IN WRITING OF THE hells I have to rely almost entirely on Vale Owen’s book, with only a few illuminating side-lights from other sources.
I propose to give an account of a rescue expedition led by an angel called Arnel. Arnel was an Englishman who taught music and painting in Florence during the Renaissance, and contributed most of the contents of the latter half of Vale Owen’s book. I will give his account in abbreviated narrative form with fairly long verbatim extracts, so that you may get the atmosphere of his story.
Arnel with fourteen companions started from Sphere Ten and, after halts in Spheres Five and Three in order to condition themselves gradually to the changing spiritual atmosphere, they arrived in “that tract where people come on leaving earth, and of which we have already spoken in brief, and passed on into the darker realms.” The geography of that part of the border land between Heaven and Hell which is dealt with in The Life Beyond the Veil is described as follows: “There is a region which is still in the sunlight, but ends in a steep descent, where the bottom lies in darkness.
As we stood there to view, we looked across the deep valley, which seemed to be filled with gloom so gross that we could not penetrate it from our standpoint in the light. Above the murky ocean of mist and vapour a dull light rested from above, but could not sink beneath the surface far, that ocean was so dense. And down into that we had to go.
“The Bridge of which your mother spoke to you runs right across the valley and lands on a lower elevation beyond. Those who from the depth climb up that side then rest a period at the further end, and come across the great causeway to the hither side.
There are rest houses here and there along the way where they who are too weary still to make the journey at one stage may stay and refresh themselves from time to time. For even after gaining the Bridge, the journey across is a painful one, inasmuch as on its either side they see the murk and gloom from which they have lately come, and hear the cries of those, their sometime companions, who still linger beneath, way down, in the valley of death and despair.” This Bridge is apparently not the only way across the Borderland between Heaven and Hell. Julia speaks of another region as follows: “The Borderland which divides the two is crossed by innumerable paths by which the dwellers in Heaven are perpetually leading those who were spirits in prison.” And Private Dowding crossed no bridge during his brief and abortive journey into Hell. Arnel continues: “So we took the path downwards, and as we went the gloom became more gloomy and the chill more full of fear. But we knew we went to help, and not to fear aught, and so we did not hesitate in our steps, but went warily withal, and looking this way and that for the right path, for our first station lay a little to the right hand as we went, and not between the Rest-land and the Ridge, and it was a colony of those who were weary of the deathlife they had endured, and yet who lacked the strength to break away, or the knowledge which way to take, if they should leave their present desperate anchorage. As we went, our eyes became more attuned to the gloom, and we could see about us, as on a night one might see the country outlying a city by the ruddy flares on the watchtowers thereof. We saw that there were many ruined buildings, some in clusters and some solitary. Decay was all about us.
It seemed to us that no one had even made whole any house, once it had begun to fall into disrepair. Having built it, they left it to build another elsewhere at the first sign of wear, or, having tired of it before it was finished, had left to build another. Listlessness and want of endurance was all about us in the air—the listlessness of weary despair and the despondency of doubt, both of their own strength and of their neighbours’ purpose.
“There were trees also, some very large, but mostly leafless, and those with leaves not comely, for the leaves were of dark green and yellow, and spiked with lance-like teeth, as if they too took on the aspect of enmity from those who had lived near them. Here and there we crossed a waterway full of boulders and sharp stones and with little water, and that water thick with slime and stinking.
“And at long, long last we came within sight of the colony we were seeking. It was not a city, but a cluster of houses, some large and some small. They were scattered about, here and there, and not in order. There were no streets in the city. Many dwellings were merely mud huts, or a couple of slabs of stone to form a shelter.
And there were fires about the open spaces to give light to the inhabitants. Round these, many groups were gathered, some sitting in silence looking at the flames, others loudly brawling, others wrestling in their anger, one with another. So we drew near, and finding a silent group, we stood by waiting and looking upon these with much pitifulness in our hearts for their hopelessness of spirit.
