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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

More Actual Next Life Stories

The Story of R. W.

In his narrative of personal experiences by some who have passed on, author and theosophist, A. P. Sinnett, now approaches a very difficult task, that of describing the after-death experiences of a lady who was brought to talk to him in response to a wish on his part to get speech with someone whose story would be a feminine pendant to that of his friend, H. S., a woman whose life had been in a pre-eminent degree coloured by strong sexual passion.

Let me again emphasise, he writes, the idea that, exhaled within the limits of any reasonable, moderation, no bad karma whatever attaches to the exercise of natural functions, nor even to the intense enjoyment of these as associated with genuine love, of which indeed they are the almost inevitable expression on the physical plane of life. I might go even further than this if called upon to write an essay on the relations of the sexes, so grievously mismanaged under the influence of various delusive conventions, especially in this country. But some fundamental laws may be recognised in connection with all problems of this nature; firstly, that selfish pleasure, sought at the expense of incidental suffering to another, engenders bad karma of an unequivocal character, the effects of which will colour the next physical life, while, independently of that, desires innocent in themselves, may be exaggerated in their intensity and allowed to dominate a whole life to such an extent that they are shed with very great difficulty on the astral plane after the death of the physical body. The process of shedding them may be so painful and protracted, as the story I have just been dealing with shows, that an account of it in any particular case reads like the description of a punishment, but that would not be a correct reading of it. The consequences of evil-doing on the physical plane, which have to be regarded, from one point of view, as its penalty, are worked out on the physical plane again in the next life. The intervening period is one the conditions of which ought to reflect the better side of the life just spent, rather than its worst. But for that better side to express itself the entity must not be weighed down by characteristics incompatible with existence on the higher levels of the astral world. It cannot get up to those higher levels till free of the characteristics which belong exclusively to the earth life. That is how it comes to pass that the entity is entangled with thought forms on the third level, in the way H. S. was entangled, till that group of desires has been worn out.

I will go on now with the narrative I was enabled to obtain from the lady who, as I put it above, was a counterpart, on the feminine side, of my friend H. S.

She remembered her death, which she struggled against. Felt herself pushed out of her body, and saw it die. Sank into a state of unconsciousness, and afterwards woke feeling very unhappy. She found herself surrounded by a dull red light, and saw male forms around in all directions. This sight roused the old desires with intensity. She rushed towards them, but they receded. I must leave a good deal here to the imagination of the reader. Fiercely craving for satisfaction, she found herself drawn into an eddy or swirl which drew her into the neighbourhood of a soldier and girl in Hyde Park. She threw herself into the girl's aura. The girl had been somewhat reluctant, but now gave herself up to the man.

Desire seemed to burn her like acid on the skin. I cannot follow the painful story in all details. She was fearfully tormented by thought forms of a horrible character, the creation of her imagination during life. These at last provoked a feeling of abhorrence. She found herself alone in a rocky desert, utterly miserable. Eventually, she was addressed by a tall black figure who told her she was in his charge, but that it rested with her to determine how long she would remain on these levels of misery. He asked, did she wish to escape from these tormenting desires? She could only gasp out an entreaty to him to "get her out of this." He said: "It is well; follow me; the way is long, but if you obey you will find a path that will lead you away. As soon as I depart you will be again tormented by the personifications of your old desires. They will seem real; they will attempt to seduce you. Bear in mind that they cannot, if your desire for freedom remains. Hold fast to that." Then she found herself surrounded by red flowers, red grass, red everything, and men were there saying "Come!" etc. But she resisted.

Melan again appeared, saying, "It is well. Rest and recover!" Then he touched her forehead, and a wave of peace seemed to flow over her. Then she saw a lovely woman in white, who smiled on her and took her in her arms. She floated up, and attained some region of bliss; a lovely garden, where she was filled with a new sense of life and cleanliness.

This must, of course, have been some level of the fourth sub-plane, and thither she now returns at will; but she has devoted herself to work on the lower planes, where she endeavours to help those whom she misled in life.

I cannot ascertain exactly how long the suffering period lasted, but believe it must have been for several years of our time.

J. P.'s Story

The astral life with which I will now proceed to deal was one which I sought to investigate because it was that of a man who led an utterly commonplace life, concerned merely with the ordinary amusements of a man-about-town, with racing, games, and club life generally. There was nothing that I knew of conspicuously wrong in his behaviour, but he was a man who probably never gave a thought to interests of a higher order than those of the physical plane, and my valued friend G. R. found him for me about a year after his passing over, and brought him along for a talk.

He was very glad to find himself in a position to talk freely with someone on the physical plane. He identified himself with joyful readiness, and addressed me by name, vividly remembering all about his life just spent. "I am not happy," he told me. I will proceed to give his story, as far as I can, in his own words, hurriedly noted at the time of our interview, and freely interlarded with the harmless swear words he was wont to strew about his conversation with liberal abundance.

