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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sins that yield a terrible harvest

Whatever wickedness a man may commit in the world, what is it as compared with the wrong he may be guilty of by his example? Then sin is as a mountain torrent, bursting its banks and carrying the unwary headlong to destruction. You may be dead yourself, yet your sin may live, yielding a terrible harvest.

It was in this respect that the demon ruling my life did its worst; I went my sinful course, flinging evil seed about me, and stopped not to consider how many I might bring to ruin.

Do you understand? perhaps not fully. Let me return to memories.

I happened once to spend an evening with some dozen youths gathered for social intercourse. I was much older, and it was quite by accident that I found myself among them; but, enjoying the reputation of a boon companion, they entreated me to remain. It flattered me and I stayed. They evidently looked to me for information, which made me all the more willing to show off my superior experience. Being a witty talker, I added not a little to the evening's enjoyment. We made little speeches, sang, and drank to each other. Now I knew that these young people would take as gospel truth almost anything I might tell them, believing any worldly wisdom I might point to as the road to success. The concluding word was given to me. I rose, ready to give them the benefit of my knowledge. Dare to be happy! was the motto I chose. I reminded them of the position I enjoyed in the world, averring that my life was brimful of satisfaction; that I had always had whatever man could wish for, and that I had had it because I had dared. It was true in all things that faint heart never won fair lady; there was a treasure of wisdom in these words beyond the treasures of Solomon. They were just entering upon life. I could give them no better advice to go by—no better aim to follow—than was expressed by these wordsDare it—dare be happy!

They thanked me with cheers of enthusiasm. They were flushed with wine, but another spirit than that of wine lay hidden in my words; its subtle influence was even then upon them, intoxicating their souls. With some of them its fumes, no doubt, passed away with the fumes of the liquor; but with others—three or four of them—the false maxim had caught; they went out into opening life armed with a rule which consisted of falsehood mostly, and a particle of truth. It took them to the broad way, and not only them but others through them. That lying principle, which sounded so grand and true, spread in widening circles, ruining soul after soul; it is still spreading, alas! and I see no end to the pernicious influence.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Insight into life which hell gives

I have told you, my friend, how continuously I am the prey of memories, but how much so—to what extent, I mean—you little guess. That deeds of iniquity and particular sins should assail me, tormenting the soul as with fire, is natural. But this is not all. There are other things, counted for little in the world, which cling to conscience with a terrible vividness. Every little falsehood and unjust dealing, every word of deceit and breach of fealty, every evil example and want of kindness—they are all, all present now, piercing the heart as with daggers of regret. I thought so little of these things in life, that I scarcely stopped to consider them; they seemed buried on the spot, every year adding its own share to the smouldering heap. They have risen now and stand about me, I see them and I tremble.

I was just thinking of an example, out of hundreds which press round me. I take one at random. I have felt haunted lately by the sorrowful eyes of a poor little street boy. Wherever I turn I see him, or rather not so much him as his tearful troubled gaze, rising in judgment against me. It has all come back to my mind how one evening I sauntered about in the park, a poor little beggar running alongside, pressing me to buy a halfpenny worth of matches. I did not want them and told him so, but he persisted in crying, Only a ha'penny, sir—only a ha'penny. He annoyed me, and, taking him by the arm, I rudely pushed him away. I did not mean to hurt him, although, to tell the truth, there was not a particle of kindness in me at the time. Nor lay the wrong in not buying his matches; I was quite at liberty to refuse, had I denied him kindly. But he annoyed me and I was angry. The child, flung aside roughly, fell on the road; I heard a cry; perhaps he had hurt himself—perhaps it was only grief for his matches lying about in the mud. I turned and met a look from his eyes, full of trouble and silent accusation. It would have been so easy for me to make good my thoughtlessness, so little would have comforted the child, but I walked away heedless of his grief.

Now few people would call that downright wickedness—few people in the world I mean; but here, unfortunately, we are forced to judge differently. Years and years have passed since, for I was a young man at the time, but the memory of that child has returned to me, his look of sorrowful reproof adding to the pangs of hell. It is but an example, as I said, and there are many—many!

