ONE of the innumerable questions that I put to Edwin, shortly after my arrival in the spirit world, concerned the destiny of children who, as such, passed into spirit lands.
There is a period of our earthly lives which we are accustomed to call 'the prime of life'. There is also a prime of life here in spirit, and it is towards that period that all souls either advance or return, according to the age at which their transition takes place. How long it will take rests entirely with themselves, since it is purely a matter of spiritual progression and development, though with the young this period is usually much shorter. Those who pass into spirit after the prime of life period has been reached, whether they be elderly or extremely aged, will, in due time, become younger in appearance, although they will grow older in knowledge and spirituality. It must not be assumed from this that we all eventually reach a dead level of commonplace uniformity. Outwardly, we look young; we lose those signs of the passage of years which cause some of us no little disturbance of mind when we are incarnate. But our minds become older as we gain know ledge and wisdom and greater spirituality, and these qualities of the mind are manifest to all with whom we come into contact.
When we visited the temple in the city, and, from a distance beheld the radiant visitor whom we had come to honor, he presented to the eye the appearance of perfect--and eternal--youth. Yet the degree of knowledge and wisdom and spirituality which he diffused, and which we could feel with our minds, were almost overpoweringly great. It is the same, in varying degrees with all those who visit us from the higher realms, If, therefore there is this rejuvenation of fully grown people, what of the souls who pass over as children; indeed, what of those, even, who pass into the spirit world at birth?
The answer is that they grow as they would have grown upon the earth-plane. But the children here--of all ages--are given such treatment and care as would never be possible in the earth world
The young child, whose mind is not yet fully formed, is uncontaminated by earthly contacts, and on passing into the spirit world it finds itself in a realm of great beauty, presided over by souls of equal beauty. This children's realm has been called 'the nursery of heaven', and surely anyone who has been fortunate enough to have visited it will say that a more apposite term could not be found. It was, therefore, in response to my original question that Edwin proposed that Ruth and I should accompany him on a visit to the nursery of heaven.
We walked towards the boundary between the higher realm and our own, and we turned in the direction of Edwin's house. Already we could feel the atmosphere more rarified, though it was not sufficiently pronounced to cause us any inconvenience or discomfort. I noticed that this atmosphere had a great deal more color in it, much more than in the depths of the realm. It was as though a great number of shafts of light were meeting and spreading their broad beams over all the landscape. These shafts of light were for ever on the move, interweaving themselves and producing the most delicate and delightful blending of color, like a succession of rainbows. They were extremely restful, but they were also filled with vitality and, as it seemed to Ruth and me, lightheartedness and merriment. Sadness and unhappiness, one felt, would be utterly impossible here.
The countryside took upon itself a much brighter green in its verdure, the trees were not so tall, but they were as shapely as every other tree in these realms, and they were growing as perfectly.
After we had proceeded a little distance the atmosphere became clear of the colored beams, and it more resembled that of our own sphere. But there was a strange and subtle difference which was puzzling to the visitor upon his first visit, and it arose, so Edwin told us, from the essential spirituality of the children who live there. Something akin to this is to be encountered when one is privileged to journey to a higher realm than that in which one normally resides. It is almost as though there were a greater degree of buoyancy in the air, apart altogether from a noticeable effect of elevation of the mind.
We saw many fine buildings before us as we walked along the soft grass. They were not of any great height, but they were broad in extent, and they were all most pleasantly situated among trees and gardens. Flowers, needless to say, were growing prolifically everywhere, in artistically-arranged beds, as well as in large masses upon the grassy slopes and beneath the trees. I noticed that in some instances flowers that have their counterpart upon the earth-plane, were growing by themselves, those that were proper to the spirit world being separated from them. We were told that there was no special significance in this segregation, but that it was done solely to show the distinction between the two classes of flowers, the spirit and the earthly. Beautiful as the earthly flowers are that grow here, there can be no comparison with those that belong alone to spirit lands. Here again one is limited by earthly experience in any attempt to describe them. Not only are the colorings richer, but the conformations of the flowers and foliage present such an abundance of unparalleled beauty of design that we have no earthly example to adduce by way of comparison. But it must not be supposed that these magnificent flowers remotely suggested the rare hot-house bloom. Far from it. The superabundance of them, together with the great strength and variety of their perfumes, would instantly dispel any thought of rarity. It was no case of cultivating the beauty of the bloom at the expense of its perfume. They all possessed the quality common to all growing things here, that of pouring out energizing force, not only through the medium of their aromas, but through personal contact. I had already tried the experiment of holding a flower within the cupped hands--it was Ruth who had instructed me--and I had felt the stream of life-force flowing up my arms.
