Chapter VIII: Angels and Angels
“It is impossible for you during a single and brief visit to gain any adequate conception of the enormous scope and varying details of our work here,” said Ladas in preparing to call my attention to other features of his ministry, “but I will select one or two suggestive points likely to be of personal service, and which at the same time will indicate our far-reaching operations. Of the vast resources at our disposal to ensure success I can suggest no estimate, since these are only known to God, though the assurances of the past warrant me in saying they are never failing and equal to any demand that may be made upon them.
“Nor could I speak with systematic lucidity of the knowledge I have gained from my long experience. We do not work by rule or in accordance with any theoretical formula; if we did so the process might be codified and studied at leisure. But while we recognize the fact that sin proceeds upon certain clear and well defined lines, in ministering to the soul diseased we study each case with the critical caution of a new development, rather than for purposes of classification. God never aggregates, but always individualizes. It is the one lost sheep we are most interested to find. Though ‘God will have all men to be saved’, we never forget that the all is comprised of units, which must be reclaimed as speedily and lovingly as possible. “This is the old gospel of Christ, which He carried to earth from hence – ‘the old, old story’ so unlike the old wives’ fables of earthly origin, so like the conception of what a heavenly theme would be, that all men sought for Him that they might listen to its music. It is the Christ-song set to the self-same melody of loving devotion to the needs of the lost we chant in our present ministry – the love-song God composed to fascinate the ears of those who would become bond-slaves of hell, and on the wings of hope and trust bear them higher, higher, higher, until the morning breaks, the discord dies away, sight is restored, and home is reached.
“Earth has broken the sweetest strings in the divine harp and replaced them with unmelodious substitutes spoiling the melody. In the garden of the Lord an enemy has scattered tares, choking the flowers and poisoning the fruit, and the work of Christ has been made of non-effect through false traditions. Thus the true proclamation of the gospel has reverted to us again. The Christianity earth has lost is the native life of immortality which the Father’s love outstretched to plant below that men might earlier eat of the fruit of the tree of life. Oh, that love of God! It could not wait to manifest itself in redemption, but ran before to provide salvation from a fall. It foresaw and anticipated the weakness and frailty of the flesh, and yearned to set around the evolving man all possible safeguards from the dangers of the animal nature he was naturally outgrowing. So in the midst of the Eden planted in preparation for the further development, love placed the tree of life beside the river of the water of life, and its welcome shade offered holy rest, the music of the water singing sweet lullabies, with the luscious fruit of immortality hanging overhead, and the angels of the home-land ascending and descending to counsel and advise.
“Such were the provisions of love. But away from the river the garish fruits of sensuous desire were found. The animal instincts prevailed, the habits and tastes of the swine-trough were stronger than the feeble restraint of a newly-born morality; the new man fell under the domination of the old brute, and the spiritual prospect became obscured.
“The teachers of earth have fostered the idea that the tree of life has ceased to exist, as if the eternal love of God had petulantly changed to hatred on account of the frailty of man. How impossible! The tree of life yet stands in the midst of the Paradise of God, and its leaves are everlastingly for the healing of the nations. The fruit of that tree you will find in every sphere and region of this life, and the ministry and potency of it forms the full employment of all whom you will meet. Nothing has changed. The fruit, the life, the music, the love, the angels, remain from everlasting to everlasting, and the Father so loves that He will still consummate His eternal purpose, and nothing can be lost.
“I say the proclamation of the real gospel of Christ has practically been left to us now, and, perceiving that you are anxious to take an active part in this revived ministry, I think I can serve your purpose best by directing attention to a peculiar danger which lies in the way of the reopening of communication between ourselves and the earth.”
“I shall be profoundly grateful for any advice you can give me in that direction,” I replied. “Not that I know whether my hope will be realized, but I would like to be well equipped if I should be so honoured.”
“The irresistible power of the gospel as preached by Christ lies in its harmony with natural law, which found its full interpretation in the life He lived. God was in and working through Him to reconcile the world to righteousness in the evolution of the spiritual from the natural. The restless activity of life in Jesus reached out towards the Christ, always using its present attainments as a platform from which to reach to still higher possibilities. Modern Christianity has departed from this primitive routine, forsaken the personal demonstration of the Christlife, and in its stead established a human theory concerning that life, outlined and prescribed by the fathers of the later Christianity in council assembled. This man-invented form of godliness lacks the Christ-power to control the lives of men, and religion has become a dry and withered branch. Still, neither the unfaithfulness of men nor the corrupting influences of sin have frustrated the purpose of God. Angels are now re-ordained to the ministry, who knowing and understanding the working of the law will use it, and thereby bring the world to Christ. But in connection with this ministry even there is one danger we must watchfully guard against.”
