A THING TO BE FORGOTTEN
I WANT to say a word to those who are about to die. I want to beg them to
forget their bodies as soon as possible after the change which they call death.
Oh, the terrible curiosity to go back and look upon that
thing which we once believed to be ourselves! The thought comes to us now
and then so powerfully that it acts in a way against our will and draws us back
to it. With some it is a morbid obsession, and many cannot get free from
it while there remains a shred of flesh on the bones which they once leaned
Tell them to forget it altogether, to force the thought away,
to go out into the other life free. Looking back upon the past is sometimes
good, but not upon this relic of the past.
It is so easy to look into the coffin, because the body which
we wear now is itself a light in a dark place, and it can penetrate grosser
matter. I have been back myself a few times, but am determined to go back no
more. Yet some day the thought may come to me again with compelling insistence
to see how it is getting on.
I do not want to shock or pain you—only to warn you. It is
sad to see the sight which inevitably meets one in the grave. That may be the
reason why many souls who have not been here long are so melancholy. They
return again and again to the place which they should not visit.
You know that out here if we think intently of a place we are
apt to find ourselves there. The body which we use is so light that it can
follow thought almost without effort. Tell them not to do it.
One day while walking down an avenue of trees—for we have
trees here—I met a tall woman in a long black garment. She was weeping—for we
have tears here also. I asked her why she wept, and she turned to me eyes of
I have been back to it," she said.
My heart ached for her, because I knew how she felt. The
shock of the first visit is repeated each time, as the thing one sees is less
and less what we like to think of ourselves as being.
Often I remember that tall woman in black, walking down the
avenue of trees and weeping. It is partly curiosity that draws one back, partly
magnetic attraction; but it can do no good. It is better to forget it.
I have sometimes longed, from sheer scientific interest,
to ask my boy Lionel if he had been back to his body; but I have not asked him
for fear of putting the idea into his mind. He has such a restless curiosity.
Perhaps those who go out as children have less of that morbid instinct than we
If we could only remember in life that the form which we call
ourselves is not our real immortal self at all, we would not give it such an
exaggerated importance, though we would nevertheless take needful care of it.
As a rule, those who say that they have been long here do not
seem old. I asked the Teacher why, and he said that after a time an old person
forgets that he is old, that the tendency is to grow young in thought and
therefore young in appearance, that the body tends to take the form which we
hold of it in our minds, that the law of rhythm works here as elsewhere.
Children grow up out here, and they may even go on to a sort
of old age if that is the expectation of the mind; but the tendency is to keep
the prime, to go forward or back towards the best period, and then to hold that
until the irresistible attraction of the earth asserts itself again.
Most of the men and women here do not know that they have
lived many times in flesh. They remember their latest life more or less vividly,
but all before that seems like a dream. One should always keep the memory of the
past as clear as possible. It helps one to construct the future.
Those people who think of their departed friends as being
all-wise, how disappointed they would be if they could know that the life on
this side is only an extension of the life on earth! If the thoughts and desires
there have been only for material pleasures, the thoughts and desires here are
likely to be the same. I have met veritable saints since coming out; but they
have been men and women who held in earth life the saintly ideal, and who now
are free to live it.
Life can be so free here! There is none of that machinery of
living which makes people on earth such slaves. In our world a man is held only
by his thoughts. If they are free, he is free.
Few, though, are of my philosophic spirit. There are more
saints here than philosophers, as the highest ideal of most persons, when
intensely active, has been towards the religious rather than the philosophic
I think the happiest people I have met on this side have
been the painters. Our matter is so light and subtle, and so easily handled,
that it falls readily into the forms of the imagination. There are beautiful
pictures here. Some of our artists try to impress their pictures upon the mental
eyes of the artists of earth, and they often succeed in doing so.
There is joy in the heart of one of our real artists when a
fellow craftsman on your side catches an idea from him and puts it into
execution. He may not always be able to see clearly how well the second man
works out the idea, for it requires a special gift or a special training to
see from one form of matter into the other; but the inspiring spirit catches
the thought in the inspired one's mind, and knows that a conception of his own
is being executed upon the earth.
With poets it is the same. There are lovely lyrics composed
out here and impressed upon the receptive minds of earthly poets. A poet told me
that it was easier to do that with a short lyric than with an epic or a drama,
where a long-continued effort was necessary.
It is much the same with musicians. Whenever you go to a
concert where beautiful music is being played, there is probably all round you a
crowd of music-loving spirits, drinking in the harmonies. Music on earth is much
enjoyed on this side. It can be heard. But no sensitive spirit likes to go near
a place where bad strumming is going on. We prefer the music of stringed
instruments. Of all earthly things, sound reaches most directly into this
plane of life. Tell that to the musicians.
If they could only hear our music! I did not understand music
on earth, but now my ears are becoming adjusted. It seems sometimes as if you
must hear our music over there, as we hear yours.
You may have wondered how I spend my time and where I go.
There is a lovely spot in the country which I never tire of visiting. It is on
the side of a mountain, not far from my own city. There is a little road winding
round a hill, and just above the road is a hut, a roofed enclosure with the
lower side open. Sometimes I stay there for hours and listen to the rippling of
the brook which runs beside the road. The tall slender trees have become like
brothers to me. At first I cannot see the material trees very clearly; but I go
into the little hut which is made of fresh clean boards with a sweet smell, and
I lie down on the shelf or bunk along the wall; then I close my eyes and by an
effort—or no, it is not what I would call an effort, but by a sort of drifting—I
can see the beautiful place. But you must know that this is in the night time
there, and I see it by the light of myself. That is why we travel in the dark
part of the twenty-four hours, for in the bright sunlight we cannot see at all.
Our light is put out by the cruder light of the sun.
One night I took the boy Lionel there with me, leaving him
in the hut while I went a little distance away. Looking back, I saw the whole
hut illuminated by a lovely radiance—the radiance of Lionel himself. The little
building, which has a peaked roof, looked like a pearl lighted from within. It
was a beautiful experience.
I then went to Lionel and told him to go in his turn a little
distance away, while I took his place in the hut. I was curious to know if he
would see the same phenomenon when I lay there, if I could shed such a light
through dense matter—the boards of the building. When I called him to me
afterwards and asked if he had seen anything strange, he said:
"What a wonderful man you are, Father! How did you make that
hut seem to be on fire?"
Then I knew that he had seen the same thing I had seen.
But I am tired now and can write no more. Good night, and may
you have pleasant dreams.