And, seeing them, we took hands one of another and thanked our Father that He had given us this present work to do.” Arnel finds the leader of the group; “a tall gaunt figure with knotted joints and limbs, bent and bowed, and his face was pitiful to see, such lack of hope and fullness of despair was there upon him.” He recognized him as a magistrate whom he had known in earth life, and tries to touch him by mention of his wife. He says: “Yes I remember, and what of her? Do you bring news of her? Why did she leave me thus?” Arnel explains that she is in a higher sphere and cannot come to him until he has begun his upward journey. “He broke in upon me: ‘Then she will not come to me now I have fallen upon evil times.’ ‘She cannot come all the way,’ I said. ‘You must go your way to her and she will meet you.’ And at that he cried out in anger, ‘Then let her be damned for a proud and hard-cased wench.
She was ever the fine lady-saint to me and moaning over my little lapses. Tell her, if you come from her parts, that she can stay in her spotless mansion and gloat upon her husband’s state. They be here in plenty more pleasurable than she, if not so comely. And if she will descend from her high estate we will have a rousing rout for her reception. So good day to you, sir.’ And sneering, he turned away and laughed to the crowd for their approval.
“But there arose one other of them who came and took him aside. This one had been sitting among them, and was drab of dress as any of them. Yet there was a gentleness in his movements and somewhat of grace withal which was to us surprising. He spoke to him awhile, and then they came back to me, and this companion said: ‘Sir, this man did not quite understand the purport of your words, nor that you did really come to comfort and not to taunt.
He is some little repentant that he spoke to you in words such as were unseemly. I have told him that you and he were not altogether unknown to each other once. Of your kindness, sir, speak to him again, but not of his wife, for as yet he cannot endure her desertion, as he names her absence.’ I was very much surprised at this speech, so quietly uttered, while the brawling noises came from all around us and shrieks and curses intermingled from the groups by the fires upon the plain. I felt that my business was with him in chief, for I had a sure conviction that could I impress him we would through him be able to concern his companions in their future course, for he seemed to be dominant among them and of consequence.” Arnel succeeds in impressing the magistrate to some extent; then he seeks out the mediator “who seemed to me to be ripe for his journey out of that region into one more in tune with his repentant mind. I found him sitting apart on the bole of a fallen tree.
“Seeing me approach he stood and came towards me, and I said: ‘My friend I thank you for your good offices, for I have, through your timely help, been able to impress that unhappy man as otherwise I had not done. You be more familiar with the natures of these your companions than I, and have used your experience to good effect. And now, what of your own life and future?’ ” ‘I thank you, sir” he replied. I ought no longer to delay the discovery of myself to you. I am not of this region, sir, but of the Fourth Sphere, and I am here by choice to do service, such as I am able, among these poor darkened souls.’ ‘Do you live here constant?’ I inquired of him, amazed; and he replied: ‘For a long time, yes. But when depression becomes too heavy, I return for a little while for replenishing to my own home and then come hither once again.’ ‘How often?’ I asked him. ‘Since I came here first,’ he said, ‘some sixty years have gone in earth-time, and I have returned to my home nine times. Several of those I knew on earth came here in the first early period, but none of late; they be all strangers now. Yet I still continue to help them one by one.’
“At this I marvelled greatly and ashamed.
“Here my party came on tour and thought it a virtue so to do.
But the one who stood before me brought to my mind Another, who laid His glory aside and emptied Himself that others might be filled. I think I did not realize in fullness till then what it meant that a man should lay down his life for his friends, aye, and those friends such as these, and to dwell with them in these regions of the shadow of death. He saw me and understood some of what passed through my mind, and taking my own shame upon himself, he said wistfully; ‘So much He did for me Sir—so much—and at so great a cost.’ “And I said to him, taking his hand in mine; ‘My brother, you have read me a lection of the very Book of God His Love. The Christ of God is beyond our understanding in the Majesty of His Beauty and His Love so wide and sweet. Him we may not comprehend, but only worship with adoration. But since this be so, it is something of profit to consort with one who knows how to attain to be a lesser Christ. And such, methinks, I have found in you.’ “But he only lowered his fair head, and as I, of reverence led, kissed him where the parting of his hair was, murmured as to himself: ‘If I were worthy—if only I were worthy of that Name’.” Thereafter the Party penetrates deeper into the regions of gloom: “As we went we felt about us a growing power of evil For you must mark there are degrees of Power, as of evil, in the different colonies there, and also diverse notes of evil dominant in its several regions. And, further, the inequality of forcefulness obtains there as in earth. They are not all of one type and pattern in evil. For free-will and personality are there, as elsewhere, and, by the persistence of these, some be great ones and some of less account in power, even as in earth and in the brighter spheres.
