Audio recording of Chapter 13:
Study group for Chapter 13 with Mary and Jesus, Session 1:
Audio of study group for Chapter 13, Session 1:
Chapter XIII: Two Illustrations
Presently we entered the precincts of a cemetery. I could see the vapoury monuments standing like grey-clad ghosts to guard the couches whereon the dead were sleeping. At a little distance from us was a woman, who, at the first glance, I identified as the object of our solicitation. She was standing at the side of a newly-made grave, upon the mound of which I presently discerned another young woman, sitting with her head buried in her hands, weeping. No explanation was necessary to tell me this was one of the friends whose uncontrollable grief had drawn this sister-soul back from peace and happiness to an experience the nature of which, at present, I had not the slightest conception. I was more than interested. It was my first object-lesson as showing the power of love in conquering death. Those fine purple lines, to which I have before alluded, were brighter and stronger now, binding their souls in closer union, while I saw continuous flashes of sympathy darting to and fro, thoroughly read and comprehended by the one, but by the other, alas, unheeded and unknown, so oblivious was she of her heart’s desire.
How I yearned for the power to break the last traces of that barrier down, and see them fall into each others’ arms, the chasm of their tears bridged over, and the gulf destroyed. In my sympathy I grew so eager to try and accomplish this, that Cushna drew me back, lest my impatience might destroy what otherwise was within the bounds of possible achievement. He was as calm and unmoved as the gravestones around us; without the slightest trace of feeling or emotion, until I began to wonder whether he could really be the same man who had betrayed such depth of feeling towards Marie. I discovered later on that his calmness was but the placidity of confidence, every power he possessed was on the alert, waiting and watching that he might render the more substantial service whenever the moment for doing so arrived.
It was a pathetic sight to see the love of the weeping sister entwine itself around that spirit’s form, in spite of the evident reluctance of the one to yield to the influence Of grief. Poor child, what a different lot hers might have been at that moment but for the flood of that misguided sorrow! That she realised this was only too plainly visible. Her love had not changed, but oh, if she had but rested a little longer! If she had but gained a little strength, or knew in what way she could minister and be of service to the mourner; but now she was helpless; she was made to suffer in witnessing the agony, without any power to minister thereto. The triumph of grief became momentarily apparent, the ever-contracting lines had drawn them side by side, and the arm of the immortal passed unfelt around the trembling form of her less fortunate sister; lips, too much of heaven for flesh to feel, pressed their kisses upon that throbbing brow in vain attempt to soothe and calm, until I wondered how it was possible for a veil to hang between them.
Now appeared to be Cushna’s time for action, and he at once made our presence known, at the same time encouraging our friend to speak to her sister, a proceeding which, strange as it may appear, she had not yet attempted since our arrival. At the sound of his voice she turned with a half-inquiring, half-incredulous look, as if to ask ‘if she cannot see me, how can she hear?’ but he persuaded her and promised his assistance, by which it might be possible. at least to make some little impression, until I saw she began to hope even while she trembled with fear.
Gently withdrawing her arm, she arose, then threw herself upon her knees before the weeping girl, looked steadfastly into her face, and murmured:
“Sarah! – dear! – Sarah!”
The sound was soft and musical as a summer’s zephyr, and was successful, I think, even beyond Cushna’s expectation. The girl lifted her head, the tears for a moment ceasing to flow. She looked around as if uncertain whether the echo of her own grief had deluded her, or she had really heard a voice. Love wrestled with fear, and doubt with strong desire, until fear and doubt prevailed and grief resumed its sway.
The success, however, was beyond all anticipation. Something had been done, and the speaker was by no means daunted at the final result. Had she not stopped the tears for a moment?
“Speak again,” said Cushna encouragingly.
Again the soft voice sounded, but this time it was accompanied by such an intensity of love and pathos, which surely must destroy all doubt in the mind of the sister.
“Sarah, dear! – don’t weep; it is I, Lizzie. I felt your grief, and it has brought me back from heaven.”
This time the voice was heard more distinctly; her head was raised before the message was half completed, and the eyes, still swimming in tears, were anxiously turning in every direction. No one was visible; where could the sound come from? There could be no doubt about it; the old, familiar tones were too well known to her for that, though they came so softly as to be scarcely distinguishable from her own thoughts. Ah, there might be the solution. It was just what Lizzie would have said, and memory had deceived her until she imagined she again had heard her voice. To save this second disappointment, Cushna now drew near and threw all his influence upon the girl whose mind was so divided, at the same time telling Lizzie to call her once again. Hope and certainty now prevailed. There was not the slightest room for doubt ; it was her sister who had spoken to her, even though she was invisible. With a scream of joy she bounded to her feet and hurried homewards with the happy news.
