THE GAME OF MAKE-BELIEVE
One day I met a man in doublet and hose,
who announced to me that he was Shakespeare. Now I have become accustomed to
such announcements, and they do not surprise me as they did six or eight months
ago. (Yes, I still keep account of your months, for a purpose of my own.)
I asked this man what proof he could adduce of his
extraordinary claim, and he answered that it needed no proof.
"That will not go down with me," I said, "for I am an old
Thereupon he laughed, and asked:
"Why did you not join in the game?"
I am telling you this rather senseless story, because it
illustrates an interesting point in regard to our life here.
In a former letter I wrote about my meeting with a newly
arrived lady, who, finding me dressed in a Roman toga, thought that I might be
Caesar; and that I told her we were all actors here. I meant that, like
children, we "dress up" when we want to impress our own imagination, or to
relive some scene in the past.
This playing of a part is usually quite innocent, though
sometimes the very ease with which it is done brings with it the temptation to
deception, especially in dealings with the earth people.
You see the point I wish to make. The "lying spirits," of
which the frequenters of séance rooms so often make complaint, are these astral
actors, who may even come to take a certain pride in the cleverness of their
Be not too sure that the spirit who claims to be your
deceased grandfather is that estimable old man himself. He may be merely an
actor playing a part, for his own entertainment and yours.
How is one to tell, you ask? One cannot always tell. I should
say, however, that the surest test of all would be the deep and unemotional
conviction that the veritable entity was in one’s presence. There is an
instinct in the human heart which will never deceive us, if we without fear or
bias will yield ourselves to its decision. How often in worldly matters have we
all acted against this inner monitor, and been deceived and led astray!
If you have an instinctive feeling that a certain
invisible—or even visible—entity is not what it claims to be, it is better to
discontinue the conference. If it is the real person, and if he has anything
vital to say, he will come again and again; for the so-called dead are often
very desirous to communicate with the living.
As a rule, though, the play-acting over here is innocent of
intent to deceive. Most men desire occasionally to be something which they are
not. The poor man who, for one evening, dresses himself in his best clothes and
squanders a week’s salary in playing the millionaire is moved by the same
impulse which inspired the man in my story to assert that he was Shakespeare.
The woman who always dresses beyond her means is playing the same little game
with herself and with the world.
All children know the game. They will tell you in a convinced
tone that they are Napolean Bonaparte, or George Washington, and they feel hurt
if you scoff.
Perhaps my friend with the Shakespearean aspiration was an
amateur dramatist when he was on earth. Had he been a professional dramatist, he
would probably have stated his real name, more or less unknown, and followed it
by the declaration that he was the well-known So-and-so.
There is much pride out here in the accomplishments of the
earth-life, especially among those who have recently come out. This lessens with
time, and after one has been long here one’s interests are likely to be more
Men and women do not cease to be human merely by crossing the
frontier of what you call the invisible world. In fact, the human
characteristics are often exaggerated, because the restraints are fewer. There
are no penalties inflicted by the community for the personating of one man by
another. It is not taken seriously, for to the clearer sight of this world the
disguise is too transparent.