We could see delightful ponds and small lakes, upon the surface of which were flourishing the most beautiful water flowers in the gayest colors. In another direction we could see larger expanses of water like a series of lakes, with many small boats gliding serenely along.
The buildings were constructed of a substance that had all the appearance of alabaster, and they were all tinged with the most delicate colors, such as one is accustomed to seeing in the subtle blendings of an earthly rainbow. The style of architect resembled, for the most part, that of our own sphere; that is to say, some of the buildings bore upon their surface the most exquisite carvings of such natural objects as abound in the trees and flowers, while others drew for their relief upon the none features particular to the spirit world.
But what gave us the most enjoyable surprise, was to see interspersed throughout the woods, the quaintest little cottages such as one was always inclined to believe only belonged to the pages of children's story-books. Here were diminutive houses with crooked timbers--beautifully crooked--with bright red roofs at lattice-windows, and each with a charming little garden, all there own, surrounding it.
It will at once be concluded that the spirit world has borrowed from the earth world in these fanciful creations for the children delight, but such is not the case. In truth, this whole concept of miniature houses emanated, in the first instance, from the spit world. Whoever was the artist who received our original impression, she has been lost to the earth world through the course the years. That artist is known to us here, though, where she continues her work in the children's sphere.
These little houses were large enough to allow a grown person plenty of room in which to move without appearing to knock his head! To the children they seemed to be of just the right size without their feeling lost within them. I learnt that it was for this same reason that all the large buildings in this realm were without any appreciable height. By thus not making them too high, nor the rooms too large, they conformed with the child's mind, as yet not fully formed, where spaces seem greater than they really are and where buildings too spacious would have the effect upon the little mind of seeming to dwarf it.
Great numbers of children live in these tiny dwellings, each being presided over by an older child, who is perfectly capable of attending to any situation that might arise with the other residences.
As we walked along we could see groups of happy children, some playing games with their fellows, others seated upon the grass while a teacher was reading to them. Others, again, were to be observed listening attentively and with marked interest to a teacher who was explaining the flowers to them, and giving them something of a lesson in botany. But it was botany of a very different order from that of the earth-plane, in so far as the purely spirit flowers were concerned. The distinctions between the earthly flowers and the spirit flowers were amply demonstrated by the two orders of flowers being separated.
Edwin took us to one of the teachers, and explained the reason of our visit. We were instantly made welcome and the teacher was kind enough to answer a few questions. Her enthusiasm for her work added to her pleasure, she said, in telling us anything we wished to know. As to herself, she had been in the spirit world a goodly number of years. She had had children of her own when upon the earth-plane, and she was still keenly interested in their welfare, and that had led her to take on her present work. So much she told us at herself. it was not very informative, and we knew as much without her having to tell us! What she did not tell us--it was Edwin who later gave us the details--was that she had made such a success with her own children upon earth, who now joined their mother in her work, that it had been obvious from the commencement just what her work would be in spirit lands. Needless to say, it was the very work upon which she had set her heart--the care of children.
It needed no one to tell us that she was admirably suited for such work. She radiated that charm and confidence, kindliness and mirthfulness of nature that so appealed to the children. She understood the child mind--she was, in fact, just a grown-up child herself! She possessed a wide knowledge of the most interesting things, especially of those things that appeal most to children; she had an inexhaustible fund of capital stories for her small charges, and, most important of all, she could be--and showed herself to be--at one with them. I do not think we had as yet seen anyone so superlatively happy as this gracious soul.
In this sphere, our new friend told us, there were to be found children of all ages, from the infant, whose separate existence upon the earth-plane had amounted to only a few minutes, or who even had had no separate existence at all, but had been born 'dead', to the youth of sixteen or seventeen years of earth time.
It frequently happens that as the children grow up they remain in this same sphere, and themselves become teachers for a period, until other work takes them elsewhere.
And what of the parents? Were they ever the teachers of their own children? Seldom, or never, our friend informed us. It was a practice that would scarcely ever be feasible, since the parent would be more inclined to be prejudiced in favor of her own child, and there might be other embarrassments. The teachers are always souls of wide experience, and there are not many parents upon the earth-plane who would be capable of undertaking the care of spirit children immediately upon the transition of the former. Whether the teachers were themselves parents upon the earth-plane or not, they all undergo an extensive course of training before they are adjudged fit to fill the post of teacher to the children, and to conform with, and uphold, the rigidly high standards of the work. And, of course, they must all be temperamentally fitted to hold the position of teacher.
The work is not arduous, as you would judge it in the earth world, but it demands a multiplicity of special attributes.