We followed. Lizzie was elated at the completeness of her unexpected success. Cushna had again become calm and thoughtful; I was in a condition of indescribable bewilderment. If what I had just witnessed was all it appeared to be – that is, if it was real and not a dream – death was a chimera which would presently disappear, and the declaration of Christ to Martha – ‘he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die’ – would become a literal fact, instead of a spiritual illustration. The distance which now divided us from earth had already become so small that a faint whisper could traverse it and be distinctly heard upon the other side; soon it would but be a veil, perhaps thin and transparent enough for our forms to become visible; then the rent – and all would be restored.
But I was premature.
The joyful tidings of which she was the bearer lent fleetness to the steps of Sarah as she hurried home, like the Magdalene, with the news that the stone had been rolled away from the grave and her sister was not dead.
“She spoke to me while I was sitting on her grave,” she cried, in wild excitement. “I couldn’t believe it at first, but she spoke again, called me by my name, and told me she was here; but still I could not think it true. Then, for the third time, I heard her, and could not doubt. She is not dead, but still with us, even if we cannot see her. She is here! Listen! Listen! and you will hear her as I have done!”
Poor soul! The exuberance of her joy was attributed to an unhinged mind, and parents and friends wept still more that grief at the death of one child had drowned the reason of another.
In vain did Lizzie try to make her presence known; her soft and gentle voice could not possibly be heard in the clamour of such authoritative prejudice. She waited for a moment’s quiet at her sister’s side, when she spoke to her again, but if her voice was heard, it no longer fired the new-found joy – the cold waters of bigotry had too effectually quenched that to be rekindled, at all events for the present. At this discovery, she, too, began to weep; earth receded from heaven; the chasm which for one brief moment had been bridged over, and seemed so bright with hope, had again become a black and impassable gulf, and the ignorant assumption of friends on earth acquired the power to dim the joys of paradise.
Cushna’s attentions were now directed to draw Lizzie away from the house where the influences of attraction had entirely ceased to operate, love having been supplanted by intolerant superstition. Under these circumstances, his pure and unselfish devotion had the greater force, she turned towards the sympathy, and as in the case of Marie, her grief gave place to exhaustion. Cushna now flashed for assistance, giving her into the charge of friends to carry back to Siamedes, where she would sleep again.
“How long will she sleep this time?” I asked, as they left us.
“I cannot say; probably as long as before; the time varies according to circumstances.”
“Will she come back here again?”
“That is very possible,” he answered; “I have known some friends come back three or four times. Others are so fascinated by this mistaken grief as to be held prisoners by it, and almost defy any power to draw them away.”
“How different it would have been if it had been possible for her sister to have seen as well as heard her.”
“Not at all; it would only have been taken as another evidence of the poor girl’s insanity.”
“When we left the grave I thought everything would end so happily.”
“I was by no means hopeful of such a result; experience teaches me otherwise. I should grow more sanguine if I could see a disposition on the part of mortals to admit the possibility of our having attained to some knowledge at present beyond themselves. But we cannot expect too much from them so long as they imagine our only employments are singing ‘Glory, glory, glory,’ or writhing in unutterable torments. They fight the battle, we wear the crown; they perfect reason and knowledge, we rest from our labours. They hold us in the relative estimation of antiquated volumes upon the shelves of life’s library, out of date, not reliable guides to follow, and certainly extremely dangerous to consult.”
“Does not this discourage you in your work?”
“No! Our knowledge of the government of God shows us that all the erroneous ideas of men can only delay, they cannot prevent, the success of truth ultimately. They attach an undue importance to the earth-life, and transfer the great advantages, which are the peculiar features of this estate, to the earth condition when they do so. With them everything is determined by the three score years and ten; the temporal governs the eternal; the finite controls the infinite; the things which are not, are placed in jurisdiction over the things which are. We know better and, therefore, can wait, if needs be; at the same time, we are not unconscious of the advantage of a right commencement.”
“Is not that a somewhat dangerous doctrine to preach?” I asked.
“Why so? It is the truth; and I have no fear of consequences when the truth is spoken. If the declaration of the love of God is not strong enough to draw all men unto Him, the suppression of that truth, or the foundation of any system of terror will never drive men to Him. When God has formulated a plan of salvation, it only shows you how man arrogates all knowledge to himself when he dares to step in to revise and correct it.”
“I should almost shudder to think of the way some men would live,” I replied, “if they were assured that the wrongs of life might be rectified afterwards.”
