My task is done, my story told, and it but remains for me to say to all who read it, that I trust they will believe it is as it professes to be, the true narrative of a repentant soul who has passed from darkness into light, and I would have them ask themselves if it might not be well to profit by the experiences of others and to weigh well the evidence for and against the possibility of the spirit's return. And you who would think the gospel of mercy after death too easy a one, too lenient to the sinners, do you know what it is to suffer all the pangs of an awakened conscience? Have you seen that path of bitter tears, of weary effort, which the soul must climb if it would return to God? Do you realize what it means to undo, step by step, through years of darkness and suffering and bitter anguish of soul, the sinful acts and words and thoughts of an earthly lifetime? for even to the uttermost farthing must the debt be paid; each must drink to the last dregs the cup that he has filled. Can you imagine what it is to hover around the earth in helpless, hopeless impotence, beholding the bitter curse of your sins working their baneful effects upon the descendants you have left, with the taint of your past lurking in their blood and poisoning it? To know that each of these tainted lives all these beings cursed with evil propensities ere they were born have become a charge upon your conscience in so far as you have contributed to make them what they are, clogs which will continue to drag back your soul when it attempts to rise, until you shall have made due atonement to them, and helped to raise them from that slough into which your unbridled passions have contributed to sink them? Do you understand now how and why there may be spirits working still about the earth who died hundreds of years ago? Can you imagine how a spirit must feel who seeks from the grave to call aloud to others, and especially to those he has betrayed to their ruin as well as his own, and finds that all ears are deaf to his words, all hearts are closed to his cries of anguish and remorse? He cannot now undo one foolish or revengeful act. He cannot avert one single consequence of suffering which he has brought upon others or himself; an awful wall has risen, a great gulf opened between him and the world of living men on earth, and unless some kind hand will bridge it over for him and help him to return and speak with those whom he has wronged, even the confession of his sorrow even such tardy reparation as he may still make is denied to him. And is there, then, no need that those who have passed beyond the tomb should return and warn their brethren, even as Dives sought to return and could not? Are men on earth so good that they require no voice to echo to them from beyond the gates of death a foreshadowing of the fate awaiting them? Far easier were it for man to repent now while still on earth than to wait till he goes to that land where he can deal with the things of earth no more, save through the organisms of others.
I met a spirit once who in the reign of Queene Anne had defrauded another of a property by means of forged title deeds, and who when I saw him was still earth-bound to that house and land, utterly unable to break his chains until the help was given him of a medium through whom he confessed where he had hidden the true title deeds, and gave the names of those to whom of right the property should belong. This poor spirit was freed by his confession from his chain to that house, but not from his imprisonment to the earth plane. He had to work there till his efforts had raised up and helped onward those whom he had driven into the ways of sin and death by his crime. Not till he has done so can this spirit hope to leave the earth plane, and there he still works, striving to undo the effects of his past sin. Will anyone say his punishment was too light? Shall anyone judge his brother man and say at what point God's mercy shall stop and that sinner be doomed eternally? Ah, no! Few dare to face the true meaning of their creeds or to follow out even in thought the bitter and awful consequences of a belief in eternal punishment for any of the erring children of God.
I have in these pages sought to show what has been the true experience of one whom the churches might deem a lost soul, since I died without a belief in any church, any religion, and but a shadowy belief in a God. My own conscience ever whispered to me that there must be a Supreme, a Divine Being, but I stifled the thought and thrust it from me, cheating myself into a sense of security and indifference akin to that of the foolish ostrich which buries its head in the sand and fancies none can see it; and in all my wanderings, although I have indeed learned that there is a Divine Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe its upholder and sustainer I have not learned that he can be reduced to a personality, a definite shape in the likeness of man, a something whose attributes we finite creatures can argue about and settle. Neither have I seen anything which would incline me to believe in one form of religious belief rather than in another. What I have learned is to free the mind, if possible, from the boundaries of any and every creed.
