CHAPTER XIX THE IMAGINATION
About me is the Canadian wilderness, vast and impenetrable. I have come across the American border into the forest as I always do when the days grow long. I am far from the trodden ways of men in a place where one can feel the heart beat of the Universe. In the splendid silence I am able to think deeply and clearly.
The house of logs, surrounded by broad verandas, is built upon a point of land extending some little way into the lake; about the cabin, pines and silver birch trees give grateful shade when the sun is high. To the left are islands covered with hemlock and embracing vines; to the south and across the neck of the deep bay is the rock-bound shore of the mainland; and to the northwest there are woods and ragged rocks, lakes and rivers, and beyond, prairies just as Nature left them before men came out of savagery. The winds, enriched among the trees with those properties that give health, sweep across the point on which the cabin stands on their way down the great valley of the St. Lawrence. Long deep breaths of such pure air fill one’s blood with oxygen, purifying it till it grows red, and the nerve fluid ceases to be agitated.
There are voices in these silent places. One may not understand them, but knowing that life whenever found has intelligence, the fact of language must stand admitted. The furtive folk are no less dumb than the deaf-mute; yet who can say that they, denied a speaking tongue, do not communicate by motion with as much freedom as our own deaf-mutes? The ability to communicate each with the other is not denied the insect life or the furtive folk. The wild flowers upon the river bank, the reeds in the marshes, the young trees, children of the parent pine, and the oak and maple rearing their heads into the concave sky must have language or means of communicating with each other; otherwise the scheme of the Universe is a failure. Why should life be created, allowed to develop and progress, and be denied speech? I cannot comprehend life in any form without language. With my conception of life-force the environment is wonderful.
In the stillness of the night, the forest awakes.
The lazy sound of bees, those workers of the day, is no longer heard. The gulls that have sailed through the blue sky from early morn searching for food have gone back into the little lakes, far from the presence of man, and rest on the bosom of the waters with their young. But the workers of the night are awaking; there is a splash, a mink is swimming around the point playing; there is a breaking of branches as the deer come down to drink. I hear a soft foot fall, as the denizens of the forest range for food. Now comes the night song of the whip-poor-will, and I feel in my face the wind made by the black bat’s wings. The frogs croak and call to one another from pool and marsh and from the river bank, and then comes the stir among the trees and growing shrubs and embracing vines .
No, I don’t understand their speech, nor could I understand the speech of the ancient Chaldeans, but if they talked in my presence I should know it. I know that as the winds sough through trees and vines, swaying the branches and needles of the majestic pines, the sounds produced are as varying as the speech of man.
How beautiful is the morning near to Nature’s heart ! Every blade of grass that grows in the clearing as well as the undergrowth in the forest is wet with dew and glistens in the sun.
All is still, the waters mirror the rocks and trees along the wooded shore, the loon gives a startled cry, goes down into the deep, and sets in motion upon the surface of the waters circles which we are told never cease.
I went by canoe with my guide to explore some distant lakes. We had crossed the divide and fished in waters that had seldom mirrored the face of man, and as we glided along the indented shore, deer feeding in the rushes leaped from the water and disappeared; from the bushes a fox with cunning eyes and upraised foot watched us as we passed; from the deep, the black bass leaped, and down in the clear waters the muskellunge swam lazily over the bars. A dinner on the shore among the sturdy pines and hemlocks, the crackling fire, savory bacon and aromatic coffee to satisfy the appetite, made strong with effort – such was yesterday – and returning home as the sun disappeared in the golden West, having taken a plunge in the waters of the lake, I sat down in a great chair on the veranda to rest. Soon the purple twilight came, and with it the silence like the benediction that falls between toil and sleep, and then the psychic hour when one sends his thoughts out into the great beyond.
I was weary, and musing on the marvelous experiences that had been mine, my thoughts went out to my own, in the afterlife, and to the many new friends and acquaintances I have made among such people. There was harmony between the eye and brain, the tints between earth and sky become neutral. I looked lazily upon the waters, at the islands and down the long bay, and as I mused, there fell upon my senses music so distant as hardly to be perceptible. Was it music at all? I listened again; it seemed to be in a valley among the hills. I could not believe my senses; it was distinct yet not distinct; it sounded like a great orchestra of string and reed instruments played by master hands, and with it the gentle wind among the trees and all the voices of Nature seemed to blend in one great whole; it approached with soft cadence and then receded, passing back into the silence where it was lost.
Looking again, I saw that the harvest moon, which had just risen over the trees, made a bright and shining path across the lake, and as I watched the waters play and sparkle in that light I was astonished to see a bridge from the farther shore across the narrow bay leading straight to the point on which my cabin stood; it was as perfect in outline as the one suspended across Niagara’s Gorge, with the exception that while definite in outline, it was light and almost transparent; the entire structure seemed made of soft, filmy, radiant material, definite yet indefinite. As I watched, I saw some one approaching over the bridge. Soon I beheld the outline of a woman’s form, and beside her a young boy, holding her hand. Was this a dream? Startled, I aroused myself, and beads of perspiration came out upon my forehead. I felt the chair and tightened my hold, I looked up and dimly saw the stars and constellations in the sky, and the islands in the lake. I saw again the bridge of light and those who were coming nearer. I shut my eyes, and all the moonlight, the waters, and the islands in the waters were blotted out, all gone but the bridge of light and those who were upon it.