“Surely it is not possible for the ministry of angels to fail in its purpose?”
“Quite! It is for this reason I wish to be very careful to make you understand what I desire to show you. There are angels and angels. Freedom to return to earth is open to all alike, and the minds of men are far more in sympathy with those who are in the earth conditions than those who are above them. This constitutes the danger I wish you very clearly to recognize. The souls who feel the first attraction to return and are more generally welcomed are those who know nothing at all of real spiritual life and government, but they speak and air their ignorance in a confusion of tongues and teachings worse than that of Babel.”
“What, then, is to be done?”
“The victory has to be wrested from their grasp. Men are now learning to appeal to reason rather than place a blind trust in authority, and an invasion of the earth is being arranged, as perhaps you are aware, by those who are competent to set forth the whole law of God and make the truth clearly manifest.”
Ladas, while thus preparing me for what was to come, had dispatched and received several messages, after which he explained –
“I am making inquiries as to where I can find a better illustration of this difficulty. I would neither exaggerate nor mitigate the matter, but am anxious to show you a fairly representative case and allow you to draw your own conclusions. Such an opportunity is now open; come and watch what I mean for yourself.”
As he finished speaking we had arrived within the spacious drawingroom of a prosperous city tradesman, where some dozen persons were assembled to take part in a spiritualistic séance. Of the number two were clergymen; one (Mr. Newman) was somewhat uncertain as to the legality of the proposed proceedings, but the other (Mr. Oldfield) assured him that he would find it more amusing than serious, and free from any objection. Anthony Mairn, as the president of the local Spiritualist Association, had been invited to meet the clergymen, with the possible hope of securing a new and very desirable convert. The rest of the company comprised Arthur Settle, the host, his wife, daughter, and friends who were all enthusiastically curious to know what would happen. The medium the half-uncanny centre of hope and uncertainty was Madame Hansbrac, a popular society clairvoyante, who had found a husband to be somewhat inconvenient, and arranged to make him an allowance in consideration of his not troubling her. There were no children and little difficulty about coming to an arrangement, so Madame left her home for a more fashionable location, and all went well. She had a retaining fee of three guineas a week from Mr. Settle for business consultations, and the present séance was a special engagement for which an additional payment had to be fixed.
These details are necessary to indicate the underlying spirit and motives which gave background to the whole proceedings.
Someone will inquire how I learned these details. It is a pertinent question, and the answer to it throws a flood of light upon what afterwards took place. Every mind in the room was open to our inspection as an elementary class-book. We could read what we would, turning page after page and searching at our discretion into the secret and unguarded archives of the past, where lay any amount of material for the manipulation of the two spiritual attendants already waiting upon Madame Hansbrac.
Just one word here as to whether we have any right to take advantage of knowledge thus placed at our disposal, and I assert that we have every right to read all we wish to read therefrom, since this is our natural source of all genuine information concerning individuals. All judgements on the spirit side of life and all decisions are based upon and determined by records written upon the soul. I would call to mind how frequently I have previously pointed this out. As an instance, in our recent conversation Ladas referred to my wish to take part in the mission to earth which he had read from my mind, as I have just read what was written upon those around me. What is not right is to make use of the information so gained for purposes of deception, as is too often done by mischievous and unreliable intermediaries.
“Did you ever try planchette, Miss Arbonne?” asked Miss Settle during the fifteen minutes Madame always allowed for her sitters ‘to establish the necessary harmonious condition for the séance.’
“Oh, but you should; it is the jolliest fun you can possibly conceive. I have had my planchette properly dedicated –
“What is that, if I may be allowed to inquire?” asked Mr. Newman.
“I scarcely know how to describe it. It is a kind of setting it apart for the use of a particular spirit, to prevent others using it who are not known.”
“Is planchette really any good?” asked her lady friend.
“It’s just delightful. You can ask all you wish about anyone and it will tell you.”
“But can you rely upon its being truthful?”
“W – ell, perhaps not always; but I think it is right more frequently than people admit.”
“Do you know,” said Mr. Newman to his clerical brother, “my conscience does not quite agree with this intrusion upon the realm of the sacred dead.”
“Because it’s new ground, my dear sir – new ground, and one naturally treads it with diffidence. Wait awhile and you will lose all your doubts in a wonderland Alice never had a chance to enter.”
“You will commence with prayers, of course?”
“Oh, dear, no; if there was anything churchy about it I should give it up at once,” replied Miss Settle with petulant definiteness.
“But, my dear young lady, do you consider the solemnity of the occasion?”
