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A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands

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Author Topic: A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands  (Read 575 times)
Cynthia
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« Reply #75 on: December 21, 2008, 05:33:25 pm »

"Faugh!" he cried. "This is as a charnel-house of mouldering bones and dead skeletons, but now you are come to join me we shall see if we cannot, combined, do something to make ourselves feared, if not obeyed, by the dwellers of the earth. I have had many a disappointment in you, oh! son of our noble race, and I feared you would escape me at last. I have tried for years to draw you down, but was ever baffled by some unseen power. Once and again when I deemed I had beyond doubt made all things sure, you would shake me off and break away from all control, till I had well nigh abandoned the struggle. But I do not yield readily to anyone, and when I could not be with you myself I sent some of my henchmen to do you service--ho! ho! service--yes, service--and so here you are at last, and by my faith you shall not again leave me. Behold how fair are the pleasures I have prepared for you."

He took my hand--his seemed as though burning with more than the fire of fever--and led me to a seat beside himself. I hesitated, then resolved to sit down and see this adventure out, but prayed in my heart to be kept safe from temptation. I noticed he did not offer me wine or food--(his instinct and knowledge told him I should only despise them)--but he caused a most lovely strain of music to sound in my ears that had so long been deprived of the solace of that heavenly art which ever appealed most strongly to my senses. A wild weird sensuous strain, such as a siren might have sung when she sought to lure her victims, swelled, died away, and rose again. No music of the earth could have been at once so beautiful and so horrible--could at the same time intoxicate and inflame the brain and heart, and yet fill my soul with so intense a feeling of fear and repugnance.

And then before us rose a great black mirror in which I saw reflected the earth and its life, and myself swaying the minds and the thoughts of thousands through the fevered fascinations of such music which I could make mine, and through its spell waken the lowest yet the most refined of passions, till those who heard should lose themselves and their souls under its potent witchery.

Then he showed me armies and nations dominated to ambitious ends by himself and his influence, so that he should reign again as a despot through the organism of an earthly tyrant. Here, too, he said, I should share his power.

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« Reply #76 on: December 21, 2008, 05:33:43 pm »

Again, I saw the power in intellect and in literature which I could control and influence through the imaginative descriptive faculties of mortals who, under my prompting, would write such books as appealed to the reason, the intellect, and the sensual passions of mankind, until the false glamour thrown over them should cause men to view with indulgence and even approval the most revolting ideas and the most abominable teachings.

He showed me picture after picture, illustrating how man on earth could be used by spirits, who possessed sufficient will power and knowledge, as mere tools through which to satisfy their lust for power and sensual enjoyments of every sort. Much of this I had known before but had never fully realized the vast extent of the mischief possible to such a being as the one before me, were it not for the checks imposed upon him by those higher powers whose wills are as strong as his. Them he only knows as an unseen force opposed to him, which baffles his efforts at every turn, unless he can find in man a medium of so congenial a nature that they can truly work together as one. Then indeed do sorrow and devastation follow in their train and then do we see such monsters of triumphant wickedness as have disgraced the annals of all times. Now, thank Heaven, these are growing fewer and farther between, as the human race and the spirit spheres become purified through the teachings of the angels of the celestial spheres.

Last of all there appeared before us a woman's form, of such surpassing loveliness, such seductive charm, that for one instant I arose to look more closely at her and see if she could be real, and at that moment there came between me and the black magic mirror the mist-like form of an angel with the face of my beloved. And beside her this woman seemed so coarse and material and revolting to me that the momentary illusion of the senses was gone and I knew her for what she was, what all her kind are in truth--sirens that betray and ruin and drag men's souls to Hell while they themselves are all but soulless.

This revulsion of feeling in myself caused the waves of magnetic ether on which the music and these images were borne to us, to waver and break and vanish, leaving me alone with my tempter once more, with his voice sounding in my ears, pointing out to me how all these delights might still be enjoyed by me if I would but join him and be his pupil. But his words fell upon deaf ears, his promises allured me not. In my heart was only a horror of all these things, only a wild longing to free myself from his presence.

I rose and turned from him, and sought to go forth, but found I could not move one step. An invisible chain held me fast, and with a derisive laugh of rage and triumph, he called out to me ironically: "Go, since thou wilt have none of my favors or my promises. Go forth now and see what awaits you." I could not move one step, and began to feel a strange alarm creeping over me and a strange numbness of limbs and brain. A mist seemed to gather round and enfold me in its chill embrace, while phantom forms of awful shape and giant size drew near and yet more near. Oh, horror! they were my own past misdeeds, my own evil thoughts and desires, which had been prompted by this very man beside me and which nestling in my heart had formed those links between us that held me to him now.

A wild, fierce, cruel laugh broke from him at my discomfiture. He pointed to these weird shapes, and bid me see what I was who thought myself too good for his company. Darker and darker grew the hall, and wave on wave the grim phantoms crowded round us, growing each more black and fearful as they gathered, hemming me in on every side, while below our feet opened a great vault or pit in which I saw, or seemed to see, a seething mass of struggling human forms. My fearful ancestor shook in wild paroxysms of rage and fiendish laughter, and, pointing to the gathering phantoms bid them hurl me into the black pit. But suddenly above me in the darkness gleamed a star and from it fell a ray of light like a rope, which I grasped with both my hands and as the folds of light diffused themselves around me I was drawn up, out of that dark place, away from that fearful palace.




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« Reply #77 on: December 21, 2008, 05:34:36 pm »

CHAPTER XXIV.--The Story of Benedetto--Plotters Again Baffled.

Faithful Friend now proposed to me that we should visit one more city in this strange land, in order that I might see the man whose fate might have been my own but for the constancy and love which has so helped and sustained me. Our earthly histories were in some respects different, but there were some points of resemblance both in that and in our dispositions which would make the sight of this man and the knowledge of his history useful to me, while at a future time I might be able to help him.

"It is now more than ten years," he said, "since this man passed from earth, and it is only lately that he has begun to wish to progress. I found him here on my former visit to this place and was able to assist him a little and finally to enroll him as one of our Brotherhood, and I am now told that he is shortly to leave this sphere for a higher one."

I assented to the proposed journey, and after a short but very rapid flight we found ourselves hovering over a wide lagoon upon whose dark bosom there floated a great city, its towers and palaces rising from the waters, and reflected in them as in a mirror of black marble veined with dark red lines that somehow made me feel they were streams of blood flowing through it. Overhead there hung the same dark pall of cloud lighted by the patches of steel grey and fiery red floating vapor which I had noticed in the other city. The appearance of this place suggested to me that we must be about to enter the Venice of these lower spheres, and on my saying so to Faithful Friend he answered: "Yes, and you will here find many celebrated men whose names were written on the history of their times in letters of fire and blood."

We now found ourselves in the town, and proceeded to pass through its principal canals and squares in order that I might see them.

Yes, there they were, these degraded counterparts of all those beautiful places made familiar by the brush of the artist and the fame of those who have carved for themselves a niche in the Temple of History. There flowed the canals, seeming like dark crimson streams of blood flowing from some vast shambles, washing and rippling up the marble steps of the palaces to leave there a thick foul stain. The very stones of the buildings and pavements seemed to me to ooze and drip blood. The air was thick with its red shade. Deep down below the crimson waters I saw the skeleton forms of the countless thousands who had met their deaths by assassination or more legalized forms of murder, and whose bodies had found sepulture beneath the dark waves. Below in the dungeons which honeycombed the city I beheld many spirits crowded together and like caged wild beasts--the ferocity of the cruel tiger in their gleaming eyes and the vindictive malice of the chained human tyrant in every attitude of their crouching figures. Spirits whom it was needful to thus confine since they were more ferocious than savage animals. Processions of city magistrates and their attendants, haughty nobles with their motley following of soldiers and seamen and slaves, merchants and priests, humble citizens and fishermen, men and women of all ranks and all times, passed to and fro, and nearly all were alike degraded and repulsive-looking. And as they came and went it seemed to me as if skeleton hands, phantom arms, rose through the stones of the pavements from the dungeons beneath, striving to draw these others down to share their own misery. There was a haunted, hunted look on many of their faces, and black care seemed to sit behind them continually.

