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Chapter XIV: The Relationship of Sleep to Death
By this time we had recrossed the mists, consciousness of which recalled my desire to ascertain the relative position. of the two states to each other. My companion at once acceding to my request, led me to a suitable point for making the observation. I had grown accustomed to the gloom overhanging the shadow-land by this time and as again the lights and shades blended in a soft twilight over the boundary, I had no difficulty in gaining my information.
Again I could see the error of speaking of the two conditions as two worlds, since they hold the same relationship to each other as the sea bears to the land, while the mists are but the spray and vapour which arises as the waves of the one break upon the shores of the other. Still the simile is very unsatisfactory, but I know of none to suit my purpose better. On the immortal side that vapoury curtain hung in calm repose, but towards the earth it swelled and rolled like the restless wave of a flowing tide. At one time it would simply ripple along the shore, at another gather strength and throw itself afar, while in its recession I could see it bearing out to sea the souls of those for whom it had been commissioned. Some were reached in the gentle wash and flow after the force of its breaking was spent, the keels of their barques being gently lifted from the sands of time, then drifted away peacefully in the mist on to the ocean of eternity. Over some the wave broke in all its strength and fury, making their frail crafts to creak and plunge in wild commotion as the moorings were torn away and each unprovisioned boat was swept along to battle with the surf of an unknown sea.
What a transforming miracle was wrought during that momentary immersion in the mists. As its copious baptism fell upon each, it washed all the tawdry subterfuges of the flesh away, broke the chrysalis of the soul, letting the true man come forth, some to the resurrection of life, many, alas! to the resurrection of condemnation. I saw the judgment then. I saw there men who had lavished wealth upon themselves and made great professions that they might win esteem, and rank, and fame as they lulled their clamorous consciences into slumber by the hope that a magical process of chemistry would somehow be found, by which the world’s esteem and approbation would transmit itself to the soul. But the mists dissolved that hope, and the trembling ego came forth naked, barren and pauperlike, for only deeds of pure unselfish love can be carried through that ordeal which all have to pass.
While I was engaged in making these observations, my attention was several times attracted to persons who were passing either way, not through but over the mists, as we ourselves had done. Of itself there was nothing in this to excite my curiosity, since their errand might have arisen from a similar cause to our own, or been occasioned by a multitude of other reasons. But at least half of these travellers were attired in such peculiar, robes as to make it very doubtful to me as to which estate of life they belonged. For some time I tried to solve the problem myself, as to who they were, but all my explanations were unsatisfactory, so at length I referred the question to my companion.
“Those are sleepers visiting their friends,” he replied.
“Is it possible so many are drawn back again?” I asked in amazement.
“You mistake me; I did not mean drawn back to earth as Lizzie was. These are persons still in the body, who during the hours of their sleep have come away from earth to meet with their friends who are with us.”
“Why! – Cushna!”
“Is this another surprise to you?” and my companion laughed outright at the blank astonishment written upon my face. “Ah! my brother, Paul was more than right when he said – ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him!’ We can only give you glimpses now of some of the avenues of research which will be successively opened for your study, until you will become overwhelmed by the contemplation of the boundless provision made for our happiness by His infinite love.”
“Let me clearly understand you, Cushna. Do you mean that before a person dies, when the body is taking its customary sleep – between night and morning – the soul has power to come away to rejoin and hold communion with the friends who are dead?”
“That is precisely what I wish you to understand.”
“I am perfectly prepared for your astonishment,” he replied “but what I tell you is nevertheless a fact; this you would have comprehended more clearly had you been content to have gone home before starting on this tour of enquiry.”
“Home?” I answered, as another flood of enquiries and associations surged around me at the mention of that single word, for, as he breathed it, it seemed laden with music, peace, and fulfilment of every desire that had ever disturbed me: but I crowded it back for the present that I might learn something more of this new revelation. “How should I have known it then?”
“Because there you would have touched the point of recollection, and at that, the whole experiences of your sleep-life would have been restored to you.”
“But it seems incredible,” I replied.
“Things are not always what they seem,” he said. “Let us speak of this matter a little, and I think you will soon see that the door of possibility is at least standing ajar, if not wide open. To begin with, man is created in the image of God, which of course is in a spiritual rather than a physical sense, for God is spirit. This offshoot of, emanation from, or begotten of God which becomes man then, partakes of the characteristics of its source or origin. ‘He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,’ and the mind is like its God – possesses the inherent quality of continuity of action or operation. On earth the physical body is the organ through which the mind works, but being only capable of a limited amount of labour before weariness ensues a period of rest and recuperation becomes necessary. The spirit is still willing, it is the flesh that is weak, so night has been ordained to meet the requirements of the body; but there is no night in heaven, simply because the spiritual part of man never wearies, therefore has no need to rest in the sense in which the body demands it. Now, as sleep is a state of unconsciousness impossible to attain in the immortal spirit, it is absolutely necessary that the latter shall be withdrawn in order that the body may secure the former, and since there is no physical restriction in the spirit-state, what more natural than that at such times the communion between kindred souls should be resumed?”