“Thus we came to a large city, and entered through a massive gateway, where guards marched to and fro. We had relaxed our will to visibility and so passed in unseen. We found the broad street beyond the gate was lined with great houses of heavy build like prison fortresses. From several of the wind-holes lurid flickering of light fell into the roadway and across our path. We went on until we came to a large square, where there was set up a statue on a high pedestal, not in the middle, but toward one side, where the largest building stood.
“The statue was that of a man who wore the toga of a Roman noble, and in his left hand he held a mirror, into which he looked, but his right hand held a flagon, out of which he poured red wind which splashed into the basin below—a travesty of nobility. The basin was ornamented with figures here and there around its border.
There were children at play, but the game they played was the torture of a lamb by flaying it alive. At another part there was a rudely carved woman, who held a babe inverted to her breast. The carvings were of such like nature, all of mockery, blaspheming the virtues of childhood, maternity, valour, worship, love and other, an obscene and motley crowd which made us near despair of good result by any appeal to nobility of those who lived in that city, Filth and mockery were rife all around us. Even the buildings ill their plan and ornamentation shocked the eye whichever way we turned. But we were there for a purpose, as I say, and we must stomach what we met, and go forward on our errand.” The members of the party make themselves visible and pass into the Palace of Evil opposite the statue. Arnel continues: “Opposite! us there rose a great flight of steps from floor to balcony. All the crowd which filled the hall sat around and faced it. Upon the lower steps and half way up there were coiled, in different attitudes, all unbeautiful, men and women in loose and scanty clothing, which, nevertheless, made pretence to grandeur. Here and there a gold or silver belt, or chaplet, or silver brooch of jewels, or bejewelled buckle or clasp appeared; but all were false, as one could see: the gold was tinsel and the gems were counterfeit. Upon the stain, just above them, stood the speaker. He was of giant stature, bigger than them all, as he also dominated them in his wickedness. He wore a spiked crown and a long mantle of dirty grey, as if it once had been white but lacked the lustre of whiteness, and had taken on its neutral tone from the wearer. About his breast was a double girdle of false gold, which crossed and was gathered at each hip by a belt of leather. Sandals were upon his feet, and lying on the steps beside him a shepherd’s crook. But what sent through our company, as we watched him, a pang of unutterable pain was the crown.
The spikes were the thorns of a bramble done in gold, which, circling his dusky brow, was wrought into a crown.” The speaker preaches a blasphemous sermon, rather puerile, but I suppose it is quite difficult to be intelligently blasphemous when you come to think of it. He calls on his audience to follow him in a raid of evil spirits on to the earth.
To quote Arnel again: “He who assumed so gentle a character, and with so ill a grace, was one of the fiercest and most cruel despots of all that region. Truly, as he said, they had elected him Governor, but that was in fear of his great power of evil. And now that he called those poor misshapen, half-frenzied men noble, they applauded him in their servility for the self-same epaulette shone fair upon her brow as it bound her gold-brown hair, and the jewel of order upon her shoulder shone bright and true of her own virtue. About her middle was a belt of silver. And all these showed in relief against those tawdry jewels of the crowd before her. And in her arms she held a bundle of white lilies.
She stood there, the presentiment of pure womanhood in all its perfect loveliness, a challenge to the late speaker’s ribald cynicism of her race.