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« Reply #78 on: December 21, 2008, 05:35:28 pm »

Far out in the waters of the lagoon spectral galleys floated, filled with slaves chained to their oars, but amongst them there were no longer the helpless victims of political intrigue or private revenge. These beings were the spirits of those who had been the hard taskmasters, the skillful plotters who had consigned many to this living death. Yet farther out at sea, I could behold the great ships, and nearer at hand in the ruined harbor there were more spiritual counterparts of those piratical craft of the Adriatic, filled with the spirits of their piratical crews who had made plunder and rapine and war their delight, and who now spent their time battling with one another and making forays upon others like themselves. Spectral-looking gondolas floated upon the water-ways of the city, filled with spirits bent upon following still the occupations and pleasures of their former lives. In short, in this Venice, as in the other cities I had seen, there existed a life akin to that of earth save that from this place all the good and pure and true, all the real patriots and unselfish citizens were gone, and only the evil left to prey upon each other and act as avenging spirits to their companions in crime.

Seated upon the parapet of one of the smaller bridges we found a man, wearing the dress of the Brothers of Hope--a dark grey robe such as I had myself worn in the earlier stages of my wanderings. His arms were folded upon his breast and his face was so far concealed by the hood that we could not see his features, but I knew at once that this was the man we had come to see, and I likewise recognized his identity as that of a celebrated Venetian painter whom I had known in my youth, though not very intimately. We had not met again and I was ignorant that he had passed from earth, till I saw him sitting thus upon the bridge in this city of Hell. I confess the recognition gave me somewhat of a shock, recalling as it did those days of my youth when I also was a student of art with all the fairest prospects in life, as it would seem, before us, and now to see him and to think what his life must have been to bring him to this pass. He did not see us, so Faithful Friend proposed that we should turn aside for a little, while he told me this spirit's history, and then we could approach together and speak to him. It seemed that this man (whom I shall call by his spirit name of Benedetto, since his earthly life is better to be forgotten) had risen rapidly into fame after I knew him, and had been fairly successful in selling his pictures. But Italy is not now a rich country, and Benedetto's most wealthy patrons were the English and Americans who came to visit Venice, and at the house of one of them Benedetto met the woman who was to overshadow his whole life with her baneful influence. He was young, handsome, talented, highly educated, and of an ancient though poor family, and therefore naturally received by all the best society in Venice. It was to a lady who belonged to the higher ranks of this social sphere that Benedetto lost his heart, and dreamed in his youthful and romantic foolishness that she would be content to become the wife of a struggling artist with nothing but his brains and a growing reputation. The lady was scarce twenty when they first met, very beautiful, perfect alike in face and form, and endowed with all the charms which can enslave the heart of man--and she encouraged Benedetto in every way, so that, poor youth, he believed her love to be as sincere as his. But with all the passionate thirst of her nature for admiration and love she was cold, calculating, ambitious, and worldly; incapable of either understanding or returning such a love as she inspired in a nature like Benedetto's, which knows love or hate only in extremes. She was flattered by his attentions, charmed by his passionate devotion, and proud of having made conquest of one so handsome and so gifted, but she had no idea of sacrificing anything for his sake, and even when she was most tender, most alluring to him, she was striving with all her arts to become the wife of a middle-aged Venetian nobleman, whose wealth and position she coveted even while she despised the man himself.

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« Reply #79 on: December 21, 2008, 05:42:24 pm »

The end of Benedetto's dream came all to soon. He ventured to lay his heart and all his prospects at the feet of his inamorata, pouring into hear ears all the love and devotion of his soul.

"And she?"

"Well, she received it all very coolly, told him not to be a fool, explained to him how impossible it was that she could do without money and position, and, in fine, dismissed him with a calm indifference to his sufferings which nearly drove him mad. He fled from Venice, went to Paris, and there plunged into all the dissipations of that gay capital, striving to bury the recollection of his unfortunate passion. They did not meet for some years, and then Benedetto's fate took him back to Venice once more, cured, as he hoped, and prepared to despise himself for his folly. He had now become famous as a painter, and could almost command his own price for his pictures. He found that the lady had duly married the Marchese and was reigning as a society beauty and a queen of fashion, surrounded by a crowd of admirers whom she did not always feel it necessary to introduce to her husband. Benedetto had resolved to treat the lady with cool indifference should they meet, but this was not her intention. Once her slave, always so--no lover should dare to break her chain till she chose to dismiss him. She devoted herself once more to the subjugation of Benedetto's heart, and, alas! that heart was only too ready to surrender when she told him, with every accent of feeling in her voice, how she regretted now the path she had chosen. Thus Benedetto became her unacknowledged lover, and for a time he lived in a state of intoxication of happiness. But only for a time. The lady tired of everyone after a little, she liked fresh conquests, new slaves to do her homage. She liked excitement, and Benedetto with his jealousy, his eternal devotion, grew tiresome, his presence wearisome. Moreover there was another admirer, young, rich, handsome also, and the Marchesa preferred him, and told Benedetto so, gave him, in fact, his conge for the second time. His passionate reproaches, his violent protestations, his vehement anger all annoyed the lady greatly; as she grew colder, more insolent towards him, he grew more excited. He threatened, he implored, he vowed he would shoot himself if she proved false to him, and finally after a violent scene they parted and Benedetto went home. When he called next day he was told by the servant that the Marchesa declined to see him again. The insolence of a message thus given him, the heartlessness of the Marchesa, the bitter shame of being a second time trifled with and flung aside like an old glove, were too much for his passionate fiery nature, and he went back to his studio and blew out his brains.

"When his spirit awoke to consciousness it was to all the horrors of finding himself a prisoner in his coffin in the grave. He had destroyed his material body but he could not free his spirit from it, till the decaying of that body should liberate the soul. Those loathsome particles of that corrupting body still clothed the spirit, the link between them was not severed.

"Oh, the horror of such a fate! can anyone hear of it and not shudder to think what the bitter weariness and discontent of life, and a reckless desire to be free of it at any cost, may plunge the soul into. If those on earth would be truly merciful to the suicide they would cremate his body, not bury it, that the soul may, by the speedy dispersal of the particles, be the sooner freed from such a prison. The soul of a suicide is not ready to leave the body, it is like an unripe fruit and does not fall readily from the material tree which is nourishing it. A great shock has cast it forth, but it still remains attached, till the sustaining link shall wither away.

"From time to time Benedetto would lapse into unconsciousness and lose for a little the sense of his terrible position, and from these states of merciful oblivion he would awaken to find that little by little the earthly body was losing its hold upon the spirit and crumbling into dust, but while it did so he had to suffer in all his nerves the pangs of this gradual dissolution. The sudden destruction of the earthly body, while it would have given his spirit a more violent, more painful shock, would at least have spared him the slow torture of this lingering decay. At last the material body ceased to hold the spirit, and he rose from the grave but still hung over it, tied, though he was no longer imprisoned; then the last link snapped and he was free to wander forth into the earth plane. And first his powers of hearing and seeing and feeling were most feebly developed, then gradually they unfolded and he became conscious of his surroundings. With these powers came again the passions and desires of his earthly life and also the knowledge of how he could yet gratify them. And again as in his earthly life he sought oblivion for his sorrow and bitterness in the pleasures of the senses. But he sought in vain. Memory was ever present with him torturing him with the past. In his soul there was a wild hunger, a fierce thirst for revenge, for power to make her suffer as he had done, and the very intensity of his thoughts at last carried him to where she was. He found her as of old, surrounded by her little court of gay admirers. A little older but still the same, still as heartless, still untroubled by his fate and indifferent to it. And it maddened him to think of the sufferings he had brought upon himself for the love of this woman. At last all thoughts became merged in the one thought of how he could find means to drag her down from her positon, how strip her of all those things which she prized more than love or honor or even the lives of those who might be called her victims.

