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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Promptings of Spirit

Although his communications with Julia had been more or less regular, they had been chiefly about matters in which Stead had been personally interested, and for nearly two years he had abstained from questioning Julia as to her life on the other side. In one of her last letters to Stead, Julia excused herself from writing further at that time. She said she felt that it was almost a presumption for her to describe a country in which she had made so brief a sojourn. Travellers should not attempt to describe a continent as soon as they land on its shores, and she adjourned for a season all communications on those subjects. Stead respected this silence, but at the close of 1894 Julia announced that she would resume her communications, and this second series of letters is the result. 

My Dearest Friend — My duty to you and to those whom you reach is very grave. My task, however, is a pleasant one. For you are to allow me to tell those who are still in the body something more of the life which they will lead when their bodies are no longer useful.

In my earlier letters I told you how I experienced the change which you call Death. I have since then exchanged experiences with very many others on this side, and I now know more than I did then. With me the change was perfectly painless. I wish that it might be so always with all who are appointed to die. Unfortunately, the moment of transition sometimes seem to be very full of pain and dread. With some it lasts a comparatively long time; I mean the time of quitting the body. With some it is momentary. The envelope opens, the letter is released, and it is over. But sometimes the death birth is like childbirth, and the soul labours long to be free. There is no visible cause why this should be. That is to say, I do not know why some should pass so much more easily than others. That it is a fact is true. But, after all, the parting of soul and body is but an affair of moments. There is no reason to regard it with so much alarm. The tranquil soul that prepares and knows need not feel even a tremor of alarm. The preliminaries of decease are often painful; the actual severance, although sometimes accompanied by a sense of wrench, is of small account.

When the soul leaves the body it is at the first moment quite unclothed as at birth. The spirit body disengaged from the physical body is conscious, at least I was, almost from the first. I awoke standing by my dead body, thinking I was still alive and in my ordinary physical frame. It was only when I saw the corpse in the bed that I knew that something had happened. When the thought of nakedness crosses the spirit there comes the clothing which you need. The idea with us is creative. We think, and the thing is. I do not remember putting on any garments. There is just the sense of need, and the need is supplied. When we stand for the first time on this side there is not so much fear as great awe and curiosity. The sense of being in a land altogether undiscovered and unexplored, where there may be all manner of strange beings, perhaps hostile, fills you with a moment's trepidation. And then it is that the good Lord in His kindness sends to the newly-delivered soul the Guardian Angel of whom I wrote before.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, this Messenger of Love and Mercy meets all men when they die. In this there is no distinction made between the saved and the lost, and the Messenger is sent alike to all. But the lost do not have the faculty to see him. The saved not only profit by his counsels, but feel him, and know he is with them. It is to all that the good Lord ministers—to all on your side and on this. His loving kindness is over all his creatures. But some do not know Him, and when He would draw them nearer to His heart they are as if they saw, heard, and felt nothing. But I think He loves best those who need Him most. He cares for the orphaned souls though they see Him not, and they suffer, as it is necessary that they may be rid of the sin-stains which their loveless life has left upon their souls.

The sinfulness of sin shows itself chiefly in the inability to see God. The punishment of sin, which is remedial, is the sense of loneliness and darkness which overwhelms the loveless souls when they come into this world, the atmosphere of which is eternal love. This they endure until such time as they love. When they love, they turn to God, and see in the darkness a ray of the infinite and everlasting Love in which they are able to realise, as we do, that they live, and move, and have their being.

There is much about this which I will tell you later. For the present let me just say this  There is, when the loveless soul comes here, as much care taken to welcome it as when the soul of love arrives. But the selfish soul is blind and dark, and shudders in the dark. The imagination, which here is far more powerful than with you, fills the solitude with spectres, and the sinner feels he is encompassed by the constantly renewed visions of his deeds. Nor is this all; he sees those whom he has injured, and he fears. If ever a soul needs a Savior and Deliverer, it is when imagination and memory without love recreate all anew the selfish acts of a loveless life.

When you stand all alone for the first time on this side there is not always, as you would think, a great longing to go back to the world you have quitted. The first sense is not that, but of awe and of curiosity as to the new world. When I awoke I was so astonished and amazed at what I saw, and at the strangeness and sameness, I did not want to come back. The mind has no room for too many strong emotions at once. After the first shock of the entire novelty has subsided you begin to remember your friends. I remember seeing the nurse at my bedside and trying to speak to her, but I was soon convinced that it was impossible, and the new life lay before me.

You see it is this way — There is so much that is familiar and so much also that is unfamiliar, that you don't feel as if there was any immediate hurry to examine the old which you have seen all your life, and go on seeing, while there is so much that is new which you have never seen. You are naturally absorbed by the new, and only after you have felt and seen and understood what the new things are, that your mind reverts back to those whom you have left, and you wish to go back to tell them what you have experienced.

