II – Chapter 7: SOME FIRST IMPRESSIONS
To find oneself suddenly transformed into a permanent inhabitant of the Spirit world is, at first, an overwhelming experience. However much one may have read about the condition of life in the world of Spirit, there still remains an almost illimitable number of surprises in store for every soul.
Those of us who have returned to Earth to tell about our new life are faced with the difficulty of trying to describe in terms of the Earth what is essentially of a Spirit nature. Our descriptions must fall short of the reality. It is difficult to conjure up in the mind a state of beauty greater than we have ever experienced upon Earth. Magnify by one hundred times the beauties that I have told you about, and you would still be far short of a true appraisement.
A question, therefore, that might come into the minds of not a few people would perhaps be this: What was it that struck you most forcibly and most pleasurably when you first arrived the Spirit world, and what were your first impressions?
Let me place myself in the position of one seeking information, and interview our old friends, Edwin and Ruth.
Edwin and I, as you will recall, were brother priests when we were on Earth. Edwin had no knowledge whatever upon the subject of Spirit return, beyond what I had tried to give him of my own experiences. He was one of the few who really sympathized with me in my psychic difficulties, one of the few, that is, who did not brandish orthodox church teachings in my face. He has since told me that he is very glad he did not do so. When he was on Earth the ‘life to come’ was a complete mystery to him – as it unnecessarily is to many others. He naturally conformed to the church’s teachings, obeyed its ‘commandments’, performed his duties, and, as he has since quite frankly admitted, hoped for the best – whatever that best might be.
But his Earthly life had not consisted solely of religious exercises; he had helped others upon every occasion where help was needed and where he could possibly give it. Those services, unobtrusively performed, had helped him immeasurably when the time came for him to quit the Earth world. Those kind actions brought him into the land of beauty and eternal sunshine.
His first impressions upon his awakening in the Spirit world were – to use his own words – absolutely breathtaking. He had visualized, subconsciously perhaps, some sort of misty state as the condition of a future life, where there would be a great deal of ‘prayer and praise’. To find himself in a realm of inexpressible beauty, with all the glories of Earthly nature purged of its Earthliness, refined and eternalized, with the enormous wealth of colour all around and about him; to behold the crystal purity of the rivers and brooks, with the charm of the country dwellings and the grandeur of the city’s temples and halls of learning; to find himself in the centre of all such glories without an inkling of what had thus been in store for him, was to cast doubts upon the veracity of his own eyes. He could not believe that he was not in the midst of some beautiful, but fantastic, dream, from which he would shortly awaken to find himself once again in his old familiar surroundings. He thought how he would relate this dream when he returned to consciousness. Then he considered how it would be received – as very beautiful, no doubt, but just a dream.
And so he stood gazing upon all this wealth of beauty. That, Edwin said, was his first and greatest impression.
He had regarded as part of the same dream all that had gone before, all that had led up to his standing and gazing in wonder upon the scene that stretched out almost unendingly before him. How he had awakened upon a comfortable couch, in a very charming house, to see sitting beside him an old friend, who performed the same office for Edwin as did Edwin for me when he came to meet me.
His friend led him out-of-doors to see the new world. Then came his friend’s most difficult task – to convince Edwin that he had ‘died’ and yet still lived. You see, at first he took his friend and his friend’s explanation to be part of the same dream, and he was nervously awaiting for something to happen that would break up the dream into returning Earthly consciousness. Edwin admitted that he took some convincing, but his friend was infinitely patient with him.
The instant that he was assured that he was really and truly and permanently in the world of Spirit, his heart knew no greater joy, and he proceeded to do what I afterwards did in company with Ruth – travel through the lands of the new life with the luxurious freedom of body and mind that is of the very essence of Spirit life in these realms.
What most impressed Ruth upon her first awakening in the Spirit world was, she said, the enormous profusion of colour.
Her transition had been a placid one, and she had consequently awakened, after a very brief sleep, calmly and gently. As with Edwin, she had then found herself in a delightful house, small, neat and compact, and all her own. An old friend was beside her, ready to help in the inevitable perplexities that accompany so many awakenings in the Spirit world.