"I am still haunting that damned club, bored to death." I asked what were his first recollections. "I remember being awfully confused at first; couldn't realise that I was dead. You know I died rather suddenly; some sort of fit, I believe the doctors called it. Then I know I had a sort of sleep for a time, and when I woke I was in one of those big armchairs at the club. One of those near the fire, you know, in the smoking-room. Then, damned if some fellow did not sit down right on top of me, or through me! It was that beastly fat old colonel who used to play billiards. The old fool said, "What a draught; shut the door!" There wasn't any draught. I went to the billiard room, and wanted to play, but if I tried to take up a cue it slipped through my fingers. I looked on sometimes at all of you having lunch or dinner. I wanted to join in, but it was no good. If I got hold of anything, it all went to nothing in my fingers, like one of those damned pastry-cook's puffs with nothing inside. I wanted a cut off the joint.

In life, of course, he had been quite unable to take a serious view of the subjects with which he knew I was concerned, and now he felt how much better it might have been for him if he had been able. But he went on to explain how he had been just now addressed by someone he did not know. "Who the devil are you?" he asked, and the person asked him to come along and have a talk with me. "You're the first person I've met," he said, "who has given me an intelligible answer." He was then brought to me, and was utterly bewildered as to how it was that he found himself talking to me. I endeavoured to explain as far as it was possible to make him understand, giving him good advice as to how he could get clear of the club and aspire towards superior conditions in the new world of which he had just touched the threshold, and recommended him to seek out a certain person whom we both knew in life, another member of our club, who had passed on two or three years before. This friend had a mind a good deal better open to serious ideas than J. P., as I will call him, but none the less was worried for a time at not being able to get away from the club, where he had spent much of his waking life. J. P. did not know what to do in order to find R. N., as I will call him, but I told him to think of R. N. intently, and that would attract his attention.

Meanwhile he went on to tell me that some mysterious person had, on one occasion, shown him an awful sight — something that looked like a huge pit; and, looking down, he saw horrid reptiles, scorpions, and great octopuses, and he was told he had had the good luck to escape going down there "by a hair's breadth." He shuddered. "Ten minutes down there would have knocked me silly." Referring to his life on this plane, he said, "I was an empty sort of numskull, but I played the game; had some sense of honour; but when is this wheel going to stop? I'm about fed up with it; I don't want to go back to that damned club."

I again told him to look out for R. N., and suddenly he called out, "Why, there is R. N.," using a nickname by which he was known to his intimates.

Then R. N. spoke to me, telling me he was now on a happy level of the fourth sub-plane, and would look after J. P. He asked me to explain something that puzzled him. His memory, he thought, must be getting confused, because he began to have vague thoughts about Rome, as though he were somebody else besides himself. I explained, of course, that he was probably getting some clairvoyant recollections of a former life, and he quite appreciated the idea. I asked about his present surroundings. They were very pleasant. He seemed to be living in a house that was just exactly the kind of house he used to picture in imagination as the ideal house he would like to have. Of course, this was a pleasant kind of thought form he had unconsciously created. He also said he was beginning to have a curious sort of feeling, as though he were getting lighter. It was quite a pleasant feeling, and he thought he had been told that it betokened some impending change that would involve his translation to some superior condition. His house was a country house with gardens and flowers, grass and trees, though they did not seem to want any attending to. He spent a great deal of time in the garden, thinking pleasantly of bygone times, and visited by people he had known — his father and mother amongst them. The time just glided by. There was no night, no sense of being tired. He had no wants.

He wound up by again promising to look after J. P., who, I was glad to think, having "played the game" and cultivated a sense of honour, would now be set free from the boredom he had been so long enduring, and would find any level of the fourth sub-plane far more agreeable a region to inhabit than even Pall Mall.

Bill Smith

I had been wishing to get an authentic account of the passing to the next state of existence of someone representing the humbler classes. This wish was met by one of my loftier friends, who contrived to bring along an ex-costermonger, whose account of himself was intensely amusing as well as instructive in its way. And it confirms a brief experience I had a good many years ago, when a highly gifted psychic of my acquaintance endeavoured, for my information, to get a glimpse of life on a low level of the astral, plane, and (so to speak) ran up against an ex-coalheaver, who was found still hanging about the poor dwelling in which he had lived, with the vague idea that he was still smoking his pipe there. He must have been a harmless creature, as he did not seem to be suffering in any way, simply passing a sleepy, idle existence for many years, after which no doubt he would have been helped up to the lower levels of the fourth, and eventually to some rather colourless variety of the devachanic state, in preparation for a new birth.

My new acquaintance spoke with the same sort of phraseology that he was used to in life of the physical order. I wish I could give every word of his own as he told his story, but my notes do not enable me to do this completely. I shall endeavour to do so as nearly as I can.

