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Chapter VIII: Hope Blossoms into Promise
I was surprised to see that Cushna was as ready to leave as his two companions had been, for it was utterly at variance with all my previous experience that such a gigantic ceremony or service could be held and leave no details to be arranged afterwards. The order with which that audience separated was as perfect as that which had characterised each feature of the Chorale, and contrasted more than favourably in every respect with the scenes we are so accustomed to on earth. There was no unseemly endeavours, by voice or gesture, to attract the attention of a friend; no discourteous interruptions for the sake of a chance word; no rushing to and fro in the crowd to find someone who was missing; or rudely crushing forward in a futile attempt to catch a train.
Friends met, without any multitudinous inquiries as to the health of the absent, or restless, anxious look in the eye, as if fearing the reply would be unwelcome; no farewells and handgrips, which lingered in the impression that it was the last. But the strangest experience of all was that I held such long converse with the three directors of that service, without a single interruption or attempt to interfere with our communion. With that burst of “welcome home” with which the Chorale concluded, everything concerning it came to an end; no one individual had positively anything else to do but go. Those who had received such wonderful benefits were joined, and led away, by friends, and the entire concourse separated, perfectly conscious they could meet again individually or en masse whenever they desired to do so without the necessity of inserting any ‘if’ in the arrangement. We were the last to leave the hall, and while I was listening to the revelations which Myhanene was making to me, I was conscious – by that dual power of observation we all possess – of admiring the undisturbed aspect of the place, which bore no indication of the presence of that great multitude who had departed.
The same lack of commotion was equally noticeable when we reached the open air, where Myhanene and Siamedes took their departure. Everything around me was in the same quiet, restful condition as when I first wondered as to the nature of the building, before I fell asleep or heard the magnetic chiming of those silvery bells.
“Now,” said Cushna, “I shall be pleased to take you to see a sister in whose welfare I am deeply interested, and whose story you will find to be full of profit and instruction.”
“This, then, is not your home?” I enquired, as he led me away in a contrary direction to that by which we had approached the hall.
“Not by any means,” he replied. “My house is filled with children, among whom I find my chief pleasure and employment. This is but a temporary resting-place for such as those to whom we have been ministering; a kind of half-way house for restoration and recuperation.”
“Are we going to your home now?”
“No. You have much to see and learn before you would be able to understand its nature and arrangement. But you shall presently, when you will be able to renew the acquaintance of the little fellow you carried through the mists when you came.”
“Is he with you? – How is he?” I asked eagerly, as his existence was recalled to my memory.
“Gently, now; gently!” interposed my companion, the which prevented me putting half a dozen other queries crowding to the tip of my tongue. “One question at a time is much the better method, especially here, where a very simple one frequently opens up a volume of information, which we always wish to convey as clearly and definitely as possible. He is with me, as I tell you, and is also, of necessity, well.”
“I wonder what his friends thought about his death? – It is strange that I should never have given a thought to that before, but –”
“Gently, now; or I shall not be able to answer you. Try to remember that there is no necessity to string your questions together; there is ample time to ask each one separately, and receive full answers to them all. His friends were not troubled very much after the first intimation of it. He was one of a large family, not too generously provided for, with every energy called into requisition to honestly obtain a bare existence, and little time to develop the higher qualities of the soul. It was therefore more of a relief than otherwise after the first shock, because there was one less to provide for.”
“How are you acquainted with all this?” I asked.
“There is another study opening to you. Now you see how wise it is only to ask one question at a time. It is not at all difficult for us to ascertain all the information we require in a case, since, as will be explained to you at a fitting opportunity, there is a delicate thread which forms a connection between a child and his body, and by following this we can make all necessary inquiries.”
“How, Cushna! How?” I cried, and my heart beat with a feverish excitement engendered by his words – a daring, impulsive thought that it was possible to throw that door of my hope wide open and for my prayer on the slopes to be literally answered.
Appalled at the next moment with my own audacity, the power of movement forsook me, and I waited to hear his answer with a feeling akin to that a felon feels when the dread moment of verdict has come and his life is quivering in the balance. Cushna certainly did not appear to understand the situation sympathetically – on the contrary, a smile of calm amusement played over his face as he quietly replied:
“Now, how do you think we could do it but by sending for the purpose?”
“What! Sending someone from here?” I cried.
“Of course! Do you think anyone on earth would do it and report correctly?”
“But is such a thing really possible?” and the realisation of my dream became momentarily more tangible.
“Why not?” he tantalizingly asked in reply, instead of giving me a direct assurance.
“I don’t know, Cushna,” I cried; “but my heart is tearing itself to pieces between hope and fear. Tell me definitely if it is so or not.”
