If it is true that man perishes with the death of his physical body, let us frankly admit that we live in a world which is deplorably and fundamentally unjust to many people, and which is tragically disturbing to every thoughtful person. Some people have had major handicaps through life; some have contended with frustration, suffering, poverty, cruelty and discouragement. Some have fought gallantly, and to what end, if character perishes with death? An observer of human life to whom moral justice is all-important, can offer us no comfort if his horizon is bounded by this life.
Even for the most fortunate of men, if we perish when the body dies, then the things we have most valued when alive, the love we have known and given, the beauty at whose shrine we have worshipped, the sacrifices which others have made for us, these things must bring to us our saddest thoughts. I take it therefore that there is no more urgent question we can ask than this: `Do I survive death in the fullness of my powers?’ I think we have a right to expect an answer satisfying alike to our thinking and feeling.
May I first point out that some people are in a fortunate position. They can say to us with complete conviction, `I know I shall survive death.’ For example, those who are quite convinced of the truth of reincarnation, perhaps through former life-memories, will be in this position. For what their soul has done perhaps hundreds of times before, there is no ground for doubting it can do again and again. Survival is implicit in reincarnation.
Then there are quite a number of people who have had personal experiences of `astral projection’ or out-of-the-body experiences. They, their higher and true self, may have wandered out of the sleeping vehicle which is called the body, and in their astral body have felt full consciousness and freedom to explore the physical levels or the near astral levels. I have met scores of such persons and hundreds of records of this phenomenon have been made and studied. Dr Robert Crookall’s books are well known, and I devoted Chapter 10 of my book The Imprisoned Splendour to the subject. To those persons there can be no reasonable doubt that consciousness does not depend upon the physical brain and body, but that they possess a vehicle in which they can function with far wider powers than those they have used in their physical one.
Then, here and there, one is privileged to meet a mystic. He may be nominally a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sufi, or may have no outer label. But he is a person who has lifted consciousness inwardly to higher levels than mind.
These comparatively rare souls have immediate access to truth quite other than through the intellect. When they speak of lower levels they do so with an authority which one recognises intuitively. A true master, for example, would seldom, if ever, spend time talking about survival. To him it is self-evident. If he has been teaching about a loving God Who cares for all His children eternally, it would be irrelevant nonsense to discuss whether He still cared for them after they had discarded their physical bodies.
Apart from the groups of people to which I have referred there are very many others to whom I am particularly addressing myself in this book. I can imagine some of them saying, `We are perhaps unfortunate. We have not enjoyed the experiences of which you have spoken. We have no certain memories of past lives. We are not mystics. We have not had out-of-the-body experience that we can remember. We do not even find faith coming easily. We don’t want to be led up the garden-path, but we are open to weigh evidence and, if you can show us some good evidence, then even though we may not find it conclusive as proof, we may be able to live with it as a working hypothesis. But is there such evidence?’
In this chapter I am going to assert that there is plenty of very good evidence, and present you with examples of it. I get a bit tired of hearing eminent persons making pontifical statements in fields which they have never taken the trouble to study. One eminent philosopher who believes that death ends all has made no secret of his intention of `building his house on the firm foundations of unyielding despair’, and has said more recently, `I can see no reason whatever to suppose that the universe takes any interest in our hopes and desires’. But I have found no evidence that he has ever studied the good evidence that would have given him solid ground for a different outlook.
If you started to receive communications allegedly from a friend who had gone to live in another country, could you satisfy yourself that they were from your friend? I think most people would say `Yes’. I suggest that you would be able to form a sound opinion based upon such things as (i) memories you shared in common, but had not shared with anyone else who might conceivably impersonate your friend. (ii) personal characteristics such as moral outlook, sensitivity, views and ideals and interests in common, type of reaction to things, sense of humour, peculiarities of phrasing, speech, and outlook, etc. Each of our known friends is a different personality which we recognise as such.
Now in the case where we have lost by death a good friend, the problem is not one of distance but that his consciousness and mine are now normally focussed on two different levels.