He gave me his name as "Bill Smith." He had been a costermonger with a donkey-cart somewhere down Commercial Road way. "Small profits, you know, and quick returns." At about thirty he married — "to make an honest woman" of the girl. They led a respectable sort of life in a couple of rooms and had "ten kids." "I was a hardworking sort of chap, but fond of beer. I did not mess up things badly." Then he died of some fever that was prevalent in the Commercial Road at the time, and hardly seems now able to identify the actual period of his translation to another plane of life. He only knows that he had "a rotten time." He seemed more or less in the dark, but he could hear people talking. He had a great thirst upon him. It is impossible to make out how long this condition lasted, but eventually he was addressed "by some chap who called him by name — Yes, Bill Smith, that's me!" His new acquaintance told him that he would be happier if he left off wanting beer. "Can't do it, governor!" "I'll help you," he said; "you want to get clear of that thirst, don't you?" "All right, governor." "Then come along with me." Then he took Bill to some place where "S'help me bob, there were a lot of people sitting round a table singing hymns. Then they began praying. That wasn't much in my line, but there were a lot of people there like myself. There was one old chap at the table with white whiskers. He seemed a bit of all right. Someone told me to go up and stand behind him, and when I did that I felt just as if I was sucked down a drain-hole. Then I found I was talking through the old man and asking for beer. Then an old woman began talking to me like a Dutch clock. She did read me a lecture! She said, 'We'll pray, for you. We'll help you to get rid of that desire for drink. You say after me, "I don't want any drink."' I said it to oblige her, and somehow I began to feel better. Then she made me say it three times over, and S'help me bob, I didn't feel any more desire for the beer. Then I saw the man that brought me, and he said, 'Come along!' and we floated away right over Canning Town, where I used to live, till we came to a nice little house like a country cottage with a garden. 'You stop here,' he said; but I said, 'I can't afford to live in a place like this.'"

I must finish the story in other words than those Bill employed, as my notes do not enable me to recover them exactly. He was soon enabled to realise the situation, saw his old father and mother, who came to visit him, themselves apparently a little further on; and later, one of his sons came, a boy who, at about the age of fourteen, had been killed in a motor car accident, and in advance of his father had reached a somewhat higher level.

One thought in connection with this little story which the reader should not let slip, has to do with the humble spiritual seance held in the far eastern region of London by the good people exerting themselves for the benefit of the poor "spirits" who were attracted to their circle. In the realms of poverty it would seem that in more ways than one — on more planes than one — the poor are the most sympathetic and helpful friends of the poor.

M. M.'s Wonderful Narrative

I must now go on to deal with a story replete with the utmost pathos, whether we pay attention to its physical plane beginnings or its astral conclusion. It is profoundly instructive, in my estimation, in more ways than one, for it is a life of utter degradation as regards its physical prelude, and of beautiful exaltation in the long run. It was a female life on earth, and I will call my poor heroine M. M.

She was born the daughter of lower middle-class people in a country town, small shopkeepers; narrow-minded, devout Methodists. As a young girl she began to be troubled with intense sexual desire. The conventions of modern literature prevent me from going into minute detail concerning the way these feelings worked, but it is easy to understand how, under the circumstances, she became at a very early age the prey — the eager prey, so to speak — of a young man in her own class. And the natural consequences followed. When her condition was discovered by her parents, the father actually and literally kicked her out of the house at night, telling her to go to the Devil, her master! The behaviour of this horrible wretch is a wonderful illustration of the brutality that can coexist with the stupid bigotry of a religious fanatic. That man's crime in so treating his unhappy daughter was responsible, by all commonplace reasoning, for the degradation she ultimately sank into. Nor indeed do the mysteries of karma, in this case, which inevitably condemned the poor girl to a life of suffering, relieve the father in the smallest degree from the guilt of his cruelty, but, we may look into that matter later on.

The hapless outcast, after vainly battering for a time at the door in the hope of gaining readmittance, wandered vaguely on and sank down at last exhausted on a doorstep. There a policeman spoke to her, and took pity on her; took her to his own little home, where his wife gave her shelter, and next morning sent her off by train to London.

She had no money to speak of. After paying her railway fare she had three shillings left. Turned out on to the bleak hospitalities of King's Cross, she wandered on at random up the Pentonville Road apparently — and came to some place where there were market stalls in the street. Leaning up tired against one of these, the rough man in charge asked her what was the matter, and she told her pitiful tale. Here again we have an example of the touching way in which the poor help the poor. The man took her home to his wife, who actually befriended her to the extent of keeping her with them over her confinement. One can imagine how that good costermonger — doubtless fond of his beer, like "Bill Smith," and free with his language — would have been scorned by M. M.'s Methodist father, only worthy himself to lie in the mud under the other man's barrow.

M. M.'s child died, fortunately enough. She did what she could when she recovered to help the woman with her work, and tried to lead a straight life, but found no opening for earning money. Then she fell in with some man who took her to a Music Hall and afterwards to some place to have supper. She must have been drugged in some way, for she remembers no more than that she found herself on coming round in a strange house, in bed.

Needless to explain the kind of house it was, M. M. had been enlisted in the great army of white slavery. She was pretty, and still of course ridiculously young, about sixteen or seventeen, I make out — a valuable recruit for her captors. She was nicely dressed and sent out into the streets. After a while she had the good fortune, so to speak, of attracting the fancy of a gentleman she met, who took charge of her and gave her a little establishment of her own somewhere in St John's Wood. This interlude seems to have been the happiest period of her brief and troubled life on the physical plane. But it came to an end, as such arrangements always do. Her protector had to go abroad. He gave her a hundred pounds at parting, and with this little capital behind her she made desperate efforts to get some sort of honest work by which she could live. But all in vain. She had no "references" to give, no character, and so eventually in despair she plunged back again into the mad vortex of fast life.