“It is certainly so, my friend,” he replied, “however hard it may be for you to realise the fact. Myhanene has been speaking to you of an unchangeable God – that implies an unchangeable communion. Intercourse between the two worlds was enjoyed by the men of old, and it must needs be the same now as then.”
“I do not doubt your word; but what you tell me is so far beyond what I dreamed was possible – though I have many times indulged the hope since changing my state – that I doubt my senses when they convey such intelligence to me. Help me to overcome my difficulty, and say if you know this from practical experience?”
“Yes! It was during one of my missions from Myhanene to earth that I first saw the sister we are about to visit.”
“Tell me about her, and perhaps your relation will assist me to grasp this glorious news so far transcending my power of comprehension.”
“A friend, and fellow-worker, who is still in the flesh, had made a request of Myhanene, and I was sent with the reply. During our interview – the nature and manner of which will be explained to you presently – I noticed a young woman, standing behind one of the company, whom I could see was in great need of help and sympathy; I spoke to her, but she did not – could not – hear me, and several other means by which I tried to attract her attention failed. I could not leave her without trying to do something to mitigate her terrible agony, but I was unable to help her without knowing the cause which produced her sufferings. To accomplish this I described her and her condition as I saw it, to the company – by a means which you will learn presently. She was recognised and well known to one from whom I learned all that was necessary, and I promised to use my best endeavours to assist her, with what result you will be able to form some opinion when you hear her story and see her present condition.”
“Why Cushna, would you have me believe that death places no obstacle in the way of continued communion between the two worlds?”
“Not by any means, for such an idea would be very erroneous; but, at the same time, I do want you to understand that the difficulties are not insuperable. As you have already discovered, the boundary line is marked by a curtain of mist, and the obstacles we experience are such as are due entirely to that condition of things; continually varying according to the determinating influences which maintain upon the earth side, and regulate the state of the cloud. You cannot understand this for the present, but when an opportunity arises for you to study the phenomenon you will be able to appreciate what I say. In the meantime it is sufficient for you to know that all obstacles may be overcome, and that communion between us and earth is not entirely suspended.”
“You have been permitted to take part in that intercourse; that I might do so – if such a thing was possible – was my first conscious desire after I realised my entrance upon this life. Tell me, shall I ever be able to gratify that wish?”
“Certainly, you may, if you desire it; and I cannot conceive of a more glorious work than to be engaged in helping to remove the doubts and fears under which our brethren upon earth are labouring. I thank the Father for His favour in allowing me to take a share in the great work of re-opening this communion which has been committed to the more powerful teachers of His love. The work is slow in its progress and difficult to prosecute, but the little which has already been accomplished is working with a wondrous leaven, and – truth being powerful to the pulling down of the strongholds of error – it must so continue until the gloom of ignorance is driven away, and the peaceful and harmonious kingdom of God established upon the earth with a basis firm as we behold it here.”
“How soon may I begin? Such a vocation would change the dream of my life into a glorious reality. I was convinced of the presence of error, but though I sought I could not find the truth for which my heart was craving – for which multitudes of others are seeking, wearily and heart-sick. Now I have found it there can be no greater joy than carrying the knowledge back again for their comfort and instruction.”
“Whenever you are ready the opportunity will not be wanting for you to begin, but till then you must be patient. A very limited experience will convince you that great skill is required to uproot error successfully, and plant the truth in its place. Competency for such a work can only be acquired by careful training, diligent study and an extensive acquaintance with the laws and requirements of the spiritual life as you will see them unfolded here. It is far better to let the old error remain than to pluck it up only to plant a new one in its stead. But I am sorry to say this is what is being done at the present time in very many cases by incompetent persons who have rushed into this communion before they are qualified to do anything beyond the simple fact of demonstrating the immortality of the soul.”
“Is it possible,” I asked in amazement, “that friends can return to earth and teach error?”
“It is not only possible,” he replied, “but I regret to say it is an actual fact, though it is only just to add that – except in the case of deliberately untruthful messengers, wicked earth-bound men and women – the error in every case is due to ignorance rather than design. Let me explain how it arises. Every soul who enters this life is seized with the desire you have mentioned – to get back to earth and make known how vastly different all is to what they had been taught to believe; – at the same time comparatively few have the desire to learn the nature and conditions of our life as you are studying them. The great majority, being satisfied with things as they find them for a considerable period, make no attempt to increase their knowledge. With their minds to a great extent unoccupied, they presently learn the possibility of reaching the earth, and full of the desire to make their continued existence known, they break the silence of death to find themselves called upon to answer a thousand enquiries upon subjects respecting which they have failed to gather information, and the result is the error to which I have referred.