This brings us to consider the nature of mediumship which is a phenomenon which makes it possible to bridge this gulf. There are persons, not very uncommon, who can withdraw consciousness slightly or substantially from the physical brain-level to a level of the mind called generally the astral level. This is the normal level to which we pass after physical death. Such a type of withdrawal is called trance, and persons who find this easy to do are usually called mediums or sometimes ‘sensitives’. If we sit with such a medium, he or she may become a go-between and may be used by our deceased friend to communicate with us. There appear to be two different methods used, or often something which is a combination of them both. One is the establishment of a telepathic link between the mind of our friend and the mind of the medium.
The communication is thus on the thought-level and it is left to the medium to find words to express by speaking or writing, what the communicator conveys. The second method is one in which the mind of the communicator influences the brain of the medium, her own mind having partially withdrawn to make this possible. In this latter type there may be speech or writing characteristics peculiarly associated with the deceased communicator. There is an interesting case where Oscar Wilde purported to communicate through a medium (who was not familiar with Wilde’s handwriting). The so-called automatic scripts were compared later with an autograph letter written by Wilde when alive, and there was no mistaking the identity. Many forms of communication blend in different degrees the mind-to-mind and the mind-to-brain relationship.
It might be of interest if I mention my own personal experiences with a well-known medium in London, Miss Geraldine Cummins. (Below) My wife and I met her for the first, and only, time in October 1953. It was a social occasion, and before leaving I asked Miss Cummins, my hostess, if sometime she would try to get some writing from the other side that would be of interest to me. She graciously agreed to do so, but asked me if I would give her a sample of my handwriting to be a psychic link with me. This I did. About five months later in Melbourne in March 1954, I received a letter from Miss Cummins saying that holding my sample of handwriting in one hand and withdrawing into a quiet state she had written with the other the enclosed script.
This purported to be from Astor, a control of the medium, who gave me a description in a few words, of a friend of mine, Ambrose Pratt, who had died in Melbourne about 10 years before this. Astor gave me his name from symbols which were shown to him. All Astor’s statements were correct. I was very impressed, wrote to thank Miss Cummins and asked her if she would try again to contact him. Before she did so I asked her to read a letter which I enclosed and in which I wrote to my friend Ambrose Pratt just as though he were alive and able to read it. I suggested that if she, Miss Cummins, would read it, then Ambrose Pratt would be able to know its contents from her mind, and could answer the questions I asked him through her automatic writing.
Some weeks later I received another automatic script from Miss Cummins. In this, the questions I asked were reasonably answered. The most remarkable feature of this script was, however, that after writing two or three lines Astor said he would relinquish the pen to Ambrose and let him write. The handwriting changed markedly and suddenly to something not very unlike the medium’s normal handwriting, and from this I concluded that the link-up was chiefly telepathic, that Ambrose was dropping thoughts into the medium’s mind. This is not the time or place to go into more detail, but I have told the story in my book The Light and the Gate. I will only say this. He told me that he had come from farther regions of spirit-life because he had certain directions to give me. He had certain links with a group of scholars on his side of death, he named half a dozen of them, and said he was in touch with me on their behalf. They asked me to study the philosophical work of Douglas Fawcett, a little-known philosopher, still alive in Chelsea aged about 90, and to write an exposition of it for the thoughtful man of today.
This task I undertook and it resulted in the book Nurslings of Immortality. During the following four or five years I received many communications from my friend. He was an able and distinguished man and the style and authority with which he wrote reminded me forcibly of the man I had known when alive. I need only say without more ado that I became convinced that I had been in touch with my old friend Ambrose Pratt.
To the sceptic who may suggest that the correct description of my friend and his interests might have been a brilliant piece of thought-reading of my mind by Miss Cummins, she being in England and I being in Australia, I can only say that this hypothesis does not impress favourably because of some subtle features that the scripts present. Furthermore, I knew nothing at the time about Douglas Fawcett or his philosophic ideas, and nothing could have been farther from my mind than the suggestion that I should want to expound his thought! I was quite convinced by these scripts of the survival of my friend.
Now let us look a little further at mediumship in general. The fundamental question raised by all good mediumship is this.
When an enquirer sits with a medium and hopes to contact a deceased friend it may happen that the medium does present a lot of material, descriptive of the deceased friend, and also many memories shared between the sitter and this deceased friend. The sitter may be duly impressed. But does this mean that the deceased friend has communicated this information through the medium, or does it mean that the medium in trance has telepathically drawn the information from the sitter’s unconscious mind and presented it back to the sitter? Both would appear possibilities and therefore such mediumship does not offer any certain proof of survival of the deceased friend and communication with him or her.
