually, are fallen low. Many such have not failed at all, but are, in point of fact, worthy souls whose fine reward awaits them here. But on the other hand, there are those whose Earthly lives have been Spiritually hideous though outwardly sublime; whose religious profession designated by a Roman collar, has been taken for granted as being synonymous with Spirituality of soul. Such people have been mocking God throughout their sanctimonious lives on Earth where they lived with an empty show of holiness and goodness. Here they stand revealed for what they are. But the God they have mocked for so long does not punish. They punish themselves.
The people living within these hovels that we were passing were not necessarily those who upon Earth had committed some crime in the eyes of the Earth people. There were many people who, without doing any harm, had never, never done any good to a single mortal upon Earth. People who had lived entirely unto themselves, without a thought for others. Such souls constantly harped upon the theme that they had done no harm to anyone. But they had harmed themselves.
As the higher spheres had created all the beauties of those realms, so had the denizens of those lower spheres built up the appalling conditions of their Spirit life. There was no light in the lowest realms; no warmth, no vegetation, no beauty. But there is hope – hope that every soul there will progress. It is in power of each soul to do so, and nothing stands in his way but himself. It may take him countless thousands of years to raise himself one inch Spiritually, but it is an inch in the right direction.
The thought inevitably came into my mind of the doctrine of eternal damnation, so beloved by orthodox religion, and of the everlasting fires of so-called hell. If this place we were now could be called hell – and no doubt it would be by theologians – then there was certainly no evidence of fire or heat of any kind. On the contrary, there was nothing but a cold, dank atmosphere. Spirituality means warmth in the Spirit world; lack of Spirituality means coldness. The whole fantastic doctrine of hell-fire – a fire which burns but never consumes – is one of the most outrageously stupid and ignorant doctrines that has ever been invented equally stupid and ignorant churchmen. Who actually invented it no one knows, but it is still rigorously upheld as a doctrine by the church. Even the smallest acquaintance with Spirit life instantly reveals the utter impossibility of it, because it is against the very laws of Spirit existence. This concerns its literal side. What of the shocking blasphemy that it involves?
When Edwin, Ruth, and I were on Earth we were asked to believe that God, the Father of the Universe, punishes, actually punishes people by condemning them to burn in the flames of hell for all eternity. Could there ever be any grosser travesty of the God that orthodoxy professes to worship? The churches – of whatever denomination – have built up a monstrous conception of the Eternal Father of Heaven. They have made of Him, on the one hand, a mountain of corruption by shallow lip service, by spending large sums of money to erect churches and chapels to His ‘glory’, by pretending a groveling contrition for having ‘offended Him’, by professing to fear Him – fear Him Who is all love! And on the other hand, we have the picture of a God Who, without the slightest compunction, casts poor Human souls into an eternity of the worst of all sufferings – burning by fires that are unquenchable.
We are taught glibly to beg for God’s mercy. The Church’s God is a Being of extraordinary moods. He must be continually placated. It is by no means certain that, having begged for mercy, we shall get it. He must be feared – because He can bring down His vengeance upon us at any moment; we do not know when He will strike. He is vengeful and unforgiving. He has commanded such trivialities as are embodied in church doctrines and dogmas that at once expose not a great mind, but a small one. He has made the doorway to ‘salvation’ so narrow that few, very few souls will ever be able to pass through it. He has built up on the Earth-plane a vast organization known as ‘the Church’, which shall be the sole depository of Spiritual truth – an organization that knows practically nothing of the state of life in the world of Spirit, yet dares to lay down the law to incarnate souls, and dares to say what is in the mind of the Great Father of the Universe, and dares to discredit His Name by assigning to Him attributes that He could not possibly possess. What do such silly, petty minds know of the Great and Almighty Father of Love? Mark that! – of Love. Then think again of all the horrors I have enumerated. And think once more. Contemplate this: a heaven of all that is beautiful, a heaven of more beauty than the mind of man incarnate can comprehend; a heaven, of which one tiny fragment I have tried to describe to you, where all is peace and goodwill and love among fellow mortals. All these things are built up by the inhabitants of these realms, and are upheld by the Father of Heaven in His love for all mankind.
