CHAPTER XVIII FROM DEATH’S SLEEP
“By what right do you presume to compel my presence in this house?” The room was in absolute darkness; the voice of one called by the world, “dead,” trembling with anger broke upon the stillness of the night.
“Do you understand the situation in which you find yourself?” I asked.
“I do not, and will not allow any man to dictate to me,” he replied.
“You are not afraid?” I said.
“Afraid ! I am not afraid of God or man, and I will not remain here.”
“It might be to your advantage if you would,”
I answered. “I did not force you to come. You are as much a stranger to me as I am to you.” “Who did force me to come?” he asked. “I do not know; tell me about it.”
“As it comes to me now,” he answered, “an irresistible force seemed to urge me from a dreamlike condition. Suddenly I was awake, in your presence, and immediately concluded that in some manner you controlled my conduct. That I cannot permit.”
“You are mistaken there, but does it not occur to you that some great good may come of this meeting?” I inquired.
“I cannot in any way understand your suggestion,” the stranger said, “or see how any good can come of an enforced conference. If you did not bring me, who did? I had no desire to come, nor do I wish to remain. This house and its surroundings are unfamiliar to me. With your permission, I will retire.”
“Before you go,” I said, “I should like to have you know something of the work we are doing, which may account for your coming.”
“Well, sir, finding myself in this unfamiliar situation I will not be lacking in courtesy,” he said.
“For many years,” I replied, “I have been engaged in psychical research, with this psychic who sits opposite me, trying to obtain a practical solution of that great physical change called death.”
“What has that to do with me? I am not dead nor am I interested in the subject,” he answered.
“Wait a moment, please. You will be interested when I tell you that I have discovered something of the daily life and environment of the individual after he has ceased to be an inhabitant of the earth-plane.”
“You are entirely mistaken in your statements; there is no survival – no continuity of life. Death is the end.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely,” he replied.
“Suppose,” I answered, “I could prove to you here and now, that death, so-called, is but a physical change, the separation of the life-force from the flesh garment, that substance with which it is clothed during its journey on this plane – suppose I could demonstrate here and now that the individual has a spirit body composed of matter with form, features, and expression during his entire earth-life, and at dissolution simply becomes an inhabitant of the next plane of consciousness with the same spirit body, is in short, the same identical man.”
“There is no such thing as life after death,” he said.
“I am going to try to explain what life is, before I give you the absolute proof of what I state. Now follow me. At the moment of conception, an Atom of the Universal Force called ‘Good’ is clothed with substance vibrating more slowly than the life-force clothed. The individual is as perfect at that moment as the giant oak in the heart of the acorn. We cannot see the individual or the oak tree before or after birth and growth. Life-force vibrates so fast that it is not visible to the physical eye, but ultimately we see the outer covering, that substance which makes both possible. This outer garment of the individual is composed largely of water. The physical body of ours changes once in seven years at least, but with such change we retain individuality, form, and feature. How is this done?” I asked.
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” he answered.
“Follow me a little farther, please. This entity, this life-force, this individuality, this soul, this ‘us,’ if you like, is composed of matter, differing only from the flesh substance in its vibratory condition. This accounts for its permanency of form, but no physical eye ever saw or ever will see this self, this spirit form, this soul, so-called, unless possessed of the psychic sight with which, speaking generally, few are endowed. Without it one individual can never see the spirit form of another while an inhabitant of this earth. We are conscious only of physical expression, and sound. Now in dissolution from accident or physical weakness, the body covering that is visible to us is no longer fit for habitation; then the separation, dissolution- death so-called-occurs; the individual through a natural process releases itself from the flesh garment, and stands forth the same man or woman as before, though invisible to the inhabitants of earth. They see but the old flesh body that housed the spirit. They could not, as I have said, see the true self before, nor can they see it after dissolution, because of the intensity, because of the rapidity of the vibration of the etheric body, for our eyes are limited as to motion, as well as to distance.”
“That is all very well, but what has it to do with me? I am not dead,” he answered.
“If you will be patient I will lead up to the personal application. When one has gone through this death change, one of two conditions may follow; we may never for a moment lose consciousness – it is then just good night to the old and good morning to the new environment. This usually follows a respectable life. The man is the same still, nothing subtracted from or added to his personality, and in the mirror of Nature he sees himself with the same outlines, the same expression, the same thoughts, the same attachments, still a material body dissociated from the flesh covering, the same spirit form that has been his during his journey in the world. But he then appreciates that his body is lighter and more transparent than the flesh substance he has been accustomed to look upon, and he does not resist muscular effort as he did in the old covering; then but for the assurance of friends and relatives who assist in the change, as at earth-birth, and explain to the quickening consciousness, many would be afraid. There is this great difference in the two births. When this atom of life-force first becomes individual, an inhabitant of the earth plane, it possesses instinct but no intelligence; it continues to develop, with no knowledge of its previous existence. It could have none, for it came from the mass of universal life forces. The next great change is similar except that the individual retains all previous development; he knows little more of the laws governing, and the means available to aid his progression than an infant.
On the other hand, those who have led unclean earth-lives, who have been selfish, immoral, and have committed crimes against man and Nature, may not soon awaken; if they do, they find themselves in mental darkness, in a prison of their own building, and there they remain until a desire comes from within for better things. Then the way will be shown by spirit people engaged in such charitable work.
At the beginning, each awakening spirit is told that each wrong act done in earthlife must be lived over, that as he works he will encounter like conditions under which the wrong was done, and in the new life he must correct the error in the old in order to advance. I recall that an inhabitant of the next plane once said:
‘The justice that meets a naked soul on the threshold of the afterlife is terrible in its completeness.’
“I cannot accept a word you say about a life after death. There is no other life – there can be none – a man dies like a dog,” said the visitor.
