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Letters from a Living Dead Man


LETTER

 

Introduction

I.

The Return

II.

Tell No Man

III.

Guarding the Door

IV.

A Cloud on the Mirror

V.

The Promise of Things Untold

VI.

The Wand of Will

VII.

A Light behind the Veil

VIII.

The Iron Grip of Matter

IX.

Where Souls go up and down.

X.

A Rendezvous in the Fourth Dimension

XI.

The Boy–Lionel

XII.

The Pattern World

XIII.

Forms Real and Unreal

XIV.

A Folio of Paracelsus

XV.

A Roman Toga

XVI.

A Thing to be forgotten

XVII.

The Second Wife over there

XVIII.

Individual Hells

XIX.

A little Home in Heaven

XX.

The Man who found God

XXI.

The Leisure of the Soul

XXII.

The Serpent of Eternity

XXIII.

A Brief for the Defendant

XXIV.

Forbidden Knowledge

XXV.

A Shadowless World

XXVI.

Circles in the Sand

XXVII.

The Magic Ring

XXVIII.

Except ye be as Little Children

XXIX.

An Unexpected Warning

XXX.

The Sylph and the Magician

XXXI.

A problem in Celestial Mathematics

.XXXII.

A Change of Focus

XXXIII.

Five Resolutions

XXXIV.

The Passing of Lionel

XXXV.

The Beautiful Being

XXXVI.

The Hollow Sphere

XXXVII.

An Empty China Cup

XXXVIII.

Where Time is not

XXXIX.

The Doctrine of Death

XL.

The Celestial Hierarchy

XLI.

The Darling of the Unseen

XLII.

A Victim of the Non-existent

XLIII.

A Cloud of Witnesses

XLIV.

The Kingdom Within

XLV.

The Game of Make-believe

XLVI.

Heirs of Hermes

XLVII.

Only a Song

XLVIII.

Invisible Gifts at Yuletide

XLIX.

The Greater Dreamland

L.

A Sermon and a Promise

LI.

The April of the World

LII.

A Happy Widower

LIII.

The Archives of the Soul

LIV.

A Formula for Mastership


 

 

LETTER XXXVII

AN EMPTY CHINA CUP

It is no wonder that children, no matter how old and experienced their souls, have to be retaught in each life the relative values of all things according to the artificial standards of the world; for out here those values lose their meaning.
     That a soul had houses, lands, and honours among men does not increase his value in our eyes. We cannot hope to profit by his discarded riches. The soul in the "hereafter" builds its own house, and the materials thereof are free as air. If I use the house which another has built, I miss the enjoyment of creating my own.
     There is nothing worth stealing out here, so no one trembles for fear of burglars in the night. Even bores can be escaped by retiring to the very centre of oneself, for a bore is himself too self-centred ever to pierce to the centre of anyone else.

     On earth you value titles, inherited or acquired; here a man’s name is not of much importance even to himself, and a visiting-card would be lost through the cracks in the floor of heaven. No footman angel would ever deliver it to his Lord and Master.
     One day I met a lady recently arrived. She had not been here long enough to have lost her assurance of superiority over ordinary men and angels. That morning I had on my best Roman toga, for I had been reliving the past; and the lady, mistaking me for Caesar or some other ancient aristocrat, asked me to direct her to a place where gentlewomen congregated.
     I was forced to admit that I did not know of any such resort; but as the visitor seemed lonely and bewildered, I invited her to rest beside me for a time and to question me if she wished.
     "I have been here several months," I said, "and have gained considerable experience."
     It was plain to see that she was puzzled by my remark. She glanced at my classical garment, and I could feel her thinking that there was something incongruous between it and my assertion that I had been here only a few months.
     "Perhaps you are an actor," she said.
     "We are all actors here," I replied.