Ruth is by nature rather reserved, especially, as she said, when it came to talking about herself. In Edwin’s case I knew so much of his Earth life that it was easy for me to draw upon my own knowledge of him. Ruth, however, I had never seen until we met here upon that occasion beside the lake. After much persuasion, I managed to extract from her one or two details concerning her Earthly life.
She had never, she said, been an active church-goer, not because she despised the church, but because her own views upon the ‘hereafter’ did not agree with what her own church taught. She saw too much of faith required, and too little of fact being given, and altogether she had encountered so much of the troubles and afflictions of others in her daily life that the vague, but rather terrifying, picture of the world to come, the dreadful ‘Judgment Day’ that was so constantly held before her in the church’s teaching, she instinctively felt to be wrong. The emphasis laid so strongly upon the word ‘sinner’ with the almost wholesale condemnation of everyone as such, she also felt to be wrong. She was not foolish enough, she declared, to believe that we are all saints, but, at the same time, we are not all sinners. Of the many people she knew, she could recall none who could ever be so branded and condemned in the religious sense. Where, then, were all these people going after they had ‘died’?
She could never imagine herself sitting in judgment upon these souls and passing sentence upon them as ‘sinners’. It would be preposterous to contemplate, Ruth added, that she could be more ‘merciful’ than God. It was unthinkable. So she had built up for herself a simple ‘faith’ – a practice that the theologian would at once say was highly dangerous and never for one moment to be encouraged. He would have spoken of the ‘peril’ in her which her ‘immortal soul’ stood by entertaining such ideas. But Ruth never for an instant considered her ‘immortal soul’ to be in ‘peril’. Indeed, she went happily along, living her life according to the dictates of her gentle nature, helping others in her daily life, and bringing a little sunshine into the drab lives of others. And she was firmly convinced that when her time came to leave the Earth-plane she would take with her into the new life the affection of her many friends.
She had no fear of death of the physical body, nor could she imagine it to be the terrifying experience that so many people anticipate and dread. She had no absolute grounds for this belief, and she has since concluded that she must have been drawn to it intuitively.
Apart from the glorious colours of the realm in which she found herself, what struck Ruth very forcibly was the astonishing clearness of the atmosphere. There was nothing like it to be seen on Earth. The atmosphere was so free from the slightest trace of mistiness, and her own vision seemed to be so intensified in power and extent, that the enormous range of colors became doubly vivid. She had a naturally keen eye for colour, and she had undergone considerable musical training when she was upon Earth. When she came into the Spirit world these two faculties had combined, and the colour and music of the new land had burst upon her with all the luxuriance of their superb beauty.
At first, she could scarcely believe her senses, but her friends had soon explained to her just what had happened, and as she had so few fixed ideas about the future life, so had she so little to unlearn. But, she said, it took her many days of Earth time before she could fully grasp or absorb all the wonders that lay around her. When once she had fully realized the significance of her new life, and that all eternity lay before her in which to sample the marvels of this land, she was able to restrain her excitement, and, as she said, ‘take things a little more quietly’.
It was while she was in process of the latter that we first met.
Once, when the three of us were seated in the garden pleasantly discussing all manner of things, we espied, walking up the garden path, a figure that was well known to Edwin and myself. He had been our ecclesiastical superior when we were upon the Earth-plane, and he was what is known as a ‘Prince of the Church’. He was still attired in his customary habiliments, and we were all agreed – when we came to compare notes afterwards – that they eminently suited both the place and the conditions. The full-length style and the rich coloring of the robes seemed to blend most harmoniously with all about us. There was nothing incongruous about it, and as he was at full liberty to wear his robes in the Spirit world he had done so; not because of his former position, but through long custom, and because he felt that he thus, in some small measure, helped to add to the colourful beauty of his new habitation.