"And he succeeded, for spirits have more powers than mortals dream of. Step by step he saw her come down from her proud position, losing first wealth, then honor, stripped of every disguise she had worn, and known for what she was, a vile temptress who played with men's souls as one plays with dice, careless how many hearts she broke, how many lives she ruined, careless alike of her husband's honor and her own fair fame, so long as she could hide her intrigues from the eyes of the world and rise a step higher in wealth and power upon the body of each new victim.

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« Reply #80 on: December 21, 2008, 05:43:00 pm »

"And even in his darkness and misery Benedetto hugged himself and was comforted to think it was his hands that were dragging her down and tearing the mask from her beauty and worldliness. She wondered how it was that so many events all tended to one end--her ruin. How it was that her most carefully laid schemes were thwarted, her most jealously guarded secrets found out and held up to the light of day. She began at last to tremble at what each day might bring forth. It was as though some unseen agency, whose toils she could not escape, was at work to crush her, and then she thought of Benedetto and his last threats that if she drove him to despair he would send himself to Hell and drag her with him. She had thought he meant to murder her perhaps, and when she heard he had shot himself and was dead, she felt relieved and soon forgot him, save when some event would recall him to her mind for a moment. And now she was always thinking of him, she could not get away from the obtrusive thought, and she began to shudder with fear lest he should rise from his grave and haunt her.

"And all the time there stood Benedetto's spirit beside her, whispering in her ears and telling her that this was his revenge come to him at last. He whispered to her of the past and of that love that had seemed so sweet and that had turned to bitterest burning hate, consuming him as with the fire of Hell whose flames should scorch her soul also and drive her to a despair as great as his.

"And her mind felt this haunting presence even while her bodily eyes could see nothing. In vain she fled to society, to all places where there were crowds of men and women, in order to escape; the haunting presence was with her everywhere. Day by day it grew more distinct, more real, a something from which there was no escape.

"At last one evening in the dim grey of twilight she saw him, with his wild menacing eyes, his fierce, passionate hate, expressing itself in every line of his face, in every gesture of his form. The shock was too much for her overwrought nerves and she fell dead upon the floor. And then Benedetto knew that he had succeeded and had killed her, and that from henceforth the brand of Cain was stamped upon his brow.

"Then a horror of himself seized upon him, he loathed the deed he had done. He had intended to kill her and then when the spirit left the body to drag it down with him and to haunt and torment it forever, so that on neither side of the grave should she know rest. But now his only thought was to escape from himself and the horror of his success, for all good was not dead in this man, and the shock which had killed the Marchesa had awakened him to the true nature of his revengeful feelings. Then he fled from the earth, down and down even to this city of Hell, the fit dwelling-place for such as he.

"It was in this place that I found him," said Faithful Friend, "and was able to help the now repentant man and to show him how he might best undo the wrong he had done. He awaits now the coming of this woman he so loved and hated, in order that he may ask her to forgive him and that he may forgive her himself. She has also been drawn to this sphere, for her own life was very guilty, and it is in this counterpart of that city which saw the history of their earthly love that they will meet again, and that is why he awaits her upon this bridge where in the past she has so often met him."

And will she meet him soon?"

"Yes! very soon, and then will the sojourn of this man in this sphere be over, and he will be free to pass to a higher one, where his troubled spirit shall at last know a season of rest ere it mounts by slow and painful steps the stony pathway of progression."

"Will she, too, leave here with him?"

"No, oh no! she will be also helped to progress, but their paths will lie widely asunder. There was no true affinity between them, only passion, and pride, and wounded self-love. They will part here to meet no more."

We now drew near Benedetto, and as I touched him on the shoulder he started and turned round but at first did not recognize me. Then I made myself known and said how I should rejoice to renew our early friendship in those higher spheres in which I hoped we would both soon meet again. I told him briefly that I, too, had sinned and suffered, and was working my way upwards now. He seemed glad to see me and wrung my hand with much emotion when we said good-bye, and then Faithful Friend and I went away, leaving him still seated upon the bridge waiting for his last interview with her who had been once so dear to him and who was now but a painful memory.
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« Reply #81 on: December 21, 2008, 05:43:30 pm »

As we were on our road from Venice to those plains which I now understood to be the spiritual replica of the plains of Lombardy, my attention was suddenly attracted by a voice calling to me in a pitiful tone for help. Turning back a little way to my right hand I saw a couple of spirits lying apparently helpless upon the ground, and one was making gestures to cause me to come to him. So thinking it was some one in need of my help I let my companion go on and went to see what he wanted. The spirit holding out his hand to me and murmuring something about helping him to rise, I bent down to lift him up, when to my surprise he made a clutch at my legs with his hands and contrived to fasten his teeth in my arm. While the other one, suddenly jumping up, tried to fasten upon my throat like a wolf.

With some trouble and a good deal of anger on my part, I confess, I shook myself free of them and was stepping back, when I half stumbled, and turning my head saw what a great pit had suddenly opened behind me into which with another step backwards I must have fallen.

Then I remembered the warnings given me not to allow my lower passions to be aroused and thus place myself on a level with these beings, and I regretted my momentary burst of anger and resolved to keep calm and cool. I turned towards the two dark spirits again and saw that the one who I fancied had been hurt was crawling along the ground to reach me, while the other was gathering himself together like a wild beast about to spring. I fixed my eyes steadily upon the pair, whom I now recognized as the man with the withered hand and his friend, who had tried to deceive me with the false message a short time before. Steadily I looked at them, throwing all the power of my will into the determination that they should not advance nearer to me. As I did so they faltered and stopped, and finally rolled over on the ground snarling and showing their teeth like a couple of wolves, but unable to approach a step nearer. Leaving them thus I hurried after Faithful Friend--whom I soon overtook--and narrated to him what had occurred.

He laughed and said, "I could have told you who those were, Franchezzo, but I felt it would be no harm to let you find out for yourself, and likewise learn how valuable a protection your own force of character and determination could be. You are naturally strong willed, and so long as you do not use it to domineer over the just rights of others it is a most useful and valuable quality, and in your work in the spirit world you will have found that it is the great lever by which you can act, not alone upon those round you but even upon apparently inanimate matter, and I thought as those two are very likely to come across you from time to time you might as well settle now which should be master, which should be the dominant personality. They will be shy of directly meddling with you again, but so long as you work about the earth plane you will find them ready at any chance to thwart your plans if the opportunity comes."



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« Reply #82 on: December 21, 2008, 05:44:21 pm »

CHAPTER XXV.--A Pitched Battle in Hell.

We now saw before us a vast slightly undulating plain upon which great masses of dark spirits were moving. At Faithful Friend's suggestion we ascended a small hillock that we might observe their movements.
"We are now," said Faithful Friend, "about to witness one of the great battles that take place here between the opposing forces of dark spirits whose delight was in war and its rapine and bloodshed, and who, here in the dark state which is the result of their earthly cruelty and ambition, carry on yet their warlike operations against each other and contend for the supremacy of these kingdoms of Hell. Behold how they are massing their forces for an attack upon those others on our right, and observe the skill they will display in their maneuvres. The powerful minds of men who swayed armies on earth sway such unhappy beings here as are not strong enough to resist their spell, and thus they force these less powerful spirits to fight under their banners whether they will nor not, just as they did with mortals on earth. You will see these powerful leaders engage in a struggle worse than deadly since no death can come to end the contest, which they renew over and over again, as it would almost seem eternally--or until, as is to be hoped, the satiety of mind of one or other of these powerful leaders will at last make him long for some nobler form of contest, some higher triumph of the soul than is won over these miserable beings in battles where victory gives only a fresh right to torture and oppress the vanquished. The same instincts and natural gifts which are now perverted to personal ambition and the lust for cruelty and dominion as their only aim, will, when purified, make these spirits mighty helpers, where now they are destroyers, and the same powers of Will will help forward the progress they now retard. When this progress shall take place depends, for each, upon the latent nobility of the soul itself--the awakening of the dormant love of goodness and justice and truth to be found in all. Though like seeds in the earth these germs of better things may lie long hidden beneath the mass of evil that overloads them, there must and does come a time for each when the better soul awakens and these germs of good send out shoots that lead to repentance and bring forth an abounding harvest of virtue and good works."

