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Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Change from Mortal Life to Immortality I

I am Arthur Wellesley, known while on earth as the Duke of Wellington, and at the age of 83, I finished my mortal career, or worldly existence, on the 14th day of September, in the year 1852. I am now commanded to describe the sensation I experienced while leaving the tenement of clay which I inhabited. While lying upon my bed, supported by pillows of down, surrounded by every worldly comfort and luxury, with friends and relations bending and weeping over my aged and shrivelled form, watching with the most intense and expressive anxiety, as each breath of vitality escaped through my parched lips, until at length by the convulsion of each successive fit the difficulty of breathing increased, and my limbs gradually became paralysed and benumbed with a terrible sensation of a knowledge that death was at hand. I made an effort to speak, but the power of articulation had left me, and my limbs lay motionless and unable to obey the dictates of my will, although I felt that even raising a hand would abate the sensation. At length, the appearance of the apartment darkened, and all, for a few moments, appeared wrapt in gloom. The same moment a terrible sensation of cold, chilly, deathlike agony, seized my frame, while my heart appeared as a cold heavy stone, or icy substance—the weight of which forbade the office of its functions from being performed, and a dreadful noise, as if many waters were dashing furiously upon the rocks, filled my ears, and I made efforts to raise my head, but in vain. At that moment a sudden thrill of indescribable pain ran through my whole frame, my limbs set as with cramp, with an explosive sensation within my breast, and all was then still and tranquil, and my eyes again as it were opened and I perceived the nearest friends bending over me, while tears bedewed their cheeks, and heard them articulate in stifled whispers the ominous words—he is dead. I appeared to smile at the assertion, for no pain was upon me, and I felt at ease, gazing upon them with astonishment and wonder, and made an effort to assure them of the contrary, but could not stir. At this moment I appeared as if enabled to see in every direction, and felt as though in a dream, going from place to place without my body stirring, and knowing that it remained in the same position. I then felt myself seized by the shoulders, torn away through the apartment, which opened before me as if in a dream, was borne through the air and could perceive fields, trees, hedges, waters, towns, villages, and hamlets, which had the effect of bewildering my imagination, till at length I found myself in total darkness, beyond the sound and reach of human ears or gaze, and then for the first time discovered the reality of my position. Here I could distinctly hear a complication of sounds of an appalling description, mingled together in the most distracting discord—music, singing, howling, screaming, with the most frightful yells of fear and alarm, which made me think of the reality of a hell. But I did not remain long in this state, but was shortly on my way back to the place where I had left my body, and which I knew was dead. I found my friends had left it cold and stretched to the full length. I gazed upon it with horror and amazement and knew that it was myself, and then mingled thoughts of the world and my past life flashed before me. I endeavoured to persuade myself that my experience was a dream and wondered at the agility with which I moved from place to place, weak and feeble as I was, but there was the stem reality before me, cold, motionless and stiff. I endeavoured with my will to uncontract the limbs, to raise the head or the hand, but in vain. Still, I knew it was my body, and my will had exercised its power over its functions, which performed their office as I desired, but the effort was useless. I knelt by it, looked upon it with horror, felt of myself, and exclaimed, Are we separate beings, or what does this mean.  Again the thoughts of the words, He is dead, recalled to my memory my exact position, and I knew I was only, as it were, the shadow of the reality, and wondered within myself what experience would next reveal. At this juncture the door of the apartment opened, and fresh friends entered to see my body. They astonished me when they passed without noticing me, and though I knew them, some of whom were the most intimate friends, and offered my hand, it was unperceived or unnoticed. I wept bitterly on finding that I was in the room invisible to all excepting myself, and with these thoughts, I turned from my body, but at that moment observed the outstretched hand of an old friend whom I had known in former life, and who had died some twenty years previous. This inspired me with fresh hopes, and he kindly led me from the room unperceived or unheard. I, however, remained around the premises and in the apartments which contained my body until its interment and witnessed the useless pomp displayed on the occasion. I also witnessed the tears of those who were nearest to me in ties of relationship and grieved that I could not explain to them the great relief I had experienced in the change from mortal life to immortality. From old, decrepit, feeble humanity, I found myself relieved from every worldly care and burden, but still experienced a terrible dread of the future. I must now leave you for the present but will give further description of the future state when permitted to appear.

First Sitting, 16 March 1856—A Message from the World of Spirits, J. G. H. Brown,  Holyoake & Co. London, 1807