“No, I do not. Society does not go in for solemnities. I think it time you clergymen consented to confine religion to church, and allowed us to enjoy our amusements without interference.
This discussion was not exactly tending towards harmony, so Madame requested Miss Settle to “play something soft and dreamy,” after which her clairvoyante descriptions and communications began. I am, however, more interested to record what I saw than what was said just now.
The various spiritual atmospheres had by this time blended, and formed a photosphere enveloping the entire company, on the outside of which we remained undiscovered. The quality of the aura, representing its true spiritual tone, may be described as a compound of curiosity, amusement and doubt. There was no sign of aspiration or spiritual desire from beginning to end of the performance.
Clairvoyance is a somewhat misleading term to apply to the range of phenomena usually covered by this name, since only a small percentage comes within the scope of vision and by far the larger portion are perceived, and the perception is more due to spiritual affinity than any particular sense. It was very definitely so in the readings Madame gave in this instance, all of which, and many more, were easily obtainable from the mental aura by which the group was enveloped, though I should be unjust to the medium to say that she was conscious of the fact. She received impressions from somewhere which were interpreted with startling results to those whose eyes were unable to see the visions open to my observation. This information of men and things, so naturally given from sources clearly outside those considered normal, were accepted as being conveyed by spirit friends present and Madame neither affirmed nor denied the explanation. To her the gift she exercised was simply a means of gaining a lucrative livelihood, and the satisfaction so generally expressed meant increased business. The sitters were more than satisfied – she had no reason to be otherwise.
But astounding as her revelations were to begin with, there is perhaps no other phase in the whole range of psychic phenomena that so soon grows monotonous. The medium watched keenly for the first indication of this, when with a request for more dreamy music she at once prepared for the second part of the entertainment. Here she was thrown into the hypnotic sleep by the action of one of her familiar attendants, a condition I watched for the first time with much interest. When she slept and the music ceased, I noticed her controlling genius make a suggestion, in reply to which the sleeper started and assumed the character of a little mulatto girl known as ‘Frisky.’ It was a curious combination of a half-coy, half-precocious child, biting the corner of a handkerchief and shaking herself as she spoke.
“Good evening, all of zou,” she began with a playful childish lisp.
“Good evening, Frisky,” was the responsive chorus from all who knew the impersonation.
“Well, and what have you to tell us, now you are here?” inquired Mr. Settle.
“Oh, I has to tell zou, zat a lady will call, to zee zou at zee shop tomorrow.”
“Do you know her name?”
“Zes, but I must not tell zou.”
“Well, what can you tell me about her?”
“She has got a lot of money, and if zou is very, very, very patient wis her she will buy a lot of nice things.”
“Who tells you this?”
“Joey says I must tell zou.”
“All right, I’ll be careful to be patient with her. Thank Joey for sending me word.”
“Oh, I zay! Look! look!” she exclaimed, pointing to Mr. Newman. “Look at ze long face of Mr. Parson.”
“I am very much surprised that you have nothing more than these frivolities to tell us from the other side of death. That is what makes me look so serious,” replied that gentleman.
“Yes, more surprised than I can make you understand.”
“If zou waits till zou comes on our side, zou will be more surprised zan I can make zou understand.”
“I can readily believe that, but can you not tell us something about it?”
“No! Frisky never speaks of such things, Mr. Newman, and we don’t care for anything creepy-creepy, I can assure you. It will be time enough to think about that when we get there – won’t it, Frisky?” intervened Miss Settle.
“Zes, quite. Iz want to make zou happy.”
“Then tell me do you know anything about last Wednesday night when I was in my room?” the same lady inquired.
“When zou went to bed?”
“Yes. Who pulled my hair?”
“I did. So as zou should know I was there.”
“Well, it was very good of you. Will you do it again?”
“Zometime; but I mus’ go now.”
My first lesson regarding the value and effect of spiritual affinities was over, contributing a fund of useful knowledge I was not likely to forget.
“Do you now grasp my meaning as to the danger which lies before us?” asked Ladas as we turned from the chosen scene of the husks when a banquet of angel food had been possible.
“Yes, I think I understand you now. It is the working out of the principle referred to by Christ when he said, ‘Every one that asketh receiveth,’ and every man receives just what he asks for – finds just what he seeks. I see it now as I never saw it before, and shall not forget it. But you also said that the danger may and must be averted.”