The infancy of the race of planetary man, when his mental condition resembles that of a child, may be called the Age of Faith. The Mother Church supplies for him the comfort and hope of immortality and takes from his mind the burden of thinking out for himself a theory of First Cause, which will account to him for his own existence and that of his surroundings. Faith steps in as a maternal satisfier of the longings of his imperfectly developed soul and the man of a primitive race believes without questioning why he does so. Among the early tribes of savages the more spiritualized men become the mystery men, and then the priests, and as age succeeds to age the idea of an established church is formulated.
Next comes the Age of Reason, when the development of man's intellectual faculties causes him to be no longer satisfied with blind faith in the unknown, the mother's milk of the Churches no longer assuages his mental hunger, he requires stronger food, and if it be withheld, he breaks away from the fostering care of Mother Church which once sustained but which now only cramps and cripples the growing and expanding soul. Man's reason demands greater freedom and its due share of nourishment, and must find it somewhere, and in the struggle between the rebellious growing child and the Mother Church, who seeks to retain still the power she wielded over the infant, the Faith that once sufficed as food comes to be regarded as something nauseous and to be rejected at all cost, hence the Age of Reason becomes a time of uprootal of all the cherished beliefs of the past.
Then comes another stage, in which the child, now grown to be a youth who has seen and tasted for himself the joys and sorrows, the penalties, and pleasures and benefits of reason, and has thereby learned to put a juster value on the powers and limitations of his own reasoning faculties, looks back at the faith he once despised, and recognizes that it also has its beauties and its value. He sees that though faith alone cannot suffice for the nourishment of the soul beyond its infant stage, yet reason alone, devoid of faith, is but a cold hard fare upon which to sustain the soul now becoming conscious of the immeasurable and boundless universe by which it is surrounded, and of the many mysteries it contains mysteries reason alone is not able to explain. Man turns back to faith once more and seeks to unite it with reason, that henceforth they may assist each other.
Now Faith and Reason are the central thought principles of two different spheres of thought in the spirit world. Faith is the vitalizing principle of religion or ecclesiasticism, as Reason is of philosophy. These two schools of thought which appear at first sight opposed to each other, are none the less capable of being blended in the mental development of the same personality, the properly balanced mind being that in which they are equally proportioned. Where one predominates over the other to a great degree, the individual be he mortal or disembodied spirit will be narrow-minded in one direction or the other and incapable of taking a just view of any mental problem. His mind will resemble a two wheeled gig which has a big and a little wheel attached to the same axle, and in consequence neither wheel can make due progress, the mental gig coming to a stop till the defect be remedied.
A man may be thoroughly conscientious in his desire for truth, but if his intellectual as well as his moral faculties have not been equally developed, his mind will be like a highway blocked by huge masses of error, so that the ethereal rays from the star of truth cannot penetrate it; they are broken and refracted by the obstructions, so that either they do not reach the man's soul at all or they are such distorted images of the truth that they are simply a source of prejudice and error. The intellect may be called the eye of the soul, and if the sight of that eye be imperfect the soul remains in mental darkness, however earnest may be its desire for light. The mental sight must be developed and used ere it can become clear and strong.
Blind ignorant faith is no safeguard against error. The history of religious persecutions in all ages is surely proof of that. The great minds of earth to whom great intellectual discoveries are due have been those in which the moral and intellectual powers are equally balanced, and the perfect man or angel will be the man in whom all the qualities of the soul have been developed to their highest point.
Every attribute of the soul, mental and moral, has its corresponding ray of color, and the blending of these forms the beautiful and varied tints of the rainbow, and like it they melt into one another to form the perfect whole.
In some souls the development of certain faculties will take place more rapidly than that of others; in some certain seed germs of intellect and morality will lie fallow and give no sign that they exist, but they are none the less there, and either on earth or in the great Hereafter they will begin to grow and to blossom into perfection.
Evil is caused by the lack of development of the moral attributes in certain souls and the over development of other qualities. The souls which are now inhabiting the lower spheres are simply passing through the process of eduction needful to awaken into active life and growth the dormant moral faculties, and terrible as are the evils and sufferings wrought in the process they are yet necessary and beneficent in their ultimate results.
