THERE is a very bright and beautiful sphere of the spirit world which has been given the picturesque and most apposite title the 'Summerland'.
The dark regions might almost be called the 'Winterland', but for the fact that the earthly winter possesses a grandeur all its own while there is nothing but abomination about the lower realms of the spirit world.
So far I have only touched briefly upon the dark realms, taking you just within the threshold, but in company with Edwin and Ruth, I have actually penetrated deeply into those regions.
It is not a pleasant subject, but I have been advised that the facts should be given, not with the intention of frightening people that is not the spirit world's methods or aims--but to show that such places exist solely by virtue of an inexorable law, the law of cause and effect, the spiritual reaping that succeeds the earthly sowing; to show that to escape moral justice upon the earth-plane is to find strict and unrelenting justice in the spirit world.
As we proceed slowly from our own realm towards these dark lands, we shall find a gradual deterioration taking place in the countryside. The flowers become scanty and ill-nourished, giving the appearance of a struggle for existence. The grass is parched and yellow, until, with the last remnants of sickly flowers, it final disappears altogether, to be superseded by barren rocks. The light steadily diminishes until we are in a grey land, and then comes the darkness--deep, black, impenetrable darkness; impenetrable, that is, to those who are spiritually blind. Visitors from a higher realm can see in this darkness without themselves being seen by the inhabitants, unless it becomes vitally necessary so to indicate their presence.
Our visits have carried us to what we verily believe to be lowest plane of human existence.
We began the decent by passing through a belt of mist which we encountered as the ground became hard and barren. The light rapidly dwindled, dwellings were fewer and fewer, and there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Great tracts of granite rocks stretched out before us, cold and forbidding, and the road we followed was rough and precipitous. By now, darkness had enshrouded us, but we could still see in the dark, and when one first undergoes it there seems to be an air of unreality about it. But, indeed, it is real enough.
As we climbed down through one of the numerous fissures in the rocks, I could see and feel the loathsome slime that covered the whole surface of them, a dirty green in color and evil smelling. There was, of course, no danger of our falling. That would be impossible for any dwellers in these realms.
After we had journeyed downwards for what seemed to be a great distance--I should imagine it to have been of one mile of earthly measurement, at least--we found ourselves in a gigantic crater, many miles in circumference, whose sides, treacherous and menacing, towered above us
The whole of this area was interspersed with huge masses of rock, as though some enormous landslide or cataclysm had disrupted them from the upper rim of the crater and sent them hurtling down into the depths below, there to scatter themselves in every direction, forming natural caverns and tunnels.
In our present position we were well above this sea of rocks, and we observed a dull cloud of poisonous vapor rising from it, as though a volcano were below and upon the point of erupting. Had we not been amply protected we should have found these fumes suffocating and deadly. As it was, they left us completely unharmed, although we could perceive with our intuitive faculties the degree of malignity of the whole place. Dimly, we could see through this miasma what might have been human beings, crawling like some foul beasts over the surface of the upper rocks. We could not think, Ruth and I, that they were human, but Edwin assured us that once they had walked upon the earth-plane as men, that they had eaten and slept, and breathed the earthly air, had mixed with other men on earth. But they lived a life of spiritual foulness. And in their death of the physical body they had gone to their true abode and their true estate in the spirit world.
The rising vapor seemed to shroud them somewhat from our vision, and we descended until we were level with the tops of the rocks.
As I had expressed my willingness to be taken by Edwin whithersoever he thought would best befit my purpose, and as I knew I should be able to withstand whatever sights I saw, we moved nearer to some of these creatures of hideousness. Ruth was accompanying us, and, needless to say, she would never have been permitted to enter these noxious realms had it not been known, without any shadow of doubt, that she was fully capable of the highest degree of self-possession and fortitude. Indeed, I not only marvelled at her composure, but I was profoundly thankful to have her by my side.
We walked closer to one of the sub-human forms that lay sprawled upon the rocks. What remnant of clothing it wore might easily have been dispensed with, since it consisted of nothing but the filthiest rags, which hung together in some inconceivable way, leaving visible great gaps of lifeless-looking flesh. The limbs were so thinly covered with skin that one fully expected to see bare bones showing forth. The hands were shaped like the talons of some bird of prey, with the finger nails so grown as to have become veritable claws. The face upon this monster was barely human, so distorted was it, and malformed. The eyes were small and penetrating, but the mouth was huge and repulsive, with thick protruding lips set upon a prognostic jaw, and scarcely concealing the veriest fangs of teeth.
We gazed earnestly and long at this sorry wreck of what was once a human form, and I wondered what earthly misdeeds had reduced it to this awful state of degeneration.
Edwin, who was experienced in these sights, told us that in time we should gain certain knowledge in our work, which would enable us to read from the faces and forms of these creatures what it was that had reduced them to their present state. There would be no need to accost them to find out at least some of their life's story, for there it was written for the experienced to read. Their very appearance, too, would be a safe guide as to whether they needed help, or whether they were still content to abide in their sunken state.
The object that was now before us, said Edwin, would warrant little sympathy as he was, because he was still steeped in his iniquity, and was obviously showing not the least sign of regret for his loathsome earthly life. He was dazed at his loss of physical energy, and puzzled in his mind to know what had befallen him. His face showed that, given the opportunity, he would continue his base practices with every ounce of power that remained to him.
That he had been several hundred years in the spirit world could be seen by the few tattered remnants of his garb, which bespoke a former age, and he had spent the greater part of his earth life inflicting mental and physical tortures upon those who had the misfortune to come into his evil clutches. Every crime that he had committed against other people had, at last, reverted to, and descended upon, himself. He now had before him--be had done so for hundreds of years--the memory, the indelible memory of every act of evil he had perpetrated against his fellows.
