To FIND oneself suddenly transformed into a permanent inhabitant of the spirit world is, at first, an overwhelming experience. However much one may have read about the condition of life in the world of spirit, there still remain an almost illimitable number of surprises in store for every soul.
Those of us who have returned to earth to tell about our new life are faced with the difficulty of trying to describe in terms of the earth what is essentially of a spirit nature. Our description must fall short of the reality. It is difficult to conjure up in the mind a state of beauty greater than we have ever experienced upon earth. Magnify by one hundred times the beauties that I have told you about, and you would still be far short of a true appraisement.
A question, therefore, that might come into the minds of not a few people would perhaps be this: What was it that struck you most forcibly and most pleasurably when you first arrived the spirit world, and what were your first impressions?
Let me place myself in the position of one seeking information and interview our old friends, Edwin and Ruth.
Edwin and I, as you will recall, were brother priests when were on earth. Edwin had no knowledge whatever upon the subject of spirit return, beyond what I had tried to give him of my own experiences. He was one of the few who really sympathized with me in my psychic difficulties, one of the few, that is, who did not brandish orthodox church teachings in my face. He has since told me that he is very glad he did not do so. When he was on earth the 'life to come' was a complete mystery to him as it unnecessarily is to many others. He naturally conformed the church's teachings, obeyed its 'commandments', performed his duties, and, as he has since quite frankly admitted, hoped for the best--whatever that best might be.
But his earthly life had not consisted solely of religious exercises he had helped others upon every occasion where help was needed and where he could possibly give it. Those services, unobtrusively performed, had helped him immeasurably when the time came for him to quit the earth world. Those kind actions brought him into the land of beauty and eternal sunshine.
His first impressions upon his awakening in the spirit we were--to use his own words--absolutely breathtaking. He had visualized subconsciously perhaps, some sort of misty state as condition of a future life, where there would be a great deal of 'prayer and praise'. To find himself in a realm of inexpressible beauty, with all the glories of earthly nature purged of its earthliness, refined and eternalized, with the enormous wealth of color all around and about him; to behold the crystal purity of rivers and brooks, with the charm of the country dwellings the grandeur of the city's temples and balls of learning; to findhimself in the centre of all such glories without an inkling of what had thus been in store for him, was to cast doubts upon the veracity of his own eyes. He could not believe that he was not in the midst of some beautiful, but fantastic, dream, from which be would shortly awaken to find himself once again in his old familiar surroundings. He thought how he would relate this dream when he returned to consciousness. Then he considered how it would be received--as very beautiful, no doubt, but just a dream.
And so he stood gazing upon all this wealth of beauty. That, Edwin said, was his first and greatest impression.
He had regarded as part of the same dream all that had gone before, all that had led up to his standing and gazing in wonder upon the scene that stretched out almost unendingly before him. How he had awakened upon a comfortable couch, in a very charming house, to see sitting beside him an old friend, who performed the same office for Edwin as did Edwin for me when he came to meet me.
His friend led him out-of-doors to see the new world. Then came his friend's most difficult task--to convince Edwin that be had 'died' and yet still lived. You see, at first he took his friend and his friend's explanation to be part of the same dream, and he was nervously awaiting for something to happen that would break up the dream into returning earthly consciousness. Edwin admitted that he took some convincing, but his friend was infinitely patient with him.
The instant that he was assured that he was really and truly and permanently in the world of spirit, his heart knew no greater joy, and he proceeded to do what I afterwards did in company with Ruth--travel through the lands of the new life with the luxurious freedom of body and mind that is of the very essence of spirit life in these realms.
What most impressed Ruth upon her first awakening in the spirit world was, she said, the enormous profusion of color.
Her transition had been a placid one, and she had consequently awakened, after a very brief sleep, calmly and gently. As with Edwin, she had then found herself in a delightful house, small, neat and compact, and all her own. An old friend was beside her. ready to help in the inevitable perplexities that accompany so many awakenings in the spirit world.
Ruth is by nature rather reserved, especially, as she said, when it came to talking about herself. In Edwin's case I knew so much of his earth life that it was easy for me to draw upon my own knowledge of him. Ruth, however, I had never seen until we met here upon that occasion beside the lake. After much
Persuasion, I managed to extract from her one or two details concerning her earthly life.
She had never, she said, been an active church-goer, not because she despised the church, but because her own views upon 'hereafter' did not agree with what her own church taught. She saw too much of faith required, and too little of fact being given and altogether she had encountered so much of the troubles and afflictions of others in her daily life that the vague, but real terrifying, picture of the world to come, the dreadful 'Judgment Day' that was so constantly held before her in the church teaching, she instinctively felt to be wrong. The emphasis so strongly upon the word 'sinner' with the almost wholesale condemnation of everyone as such, she also felt to be wrong. She was not foolish enough, she declared, to believe that we as saints, but, at the same rime, we are not all sinners. Of the many people she knew, she could recall none who could ever be branded and condemned in the religious sense. Where, then, were all these people going after they had 'died'?