But not mere deeds—every word of evil carelessly spoken in the days of earthly life comes back to me with similar force. As poisoned arrows such words once quitted my lips—as poisoned arrows they come back to me, piercing the heart. Oh, consider it while the living voice is yours, and speak not lightly! There is no saying what harvest of sin may spring from a single word. And if pity for others will not restrain you, be advised by pity for your own selves, since requital will come to yourselves only in the end.

And not merely deeds and words, but every harmful thought recurs to me, to gnaw away at my heart. There is a saying with certain philosophers in the world that nothing ever is lost. If this be true in the material world, how much more so is it in spiritual things—ah, terrible truth !

And further, apart from the evil done, it is the good left undone, the opportunities wasted, which stand around me with pitiless scourge, and their name is legion! Thus everything, you see, both what I have done and left undone, comes to life here in this place of woe—takes shape, I ought to say—rising in accusation against me. I try to escape, but they are about me everywhere, those shapes of terror, enough to people a world with despair; they persecute me, they torture me, and I am their helpless prey. Memories of the good left undone—alas, they are far more bitter than those of the evil done! For temptation to do wrong often was great, and in my own strength I failed to conquer; but to do good, for the most part, would have cost little, if any, effort. I see it now with the new insight into life which hell gives. The man lives not who is excused from leaving good undone; however poor and humbly situated he may be, opportunity is ever at his door. It is for him only to open his heart and take in the opportunity; for his own heart is a well of power and of blessing to boot. He who is the fountain of love and purity, from whom every good and perfect gift cometh, has wondrously arranged it, that in this respect there is but little difference between the rich and the poor, the gentle and the simple. Let me conjure you then, brothers and sisters, listen to the voice of your heart while yet it is day! Listen, I say, and obey, lest the bitterness of repentance overtake you with the night when no man can work! Ah, let no opportunity for the doing of good escape you, for it will rise against you when nothing is left but to wail in anguish.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Know the wretchedness of Hell

I never imagined while living on earth that I had need to render thanks for anything; that health, riches, happy days, were gifts to be grateful for, but rather accepted them as the natural appurtenances of my existence; and if I thought about them at all, it was only to wish for more, for I was never satisfied with life as I found it nor with the world I lived in. Now I view things differently; I see now that the gifts of life are blessings unspeakable, and all the greater for being entirely undeserved. On looking back—and I am ever looking back now, there being nothing before me save one thing, awful and horrible, the judgment to come—on looking back, I say, I am bound to confess that the blessings of a single day of life on earth are innumerable as the stars. How rich is life! There may be misery and trouble on earth—and I believed I had my full share of both—but it has all dwindled to nothing since I have come to know the wretchedness of hell. Let me assure you out of my own dire experience that the most suffering creature on earth has much to be thankful for. Man's life, whatever it be, should bring him to his knees daily. And if you have nothing left of earth's blessings but air and light, and a piece of bread to satisfy your hunger, you have need to give thanks. I see it now, but for me, it is too late. In hell there is nothing—absolutely nothing to be thankful for; you, however, whose sun has not yet set, may still learn to yield your hearts in gratitude. Ah, hear me, I beseech you; there is no help for me, but help may come to you!

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Books in Hell

It may surprise you to hear me speak of books in hell, but you will soon perceive the fitness of things, it being neither more nor less than this—whatever is bad must come to hell, so of printed matter whatever is morally evil or arrogantly stupid tends hitherwards, the books arriving first, the authors following, and their publishers along with them. You will understand then that we are well off for literature, of a certain description, that is to say.

Polite literature, for instance, has provided us with countless novels, very popular, if trashy and sometimes immodest. There is no civilised nation or country that has not produced its share, varying in quantity or quality. They seem represented by two species chiefly—one can hardly call them schools—the purely sensational and the sensationally impure; the former being content to hint where the latter touch boldly, the former often supremely worthless, where the latter are wickedly ingenious. Many authors, and especially some authoresses, appear to find their life's duty in pandering to depraved taste, or worse, in fostering it. I might mention names, but I refrain. Only let me assure these experts of the pen, ladies and gentlemen, that they are well known here. No doubt it will create quite a flutter in their bosoms, adding not a little to their sense of fame, to learn that their talent is so extensively appreciated and that their books are fashionable, not only in polite society on earth but even in hell! There is this drawback, to be sure, to damp their spirits, that for the present they must be satisfied with mere honour—pay being withheld until they themselves join their circle of readers here. Then their reward shall be given them in this matter also.

