Through the Mists, Chapter 10

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Chapter X: An Explanation

I have a vivid recollection of the fearful enjoyment and nervous bravery with which, as a child, I hunted for curios washed up by the in-coming tide, paddling with my naked feet in the fluctuating waters on the sea beach. I have no doubt but that I accomplished the whole gamut of childish heroics in my adventures; and I am sure there were interludes of surprisingly rapid recessions as my watchful eye caught sight of some advancing wave calculated to reach out its arms a few inches beyond its predecessor. Hope and fear, success and failure, pleasure and disappointment irregularly alternated in my experience until, drenched with spray and cold, my guardian carried me away from the scene of my exploits, with scarcely sufficient treasure in my possession to convict me of petty larceny.

It was an analogous experience through which I passed at this stage of my new life. I was again beside the sea – the infinite sea of spirit life. Wave after wave of revelation was rolling in, breaking upon the rocks of my ignorance, and drenching me with a blinding spray of knowledge. The mighty force, the rapid succession, the bewildering unfoldment, left me no time to appropriate the treasures which were continuously, and but for the moment, laid open to my view. Strange and unexpected objects were almost ceaselessly brought before me – revelations of sight, touch, and hearing came upon me like a flood, and I could only stand confused, confounded and perplexed before the mighty force which surrounded – enveloped – me.

I had been told it was love, all love, and that I should be presently able to understand and appreciate it; but now, I was like a lad thrown into the water, unable to swim; the force of the waves and the tide were against me. I tried to profit by the instruction I had received, but in my inexperience and lack of the power of immediate appropriation, I found it more natural to flounder and aimlessly battle with the storm which threatened to engulf me, alternately hoping and almost doubting the result.

Such was candidly my attitude for a brief period at the time of which I am speaking. Without opportunity for reflection, events of such an unexpected, and previously considered impossible character, were being so rapidly unfolded before me, that with a nature prone to doubt and full of dismal forebodings such as mine was, it was too much for me to reach so near the perfect ideal as to view the developments of my instruction with feelings of equanimity and calm confidence.

There is a general idea among mankind that by the simple process of dying we are translated into a condition of omniscience, and solve every problem ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’ It was with a sense of deepest gratitude that I discovered the fallacy of such teachings, and the wider my experience ranges the more astounded I am that this preposterous assumption could ever have originated, or found a sanction in the minds of intelligent human beings. Every single question I asked, every scene I beheld, every sound I heard, had its own special revelation to make, and the rapidity with which each successive wave of information rolled over me, allowed me no time for recovery from the grandeur of its power and scope, before which I reeled in wonder and amazement; and the same is equally true of the present as it is of the past.

What, then, would have become of me if the full flood of the knowledge I have acquired – and, let me assure you, I have but yet been able to touch the merest fringe of that still to be attained – had broken over me like a thunder-bolt at the moment when I opened my bewildered eyes upon the slope where I so unsuccessfully tried to answer the simple query: Where am I? Be not deceived, God ever tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. He knows our frame, and has ordained that our soul-expansion shall proceed under conditions best suited to our state, and which also tend to magnify His Majesty and love.

Knowledge can only be acquired as we have power to assimilate each successive phase of truth; it has no force, no life, no energy, unless applied; and the man who tries to accumulate it without the correspondingly necessary strength to utilise the same, if successful, would only find he had gathered together and built an edifice which, for lack of support, would fall and crush him in its ruin. This strength to wield the weight of knowledge can only come by steady growth, and therefore if it were practicable to test the instantaneous, explosive principle – ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ – in its expansion, it could never give the finite strength enough to grasp the infinite; this must be attained by the gradual transformation of our lives into the Christ-life, which in its turn must be converted into the infinite as we further expand into the likeness and character of God.

When we stand in close proximity to an overwhelming surprise, I have no doubt it is the perturbation caused and from which we have not had time to recover, that leads us to suppose this last event to be the most momentous in our career. Some such idea as this took possession of myself as I gazed upon the inanimate form lying at my feet, and which neither Cushna nor Azena appeared anxious to disturb for a time. I tried, but vainly, to reconcile the painful episode I had witnessed with the one law of love which I had been assured held universal sway in this life. The problem was too deep, too complex, for me to undertake, and at length I was reluctantly compelled to put it aside until I could gain some wider experience than my own to elucidate the mystery.

While I was thus disturbed and perplexed, my two companions were calmly watching the unconscious Marie. Evidently there would be something for them to do, but the period for action had not yet arrived. Now was the time for waiting – and this they did in patience – calmly waited and watched, being perfectly ready for ministry when required. When that moment came, with very tender care and sympathy, they performed the service so well understood, and before the tear-dimmed eyes were again opened we had resumed our journey, leaving the spiritual convalescent to the sole charge of that friend on whom she had learned to repose.

I had intended on my return to ask Cushna to give me time to study the action of those mysterious dews in changing the colour of our dresses, to have sought for some explanation of his power in finding his way so unerringly through a trackless country, and a score of other matters which had suggested themselves to my mind, but all were forgotten, and now I had but one desire, which at the earliest moment I laid before him.