She could never imagine herself sitting in judgment upon the souls and passing sentence upon them as 'sinners'. It would be preposterous to contemplate, Ruth added, that she could be more 'merciful' than God. It was unthinkable. So she had built for herself a simple 'faith'--a practice that the theologian would at once say was highly dangerous and never for one moment to be encouraged. He would have spoken of the 'peril' in her which 'immortal soul' stood by entertaining such ideas. But Ruth never for an instant considered her 'immortal soul' to 'peril'. Indeed, she went happily along, living her life accordingly to the dictates of her gentle nature, helping others in her life, and bringing a little sunshine into the drab lives of others And she was firmly convinced that when her time came to leave the earth-plane she would take with her into the new life affection of her many friends.
She had no fear of death of the physical body, nor could she imagine it to be the terrifying experience that so many people anticipate and dread. She had no absolute grounds for this believe and she has since concluded that she must have been drawn to it intuitively.
Apart from the glorious colors of the realm in which she found herself, what struck Ruth very forcibly was the astonishing clearness of the atmosphere. There was nothing like it to b seen on earth. The atmosphere was so free from the slightest of mistiness, and her own vision seemed to be so intensified in power and extent, that the enormous range of colors became doubly vivid. She had a naturally keen eye for color, and she had undergone considerable musical training when she was upon earth. When she came into the spirit world these two faculties had combined, and the color and music of the new land had burst upon her with all the luxuriance of their superb beauty.
At first, she could scarcely believe her senses, but her friends had soon explained to her just what had happened, and as she had so few fixed ideas about the future life, so had she so little to unlearn. But, she said, it took her many days of earth time before she could fully grasp or absorb all the wonders that lay around her. When once she had fully realized the significance of her new life, and that all eternity lay before her in which to sample the marvels of this land, she was able to restrain her excitement, and, as she said, 'take things a little more quietly'.
It was while she was in process of the latter that we first met.
Once, when the three of us were seated in the garden pleasantly discussing all manner of things, we espied, walking up the garden path, a figure that was well known to Edwin and myself. He had been our ecclesiastical superior when we were upon the earth-plane, and he was what is known as a 'Prince of the Church'. He was still attired in his customary habiliments, and we were all agreed--when we came to compare notes afterwards--that they eminently suited both the place and the conditions. The full-length style and the rich coloring of the robes seemed to blend most harmoniously with all about us. There was nothing incongruous about it, and as he was at full liberty to wear his robes in the spirit world he had done so; not because of his former position, but through long custom, and because he felt that he thus, in some small measure, helped to add to the colorful beauty of his new habitation.
Now, although the high office, which he held with distinction upon earth, has no counterpart or significance in the spirit world, yet he was well known to many here by name and by sight and by repute. This provided a further good reason for his retaining his earthly style of clothing, at least for the present. But the deference that his position upon earth had always evoked, he utterly cast aside when he came into the world of spirit. He would have none of it, and he was very insistent that all who knew him--and those who did not--should be strictly attentive to his wishes in this respect. He was very much loved when he was incarnate, and it is but natural that, with his advent into spirit lands, those who knew him should show the same respect as before. Respect is one thing, for we all respect each other in these realms; but deference that should be given to others of greater spirituality is another thing altogether. He early recognized this, so he told us, and from my own personal knowledge of his innate humility I could guess that such would be the case with him.
Our first meeting led to others, and many have been the occasions--and we shall enjoy many more--when he has joined Edwin, Ruth and myself, where we have sat in the garden, or gone forth together. It was during one of our peregrinations together that I asked our former superior if he would give me some brief sketch of his first impressions of the spirit world.
What struck him so forcibly when he found himself here was not only the immensity and beauty of the spirit world, but the very description of this world itself in relation to the earth world and most particularly in relation to the life he had left behind him. First of all, there came the feeling, an almost crushing one, of having wasted his earthly life upon seemingly non essentials, irrelevancies and a great deal of useless formularies at formalism. But friends had come to his rescue intellectually, at they had assured him that the time in its personal application had not been wasted, although his life had been encompassed by the pomp and pageantry of his office. However much the latter had engrossed those about him, be had personally never let them become an absorbing factor in his life. He derived much comfort from this reflection.
But what he found to be most mentally disturbing was the invalidity of the doctrines which he had perforce upheld. So many of them were tumbling in ruins about him. But again found friends to guide him. And they did so in a simple and direct manner, such as would appeal to his alert mind, namely to forget the religious teachings of the earthly life and become acquainted with spirit life and its laws. Discard the old, and accept the new. He had therefore made every endeavor to do so, a] he had been completely successful. He swept his mind clear all that had no foundation in truth, and he made the very pleasant discovery that, at last, he was in full enjoyment of absolute spiritual freedom. He found it was so much easier to obey natural laws of the spirit world than to obey the church's 'commandments', and it was very pleasant to be rid of the formalities of his earthly position. He could at last speak with his own voice freely, and not with the voice of the church.
Altogether, said our former superior, he thought that greatest impression upon his arrival in the spirit world was splendid sense of freedom, first of mind and then of body, made so much the greater in the spirit world by the measure its absence in the earth world.