The Road to Immortality provides the reader with a sublime vision of the afterlife, allegedly communicated from ‘other side’ by the then deceased eminent psychologist and psychic researcher Frederic William Henry Myers via the Irish medium Geraldine Cummins.
The Plane of Illusion
The Third Plane
BREVITY can be the soul of wit, but it can also be the soul of error. It will be necessary for me to create a small dictionary if I am to give you my views, in a few pages, on that interesting topic, eternal life.
I shall first define the multitude of the newly dead, those tumultuous waves of life that break, daily and nightly, like the tides upon our shores. Birth and death are two words which contain the same meaning. How strangely they sound to me now; for I have lived so long in a state in which words are obsolete, in which thoughts reign supreme.
Roughly, the newly dead may be divided into three categories:
There are many sub-divisions of these particular states of grace or disgrace. But bear these three terms in your mind, for to whichever one you belong so will your future be determined. Now I could classify conditions or surroundings.
First; there is the earth life.
Second; the transition period known as Hades.
Third; existence within an image or reflection of the earth known to some as Summerland; I prefer to call it Illusionland.
Fourth; all that life which is apparelled in form as it is known to man, all those lives in ever finer and finer bodies which are connected with the material universe.
Fifth; a mental or intellectual existence within the group-soul in which you envisage and experience—but only as an act of emotional thought—all the stages of existence that belong to those various souls fed by the same spirit. I have spoken before of the group-soul and defined it for you.
Sixth; a conscious existence within and without time; the measure of time being all those lives that are passed in form. It embraces existence in the most tenuous shapes; it embraces experience in matter whatever its character or degree.
Last comes the seventh state—the merging of the journeying soul with its spirit. When you attain to that beatitude you pass into the Beyond, you realise the meaning of the word immortality. Matter is transcended, cast off. You enter into timelessness and become one with the Idea behind all life, one with God, one with that portion of His Spirit which has been connected with you in all the planes of existence.
The earth is as a reflection in a mirror; it is real only through the image that is cast upon the glass. The earth, therefore, depends for its recognition upon the nature of individual vision and perception. All men, who are in the clay, are unreal, so they have power to perceive only in a certain manner that strange illusion, the swiftly rotating globe. When they shuffle off the heavy body, when in a finer shape they take flight from it, they frequently do not realise the fundamental unreality of earth.
They hunger for the dream which was home to them. Then these souls knock and the door is opened, they enter into a dream that, in its main particulars, resembles the earth. But now this dream is memory and, for a time, they live within it. All those activities that made up their previous life are re-enacted, that is, if such is their will. They can, at any time, if they choose, escape from the coil of earth memories, from what I might term the “swaddling clothes” of the life after death. For all these souls are as babies, unaware of the real world of which they are inhabitants, no more cognisant than are infants of the vast whirl of life about them, of its astonishing intellectual activities, of its achievements.
Such infant-souls frequently communicate with earth when they are in a state almost analogous to the earth sleep. They will then endeavour to describe their memory world. It is almost precisely similar to the one you inhabit at the moment. Some call this memory-dream Summerland—quite an apt term. For the soul, freed from the limitations of the flesh, has far greater mental powers, and can adapt the memory-world to his taste. He does so unconsciously, instinctively choosing the old pleasures, but closing the door to the old pains. He lives for a while in this beatific, infantile state. But, like the baby, he inhabits only a dream, and has no knowledge and hardly any perception of the greater life in which he is now planted. Of course the hour comes when his spiritual perceptions awaken, when he seeks to escape from the memory-dream, when, in short, he realises his own increased intellectual powers, and, above all, his capacity for living on a finer plane of being. Then he passes from the State of Illusion and enters upon an existence which few communicating intelligences have ever attempted to describe to man.
However, to those of us who have journeyed beyond the memory-world this alleged region or heaven of the departed is false because it is unreal, a reflection of a reflection, a tenuous dream that fades before spiritual knowledge. When the crossing of death is achieved many are happy in that state of grace; but theirs is the vegetative happiness, the unintelligent content of an infant who knows little or nothing of the world in which he or she lives.