What of the lower realms – the dark places we are now visiting? It is the very fact that we are visiting them that has led me to speak in this fashion, because standing in this darkness I am fully conscious of one great reality of eternal life, and that is that the high spheres of heaven are within the reach of every mortal soul that is, or is yet to be, born upon Earth. The potentialities of progression are unlimited, and they are the right of every soul. God condemns no one. Man condemns himself, but he does not condemn himself eternally; it rests with himself as to when he shall move forward Spiritually. Every Spirit hates the lower realms for the unhappiness that is there, and for no other reason. And for that reason great organizations exist to help every single soul who is living in them to rise out of them into the light. And that work will continue through countless ages until every soul is brought out from these hideous places, and at last all is as the Father of the Universe intended it to be.
This, I am afraid, has been a long digression, so let us return to our travels. You will recall my mention of the many heavenly perfumes and scents that come from the flowers and that float upon the air. Here in these dark places the very opposite was the case. Our nostrils were at first assailed by the most foul odours; odours that reminded us of the corruption of flesh in the Earth world. They were nauseating, and I feared that it would prove more than Ruth – and indeed I, myself – could stand, but Edwin told us to treat them in the same way as we had mastered the coldness of the temperature – by simply closing our minds them – and that we should be quite unaware of their existence. We hastened to do so, and we were perfectly successful. It is not only ‘sanctity’ that has its odour!
In our travels through our own realm we can enjoy all the countless delights and beauties of it, together with the happy converse of its inhabitants. Here in these dark lands all is bleak and desolate. The very low degree of light itself casts a blight upon the whole region. Occasionally we were able to catch a glimpse of the faces of some unfortunates as we passed along. Some were unmistakably evil, showing the life of vice they had led upon the Earth; some revealed the miser, the avaricious, the ‘brute beast’. There were people here from almost every walk of Earthly life, from the present Earthly time to far back in the centuries. And here was a connecting link with names that could be read in those truthful histories of nations in the library we visited in our own realm. Both Edwin and his friend told us that we should be appalled at the catalogue of names, well known in history, of people who were living deep down in these noxious regions – men who had perpetrated vile and wicked deeds in the name of holy religion, or for the furtherance of their own despicable, material ends. Many of these wretches were unapproachable, and they would remain so – perhaps for numberless more centuries – until, of their own wish and endeavor, they moved however feebly in the direction of the light of Spiritual progression.
We could see, as we walked along, whole bands of seemingly demented souls passing on their way upon some prospective evil intent – if they could find their way to it. Their bodies presented the outward appearance of the most hideous and repulsive malformations and distortions, the absolute reflection of their evil minds. Many of them seemed old in years, but I was told that although such souls had been there perhaps for many centuries, it was not the passage of time that had so dealt with their faces, but their wicked minds.
In the higher spheres the beauty of mind rejuvenates the features, sweeps away the signs of Earthly cares and troubles and sorrows, and presents to the eye that state of physical development which is at that period of our Earthly lives which we used to call ‘the prime of life’.
The multitudinous sounds that we heard were in keeping with the awful surroundings, from mad raucous laughter to the shriek of some soul in torment – torment inflicted by others as bad as himself. Once or twice we were spoken to by some courageous souls who were down there upon their task of helping these afflicted mortals. They were glad to see us and to talk to us. In the darkness we could see them and they could see us, but we were all of us invisible to the rest, since we were provided with the same protection for the dark lands. In our case Edwin was taking care of us collectively as new-comers, but those whose work lies in rescue had each his own means of protection.
If any priest – or theologian – could have but one glimpse of the things that Edwin, Ruth, and I saw here, he would never say again, as long as he lived, that God, the Father of Love, could ever condemn any mortal to such horrors. The same priest, seeing these places, would not himself condemn anyone to them. Is he more kind and merciful than the Father of Love Himself? No! It is man alone who qualifies himself for the state of his existence after he passes into Spirit.
