The first result growing out of the experiences I have just narrated, next to that self-knowledge which I began to acquire through their means, was a knowledge of others. My eyes were opened so that when I met certain spirits I seemed to enter intuitively into their thoughts and feelings, and I found, moreover, that, as my life record was placed before the Spirit-world that all might read, so when the desire came to me from good motives to read a like record of others’ lives, the desire was readily gratified, but I also found that when the desire was tinged with any feelings of selfishness or uncharity, a cloud seemed to overspread the record so that I could not perceive it clearly.
By this means I quickly found those spirits most congenial to me, and ascertained my own place in the Spirit-world — my own sphere, as I had been wont to think of it. And here again another thing took me by surprise. Though all classes of spirits, both good and bad, do not meet and mingle here as on earth, still there is no strong outward demarcation between the different spheres or grades. Spirits of different approximating grades meet and in outward appearance associate together, but each one recognizes that inner consciousness, that fine intuition of the spirit which is bestowed in a slight degree as a rare gift upon some favored mortals, those who are their true companions and friends, and thus to the spirit, spirits of different spheres are as plainly and distinctly separated as though each were walled in into a separate heaven No… I am wrong. A strong chain of sympathy binds all together, causing the lower spirits who have begun to progress at all, to turn their regards and their aspirations towards those above them, while the latter always respond in accordance with a law within their being, to which they could not be false without themselves descending from their high positions. Thus, while wisdom, justice and truth are the centrifugal forces of the spiritual universe, dividing and separating, love, charity and sympathy are the centripetal forces, binding all together.
I had found my sphere in the association of those spirits whose degree of development most nearly approximated mine, and whose society was therefore congenial. I had found my home, which was, as best I would express it, an outward manifestation of my own character furnished and decorated with the fabrics I had woven, the articles I had constructed, and the pictures I had painted, by my thoughts and deeds, while yet in the earth life. It was, as it were, an objective self, and I soon came to love it as we must always love that which is part of ourselves. I had yet to learn what my work should be in the Spirit-world, but I was beginning to grow wiser, and so I curbed my impatience, waiting until that work should develop itself to my comprehension, as I felt the assurance it would do in the fullness of time. Moreover I dreaded by precipitate desires to subject myself to another ordeal. Margaret brought to me one day a woman who was newer to the experiences of the new life than even I. ‘‘Love her,” she said; “she needs all your love and tenderness.”
Till Death do us Part.
A rare bond of sympathy seemed to bind us together, even from the beginning, and all unconsciously to myself I began my work by giving a helping hand to this sorrowing, earth tried sister. I did not know it then, but I see it now, how we were each mutually helpful to the other, — I in imparting strength to a spirit that as yet had little of its own, she in strengthening me in making a demand for that strength.
I asked her no questions of her past, I thought when she felt like confiding in me she would do so. I would have been content to remain ignorant until she chose to enlighten me, but Margaret thought best it should be otherwise. She told me how this woman had in earth-life been bound by human laws to a man who early in her married days had forfeited her respect, and as a matter of course, her love also. But she bore her burden of sorrow to the end, outwardly patient and uncomplaining, and performing for duty’s sake, with a heavy heart, those duties which would have been a rare delight if love had been the actuating motive. The end came at last. As she looked for the last time upon the coffined form of her husband, though she wept tears of pity for both, because of the happiness they had missed, she said to herself, “It is better thus.”
I saw from the first that a shadow hung over her. She seemed expectant yet fearful of something. When I knew her history, I understood what it was. She was thinking of her husband, and wondering why he had not come to claim her as his wife. Margaret read this feeling clearly, and so after a time she said to her:
“Your mind is not wholly at rest. There is some matter wherein you are not quite satisfied.”
“I had hoped — I had feared,” she began, and then hesitated. She could not at once clearly define her own feelings. “Yes, you have both hoped and feared, and when the fear is entirely subdued, and only the hope and wish remain, then they will be realized.”