But to proceed—there is no lack here even of theological writings—especially of modern commentaries, but also of the dogmatic and homiletical kind. To speak plainly, how many a book of fine sermons or of religious comfort arrives here, preceding the hireling shepherds! With casuistry too we are thoroughly provided. The Middle Ages are represented chiefly by a vast amount of priestly falsehood, systematised into all sorts of fanatical quibbles and sacerdotal inventions concerning the deep questions of religion. The more modern school may be said to have reached a climax in the days of Voltaire and the encyclopedists, taking a fresh start with Kant and his followers. You observe I speak broadly, in a European sense, refraining from particularising or quoting nearer home. You may judge for yourself, and be sure that no literary means are wanting here to advance the interests of atheism. For, mind you, even in hell those who believe and tremble' may be brought to a worse state. For the rest, since I never troubled myself about theology, either as a science or otherwise, I am not likely to study it here.

Besides this so-called true theology, there are found with us the writings of those puffed-up, half-crazy fanatics—the false prophets of every degree, who make a sort of trade of religion. Their literary effusions are generally laughed at, even here; but in most cases, the author himself arrives before long, and laughter for him turns to weeping. These curious divines have a special corner assigned to them in this place, differing greatly from the paradise they believed themselves heirs of in virtue of their singular calling.

Philosophy too is well represented. Philosophers, on the whole, are a harmless tribe. Some of them may be groping for wisdom which includes goodness and piety, and others are merely the victims of some peculiar mania which hurts no one. We get the writings of those only whom conceit of intellect drives to the front. I might quote some curious instances, showing how, within a professor's den, some ten feet square, the universe may be grasped, the mystery of life solved, eternity gauged; in fact, how the ocean of the infinite may be got into the nutshell of a finite brain.

In passing merely I mention the literature of the law. If I ignored it altogether it might be taken for disrespect, and I am sure I would rather not offend the gentlemen of the robe. Let me state the plain fact—I reverence justice, but I feel doubtful about lawyers. Did not some sharp-witted urchin make the discovery that the devil was a lawyer from the beginning? I would rather wash my hands of them, not understanding them in the least.

Last, but not least, I turn to the literary geniuses of the reviewing department, at the risk even of most dreadfully offending them. No reviewer, I presume, would flatter himself with the conceit that his dissertations could have any but the most ephemeral value; I feel loth to disabuse their laudable modesty, but I am bound to let them know that some do live—live in hell! I have made the startling discovery that of reviews not a few appear to be written in ignorance, or inspired by envy and even downright malice. Reviewers form a species apart, not nurtured in babyhood, it would seem, with the milk of human kindness. I was assured once that in order to review a book properly, one had need to be something of a misanthrope—something of a cynic at any rate, since barking and biting seems to be the great delight. Be this as it may, I have always maintained that reviewers, as a natural curiosity, may be divided into two classes—those who are capable of passing judgment, and those who are not. The former, strange to say, cautiously, and indeed rarely, advance their criticism, and nothing of theirs is ever seen here.

By dint of numerous reviews, then, we are kept au courant with the events of the book-market. Whenever a specially mordant piece of criticism arrives here we know that it has been called forth by a publication which is probably good and certainly harmless. It is the caricature only which reaches us; but it is so, alas, with most things!

As for newspapers?—it stands to reason that much of the daily food provided in these quarters cannot fare any better, since ambition of gain, private or public, unblushingly presides at the board. How many a journal has but the one object in view —the making of money? How many others have actually sold themselves to further the paltry interests of this or that party, not caring in the least, in their hardened consciences, how far astray they lead the public mind?