“What is the difference, then, between sleep and death?”
“Very little indeed, so far as leaving the body is concerned but in the case of the sleeper a provision is made for return, by means of the life-line, a bright electric hair-line, very similar to those you saw recently, by which a kind of telephonic communication between soul and body is maintained. So long as this line remains unbroken the soul has power to return, once snap it and the sleep becomes death.”
“How can each sleeper make sure of finding the desired friend?”
“There is provision made for that, as for everything else,” he replied. “just as there are localities adapted to every possible condition of the soul which has left the body, so there is a sleep-state – a boundary, or half-way condition – where these meetings take place. We will visit one of these rendezvous if you wish it.”
“I should be delighted,” I replied. “But do all sleepers come here?”
“Thereis nothing to prevent them doing so if they choose, and I have no doubt but that the great majority of mankind do.”
“Then why is it that no one appears to know anything about it?”
“There are two reasons for this. I will take the one naturally existing first, because it is the one most easily explained. I have already indicated to you the reason why we are invisible to our friends on earth, and they invisible to us. We each stand outside the gamut of the others’ perceptive faculties, and between us lies a gulf only to be spanned by sympathy. This same difficulty exists between the physical brain and its spiritual equivalent, preventing the translation of the memory of the higher into the lower condition. Still, the task is not at all a hopeless one; as I have said, the difficulty is natural, and therefore may be overcome; the sleep-state could then be pressed into service as a most important factor in the regeneration of the world.”
“By directing rather than repressing the natural tendencies to remember, which are to be found generally in children. If these could only be nurtured it would be imposssible to estimate the advantage and consolation thereby secured by obliterating the idea of death. Let me suppose a case, by no means an uncommon one. An only and much-loved child dies when but two or three years old, but the mourning mother lives on for twenty, thirty, or perhaps forty years, her only hope being that she will meet her darling again in heaven.
“Now, the joy of their re-union will be altogether regulated by their mutual recognition of each other whenever that meeting happens. No intercourse has taken place during the long interval; the mother has continued to think of her baby-child, while the angel has but dim recollections of the girl-mother she knew in the long ago. But instead of these hopes being gratified the child beholds a strange woman, with face wrinkled with care, hair silvered, and form weakened and bowed, until she fails to recognise the parent she has waited for. What of the mother? In that woman ‘beautiful in all the soul’s expansion’ is it possible she has regained her child? No! indeed death did rob her, and there would be no power in heaven to make a restoration, if such were the facts of the case. Thank God they are not!
“Now just let us turn to the realities which exist and learn how much better God is in such cases than men imagine. When the child is brought here, the love-lines are attached, with which you have now grown familiar; but in this case there is a counteracting agent brought into action to prevent any undue influence being exercised until such time as the child is able to understand. This is accomplished by the guardian angel of the little one, who now becomes her instructor, nurse if you will, and part of whose duty consists in developing the love which at present maintains between her charge and its mother for no severance of love is ever permitted to take place on our side. This can only be effected by the sin of the mother placing her out of sympathy with the child. Here it is that the sweet ministry of the sleep-state comes in with its continued communion, which can laugh at death and at least one-third of the lives of parent and child are spent in each other’s companionship, ignorant as the mother may be of the fact.
“The child, however, is satisfied, because her love is built up and strengthened, while the earth experiences of the mother becomes valuable object-lesssons which the guardian is ever careful to use in the education of her charge. Months pass by, and at length the still aching heart of the mother cries out ‘Oh! If I could only see her in a dream, it would comfort me!” and she knows not that her prayer is the first vibration of her sleep-memory which all this time has been striving to translate itself into her waking hours; but so it is.
The prayer awakens another hope:
Begotten by some deep-found faith
in love’s unknown mysterious bowers,
Which feels omnipotent o’er death –
Nor earth, nor hell, restrains its powers.
God hears the prayer – He had heard and answered it, when He laid the foundations of the government of life – a few mornings later the mother wakens with a dim recollection that she has seen her child, and is consoled thereby. It was just her own darling. Of course it was, being the memory of one of her first interviews. Now the dreams will become more frequent, the child will grow, the sleeper’s memory will become clearer, the communion more intelligent and rational, until, at the time of parting, the kiss will be the usual one with which a child is dismissed to school, given with the perfect consciousness that she will be home again at the appointed time.”