The more we saw of the dark lands the more I realized how fantastic is the teaching of the orthodox church to which I belonged when on Earth, that the place which is referred to as eternal hell is ruled over by a Prince of Darkness, whose sole aim is to get every soul into his clutches, and from whom there is no escape once a soul has entered his Kingdom. Is there such an entity as the Prince of Darkness? There might conceivably be one soul infinitely worse than all the others, perhaps it will be said, and such as he could be considered as the very King of Evil. Edwin told us that there was no evidence whatever of such a personage. There were those from the upper spheres who had traversed every inch of the lower realms, and they had discovered no such being. There were also those whose knowledge was prodigious, and who positively affirmed that the existence of such a person had no foundation in fact. Doubtless there are many who, collectively, are a great deal more evil than their fellows in darkness. The idea that a King of Evil exists, whose direct function is to oppose the King of Heaven, is stupid; it is primitive and even barbaric. The Devil as a solitary individual does not exist, but an evil soul might be called a devil, and in that case there are many, many devils. It is this fraternity, according to the teachings of one orthodox church, that constitutes the sole element of Spirit return. We can afford to laugh at the absurdities of such teachings. It is no novelty for some wondrous and illustrious Spirit to be called a devil! We still retain our sense of humor, and it causes us very great amusement, sometimes, to hear some stupid priest, Spiritually blind, professing to know about things of the Spirit of which, in reality, he is totally and completely ignorant. The Spirit people have broad backs, and they can support the weight of such fallacious rubbish without experiencing anything but pity for such poor souls.
It is not my intention to go into further details of these dark spheres. At least, not at present. The Church’s method of frightening people is not the method of the Spirit world. Rather would we dwell upon the beauties of the Spirit world, and try to show something of the glories that await every soul when his Earthly life is ended. It remains with every single soul individually whether this beautiful land shall be his lot sooner, or whether it shall be later.
We held a short consultation together, and decided that we should now like to return to our own realm. And so we made our way our back to the land of mist, passed quickly through, and once again we were in our own heavenly country with the warm, balmy air enveloping us. Our new friend of the dark realms then left us after we had expressed our thanks for his kindly services. I then bethought me that it was high time I went to have a peep at my house, and so I asked Ruth and Edwin to join me, as I had no wish to be alone or separated from their pleasant company. Ruth had not yet seen my home, but she had often wondered – so she said – what it would be like. And I thought that a little of the fruit from the garden would be most acceptable after our visit – short though it was – to the lower realms.
Everything in the house was in perfect order – as I left it to go upon our travels – as though there were someone permanently looking after it. Ruth expressed her complete approval of all she saw, and congratulated me upon my choice of a home.
In reply to my query as to the invisible agency that was responsible for the good order of the house during my absence Edwin answered me by himself asking the question: what is there to disturb the order of the house? There can be no dust, because there is no decay of any sort whatsoever. There can be no dirt, because here in Spirit there is nothing to cause it. The household duties that are so very familiar and so very irksome on the Earth Plane, are here non-existent. The necessity for providing the body with food was abandoned when we abandoned our physical body. The adornments of the home, such as the hangings and upholstery, do not ever need renewal, because they do not perish. They endure until we wish to dispense with them for something else. And so what remains that might require attention? We have then, but to walk out of our houses, leaving all doors and windows open – our houses have no locks upon them! And we can return when we wish – to find that everything is as we left it. We might find some difference, some improvement. We might discover, for instance, that some friend had called while we were away, and had left some gift for us, some beautiful flowers, perhaps, or some other token of kindness. Otherwise we shall find that our house bids us welcome itself, and renews our feeling of ‘being at home’.