The woman looked up inquiringly. “You are thinking of the man who was once your husband,” Margaret continued, in answer to the look. “When you are ready to go to him, not with a revived earthly love, but in a spirit of heavenly love, which is ready to forgive and to aid, then you will see the man whom you now fear. He will not come to you, but you will go to him and when you come to know him as he really is, and comprehend the causes which conspired to make him what he was and is, your soul will be filled with pity which will make it forgetful of self, and with thought only for him. Then you will stretch out your hands to him and become his savior, and he, with the love he really bears you, still strong in his heart will follow your guidance whithersoever you choose to lead. This is part of your future work — not all of it. But not yet, not yet. You are not yet ready for it.
“Have no fears,” added Margaret reassuringly; “there are no fetters here to bind the soul. The bonds to which we submit are only those of mutual affection and mutual adaptation. An earthly law bound you together, but you are free here, for death is the great divorcer.”
“Are there, then, no husbands and wives — no marriages in this world?” I asked earnestly.
“In heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels,” was the reply, given with a bright smile. “But I see you entirely misapprehend my answer. Let me explain. Here among us there are no marriage bonds which bind the soul to the corpse of a dead affection, but there is love fuller and more perfect than the earth knows anything about. You are still tinged with the earthly ideas, and the whole teaching of earth is to degrade sexual affection, and sink it to the lowest depths.
Men and women who hesitate to take in vain the name of a purely imaginary deity, will not scruple every day of their lives to profane by light word or unhallowed deed the most sacred part of their natures. Truly, perverted love is a terrible demon.
It is the embodiment and personification of selfishness. It tears, it defiles, it destroys and it exults in its destruction. It sends more victims to the lower spheres than any other single cause. You must look there in these spheres of lost spirits, if you would know to what depths a man and a woman will sink to blaspheme against the holy spirit of love which should find a pure temple in every heart. But search out the possibilities of your own soul, and then tell me if love - real love — is the impure impulse, the degrading impulse, the subject for jest, which it is so almost universally regarded. Is not pure love the very essence of unselfishness? Does it not ennoble the soul and purify the heart?
Does it not arouse higher impulses and bring the dawn of a spiritual vision to which one can never attain without it? Is there any earthly happiness which brings mortals nearer heaven than this sentiment of the soul, which by even good people is underrated and despised, and which by the ignorant and evil is turned into a curse? I tell you a man and a woman who truly love one another on earth are already in heaven, and when you open the door of the Spirit-world to admit them, would you shut it in the face of their love? No; let it enter in all its fullness, and glorify their lives here as there.”
“Yes; I mean all. Do not the flowers bloom, and bloom immortally here? Every opening blossom is a manifestation of love — a sexual union. Would you deny immortality to the flower of life — to that which even as we find it, good, bad and indifferent, is, after all, all that makes life tolerable? It is at the source of all action. It is, when unperverted, the deepest and purest impulse of every heart. It is the constant theme of your novelists, the perpetual inspiration of your poets. It has incited to the grandest and most heroic deeds, and the noblest self-sacrifice. There is no other emotion which has such power over the human heart, and which has so controlled the destiny of nations and of mankind in general. Yes, I know you have been used to a cant about spiritual love, which you have not yet for gotten, even with your present experience in the Spirit-world.
You have entertained a dim, shadowy idea that spirits stand stationary like spiritual suns, sending out beams of love, thus enveloping one another, if that is not your precise idea, it is something quite as unspiritual and illusive. But you did not leave your heart behind you with your earthly body. You have the capacity for loving intensified, and not only that you have arms wit which to embrace. Would you have been satisfied if, when you first beheld your long lost children, you had stood at a distance and regarded them with your imaginary spiritual affection? No; you instinctively stretched out your arms to them, and took them to your heart, and your kisses were on their lips, their brows, their cheeks. Is the conjugal affection less than the maternal? No; my children, we shall all some day, if we may not now, clasp to our hearts someone whom we love, and who will love us with equal ardor in return, but not until we have entirely divested ourselves of the degrading earthly ideas concerning the purest, most sacred, most spiritual sentiment of the human heart?”
“But I thought you said there were no marriages here,” we both remarked.