And what shall I say of the appalling amount of despatches, notes, and official memoranda interchanged between the various Cabinets for no other reason, it would seem, but that of misleading?—specimens of ambiguous phraseology, ever appealing to truth and justice but heeding neither truth nor justice wherever a chance of gain or even the interests of vulgar passion come to the front. This sort of political documents are rarely got hold of by newspapers even; on earth, they are the things that walk in secret, but they fail not to furnish us down here with many a curious explanation of historic events. I have come to suspect that nothing is more outrageously false, and cruel, and opposed to every will of God, than what goes by the name of higher politics.

You see from this sketch that we are not at a loss for reading, but you will also perceive that the vile productions reaching us can nowise tend to edify or even really instruct us. If they enable us to follow events in the world, it is a kind of inverted effect, suggesting, in fact, the very opposite of what they assert. There is here no pleasure in reading; on the contrary, the more one peruses, the more one sickens; but nauseated though we feel, we are unable to get out of the intellectual slough, the mire of a lying literature.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Tending to the soul's ruin

Would all the votaries of fashion, men and women on earth could view—were it for a moment only—its true appearance as seen in hell, and they would never desire to be fashionable again!

It is strange—no, not strange, but sadly true—that most people believe vanity and the love of dress no great sin, but, at worst, only one of those amiable foibles to which one may plead guilty quite innocently.

Love of dress in itself perhaps need not become a sin—I say perhaps, but look at it as you please, there is that connected with it which cannot but tend to the soul's ruin. Its aims and the aims of the spirit lie widely apart; it takes the place of better things, and vanity, clinging to you as a cloud, will hide the true objects of life. Men or women ruled by vanity fritter away their time, and when they die not only good works do not follow them, but opportunities wasted stand round their bier. Who has the face now to say that vanity, that love of dress, is harmless?

I look upon my own life. How plainly I see it all now—how gladly would I improve opportunities, could they but return!

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

The vantage-ground of hell

Could you but view matters from the vantage-ground of hell, you who lessen life by discontent, you would gain that much of wisdom, that our days on earth, whatever of trouble, of care and vexation, be bound up with them, are yet capable of yielding very real happiness. So much depends on how we take things. If, instead of fixing upon trouble as something foreign to yourselves or hostile to your being, looking upon yourselves as miserable in consequence, you could but open your soul to that trouble and, rising from inertness, accept it as a very part of your existence, how different things would appear! Many a trouble, moreover, is but imaginary, and if dealt with sensibly would dwindle away; while many a real trouble, on the other hand, by your striving to take it aright, might become an impulse of new endeavour, changing the very face of your life and leading you to a better happiness than before you aimed at. Ah, indeed, if you could but view matters from hell you would come to see that man is able to bear a load of trouble, and that, confronting want and misery, he may yet attain a state of happiness worth the having! You would find that every day of that life which now you make a burden to yourselves and to others is precious beyond words, a gracious gift of God for which you cannot be grateful enough. You would understand that I, hungering and longing, would wish to be in your place—ay, and count myself blessed to bear the burden which you consider so grievous.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Of all the fools of the world's training

Was it not that excellent hero, Achilles, who in Hades exclaimed mournfully, he would rather be the most miserable man on earth than king of the realm below? This is but the wisdom of the Greeks, but how true!—how true! I too would far rather spend my days upon earth amid the most overwhelming difficulties, battling with care, want, or suffering, than occupy any favoured position here, be it of king or epicure. Of all the fools of the world's training he, surely, is greatest who takes away his own life, thinking that he could never be worse off than he is. In sooth, whatever a man's earthly lot may be, be sure it may be a paradise to what he goes to meet. He may find himself yearning for the misery he quitted; indeed, if you could give him back that misery tenfold, he would seize it eagerly and bless you for the gift.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Be reconciled to God!