“It will be so; it is my confidence in this that prompted my pointing it out to you; knowing what it is, you will naturally avoid it in your future intercourse; but at the same time I am equally anxious for you to realize that what has just occurred is not without its value in calling attention to the existence of psychical phenomena worthy of being inquired into. These frivolous and ignorant individuals who represented our side in their proceedings, by their close association with earth have the power and pleasure of producing effects which appeal to reason and should tend towards inquiry. So far they do a necessary and preparatory work by laying a foundation upon which the whole system of spiritual law may be erected. What has to be done is to mind the inquiry does not stop at this point, and the possibilities be cut short at the stage of amusement, curiosity, or an application to unreliable fortune-telling. Here lies the true danger to which I would direct your attention.”
“And how do you propose to avert it?”
“Myhanene would be a far better authority for you to consult on that point, since he is one of the leaders in the new forward movement to that end. I may, however, indicate one direction it must take. You noticed that the emanations – spiritual, mental, and moral – of all present blended to form an attraction for such spirits as were the exact counterpart of the aggregation?”
“Yes, I very carefully noticed that.”
“The preponderating influence in all séances is contributed by the person through whom the communications pass. The two who have just been dominating the mind and body of Madame form a stronger and closer connection with her at every such gathering, unless she releases the bond by spiritual aspiration, and this active, definite influence largely controls and determines the character of the indefinite nebulosity of all others who attend her séances. In the new crusade, therefore, the first essential is to find men and women whose moral and spiritual natures will reach high, and find ministering angels among those who are free from all earth attractions and alike competent and honest to speak of life as it really is and may be. But I must now show you another illustration of a very different kind. You have seen how the frivolous and careless are attracted to each other, you must also see how the malevolent gain their ascendancy.”
We entered the combined foyer and bar of a popular variety theatre, where the lounges, chairs – yes, and even the counter – were plentifully occupied with women, who formed an unadvertised but well-known part of the attractions of the house: women wearing model modes of court establishments, who displayed millinery and lingerie with equal and tempting prominence to ensnare the foolish and weak of that class whose purses were sufficiently heavy to warrant their passing the artistically draped and almost closed portiére It was, on the surface, a picture of dainty and painted wantonness few men would pass without, at least, a second look.
The physical eye, however, is subject to restrictions and able only to see a section of the solar spectrum. Unfortunately, the mental and spiritual vision – not naturally, but from deliberate intent and purpose – is similarly limited. Hence to those of earth but one side of the picture was accessible, but to myself both sides were visible with almost equal clearness. I may even go further and say that I was able to see how the past and present were blended for purposes of destruction and the future already outlined with startling and suggestive horror. The scene was more than a repetition of what I had previously witnessed, since the dead and living meet on equal terms, each tempting and dependent upon the other, where only God Himself could justly draw the line of guilt or – no, not innocence, such virtue would be poisoned in passing the threshold of this temptation. On the one side were the libertine, the roué the drunken and the wanton, stripped by the action of the tomb of their gilded and masked hypocrisy – not so much men and women of open depravity and sin (only too many of these are victims to the lust and machinations of others) – but those who passed over the stage of earth life socially enamelled and painted to conceal their moral corruption and pollution; such had now found their true level and fought with riotous frenzy to free themselves from the disgusting bondage of tyrannous sensuality or take a wild but useless revenge by immuring others. On the earth side were men who drank, flirted and plotted to accomplish a downfall or with brainless perfidy hilariously bearded the tempter in his lair; women who so far had only fallen to the extent of the alluring excitement of the temptation, suggestion, and moral atmosphere the place provided; young men who had been innocently decoyed by intriguers anxious to gain some nefarious ascendancy. But why need I go on still further to enlarge? In a word, it was a place where the leash was slipped from hell, at the daring taunt of earth, to enter the lists of combat for the souls of men and women.
Among the continual entrances and exits connected with this sensuous and gilded attraction my attention was presently called to two young men, or I had perhaps better say to a man who was still young accompanied by a youth. Neither carpet nor portiére permitted any sound to announce their coming, and I had seen a score pass in and out without attracting attention, but when these two entered there was a momentary hush in the conversation, and with one impulse all eyes were turned upon them. A chill swept through the heated atmosphere, causing the women to draw their wraps a trifle closer, but the effect was over on the instant, and the laughter and talk went on. The eyes of earth saw not what I beheld. Heaven and hell were both conscious of it, but the veil of sin hung like a pall where sight was needed most.
From the record on the soul of each I read the antecedents of these two interesting men. The younger had just reached his majority and freedom from his father’s condition that he was to give implicit obedience to his mother till such a time, or lose the comfortable heritage bequeathed with a good business still capable of enlarging it. In thus controlling a lad of impulsive spirit the maternal task had been no sinecure, and almost before time had broken the restraint he was anxious to be away and gratify his desire to know what London really was. He did grudgingly consent to accept a companion of his mother’s choice, but it salved her anxiety, since for the father’s sake she could confidently trust the lad to the chosen guardian.