To make it less likely that the information was withdrawn telepathically by the medium from the sitter’s mind, experiments were made with proxy sitters. The idea was, that someone should go and sit with the medium on behalf of the enquirer, and that this person sitting should know perhaps only the name of the deceased friend, and nothing more. If a lot of information was communicated it would then appear more likely that it was the deceased friend who was the source of it. But a sceptic could quite justifiably say that the medium might have read from the sitter’s mind on whose behalf the proxy had come, and then draw the information from this proxy’s mind.
Someone may say, `Why couldn’t a deceased communicator disclose something which he knew, but which no living person knows; but something that could be later verified by the research of the sitter’? For example, a person before his death took a brick, made certain marks upon it for identification, broke it in two and gave one half-brick to his sister. He told his sister he proposed to bury the other half-brick and disclose where he had hidden it after his death, if this were possible. It was done successfully. But was this absolute proof of the survival of the one person who had this knowledge? It might be claimed that the medium in trance had exercised clairvoyant faculty and discovered its whereabouts.
There is another type of experiment called `book tests’, but they are capable of being criticised along the same lines as that just given. I present however a case which strongly suggests survival. Lady Pamela Glenconner sat with the well-known medium Mrs Osborne Leonard. One of Lady Glenconner’s sons Edward Wyndham Tennant, known within the family by the nickname `Bim’, had been killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. His father Lord Glenconner was extremely interested in forestry and planned and tended the forest areas on his estates with care. Lady Glenconner records how, often when walking in the forests, her husband would depressingly remark that all the young shoots were being ruined by the beetles: it was the greatest pest they had to contend with etc. So familiar was this theme to the family that if his father was pessimistic about anything, Bim would say `All the woods have got the beetle’. It was a homely instance of a family joke, peculiarly characteristic of Bim.
Now at this particular sitting with Mrs Leonard, her control Feda said after giving other messages, `Bim now wants to send a message to his father. Underline that, he says. It is in the 9th book on the 3rd shelf counting from left to right in the bookcase on the right of the door in the drawing room as you enter. Take the title and look at p. 37.’ The book indicated was in fact Trees (by J. H. Kelman) and on p. 36 at the bottom leading on to p. 37 were the words, ‘Sometimes you will see curious marks in the wood; these are caused by a tunnelling beetle very injurious to the trees.’ Lady Glenconner remarks, ‘Had a chance observer been present when we traced this test, he would have said, “This is no mourning family, these are happy people” and he would have been right.’
This case is certainly an impressive one, and I would myself accept as very highly probable that it was evidence of Bim’s survival. But it is not absolute proof, for the medium’s mind might have searched round telepathically in Lady Glenconner’s mind, found this homely illustration and then exercised a most remarkable power of clairvoyance to find a book test to support it.
A remarkable experiment was carried out early in the century by Dr Richard Hodgson, a very competent investigator with a sceptical turn of mind. He had a friend George Pelham. After Pelham died he communicated with Dr Hodgson for several years through the mediumship of Mrs Piper, a famous American medium. Dr Hodgson drew up a lengthy report of this work and declared, in the end, that he was convinced beyond any doubt of the survival of his friend George Pelham. Dr Hodgson’s approach was essentially scientific and one among the many tests he made over the years of study was to take with him at one time or another no less than 150 persons to sittings with Mrs Piper.
Thirty of these had been personal friends of Pelham when alive on earth. He recognised each of them, and conversed with each on matters of mutual interest, showing the appropriate knowledge and degree of intimacy. Of the other 120 persons he made no false recognition or mistakes. This sort of evidence is very impressive in a psychological sense, as we all recognise that with our various friends we share differing mutual interests and different degrees of friendship.
There is another type of communication which occasionally happens through a medium, and it can be an extremely impressive pointer to the survival of a personality with its wishes, loves, concerns, memories etc. Sometimes a medium will give a sitting, and communication is taking place, when suddenly this is interrupted by another communicator breaking in. He is generally not known or recognised by the medium or sitters, but he is desperately anxious to get in touch with someone on earth, and asks for cooperation. Such motives are frequently to warn someone of a great danger, to make amends for a wrong done, to help someone in great distress through a crisis, etc. I shall relate one of the best cases I know. I owe it to a correspondent Mr Norman Hunt and he has given me permission to use it. He told me that for many years he had carefully studied mediumship in his own home in Kent, England using tape-recorders etc., and that he met weekly with some friends in a little home circle. One member of his circle was a lady from Czechoslovakia whom he calls Edith in the account he gave me.
