A VICTIM OF THE NON-EXISTANT
The other day I met an acquaintance, a
woman whom I had known for a number of years, and who came out about the time I
Old acquaintances when they meet here greet each other
about as they did on earth. Though we are, as a rule, less conventional than
you, still we cling more or less to our former habits.
I asked Mrs. –––– how she was enjoying herself, and she
said that she was not having a very pleasant time. She found that everybody was
interested in something else, and did not want to talk with her.
This was the first time I had met with such a
complaint, and I was struck by its peculiarity. I asked her to what cause she
attributed this unsociability, and she replied that she did not know the cause,
that it had puzzled her.
"What do you talk to them about?" I asked.
"Why, I tell them my troubles, as one friend tells
another; but they do not seem to be interested. How selfish people are!"
Poor soul! She did not realise here, any more than she
had on earth, that our troubles are not interesting to anybody but ourselves.
"Suppose," I said, "that you unburden yourself to me.
Tell me your troubles. I will promise not to run away."
"Why, I hardly know where to begin!" she answered. "I
have found so many unpleasant things."
"What, for instance?"
"Why, horrid people. I remember that when I lived in
–––– I sometimes told myself that in the other world I would not be bothered
with boarding-house landladies and their careless hired girls; but they are just
as bad here—even worse."
"Do you mean to tell me that you live in a
"Where should I live? You know that I am not rich."
Of all the astonishing things I had heard in this land
of changes, this was the most astonishing. A boarding-house in the "invisible"
world! Surely, I told myself, my observations had been limited. Here was a new
"Is the table good in your boarding-house?" I asked.
"No, it is worse than at the last one."
"Are the meals scanty?"
"Yes, scanty and bad, especially the coffee."
"Will you tell me," I said, my wonder growing, "if you
really eat three meals a day here, as you used to do on earth?"
"How strangely you talk!" she answered, in a sharp
tone. "I don’t find very much difference between this place and the earth, as
you call it, except that I am more uncomfortable here, because everything is so
flighty and uncertain."
"Yes, go on."
"I never know in the morning who will be sitting next
me in the evening. They come and go."
"And what do you eat?"
"The same old things—meat and potatoes, and pies and
"And you still eat these things?"
"Why, yes; don’t you?"
I hardly knew how to reply. Had I told her what my life
here really was, she would no more have understood than she would have
understood two years ago, when we lived in the same city on earth, had I told
her then what my real mental life was. So I said:
"I have not much appetite."
She looked at me as if she distrusted me in some way,
though why I could not say.
"Are you still interested in philosophy?" she asked.
"Yes. Perhaps that is why I don’t get hungry very
"You were always a strange man."
"I suppose so. But tell me, Mrs. ––––, do you never
feel a desire to leave all this behind?"
"To leave all what behind?"
"Why boarding-houses and uncongenial people, and meat
and potatoes, and pies and puddings, and the shadows of material things in
"What do you mean by ‘the shadows of material
"I mean that these viands and pastries, which you eat
and do not enjoy, are not real. They have no real existence."
"Why!" she exclaimed, "Have you become a Christian
At this I laughed heartily. Was one who denied the
reality of astral food in the astral world a Christian Scientist, because the
Christian Scientists denied the reality of material food in the material world?
The analogy tickled my fancy.
"Let me convert you to Christian Science, then," I
"No, sir!" was her sharp response. "You never
succeeded in convincing me that there was any truth in your various fads and
philosophies. And now you tell me that the food I eat is not real."
I puzzled for a moment, trying to find a way by which
the actual facts of her condition could be brought home to the mind of this poor
woman. Finally I hit upon the right track.
"Do you realise," I said, "that you are only dreaming?"
"What!" she snapped at me.
"Yes, you are dreaming. All this is a dream—these
boarding-houses, et cetera."
"If that is so, perhaps you would like to wake me up."
"I certainly should. But you will have to awaken
yourself, I fancy. Tell me, what were your ideas about the future life, before
you came out here?"
"What do you mean by out here?"
"Why, before you died!"
"But, man, I am not dead!"
"Of course you are not dead. Nobody is dead. But you
certainly understand that you have changed your condition."
"Yes, I have noticed a change, and a change for the
"Don’t you remember your last illness?"
"And that you passed out?"
"Yes, if you call it that."
"You know that you have left your body?"
She looked down at her form, which appeared as usual,
even to its rusty black dress rather out of date.
"But I still have my body," she said.
"Then you have not missed the other one?"
"And you don’t know where it is?"
My amazement was growing deeper and deeper. Here was a
phenomenon I had not met before.
"I suppose," she said, " that they must have buried my
body, if you say I left it; but this one is just the same to me."
"Has it always seemed the same?" I asked, remembering
my own experiences when I first came out, my difficulty in adjusting the amount
of energy I used to the lightness of my new body.
"Now you mention it," she said, "I do recall having
some trouble a year or two ago. I was quite confused for a long time. I think I
must have been delirious."
"Yes, doubtless you were," I answered. "But tell me,
Mrs. ––––, have you no desire to visit heaven?"
"Why, I always supposed that I should visit heaven when
I died; but, as you see, I am not dead."
"Still," I said, "I can take you to heaven now,
perhaps, if you would like to go."
"Are you joking?"
"Not at all. Will you come?"
"Are you certain that I can go there without dying?"
"But I assure you there are no dead."
As we went slowly along, for I thought it best not to
hurry her too swiftly from one condition to another, I drew a word-picture of
the place we were about to visit—the orthodox Christian heaven. I described the
happy and loving people who stood in the presence of their Saviour, in the soft
radiance from the central Light.
"Perhaps," I said, "some dwellers in that country see
the face of God Himself, as they expected to see it when they were on earth; as
for myself, I saw only the Light, and afterwards the figure of the Christ."
"I have often wished to see Christ," said my
companion in an awe-struck voice. "Do you think that I can really see Him?"
"I think so, if you believe strongly that you will."
"And what were they doing in heaven when you were
there?" she asked.
"They were worshipping God, and they were happy."
"I want to be happy," she said; "I have never been very
"The great thing in heaven," I advised, "is to love all
the others. That is what makes them happy. If they loved the face of God only,
it would not be quite heaven; for the joy of God is the joy of union."
Thus, by subtle stages, I led her mind away from astral
boarding-houses to the ideas of the orthodox spiritual world, which was probably
the only spiritual world which she could understand.
I spoke of the music—yes, church music, if you like to
call it that. I created in her wandering and chaotic mind a fixed desire for
sabbath joys and sabbath peace, and the communion of friends in heaven. But for
this gradual preparation she could not have adjusted herself to the conditions
of that world.
When we stood in the presence of those who worship God
with song and praise, she seemed caught up on a wave of enthusiasm, to feel that
at last she had come home.
I wanted to take leave of her in such a way that she
would not come out again to look for me; so I held out my hand in the old way
and said good-bye, promising to come again and visit her there, and advising her
to stay where she was. I think she will. Heaven has a strong hold on those who
yield themselves to its beauty.