Ruth had wandered all over the house by herself – we have no stupid formalities here, and I had asked her to make the whole house her own whenever she wished, and to do whatever she liked. The antique style of the architecture appealed to her artistic nature, and she revealed in the old wooden panelling and carvings – the latter being my own embellishments – of the past ages. She eventually came to my small library, and was interested to see my own works among the others upon the shelves. One book, in particular, she was attracted to, and was actually perusing it when I entered. The title alone revealed much to her, she said, and then I could feel her sweet sympathy pouring out upon me, as she knew what was my great ambition, and she offered me all the help which she could give me in the future towards the realization of this ambition.
As soon as she had completed her inspection of the house, we foregathered in the sitting-room, and Ruth asked Edwin a question which I had been meaning to ask him myself for some time: Was there a sea somewhere? If there were lakes and streams, then, perhaps there was an ocean? Edwin’s answer filled her with joy: Of course, there was a seaside – and a very beautiful one, too! Ruth insisted upon being conducted there at once, and, under Edwin’s guidance, we set forth.
We were soon walking along a beautiful stretch of open country with the grass like a green velvet carpet beneath our feet. There were no trees, but there were many fine clumps of healthy-looking shrubs, and, of course, plenty of flowers growing everywhere. At length we arrived at some rising ground, and we felt that the sea must be beyond it. A short walk brought us to the edge of the grassland, and then the most glorious panorama of ocean spread out before us.
The view was simply magnificent. Never had I expected to behold such sea. Its coloring was the most perfect reflection of the blue of the sky above, but in addition it reflected a myriad rainbow tints in every little wavelet. The surface of the water was calm, but this calmness by no means implies that the water was lifeless. There is no such thing as lifeless or stagnant water here. From where we were, I could see islands of some considerable size in the distance – island’s that looked most attractive and must certainly be visited! Beneath us was a fine stretch of beach upon which we could see people seated at the water’s edge, but there was no suggestion of over-crowding! And floating upon this superb sea, some close at hand, others standing a little way out, were the most beautiful boats – though I think I am not doing them full justice by calling them mere boats. Ships would be more apposite. I wondered who could own these fine vessels, and Edwin told us that we could own one ourselves if we so wished. Many of the owners lived upon them, having no other home but their boat. It made no difference. There they could live always, for here it is perpetual summer.
A short walk down a pleasant winding path brought us to a sandy seashore. Edwin informed us that it was a tide-less ocean, and that at no place was it very deep by comparison with terrestrial seas. Storms of wind being impossible here, the water was always smooth, and in common with all water in these realms, it was of a pleasantly warm temperature that could occasion no feelings of cold – or even chilliness – to bathers. It was, of course, perfectly buoyant, possessed no single harmful element or characteristic, but it was, on the contrary, life-sustaining. To bathe in its waters was to experience a perfect manifestation of Spiritual force. The sand upon which we were walking had none of the unpleasant features associated with the seashore of the Earth Plane. It was never tiring to walk on. Although it had every appearance of sand as we had always known it, yet to the tread it was firm in consistency although soft to the touch of the hand. In fact, this peculiar quality rendered it more like well-kept lawns to walk on, so closely did the grains hold together. We took some handfuls of the sand, and allowed it to run through our fingers, and great was our surprise to find that it lacked every trace of grittiness, but seemed to the touch more akin to some smooth soft powder. Yet examined closely it was undeniably solid. It was one of the strangest phenomena we had met so far. Edwin said that that was because we had, in this particular instance, carried out a more minute examination of what we were beholding than we had done hitherto in other things. He added that if I chose to make a close scrutiny of all that we saw, whether it be the ground we walked on, the substance of which our houses were made, or the thousand and one other objects that go to make up the world of Spirit, we should be living in a state of continual surprise, and there would be revealed to us some small idea – but only a very small idea – of the magnitude of the Great Mind – the Greatest Mind in the Universe – that upholds this and every other world. Indeed, the great scientists of the Earth-plane find, when they come to live in the Spirit world, that they have a completely new world upon which to commence a fresh course of investigations. They begin de novo as it were, but with all their great Earthly experience behind them. And what joy it brings them, in company with their scientific colleagues, to probe the mysteries of the Spirit world, to collect their data, to compare their new knowledge with the old, to record for the benefit of others the results of their investigations and discoveries. And all through they have the unlimited resources of the Spirit world upon which to draw. And joy is in their hearts.