We looked over the vast plain and now beheld the two mighty hosts of spirits drawn up to confront one another in the array of battle. Here and there I beheld powerful spirits, leading each his band or regiment as in an earthly army. In the van of the opposing forces were two majestic beings who might have been models for Milton's Lucifer, so strong was the sense of power and high intellect with which they impressed me. In each there was a certain beauty and grandeur of form and feature--a regal majesty even in the degradation of Hell--but alas! the beauty was that of a wild fierce tiger or lion that watches how he may rend his army in pieces and drag his prey into his den. Dark and forbidding were their countenances, cruel and ferocious their gleaming eyes, the false smile, showing their sharp teeth like those animals of prey. The cunning of the serpent was in their looks, and the pitiless hunger of the vulture in their smile. Each rode in his chariot of war drawn, not by horses, but by the spirits of degraded men, whom they lashed forward as beasts of burden and drove furiously on to be trampled down in the melee as cattle. Wild strains of music that sounded like the shrieks of the souls of the damned and the thunders of a mighty storm broke from the assembled armies, and with one fell swoop they rushed forward and bore down upon each other--flying and hurrying through the air, or dragging themselves along the ground. Pushing, hustling, jostling, and trampling like a herd of wild animals--on they came, and as they met, their fierce cries and shouts and imprecations rent the air and made even Hell more hideous. They charged and re-charged, they maneuvered, marched, and counter-marched, these phantom spirit armies of the dead, even as they had done in the battles of earth life. They fought and wrestled like demons, not men, for they had no weapons save those of wild beasts--their teeth and claws. If a battle with mortal weapons is horrible, this was doubly so, where they fought as wolves and tigers might--the two powerful leaders directing the mass, urging them on and guiding the fight as the tide of battle swept back one side or the other.

Over all had towered these two dark regal spirits, and now no longer content to let their soldiers fight, but bent each upon the destruction of the other, they rose from the fighting mass, and, soaring high above them, turned their looks upon each other with deadliest hate--then flying through the air with their dark robes extended behind and above them like wings, they grappled and wrestled together in a fierce struggle for supremacy. It was as though two eagles fought in mid-air while a mass of carrion crows grubbed and fought for worms beneath them. I turned from the crows to watch the eagles and to mark how, with no weapons but their hands and their powerful wills they fought as wild beasts do in a forest.

They uttered no sound, no cry, but gripped each other with a death-grip that neither would relax, and swayed to and fro in the air before us. Now one upward, now the other, their fierce eyes stabbing each other with fiery darts--their hot breath scorching each other's faces--their fingers clutching at each other's throats, and both seeking for a chance to fasten on their enemy with their teeth. Backwards and forwards, up and down they swayed and writhed in what seemed to me a death struggle for both. At last one seemed to fail. He sank below the other, who was bearing him to the ground to dash him, as I saw, over a deep precipice into a chasm in the rocks that skirted the field of battle--a deep and dark and awful pit into which he meant to hurl the vanquished one, and keep him prisoner. Fierce and long was the struggle, for the one below would not give in and clung to the other to drag him down with him if possible. But in vain. His powers were failing fast and as they reached the black chasm and hung poised over it, I saw the uppermost one wrench himself free by a mighty effort and fling the other from him, down into those awful depths.

With a shudder I turned away and saw that the battle had been raging as fiercely on the plain. Those spectral hosts had fought and the army of the victorious general had beaten back the forces of his vanquished foe till they were broken and dispersed in all directions, leaving their disabled comrades on the field lying as wounded men do in an earthly battle, while the victors were dragging away with them their captives, to what fate I could only too well guess.

Sickened and disgusted with their brutishness I would fain have left this place, but Faithful Friend, touching my shoulder, said: "Now has come the time for our work, my friend. Let us descend yonder and see if there are none whom we can help. Amongst the fallen and vanquished we may find those who are as sick of war and its horrors as you, and who will be but too glad of our help." So we went down to the plain.

It was as might have been a battle-field when night has fallen upon it and there are but the wounded and the slain left behind. All the other spirits had gone like a flock of evil birds to seek fresh carrion. I stood among a writhing, moaning mass of beings and knew not where to begin my help--there were so many. It was worse--a thousand times worse--than any mortal battle-field. I have seen the dead and dying lying in the streets of my native town thick as fallen leaves, and my heart has ached and bled for them and burned with shame and anger that such things could be; but even there was at least the peace and sleep of death to soften the anguish, and there was the hope of helping those who yet lived. But here--in this awful Hell--there seemed no hope and no death that could relieve these suffering ones, no morning that should dawn upon the night of their miseries. If they revived would it not be to live again this awful life, to find themselves surrounded ever by this awful night, and these fierce wild beasts of men?

I stooped down and tried to raise the head of one poor wretch who lay moaning at my feet--crushed till his spirit-body seemed but a shapeless mass--and as I did so the mysterious Voice spoke in my ears and said:

"Even in Hell there is Hope or why else are you come? The darkest hour is ever before the dawn, and for these--the vanquished and the fallen--has come the hour of their change. The very cause that has made them to be thus borne down and trampled under is that which shall now raise them. The desire for higher and better things, the shrinking from the evil around them has rendered them weak in the wickedness which is the strength of Hell and its inhabitants, and has made them waver and hesitate to thrust at and harm another with the ruthless force of these other wild and worthless beings, and thus they have been borne down and vanquished, but their fall from power here will open to them the doors of a higher state and thus shall there dawn for them the grey glimmer of a Higher Hope. Mourn not for them but seek to ease their sufferings that they may sink into a sleep of Death to this sphere and waken to a new life in the sphere next above."

"And what," I asked, "of that powerful spirit whom I saw thrown into the dark chasm?"

"He too will be helped in time, but his soul is not yet ripe for help, and it is of no use to try till then."

The Voice ceased and Faithful Friend, who was beside me, made signs to show me how to soothe these weary ones to sleep, and pointed out to me numerous stars of light which had gathered on that field of pain, and said they were carried by those of our Brotherhood who were, like ourselves, drawn here on their mission of Love and Mercy.

Ere long the writhing, moaning forms had sunk into unconsciousness and a short time after I saw a sight that was strange and wonderful indeed. Over each silent form there arose a faint misty floating vapor, such as I had seen once before in the case of a spirit we had rescued, as I have already told. Gradually these vapors took shape and solidity and assumed the form of the released spirit or soul, then each was borne away by bands of bright ethereal spirits--who had gathered above our heads--till the last was gone and our work and theirs was done.



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« Reply #83 on: December 21, 2008, 05:45:05 pm »

CHAPTER XXVI.--Farewell to the Dark Land.

I now perceived that those Brothers of Hope, who like myself had been assisting the poor wounded spirits, all belonged to the same company as myself, and they were all collecting together, the little starry lights we each carried looking indeed like emblems of hope in darkness. Faithful Friend and I joined the others and were soon interchanging greetings and congratulations, like a brigade of soldiers about to return home after a successful campaign.
Before we again passed through the fiery ring that encompassed this region, the leader of our band conducted us to the top of a high pinnacle of rock from which we beheld the cities and plains and mountains of that Land of Darkness, through which each of us had passed in our pilgrimage. And standing on that mountain peak we could survey the mighty panorama of Hell stretched out at our feet. He then addressed us in grave, solemn tones:

"This scene upon which we look is but a small, a very small, fractional portion of the great sphere which men have been wont to speak of as 'Hell.' There are dark spheres above this which may seem to many to deserve the name until they have seen this place and learned in it how low a soul can sink and how much more terrible in this sphere can be both the crimes and the sufferings. The great belt of dark matter of which is composed this, the lowest of the earth spheres, extends for many million miles around us, and has received within its borders all those multitudes of sinful souls whose material lives have been passed on earth, and whose existences date back to the remote far-off ages in which the planet Earth first began to bear its harvest of conscious immortals, destined to sin and suffer and work out each their own salvation till they should be purified from all earthly stain--all taint of their lower nature. The multitudes of such lives have been, and shall yet be, as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea in number, and as each builds for himself his own habitation in the higher or in the lower spheres, so are the vast spheres peopled and their many dwelling places and cities formed.