By degrees she took to drink; found herself tainted with "the hidden plague;" was in hospital for a time. Then one night in Piccadilly she was spoken to by a lady, who asked her to come to a missionary meeting. She was not particularly eager, but went in a spirit of curiosity. There she had a curious experience. A clergyman was speaking, and she saw a light round him and at the back of him a face looking at her with pitying tenderness. She believed it to be the face of Jesus, and she felt stabbed to the heart, but rushed away to her own room and took refuge in whisky.

Recovering in the morning from her drunken sleep, she felt her heart broken. That night, after wandering about, she found herself at the corner of Wellington Street and the Strand. An ungovernable impulse came over her to end it all. She went on to the middle of Waterloo Bridge and flung herself over.

She remembers well the bitter cold of the water, the suffocation of drowning, and the vain longing to be back again, even in the misery from which she had tried to escape. Then began an extraordinary and terrible experience. She had passed through the change called death, but found herself back again on the bridge. Again she went through the wild desperation of her suicide, repeated all its experiences. Again threw herself into the river, again went through the sensation of drowning, sank into brief unconsciousness and then repeated the whole ghastly cycle of suffering. So it went on for what seemed an eternity. I am told the process went on for at least a year; she thought for five years. The idea is too horrible. Such a record challenges one's faith in natural justice. There was nothing in M. M,'s dismal life to claim any penalty remotely resembling this awful period of expiation. From the first she was infinitely more sinned against than sinning, the victim in the first instance of hideous cruelty, the outcome of a bigoted superstition scarcely less loathsome, then the helpless prey of a social system almost equally stupid and pitiless. From the ordinary human point of view, what she needed was tender care and consolation on the other side of the great change!

Seeking some intelligible explanation of the actual course of events, what I am told is this. The awful suffering of the period described was not the outcome of the life just spent. It was the accumulated karma of several lives of degradation and infamy. Four thousand years ago, M. M., then in a male body, had been a student of occultism on the threshold of the path. Like many other students of that period, he strayed from the path, in this case with exceptionally disastrous results. He gave way to sexual passion regardless of all considerations beyond the desires of the moment, and in his next life, in Greece, passed over into the female sex and again became absorbed in similar excess. The story was repeated in a later Roman life, and then, the higher self getting desperate, deliberately chose the M. M. life for the next incarnation, in order by extreme suffering and misery to expiate and at the same time extinguish the tendencies of the past. The expiation was terrible, but must not be thought of as the consequence of the one life immediately preceding it.

Nor, except for the intense sympathy one cannot but feel for the sufferer, is it to be thought of except as an awfully inevitable prelude to the beautiful results that followed. For there came a time when she heard a voice saying, "Poor soul, the time of release has arrived." Then she was borne away, and went through some fresh experiences of a trying order, though insignificant compared with those she had been so long enduring. She was still for a time in "Melan's domain," and was put into touch with scenes of human debauchery, but all passionate desire had been burnt out of her nature. She was alone for a while in some desert region, but a time came at last when the Great Lord of that region told her, "You are free, farewell." Then she was borne away, and found herself in a beautiful country cottage where she had a sense of being at rest and at peace. In the distance she saw what seemed to be a mountain, and she became possessed with an eager desire to get to its top. A mighty effort of will carried her there, and there she saw the great Master of the White Lodge, to whom she properly belonged, and flew, so to speak, to his arms. Her restoration to the long forfeited place in the occult world was accomplished.

From that time on she has been a much beloved member of the great Master's variegated household, an industrious worker, as she descends from that happy condition at will to the lower levels of the astral plane where she carries such help and consolation as may be permissible to those who are, in one way or another, going through the painful consequences of such lives as that she last led.

Viewed in a comprehensive survey, the whole story is highly instructive as well as touching. It may warn us not to jump to hasty conclusions in contemplating any one life. Few of us, had we chanced to meet M. M. during the last deplorable life she went through, would have been otherwise than shocked at the idea that she was on the brink of becoming much more than a merely happy denizen or a high level in the next world — actually an intimate assistant, on the staff, so to speak, of the White Lodge!

Appearances from the worldly point of view are apt to be misleading, and this thought brings to my mind a story I heard many years ago in connection with the records of ordinary spiritualism. There was a certain young girl in a very comfortably circumstanced family, who was beloved and admired in every way by her belongings and regarded as quite of an angelic nature. She died young, and her friends assumed as a matter of course that she must have passed at once to the "seventh heaven," whatever that may be, welcomed by celestial hosts of the most exalted order. Many years elapsed before her mourning friends heard of her. Then at last she did communicate through a psychic acquaintance, and explained that she had been having a very bad time indeed, though at last it was getting better. I have no information of my own on the subject, but we may assume that the life, abruptly ended in youth, was one of a series not by any means angelic in all cases. Or again, that the curious and subtle operation of the karmic law reserved for the astral conclusion of the life the development of characteristics which the short physical life had not brought into manifestation. Anyhow, if the facts were as I was told, the little story is again instructive as a pendant to the much more thrilling one I have been engaged in discussing.