Then, when a long time they had looked upon her, both the men and the women there, one of them sobbed and tried to smother the sound in her mantle. But then the others gave way before the returning upon them of their sometime womanhood, and the hall was filled with the wailing of the women—oh, so hopeless to hear in that place of misery and of bondage, that the men also began to cover their faces with their hands, to sink upon the ground, and to press their foreheads in the thick dust upon the floor.
“But now the Governor took himself in hand, for he saw his power at hazard. He began to stride in great anger over the bodies of the women to get at her who first had set the pace of their weeping. But now I came down to the lowest step and called to him: ‘Stay your hand and come hither to me.’ “At this he turned and leered at me and began to say: ‘But you, my lord, are welcome, so you come in peace among us. Yet these poor cravens be too much bedazzled of the light of that fair lady behind you, and I do but seek to bring them to their reason, so they shall give you proper welcome’.
“But I said very sternly to him: ‘Cease and come hither.’ So he came and stood before me, and I continued: ‘You have taken upon you to blaspheme, both in speech and also by your trappings.
Take off that crown of blasphemy and lay down the shepherd’s crook, you who dare to mock at One Who claims these His children whom you hold in your bond of fear.’ These things he did, and then I spoke to some men standing near, and I said to them more gently: ‘You have been cowards too long, and this man has enslaved you body and soul. He shall be taken to a city where one stronger in evil might than he rules. Do you, who have served him hereto, do now my bidding. Disrobe him of that mantle and that girdle which he has donned in his mockery of Him Whom even he shall own some day his Sovereign Prince and Lord.”
“And then I waited, and there came forward four of them and began to unbuckle his belt. He turned in fierce rage upon them, but I had taken the staff from him, and this I laid upon his shoulder, and at the touch he sensed the power within me and strove no more. So my will with him was done; and then I bade him go forth of the hall into the darkness without, where guards awaited him to take him into that far region where as he had done to others it should be done to him.” Then one of Arnel’s party began to sing to die crowd now released from the fear of their Governor, and the party stayed for some time teaching and helping them. Later they were relieved by another party which stayed with those of the crowd who wished to escape, until they were ready to begin their journey towards the light.
Later, Vale Owen asks who were the guards that took the Governor away; and receives the following answer: “Ah, there you touch upon one of the difficult matters to understand until you learn more of the ways of God His Wisdom, and His Sovereignty.
In brief, know you, friend, that God is Sovereign not in Heaven alone but in Hell also, and in all the Hells He rules and He alone.
The others dominate locally, but He rules over them all. The guards I spoke of were men of that same city to which we sent the man. Evil men they were and did not own allegiance to the Creator of them all. But knowing not whose judgment delivered this one more victim into their hands, nor knowing it was for his ultimate salvation, they did our will without ado. You may find the key here, if you go beneath and deep enough, to much of that which happens on your earth.
“Evil men by many are thought to be outside the pale of His Kingdom; and evils and disasters to be faulty manifestations of His dynamic energising. But both are in His hand to use, and even evil men, unwitting, are made to work out His plans and purpose in the ultimate.” After some further moralising on the use of evil men as the agents of ultimate good, Arnel continues: “And now, if you will, we would go forward with our narrative to tell you of some of the places we happened on, and what we did by them. As we went about we found many of those settlements where people of like mind sought to consort together. It was sad to see them who wandered from town to town in search of that companionship which should ease their loneliness, and finding shortly that agreement one with another was not to be had in any enduring measure, would wander again into the deserts to get away from those whom they had thought to offer some chance of ease and pleasurable company.
“We found that in nearly every colony there was one mastermind—and here and there more than one nearly equal in forcefulness of character—who dominated the rest, and enslaved them by the dread he sent forth upon them. Here is one whose city we came to once after a long journey through very desolate and forsaken country. The city itself was built about by a strong wall, and it was large in area. We went within and were challenged by the guard at the gateway.” The Captain of the guard tries to arrest them but is overcome by a display of spiritual power and induced to lead the party to the mines, where thousands of souls are enslaved.