The mental and physical growth of the child in the spirit world is much more rapid than in the earth world. You will recall what I told you about the absolute retentiveness of the memory here. That retentiveness begins as soon as the mind is capable of grasping anything at all, and that is very early. This seeming precocity is perfectly natural here, because the young mind absorbs knowledge evenly. The temperament is carefully guided along purely spirit lines, so that the possession of knowledge in one so young never takes upon it the obnoxiousness of earthly precocious ness. The children are trained in strictly spirit matters first, and then they are usually taught about the earth world, if they have not already lived in it, or if their earthly lives were very brief.
The ruler of the realm acts, in a general sense, in loco parentis, and all the children, indeed, look upon him as a father.
The children's studies have an extremely wide range. They are taught to read, but many other subjects of the earthly curricula are entirely omitted as being superfluous in the world of spirit. It would be more exact to say that the children are given knowledge of a particular subject rather than taught it.
As they grow they are able to choose for themselves the type of work that appeals to them, and so by specializing in their studies the children can become equipped with the necessary qualifications. Some of them, for instance, elect to return to the earth-plane temporarily to work with us in the exercise of communication, and they make highly efficient instruments, and thoroughly enjoy their visits. Such visits have the advantage of adding widely to their experience. It increases their depth of understanding of the trials and tribulations--and the pleasures--of being incarnate.
There is always one question that arises in the minds of earth people in connexion with children who have passed on: Shall we be able to recognize our children when we ourselves arrive in the spirit world? The answer is, most emphatically, yes, beyond all shadow of doubt. But how, if they have grown up in the spirit world and out of our sight, can that possibly be? To answer that, it is necessary to know a little more about one's self.
You must know that when the physical body sleeps, the spirit body temporarily withdraws from it, while still remaining connected to it by a magnetic cord. This cord is the veritable life-line between the spirit body and the earth body. The spirit thus situated will either remain in the vicinity of the earth body, or it will gravitate to that sphere which its earthly life, so far, has entitled it to enter. The spirit body will thus spend part of the lifetime of the earthly body in spirit lands. And it is upon these visits that one meets relatives and friends who have passed on before, and it is similarly upon these visits that parents can meet their children, and thus watch their growth. In the majority of cases the parents are not allowed within the children's own sphere, but there are plenty of places where such meetings can take place. Remembering what I have said about the retentiveness of the subconscious mind, you will see that, in such cases, the problem of recognizing a child does not arise, because the parent has seen the child and observed its growth throughout the whole of the intervening years, in just the same way as the parent would have done if the child had remained in the earth world.
There must be, of course, a sufficient bond of attachment between the parent and child, or else this law will not come into operation. Where such does not exist the conclusion is obvious. That link of affection or kindly interest must also exist between all human relationships in the spirit world, whether it be with husband and wife, parent and child, or between friends. Without that interest or affection it is problematical whether there would ever be any meeting at all, except fortuitously.
The children's realm is a township in itself, containing everything that great minds, inspired by the greatest Mind, could possibly provide for the welfare, comfort, and education, and the pleasure and happiness of its youthful inhabitants. The halls of learning are as fully equipped as are those larger establishments in our own sphere. Indeed, in many respects, they are more so, since they have all the equipment for the diffusion of knowledge and learning to those who are possessed of neither in the slightest degree, and who must therefore start at the very beginning, as they would have done had they remained upon the earth-plane. This concerns those children who have passed into the spirit world in their extreme infancy. Children who leave the earth world in their early years will continue their studies from where they left off, eliminating from the latter all that are of no further use, and adding those that are spiritualistic ally essential. As soon as they reach a suitable age,, the children can choose their future work, and study for it accordingly. What that work can be, I will recount to you later.
The whole question of infant survival had puzzled me considerably when I was incarnate. Ruth said she had no ideas upon the matter whatever, beyond supposing that children must survive, because she felt intuitively that grown people did so. The survival of the one would pro-suppose the survival of the other in a world of anything like law and order--which she presumed the spirit world to be.
Edwin was as perplexed as I was. You can imagine our surprise, then, when we were introduced into the children's realm, to behold the more than adequate provision made for the young folk who have passed into spirit lands in their tender years. It is a provision instituted under the greatest and wisest dispensation--that of the Father, Himself--involving no creeds or belief, no doctrines or dogmas, no ritual or formulary. It involves nothing more, in fact, but the plain act of undergoing the 'death' of the physical body, and the operation of the same laws that govern us all, whether infants or aged--just the casting off of the physical body, and entering, for all time, the world of spirit.
And the children, as might be expected, have the same opportunities, the same rights to their spiritual heritage as we all have here, young and old.
And we ail have the same great goal--perfect and perpetual happiness.