Hades is a term which corresponds with the astral plane. Immediately on the dissolution of the body there comes a brief period of seeming disintegration, a temporary dislocation of those parts which make you one. Pray do not conjure up unpleasant associations with Hades. I died in Italy, a land I loved, and I was very weary at the time of my passing. For me Hades was a place of rest, a place of half-lights and drowsy peace. As a man wins strength from a long deep sleep, so did I gather that spiritual and intellectual force I needed during the time I abode in Hades. According to his nature and make-up every traveller from the earth is affected in a different or varying manner by this place or state on the frontiers of two lives, on the borders of two worlds.
During the period passed on the astral plane the soul sloughs the astral shape and enters into the etheric body within which he resides as long as he chooses to dwell in Illusionland, that reflection of reflections, that dream of the earth personality. Peace and content prevail so long as he remains within its borders. But in time such peace becomes wearisome; for no actual progress, either up or down, can be made in that delightful region of dream. Picture it for a moment: you live in surroundings that resemble those you knew on earth. You are, it is true, freed from money worries, freed from the need to earn your daily bread. Your etheric body is nourished by light which is not the light of the sun. It is possessed also of energy and life. It does not suffer pain, nor is it subjected to struggle of any kind.
It is indeed as if you lived in a pond, and soon you weary of the limitations of that calm unruffled sheet of water. You yearn for struggle, effort, ecstasy; you long for wide horizons. The call of the road has come to you again. In short, you are anxious to make further progress either up or down.
If you are what I term Animal-man, in other words, if you belong to the primitive type, you will make a corresponding choice. You will desire to go downwards, that is to say, you will choose to be an inhabitant of matter as dense as the physical body you discarded when you passed into Hades. Usually you return to earth. But I am told that the Animal-man occasionally prefers to enter a material existence on some other planet in which matter may be even denser than any earthly substance.
Human beings exist on certain planets, but their material bodies are subject to a different time from the earth time, and travel, therefore, within the rhythm of that time. Consequently their physical parts are either vibrating slower or faster than yours and may not be discovered through the medium of man’s senses. I call them human beings because the conditions of their lives, the construction of their physical parts, are similar to those of man.
The Resting Place on the Road
I stated that no progress was made in Illusionland. This is, in a sense, incorrect. No seeming progress is made. Illusionland is the dream of the earth-personality. For a short while after his entry into that state the soul is at peace, warring desires are quiescent; but they wake again at the time the dream is beginning to break. In fact, when these furies are roused they themselves break and shatter the dream. For in Illusionland the Animal-man can satisfy his desire for pleasure without any difficulty, without struggle; so, swiftly, there comes satiety through the full satisfaction of his paltry appetites: then there arises discontent, and he longs for a new life; he is thoroughly bored by this resting place on the road. Thereby progress is made, inasmuch as he has come to realise the limitations of the earth-dream. On the other hand the Animal-man has very little awareness of the joys of the soul. Usually, at this point, when longing for a new life with all his being, he desires that it shall be one within the flesh, that it shall be another episode passed in the grosser bodily forms. So he goes downwards; but he descends in order to rise. His experiences in the dream of the earth personality rouse the higher part of the self in him. During his next incarnation he will probably either enter into the state of the Soul-man, or he will at least be less of an animal, and will seek an existence and follow a life of a higher order than the one he led when previously lodged in the flesh.
Summerland, then, is the dream of the earth personality, so it should not be regarded as either Heaven, Hades or Hell, but merely as a resting place on the road when the soul dreams back, and thereby summarises the emotional and subconscious life of his earth existence. But he dreams back in order that he may be able to go forward once more on his journey.
The Prison of the Senses
Your present surroundings are, in a sense, your creation, in that you are mentally so unemancipated; your nerves and senses convey to you your perception of life. If you were capable of focusing your ego or daily consciousness within your deeper mind, if in short you trained yourself to pass into a thought compound from which form, as the senses convey it, were absent, the material world would vanish. You would no longer perceive it. If you were sufficiently developed spiritually you might be able to escape form altogether, though actually this is not possible until you have had numberless further experiences.
However, on higher planes of being your intellectual power is so greatly increased that you can control form; you learn how to draw life to it. As a sculptor takes up the formless clay and shapes it, so does your mind draw life and light to it and shape your own surroundings according to your vision. In the first state your vision is limited by your earth experiences and memories, and so you create your own version of the appearances you knew on earth. Understand, however, that in Illusionland you do not consciously create your surroundings through an act of thought. Your emotional desires, your deeper mind manufacture these without your being actually aware of the process. For still you are the individualized soul caught within the limitations of your earthly self and caught also within the fine etheric body which now is yours.