“Cushna! tell me,” I cried, “how can you reconcile your one law of love with the terrible scene I have just witnessed?”

“I can well understand your difficulty,” he replied, “and will try to explain it to you. Never forget that all life is a growth – a gradual transition from what we are, to what we shall be, by assimilating the influence of every experience through which we pass. Sudden changes are so in appearance only; closer inspection will show they are all effects of causes which have been working, silently and unperceived it may be, and preparing developments which escape notice until forced upon our attention by some outward unfolding. All expansion works from the inner to the outer life, but we are naturally unable to admit the reality of anything which lies beyond the scope of observation.

“In nature we are not always accustomed to find sharp dividing lines; the darkest night rises by an imperceptible gradient into the glory of the cloudless morning; while it is very difficult for an inexperienced eye to decide at what moment the tide ceases to ebb and begins to flow; you cannot see the movement by which a flower unfolds its petals, yet the action is going on while your eyes are diligently watching. So it is with the spiritual life; it unfolds, never leaps; it flows like a stream, never bounds like an antelope; its progress is a steady silent advance only evidenced to us as stages are reached.

“Such has been the career of Marie. It is impossible for me to relate, or make you understand how, or by what means, she has been gradually weaned from the terrible agony in which I first found her, a remnant of which you have just witnessed; you will become acquainted with that in a more practical form when you find employment in a similar mission. Let me for the present be satisfied by indicating to you how there is nothing inconsistent with the law of love in asking her to tell her story. The retention of individuality demands that the memory of the past shall never be effaced – the scar of every wrong we have done will for ever remain, till, when we have paid its penalty, it ceases to be a source of pain – the wound slowly heals, the discomfort dies away, but the scar endures.

“Marie has now reached this healing stage, and every time she tells her story it is like another dressing of her wound – painful for the present, but beneficial in the result. Every recital is less agonising than the last, and the exhaustion it causes induces a sleep from which she derives additional strength, which is very necessary to her progress. Without this she would be content to remain as she is, in the lull of rest after the poignant anguish, without sufficient energy to prompt her to further progress; therefore what you have seen is but a wise provision to obliterate the past, so far as the pain is concerned, and push her on to a happier condition than she at present enjoys.”

“But could not that be attained by her talking of the past to Azena?”

“No! Not so effectively. Besides, such a course would be a waste of energy, which you will never find here. Everything is made to serve some useful purpose, and so you have learned what will be a valuable lesson by the present repetition; it has been helpful to others in the past, and still will be when her story is told again. In this way she becomes a powerful minister for good, while others are working for her salvation. Again, so far she has been limited to her one companion and must not be allowed to confine herself exclusively to Azena, or she will never feel the need of other friendships. Every visitor she has tends to excite new interests, so that when Azena leaves her – as she will when the telling of her story does not occasion an after- sleep by its exhaustion – she will be so oppressed by her loneliness as to be forced from her retirement and find congenial society among those who are in a somewhat happier condition than her present home.”

“And how long will it be before all this can be accomplished?”

“That varies very considerably – generally about the same length of time as the previous imprisonment.”

“Have you any idea how long that was?”

“Yes! As I have told you it lasted about twenty years.”

“Twenty years! Oh! what a hell! What an experience! How I wish she could preach such a sermon in the ears of earth! My soul is full of longing to go back again and burn these revelations into my fellows. Oh! it is terrible to me to think how blind they are to these awful realities. I want them to know, to realise, that nothing but lives – noble self-sacrificing lives – and deeds can enter here to help in the determination of their future. I want to tell them that every wrong must be atoned for, and that by him who commits it. That there is no help, no escape but every soul must work out its own salvation and thus be instrumental in bringing about a reformation whose result will be the doing of the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven.”

My companion made no attempt to interrupt me, but as he walked beside me I could see a half-amused, half-regretful smile play across his face, and when I had finished he replied in his gravely quiet tone:

“There are thousands – millions of friends here who have been animated and swayed by the feelings which now move you; but when the opportunity has come and they have proceeded to carry out their noble desires they have found that which will yet be your own experience. In the first place, you will not be believed as to your identity, and will be called upon to fight a long and by no means complimentary battle to prove you are a messenger from this life. Next, having gained this point in the presence of a few, they will begin to demand from you numberless signs and wonders to strengthen this proof and gratify their curiosity. When you have succeeded in this, and your heart is burning to begin your work, someone else will be brought in, and they will demand that you shall go through the unwelcome process again, for the gratification of the late newcomer. In fact, this is the normal condition in which they desire to circumscribe our work, and the greatest care is needed not to drive them away before we have attempted to sow some grain of truth.

“When you reach this effort you will find that they will claim to know even more about this life than you yourself, and you must be prepared for contradiction and correction in everything you say; while many of them will generously and frequently tell you that the error you are trying to teach savours very much of the realms of darkness because it is opposed to their teachings and beliefs. Let me advise you not to grow too enthusiastic over your anticipated mission to earth; the great majority of mankind at present prefer to postpone any definite knowledge of this life until they arrive here. But I wish now to draw your attention to other experiences.”