“That is because you are only looking at one side of the truth. Let us see how it would work out if everything was told. Suppose for a moment that the communication between the two worlds was a recognised fact, and Marie was able to tell on earth the story of her experiences in both, as you have heard it. Do you think many of her hearers would care to cultivate her jealousy?”
“No!” I answered. “If they could hear it as I heard it, no one would dare to face the consequences.”
“Then why fear the proclamation of the whole truth, seeing that it is but the application of righteous sequence – ‘whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,’ but the harvest will be a natural not a vindictive one.”
“You are right, Cushna,” I was compelled to acknowledge. “My idea was unjust, because ignorant.”
“Now,” said my companion, “I will give you a glimpse of a brighter side of our work, where you will see a cause for hope, and all those results obtained which you looked for between Lizzie and her sister.”
My thanks had scarcely time for expression before we entered a room almost as tangible as ourselves. This fact considerably perplexed me at the time, but I afterwards discovered it to be due to the spirituality of the man who used it as a study. The house was one of those modest artizan dwellings which abound in the southern outskirts of London, constructed for occupation by two families, and the particular room was the one designed for a kitchen on the upper storey. The plate rack served for the shelves of a very modest library, while the furniture consisted of an arm-chair, couch, and table, at which sat a man who had scarcely yet reached the prime of life, evidently deeply interested in a book. Cushna bade me watch the different effect of his speaking to that which accompanied Lizzie’s first words to her sister.
“James!” he said, in a voice scarcely above a whisper.
Instantly the reader raised his head, looked at us with a smile of welcome, and answered:
“Oh! Cushna; is that you?”
“Yes! Are you busy?”
“Not if you want me,” was the reply.
“I wish to show this brother how easily we can speak with you, so I would like you to write a message for us.”
The book was laid aside, paper and pen were at hand in a moment, and he was waiting to begin. In the delight of this new revelation everything else was, for the moment, crowded out of my mind. All was so very natural, that I almost forgot I had passed into the world of spirit. There was not even a shadow between the two states now – they were not two any longer, but only two aspects of one.
“Perhaps you would like to give the message?” Cushna suggested.
“I would, but this disclosure completely drowns my powers,” I replied.
“Then I will. Let me see, what shall I say?”
“This is a good opportunity for one of your impromptus,” said the waiting scribe.
“Very well, then. You may call it:
THE PASSAGE OF DEATH.
Oh, brethren of earth,
Where the soul has its birth,
At the thought of the Jordan who quiver
When I fell asleep,
I found that the deep
Was the wave of a cloud – not a river.
Men say that the tomb
Lies hidden in gloom,
Whence demons and devils forth sally;
I came through the place
In running my race,
And I tell you there is not a valley.
They say, as a guard,
At a gate that is barred,
An angel is standing in state;
I passed o’er the ground,
But no obstacle found,
So I tell you – there is not a gate!
No gate where men quail,
No dark low’ring vale,
No river your course to resist;
I felt but one chill –
Then a hush – all was still,
And I stood on the slopes –
Through the Mist.
There was no slip, doubt, or uncertainty from the beginning to the end of the message; no wonder or amazement expressed on the part of the amanuensis, who wrote as calmly as a clerk receiving letters by dictation from his employer. I realised in those few minutes that if no other link existed in all the earth, that one was quite sufficient to hold the two estates of life in an indissoluble bond of union, and capable of being strengthened until all the errors of the flesh should be corrected, and the last rebellious child of earth had answered to his Father’s invitation – ‘Come.’
The writing finished, it was read over, then placed aside to be added to a volume of such messages, which, from time to time, were being received from members of the large band of spirits at whose disposal that truly inspired teacher placed his services. This accomplished, he asked:
“Can I do anything more for you?”
“Not for the present.”
“Shall you see Zangi soon?”
“I can send to him if you need anything.”
“You might tell him that Aylmer is not very well, and I should be glad if he will look at him.”
“What is wrong?”
“Oh! nothing much, but it gives him an excuse to ask for Zangi.”
“Tell the child that I will let him know at once. God bless you.”
I was informed that to such an extent had communication been opened with this family that several of the children could converse with us almost as readily as the father. Yet there was nothing to distinguish them from the ordinary run of mankind. The privilege was a sacred one, which entailed a great responsibility, so it was never paraded before the vulgar crowd, to gratify a morbid curiosity. Comparatively few were made acquainted with the astounding facts, and fewer still were they who were permitted to be present when any such interview was held. In the presence of this family some of our friends had even been able to assume a solid body, as the angels did of old, and minister to medical and other requirements. The attachment of this little fellow (only eight years old) for Zangi, arose from gratitude for the instantaneous replacement of a dislocated ankle, which the doctor had said would be weeks before he would be able to use it.