“That is true in a sense,” I said, “for the life force and individuality both go on. You cannot destroy an atom of matter, you will admit; so if life-force is matter, that cannot be destroyed.”
“This is all very strange talk, but why speak on such a subject to me? I am not dead; if I were and there is life beyond the grave, I should not be here talking to you.”
“I have talked just as I am talking to you with many who have made that change,” I said.
“Do you mean to tell me you have talked to dead people?”
“I did not say that; I said that I had talked to those who have made the change called death.
There is, in reality, no death; there are no dead.”
“Talk sense,” he retorted, “we have all seen dead people, have seen their bodies buried, and you tell me there are no dead.”
Again I said, “You fail to understand what I have been telling you. We bury the physical bodies but not the spirit bodies; one is just as material as the other.”
“I don’t comprehend you, and I don’t care to continue the discussion. I think I will say goodnight.”
“Just a moment, and I will demonstrate the fact. Did I not tell you a moment ago that I had talked with many so-called dead?”
“Yes,” he answered, “but I did not take what you said seriously; I made up my mind on that subject long ago.”
“Now to begin the proof – do you know where you are at this moment? Tell me if you know.”
“I don’t seem to know. This is not my home; the room is strange to me; you are strange too. It is all unreal. Can you explain the situation in which I find myself?
“Listen to me. This frail little woman, over eighty years old, who sits opposite me, is the most gifted psychic in the world. More than twenty years ago it was discovered that under favorable psychic conditions such as prevail tonight we could have speech with spirit people.”
“It can’t be possible,” he said.
“The suggestion,” I replied, “is so far beyond the experience of man, that I am not surprised at your inability to comprehend the fact. Wait ! Having such means of communication, we have not only learned much of the future state, but, acting in conjunction with a group of people in the next life, we have been able to bring many to a state of consciousness, after the death change, in quasimaterial, quasi-spiritual conditions, such as prevail here tonight; and when we are doing work of this character, many out of the body are brought for help by their friends, as you have been, that they may comprehend their situation.”
“But I am not one of these; the suggestion is absurd, I tell you. I am as much alive as you, and my body is quite as substantial as yours,” he said.
“Hold up your hand as I do mine, and see if there is any difference between the two.”
“Yes,” he answered, “there is a difference, I now discover. Yours is opaque, but mine is transparent. I can see right through my hand. Is this hypnotic suggestion?”
“No,” I said, “you are facing new conditions tonight. Do you know that we sit in intense darkness and cannot see you, although we hear your voice distinctly?”
“I know,” he answered, “that it is not dark, for I can see you, and if I can see you, you can see me; but never mind that; what is the matter with my body? I think now I have been very ill, and one always looks as I do after long sickness,” he replied.
“Speaking of illness, what do you recall about your last illness?”
“My memory seems hazy, but it is coming back to me. I recall lying on a bed, the physician waiting, my wife and children sobbing. The doctor said, ‘he is passing now.’ That did give me a start; there were some who would like to see me dead – but I fooled them – for I did not die. If I had died, how could I be here?”
“What do you know about death?” I said.
“I don’t know anything about it, and I don’t want to.”
“But when that time comes to you, you will be obliged to know, whether you desire to or not,” I replied.
“Well, I am willing to wait, and I don’t want to talk about it. I never did.”
“Suppose I tell you that you have already made that change.”
“It would be foolish to tell me such a thing when I am here talking to you.”
“Suppose I now prove it to you. Those in spirit life co-operate with me in this work and are often able to bring to the stranger those whom he has known in earth-life, and face to face and voice to voice, the proposition proves itself.”
“I tell you,” he said, “there are no dead people, and if there were, I don’t want to see them.”
“You are not afraid?”
“No,” he answered, “but I don’t want to see them. I have enough trouble with the living without bothering with the dead.”
“Is there no one in the next life with whom you would like to talk if you could? Remember that your sickness may have ended in dissolution; your body is different, and you know you find yourself in a strange city.”
“Things have changed, but I don’t want to see or talk to dead people.”
“You find life so material, so like the earth life, that I believe no method but actual experience will convince you that you have left the mortal state, and that lesson must be learned. You have been so intent on our conversation, I think that you have not looked around-look, what do you see?”
“My God ! People, people, people ! All strangers, and all looking at me, all with bodies like my own; what strange hallucination is this? Where am I? What am l?”
“You are no longer an inhabitant of this world but are actually living in the afterlife. Are there none you know among those you see, who, to your knowledge, are counted among the dead, so called?” I asked.
“Not one, but wait, there comes – John – my old partner. Why does he, of all men, come? He is dead. I helped bury him. I was his executor. Take him and that woman and the boy away. I won’t see them, I tell you. They are dead, all dead. They are coming to arrest me. How can they, when they are all dead? Tell me, tell me tell me quick.”
“What wrong did you do?” I asked.
“Wrong? Who said I did them any wrong? I was faithful to the trust.”
In answer another spirit spoke. “No, you were not faithful. You stole the money entrusted to you for my wife and child, and left them to suffer. There never was, and never can be a secret in the world. When you kept from my loved ones that which I left for their support and let them die in want, I saw, and all your friends in spirit life saw your act and the working of your mind.”
“No secret in the world? My crime known ! The dead alive ! Have I, too, left my physical body to find life when I thought to find oblivion? Am I to meet all those I have wronged? I cannot face the future ! Darkness is gathering ! I am falling ! God help me !”
The voice faltered, struggled for further speech, and was lost. The gross material that clothed his organs of respiration, disintegrated, and he spoke no more.
We had participated in one of the most remarkable experiences that it has been the privilege of man to have. We had talked with one who had left the physical body, and witnessed his awakening.