Have you ever wished to be back again in this life? 

No, I have never for one passing moment wished to be back in my body again.

The body is such a miserable substitute for the spirit in which we live and move and act as we think. No, if I might come back and live on earth as I used to do, I would not; it would be all loss and no gain. There is nothing the body could give me that I do not now enjoy. Only in an etherealised but more real way, and much that I now enjoy I should lose by being again in my body.

What about being parted from friends who survive?

That is, I admit, a deprivation to them and to you, inasmuch as you see them lamenting their deprivation. But it is not a real deprivation. You are with them to help them more than when you lived. When the departure entails material loss, as of the father who earns the money with which the family is supported, and the children are hungry, are scattered, or are sent to the poorhouse, you may think that it is hard to bear. And in one way it is. But you can have no idea of the abiding sense of the things which most impress us here. The first is the vivid realisation of God's love; the second is the exceedingly transitory nature of all earthly things, and the third, the extent to which poverty and misery minister to the creation of character, the development of love. These things make you feel very differently from what you, who are still immersed in the fever of matter, can quite understand. 

We see the perspective so very differently. We realise that what often seems to you hard and cruel is the greatest benediction of God's love. We know that He is Love, and what seems least loving is the irreducible minimum of suffering necessary to create the soul anew in the likeness of His love. Whatever else you may doubt, never lose hold of this—God is Love. The atmosphere of the universe is the realising sense of His love, and the more I live here the more impossible it seems to doubt it. The sun shines. The sun's light fills the sky, and there is no doubt about it. God is Love. His love fills the universe; to us there is no doubt about it. Nor does the cloud or the night make us doubt the sun. And we do not doubt God because of the sin and the darkness where He is not seen.

Oh, my friend! my friend! I am ashamed of the poor, paltry, miserable words and metaphors with which I am now trying to give you some idea of the abounding and overwhelming sense which we have of God's love. That, my friend, is Heaven, and when you have it Heaven is there. All is summed up in that — God is Love, Love is God, and Heaven is the perfect realisation of that.

What I want to write about this morning is the state of the disembodied soul immediately after death. When it meets the Guardian Angel there is usually a blank wonderment.

All is so new, and there are such unexpected samenesses as well as differences. When, for instance, we wake into the new life we are still in the same world. There are all the familiar things around us—the walls, the pictures, the window, the bed, and the only new thing is your own body out of which you stand and wonder how it can be that it is there, and that it is no longer you. And then you begin clearly to understand what has happened. It is very much like experiences you have in dreams, which, after all, are often due to the same cause, the conscious soul leaving the physical frame, which, however, remains breathing. The first thing you notice that is not the same is the Angel. You are the same. I mean that there is no break in your consciousness, your memory, your sex. I was a woman in my bodily life, and I am a woman still. There is no change there. But you are in a manner different.

The Angel Guardian who came to me had wings, as I said. It is not usual, but if we please we can assume them. They are no more necessary than any of the contrivances by which you attempt to attain the mastery of the spirit over the burden of matter. We think and we are there. Why, then, wings? They are scenic illusions useful to convey the idea of superiority to earthbound conditions, but we do not use them any more than we use steam engines. But I was glad my Guide had wings. It seemed more like what I thought it would be, and I was at once more at ease than I would otherwise have been.

When my Guide came he spoke to me in a very sweet, strong voice that had in it the confidence of the Invisible. And I was thrilled through and through with its note, which did not seem strange to me. Nor was this strange, for he had often been with me during my earth life, although I had never seen him. I recognised him as an old and familiar part of myself, and this at first made me think that it was a woman. And when he said — "Come!" I did not hesitate. There was, as it were, a natural response to what seemed as the prompting of your own conscience. This is often the case. We all have our guides. These angels, unknown and unseen by us, prompt us to all good actions and dissuade us from evil. They are with us in thought, and we often receive their warnings as if they were the promptings of our own spirit. So they are; but the spirit which prompts is quite outside our own conscious self.

The Guardian Angel is indeed a kind of other self, a higher, purer, and more developed section of your own personality. This is perhaps a little difficult to understand, but it is true. There are, as well as good, evil angels, who are with us no less constantly, and they are also sometimes visible as Angels of Darkness when we come across. They are with us always, and we are with them here when we leave our bodies. We are always swaying hither and thither towards our good and evil guides. We call them, or we did call them, impulses, wayward longings, aspirations, coming we know not where or whence. We see on this side where they come from.