This desirable overseer of the lad’s well-being was known as a careful and honourable man in his northern home, averse by natural temperament to excess and extravagance of every kind, which was further safeguarded by church connection. He was, as I say, not the lad’s choice, but with mental reservation had been accepted to please the mother.
Had she been able to read and see as I had power to do, she might have listened to the lad’s first objection, and even let him go alone. Many men are ostensibly virtuous because temptation has not assailed them at the point of least resistance, and it was so with the trusted friend of this commission, who was discreet and abstemious not so much from choice and principle as penuriousness. When, therefore, all expenses were to be defrayed from another and well-filled purse, the qualities for which he had been selected vanished as a mirage, and the cicerone had tastes, desires and foibles much the same as other men.
Fortunately, the mother’s greatest practical trust was not reposed in any arm of flesh – she had found a more impregnable refuge and shelter in time of trouble, and by tearful prayers at the throne of grace had thrown a zone of protection round the boy able to resist even the unfaithfulness of his supposed guardian. True prayer – complete confidence that God can and will do that which is absolutely beyond ourselves if we only faithfully seek it – has a long and powerful arm, and under the canopy it is able to spread all must be well with the lad.
Here lay the secret of his disturbing entrance into the foyer. God had heard the prayer and given His angels charge concerning the object of that mother’s solicitude. On either side of the youth he was guarded by a messenger from a station higher than that of Omra shining in the glory of their power to turn aside all the tempter’s assaults. The mother would save her son against himself, but not being near at hand she had left him with the God she loved and served, and God was faithful to perform the mother’s righteous wish.
But someone will remind me how often I have pointed out that higher ministers assume a garb of neutral grey when brought into contact with those in lower condition and ask – “Why did these guardians of the youth not obey this law?” I will explain. In all cases I have hitherto referred to where this change has taken place – as in that of Ladas and myself on the present occasion – the visits had been made either to assist or make observations. The two were here present with this lad to protect and preserve him with the temptations of lower agencies, to place him in opposition to and enable him to rise superior to whatever temptation might assail. He must be saved. His mother had left it to God – whose child she was – to see to it that it should be so, and her confidence was strong to carry it to the desired effect. God would see to that.
The two sat down on either side of a small table and the waiter came for orders.
“What will you take?” inquired the elder.
“A small lemonade.”
“Won’t you have something in it?”
“You know I won’t.”
“I think I will. Give me just the least dash of brandy in mine.”
The waiter retired to execute the order, and at the same moment one of the greedy, thirsty, tempting souls approached, driven to reckless frenzy by his maddening inability to drink from the glasses he had hitherto tried to raise to his lips. He was even quicker than I to read that the guardian had relaxed his usual grip upon himself, and flushed with the possible chance of conquest grew daring in his approach. The defenders of the youth closed around him and invited our co-operation.
“You are not an abstainer when in London, then?” remarked the ward.
“I am never bigoted in my ideas; but to-night I feel a little run down and need a pick-me-up. I should think it is ten years since I tasted anything before.”
“Then I should not taste it now.”
“I think you would if you felt as I do; in fact, I don’t believe a drop would do you any harm now.”
“What would my mother think if she heard your advice? Would she believe her ears?”
“Your mother would have every confidence in my discretion, Artie. The journey and hurry to get here, together with all the bustle and excitement, have been almost too much for me. Then again,” he added, holding up the just delivered glass, “see what they have given me scarcely colours the lemonade. It is only just enough to do one any good. Here’s to a jolly week in town.”
As he raised the glass to his lips, that earth-bound soul literally threw himself upon his victim, and while he drank there was a brief but fearful contest for victory. The glass was emptied and set down with an action of contempt at the paltry and childish draught, the cicerone’s eyes burned with a strange ferocious light, and calling the waiter he requested him with a peremptory voice to:
“Bring me a large Scotch, neat.”
His companion looked at him in speechless consternation.
What had taken place?
He who had been chosen as a worthy guardian of an inexperienced and somewhat passionate youth had fallen under the spell and power of an earthbound soul – in other words he had become possessed of a demon, who had assailed the man in his weakest point and conquered him. He had deliberately walked into the stronghold of temptation, laid all arms of principle aside, held by a bare reed of character to support him in leaning over the precipice of gratification, and had toppled to ruin.
But the mother’s prayer had saved the lad.
There is no more to be said. I had taken my second lesson, and learned from experience the strength lent to sin by association. Had not Christ the fearful consequences of this in mind when in His exemplary prayer He found room for the petition: ‘Lead us not into temptation’?