Now, although the high office, which he held with distinction upon Earth, has no counterpart or significance in the Spirit world, yet he was well known to many here by name and by sight and by repute. This provided a further good reason for his retaining his Earthly style of clothing, at least for the present. But the deference that his position upon Earth had always evoked, he utterly cast aside when he came into the world of Spirit. He would have none of it, and he was very insistent that all who knew him – and those who did not – should be strictly attentive to his wishes in this respect. He was very much loved when he was incarnate, and it is but natural that, with his advent into Spirit lands, those who knew him should show the same respect as before. Respect is one thing, for we all respect each other in these realms; but deference that should be given to others of greater Spirituality is another thing altogether. He early recognized this, so he told us, and from my own personal knowledge of his innate humility I could guess that such would be the case with him.
Our first meeting led to others, and many have been the occasions – and we shall enjoy many more – when he has joined Edwin, Ruth and myself, where we have sat in the garden, or gone forth together. It was during one of our peregrinations together that I asked our former superior if he would give me some brief sketch of his first impressions of the Spirit world.
What struck him so forcibly when he found himself here was not only the immensity and beauty of the Spirit world, but the very description of this world itself in relation to the Earth world and most particularly in relation to the life he had left behind him. First of all, there came the feeling, an almost crushing one, of having wasted his Earthly life upon seemingly non essentials, irrelevancies and a great deal of useless formularies and formalism. But friends had come to his rescue intellectually, and they had assured him that the time in its personal application had not been wasted, although his life had been encompassed by the pomp and pageantry of his office. However much the latter had engrossed those about him, he had personally never let them become an absorbing factor in his life. He derived much comfort from this reflection.
But what he found to be most mentally disturbing was the invalidity of the doctrines which he had perforce upheld. So many of them were tumbling in ruins about him. But again he found friends to guide him. And they did so in a simple and direct manner, such as would appeal to his alert mind, namely: to forget the religious teachings of the Earthly life and become acquainted with Spirit life and its laws. Discard the old, and accept the new. He had therefore made every endeavor to do so, and he had been completely successful. He swept his mind clear of all that had no foundation in truth, and he made the very pleasant discovery that, at last, he was in full enjoyment of absolute Spiritual freedom. He found it was so much easier to obey the natural laws of the Spirit world than to obey the church’s ‘commandments’, and it was very pleasant to be rid of the formalities of his Earthly position. He could at last speak with his own voice freely, and not with the voice of the Church.
Altogether, said our former superior, he thought that his greatest impression upon his arrival in the Spirit world was this splendid sense of freedom, first of mind and then of body, and made so much the greater in the Spirit world by the measure of its absence in the Earth world.
II – Chapter 8: RECREATIONS
I have used the word ‘recreation’, once or twice, but I have not given you any specific details upon this relatively important subject.
The merest suggestion that we should have recreations in the Spirit world will, most assuredly, come to some minds as an unpleasant shock. Those same minds will instantly think of the many and varied sports and pastimes that are usefully and profitably indulged in upon the Earth-plane. To transplant, as it were, such fundamentally Earthy things into a world of pure spirit is inconceivable. Inconceivable, perhaps, because the whole idea is far-fetched, or because the spirit world should be regarded as a higher state. A state, that is, in which we shall leave behind us all our Earthly habits, and live perpetually in a condition of high ecstasy, caring only for those vague, unsubstantial things that our respective religion hinted to us as being the reward of the good.
To entertain such suppositions about this life is to suggest that, by the very fact of our coming into the spirit world to live, we are at once in the presence of God, or that at least we are within the realm wherein God dwells, and therefore anything even remotely suggestive of Earthly customs or manners would be rigidly excluded as too unholy for admission.
Such ideas as these are, of course, pure nonsense, since God is no nearer to us in the spirit world than He is to us in the Earth world. It is we who are nearer to Him, because, among other things, we can see more clearly the Divine Hand in this world, and the expression of His Mind. That, however, is a deeper subject which it is not within our province to go into just now.