In the sphere where I now dwell there is a magnificent and beautiful palace belonging to the Brotherhood of Hope. This palace is the meeting place for all members of our Brotherhood, and in it there is a fine hall built of what is the spiritual counterpart of white marble. This hall is called the "Hall of Lecture," and in it we assemble to listen to discourses delivered to us by advanced spirits from the higher sphere. At the upper end there is a magnificent picture called "The Perfect Man." That is to say it represents a man, or rather angel, who is relatively perfect. I say relatively perfect, because even the utmost perfection which can be imagined or attained, can only be relative to the still greater heights which must be eternally possible for the soul. Unlike Alexander who mourned that he had left no more worlds to conquer, the soul has no limits put to the possibilities of its intellectual and moral conquests. The universe of mind is as boundless as that of matter, and as eternal. Hence none can use the word perfect as implying a point beyond which progress is impossible.
In the picture this relatively perfect angel is represented as standing on the highest pinnacle of the celestial spheres. The earth and her attendant spheres lie far below him. His gaze is turned with an expression of wonder, delight, and awe to those far distant regions which lie beyond the power of mortal mind to grasp, regions which lie beyond our solar universe. They are become for the angel his new Land of Promise.
On his head the angel wears a golden helmet, symbolizing spiritual strength and conquest. On one arm he bears a silver shield typical of the Protection of Faith. His garments are of dazzling white showing the purity of his soul, and the wide outstretched wings symbolize the power of intellect to soar into the highest thought-regions of the universe. Behind the angel there is a white cloud spanned by a rainbow whose every tint and shade blended into perfect harmony shows that the angel has developed to the highest degree every intellectual and moral attribute of his soul.
The rich coloring of this picture, the purity of its dazzling white, the brilliancy of its glowing tints, no pen can describe, no earthly brush could ever paint, and yet I am told it falls far short of the beauty of the original picture, which is in the highest sphere of all, and which represents a former grand master of our order who has passed on to spheres beyond the limits of our solar system. Replicas of this picture are to be seen in the highest circle of each earth sphere in the buildings belonging to the Brotherhood of Hope, and they show the connecting links between our Brotherhood and the celestial spheres of the solar system, and also to what heights all may aspire in the ages of eternity before us. Yes, each one of us, the most degraded brother who labors in the lowest sphere of earth, and even the most degraded soul that struggles there in darkness and sin unspeakable, is not shut out, for all souls are equal before God and there is nothing which has been attained by one that may not be attained by all if they but strive earnestly for it.
Such, then, is the knowledge I have gained, such the beliefs I have arrived at since I passed from earth life, but I cannot say I have seen that any particular belief helps or retards the soul's progress, except in so far as this, that some creeds have a tendency to cramp the mind and obscure the clearness of its vision and distort its ideas of right and wrong, thereby preventing those who hold those beliefs from possessing the perfect freedom of thought and absence of prejudice which can alone fit the soul to rise to the highest spheres.
I have written this story of my wanderings in the hope that amongst those who read it may be found some who will think it worth while to inquire whether, after all, it may not be, as it professes to be, a true story. There may also be others who have lost those who were very dear to them, but whose lives were not such as gave hope that they could be numbered with those whom the churches call "The Blessed Dead who die in the Lord" dear friends who have not died in the paths of goodness and truth I would ask those mourners to take hope and to believe that their beloved but erring friends may not be wholly lost not utterly beyond hope, yes, even though some may have perished by their own hands and under circumstances which would seem to preclude all hope. I would ask those on earth to think over all that I have said and to ask themselves whether even yet their prayers and their sympathy may not be able to help and comfort those who need all the help and comfort that can be given to them.
From my home in the Bright Land so like the land of my birth I go still to work upon the earth plane and among those who are unhappy. I also help to carry forward the great work of spirit communion between the living of earth and those whom they call dead.
I spend a portion of each day with my beloved, and I am able to help and protect her in many ways. I am also cheered in my home in the spirit land by the visits of many friends and companions of my wanderings, and in that bright land surrounded by so many memorials of love and friendship, I await with a grateful heart that happy time when my beloved one's earthly pilgrimage shall be finished, when her lamp of life shall have burned out and her star of earth has set, and she shall come to join me in an even brighter home, where for us both shall shine eternally the twin stars of Hope and Love.