A Happy Passing

As the information required for my present purpose gradually accumulated on my hands, I became impressed with a feeling to the effect that my stories were rather too much coloured by the record of distressful conditions immediately following physical decease. It was important beyond question to understand these, and to realise what characteristics in life gave rise to distressful conditions; but at the same time I knew quite well that large numbers of people whose lives had been fairly meritorious, passed swiftly and undisturbed through the lower levels of the astral plane and only awoke to consciousness on the fourth sub-level. It occurred to me that one important type of humanity had not been represented by any of the next life narratives collected so far. I wanted a case in which highly advanced intelligence should have been united with a fairly clean physical plane record. And, knowing that most of the great scientific men of the past were still making use of the opportunities afforded by the high levels of the astral plane, I asked if anyone would be good enough to give me a detailed account of his early experiences on passing over. The response came from one who undeniably belonged to the category I indicated, and whose passing was of comparatively recent date.

I need not be too explicit in dealing with this interesting experience. Enough to say that though highly distinguished in the ordinary world of science, A. R. was also a student, to a certain extent, of the higher occultism, and deeply concerned during life with spiritualistic research. So he had no surprises to encounter on getting free of the body at a very advanced age. He floated for a little while over his deathbed, enjoying a feeling of renewed vigour, peace, and joy. He fully understood the situation, and looked with some interest at the body he had quitted, and with sympathy at the friends around who were mourning his departure. Then he had a feeling of going up, and one which he found it difficult to describe, a feeling, as he put it, "of being drawn into himself." He lost consciousness for a time. He has since learned that it was for about three days of our time. He awoke on some high level of the fourth, lying on what seemed a bank of some soft material in the midst of a lovely scene; flowers all around and a beautiful view with mountains in the distance, and a general sense of warmth, light, and colour. He realised that his astral body now bore the appearance it had in life some forty years previously.

He lay for a time in a very pleasant reverie. Then he got up feeling quite light. There was "no gravitational stress" to deal with. He saw some people he knew, and then, suddenly, his surroundings changed. He found himself in a room where he was received by a crowd of his former friends of the scientific world. As I have said already, he passed on at a very advanced age, so that most of those whom he had known in life were already in the next state of existence. They had gathered together to welcome him, and he had a delightful talk with them.

He was now generally on the fifth sub-plane, but this and the higher fourth are very closely associated. Indeed, I have learned that men of science passing over — always assuming that they either have no 'disagreeables' to get over in the first instance, or have got through these — spend a great deal of their time on the fourth, even after they are entirely free of the fifth. On the fifth they carry on their work and study in whatever department of research their bent leads them into, and descend into the fourth for what may be described as social intercourse with their friends.

A. R. recognises to the full how greatly he benefited, when coming into his inheritance in the next world, from his investigation during physical life of super-physical mysteries. Spiritualistic experience and belief, even of the ordinary type, is enormously better an introduction to the next world than blank ignorance of the agnostic order, or even than the shadowy suggestions of commonplace ecclesiastical teaching. This idea will be very clearly illustrated by the next story I have to tell, where the consequences of positive disbelief in any future are made apparent. 

X. Y.'s Enlightenment

The narrative which, as I have just said, illustrates the effect of going on with positive disbelief in any future life, was obtained for me in response to my desire to get touch with someone who had gone on in something like that attitude of mind, but without being hampered by any definitely evil characteristics. My friend (of the Master's entourage), who has been especially helpful to me in this series of investigations, brought along — of course with his own cordial consent — a man who in life (protracted to advanced age) had been conspicuous rather for his cynical worldly wit, coupled with brilliant intellectual gifts, than for interest in any variety of philosophical or religious thought. In fact, to put the matter more plainly, he was all but an atheist, disbelieving, I think, in any survival of the soul after death, invariably pouring ridicule on occult research of any sort, but none the less a kindly natured man in all the ordinary relations of life. When I realised who it was I was speaking to, I was intensely interested in the prospect of hearing how he had encountered his unexpected resumption of consciousness out of the body.

He had been perfectly fearless, in the physical body, as the end approached. Fearlessness, indeed, had been one of the characteristics of the man all through life. But he was immensely puzzled when, after a change only associated with a sound as of something "that went click," he found himself looking at his body as something external to himself. He saw some relatives gathered round apparently showing distress, but he could not succeed in attracting their attention, in making them hear the assurance he wanted to give, that he was still there. This failure made him furious. He felt better than he felt for years; wanted desperately to say so, but the effort was quite in vain. Then he found himself floating up and fell into a doze.

Naturally he does not know how long this lasted, but he woke up lying on a couch in a room, and sitting beside him he suddenly recognised an old friend who had been closely associated with him in some of his public work during life, but who had passed away many years previously. "Here you are, my boy!" the friend said in the most natural way. "Come, get up!" and then he was up without any sort of effort. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Why, you're dead," said the other. "What rot!" he declared. "I was never more alive." His utter incredulity lasted for some time. Disbelief was so ingrained in the character of the man that the new experiences around him, so incompatible with physical life, merely left him dazed and bewildered. He was out in the open country in a little while and met another well-known friend who had been intimate with him down here. Then several others. But the muddled frame of mind was excessively distasteful to him. He had always been in the habit of thinking so clearly, of having all his ideas cut and dried.