They came to a large cave-mouth which led into the bowels of the earth, and “There came forth in gusts a wind of odour so foul and hot and fetid that we drew back and paused awhile to call for strength.” On the downward way the Captain was oppressed in spirit and his face was agonised and grey. Arnel continues: “So I said to him: ‘Why are you become so sad, my guide? You have put on a sorry aspect since you drew near the mouth of these mines.’ ” ‘Sir,’ he answered and meekly now, ‘I was once of those who work with pick and spade within these hell-furnaces, and the fear of it comes upon me now.’ ” ‘Then search into your inmost soul for a grain of pity for those who work there now where once you suffered so sorely.’ “He sank upon a boulder by the side of the path, overcome by weakness, and replied to my words with stranger words of his own: ‘Nay, nay, ‘tis needful I be pitied by them, not they by me.
Their lot is here, but mine is hell ten times doubled.’ ” ‘How? Since you have escaped their slavery and come forth of the mines into a better state or service to the one you call your Lord?’ ‘I thought you were someone great in wisdom,’ he replied with a bitter smile, ‘and yet you do not understand that to fly from one state of servitude to another of higher degree in authority is to put off a hair shirt for one with thorns and brambles for web and woof.’ “Then I took shame to myself that I had but just learned that lesson on top of others gathered of our experience in those dark tracts of hell.” There follows a long description of the mines and the party descends into deeper and deeper workings: “Figures went hither and thither with furtive tread as if afraid some horror should start up in their pathway when they were most unaware. Now and then the clanging of chains came up to us, then a weird cry of agony and often a mad, wild laugh and the sound of a whip. All was sad both to hear and to see. Cruelty seemed to float in the air as one sufferer gave vent to his agony by torturing another more helpless.” Arnel then tells the Captain to open all the gates separating one part of the mine from another. The Captain replies: “Sir, it is in my heart to do this; but I fear my lord the Chief. He is terrible in his wrath, sir, and even now I have a dread upon me, lest some spying hound should have sought to curry favour with him by carrying to him a report of what has already been done.” But finally the Captain consents to give the order for the opening of the gates.
“Then in concert we lifted up our voices and sent forth a loud chorus of praise. It swelled louder and louder as we sang, and it filled all that place with its melody and penetrated the tunnel and filled the galleries and the caves where the poor hopeless ones were doing good service to their lord, this cruel Prince of the Darkness, who held them bound by the fierceness of his evil strength. . . .
And as we sang, one after another of those slaves of evil came within sight of us. A pale grey face would half emerge from one tunnel and then from another, or from a cleft in the rock, and from holes and dens we had not noticed they looked forth upon us, until the whole of the cliffs around us were full of frightened, yet longing people, too timorous to come forth, yet gulping down the draught of refreshment like thirsty men in a desert. But others there were who looked forth in anger with red, shining eyes, which flashed their inner fires upon us, and others still who bowed their heads aground in their misery of remorse for past wrong-doing and for the memory of that mother’s lullaby of which we had sung, and the way it had pointed and which they had spurned, and gone the other road—to this.
“Then we grew slowly softer, and ended in a sweet, long chord of rest and peace, and one long-drawn solemn ‘Amen.’ “Then one came forth and stood a little distance away from us and knelt and said ‘Amen.’ When the others saw this they drew in their breath to see what plague would strike him, for this was treason to the lord of the place. But I went forward and took him among us, and we closed him round, so none could do him harm.
Then they came forth to the number of four hundred, in twos and threes and then in dozens, and stood like children saying a lection, and murmured, as they had heard him do ‘Amen, Amen.’ And the while, those who stood or crouched still in the shadows of the galleries and of the boulders and crags hissed curses at us and them, but none came forth to try their tilt with us.” Arnel addresses those remaining and warns them to school themselves so that they may be ready to come forth when the next expedition of rescue shall arrive.