I was alone in this great forest. Afraid? one asks – yes, at first until I appreciated that I saw not with the physical eye, but through my senses. I was looking into the invisible. I had come to know long ago that the dead so-called were my friends; so there was naught to fear, and I waited for their coming. So distinct was the woman that I saw her dress of white-flowing garments like the Greeks wore in the days of Pericles, – then her face, and as it became visible, I half started to my feet, for it was the smiling face of my mother. I observed her features – and how her hair fell in folds about her ears; her face was just as in the old days, except that age and the lines of care had disappeared, and as I look she seemed to know that I had recognized her and had noticed the child. As the two came nearer, a light different from anything I had ever seen shone in the child’s face and through his hair; he waved his hand laughing, and still the two came toward me in the path of the moonlight.
I realized that I was having an experience entirely new and that it was important to make my observations with great care. I took long deep breaths and waited. My mother and the child reached the point on which the bridge rested and stepped upon the shore, and up the sandy path toward the cabin, so near now that every detail of face and form was visible, and I knew the child was my son, who went out into the afterlife in infancy, but who had now grown to about the age of five years. My pulse was beating fast, as my heart pounded under the excitement. I was no longer composed, for all my love and longing for my mother and my son swept over me; I started to my feet and down the steps to meet those who came with laughing eyes and smiling lips, my hands outstretched, but as I touched them, they seemed to dissolve and were gone.
I was upon the shore alone; the soft wind stirred the branches. I walked down to the water which was still sparkling in the path of the moonlight, but the bridge was gone, and those who came upon it. This had been no dream, for not for one moment had I slept, nor did sleep come before the dawn crept into the eastern sky.
Experiences little less strange come to others. While Mr. W., we will call him, – one of the most brilliant lawyers in America,-was examining a woman as a witness in the trial of an action some months ago in the Court House in Buffalo, she gasped, fell back in her chair, and was dead. Mr. W., wholly without imagination and painfully material, told me, and I have not the slightest doubt of his veracity, that when he saw his client gasp and fall back in her chair, he rushed toward her, and as he did so, he saw, and plainly saw, a shadow-like substance having the form and outline of the witness emerge from the body and move away. I cite this fact to show that others have had experiences similar to my own, though perhaps not so perfect in detail.
Months have elapsed since I sat upon the veranda about the log cabin in the Canadian wilderness and saw the etheric bridge and two of the inhabitants of the afterlife, but the impression the memory – will never be dimmed in the years to come. Today it is more distinct than any incident of my life, and now you ask, as I have asked – “What was it?”
At a subsequent time when occasion was presented, I asked a member of our spirit-group to give an explanation of what had occurred. In answer he said:
“I am familiar with the occurrence because I was present. It was an object lesson. We wanted you to see something of the actual conditions prevailing in this afterlife, as you call it, so that you could more clearly describe it, and through you, others could obtain some little appreciation of what waits beyond the physical. Before I answer your question in detail, I want to say again, and it cannot be repeated too often, that the body that you see and touch is but the housing, or garment worn by another body, the etheric or spirit body, which is just as much substance as the flesh, but so refined, intense, and so high in vibration that the physical eye cannot see it or the hand feel it. Now in death, so-called, the etheric body leaves the physical housing, ceases to live on the physical plane, and becomes an inhabitant of this plane where everything is etheric, matter simply vibrating more rapidly than such substance as is seen ordinarily by men. We repeat this proposition to you, and you should repeat it to others as often as occasion is presented, because it is entirely new in physics, and so beyond the world’s teaching that even with oft-repeated telling it will be found difficult of comprehension. It was with this end in view that great effort was made to give you the demonstration which we did.
“In further answer to your question,” said the member of the spirit group, “you must know, that there is no such thing as imagination, as that word is generally used. Your dictionaries define it as ‘the image-making power of the mind; the power to create or reproduce ideally an object previously perceived; the power to call up mental images.’ There must exist the sun before there can be the shadow, the real must precede the imitation, there must be the original before the copy, the subject before the photograph. One cannot imagine something that has no existence in Nature. The imagination must have something basic. The etheric mental lines or waves of the mind ordinarily move at will in and about the unknown land, and through the sub-conscious brain get impressions and suggestions, usually intangible and indefinite. Such wandering of the mind not being understood, an entirely false conception is obtained of the mental operation. Everything in the Universe is real, is material, and the groping of the mind in the mental plane, is called imagination, the word itself being derived from image, reflection, the likeness of something else. All this leads up to your personal experience. What you saw actually existed, the bridge was real, and the mother and the little son actually crossed, and came to you as you relate.
But you did not see with your physical eye; you were alone in the great forest, and around you all was natural; there was perfect harmony between you and your environment; your thought was passive, and we, coming in close contact with your brain, touched and quickened or rather sensitized your psychic sense, and by that process you saw more surely than would have been possible with the physical eye. It is only on rare occasions that it is given to one without psychic sight fully developed to look into the invisible, and it may never come to you again. The bridge you saw was composed of etheric substance, actual and real, constructed by mental operations, rather than by the hands. The mind can only fashion gross matter into form by use of the hands, but etheric forms may be fashioned and changed by mental operation alone, and those whom you saw were your own; they had bodies, etheric bodies, and they were clothed in etheric garments. As you know, they are not lost, but live and progress in this, the mental sphere, waiting until the period of your development in the physical is completed. Then will come the reunion, the meeting, and, together, life everlasting.”
When will the mind grasp the proposition that all natural changes planned by the Master Intelligence mean progress – when shall we as a people be able to look upon the last great change understandingly, when shall we become big enough to think of the opportunity given to the one who goes forth, instead of thinking of our temporary loss? If the world would only comprehend that death means living on in more splendid environment, and that those who have gone forth continue to live in a world no less material than this, the burden of sorrow and the awful fear of what is called death would pass from the human heart. Ignorance is the parent of fear. What matters it whether one goes out this year or next? In the afterlife time does not exist, and progress is eternal.