When he was upon earth, he had acted under a false pretence of administering justice. In very truth, his justice had been nothing but a travesty, and now be was seeing exactly what true justice really meant. Not only was his own life of wickedness continually before him, but the features of his many victims were ever passing before his mind, created out of that same memory which is registered unfailingly and ineradicably upon the subconscious mind. He cannot ever forget; he must always remember. And his condition was aggravated by the anger of feeling like a trapped animal.
We stood together, a little group of three, but we could not feel one tiny vestige of sympathy for this inhuman monster. He aroused none within us. He was receiving his just merits--no more, no less. He had judged himself and condemned himself and now he was suffering the punishment he had, solely and entirely, inflicted upon himself. Here was no case of an avenging God inflicting condign punishment upon a sinner. The sinner was there, truly, but be was the visible manifestation of the unalterable law of cause and effect. The cause was in his earthly life; the effect was in his spirit life.
Had we been able to detect one tiny glimmer of that light--it is a real light that we see--which is an unmistakable sign of spiritual stirrings within, we might have done something for this soul. As it was, we could do nothing but hope that one day this dreadful being would call for help in true earnestness and sincerity. His call would be answered--unfailingly.
We turned away, and Edwin led us down through an opening in the rocks on to more or less level ground. We could see at once that this part of the crater was more thickly peopled--if one can use the term 'people' of such as we saw there.
The inhabitants were variously occupied: some were seated upon small boulders, and gave every appearance of conspiring together, but upon what devilish schemes it was impossible to say. Others were in small groups perpetrating unspeakable tortures upon the weaker of their kind who must, in some fashion, have fallen foul of their tormentors. Their shrieks were unbearable to listen to, and so we closed our ears to them, firmly and effectively. Their limbs were indescribably distorted and malformed, and in some cases their faces and heads had retrograded to the merest mockery of a human countenance. Others again we observed to be lying prone upon the ground as though exhausted from undergoing torture, or because of expending their last remaining energy upon inflicting it, before they could gather renewed strength to recommence their barbarities.
Interspersed throughout the great area of this dreadful region were pools of some sort of liquid. It looked thick and viscid, and inexpressibly filthy, as, indeed, it was. Edwin told us that the stench that came from these pools was in keeping with all else that we had seen here, and he advised us earnestly not to dream of testing the matter for ourselves. We followed his implicitly.
We were horrified to see signs of movement in some pools, and we guessed, without Edwin having to tell us frequently the inhabitants slip and fail into them. They cannot drown because they are as indestructible as we are ourselves.
We witnessed all manner of bestialities and grossness, and barbarities and cruelties as the mind can scarcely contemplate. It is not my purpose nor my wish to give you a detailed account of what we beheld. We had, by no means, reached the bottom of this foul pit, but I have given you quite sufficient details of what is to be found in the realms of darkness.
And now you will ask: how does this all come about? Or why are such places allowed to exist?
Perhaps the matter will become clearer when I tell you that every soul who lives in those awful places once lived upon the earth-plane. The thought is dreadful, but the truth cannot be altered. Do not think for one moment that I have exaggerated in my brief description of these regions. I assure you that I have not done so. I have in fact, given you an understatement. The whole of these revolting regions exist by virtue of the same laws that govern the states of beauty and happiness.
The beauty of the spirit world is the outward and visible expression of the spiritual progression of its inhabitants. When we have earned the right to possess things of beauty, they are given to us through the power of creation. In this sense we can be said to have created them ourselves. Beauty of mind and deed can produce nothing but beauty, and hence we have flowers of heavenly beauty, trees and meadows, rivers and streams and seas of pure, glistening, crystal-clear water, magnificent buildings for the joy and benefit of us all, and our own individual homes where we can surround ourselves with still more beauty, and enjoy the delights of happy converse with our fellows.
But ugliness of mind and deed can produce nothing but ugliness. The seeds of hideousness sown upon the earth-plane will inevitably lead to the reaping of a harvest of hideousness in the spirit world. These dark realms have been built up by the people of the earth-plane, even as they have built up the realms of beauty.
No single soul is forced into either the realms of light or those of darkness. No soul could possibly take exception to anything he found in his realm of light, since discontent or disapproval, discomfort or unhappiness cannot exist in these realms. We are a supremely happy, united body of people, and we live together in complete harmony. No soul could, therefore, feel 'out of place'.
The denizens of the realms of darkness have, by their lives on earth, condemned themselves, each and every one, to the state in which they now find themselves. It is the inevitable law of cause and effect; as sure as night follows day upon the earth-plane. Of what avail to cry for mercy? The spirit world is a world of strict justice, a justice that cannot be tampered with, a justice which we all mete out to ourselves. Strict justice and mercy cannot go together. However wholeheartedly and sincerely we may forgive the wrong that has been done to us, mercy is not given to us to dispense in the spirit world. Every bad action must be accounted for by the one who commits it. It is a personal matter which must be done alone, even as the actual event of death of the physical body must be gone through alone. No one can do it for us, but by the great dispensation upon which this and all worlds are founded, we can, and do, have ready and able assistance in our tribulation. Every soul who dwells in these dreadful dark realms has the power within himself to rise up out of the foulness into the light. He must make the individual effort himself, he must work out his own redemption. None can do it for him. Every inch of the way he must toil himself. There is no mercy awaiting him, but stern justice.
But the golden opportunity of spiritual reclamation is ready and waiting. He has but to show an earnest desire to move himself one fraction of an inch towards the realms of light that are above him, and he will find a host of unknown friends who will help him towards that heritage which is his due, but which in his folly he cast aside.