You may understand from this how it is possible with me to speak of things pertaining to the kingdom of God—naming the Saviour, the Crucified One, speaking of repentance and faith—without the faintest share in their blessing; nay, mentioning them with my lips merely, despair filling the heart. Everything is vain and empty in hell—those words are but soulless sounds to me; I know them outwardly, I can speak of them, but their meaning is nothing to me. I know that there is a Saviour and that He is the Son of God, but Him I know not; it is empty knowledge; His very name even is gone. I hate myself and say I have deserved it all, but it is fruitless repentance—repentance without cleansing tears. And as for faith, of course, I believe—must believe; but that too is empty—not faith which clings to that which it believes. Do not the devils believe—they must—and tremble? Be reconciled to God! What power these words had to move me! I felt in that hour as though it must be man's one and only object on earth to seek reconciliation with God, and, having found it, to go to Him through the portal of death. I remembered the stars and their loving message, Be good! and I felt ready to turn my back upon the world once for all. My first communion was as an earnest that I had set my feet upon the path to heaven, but I quickly turned aside; at the very church door, the world lay waiting with its pleasant road to hell. Be reconciled to God!—the words keep sounding about me, not as an echo from heaven, but rather as a curse of hell. Be reconciled—reconciled to God! Why must I hear it when there is no more reconciliation—when the door of mercy is closed. O terrible retribution!

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Friday, 28 April 2017

Little is needed to take a man to hell

It is, indeed, a strange fancy, prevalent among men, that only the wicked go to hell. You poor deluded ones, listen to my words—it is incredible, I assure you, how little is needed to take a man to hell—that is to say, if he dies without having found his Saviour. For without Him, the soul is unable to bear the smallest weight of wrong; while with Him—yes, with Him—she will wing herself to heaven in the face of mountains of sin. Do you know that Saviour? I ask you as one who can never know Him now!

There are many here, I assure you, who have never committed any particular crime. The world, with its notions of right and wrong, would cry out for justice if it were but known! And why are they here? They never felt the sting of conscience, leading respectable lives, laying the unction of goodness to their souls—but they died and went to hell. No demon of evil ruled their lives, and yet they are here—oh heaven, where is thy justice?—in a like damnation with ourselves! The torment of hell for such people consists in having nothing to do here, no counting-house to attend, no families to provide for. Not ruled by passion, they are slaves to life's habit, and the latter may be as terrible a taskmaster as the former.

Thus much is certain, if having nothing to live for could kill people, and if one could die in hell, many here would die of sheer hankering after their earthly drudgery.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Hell's Daily Bread

That irresistible impulse to be continuously doing the works of our earthly life, to pursue with a burning greed a vain and shadowy existence, may well be termed hell's daily bread. The evil desire alone is real—the sense that might lend it expression is dead. You have heard of Tantalus and Sisyphus—it may help you to conceive our state. All is illusion here, the very fire I told you of, raging in imagination merely—within us that is—and yet what an awful reality!

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Law of Hell

This then is the law of hell—we are not tormented—we torment ourselves! Yet remember that in dying everything depends on whether we lived in the faith of the Son of God, who gave His life that men might be saved. Our sins have that dread importance in as far as they testify that we did not believe. Do you marvel that I speak of God? Ah me, He is still our God! And we know that there is a Son of God who came into the world to save sinners, who loved them unto death, even the death of the Cross. But we know nothing of the way of salvation—everything is forgotten—the very name of the Saviour. We consume ourselves in terrible efforts to remember, were it but the faintest remnant of saving knowledge, but alas it is vain—not even His name! Could we remember that name, call it back to our hearts, I doubt not—I doubt not—even we might be saved. But it is gone—it is too late! too late!

It is incredible how much I have forgotten; indeed, I might say I have forgotten everything except myself. Yes, that is it. I have not forgotten self; on the contrary, whatever of the past concerns my person and my life has followed me hither with a minuteness of detail as strange as it is painful. But the clothes of self, as it were—the things I once possessed by knowledge, by intellectual acquirement—they have vanished together with the gifts of mammon and the vanities of the flesh. You will not be surprised then that the feeling of nakedness is so terribly present with me.