The country scene was pleasant undulating country, "something like the Sussex downs;" but after a while he was back again in his "bungalow cottage," as he called it, feeling a little less muddled. And, sitting there thinking, he became aware that there was someone else in the room who addressed him by his name. This was an Eastern-looking man "looked like an Egyptian." X. Y. asked him who he was, and a name was given that did not illuminate the situation. "Who are you?" "I am one of the workers under . . . So-and so" mentioning another name. "And now I'm just as wise as I was before," replied X. V. The conversation went on, and the Egyptian said he would show him what his condition would have been, as a consequence of his disbelieving attitude of mind in life, if he had not been helped. The help had been given him by reason of claims deep down in his nature, of which he knew nothing.

Then X. Y. says he had the feeling of drifting downhill a long way, and of getting into a region of cold white fog. It was very comfortless and miserable. He could hear a sound of "jabbering" voices, but could not see anybody. And his Egyptian guide had disappeared. "It got on my nerves," he said to me. At the time he called out to the Egyptian by the name that had been given to him, and immediately the Egyptian was back again. X. V. frankly begged to be taken back, away from there. The Egyptian explained that his intensely negative attitude of mind in life had created an aura around him that would have kept him in that region for a long time if he had not been helped as above referred to. This jarred upon one line of thought that had been habitual with him. He did not want any vicarious atonement. He would rather bear his own burdens. But the objection was cleared away. He was entitled to the help, though he did not understand it.

Then he got back to his bungalow, and declared that he wanted something to do. He had been an active man all his life, and he did not want merely to laze away the time in dreamy enjoyment. The Egyptian told him that if he really wished for some sphere of activity the thought would give it him. With his long habit of scepticism, he made an attempt to desire opportunities for activity, but was aware all the time that at the back of his mind there was a certain sense of enjoying laziness. The result was curious. The conditions of the room seemed to get confused. Things that had before seemed real, became half broken up. Eventually, however, the desire for activity became more clearly formed, and then suddenly the scene changed. X. Y. found himself in a large room among a crowd of old journalistic friends, who welcomed him, and soon he found himself once more becoming interested in politics. Since then he has been more and more absorbed in watching the course of events in Parliament and in attempting to influence men there along the lines of his own sympathies, which are so far but little changed from what they were in life down here. For he is very slow to change in any way, sceptical still about any information he gets concerning conditions of existence beyond those he has already come into touch with. He has, indeed, modified one view he formerly held. An ardent partisan while himself a member of the House of Commons, he sees now that the party system is bad; but I should be anticipating what I suspect may ultimately be the drift of his opinions if I venture to indicate any definite changes, along the lines of the distrust of the party system, as likely to command his future acceptance.

The Troubles of S. O.

Circumstances have put me in touch with a series of astral experiences encountered by a man of very remarkably mixed character and mental attributes, including something not far removed from genius as a writer and poet, and, for the rest, tendencies, expressing themselves in habits of life, that could not but be a bar to rapid progress after passing into the next world. I regret that so many of the stories I have to tell embody, in this way, experiences that are painful for a time; but I must again emphasise the broad principle that all people who lead fairly good lives and are not intensely afflicted with unsatisfied desires of the kind that belong exclusively to the physical plane, pass on easily to pleasant conditions on the fourth sub-plane of the astral, and awake to agreeable surroundings at once. This applies, I may add, with increased emphasis, to all who have absorbed theosophical teaching in addition to leading a good life.

But to deal with the case before me. S. O. passed away under somewhat dreary conditions at the close of very distressing experiences during the last few years of physical life. These did much to alleviate what would otherwise have been even more arduous trials attending his early years on the astral. He was received on the other side by a black-shrouded figure who told him to "Come with me." He felt that he had no option, and seemed to go upward for a time and then to be dropped down again into a sort of mist where, alone for a while, he went drearily over the leading events of his past life. They all seemed to stand out clearly, and he had the feeling of looking on at them, as it were, as though he were a spectator. Then he seemed to fall asleep, but awoke afterwards in a room at a hotel that he had known in life, one "given over to vice." After experiences that I cannot venture to relate in detail — they represented aggravated conditions resembling some already dealt with in other cases — the shrouded figure reappeared and told him that he would have to remain there some time, but if he called upon the higher part of his nature, which was strong, he would hasten his escape.

Eventually, though my story condenses many years of suffering, this assurance was vindicated; but at first the scene of tantalising temptation was merely changed. It was changed several times, till once, in Southern Italy, the growing sense of wearied disgust led S. O. to cry out, "For God's sake" to be relieved from the ordeal. This was the beginning of relief. The shrouded figure again took charge of him, led him far on along some sort of valley, then through what seemed a long tunnel, emerging at last into daylight.

I should explain that he had been in life a Roman Catholic. The person who now met him was a priest, who took him by the hand and said he had been given into his charge; he was now in a beautiful region plentifully furnished with spires and churches. He was told to rest, and recover from the strain of all he had gone through.