“On this occasion Edith was quite unexpectedly controlled in a trance by a person who gave his name as C. He appeared very anxious indeed that we should try to help his wife, who he said, had been arrested and was then in prison in Prague, the name of which he gave us. If someone would get into touch with a certain Dr K, whose name and address he gave us, he said that Dr K had access to documents which could secure his wife’s release from prison.
“On returning to ordinary consciousness Edith was told of this. She had only slight knowledge of the communicator C, but had heard that he had died. Edith was unaware of the other circumstances, of the fate of C’s wife, or even of the existence of a Dr K. Feeling a moral obligation to do something to help, Edith wrote a guarded letter because of the political implications. She received back from Dr K, a rather angry letter telling her not to meddle in dangerous business. There the matter rested for about 18 months, when a former acquaintance of Edith who had also known the late C, escaped from Czechoslovakia and made his way to England. He sought Edith out, and told her the following story.
“He said the late C had three daughters. At his death, the youngest had only been 11 months old. When this little girl was only 3 or 4 she was found to be writing little messages which she said came from her daddy. She insisted that he was constantly present in the house. She started to hold conversations with him and said she could see him plainly and describe him. Her family rejected the whole thing as fantastic, and the child’s supposed mental state became a source of anxiety to them. The narrator (the person talking to Edith) went on to say that he had visited the family of C in Prague. He explained to them that he was a member of a spiritualistic circle in Prague, that a person called C had spoken through their medium and had asked that some member of the circle should pay a visit to his family. He was now doing this in fulfilment of C’s request. C had made two requests. The first was that his youngest daughter should be allowed to visit their circle. This was granted, and the youngest daughter of C was shown a photograph of a group of people and asked if she knew any of them. She correctly picked C from this photograph and said, `That’s my papa who comes and talks to me’. C’s second request was that someone in their circle should contact a certain Dr K giving his name and address, as he had access to certain papers which could secure his wife’s release from prison. Apparently Dr K was in a better mood and he sent on these papers to the Public Prosecutor in whose hands the case of C’s wife rested. Shortly afterwards she was released from prison.”
This kind of evidence where separate events took place, all converging on an event in which the communicator had every reason to be profoundly interested, points very strongly indeed to the survival of C.
This sense of urgency and compelling motive may show itself in ways other than intrusion into a seance. I will relate an account vouched for by my friend Dr Leslie Weatherhead. The incident happened to a colleague of his.
“A minister was sitting alone in his study one night when he heard the bell ring. Going to the door he found standing there a young woman whom he knew fairly well. She was from a village some five miles away. The village was in an adjoining circuit from which the minister had moved some sixteen months before.
“‘Good evening’ she cried, ‘I expect you have forgotten me but I have come on a very urgent errand. My father is dying. He never attended church much, but once or twice when you were in the circuit we persuaded him to hear you preach. I do wish you would come and pray with him before he passes away.
“`I will come at once’ replied the minister. Putting on his hat and coat and taking an umbrella from the stand, he set off in the pouring rain on a five mile walk accompanied by the young woman.
“On his arrival at the house, the wife welcomed him warmly. `Oh, how good of you to come’ she said, `but how did you know that my husband was passing away?’
“‘Your daughter came for me’ he replied, with some surprise at the question. It was the woman’s turn to be surprised now. ‘Come upstairs at once’ she said, ‘and we will talk afterwards.
“The minister went to the bedside of the dying man, spoke to him and prayed with him, and shortly afterwards, the end came.
Turning to the woman who was now a widow, he asked where the daughter was, for he had not seen her again since they entered the house. The woman replied, `I was surprised when you came to the door this evening, and I asked you who told you that my husband was dying. You said that my daughter called, and that you had come out together. You have not heard then that my daughter died a year ago?’
“Now the minister was astonished indeed. `Dead!’ he exclaimed, `she came to my door, rang the bell, and walked out here with me.’