The Man in the Street
Men and women, as they climb the ladder of their life in the flesh, are, as it were, suspended between earth and sky. They are between two mysteries, that of birth and that of death. They fear to look downwards, they fear to look upwards: as a rule all their attention must be given to each rung of the ladder on which they seek to balance themselves. So even the most skilful among them is limited by his position upon the ladder, and finds it difficult, almost impossible, to consider what comes before and what comes after the little space of years that makes up his life in the world.
The same parallel may be applied to myriads of souls who have passed through the gates of death. Life for them is certainly on a far loftier and grander scale; but still they dwell between mysteries. They are balanced between God and their own world of appearances. So many of the dead who endeavour to send messages descriptive of their surroundings and of their life to living human beings can only describe the actual appearance of things about them, can only write from out of that limited personality which they brought with them from the earth.
If I chose to describe the Afterlife from the point of view of Tom Jones who had been a lawyer’s clerk and had lived in London all his life, his mind and spirit bounded by his law-work and his own little personality, I should very probably give you what would appear to be a trite and materialistic description of the Hereafter. For, as a rule, Tom Jones is only able to communicate with human beings while he is still in a very crude state of mental and spiritual development. Usually he is like a blind puppy after birth. He writes of what he cannot see. When perception comes to him, when sight is bestowed on the eyes of his soul, he does not, so far as I am aware, look towards the earth again. He feels his own mental impecuniosity. He has not the power to express in words, which he must borrow from earth minds, the amazing character of life after death. So he is silenced, and no echo comes from behind the dark curtain which will even faintly convey the music of that other life, yield to man the strange rhythm of a universe within a universe, a life within a life, and all lying, as ships in harbour, within the infinite imagination of God.
Tom Jones represents many millions. He is the conventional worker, quite efficient in all matters connected with his particular profession, but limited by it and by his life of small amusements, by the lack of leisure which prevents him from ever considering the ultimate purpose of life. As a horse driven in harness and blinkers, so has he been driven from the cradle to the grave. His life has not been eventful. It contains a measure of sorrow and a measure of laughter. What becomes therefore of this symbol of the crowd? What becomes of Tom Jones, Mrs. Jones and Miss Jones? It is far better for us in this study of “the Many Mansions” of the Hereafter, first to consider the future of the ordinary man and woman. Are they transformed in the twinkling of an eye? Do they become great seers highly developed both spiritually and mentally? Or do they follow out the law of evolution as it is known by men?
We must first answer these two questions. If Tom Jones is changed by death into a great seer or into a lofty spiritual genius he is no longer Tom Jones. He cannot, therefore, be said to survive death. However, I can assure you that he follows the slow path of evolution; he is born into the next world with all his limitations, with all his narrowness of outlook, with his affections and his dislikes. He is, in short, thoroughly human. For such a man a marvellous and lofty existence of a spiritual character is scarcely possible. He is still mentally in swaddling clothes. Therefore he must be treated as the baby is treated in your world. He must be carefully looked after and protected; he must meet with no sudden or violent change. For he is not of a sufficient spiritual and mental ripeness to be able to bear it.
He belongs to a great multitude who must, as we describe it over here, dream back in order that they may later on go forward, proceed towards the ultimate goal, towards a state of spiritual vision when they may enter the timeless state, may pass out of the great cosmic picture and enter within the mind of their Creator. But there is much to be done by Tom Jones before he can, if ever, attain to that condition. He is still an infant needing playthings like a child, and, therefore, requiring about him a world of appearances.
The more advanced souls—whom the Church may call the angels and whom I call “the Wise”—can exist in tenuous forms within vast vistas of space and lead within it an extraordinarily vivid existence. Tom Jones is quite incapable of facing such a strange and strenuous state of being.
So we, who are a little more advanced than he, watch by the gates of death, and we lead him and his comrades, after certain preparatory stages, to the dream which he will inhabit, living still, according to his belief, in earth time. He bears within him the capacity for recalling the whole of his earth life. Familiar surroundings are his desperate need. He does not want a jewelled city, or some monstrous vision of infinity. He craves only for the homely landscape he used to know. He will not find it here in the concrete sense, but he will find, if he so desires it, the illusion.