"Far beyond the power of any mortal to carry even his thoughts, lie the myriad dwelling places of the spheres, each spot or locality bearing upon it the individual stamp of the spirit whose life has created it, and as there are no two faces, no two minds, exactly similar in all the countless beings that have peopled the earth--so there are no two places in the spirit world exactly alike. Each place--yea, even each sphere--is the separate creation of the particular class of minds that have created it, and those whose minds are in affinity being drawn to each other in the spirit world every place will bear more or less the peculiar stamp of its inhabitants.

"Thus in giving a description of this or any other sphere you will naturally be able to tell only what you have seen, and to describe those places to which you were attracted, while another spirit who has beheld a different portion of the same sphere may describe it so very differently that men on earth, who limit all things too much, and measure them by their own standards of probability, will say that since you differ in describing the same sphere you must both be wrong. They forget that Rome is not Genoa, Milan, or Venice, yet these are all in Italy. Lyons is not Paris, yet both are in France--and both will bear certain characteristic features, certain national traits of resemblance. Or to extend the simile still further, New York and Constantinople are both cities upon the planet Earth, yet there is between them and their population so great a difference, so wide a gulf, that it requires that we should look no longer for national characteristics but only for the broad fact that both are inhabited by the human race, differing, however widely, in manners and appearance.

"And now I would have you each observe that in all your wanderings--in all the sad sights you have seen--all the unhappy beings you have known groveling in this sink of their own iniquities, there were yet the germs of human souls inextinguishable and undestroyable, and you have each learned, I trust, that long as may be the probation of the soul--greatly as it may retard the hour of its release by the perversion of its powers--yet to all is given the inalienable birthright of hope, and to each will come at last the hour of awakening, and those who have sunk to the lowest depths will arise even as a pendulum swung to its farthest limit will arise and swing back again as high as it has sunk low.

"Bitter and awful is the reckoning the sinful soul must pay for its wild indulgence in evil, but once paid there is not again that reckoning to be met, there is no inexorable creditor whose ears are deaf to the voice of prayer or who will say to the repentant prodigal, "Begone, for your doom is sealed and the hour of your redemption past. Oh, Brethren of Hope! Can man in his littleness measure the power of the Almighty whose ways are past his finding out? Can man put a limit to his mercy and say it shall be denied to any sorrowful sinner however deep has been his sin? God alone can condemn, and he alone can pardon and his voice cries out to us in everything, in every blade of grass that grows, in every ray of light that shines: 'how great is the goodness and mercy of our God--how long-suffering and how slow to anger.' And his voice calls with trumpet tongue, through his many angels and ministering spirits, to all who repent and seek for mercy that mercy is ever given--pardon, full and free, is granted unto all who earnestly seek it and would truly labor that they may win it. Even beyond the grave, even within the gates of Hell itself, there is yet mercy and pardon, yet hope and love held out to all. Not one atom of the immortal soul essence which has been breathed into man and become a living conscious individuality is ever again truly lost, wholly doomed either to annihilation or eternal misery. They err, I had almost said they sin, who teach man otherwise, for by so doing they shut a door upon his hopes and render the erring soul yet more desperate because more hopeless, when, as he deems, Death has put the final seal of damnation upon his fate. I would when each of you returns to the earth plane that you proclaim to all this truth which you have learned in these your wanderings, and strive ever that each and all may feel the sense of hope and the need there is to take heed to their ways while there is yet time. Far easier were it for man in his earth life to undo his misdeeds than if he wait till Death has placed his barrier between him and those to whom he would atone.

"In those Hells which you have seen all has been the outcome of men's own evil lives--the works of their own past--either upon earth or in its spheres. There is nothing but what has been the creation of the soul itself, however horrible to you may appear its surroundings. However shocked you may have felt at the spiritual appearance of these beings, yet must you ever remember that such as they are, have they made themselves. God has not added one grain's weight to the burden of any, and equally must it be the work of each to undo what he has done, to build up again what he has destroyed, to purify what he has debased. And then will these wretched dwellings, these degraded forms--these fearful surroundings--be exchanged for brighter and happier scenes--purer bodies--more peaceful homes, and when at last in the fullness of time the good on earth and in its spheres shall overcome the bad, the evil sights and evil places will be swept away as the froth upon the sea is swept on by the advancing tide, and the pure Water of Life shall flow over these spots and purify them till these solid black mountains, this dense heavy atmosphere, and these foul dwelling-places shall melt in the strong purifying fire of repentance, even as the hard granite rock is melted in the crucible of the chemist till it is dissipated into the atmosphere and floated away to form other rocks elsewhere. Nothing is ever lost, nothing ever destroyed. All things are imperishable. Those atoms which your body has attracted to it to-day are thrown off again tomorrow, and pass on to form other bodies eternally, as these emanations of men's spiritual natures are formed into the earth spheres, and when there is no longer magnetism sufficiently gross to hold together these gross particles which form the lower spheres, these atoms will become detached from following the earth and its sphere in their rushing journey through the limitless ether of space, and will float in suspension in the ether till drawn to another planet whose spheres are congenial and whose spiritual inhabitants are on an equally gross plane. Thus these same rocks and this country have all formed in the past the lower spheres of other planets which have now grown too highly developed to attract them and they will, when this, our earth, has ceased to attract them, be drawn off and form the spheres of some other planet.

"So too are our higher spheres formed of matter more etherealized, yet still matter, which has been cast off from planet spheres much in advance of ours, and in like manner these atoms will be left by us and reabsorbed in turn by our successor. Nothing is lost, nothing wasted, nothing is really new. The things called new are but new combinations of that which exists already, and is in its nature eternal. To what ultimate height of development we shall reach, I know not--none can know since there can be no limit to our knowledge or our progress. But I believe that could we foresee the ultimate destiny of our own small planet, as we can in part judge of it from seeing the more advanced ones around us, we should learn to look upon even the longest earthly life and the longest, saddest probation of these dark spheres as but stepping stones on which man shall mount to the thrones of angels at last.

"What we can see--what we do know and may grasp--is the great and ever present truth that hope is truly eternal and progression is ever possible even to the lowest and most degraded and sin-stained soul. It is this great truth we would have each of you to preach both to mortal and immortal man, when you return to the earth planes and to your work there, and as you have been helped and strengthened and taught, so do you feel bound by the obligations of gratitude and the ties of Universal Brotherhood to help others.

"Let us now bid farewell to this Dark Land, not in sorrow over its sadness and its sins, but in hope and with earnest prayer for the future of all who are yet in the bonds of suffering and sin."

As our great leader concluded his speech we took our last look at the Dark Country, and, descending the mountain, we passed once more through the Ring of Fire, which, as before, was by our will power driven back on either side of us that we might pass through in safety.

Thus ended my wanderings in the Kingdoms of Hell.




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« Reply #84 on: December 21, 2008, 05:45:59 pm »

PART IV.
"Through the Gates of Gold."
CHAPTER XXVII.--Welcome on Our Return--A Magic Mirror--Work in the Cities of Earth--The Land of Remorse--The Valley of Phantom Mists--A Home of Rest.

On our return to the Land of Dawn, we met with a right royal welcome from our Brotherhood, and a festival was given in our honor.

On entering our own little rooms each of us found a new robe awaiting him. It was of a very light grey, almost white color, and the border, girdle, and device of our order--an anchor and a star upon the left sleeve--were in deep golden yellow.