The soul in the body hears but dimly, and does not at all see the innumerable influences with which it is surrounded. The first and most startling thing we have to learn is that our senses, material senses, are not so much to help us to see and hear as to bar us off from seeing or hearing. We are on earth, as it were, with blinkers on. We must not see or hear or know much that surrounds us. The physical consciousness, which is part of us needs for its development the temporary seclusion of life from the realities of the world of spirit into which it is ushered at death. Hence, when we close our eyes in the sleep of death, it is more of a laying down of the blinkers that limited and confined our vision than almost anything else. I am speaking of the conscious change to our senses.

We can then see what were the sources of these vague impressions, intuitions, and aspirations, both up and down. We were in the midst of these Beings always, but we mistook them for parts of ourselves. They are distinct, although united, for no one can live to himself alone. We are all members one of another, and this is as true of spirits as of bodies.

These evil agencies exist. That I know. We see them, but we cannot fear them. For greater is He that is for us than all they that are against us. He is Love. And He is stronger than hate. The only power the Evil Ones have is due to our fear and lack of faith. They are powerless when we yield to the good Guardian who is ever near us, or when we know of God, who is love. I have not seen much of this evil side of life, and my information must be more or less second-hand.

When I began to move I walked as I used to walk, and it seemed natural to do so. My Guide walked beside me, and we saw the world as it was with spirits moving among men. I did not see at first which was which. They were all living people, it seemed to me. But I saw the spirits pass through matter and move away, as physical bodies could not do. Then I asked my Guide, and he said they were like myself, those who had lived on earth and had passed on. Then I saw that they moved sometimes as if they were still in the body, and at other times as if they were angels, coming and going with great speed, and I remarked upon it to my Guide. And he said, "Yes, they can do as they please, for it is in the power of the mind to go slow or fast." Then I thought, if they can, I can. And I asked, not speaking, but thinking in my mind, if this were so? And my Guide, without my having spoken, answered and said, "This is also possible to you." And I then said to him, "May we go as they go wherever we are going?" And he smiled and said, "As you will, so it will be." And then I had my first experience of the new freedom of locomotion. The earth seemed to grow small beneath my feet.

We went through space at a great speed. I did not feel the speed so much while in motion as when we stayed and discovered how fast and how far we had come. When we stayed it was not in this world at all. We had left your planet and were now speeding through space. I was hardly conscious of movement. We went as we think. Only the things we saw at first disappeared, and there was nothing to check or time our flight. We were together, my Guide and I. We went to a place at a great distance from your earth. The distance I cannot measure. Nor do we take account of distance, when you have only to think to be anywhere. The stars and the worlds, of which you see gleaming twinklings at night, are to us all as familiar as the village home to a villager. We can go where we please, and we do please very often.

For there is one Passion that increases rather than diminishes on this side, and that is the desire to know and to learn. We have so much to learn and such facilities! We shall never be able to say we know everything about this world, for the marvellous wisdom of God is past finding out. When we reach what we think the ultimate, there is a new vista of marvels which we see before us. We pass through, and when we come to a stand, beyond us again stretches a new invisible marvel-world, into which we also may at some new stage of development begin to see.

What oppresses us, if we may use the word, always and everywhere is the illimitableness of the universe. Up and down we see it unfolding always and ever. When we make the most effort to exhaust the subject the more inexhaustible it appears.

The journey which my Guide took me was a long one, how long I did not know. He led, I only willed to follow him. The motion was not flying. It was thought-transference of yourself. When I look back I see that it was made slower and simpler to give me the sense of distance. Now the movement is instantaneous. But then at first it was gradual. From walking we seemed to glide into the air without effort. The world simply sank away from us as when you are in a balloon; then it slid away behind, and we went through the air or through space in ether without landmarks. He went a little before me. I was at first a little frightened. But he was with me, and there was besides such an exhilarating sense of liberty and power. You don't know what a prison the body is until you leave it. I exulted, I was so well, so free, so happy.

What about those you have left in tears?

No, I did not think much during the journey of those whom I had left behind. They were alive and well, and they would soon come over and be with me, The overpowering rush of new sensations seemed to leave no room for regrets or thoughts of the old life. Well, you may regret this, but I am telling you facts. You will also find it so on your first day. And I think it is good and not evil. For otherwise it would have been different.

When we were journeying I spoke little. My thoughts were busy and yet I was not conscious of even thinking, only of feeling and seeing, drinking in at every point new impressions. When we seemed to be arriving at a new world, I spoke. I asked my guide, "Where is this? Is this Heaven?" He replied, "Wait and see. You will find those there who will teach you what you want to know."

The place was very pleasant to behold. The air was sweet, and there was a delicious fragrance as of flowers in June. The World—for it was a world we were approaching—seemed not unlike our old world, but it was different—there was nothing to jar. The sense of restful peace and contented love was everywhere. The place had a placid smile of tranquil joy; the note I remember, the details I will
not enter upon.