I have brought nothing hither but myself. And what comprises this self but a burning remorse which can never be stilled; a greed of desire which can never be satisfied; an unquenchable longing for things left behind; innumerable recollections of sins great and small, causing insufferable anguish, all
being equally bitter, equally fraught with vainest regret! This is the picture of myself, O God—of myself in hell.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

The Moving-springs of Hell

There is in hell not only a certain natural succession of time, but also something of social and political order. Families herd together, and souls of one and the same century like to congregate. And there is a kind of progressive development. The most recent arrivals, as a rule, take the lowest place, advancing to make room for fresh troops appearing. Those who in the world were of one way of thinking, or alike in manner of acting, soon meet here, though of different nationality or separate centuries. Thus there is here a town of injustice, called also the town of politicians; there is a town of the Holy Inquisition; a gigantic city of Jews, of Mormons; a town of Antediluvians, and many others.

I begin to understand the moving-springs of hell. It is insatiate desire on the one hand, and remorse on the other—I had almost said sorrow; but that is too sweet a grace, admitting of sorrow for sin, for opportunity wasted, and that is unknown here; it is a dull flinty grief, a mere wailing for pain. The punishment of hell is twofold, but after all it is the self-same retribution. Some are driven continuously to brood over the same evil passions they indulged in on earth, satisfaction alone being absent; or with horror and loathing are obliged again and again to commit in the spirit the self-same crimes that polluted their days in the flesh. The miser forever is dreaming of riches, the voluptuary of uncleanness, the glutton of feasting, the murderer of his bloody deed. Others, on the contrary, are pursuing the very things they neglected on earth; they know it is hopeless, but pursue them they must. Thus men of unjust dealing are anxiously trying to right the wrong, the unmerciful to do deeds of charity, the unnatural parent to live for her children, the suicide to prolong his days.

But whatever we suffer, our torment is not to be viewed in the light of final punishment—that is coming—we await the day of doom; no, it is merely the natural consequence of our life on earth. Oh, men and women, yet walking on earth, consider this! that all sin, great or small, has its own irretrievable consequence, which—ay, think of it—extends far beyond the limits of life, even into hell. And if mere consequence may be so terrible, what must be the punishment to come?

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Spectres of Hell

Again, hell has a river, the waters of which are heavy, dark, and muddy. You will be thinking of the waters of Lethe. Ah no, my friend, there is no Lethe here whence souls might draw forgetfulness—that is a happy myth; but the river I speak of is real, terribly real. It is fed by the falsehood and injustice of the world; every lie, every wrong, helps to swell it. That is why its waters are so turbid, so fearfully foul, looking like clotted blood at times. And sometimes, when the world is more wicked than usual, the river rises and floods its banks, leaving stench and pestilence behind it. It is scarcely to be endured. But we, hardened spectres of hell, we endure.

Sometimes, I am told, it rains here and snows, but not so often as one would think. It happens when folly and vanity upon earth overflow their measure. The world can stand a good deal, we know, but there are times when even the world has too much of it. The surplus then will drop into hell, and we say, by way of former fashion of speech—Look, it rains; or, Behold it snows!

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Shall I venture upon a local description of hell?

Shall I venture upon a local description of hell?

I doubt I shall not be able, but will make the attempt.

Hell has its own geography, but no one can tell how far its realm extends; it is infinite—that maybe is the most correct estimate to be given. I believe earth, sun, and moon, and all the planets, would not nearly fill it. But what foolish talk, there being neither space nor time here. And as for boundaries?—on one side only, far, far away, hell has its boundary; whether anyone ever reached it I cannot tell.

In the direction of that pale twilight, which decreases and increases alternately, there is a great gulf, a fathomless abyss, separating hell from Paradise. It is Paradise whence that radiance proceeds. And from the abyss, at regular intervals apparently, dead darkness gushes forth, repressing the faint far-off light of heaven, until the last ghostly glimmer is gone. Then it is night with us, the abyss appearing as a lake of molten fire, but its flames are void of light-giving power. That is Satan's residence, and the abode of damned souls. I speak of it with fear and trembling. Gradually the abyss, as it were, eats up its own darkness, the fair light reappearing and growing, until we see it as a tender radiance, clear as the twilight of a summer morn. And at times, as though a curtain of mist and cloud were suddenly rent asunder, a cataract of light bursts forth victoriously, overflowing from the heart of glory. Hell stands dazzled, struck to the core as it were. For in beauty and bliss eternal a vision of Paradise is given to the damned ones—no, not the damned ones, for though cast into hell we are not yet judged; it is given to those who, like the rich man, lift up their eyes in torment. And it is not only Paradise we see, but the blessed ones who dwell there.