Then there is a great commotion, and the Chief, who has heard of the intrusion, arrives on the scene. Here is Arnel’s description of him: — “He was of stature gigantic, as tall as a man and half a man in height. His shoulders were unequal, his left lower than the right, and his head, nearly hairless, was thrust forward on a thick neck.
A tunic of rusty gold and sleeveless was upon him, and a sword hung on his left side from a leather belt which passed over his right shoulder. Rusty iron greaves he wore, and shoes of untanned skin, and on his brow a chaplet of silver, tarnished and stained, and on the front of it a boss carved into the semblance of some animal which might be called a land-octopus, if such there were, symbolic of his evil power. His whole aspect was that of mock-royalty, or, more nearly, the striving after a royalty beyond his attaining. Evil passion, frenzy, lust, cruelty and hatred seemed to suffuse his dark face and to permeate his whole personality. And yet these overlaid potential nobility, and nullified what might have been great power for good, now turned to evil. He was an Archangel damned, and that is another way of saying ‘arch-fiend’.” Do you know what he had been in earth-life? “Your questions, friend, I like to answer, and when you ask them I cannot but feel some prompting leads you to do so which must have respect of me. And, therefore, I answer them. Do not cease to ask them, no, for there may be in them reason I do not reckon with and which I could find only by inquiry. But you will not mistake my meaning. If he was a great surgeon in a large hospital for the poor in your England, that does not predicate that others are as he. Had he been a priest or a philanthropist, it had been no more strange. For the outward seeming is not ever in consonance with the real man. Well, such he was, and there you have it in a word.” The Captain meanwhile has been caught and bound: “This seeing, I at once stepped forward very quickly, and, as I went by the Chief, I touched the blade of his sword in passing, and then stood before those who held the bound man and commanded them: ‘Loose that man of his thongs and set him forward towards our company.”
“At these words a yell of rage broke from the Chief and he tried to raise his sword upon me. But all the temper had left the blade, and it hung down limp as water-weed, he staring in horror at it the while, for he took it at once as a token of his authority bereft of power. I had not in mind to make him a stock of laughter, but the others, his slaves, saw the comic element in his plight, not of humour but of malice, and from hidden places there came gusts of laughter and mockery. Then the blade withered and fell from the haft all rotten, and the haft he hurled at a point up among the rocks where someone laughed longer than his fellows.” The Chief ostensibly submits to superior power and leads the way out of the mines to his palace. “As we had come through the mines, our company had been increased in length by those who had joined us from the caves which stretched into the darkness far away on either hand. News, so scarce among them, had been carried quickly to the farthest limits of these gloomy regions, and now our numbers were in thousands, where they had been hundreds before.” They pass out of the cave-mouth and come into the open space among the huts of the workers. Here the liberated slaves are told to go through the city and spread the news of the rescue to such others as wish to join. The Chief leads the party of angels to his own house, where he asks them to wait in a room, and furtively locks the door while he gathers his army to recapture the slaves and his court to witness the discomfiture of the angels.
“We knew what we should do without counsel or discourse, so we took hands one of another and lifted ourselves towards the light and life of our own environment. As we aspired together, our condition gradually changed, and our bodies took on a nature more sublimate, so we passed hence without those walls, and stood in the square before the Principal Gate, awaiting the coming of our company.
“We did not see the Chief again. He had, as we knew, planned the recapture of those we had forced from his servitude, and even now these were being gathered from the regions about the city by runners sent forth, a great army, which was closing in on all sides to do vengeance on those who had made bold to flout his authority.
But I have naught dramatic to tell you, my friend—no clash of arms, no cries for mercy and no coming of an army of bright warriors to the rescue. It all fell out very tame and flat. In this wise: In that mock Throne Room he gathered his court, and, having torches lighted and placed all round the walls, and fires kindled all along the centre of the floor to light the hall, he made a great speech to his dusky retainers. Then the door of our anteroom was solemnly unbolted, and we were bidden come forth that he should do us honour. And when we were not found within, and his vengeance was thus denied to him, and his shame before his nobles manifest, and all come about by his own plans and actions, he broke down utterly, while they laughed to see him so in his abasement. Cruel jests they passed among them as they strolled away and left him alone, seated upon his stone chair aloft on the dais, defeated.