“Why, Cushna!” I exclaimed, as he paused, “you will wipe away even the remembrance of death if you go on.”
“If Jesus tried to do so and failed,” he replied, “I can never hope to succeed. There are very few of his professed followers who appreciate the fact that he never in any single instance voluntarily used the word in relation to the change of states. ‘She is not dead, but sleepeth’; and they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. ‘Our friend, Lazarus, sleepeth, I go that I may awake him out of his sleep!’ Death? – there is no death! it is swallowed up in victory since Jesus hath brought life and immortality to light. ‘God is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ ”
“You said there was a second difficulty in the way of the universal knowledge of this sleep-life,” I suggested.
“There is a second and unnatural obstacle in the way, and this is much more formidable than the one I have referred to. It is created and maintained by the Church, which could not possibly exist upon its present basis if the sleep-life were recognised, therefore the natural tendencies I have spoken of as existing in children have to be checked and crushed as wicked superstitions which are the work of the devil. These seeds sown in the young grow up and produce a harvest of bigotry almost insurmountable in the man. This is due to the position which the Church has gradually assumed, that it is:
‘Finished all that God has promised,’
and therefore there is no further revelation to be made. This compels the preacher to drop the role of prophet, and assume the position of priest or lawyer; there is no counsel of God to proclaim, he has only a written law to enforce; no need for him to be in advance of his flock, leading like an Oriental shepherd; there are no new pastures now into which the sheep can be led. Instead he must play the English part and follow the sheep, who are more under the influence of dogma than of shepherd. The duty of the prophet is to stand upon the tower, watching for both the day-star and the enemy; but when the full day of creed has come, and there is nothing more to expect, what need to occupy the tower any longer? Now, let me apply these illustrations. The modern preacher is fitted for his position by a course of college or university education; in logic, classics, the theology of school-men, and the creed he is to expound; such is the lawyer.
“The prophet has always been selected entirely for his power to receive and transmit the new revelation which God declares to the world. ‘Hear now My words,’ says God, ‘if there be a prophet among-you, I will make Myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.’ Here is God’s provision for a continual revelation, and the sleep-state is the university from which it shall be promulgated. The teachings of Jesus are in perfect harmony with the law of Moses in this matter – ‘Take no thought how or what ye shall speak ; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak’; and Peter, on the day of Pentecost, urges the same Gospel truth:
“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel – ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit: and they shall prophesy.’ It was in the sleep-state where God met Solomon and blessed him with His gift of wisdom; it was in a dream by night that Joseph was warned to flee into Egypt with the infant Christ; and in the same condition was told to get back again, for they who sought the life of the child were dead. What more need I say ? The facts are plain; if the doors of the sleep-state are thrown open, a wider revelation will be given, which will carry away the creedal institutions of earth, and the vocation of the priest will vanish.”
“But surely you would not counsel men to put faith in the vagaries of every dream?”
“Certainly not, my friend; I think you have forgotten that I hinted at the necessity for encouraging and protecting the natural tendencies to be found in children. Like every other gift of God, this requires most careful development and education before it can become totally reliable in its operation.”
“But how can a distinction be drawn between the true and the false?”
“That is not at all difficult to decide. In the Old Testament, when God first promised a prophet, He very carefully laid down a rule by which the true man should be known from the pretender: ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him.’ Jesus confirms this rule when he says: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ Confidence in a prophet would always be regulated by the value of previous utterances, while the standard of trial would always be the cross of Christ. This, however, is not the beginning. First of all, men have satisfactorily to establish the fact of such a revelation, and this must and can be pursued exactly on the same lines as the investigation of any other strange phenomenon in the domain of science. Once obtain an impartial and full enquiry into the evidence already available, and then immortality will be at once removed out of the region of belief and take its place before the world as a scientific demonstration. But in attempting to get this, all the thunders of ecclesiastical anathema are hurled against you because the establishment of this fact would be a necessary death-blow to their systems; and mankind are not yet free enough from superstition even to pursue such an enquiry which the Church pronounces to be one of the wiles of the devil.”
“What a boundless gospel you open to the vision!”
“This is the gospel, and is it not such an one as we might expect from a God of Love? It is the gospel lost in Eden; faintly seen and but dimly comprehended by patriarch and prophet of old; its day-break glories were sung by the angels in ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to men’; for a moment it shone with noon-day glory around the life of Christ; then the shadows of systematic theology began to obscure it, and the twilight has deepened into night, in the darkness of which men could scarcely recognise the Nazarene if they met him. I only tear away the clouds a thousands sects and creeds have conjured up to obscure the sun, and free from prejudice invite you to see ‘what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,’ free from any of the limitations devised by man. But now that we have spoken so much of this phase of life, come and see it for yourself.”