Many of us find our recreation in another form of work. In the Spirit world we do not suffer fatigue either of body or mind, but to continue unremittingly in the pursuit of any one occupation, without any intermittent change, would soon produce feelings of mental dissatisfaction or unrest. Our powers of application to any given task are immense, but at the same time we draw a very clear line of limitation for any period of our work, in respect to the whole, and beyond that line we do not go. We will exchange our present task for another form of work, we can cease work altogether and spend our time reclining in our homes or elsewhere; we can occupy ourselves in study; or we can engage ourselves in the amusing recreations that abound in these realms.
When we have ceased our work for the time being, we are much in the same case as are you who are still upon the Earth-plane. What shall you do to amuse yourself? You may feel that physical rest is necessary, and so you will incline towards intellectual recreation. And so it is precisely with us here. Intellectual recreation, which may take diverse forms, is amply provided for in the Halls of Learning, because learning can itself be a recreation.
Ruth and I have spent many happy hours in the Library and the Hall of Art, but there have been numberless occasions when we felt the need for something more sturdy, and we have walked down to the sea and gone aboard one of the fine vessels there, and thence paid a visit to one of the islands. And here at the seaside we have one of the most entertaining of our sports.
I have already told you how vessels in the Spirit world are propelled purely by the process of thought, and I have further indicated how it takes a little time to become proficient in the art of personally applying such propulsion. Such proficiency is ultimately achieved, but we can test our progress and receive valuable aid in our endeavors by taking part in contests upon the water.
A clear distinction must be drawn between such contests upon the Earth-plane and those in the Spirit world. Here we are assured, because we know, that all rivalry is purely friendly. There is no gain attached whatever, beyond the experience and the acquisition of greater skill, and there are no prizes to be fought for and won. At the end of every race we shall be sure of the greatest help to make us more expert in the increasing and handling of our vessel’s speed.
One particular diversion that finds a very considerable measure of favour with us here is that of dramatic representation of different kinds:
We have beautiful theatres situated in environment just as beautiful, worthy buildings devoted to a worthy purpose. The architects who design the buildings do so with the same meticulous care as is shown in all their endeavors, and the results, as usual, reveal the degree of active co-operation that exists between the masters of the craft. The garniture within is the product of skilled artists from the Hall of Fabrics; the gardens without have the same devoted care lavished upon them. The result is as far removed from an Earthly theatre as it is possible to imagine.
Before I speak further upon this subject I would like to observe that I am fully aware that there are people upon the Earth-plane who totally disapprove of theatres and everything connected with them. In most instances such aversion is the outcome of religious upbringing. I cannot alter the truth, as I find it in the Spirit world, to accord with certain religious views held by people still incarnate. I speak of those things which I have witnessed in company with thousands of others, and the fact of strong disapproval, by Earth people, of what I have described as existing in the Spirit world, in no way proves such things to be non-existent, and therefore my statement to be false. My position for observation is incomparably superior to theirs, because I have left the Earth world and become an inhabitant of the Spirit world. If our descriptions of the world we now inhabit were to be altered to suit every individual taste and every preconception of what the Spirit world ought to be, we might just as well cease, forthwith, to give any further descriptions, since, after being so tampered with, they would be worthless. Lest I should have conveyed any false impression in saying this, let me add that anyone who expressed disapproval of all, or any, form of recreation he found here, such a person would never be asked to indulge in them. With others of similar views, he would find himself in a little community apart, there to remain, safely out of range of all supposed Earthly things, and able to live in such a place as he thought ‘heaven’ ought to be. I have met such people, and it was not long, as a rule, before they abandoned their home-made Heaven, and walked abroad into the finer, greater Heaven, which is the work of the Greatest Mind.
Each theatre of this realm is familiar to us by the type of play that is presented in it. The plays themselves are frequently vastly different from those that are customary upon the Earth-plane. We have nothing that is sordid, nor do the authors of plays insist upon harrowing their audiences. We can see many problem plays where social questions of the Earth-plane are dealt with, but unlike the Earth-plane our plays will provide a solution to the particular problem – a solution which the Earth is too blind to adopt.