“Mark you, friend, how in these rebel states tragedy and gross buffoonery jostle one the other wherever you shall go. All is empty make-believe, for all is in opposition to the only Reality.
So these mock rulers are served by their people in mock humility, and are surrounded by mock-courtiers whose adulation is thrust through and through with stings and arrows of cynicism and ribald mockery.” Here, unfortunately, the original script of one sitting has been lost; but all the souls rescued in the course of the expedition are placed under the care of “The lesser Christ” and the Captain, in a new colony where they may progress together towards the light.
This colony is referred to again on more than one occasion, and Arnel asks us to pray for them, “and for those others of whom we have spoken, for they be in sore need of prayer and help to uplift them—I speak of their sometime Chief in that dark City of the Mines, and also of the others of whom we have told you. Could earth people come to realise what they might do for those in the Hells, they would lessen, by their prayers for them, the ills they themselves suffer. For by lifting those poor spirits more into the light, and softening their anguish, they would lessen both the numbers and the malice of those who rush to earth to trouble those of like nature with themselves, and, through them, the whole of mankind.
“It is well for men to look upward and strive towards the light.
It is of more virtue to look downwards towards those who have sore need of strength so they may rise out of their unhappy spheres. For, bethink you, friend, this the Christ did long ago, and thus they do today.”
I can give you only a fraction of the graphic story of the Hells, and a still smaller fraction of the remainder of Vale Owen’s book, I think it quite a tragedy that it should be out of print; but, if you are interested, send a postcard to the Agents—Messrs. A. P. Watt & Son, Hastings House, Norfolk Street, W.C.2. Presumably, if they get enough postcards, they will arrange for a new edition to be printed.
Private Dowding’s visit to Hell was something of a fiasco. He writes: “A soldier had been killed who was a degenerate, a murderer, a sensualist. He died cursing God and man. My brother had been told to rescue him. He took me with him. An angel of light came to protect us, otherwise we should have been lost in the blackness of the pit. The darkness grew. There was a strange allurement about the atmosphere. I thought we were lost.
At moments I hoped we were lost. So strong is the attraction.
Something sensual within me leaped and burned. I should have been lost without the angel’s and my brother’s help. We descended deeper. As a matter of fact I never reached the point where the rescue was attempted. I waited for their return in what seemed to be a deep, dark forest. The angel said that was the most insidious kind of hell, stagnation, because no one recognised it as such. That part of hell visited by my brother was brilliantly lighted. The light is coarse, artificial. It keeps out the light of God.
“All this my brother told me afterwards. Those who die filled with the thoughts of sensuality are attracted down the long, grey avenues. The darkness appals. At last, light is seen ahead. It is the lure of hell. Some of these thoughts came to me whilst I waited in that gloomy forest. Then the angel and my brother returned. They had found him for whom they sought. He would not come away. Fear held him. He said his existence was awful, but he was afraid to move for fear worse conditions befell.” I have abbreviated considerably, but I think that this account is illuminating in explaining why any soul should deliberately advance into the darkness of hell, when he might remain, at the worst, in Sphere One. Arnel would not feel the stirrings of lust as Private Dowding did, and so might not mention this very significant point.
The “Living Dead Man” mentions the Hells in a somewhat perfunctory way. He is not much interested in them or in the “Christian Heaven.” He claims to have visited a Hell of fire and brimstone, and he says that there are individual hells of drunkenness and of lust and of hatred and of untruthfulness, and gives us a bloodcurdling account of a ghoul battening on the gin-soaked breath of a young man in a public house and goading him on to further excesses. But he is not very precise, and, even if we take him at his face value, he does not add much to our knowledge.
“The Hells” is a chapter from Many Mansions by Lord Dowding, published by White Crow Books
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published August 2013
Size: 229 x 152 mm