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Letters from a Living Dead Man





The Return


Tell No Man


Guarding the Door


A Cloud on the Mirror


The Promise of Things Untold


The Wand of Will


A Light behind the Veil


The Iron Grip of Matter


Where Souls go up and down.


A Rendezvous in the Fourth Dimension


The Boy–Lionel


The Pattern World


Forms Real and Unreal


A Folio of Paracelsus


A Roman Toga


A Thing to be forgotten


The Second Wife over there


Individual Hells


A little Home in Heaven


The Man who found God


The Leisure of the Soul


The Serpent of Eternity


A Brief for the Defendant


Forbidden Knowledge


A Shadowless World


Circles in the Sand


The Magic Ring


Except ye be as Little Children


An Unexpected Warning


The Sylph and the Magician


A problem in Celestial Mathematics


A Change of Focus


Five Resolutions


The Passing of Lionel


The Beautiful Being


The Hollow Sphere


An Empty China Cup


Where Time is not


The Doctrine of Death


The Celestial Hierarchy


The Darling of the Unseen


A Victim of the Non-existent


A Cloud of Witnesses


The Kingdom Within


The Game of Make-believe


Heirs of Hermes


Only a Song


Invisible Gifts at Yuletide


The Greater Dreamland


A Sermon and a Promise


The April of the World


A Happy Widower


The Archives of the Soul


A Formula for Mastership





I have written you before of one whom I call the Beautiful Being, one whose province seems to be the universe, whose chosen companions are all men and angelkind, whose playthings are days and ages.
     For some reason, the Beautiful Being has lately been so gracious as to take an interest in my efforts to acquire knowledge, and has shown me many things which otherwise I should never have seen.
     When a tour of the planet is personally conducted by an angel, the traveller is specially favoured. Letters of introduction to the great and powerful of earth are nothing compared with this introduction, for by its means I see into the souls of all beings, and my visits to their houses are not limited to their drawing-rooms. The Beautiful Being has access everywhere.

     Did you ever fancy when you had had a lovely dream that maybe an angel had kissed you in your sleep? I have seen such things
     Oh, do not be afraid of giving rein to your imagination! It is the wonderful things which are really true; the commonplace things are nearly all false. When a great thought lifts you by the hair, do not cling hold of the solid earth. Let go. He whom an inspiration seizes might even—if he dared to trust his vision—behold the Beautiful Being face to face, as I have. When flying through the air one’s sight is keen. If one goes fast and high enough, one may behold the inconceivable.
     The other night I was meditating on a flower-seed, for there is nothing so small that it may not contain a world. I was meditating on a flower-seed, and amusing myself by tracing its history, generation by generation, back to the dawn of time. I smile as I use that figure, "the dawn of time," for time has had so many dawns and so many sunsets, and still it is unwearied.
     I had traced the genealogy of the seed back to the time when the cave-man forgot his fighting in the strangely disturbing pleasure of smelling the fragrance of its parent flower, when I heard a low musical laugh in my left ear, and something as light as a butterfly’s wing brushed my cheek on that side.

     I turned to look, and, quick as a flash, I heard the laughter in the other ear, while another butterfly touch came on my right cheek. Then something like a veil was blown across my eyes, and a clear voice said:
     "Guess who it is!"
     I was all a-thrill with the pleasure of this divine play, and I answered:
     "Perhaps you are the fairy that makes blind children dream of daisy fields."
     However did you know me?" laughed the Beautiful Being, unwinding the veil from my eyes. "I am indeed that fairy. But you must have been peeping through cracks in the door when I touched the eyes of the blind babies."
     "I am always peeping through cracks in the door of the earth people’s chamber," I replied.
     The Beautiful Being laughed again:
     "Will you come and have another peep with me this evening?"
     "With pleasure."
     "You could not do it with pain if I were by," was the response.
     And we started then and there upon the strangest evening’s round which I have ever made.

     We began by going to the house of a friend of mine and standing quietly in the room while he and his family were at supper. No one saw us but the cat, which began a loud purring and stretched itself with joy at our presence. Had I gone there alone, the cat might have been afraid of me; but who—even a cat—could fear the Beautiful Being?
     Suddenly one of the children—the youngest one—looked up from his supper of bread and milk, and said:
     "Father, why does milk taste good?"
     "I really don’t know," admitted the author of his being, "perhaps because the cow enjoyed giving it."
     "That father might have been a poet," the Beautiful Being said to me; but no one overheard the remark.
     One of the other children complained of feeling sleepy, and put his head down on the edge of the table. The mother started to arouse him, but the Beautiful Being fluttered a mystifying veil before her eyes, and she could not do it.
     "Let him sleep if he wants to," she said. "I will put him to bed by and by."

