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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Letters from Julia

All that I wrote about the joy and the glory of the Love of God, which is manifested to us more and more exceedingly, was too weak, too poor to give you any idea of how Life becomes, transfigured when the atmosphere of Life is Love.

— JULIA

In After Death or Letters from Julia — A Personal Narrative, amanuensis, W. T. Stead, reproduces the automatic manuscript of its invisible author, Julia.  She was always a truthful woman, writes Stead, and I don't think that the change called death was likely to impair her veracity. At the same time, he writes in his preface to the volume, I do not for a moment believe that her experiences are to be accepted as those common to all the departed. He quotes John 14:2 — In my Father's house are many mansions, and asserts that each soul goes to its own place. Apart from what is peculiar or personal to his friend's personal narrative, Stead adds that two or three things common to all actual narratives of personal experience by the so-called dead appear to be clearly asserted in these messages — The first is that death makes no break in the continuity of mental consciousness. Our personality persists with so vivid a sense of its own identity that there is often at first some difficulty in realising that death has taken place. The second is that the period of growth and probation is no more complete at death than it is on leaving school, finishing an apprenticeship, or retiring from business. The environment is changed, but the principle of growth, of evolution, of endless progress toward ideal perfection, continues to be the law of life. The third is that it is not only possible but lawful, and not only lawful, but an absolute duty on our part to renew and keep up a loving intercourse with the loved ones who have gone before. Stead warns us against any tampering with the unseen and potent spirits of evil which lie in wait for the soul, but reminds us anew that our friends do not become evil demons because they have changed their bodily raiment!

In his introduction to Julia's letters, Stead attests that Julia and Ellen were lifelong friends. They were both devout Christians, and would often exchange the solemn covenant that whoever was taken first would, if it were permitted, return to the other who was left, and keep a solemn tryst. The visible manifestation of that actual presence of the departed would thus banish all doubt and convince the survivor as to the uninterrupted continuance of both life and love beyond the grave.

The years passed on, and Julia died. Her death was a grievous blow to Ellen, and for some months, it seemed as if existence without her friend was a burden too great to be borne, but one night the promise was fulfilled. Ellen was sleeping in her old home, when suddenly she was awakened. It was night, but the room was full of light. And close to her bedside she saw Julia in her habit as she lived, radiant with life and peace and joy. Julia had redeemed her promise. For some moments she stood there, smiling but silent. Ellen was too awestruck to speak. Then the figure slowly, almost imperceptibly dissolved away, and Ellen was left alone.

Several months later Ellen visited the United States, and again Julia fulfilled her covenant and kept her promised tryst. Stead happened to be staying in the same country house. Ellen told him the story of Julia's two visits. After describing how Julia came the first time, Ellen continued — 

I saw her again the other night in my room there. I saw her in the same way. I was sleeping. I was suddenly woken up, and saw her standing by my bedside. Then she faded away, and I only saw the light in the place where she had been standing. The first time I thought it might have been a hallucination, as her death was recent, and I was in such terrible distress about her, but the other night there was no mistake about it. I saw her quite distinctly. I know it was Julia, and she has come back to me as she promised. But I could not hear her speak, and I cannot bear to think that she may have come back with a message for me, and yet I could not hear what she had to say.

At that time, and much to his own surprise, Stead had begun to develop a gift of automatic writing, and he offered, in case Julia were willing and able to use his hand as her own, to allow Julia to write what message she pleased by that means.

Automatic writing, Stead explains, for those unfamiliar with the term, is writing that is written by the hand of a person which is not under control of his conscious mind. The hand apparently writes of itself, the person to whom the hand belongs having no knowledge of what it is about to write. It is a very familiar and simple form of mediumship, which in no way impairs the writer's faculties or places his personality under the control of any other intelligence. This writing may proceed from his subconscious mind, or it may be due to the direct action of independent, invisible intelligences. What is certain is that it does not emanate from the writer's conscious mind. The writer often receives messages containing information to past events which he has never heard, and sometimes perfectly accurate predictions to events which have not yet happened.

It was in this way that Stead began to receive the communications. Sitting alone with a tranquil mind, he would consciously place his right hand, with the pen held in the ordinary way, at Julia's disposal, and would watch with keen and sceptical interest to see what it would write.

The bulk of the first series was written as letters from Julia to Ellen. They were written as from one friend to another, beginning and ending just as if the writer were still in the body. The second series was written for publication at irregular intervals. The first series is really a compost of extracts from letters just as they were received, and which were written every week for nearly six months, with some intercalated observations made to Stead at the time of writing. Letters from Julia, writes Stead, are really what they profess to be — communications from the disembodied spirit of one who was his friend in her earth life, but whose friendship had been far closer and more real to him since her death.

I have only to say that, Stead concludes, that while the source of these messages is of course a matter of the first importance in so far as they bear testimony to things not within human ken, the intrinsic value of three-fourths of the "Letters from Julia" is no more dependent upon theories as to their origin than the merits of Shakespeare's plays depend upon theories of their authorship. 

Grant, he entreats, if you will, that the Letters were written solely by my subconscious self, that would in no way impair the truth or diminish the force of these eloquent and touching pleas for the Higher Life. I only wish my conscious self could write so well.