“Cushna!” I cried in amazement, “will there ever be an end to the surprises you are unfolding to me? Why, you speak as if the whole thing was as natural as passing from one street to another.”
“It is even more so,” he replied, “when we have the necessary basis of love to work upon, and a waiting mind to answer when we speak. The man who hears us will be heard by us, and be responded to when he calls. This was the secret of the old-time prophet’s inspiration. In this incident you have witnessed nothing new, but have simply been made aware that the old methods and advantages have not been changed or ended. I know it is strange and surprising, but that is because mankind has erred and strayed from the truth, having sold their birthright of open communion for a mess of ecclesiastical pottage, not because God has changed or His system of government in any way altered. But the days of error in this respect are numbered. This channel of communication is but one out of thousands which have now been opened, and are being used constantly by us to ‘ring out the false and ring in the true.’”
“No one needs to be told that creed and reason are at variance; it was this that kept me outside the church all my life.”
“One of the most flagrant illustrations of this is to be found in the position the Church has almost universally assumed in the matter of spirit communion. It is taught as an article of the faith that evil spirits possess, and exercise, the power of communicating with man; they can appear to, converse, and enter into compacts with, and even take possession of the bodies of those who are in affinity with themselves. But holy men and women who have passed from earth have no such powers or privileges afforded them, the permission for intercourse in their case having been withdrawn long ago because the mission of such had been fulfilled. Directly you bring your reason to bear upon such a doctrine you explode it; without saying anything about the changeless character of God, which must ever be borne in mind. It makes Him to be arbitrary and unjust in the most cruel sense, in granting to His enemies advantages which He witholds from His friends; it gives enormous facilities for temptation to the powers of darkness, but denies the same liberty of action to the ministering spirits attendant upon the children of light; it opens wider avenues in the road to destruction, while it closes up one of the brightest paths which lead to life; yet all the while they say ‘God is no respecter of persons,’ that ‘He willeth not the death of a sinner,’ that ‘He will save to the uttermost all who will come to Him,’ but they are not able to see that their theology places a great stumbling block in the way of all who try to come.”
“But is it a fact,” I asked, “that evil spirits have equal facilities for communication as the good ones?”
“If you will remember two very simple truths,” he replied, “they will aid you to solve many otherwise mysterious problems. First, there is no bondage of force in any condition of our life. You have already seen illustrations of this. Every soul is free to make its own choice, but they naturally choose that which is most congenial. On earth the meadows are the natural habitation of the sheep, the water of fishes, and the air of birds; it is not necessary – nor is it attempted – to place any restrictions to prevent any one of them from tresspassing on the domain of the other, it being quite sufficient that they are not constitutionally fitted for it. So it is with us; a sinner can no more dwell in the region of the saint than a sheep can soar upwards in company with the eagle.
“The second point for you to remember is: the power of sympathy. This is almost omnipotent. As you have just seen in the case of Lizzie, so it is all through creation, like attracts like. In the absence, then, of any deterrent force, when this attraction of sympathy has been established, whether it be of a holy or unholy nature, the souls naturally gravitate towards each other; but no soul from our side is ignorant of the fact that it is individually responsible for whatever results therefrom. With the present erroneous ideas which exist, it is not surprising that the lower and ignorant spirits find the greater attraction to earth.”
“Then you regard the present state of your communication with earth as being a somewhat deplorable one?”
“Not by any means. The present time on earth is characterised by a great thirst for knowledge – there is an earnest spirit of enquiry after truth. In the human soul there has always been a natural craving to rend the veil which hides immortality from view – a craving born of the inspiration which forebodes success. Daring souls, regardless of the anathemas of the Church, have pushed the enquiry forward until the veil has given way and the light is streaming out. But the enquirers, while breaking free from errors in one direction, are generally found to hold with even greater tenacity to others which lie in another direction, so that the attraction they form is not with spirits whom the truth has made entirely free, but lower minds who stand in close affinity with their own desires.
“A word of caution I must give you here, and that is how very necessary it is to draw a distinction between those whom I have termed the lower friends on our side and the lowest. We are not yet, at all events, divided into two classes – good and evil; but the method of division that I have pointed out naturally suggests almost innumerable grades of conditions through which it would be quite impossible to draw a dividing line. Now the class of souls attracted by these enquirers are spiritually in affinity with themselves, but by reason of their life with us, they can teach many truths which will prepare the way for higher and more powerful ministers to follow them. The present outlook, therefore, is not at all a cheerless one, but, on the contrary, full of hope and promise.”