He was tired, and went into a house where he lay down and rested, rising after a while feeling much happier. He realised that his personal appearance had reverted to the period of his best time on the physical plane. He went out, met and talked with many people, all members of the Roman Church. In the course of these talks he noticed repeatedly an appearance he found it difficult to describe. It was something like a soap bubble in a filmy human shape. Each such appearance seemed to burst; and to scatter abroad beautiful sparks of mauve and violet colour, that each time had the effect of brightening the scene. S. O. was told by one "very cultured man," whose acquaintance, he made, that these effects were due to prayers sent up from the earth plane for the repose of the souls of unnamed people. Their substance, so to speak, was derived from a far higher plane of Nature. I may add here that, since getting the information just passed on, I have been particularly asked by one (on the other side) who was an important member of the Roman Church when on earth, to be sure I duly record this interesting little item of other world news. It is certainly an interesting illustration of the way benevolent effort and good thought may bear fruit even when the exact idea inspiring it is somewhat confused.

Roaming about the region in which he found himself, S. O. perceived that it was surrounded by great walls — for its protection, he was told, from evil influences raging outside. But these walls disconcerted him. He wished to explore beyond, but was urged not to do so. He could go out if he liked, but would not be able to return. Eventually, however, he insisted on going out, and was permitted to do so, passing through a sort of gateway described as luminous, mother-of-pearl-like, beyond which he was for a short time alone, but was then greeted by an illustrious poet who had passed on a long time before, and who took him by the hand. All that had tainted his earth life had evaporated from him. He felt clean. He came now into touch with various writers whose works he had studied in earth life, and began to look upward, so to speak, towards the great White Lodge. These later developments, he told me, were but recently attained to, though it is now more than twenty years of our time since he left the earth body. 

A Devout Priest

I wished to bring my series of narratives to a close with an example of a happy passing, and this aspiration was met by a visit procured for me from one who in life had been a devout priest of the Roman Catholic Church, an earnest ascetic who died from the effects of illness contracted during ministrations in the humblest levels of poverty in London. He remembered looking in a dreamy way at his body when he left it, and, in the same dreamy fashion, reviewing the events of his past life — a very innocent retrospect apparently. It has only been in this and the last case dealt with that mention has been made of this particular experience. I have inclined to believe that everyone had it on the threshold of the next world, but the records I have been dealing with seem to imply that it is not consciously associated with every passing. The explanation, I am told, is this — Everyone, except in cases of very sudden death, has this experience, but it accrues to them before the period of unconsciousness, which is generally the prelude to a full awakening on the other side, and thus is often forgotten afterwards.

My priestly friend was aware of having sunk after the review of his past life into a state of unconsciousness that lasted he did not know exactly how long, but he then awoke lying on a couch in a room surrounded by priests of his own church, who gave him a cordial welcome. He asked, "Was he in heaven?" but without, as it seems, getting a specific reply, he was told that he had passed unconsciously through the purgatorial region where nothing remaining from his earth life had detained him. He went out, after a while, and found himself in a beautiful country surrounded by protective walls — evidently the same as that in which S. O. had emerged when set free from his long sufferings on lower levels. My priest friend, when he spoke to me, was still filled with the religious emotions of his earth life; described himself as frequently descending to lower levels to bring help to "souls in prison," and did his best to win me over to "the Holy Church," which he still regarded as the one avenue leading to supreme spiritual beatitude. At the same time he was impressed with the belief that he would soon pass on to some higher spiritual condition in which his soul would broaden out in some way he did not yet understand. I endeavoured to assure him that he would then realise how it was that I was contented with my own spiritual prospects, and did not feel the necessity of seeking refuge in the region where he was, for the time being, at peace.

Only one of the narratives with which I have been dealing in the course of this little volume has related to the after consequences of putting a violent end to one's own life down here. And the case of M. M. is crowded with exceptional circumstances. I have refrained from reproducing detailed stories of the sufferings or discomfort endured by people who have committed suicide in any ordinary way, because these would have overburdened the book with experiences of a painful order. After all, people who commit suicide are a small minority among us, while for the majority, leading fairly creditable and respectable lives, an appropriately rapid translation to agreeable conditions is the rule. I want my present treatise as a whole to be encouraging rather than the reverse for the kind of people likely to be its readers for the most part. I have often noticed a tendency among those who become interested in theosophical teaching to overrate the importance of their minor peccadillos and suppose themselves incurring, on their account, more serious karma than nature really has in store for them. To judge oneself too severely may be to make a mistake on the right side, but it is a mistake none the less. Moreover, in contemplating astral possibilities one should always remember that the astral life is not the period appropriate to the working out of karma. That is reserved for the next physical life, and when disagreeable or painful experiences are incurred on the astral they are to be thought of almost always as purifying processes qualifying the personality to reach restful and happy conditions. If anyone passes over steeped in desires of a kind incompatible with life on any of the higher astral levels, he must wear out those desires, subdue them or realise their worthlessness, before he can ascend to the higher levels. The attainment of such an attitude of mind may, as we have seen, be sometimes retarded to a painful degree, but in that case the protraction of the painful state should not be regarded as a karmic penalty. It automatically comes to an end as soon as the person concerned is emancipated from the characteristics that hold him back. An appreciation of this idea elucidates a question, sometimes thought to be puzzling, when we hear of the "help" given by entities, far advanced themselves, to people on low astral levels. That is not interference with karma; it is simply so much persuasion aimed at showing the people in trouble that they can set themselves free if they will make the necessary interior effort.