The Wise, as I call them, can draw from their memory and from the great superconscious memory of the earth the images of houses and streets, of country as known to these wayfarers so recently come from the earth. The Wise Spirits think, and thereby make a creation which becomes visible to Tom Jones. So, in those early days after his passing, he is not cast into emptiness, into a void. After he has slept in dimness, rested as in a chrysalis while his etheric body is being shaped, he emerges as the butterfly, coming into a world formed for him by the concentrated thought of men of great spiritual discernment, for whom I can find no better term than “the Wise” or “the Creative Life.”
An image is drawn from the young soul’s memories. It is of a country considerably more beautiful than—but not unlike the country Tom Jones and his comrades have known. This country is not real. It is a dream. But to Tom Jones it is as real as was his office desk and the alarm clock that roused him in the morning, summoning him to his work. It undoubtedly presents a more attractive appearance than his little grey London world, but in essentials it is of the same familiar stuff from which his England is made.
Within this dream he will find his friends, some of his own people, and those two or three persons he really loved; that is, if they have already gone before him, been summoned by death at an earlier time.
Let us picture Tom Jones in surroundings that seem to him material and therefore do not, in any way, arouse his natural timidity. He is a simple soul and has led a clean, respectable life, satisfying his desires in moderation. He has spent seventy years of his life in a certain environment on earth. Why should he, after parting with his physical body, again occupy surroundings with which he is to a great extent familiar? Why should he face another existence of a similar character to the last?
In reality it is not similar. It is the period of a great and slow change for Tom Jones. His life in the world, dating, say, from 1850 to 1920, corresponds with the germinating life of a seed in the earth. When its first fresh green shoot presses upwards towards the light, then he reaches the end of his term of years, he is passing into another life. The gardener, who has charge of him and of many other little plants, places them, if they are suitable, in a forcing-house when, as I have described to you, he introduces them to a world of form similar in character to the one they had previously known.
These wayfarers find themselves in familiar surroundings amongst people of a similar mentality. But they find very frequently that their actual needs are not the same. They are not condemned to some mechanically performed task for the greater part of their existence, because their etheric bodies do not require food. They draw what is essential for their well-being from that all-pervading invisible substance. On earth men are slaves of the physical body, and, therefore, slaves of darkness. In the Hereafter we may truly say that, given certain conditions, they become servants of the light. As food, or its equivalent money, is not the principal object of their existence, they have at last time to serve the light. That is to say, they are in a position in which they can reflect at their leisure and begin to reach towards this strange and marvellous life of the mind.
Now, with the dissolution of the body, at least one desperate clamorous need has gone from us. We do not any longer require the three or four meals a day that were of such excessive importance. One primal factor in earth-life is eliminated, and that is hunger. But we have other factors of great importance to consider. After hunger there comes sex. Has this need also disappeared with the dissolution of the body?
I think my answer, in most cases, should be in the negative. It has not disappeared, but it is changed. And here we come face to face with one of the great problems in this period of transition.
First, it is necessary to attempt some definition of sexual desire. It takes many forms. Some of these are perverted. Let us deal with these perversions, and, in so doing, we shall deal with what man calls sin. Cruelty perhaps cuts more deeply into human nature than any other sex perversion. It marks the human soul, scars it more deeply than almost any other vice. The cruel man who has changed his natural craving for affection into a longing to give pain to others necessarily finds himself in a world here where he cannot satisfy this craving. He has pandered to it during all his earth life, and so it has become an integral part of his soul. In the new life he has not, for a time at any rate, the power to inflict pain on anything living. This means for him, with his greatly increased mental powers, a very terrible distress. He goes about seeking whom he may devour and finding naught. The misery of such an unsatisfied state is largely of a mental character. What use to him is a world of light and beauty while still this foul earth longing is unsatisfied? For him there is only one release from his mental purgatory. And until he can find a way of escape, until there is an actual change in his cold, cruel soul, he will remain in outer darkness.
Christ spoke of that outer darkness as being the lot of sinners. By this saying, He did not imply darkness as we know it—the darkness recognized by the senses. He meant a darkness of soul, a mental distress, a perverted desire that cannot find its satisfaction.