“`But there,’ he said, `I think I can prove that. As we came along together, the road was up at one place, and a watchman and another man were sitting in a hut in front of a fire. They saw us go by. I’ll speak to them on my way home.’
“He set off on his return journey, and found the two men still sitting in front of the fire. `You saw me go by an hour or so ago didn’t you?’ he said to the men. `Was I alone?’ `Yes sir’, one of them replied, `and you were talking away to yourself as fast as you could go.’ “
If you do not accept the basic idea of the survival of the dead daughter you will have difficulty in accounting for the data presented.
Sometimes the intervention of the discarnate may arise in dream experience as in the case of the famous Chaffin will. But we shall not pursue this type of evidence further. There is however a field of research which was actively conducted in the years 1907-1916 by the Society for Psychical Research in London. It is known as the Cross-Correspondence experiment. Its vital importance can only be assessed properly by those who are willing to study the records in detail. The material for doing this is all preserved in the Proceedings of the Society.
I shall attempt to give a simple appreciation of this work, since it does in my view, offer very strong evidence of survival of death in the fullness of one’s powers. Among the group of half a dozen scholars and friends at Cambridge who founded the Society I have just referred to, was a well-known classical scholar and minor poet and author F. W. H. Myers. He died in 1901, and when incarnate had been as active as anyone in assessing and collecting data bearing on the subject of proving survival. Associated with the Society about this time were several ladies who had some mediumistic capacity which took the form of `automatic’ or, if you like, `inspired’ writing. The facts that I will present to you suggest that the deceased Myers was the author of this experiment from the other side.
He composed an erudite classical essay and communicated one part of it through the automatism of one of the ladies, another part of it through a second, and the remainder through a third lady. He introduced a number of allusions and cross-references in each of these parts, but of course the three recipients could make very little sense of what was communicated. Each of them. sent their queer communications to the Headquarters of the Society and there it was seen that they were inter-linked.
Classical scholars who examined them were able to show that the parts fitted together to make an intelligent whole.
Perhaps an analogy will help. If one had a large jigsaw puzzle, shuffled it and divided the pieces into three piles, asking three separate people to make what they could of their pile, it is clear that each effort would be very fragmentary and incomplete until the three efforts were brought together and examined. If it then appeared that they make one complete whole, the inference would be that a single intelligent person was responsible for all of the fragments. This type of experiment with classical essays was made several times and those best qualified to judge formed the opinion that Myers was indeed the author and was attempting from the other side of death to present the strongest possible evidence of his survival. I personally think he achieved this.
The case for survival does not rest upon a few examples such as we have looked at, and hundreds of others like them, but upon many lines of converging evidence. It is rather paradoxical that our present knowledge of the extra-sensory powers of mind-telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition etc., makes it very difficult to devise an absolutely conclusive test of survival, while at the same time the very existence of these powers of the mind make it less and less likely that the mind has any essential dependence upon matter. Absolute scientific proof may be impossible: perhaps all that intellect and mind can offer is evidence pointing to a very high probability of survival. For practical purposes this is all we need, and with this awareness we can start to make sense of the world we know.
In the light of a destiny which we conceive as extending far beyond death and birth we need not entertain fears that the world is meaningless or fundamentally unjust to the individual.
We can see our present experience as part of a far greater whole which stretches beyond both the portals of birth and death.
Every soul, once it has got past the stage of transition, has the opportunity given to it to assess its past life and the lives which have gone before. Metaphorically it might be described as an intimate film of the life, starting with the last phase and moving back to the earliest stages. But it is an experience in which we have to enter into the effects of our actions on others and the feelings engendered by them. In this way we see what we have done and become aware of the pattern and our deviations from it. It is no external judgement that we face but that of our own soul. As the poet expressed it:
... he ever bears about
A silent court of justice in himself:
Himself the judge and jury, and
Himself the prisoner at the bar.
Up to this point I have been concerned to present to you types of evidence which allow a sound judgement to be formed about our survival of death. In the remainder of this chapter I want to look at death from the human standpoint for it is an experience which we all must face not only for ourselves but for those we love. Since the lower self or ego has been fed throughout its life with sense-data, it feels sadness and grief at the disappearance of those we love. It looks like extinction, although it is not. The poet Tennyson expressed this poignant cry in a simple poem:
Break, break, break,
On the cold grey stones, 0 Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me,
O well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their heaven under the hill:
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand
And the sound of a voice that is still.