“Nor are there. There are no miss-mated couples, no degrading selfishness on one side, no misery and unrecognized self-sacrifice on the other. They are as the angels.
Earthly bonds are only perpetuated as the heart has sanctioned them. But love is the atmosphere of this life. You have not come to the arctic regions, but to the region where love is a pervading influence, warming all hearts. No spirit can find its most perfect development who misses from his life the experience which love can give him. If he has lived a loveless life on earth, the possibility is still reserved for him here. The certainty will come to him in the future. His being cannot be perfected without it.”
“Is it possible,” the new comer asked, “that I shall come some day to feel this love for my husband?”
“For him who was once your husband,” Margaret corrected. “No, there is no bond of spiritual attraction between you. You know that now. He will come to recognize it sooner or later, and though his heart is still turning to you, the time will come when he will find a more perfect happiness than he yet dreams of in the companionship of another.”
“Take me to him,” cried our companion.
“Not yet, you are not prepared. But you shall have the first lesson in that preparation, and you shall come with us,” added Margaret, turning to me; “for I see your mind is full of questioning.”
My companion turned toward me with a sweet smile, her eyes being filled with tears, and drawing my arm within her own, we followed Margaret, who led the way to a temple which I had often noticed and wished to enter, but had restrained my impatience. Within we found, not a shrine, nor an altar of any kind, but innumerable volumes arranged on shelves which extended from floor to ceiling.
“Do they, then, have public libraries here?” I asked wonderingly.
“You mistake; this is a library of record, wherein all may read, whenever they choose, that which pertains to the lives of themselves and others. Here are the true biographies of earth, not the false, superficial affairs which pass under that name in the life from which you have come.”
She opened a volume and bade us read. I read a story which filled me with wonder.
It was of a man whose nature was perverted by inherited traits of an ignorant and depraved ancestry.
With generous impulses, there was also an inherent weakness of character which caused him to be readily influenced and swayed for either good or evil. Added to these, were the conditions of the sensitive or medium, which through the weakness already spoken of, made him the easy and unresisting victim of evil spirits, who finding the air of even the lower heavens to which they had passed too ethereal for them, and missing those gratifications of sense which were their only conceptions of happiness, continually sought the earth-life, and manifested their evil natures in evil ways.
When we had finished reading the record, I seemed to see in my companion’s heart the depth of pity which opened down for the man thus doomed even before his birth to such an inheritance of misfortune and misery! All the hardness which for years she had entertained melted away, and she sat down and wept. Yes, we sometimes weep in the Spirit-world, for we have taken with us our emotional natures, and are not yet beyond sorrow.
“Take me to him! Take me to him! ” she cried. She seemed to feel that every delaying moment was a reproach until she should stand face to face with him.
As Margaret silently led us away from the temple I turned to leave my two companions, for I felt that in the coming interview, at least, I ought not to intrude. But Margaret beckoned me back, and the woman clasped my hand with a firmer pressure. We followed a path which I had not before trodden. After a time Margaret spoke.
“My child, do not reproach yourself unjustly. You performed your part nobly, and did your duty well. Your self-sacrifice was more than ought to have been required of you.
If you failed in a true appreciation of the difficulties which beset his path, it was because you had no knowledge or means of understanding them. Blame not yourself, but rather the unjust human law and popular sentiment which refuses to allow those to separate whom God hath not joined together. “We had passed out into a barren plain, and the path was rough and stony. The sky, too, which hitherto had beamed with more than earthly light, seemed to become gradually overcast, until finally, as compared with the light we had left behind us, there was scarcely more than twilight. Looking backward, the light of the region we had left shone like an aurora borealis upon the horizon.
“Shall we go back?” Margaret asked.
“Oh, no, no! ” the woman responded with fresh eagerness, and we quickened our steps.
At last we espied in the gloom a figure sitting lonely among the rocks.
The woman started and then stood still for an instant.
She had recognized the figure.
“Oh, I pity him, so deeply! ” she exclaimed, “but there is not one throb of love for him in my heart.”
The man seemed to feel our approach, for he turned and looked eagerly in our direction, as if expecting someone. Evidently his expectations were at last realized, for as he saw us he sprang up with a look of joy.