Eventually this individual faces up to his own misery, to his vice; and then the great change comes. He is put in touch with a portion of the Great Memory which Saint John has called the Book of Life. He becomes aware of all the emotions roused in his victims by his acts. He enters into a small part of the mighty Superconscious Memory of his generation which hovers near the earth. No pain, no anguish he has caused has perished. All has been registered, has a kind of existence that makes him sensible of it once he has drifted into touch with the web of memory that clothed his life and the lives of those who came into contact with him on earth.
The history of the cruel man in the Hereafter would make a book which I am not permitted to write. I can only briefly add that his soul or mind becomes gradually purified through his identification with the sufferings of his victims.
I have wandered away from the theme of Tom Jones in order to explain what is meant by Christ’s statement that the sinner is cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is a mental darkness into which the sinner plunges. His own perverted nature has drawn this suffering upon himself. He had free will, the power to choose, and, temporarily at any rate, he chose this mental darkness in the Afterlife.
Now, I would give you one more illustration. Let us take for example a man, or if you prefer a woman, who has led an immoral life on earth. Here I may borrow a saying of the angel who appeared to John: “He that is filthy let him be filthy still.” (Rev. xxii. 11) The man who comes into this life with a sex history of a reprehensible kind finds, when he enters the Kingdom of the Mind, that as his mental perceptions are sharpened so his predominant earth-desire is intensified, his mental power being far more considerable. He can, at will, summon to himself those who will gratify this over-developed side of his nature. Others of his kind gravitate to him. And for a time these beings live in a sex paradise. But bear in mind that it is created by their mental “make-up,” by their memories and their imagination. They yearn still for gross sensation, not for that finer life, which is the spirit of sexual love, that perfect comradeship without the gratification of the grosser feelings.
They obtain it in abundance, and there follows a horrible satiety.
They come to loathe what they can obtain in excess and with ease; and then they find it extraordinarily difficult to escape from those who share these pleasures with them.
A murderer comes into the category of such men. It is a sudden perverted desire, a lust for cruelty which leads in many cases to murder.
The last state in Illusionland might be termed the purgatorial state.’ Obviously, it is extremely painful to realise the misery of satiety, to come to the end of the desired pleasure. There is one greater misfortune than the non-realization of the heart’s desire and that is its realization. For human beings are so constituted that they are almost invariably seeking a false dream, a will-o’-the-wisp, and no permanent content can be obtained from its fulfilment.
It is, of course, impossible to lay down an iron rule. Each individual has a different experience from each other individual in Hades and Illusionland. In certain cases he is not given the power to satisfy his desires. Actually, he is able to do so, but his own ego does not permit such satisfaction. For instance, the cold selfish man in Illusionland may dwell in darkness, for it is not within the power of his ego to throw itself outwards, to express itself in the fantasy of fulfilled desires. He is thrown more than ever inwards by the shock of death. He believes he has lost everything. He loses contact with all except the sense of his own thinking existence. A nightmare of darkness prevails for a time, prevails as long as he lives within his morbid sense of loss, within his desire, which is merely to gratify himself without any regard for others. There may be only night in Illusionland for the abnormally selfish man.
Nearly every soul lives for a time in the state of illusion. The large majority of human beings when they die are dominated by the conception that substance is reality, that their particular experience of substance is the only reality. They are not prepared for an immediate and complete change of outlook.
They passionately yearn for familiar though idealized surroundings. Their will to live is merely to live, therefore, in the past. So they enter that dream I call Illusionland.
For instance, Tom Jones, who represents the unthinking man in the street, will desire a glorified brick villa in a glorified Brighton. So he finds himself the proud possessor of that twentieth-century atrocity. He naturally gravitates towards his acquaintances, all those who were of a like mind. On earth he longed for a superior brand of cigar. He can have the experience ad nauseam of smoking this brand. He wanted to play golf, so he plays golf. But he is merely dreaming all the time or, rather, living within the fantasy created by his strongest desires on earth.
After a while this life of pleasure ceases to amuse and content him. Then he begins to think and long for the unknown, long for a new life. He is at last prepared to make the leap in evolution and this cloudy dream vanishes.
“The Plane of Illusion” is an extract from The Road to Immortality by Geraldine Cummins published by White Crow Books.