We can go to see comedies where, I do assure you, the laughter is invariably much more hearty and voluminous than is ever to be heard in a theatre of the Earth-plane. In the spirit world we can afford to laugh at much that we once, when incarnate, treated with deadly seriousness and earnestness!
We have witnessed grand historical pageants showing the greater moments of a nation, and we have seen, too, history as it really was, and not as it is often so fancifully written about in history books! But surely the most impressive, and, at the same time, interesting experience is to be present at one of these pageants where the original participants themselves re-enact the events in which they were concerned, first as the events were popularly thought to have occurred, and then as they actually took place. These representations are among the most widely attended here, and never are there more attentive and rapt members of the audience than those players who, during their Earthly lives, played the parts, in stage plays, of the famous characters whom they are now seeing ‘in the flesh’.
In such pageants the coarser, depraved and debased incidents are omitted entirely, because they would be distasteful to the audience, and, indeed, to all in this realm. Nor are we shown scenes which are, in the main incidents, nothing but battle and bloodshed and violence.
At first, one experiences a strange feeling in beholding, in person, the bearers of names famous throughout the Earth world, but after a time one becomes perfectly accustomed to it, and it becomes part of our normal existence.
The most noticeable difference between our two worlds, in this matter of recreations, is created by our respective requirements. We have no need here to take bodily exercise, vigorous or otherwise, nor do we need to go out into the ‘fresh air’. Our spirit bodies are always in perfect condition, we suffer no disorders of any kind, and the air, which cannot be other than fresh, penetrates into every corner of our homes and buildings, where it fully retains its purity. It would be impossible for it to become vitiated or contaminated in any way. It is to be expected, then, that our recreations should be more upon the mental plane than upon the ‘physical’.
As most of the outdoor games of the Earth world involve the use of a ball, it will be appreciated that here, where the law of gravity operates under different conditions from yours, anything in the nature of propelling a ball by striking it, would lead to quite hopeless results. I am speaking now of games of a competitive nature.
On the Earth-plane skill in games is acquired by the mastery of the mind over the muscles of the body, when once the latter has been brought to a healthy condition. But here we are always in a healthy condition, and our muscles are always under the complete and absolute control of our minds. Efficiency is quickly gained, whether it is in playing upon a musical instrument, painting a picture, or in any other pursuit that requires the use of the limbs. It will be seen, therefore, that most of the usual games would lose their point here.
And it must be remembered that indoors or outdoors are precisely one to us here. We have no changes of weather during recurrent seasons. The Great Central Sun is forever shining; it is never anything but delightfully warm. We never feel the necessity for a brisk walk to set our blood circulating the better. Our homes and our houses are not necessities, but additions to an already enjoyable life. You will find many people here who do not possess a home; they do not want one, they will tell you, for the sun is perpetually shining and the temperature is perpetually warm. They are never ill, or hungry, or in want of any kind, and the whole beautiful realm is theirs to wander in.
It must also be remembered that viewpoints change very much when one comes to live here. What we deemed so very important when we were incarnate, we find is not nearly so important when we arrive in the spirit world. And many of our erstwhile Earthly games seem rather tame and trivial beside our greatly increased powers in the Spirit world. The fact that we can move ourselves through space instantaneously is enough to make the greatest Earthly athletic skill recede into insignificance, and our mundane sports and games are in similar case. Our recreations are more of the mind, and we never feel that we must expend a superfluity of physical energy upon some strenuous action, for our energy is at a constant level according to our individual requirements. We find that we have so much to learn, and learning is in itself such pleasure that we do not need the number or variety of recreations that you do. We have plenty of music to listen to, there are such wonders in these lands that we want to know all about, there is so much congenial work to be done, that there is no cause to be cast down at the prospect of there being few of the Earthly sports and pastimes in the spirit world. There is such a superabundant supply of vastly more entertaining things to be seen and done here, besides which a great deal of the Earthly recreations appear sheer trivialities.