I greatly prized this new dress because in the spirit world the dress symbolizes the state of advancement of the spirit, and is esteemed as showing what each one has attained. What I prized even more than this new dress, however, was a most beautiful wreath of pure white spirit roses which I found had clustered around and framed the magic picture of my beloved--a frame that never withered, never faded, and whose fragrance was wafted to me as I reposed on the snow white couch and gazed out upon those peaceful hills behind which there shone the dawning day.

I was aroused from my reverie by a friend who came to summon me to the festival, and on entering the great hall I found my father and some friends of my wanderings awaiting me. We greeted one another with much emotion, and after we had enjoyed a banquet similar to the one I have described on my first entrance to this sphere, we all assembled at the lower end of the hall before a large curtain of grey and gold which completely covered the walls.

While we waited in expectation of what we were to see, a soft strain of music floated towards us as though borne upon some passing breeze. This grew stronger, fuller, more distinct, till a solemn majestic measure like the march of an army fell upon our ears. Not a march of triumph or rejoicing but one such as might be played by an army of giants mourning over a dead comrade, so grand, so full of pathos was this strain.

Then the curtains glided apart and showed us a huge mirror of black polished marble. And then the music changed to another measure, still solemn, still grand, but with somewhat of discordance in its tones. It wavered too and became uneven in the measure of its time, as though halting with uncertain step, stumbling and hesitating.

Then the air around us darkened till we could scarce see each other's faces; slowly the light faded, and at last all we could see was the black polished surface of the gigantic mirror, and in it I saw reflected the figures of two of the members of our expedition. They moved and spoke and the scenery around them grew distinct and such as I had seen in the Inferno we had left. The weird music stirred my soul to its inmost core, and looking upon the drama being enacted before my eyes I forgot where I was--I forgot everything--and seemed to be wandering once more in the dark depths of Hell.

Picture melted into picture, till we had been shown the varied experiences of each of our bank, from the lowest member to our leader himself--the last scene showing the whole company assembled upon the hill listening to the farewell discourse of our commander; and like the chorus in a Greek Tragedy, the wild music seemed to accompany and explain it all, varying with every variation in the dramas, now sad and sorrowful, now full of repose or triumph, and again wailing, sobbing, shrieking or changing into a murmuring lullaby as some poor rescued soul sank to rest at last--then again rising into wild notes of clamor, fierce cries of battle, hoarse curses and imprecations; now surging in wild waves of tumultous melody, then dying away amidst discordant broken notes. At last as the final scene was enacted it sank into a soft plaintive air of most exquisite sweetness, and died away note by note. As it ceased the darkness vanished, the curtains glided over the black mirror and we all turned with a sigh of relief and thankfulness to congratulate each other that our wanderings in that dark land were past.

I asked my father how this effect had been produced, was it an illusion or what?

"My son," he answered, "what you have seen is an application of scientific knowledge, nothing more. This mirror has been so prepared that it receives and reflects the images thrown upon it from a series of sheets of thin metal, or rather what is the spiritual counterpart of earthly metal. These sheets of metal have been so highly sensitized that they are able to receive and retain these pictures somewhat in the fashion of a phonograph (such as you saw in earth life) receives and retains the sound waves.

"When you were wandering in those dark spheres, you were put in magnetic communication with this instrument and the adventures of each were transferred to one of these sensitive sheets, while the emotions of every one of you caused the sound waves in the spheres of music and literature to vibrate in corresponding tones of sympathy.

"You belong to the spheres of Art, Music and Literature, and therefore you are able to see and feel and understand the vibrations of those spheres. In the spirit world all emotions, speeches, or events reproduce themselves in objective forms and become for those in harmony with them either pictures, melodies, or spoken narratives. The spirit world is created by the thoughts and actions of the soul, and therefore every act or thought forms its spiritually material counterpart. In this sphere you will find many things not yet known to men on earth, many curious inventions which will in time be transmitted to earth and clothed there in material form. But see! you are about to receive the Palm branch which is given to each of you as a reward of your victory."

At this moment the large doors of the hall were once more thrown open and our grand master entered, followed by the same train of handsome youths I had seen before, only this time each carried a branch of palm instead of a wreath of laurel. When the grand master had seated himself under his canopy of state we were each summoned to his presence to receive our branch of palm, and when we had all done so and returned to our places again a most joyous hymn of victory was sung by everyone, our palm branches waving in time to the music and our glad voices filling the air with triumphant harmony.

I now enjoyed a long quiet season of rest which much resembled that half-waking, half-sleeping state, when the mind is too much in repose to think and yet retains full consciousness of all its surroundings. From this state, which lasted some weeks, I arose completely recovered from the effects of my wanderings in the dark spheres.

And my first thought was to visit my beloved, and see if she could see me and be conscious of my improved appearance. I shall not, however, dwell upon our interview; its joy was for ourselves alone--I only seek to show that death does not of necessity either end our affection for those we have left or shut us out from sharing with them our joys or sorrows.

I found that I was now much more able to communicate with her through her own mediumistic powers, so that we did not need any third person to intervene and help us, and thus were my labors lightened and cheered by her sweet affection and her conscious recognition of my presence and of my continued existence.

My work at this time was once more upon the earth plane and in those cities whose counterparts I had seen in Hell. I had to labor among those mortals and spirits who thronged them, and impress their minds with a sense of what I had seen in that dark sphere far below. I knew I could only make them dimly conscious of it, only arouse a little their dormant sense of fear of future retribution for their present misdeeds, but even that was something and would help to deter some from a too complete abandonment of themselves to selfish pleasure. Moreover, amongst the spirits who were earth-bound to those cities I found many whom I could assist, with the knowledge and strength which I had gained in my journey.

There ever is and ever must be ample work for those who work upon the earth plane, for multitudinous as are the workers there, more are always being wanted, since men are passing over from earth life every hour and every minute, who need all the help that can be given them.

Thus passed some months for me, and then I began once more to feel the old restless longing to rise higher myself, to attain more than I had yet done, to approach nearer to that sphere to which my beloved one would pass when her earthly life was ended, and by attaining which I could alone hope to be united to her in the spirit world. I used to at this time be tormented with a constant fear lest my darling should pass from earth before I had risen to her spiritual level, and thus I should again be parted from her.

This fear it was which had ever urged me on to fresh efforts, fresh conquests over myself, and now made me dissatisfied even with the progress I had made. I knew that I had overcome much, I had struggled hard to improve, and I had risen wonderfully fast, yet in spite of all I was still tormented by the jealous and suspicious feelings which my disposition and my earthly experience had gathered about me.

There were even times when I would begin to doubt the constancy of my beloved herself. In spite of all the many proofs of her love which she had given me, I would fear lest while I was away from her someone yet in the flesh should after all win her love from me.

And thus I was in danger of becoming earth-bound by reason of my unworthy desire to watch her continually. Ah! you who think a spirit has changed all his thoughts and desires at the moment of dissolution, how little you understand of the conditions of that other life beyond the grave, and how slowly, how very slowly we change the habits of thought we have cultivated in our earthly lives or how long they cling to us in the spiritual state.

I was then in character much what I had been on earth, only a little better, only learning by degrees wherein my ideas had been wrong and full of prejudice, a lesson we may go on learning through many spheres, higher than any I had attained to.

Even while I doubted and feared, I was ashamed of my doubts and knew how unjust they were, yet could I not free myself from them; the experiences of my earth life had taught me suspicion and distrust, and the ghosts of that earth life were not so easily laid.

It was while I was in this state of self-torment that Ahrinziman came to me and told me how I might free myself from these haunting shadows of the past.

"There is," said he, "a land not far from here called the Land of Remorse; were you to visit it, the journey would be of much service to you, for once its hills and valleys were passed and its difficulties overcome, the true nature of your earthly life and its mistakes would be clearly realized and prove a great means of progression for your soul. Such a journey will indeed be full of much bitterness and sorrow, for you will see displayed in all their nakedness, the actions of your past, actions which you have already in part atoned for but do not yet see as the eyes of the higher spiritual intelligences see them.