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Is it not madness?

This then is the misery of hell for me; I am hungering after enjoyment, pure or impure, but there is no sense left to gratify; reality has vanished, the greed only remains. Is it not madness?

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

The Outer Darkness

We make our fate in unmaking ourselves; that men, in defacing the image of God in themselves, construct for themselves a world of horror and dismay; that of the outer darkness our own deeds and character are the informing or inwardly creating cause; that if a man will not have God, he never can be rid of his weary and hateful self.

George Mac Donald

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889

Letters from Hell

You must know, then, that each wretched being here [in Hell] is moved by an irresistible impulse to imitate his life on earth, to continue what in sinful folly he worked in that life. And, strange to say, as I have already hinted, we can all obtain here what we like; one need but think of anything, and there it is. Passion and wrongful desires rule here as they do in the world, only the more horribly, being void of substance. In the world they are clothed—clothed in a semblance of beauty even; lawless and pernicious though they are, they at least own the garment of nature. But here they are mere skeletons, unclothed of the flesh, an insult to nature, continuing in the evil bent of former habit, yet incapable of aught but showing their miserable nakedness. For the imaginings of hell are hollow and empty, void of truth and reality, bereft of all means of satisfaction. And yet the very punishment of hell consists in this, that we are driven to conform to this maddening unreality, this death-breathing nothingness. No matter how deeply conscious we are of the vanity of our doings—no matter how we loathe them—they have come to be our masters; we are driven, helplessly driven, to be forever trying to be what we were on earth.

Supposing, then, that a number of spirits agree we will have a town here, that town straightway appears on the scene; or if others say, let us have a church here and a theatre and a public park, or woods and a lake and mountains, it is all there as soon as imagined. And not only that each one sees for himself what he has called up in vain desire—it is seen by all with whom he comes into contact. But everything is shadowy—nay, less than shadowyit is empty conceit. Such a state naturally includes change upon change, incessant unrest; this also is vanity.

Neither is there any lack of assisting spirits to carry into effect any desired show. Does anyone here wish to set up an establishment, to live in style, as the phrase went on earth, he is straightway surrounded by faithless stewards, drunken butlers, thieving servants of all kinds. If you imagine that no one would care to be a servant here, you are mistaken, for the inhabitants of hell, in a mere outward way also, carry on the habits of life. Is there anyone here who likes to general an army, he will find plenty of bloodthirsty ruffians to obey his behests, provided indeed he was a general in his days gone by; for, mind you, without a name a man even here could not make his way.


LETTERS FROM HELL, L. W. J. S., RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, 1889

The Shadows of the Past

Alone with all the shadows of the past.

I saw my earthly life glide past in vision. 
Scene after scene, forgotten long ago.
How blind—insanely blind, had I not been!
The sight of all my crimes confounded me.
They crushed my spirit with their leaden weight. 
At last, I whisperedPunish me, oh Lord!

The voice repliedGod claims no penalty.
Sin punishes itself. Each evil seed
Allowed to grow in wanton liberty
Must bear its bitter crop of pain and woe.

Towards the Light—A Mystic Poem, Princess Karadja, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1908

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Demonical Possession

The person who departs from this physical world with any strong earthly or bodily desire unsatisfied naturally seeks every possible avenue through which to gratify that desire. And if it is a desire which can be gratified only in the physical world, it naturally seeks an instrument or physical body through which it can obtain such gratification. This desire for renewed physical expression holds such minds close to the physical world in what may be called the slums of the ethereal or astral world, which is the world just beyond and an octave higher in vibration than the physical world. The discarnate personalities thus held close to earth by their desires and thoughts constitute what are called the earth.bound, while those not so held by earthly desires naturally and unconsciously rise into the higher, finer and brighter realms of manifestation according to the Law of Spiritual Gravity.