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags O Sea!
But the tender grace of day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
The poet feels that Nature will continue its ceaseless rhythms as the centuries come and go, but the love and fellowship which gave meaning to the poet’s life have gone forever. He is wrong of course, but he is expressing poignantly the age-old suffering of man facing the departure, for a time, of someone he loves. I suppose that until a man reaches enlightenment and is able to experience simultaneously the greater reality of higher levels and planes of consciousness and lesser degree of reality of the physical world, these emotions will remain poignant and strong.
In a famous elegy written to commemorate the life and death of his friend Keats, Shelley was able at last to write:
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep
He hath awakened from the dream of life
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife.
To those whose souls are awakening from the dream of life, there can only be one purpose in coming again and again into a physical body, namely, to win our freedom from this cycle of necessity, this wheel of births and deaths. To win this we have to reach illumination here in a physical body: we have to rise above our ordinary brain-consciousness to the consciousness called by the Indians samadhi or by Jesus Christ, the `Kingdom of God’. If before the end of an earthly life a man or woman has not made some real progress towards this goal, then such a reincarnation may be considered a barren one, no matter what success the world ascribes to him. But if he or she has tried, he will meet the transition of death like Bunyan’s character Mr Valiant-for-Truth, with confidence and serenity. Bunyan makes his hero say, in what is probably one of the finest passages in English literature:
“Then said he, I am going to my Father’s; and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now do I not repent me of all the troubles I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles, Who will now be my rewarder.
“When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the riverside, into which he went, he said, `Death, where is thy sting?’ And as he went down deeper he said, `Grave, where is thy victory?’ So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.”
From a philosophic point of view the existence of the more real can never depend in any essential sense upon the less real. Thus soul does not depend causally upon mind, nor mind causally upon body. As I said at the beginning of this chapter, all knowledge is uncertain, except mystical knowledge, which is of the soul. Mystics who, in a high state of consciousness have experienced the eternal reality and Its essentially loving nature, can never afterwards live as though ignorant of this. This fact assures us of our own eternal nature: we are precious to Him. Indeed the idea that physical death, that is the discarding of the outer vehicle, could ever he the end to what constitutes the true nature of a loving human being is a fantastic notion. To be loved by Him is the guarantee of our immortality. I shall close now by quoting to you the views of some well-known figures upon our subject.
Goethe, the great German poet-philosopher-scientist, once said
“The thought of death leaves me in perfect peace, for I have a firm conviction that our spirit is a being of indestructible nature: it works on from eternity to eternity; it is like the sun, which, though it seems to set to our mortal eyes, does not really set, but shines on perpetually.”
Rabindranath Tagore the Indian poet-philosopher in one of his letters to his friend C. F. Andrews said,
“The creative impulse of our soul must have new forms for its realisation. Death can continue to dwell in the same sepulchre, but life must increasingly outgrow its dwelling-place; otherwise the form gets the upper hand and becomes a prison. Man is immortal, therefore he must die endlessly. For life is a creative idea: it can only find itself in changing forms.”
Perhaps the same idea was in the mind of Oliver Wendell Holmes when he wrote his poem called The Chambered Nautilus.
I will quote only on the third and last verses:
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and
knew the old no more.
Build thee more stately mansions, O my Soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free;
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea.
If I may return to Tagore and quote him again here is a sentence expressing the same idea, that death is expansion, not extinction:
“Our life, like a river, strikes its banks not to find itself closed in by them, but to realise anew every moment that it has its unending opening towards the sea.”
I shall conclude by quoting four verses from a poem written by a very courageous woman. The moving and tragic story of the Bronte’s. Three girls and their brother who lived in semi-isolation in a lonely parsonage on the Yorkshire moors in the early 19th century, is well-known. Emily Bronte was, perhaps more than the others, a mystic. She died at the age of 30 and in her short and lonely life wrote some verse that was found, after her death, among her papers.
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere;
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever present Deity!
Life — that in me has rest
As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is no room for death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou, Thou art being and Breath,
And What Thou art may never be destroyed.
“The Certainty of Survival of Death” is an extract from Light of All Life: Thoughts Towards a Philosophy of Life by Raynor C. Johnson. It is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.