Our little experiment with the sand led us to place our hands in the sea. Ruth fully expected it to taste of salt, but it did not, much to her surprise. As far as I could observe, it had no taste at all! It was sea more by virtue of its great area and the characteristics of the adjacent land than anything else. In all other respects it resembled the water of the brooks and lakes. In general appearance the whole effect was totally unlike the Earthly ocean, due, among other things, to the fact that there was no sun to give its light from one quarter only and to cause that change of aspect when the direction of the sunlight changes. The overspreading of light from the great central source of light in the Spirit world, constant and unmoving, gives us perpetual day, but it must never be assumed that this constancy and immobility of light means a monotonous and unchanging land -or seascape. There are changes going on the whole time; changes of color such as man never dreamt of – until he comes to the Spirit world. The eyes of the Spirit person can see so many beautiful things in the world of Spirit that the eyes of incarnate man cannot see – unless he be gifted with the psychic eye.
We wanted very much to visit one of the islands that we could see in the distance, but Ruth felt that it would be a nice experience to travel over the sea in one of the fine vessels that were close to the shore. But the difficulty arose – that is, it seemed as though it might arise! – as to the boat. If, as I understood, these were ‘privately’ owned, we should first have to become acquainted with one of the owners. Edwin, however, could see how Ruth was so longing to go upon the water that he soon explained the exact position – to her unbounded joy.
It seemed that one of these elegant boats belonged to a friend of his, but had it been otherwise we should have found that we would be welcome to go aboard any one of them, introducing ourselves – if we wished to observe that formality, though it was unnecessary – to whomsoever we found on board. Had we not already received, wherever we went, that friendly reception and assurance that we were welcome? Then why should there be any departure, in the case of the boats of the sea, from the fundamental rule of hospitality that operates in the Spirit world? Edwin drew our attention to a very beautiful yacht that was riding ‘at anchor’ close to the shore. From where we were she had all the appearance of having had much attention devoted to her – our opinion was afterwards confirmed. She was built on the most graceful lines, and the grand upward sweep of her bows held the promise of power and speed. She looked much the same as an Earthly yacht, that is, externally.
Edwin sent a message across to the owner, and in reply received an instantaneous invitation to us all. We therefore wasted no time, and we found ourselves upon the deck of this most handsome vessel, being greeted with great good cheer by our host, who immediately took us off to present us to his wife. She was very charming, and it was obvious to see that the two made a perfect couple. Our host could see that Ruth and I were both very keen to see over the boat, and knowing from Edwin that we had not been long in Spirit, he was so much the more pleased to do so.
Our first observations at close band showed us that many devices and fittings that are essential to Earthly ships were here absent. That indispensable adjunct, an anchor, for instance. There being no winds, tides, or currents in Spirit waters, an anchor becomes superfluous, though we were told that some boat-owners have them merely as an ornament and because they did not feel their vessels would be complete without them. There was unlimited space on deck, with a copious provision of very comfortable-looking chairs. Below deck were well-appointed salons and lounges. Ruth, I could see, was disappointed because she could see no evidence whatever of any motive power to drive the vessel, and she naturally concluded that the yacht was incapable of independent movement. I shared her disappointment, but Edwin had a merry twinkle in his eye, which ought to have told me that things are not always what they seem to be in the Spirit world. Our host had received our thoughts, and he immediately took us up into the wheelhouse. What was our astonishment when we saw that we were slowly and gently moving away from the shore! The others laughed merrily at our bewilderment, and we ran to the side to watch our progress through the water. There was no mistake about it; we were really on the move, and gathering speed as we went. We returned at once to the wheelhouse, and demanded an instant explanation of this apparent wizardry.