“You have come at last!” he exclaimed.
“I have been waiting for you day by day ever since I heard you had entered spirit-life, waiting in this solitude until I thought I should go mad, and yet you never came! You saw everyone else, of course, before you thought of me!”
I recognized in his fretful and jealous complaining what must have been the earthly character of the man. The memories it awakened seemed almost more than the woman could bear, but she withheld all answer. He continued:
“You will at least stay with me now you have come? ”
“No,” replied Margaret; “her home is not here.”
He stretched out his arms as if to embrace her, but she only took his hand and pressed it with what warmth she could.
“The same cold-hearted, cruel woman you were on earth! ” he exclaimed with bitterness.
“The old repellent feelings seemed to be struggling to come back in the breast of my friend. I whispered to her:
“Remember the record. It is not himself who is speaking, but through him generations of undisciplined, selfish and wayward ancestors, and hordes of evil spirits, who, by their frequent influence and control, have perverted what little of good there was left in his nature.”
She smiled sorrowfully as she pressed my hand, and then went and sat down beside him and spoke kindly to him, trying to arouse the better feelings of his heart, not by reproof or moralizing, but by bringing happier emotions uppermost. Margaret and I turned to one side and left them alone.
Presently I felt a strange oppression in my breast, and my head began to swim as if with vertigo.
“We must remain here no longer,” said Margaret; “this air is poison.”
She called to our companion, who immediately arose and came back to us.
“You will take me with you? ” the man asked entreatingly.
“I have looked forward to this meeting all these years.
You surely will not drive me away now.
He entreated so pitifully, that his wife seemed to know not what to say.
She looked inquiringly to Margaret.
“Let him come, if he wishes,” she responded, much to my surprise.
So with a cheerfulness he had not yet manifested, he walked beside us, forgetting his past grievances in a flow of jubilantly happy conversation.
As we returned, the sky gradually grew brighter and the air purer until we had nearly reached our starting point. The man had hesitated more than once on the route, apparently stumbling oftener as the obstacles in the path decreased.
“I can go no further,” he said at last. “We must stop here. I cannot breathe, and the light almost blinds me. We must retrace our steps a little way, for this climate is certainly not a healthy one.”
“Your wife’s home is further on,” said Margaret.
“Her home should be where her husband is,” he returned with his old querulousness.
Then Margaret turned to him, and with a severity which she had not before manifested, she said:
“You are no longer on earth. This woman is no longer your wife, but free to come and go as she chooses. Her home is waiting for her, a home which you yourself realize you cannot enter. Shame upon you, who with your selfishness still unchecked or unchanged, are not content with having blasted her mortal existence and filled it with sorrow and care, but now must seek to drag her into the semi-darkness where you find your congenial home. You may come to her when you are fitted, but she cannot go to you, except as an occasional visitor,” The man drooped in dejection. The blow seemed almost too great for him, and yet he bore it, and at last turned to her with an uncharacteristic gentleness.
“Forgive me,” said he, “I will not curse you now as I have done in the past. I will not even seek to do so. I will not again ask you to come to me until I find myself more worthy. I did not realize my unworthiness until now. Promise me when that time comes,
Margaret interrupted: “She can make you no promises, and you must seek to exact none. But I will make this promise in her stead, that when you become truly worthy of the love of a good woman, the desire of your heart, whatever it may then be, shall be gratified.”
He slowly retraced his steps, and we turned and went on our way. Looking back, the last glimpse we obtained of him, he was standing with face turned towards us, and with outstretched arms, as if silently entreating us.
The interview was altogether a sad one, and yet not wholly unsatisfactory. My friend’s work had begun, and she felt that some little had been accomplished. What a prolonged task it promised to be! However, here we are not limited by time, but have all eternity in which to work.
After Margaret had left us, my friend embraced me silently, and then took her departure. I sat down to think it all over, and presently became lost in revery and when at length I aroused myself from it I found myself repeating: “But are as the angels! But are as the angels!”
Extract from Heaven Revised by Eliza B. Duffey, published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.