THE HOLLOW SPHERE
Some time ago I started to write to you about certain visits which I had made
to the infernal regions; but I was called away, and the letter was not finished.
To-night I will take up the story again.
You must know that there are many hells, and they are mostly of our own
making. That is one of those platitudes which are based upon fact.
Desiring one day to see the particular kind of hell to which a drunkard would
be likely to go, I sought that part of the hollow sphere around the world which
corresponds to one of those countries where drunkenness is most common. Souls,
when they come out, usually remain in the neighbourhood where they have lived,
unless there is some strong reason to the contrary.
I had no difficulty in finding a hell full of drunkards. What do you fancy
they were doing? Repenting their sins? Not at all. They were hovering around
those places on earth where the fumes of alcohol, and the heavier fumes of those
who over-indulge in alcohol, made sickening the atmosphere. It is no wonder that
sensitive people dislike the neighbourhood of drinking saloons.
You would draw back with disgust and refuse to write for me should I tell you
all that I saw. One or two instances will suffice.
I placed myself in a sympathetic and neutral state, so that I could see into
A young man with restless eyes and a troubled face entered one of those “gin
palaces” in which gilding and highly polished imitation mahogany tend to impress
the miserable wayfarer with the idea that he is enjoying the luxury of the
“kingdoms of this world.” The young man’s clothes were threadbare, and his shoes
had seen much wear. A stubble of beard was on his chin, for the price of a shave
is the price of a drink, and a man takes that which he desires most—when he can
He was leaning on the bar, drinking a glass of some soul-destroying compound.
And close to him, taller than he and bending over him, with its repulsive,
bloated, ghastly face pressed close to his, as if to smell his whiskey-tainted
breath, was one of the most horrible astral beings which I have seen in this
world since I came out. The hands of the creature (and I use that word to
suggest its vitality)—the hands of the creature were clutching the young man’s
form, one long and naked arm was around his shoulders, the other around his
hips. It was literally sucking the liquor-soaked life of its victim, absorbing
him, using him, in the successful attempt to enjoy vicariously the passion which
death had intensified.
But was that a creature in hell? you ask. Yes, for I could look into its mind
and see its sufferings. For ever (the words “for ever” may be used of that which
seems endless) this entity was doomed to crave and crave and never to be
There was in it just enough left of the mind which had made it man—just
enough to catch a fitful glimpse now and then of the horror of its own state. It
had no desire to escape, but the very consciousness of the impossibility of
escape was an added torment. And dread was in the eyes of the thing—dread of the
future into which it could not look, but which it felt waiting to drag it into
that state of even greater suffering than its present, when the astral particles
of its form, unable longer to hold together because of the absence of the
unifying soul, would begin to rend and tear what was left of the mind and astral
nerves—rending and tearing asunder, in terror and pain, that shape whose end was
For only the soul endures, and that which the soul deserts must perish and
And the young man who leaned on the bar in that gilded palace of gin was
filled with a nameless horror and sought to leave the place; but the arms of the
thing that was now his master clutched him tighter and tighter, the sodden,
vaporous cheek was pressed closer to his, the desire of the vampire creature
aroused an answering desire in its victim, and the young man demanded another
Verily, earth and hell are neighbouring states, and the frontier has never
I have seen hells of lust and hells of hatred; hells of untruthfulness, where
every object which the wretched dweller tried to grasp turned into something
else which was a denial of the thing desired, where truth was mocked eternally
and nothing was real, but everything—changing and uncertain as
untruthfulness—became its own antithesis.
I have seen the anguished faces of those not yet resigned to lies, have seen
their frantic efforts to clutch reality, which melted in their grasp. For the
habit of untruthfulness, when carried into this world of shifting shapes,
surrounds the untruthful person with ever-changing images which mock him and
Would he see the faces of his loved ones? The promise is given, and as the
faces appear they turn into grinning furies. Would he grasp in memory the prizes
of ambition? They are shown to be but disgrace in another form, and pride
becomes weak shame. Would he clasp the hand of friendship? The hand is
extended—but in its clutch is a knife which pierces the vitals of the liar
without destroying him, and the futile attempt begins again, over and over,
until the uneasy conscience is exhausted.
Beware of deathbed repentance and its after-harvest of morbid memories. It is
better to go into eternity with one’s karmic burdens bravely carried upon the
back, rather than to slink through the back door of hell in the stockinged-feet
of a sorry cowardice.
If you have sinned, accept the fact with courage and resolve to sin no more;
but he who dwells upon his sins in his last hour will live them over and over
again in the state beyond the tomb.
Every act is followed by its inevitable reaction; every cause is accompanied
by its own effect, which nothing—save the powerful dynamics of Will itself—can
modify; and when Will modifies the effect of an antecedent cause, it is always
by setting up a counteracting and more powerful cause than the first—a cause so
strong that the other is irresistibly carried along with it, as a great flood
can sweep a trickling stream of water from an open hose-pipe, carrying the
hose-pipe cause and its trickling effect along with the rushing torrent of its
If you recognise the fact that you have sinned, set up good actions more
powerful than your sins, and reap the reward for those.
There is much more to be said about hells, but this is enough for to-night.
At another time I may return to the subject.