Before concluding, it may be worthwhile to add a few explanations that might have been given already in connection with some of the astral experiences described, but have remained over and can perhaps better be dealt with now in general terms. Frequent mention has been made of "houses" in which those released from physical life find themselves on awakening beyond. Such houses are the thought creations of the persons passing on, or of those who have passed on previously and stand ready to welcome new arrivals. This detail requires further elucidation. As A. R. said, there is no "gravitational stress" on the astral plane. Anyone there can move about, upward or downward, by the mere effort of will. How about stairs in astral houses? Surely they cannot be needed! Nor are they needed, and yet the habits of mind brought over from physical life are so ingrained in the thinking of the newcomer in the next world, that he needlessly repeats conditions around him which resemble those he has been used to. And if a staircase seems to him a necessary adjunct to a comfortable home, his new home includes the staircase accordingly. Later on, if he works his way to higher levels than the fourth sub-plane, he will get altogether free of the physical life traditions. There are no houses, for instance, on the sixth sub-plane. There thought gives rise to flowery conditions. The denizens of that region have long since escaped from their early habits of thought. They have grown used to a life exempt from all material wants. They need neither food, shelter, nor sleep. They can luxuriate at ease in scenes of natural beauty; although it is probable that people qualified to ascend to the sixth sub-plane will have been developed morally to the extent of desiring to work, in some way, for the good of their fellow creatures, and will spend a large part of their time on lower levels, where they can render help to others.

An interesting question arises as to the relative durability of thought creations on the astral plane. This differs very widely. Where continuous and collective thought is concentrated on the same purpose, such creations may assume a very permanent character, as for example in the Roman Catholic region of the fourth. There the churches and houses and surrounding walls are, so to speak, very solidly built. And there are regions of the astral world which the great masters of the White Lodge reserve for their own uses, where ceremonies of initiation take place, where people passing on and already belonging to the occult world are received, if they need (as may sometimes be the case) rest and recuperation after trying experiences in physical life. Here the appropriate structures are rendered very definitely permanent by Adept power, and are not infrequently visited during physical life by occult pupils able to get about freely on the astral plane during sleep. On the other hand, the dream houses, or rather the dream rooms, created for themselves by people of quite ordinary type in passing over (assuming that such persons have no disagreeables to encounter), would not be durable at all, would only serve a brief purpose, and would melt away when the inhabitant, as on the hypothesis he or she would be soon likely to do, float off into the unconscious rest preceding translation to the devachanic state.

I do not suggest for a moment that the astral experiences I have been recording, or the imperfect explanations just added to them, come near exhausting the manifold varieties of condition involved in the opportunities of astral life. Some of these, especially on the higher levels, are practically beyond physical plane comprehension. Thus on the fifth sub-plane — the intellectual region — it seems possible for the literary student to help himself to copies of any book in existence down here, whether of ancient or of recent origin. And I believe that men of science on the fifth level can somehow make use of laboratories, though their new methods of research no doubt involve the use of faculties that generally supersede the necessity for using such instruments of research as they have been used to in the lower life. I know that they acquire knowledge concerning the constitution of matter, the mysteries of force, gravitation, and electricity that no instruments of ordinary research would help them to. And the vast spaces of the solar system and beyond become accessible, in some way we cannot here understand, to the investigations of the occult astronomer. That does not mean that superlative wisdom is poured into their consciousness in a flood. The new knowledge is gradually acquired as here by study and continuous effort, but it is acquirable in new ways for the full comprehension of which we who are interested in such work will mostly have to wait.

Finally, it seems desirable to deal in a few words with an idea that may arise in the minds of some theosophical students concerning the investigations with which this little volume has been concerned. In the beginning of theosophical study an impression arose that it was wrong to get into communication with people on the astral plane, because it was assumed that in all cases the all-important idea connected with them was that they should pass on without delay to the loftier existence described as devachan. To seek intercourse with them was to tie them down to earth, and so on. Our present fuller knowledge of the whole subject dissipates this notion altogether. It is true that there might be peculiar cases in which people incapable of profiting by the life of the higher astral levels might be just sinking into the sleep preceding translation to the devachanic state, and would thus be prejudiced if they could be awakened. But the mere opportunities of spiritual mediumship would not awaken them. The fear that by loving thoughts of departed dear ones we may "drag them down" to the earth plane is almost entirely delusive. It is only while they are wide awake that they could feel the attractive strain, and in such cases they would not be in the least degree prejudiced by responding to it. There are reasons why it is, as a rule, undesirable to attempt by means of commonplace spiritual mediumship to get into touch with departed friends, the liability to astral deception in connection with such efforts being very serious. The lower levels of the astral plane swarm with entities who find it amusing to personate anyone whom the sitters at a seance may seek to get in touch with, and they can readily pick up from the thoughts of the persons sitting, enough information to make the personation plausible. The narratives I have been enabled to pass on in the preceding pages have been obtained under such peculiar conditions that they are exempt from this risk. For various reasons it is impossible for me to be more explicit, and I can only leave the records I have put before my readers to be taken or left as they may think fit, content to suggest that my long and loyal devotion to the task of interpreting the teachings of the great Adept Masters may afford my readers some ground for assuming that in the present case I am likely to have been provided with abnormal facilities for carrying out this little piece of work, the importance of which is perhaps of an order of magnitude far greater than can be measured by the number of pages required for its fulfilment.