"Few who come over from earth life really realize the true motives which prompted their actions; many indeed go on for years, some even for centuries, before this knowledge comes to them. They excuse and justify to their own consciences their misdeeds, and such a land as this I speak of is very useful for enlightening them. The journey must, however, be undertaken voluntarily, and it will then shorten by years the pathway of progression.

"In that land men's lives are stored up as pictures which, mirrored in the wondrous spiritual atmosphere, reflect for them the reasons of many failures; and show the subtle causes at work in their own hearts which have shaped the lives of each. It would be a severe and keen self-examination through which you would pass--a bitter experience of your own nature, your own self, but though a bitter it is a salutary medicine, and would go far to heal your soul of those maladies of the earth life which like a miasma hang about it still."

"Show me," I answered, "where this land is, and I will go to it."

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« Reply #85 on: December 21, 2008, 05:46:25 pm »

Ahrinziman took me to the top of one of those dim and distant hills which I could see from the window of my little room, and leading me to where we looked down across a wide plain bounded by another range of hills far away, said:

"On the other side of those farther hills lies this wondrous land of which I speak, a land through which most spirits pass whose lives have been such as to call for great sorrow and remorse. Those whose errors have been merely trivial, daily weaknesses such as are common to all mankind, do not pass through it; there are other means whereby they may be enlightened as to the source of their mistakes. This land is more particularly useful to such as yourself, of strong powers and strong will, who will recognize readily and admit freely wherein you have done wrong, and in doing so arise to better things. Like a strong tonic this circle of the sphere would be too much for some weak erring spirits who would only be crushed and overwhelmed and disheartened by the too rapid and vivid realization of all their sins; such spirits must be taught slowly, step by step, a little at a time, while you who are strong of heart and full of courage will but rise the more rapidly the sooner you see and recognize the nature of those fetters which have bound your soul."

"And will it take me long to accomplish this journey?"

No, it will last but a short time--two or three weeks of earth time--for behold as I shadow it forth to you I see following it fast the image of your returning spirit, showing that the two events are not separated by a wide interval. In the spirit world where time is not reckoned by days or weeks or counted by hours, we judge of how long an event will take to accomplish or when an occurrence will happen by seeing how near or how far away they appear, and also by observing whether the shadow cast by the coming event touches the earth or is yet distant from it--we then try to judge as nearly as possible of what will be its corresponding time as measured by earthly standards. Even the wisest of us may not always be able to do this with perfect correctness; thus it is as well for those who communicate with friends on earth not to give an exact date for foreseen events, since many things may intervene to delay it and thus make the date incorrect. An event may be shown very near, yet instead of continuing to travel to the mortal at the same speed it may be delayed or held in suspense, and sometimes even turned aside altogether by a stronger power than the one which has set it in motion."

I thanked my guide for his advice and we parted. I was so very eager to progress that a very short time after this conversation saw me setting forth upon my new journey.

I found my progress not so rapid as had been the case in my previous travels through the spirit land, for now I had taken upon me the full burden of my past sins, and like the load carried by the pilgrim Christian it almost weighed me down to the earth, making my movements very slow and laborious. Like a pilgrim, I was habited in a coarse grey robe, my feet were bare and my head uncovered, for in the spirit world the condition of your mind forms your clothing and surroundings, and my feelings then were as though I wore sackcloth and had put dust and ashes upon my head.

When I had at last crossed those dim far-off hills there lay before me a wide sandy plain--a great desert--in which I saw the barren sands of my earthly life lie scattered. No tree, no shrub, no green thing was there anywhere for the eye to rest upon, no water of refreshment to sparkle before us like hopes of happiness. There was no shade for our weary limbs should we seek for repose. The lives of those who crossed this plain in search of the rest beyond, had been barren of true, pure, unselfish affection and that self-denial which alone can make the desert to blossom like the rose and sweet waters of refreshment to spring up around their paths.

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« Reply #86 on: December 21, 2008, 05:47:02 pm »

I descended to this dreary waste of sand, and took a narrow path which seemed to lead to the hills on the other side. The load I carried had now become almost intolerable to me and I longed to lay it down--but in vain; I could not for one moment detach it. The hot sand seemed to blister my feet as I walked, and each step was so labored as to be most painful. As I passed slowly on there rose before me pictures of my past and of all those whom I had known. These pictures seemed to be just in front of me and to float in the atmosphere like those mirages seen by earthly travelers through the desert.

Like dissolving views they appeared to melt into one another and give place to fresh scenes. Through them all there moved the friends or strangers whom I had met and known, and the long forgotten unkind thoughts and words which I had spoken to them rose up in an accusing array before me--the tears I had made others shed--the cruel words (sharper and harder to bear than any blow) with which I had wounded the feelings of those around me. A thousand hard unworthy thoughts and selfish actions of my past--long thrust aside and forgotten or excused--all rose up once more before me, picture after picture--till at last I was so overwhelmed to see what an array of them there was, that I broke down, and casting my pride to the winds I bowed myself in the dust and wept bitter tears of shame and sorrow. And where my tears fell on the hot dry sand there sprang up around me little flowers like white stars, each little waxy blossom bearing in its heart a drop of dew, so that the place I had sunk down upon in such sorrow had become a little oasis of beauty in that weary desert.

I plucked a few of those tiny blossoms and placed them in my bosom as a memorial of that spot, and then rose to go on again. To my surprise the pictures were no longer visible, but in front of me I beheld a woman carrying a little child whose weight seemed too much for her strength, and it was wailing with weariness and fear.

I hurried up to them and offered to carry the poor little one, for I was touched by the sight of its poor little frightened face and weary drooping head. The woman stared at me for a moment and then put the little one in my arms, and as I covered him over with a part of my robe the poor tired little creature sank into a quiet sleep. The woman told me the child was hers, but she had not felt much affection for it during its life. "In fact," said she, "I did not want a child at all. I do not care for children, and when this one came I was annoyed and neglected it. Then, as it grew older, and was (as I thought then) naughty and troublesome, I used to beat it and shut it up in dark rooms, and was otherwise hard and unkind. At last when it was five years old it died, and then I died not long afterwards of the same fever. Since I came to the spirit world that child has seemed to haunt me, and at last I was advised to take this journey, carrying him with me since I cannot rid myself of his presence."

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« Reply #87 on: December 21, 2008, 05:47:20 pm »

"And do you even yet feel no love for the poor little thing?"

"Well, no! I can't say I have come to love it, perhaps I never shall really love it as some mothers do, indeed I am one of those women who should not be mothers at all--the maternal instinct is, as yet at all events, quite wanting in me. I do not love the child, but I am sorry now that I was not kinder to him, and I can see that what I thought was a sense of duty urging me to bring him up properly and correct his faults, was only an excuse for my own temper and the irritation the care of him caused. I can see I have done wrong and why I did so, but I cannot say I have much love for this child."

"And are you to take him with you through all your journey?" I asked, feeling so sorry for the poor little unloved thing that I bent over him and kissed him, my own eyes growing dim as I did so, for I thought of my beloved on earth and what a treasure she would have deemed such a child, and how tender she would have been to it. And as I kissed him he put his little arms around my neck and smiled up at me in a half-asleep way that should have gone straight to the woman's heart. Even as it was her face relaxed a little, and she said more graciously than she had yet spoken:

"I am only to carry him a little farther I believe, and then he will be taken to a sphere where there are many children like him whose parents do not care about them and who are taken care of by spirits who are fond of children."

"I am glad to think that," I said, and then we trudged on together for a bit farther, till we reached a small group of rocks where there was a little pool of water, beside which we sat down to rest. Presently I fell asleep, and when I awoke the woman and the child had gone.

I arose and resumed my way, and shortly after arrived at the foot of the mountains, which pride and ambition had reared. Hard, rocky, and precipitous was the pathway across them, with scarce foothold to help one on, and ofttimes it seemed as though these rocks reared by selfish pride would prove too difficult to surmount. And as I climbed I recognized what share I had had in building them, what atoms my pride had sent to swell these difficulties I now encountered.