“Think for one instant of the position in which you would be placed, supposing you – at this present moment – had opened up this communion, and the question was asked: ‘Do children grow in the spirit world?’ or again, ‘What are the methods employed to teach children in the next life?’ or third, ‘How do you proceed when you wish to elevate a spirit in a lower condition than yourself?’ To the first you would reply in the light of your experience – you having seen children in the Chorale – and say ‘No,’ which would be an error; to the second enquiry you could answer nothing; and to the third you would have to be content with a simple expression of opinion; this your friends would at once accept as a definite statement, being led, from their earth education, to believe that a kind of omniscience is acquired in the process of death. I may further illustrate and emphasise this by asking you to suppose that your desire to return to earth had been granted at the moment of its conception, or before you had been instructed in the things now made known to you, and that during your interview you were asked respecting these matters, would your replies have conveyed any adequate idea of the truth as you would teach it at this present moment?”
“Of course not,” I was compelled to answer.
“Neither is it possible for others in a like condition to do justice to the enquiries made of them , therefore I say it is best rather to allow the old error to remain, than to pluck it up and plant a new one in its stead. The necessary corollary of this ignorance is contradiction, which gives strong presumptive evidence of the unreliability of this intercourse to those who most strenuously oppose it, and the whole thing is believed and taught to be a device of wicked and malicious spirits to deceive the unwary.”
“I fully appreciate the wisdom of your advice to wait, and I promise you, that – whenever the opportunity occurs for me to break my silence – I will not offer any opinion beyond the scope of my actual knowledge. But is it not possible for you who know these things, to anticipate such ignorant assertions, and so prevent their mischief?”
“Sometimes, but not very frequently. Nevertheless, in these instances, we are dropping seeds of truth which are springing up and already bringing forth good fruit. But in the great majority of cases, we are prevented from doing as we would by operation of a very powerful spiritual law.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“You have already seen that we are attracted to each other by the law of spiritual harmony and fitness. Kindred souls have mutual feelings, and the full reciprocation of these makes our happiness more complete.”
“Yes! I understand that.”
“That same law of attraction and repulsion exists and regulates the intercourse between the two worlds. Let me tell you my own experience whenever I have tried to open this communication. Generally, I have found the persons to whom I desired to speak intolerantly dogmatic in favour of some accepted creed, which prevented them honestly and freely enquiring into any new spiritual truths. Such an attitude of mind was by no means congenial to me, and my presence being equally repugnant to them, a suspicion was engendered which I was powerless to overcome, therefore I had no choice but to retire and leave such inquirers to the mercy of those who, in their ignorance, would affirm the infallible truth of the accepted creed.”
“Were you not able to expose the ignorance of such teachers, and so do away with their authority?”
“Not very readily, for the simple reason that their low spiritual condition more closely assimilated with the ignorance favoured by the creed. My teachings, being more spiritual, received no sympathy, were pronounced to be false and deceitful; I was commanded to retire, without further attempting to disturb their faith, and leave the work to those who had been tried and thought to be true, because they confirmed those ideas which had been previously taught and professed.”
“And did you leave them?”
“Undoubtedly! I had no right to force my presence upon any person to whom it was objectionable. They were seeking, and they found just what they sought for – not truth, but a confirmation of their creed. They are satisfied; and though we are cognizant of the fact that their intercourse serves to ground their error more deeply, whereas it is designed to promulgate the truth, we have to be content to wait in the hope of some favourable opportunity to correct the mistake, and when it occurs, use our best endeavours to remedy the evil.”
“What prospect have you of realising that hope?” I asked, with some trepidation, for the bow of promise appeared to be fading from my sky, as I listened to his enumeration of the difficulties which stood in the way.
“I am, sure of it,” he replied, with a calm confidence which at once restored my drooping faith. “Men are now making the discovery that truth is infinite, while creeds are finite – that, just as it is impossible to reduce the illimitable to a geographical atlas, so is it useless to endeavour to embrace the whole of truth in the most elastic confession of faith. Crumbs of spiritual bread are failing on the earth, and – being full of satisfaction to hungry souls – men are beginning to appreciate that natural food which is prepared in heaven. They, everywhere, are seeking, finding, assimilating, and growing into a visible spiritual stature. They are able to understand as they never did before, lifting their eyes to the hills, praying, entreating for a more plentiful supply of this living bread; and the manna is falling upon such day by day, in spite of the Church’s ban, or priests’ anathema. The morning of our hope is breaking, the clouds are fleeing away; and when we cry to the watchmen on the towers of Zion, their responses are full of cheering consolation, bidding us prepare for the victory which is at hand. Truth must conquer, for it is that child which God surnamed Omnipotent; but Nature’s maternal admonitions counsel it to perfect its victory in patience. The units of its followers are steadily multiplying into tens, these will speedily be gathered into hundreds, the hundreds into thousands; and so the armies will grow, and be officered from the hosts of heaven; then the two worlds will be united in one final effort which shall usher in the establishment – in a practical form – of the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, in which truth shall reign for ever and ever.”