To obtain the desired expression in the physical, the disembodied one must find some person whose body and mind are abnormally open to such suggestions, impressions and thought-transference to the point of at least partial possession or obsession. Such persons are found among the mentally unstable, the neurasthenic, and especially among the alcoholics and narcotic drug addicts. However, just as the majority of humanity are protected from the invasion of infectious diseases by a natural physical—until that immunity is broken down by fatigue, destructive emotions, abnormal living, etc.—just so is the mind of man protected from the invasion of psychic suggestions and thought-forms from the invisible worlds by a natural psychic immunity. Therefore, let no normal mind fear psychic invasion.

We all possess an ethereal and astral body as the substratum or model into the meshes of which the physical body is built. And between this finer body and the physical body, there is a special layer of etheric matter which normally prevents vibrations and thought-forces from the unseen world from reaching and registering upon the physical body. But this protective and immunity-conferring layer is dissolved by alcohol and is paralysed and rapidly disintegrated by narcotic drugs, thus exposing the addict to obsession from the invisible just as one whose physical immunity is destroyed is open to infection by invisible pathogenic bacteria. The alcohol radical of all the higher alcohols—methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl, etc.—is really an ethereal substance normally belonging in the ethereal world but temporarily materialised in the physical. When its bonds to the physical are released, it naturally tends to fly back to the world and octave of vibration to which it normally belongs. In the alcoholic, it passes into the ethereal world through certain outlets or centres which connect the physical with the astral, and in doing so it dissolves the etheric wall which normally confers psychic immunity, and thus exposes the victim to all the horrors to be found in the slums of the astral world. The horrid visions of delirium tremens are, therefore, not the mere ravings of a disordered imagination, but actual sights of very real things in the astral world.

The narcotic radical in drugs acts in a similar manner, exposing its victim not only to his own physical craving for the drug but also to the much greater and more sinister force of obsession by disembodied addicts who seek such abnormally opened channels for the gratification of their still persisting desire. This accounts for the powerful and all-compelling or so-called irresistible impulse which overwhelms the weakened wills of even those who are seemingly cured by the proper institutional treatment the moment they are released into the outer world, where the drug can be obtained.

This fact of psychic obsession also accounts for those crimes of irresistible impulse of which the perpetrator knows nothing after the obsessing influences pass away and he returns to his normal consciousness. All such belong to the same class as the drug addict, namely, the self-indulgent, weak-willed or hypersensitive individuals who allow the doors of their minds to swing idly to and fro in negative mental states, or those whose psychic immunity has been weakened or destroyed, both of which make them easy victims to the inrush of any outside but positive and determined thought-force. There is a vast difference, however, not only in degree but in kind between strong telepathic suggestions from the mental and spiritual worlds and a definite psychic invasion from the astral world; all the difference between an uplifting spiritual inspiration and a demonical possession.

It should be remembered that sudden and strong impulse from the invisible—both good and evil, constructive and destructive, inspiring and depressing—do not come in words—unless one is clairaudient—but by the inrush of a new idea or current of thought-force, which makes a compelling and often overwhelming impression. Those of positive mentality, developed wills and high moral character are able to check and control such inrushes until they can examine them and decide what their reaction should be. But those of weak mentality or will, who are hypersensitive to outside impressions, tend to give way to and express such impulses without due consideration. They respond to the negative or evil suggestions more readily because such usually appeal to some form of self-indulgence, or because they require less exertion of positive will than the good and constructive impulses. Hence, mental poise and acute discrimination is a vital point to be taught in any campaign of education on any subject.

Other drugs which produce sleep also open the door to the invisible world and permit the consciousness to leave the body, but with less corroding and degenerating effects upon its psychic immunity.

Some Fundamentals in the Psychology of Narcotic Drug Addiction, F. Homer Curtiss, H. A. Curtiss, Founders of the Order of Christian Mystics, World Conference on Narcotic Education, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1926 (Realms of the Living Dead—A Brief Description of Life After Death, Harriette Augusta Curtiss and F. Homer Curtiss, the Curtiss Philosophic Book Company, Washington D. C., 1926)

Preserve an open mind

We are mentally and morally, and even legally responsible, not only for our acts and words but for every thought to which we give expression.