Few of us know the secrets of our own hearts. We so often deem that it is a far nobler ambition than mere self-aggrandisement which inspires our efforts to place ourselves on a higher level than our fellow men who are not so well equipped for the battle of life.

I looked back upon my past with shame as I recognized one great rock after another to be the spiritual emblems of the stumbling blocks which I had placed in the path of my feebler brothers, whose poor crude efforts had once seemed to me only worthy of prompt extinction in the interests of all true art, and I longed to have my life to live over again that I might do better with it and encourage where I had once condemned, help where I had crushed.

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« Reply #88 on: December 21, 2008, 05:47:48 pm »

I had been so hard to myself, so eager ever to attain to the highest possible excellence, that I had never been satisfied with any of my own efforts--even when the applause of my fellows was ringing in my ears, even when I had carried off the highest prizes from all competitors--and so I had thought myself entitled to exact as high a standard from all who sought to study my beautiful art. I could see no merit in the efforts of the poor strugglers who were as infants beside the great master minds. Talent, genius, I could cordially admire, frankly appreciate, but with complacent mediocrity I had no sympathy; such I had had no desire to help. I was ignorant then that those feeble powers were like tiny seeds which though they would never develop into anything of value on earth, would yet blossom into the perfect flower in the great Hereafter. In my early days, when success first was mine, and before I had made shipwreck of my life, I had been full of the wildest, most ambitious dreams, and though in later years when sorrow and disappointments had taught me somewhat of pity for the struggles of others, yet I could not learn to feel true cordial sympathy with mediocrity and its struggles, and now I recognized that it was the want of such sympathy which had piled up high these rocks so typical of my arrogance.

In my sorrow and remorse at this discovery I looked around to see if there might be anyone near me weaker than myself, whom it may not be too late to assist upon his path, and as I looked I saw above me on this hard road a young man almost spent and much exhausted with his effort to climb these rocks, which family pride and an ambition to rank with the noble and wealthy had piled up for him--a pride to which he had sacrificed all those who should have been most dear. He was clinging to a jutting-out portion of rock, and was so spent and exhausted he seemed almost ready to let go and fall.

I shouted to him to hold on, and soon climbed up to where he was, and there with some difficulty succeeded in dragging him up to the summit of these rocks. My strength being evidently double his, I was only too ready to help him as some relief to the remorse I now felt at thinking how many feeble minds I had crushed in the past.

When we reached the top and sat down to rest, I found myself to be much bruised and torn by the sharp stones over which we had stumbled. But I also found that in my struggles to ascend, my burden of selfish pride had fallen from me and was gone, and as I looked back over the path by which I had climbed I clothed myself anew in the sackcloth and ashes of humility, and resolved I would go back to earth and seek to help some of those feebler ones to a fuller understanding of my art. I would seek as far as I could to give them the help of my higher knowledge. Where I had crushed the timid aspiring soul I would now encourage; where my sharp tongue and keen wit had wounded I would strive to heal. I knew now that none should dare to despise his weaker brother or crush out his hopes because to a more advanced mind they seem small and trivial.

I sat long upon that mountain thinking of these things--the young man whom I had helped going on without me. At last I rose and wended my way slowly through a deep ravine spanned by a broken bridge and approached by a high gate, at which many spirits were waiting, and trying by various means to open it in order that they might pass through. Some tried force, others tried to climb over, others again sought to find some secret spring, and when one after another tried and failed some of the others again would seek to console the disappointed ones. As I drew near six or seven spirits who still hovered about the gate drew back, curious to see what I would do. It was a great gate of what looked to me like sheets of iron, though its real nature I do not even now know. It was so high and so smooth, no one could climb it, so solid it was vain to dream of forcing it, so fast shut there appeared no chance of opening it. I stood in front of it in despair, wondering what I should do now, when I saw a poor woman near me weeping most bitterly with disappointment; she had been there some time and had tried in vain to open the gate. I did my best to comfort her and give her all the hope I could, and while I was doing so the solid gate before us melted away and we passed through. Then as suddenly I saw it rise again behind me, while the woman had vanished, and beside the bridge stood a feeble old man bent nearly double. As I was still wondering about the gate a voice said to me, "That is the gate of kind deeds and kind thoughts. Those who are on the other side must wait till their kind thoughts and acts for others are heavy enough to weigh the gate down, when it will open for them as it did for you who have tried so hard to help your fellows."

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« Reply #89 on: December 21, 2008, 05:48:21 pm »

I now advanced to the bridge where the old man was standing, poking about with his stick as if feeling his way, and groaning over his helplessness. I was so afraid he would fall through the broken part without seeing it, that I rushed impulsively forward and offered to help him over. But he shook his head, "No! no! young man, the bridge is so rotten it will never bear your weight and mine. Go on yourself, and leave me here to do the best I can."

"Not so, you are feeble, and old enough to be my grandfather, and if I leave you you will most likely drop through the broken place. Now, I am active and strong, and it will go hard with us if I do not contrive somehow to get us both across."

Without waiting for his reply I took hold of him and hoisted him on to my back, and telling him to hold tight by my shoulders I started to cross the bridge.

Sapristi! what a weight that old man seemed! Sinbad's old man of the sea was a joke to him. That bridge, too, how it creaked, groaned and bent under our weight. I thought we must both be tumbled into the chasm below, and all the time the old man kept imploring me not to drop him. On I struggled, holding with my hands as well as I could, and crawling on all-fours when we reached the worst part. When we got to the middle there was a great ragged hole and only the broken ends of the two great beams to catch hold of. Here I did feel it a difficulty. I could have swung myself across I felt certain, but it was a different thing with that heavy old man clinging to me and half choking me, and a thought did cross my mind that I might have done better to leave him alone, but that seemed so cruel to the poor old soul that I made up my mind to risk it. The poor old man gave a great sigh when he saw how matters stood, and said:

"You had better abandon me after all. I am too helpless to get across and you will only spoil your own chance by trying it. Leave me here and go on alone."

His tone was so dejected, so miserable, I could never have so left him, and I thought to make a desperate effort for us both, so telling him to hold on tight I grasped the broken beam with one hand and, making a great spring, I swung myself over the chasm with such a will we seemed to fly across, and alighted upon the other side unharmed.

As I looked back to see what we had escaped, I cried out in astonishment, for there was no break in the bridge at all, but it was as sound a bridge as ever I saw, and by my side there stood not a feeble old man but Ahrinziman himself, laughing at my astonishment. He put his hand on my shoulder and said:

"Franchezzo, my son, that was but a little trial to test if you would be unselfish enough to burden yourself with a heavy old man when your own chance seemed so small. I leave you now to encounter the last of your trials and to judge for yourself the nature of those doubts and suspicions you have cherished. Adieu, and may success attend you."

He turned away from me and immediately vanished, leaving me to go on alone through another deep valley which was before me.

It lay between two precipitous hills, and was called "The valley of the phantom mists." Great wreaths of grey vapor floated to and fro and crept up the hill sides, shaping themselves into mysterious phantom forms and hovering around me as I walked.

The farther I advanced through the ravine the thicker grew these shapes, growing more distinct and like living things. I knew them to be no more than the thought creations of my earthly life, yet seen in this lifelike palpable form they were like haunting ghosts of my past, rising up in accusing array against me. The suspicions I had nursed, the doubts I had fostered, the unkind, unholy thoughts I had cherished, all seemed to gather round me, menacing and terrible, mocking me and taunting me with the past, whispering in my ears and closing over my head like great waves of darkness. As my life had grown more full of such thoughts, so did my path become blocked with them till they hemmed me in on every side. Such fearful, distorted, hateful-looking things! And these had been my own thoughts, these mirrored the state of my own mind towards others. These brooding spirits of the mist--dark, suspicious, and bewildering--contronted me now and showed me what my heart had been. I had had so little faith in goodness--so little trust in my fellow man. Because I had been cruelly deceived I had said in my haste all men, and women too, are liars, and I had sneered at the weakness and the folly around me, and thought it was always the same thing everywhere, all bitterness and disappointment.

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