     I could see in the brain of the child that he was dreaming already, and I knew that the Beautiful Being was weaving a fairy-tale on the web of his mind. After only a moment he started up, wide awake.
     "I dreamed," he said, "that ----- [the writer of these letters] was standing over there and smiling at me as he used to smile, and with him was an angel. I never saw an angel before."
     "Come away," whispered the Beautiful Being again. "To brides who dream of motherhood much also is revealed, and for this evening we remain unknown."
     We passed along the margin of a river which divides a busy town. Suddenly from a house by the river-bank we heard the tinkle of a guitar and a woman’s sweet voice singing:

"When other lips and other hearts
Their tale of love shall tell,…
Then you’ll remember—you’ll remember me."

     The Beautiful Being touched my hand and whispered:
     "The life that is so sweet to these mortals is a book of enchantment for me."
     "Yet you have never tasted human life yourself?"
     "On the contrary, I taste it every day; but I only taste it—and pass on. Should I consume it, I might not be able to pass on."
     "But do you never long so to consume it?"
     "Oh but the thrill is in the taste! Digestion is a more or less tiresome process."
     "I fear you are a divine wanton," I said, affectionately.
     "Be careful," answered the Beautiful Being. "He who fears anything will lose me in the fog of his own fears."
     "You irresistible one!" I cried. "Who are you? What are you?"
     "Did you not say yourself a little while ago that I was the fairy who made blind babies dream of daisy fields?"

     "I love you," I said, "with an incomprehensible love."
     "All love is incomprehensible," the Beautiful Being answered. "But come, brother, let us climb the hill of vision. When you are out of breath, if you catch at my flying veil I will wait till you are rested."
     Strange things we saw that night. I should weary you if I told you all of them.
     We stood on the crater of an active volcano and watched the dance of the fire-spirits. Did you fancy that salamanders were only seen by unabstemious poets? They are as real—to themselves and to those who see them—as are the omnibus-drivers in the streets of London.
     The real and the unreal! If I were writing an essay now, instead of the narrative of a traveller in a strange country, I should have much to say on the subject of the real and the unreal.
     The Beautiful Being has changed my ideas about the whole universe. I wonder if, when I come back to the earth again, I shall remember all the marvels I have seen. Perhaps, like most people, I shall have forgotten the details of my life before birth, and shall bring with me only vague yearnings after the inexpressible, and the deep unalterable conviction that there are more things in earth and heaven than are dreamed of in the philosophy of the world’s people. Perhaps if I almost remember, but not quite, I shall be a poet in my next life. Worse things might happen to me.

     What an adventure it is, this launching of one’s barque upon the sea of rebirth!
     But by my digressions one would say that I was in my second childhood. So I am—my second childhood in the so-called invisible.
     When, on my voyage that night with the Beautiful Being, I had feasted my eyes upon beauty until they were weary, my companion led me to scenes on the earth which, had I beheld them alone, would have made me very sad. But no one can be sad when the Beautiful Being is near. That is the charm of that marvellous entity: to be in its presence is to taste the joys of immortal life.
     We looked on at a midnight revel in what you on earth would call "a haunt of vice." Was I shocked and horrified? Not at all. I watched the antics of those human animalculæ as a scientist might watch the motions of the smaller living creatures in a drop of water. It seemed to me that I saw it all from the viewpoint of the stars. I started to say from the viewpoint of God, to whom small and great are the same; but perhaps the stellar simile is the truer one, for how can we judge of what God sees—unless we mean the god in us?

     You who read what I have written, perhaps when you come out here you will have many surprises. The small things may seem larger and the large things smaller, and everything may take its proper place in the infinite plan, of which even your troubles and perplexities are parts, inevitable and beautiful.
     That idea came to me as I wandered from heaven to earth, from beauty to ugliness, with my angelic companion.
     I wish I could explain the influence of the Beautiful Being. It is unlike anything else in the universe. It is elusive as a moonbeam, yet more sympathetic than a mother. It is daintier than a rose, yet it looks upon ugly things with a smile. It is purer than the breath of the sea, yet it seems to have no horror of impurity. It is artless as a child, yet wiser than the ancient gods, a marvel of paradoxes, a celestial vagabond, the darling of the unseen.