     This seemed to puzzle her more than ever, and she said that she did not understand. Poor lady! I felt sorry for her, and I tried my best to explain to her the conditions under which we live.
     "You must know in the first place," I said, "that this is the land of realised ideals. Now a man who has always desired to be a king can play the part up here if he wishes to, and no one will laugh at him; for each spirit has some favourite dream which he acts out to his own satisfaction.
     "We have, madam," I continued, "reacquired the tolerance and the courtesy of children who never ridicule on another’s play."
     "Is heaven merely a play-room?" she asked, in a shocked tone.
     "Not at all," I answered; "but you are not in heaven."
     Her look of apprehension caused me immediately to add:
     "Nor are you in hell, either. What was your religion upon the earth?"
     "Why, I professed the usual religion of my country and station; but I never gave it much thought."
     "Perhaps the idea of purgatory is not unfamiliar to you."

     "I am not a papist," she said, with some warmth.
     "Nevertheless, a papist in your position would conceive himself to be in purgatory."
     "I am certainly not happy," she admitted, "because everything is so strange."
     "Have you no friends here?" I inquired.
     "I must have many acquaintances," she said; "but I never cared for intimate friendships. I used to entertain a good deal; my husband’s political position demanded it."
     "Perhaps there is someone on this side to whom you were specially kind at some time or other, someone whose grief you helped to bear, whose poverty you eased."
     "I patronised our organised charities."
     "I fear that sort of help is too impersonal to be remembered here. Have you no children?"
     "No."
     "No brothers or sisters on this side?"
     "I quarrelled with my only brother for marrying beneath him."
     "But surely," I said, "you must have had a mother. Was she not waiting for you when you came over?"
     "No."

     This surprised me, for I had been told that all mother spirits who have not gone back to the world know by a peculiar thrill when a child to which they have given birth is about to be reborn into the spiritual world—a sort of sympathetic after-pain, the final and sweetest reward of motherhood.
     "Then she must have reincarnated," I said.
     "Do you hold to that pagan belief?" the lady inquired, with just a touch of superiority. "I thought that only queer people, Theosophists and such, believed in reincarnation."
     "I was always queer," I admitted. "But you know, of course, dear madam, that about three-quarters of the earth’s inhabitants are familiar with that theory in some form or other."
     We continued our talk for a little time, and meanwhile I was puzzling my heart as to what I could do to help this poor lonely woman, for whom no one was waiting. I passed in mental review this and that ministering angel of acquaintance, and wondered which of them would be considered most correct from the conventional earthly point of view. The noblest of them was usually at the side of some newly arrived unfortunate woman—to use a euphemism of that polite society which my latest protégée had frequented. The others were here, there, and everywhere, but generally with those souls who needed them the most; while the need of my present companion was more real than urgent. If Lionel had been here, he might have entertained her for a while.

     I wished that I had cultivated the acquaintance of some of those ladies who crochet and gossip in this world as they crocheted and gossipped in yours. Do not be shocked. Did you fancy that a lifelong habit could be laid aside in a moment? As women on earth dream often of their knitting, so they do here. It is as easy to knit in this world as it is to dream in yours.
     Understand that the world in which I now live is no more essentially sacred than is the world in which you live, nor is it any more mysterious to those who dwell in it. To the serious soul all conditions are sacred—except those that are profane, and both are found out here as well as on the earth.
     But to return to the lonely woman. I was still wondering what I should do with her when, looking up, I saw the Teacher approaching. He had with him another woman, as like the first as one empty china cup is like another empty china cup. Then he and I went away and left the two together.

     "I did not know," I said to the Teacher, "that you troubled yourself with any souls but those of considerable development."
     He smiled:
     "It was your perplexity which I came to relieve, not that of those poor ladies."
     Then he began to talk to me about relative values.
     "In a sense," he said, "one soul is as much worth helping as another; in a deeper sense, perhaps it is not. Do not think that I am indifferent to the sufferings of the weakest ones because I give my time and attention to the strong. Like the ministering angels, I go where I am most needed. Only the strong ones can learn what I have to teach. The weak ones are the charges of the Messiahs and their followers. But, nevertheless, between us and the Messiahs there is brotherhood and there is mutual understanding. Each works in his own field. The Messiahs help the many; we help the few. Their reward in love is greater than ours; but we do not work for reward any more than they do. Each follows the law of his being.

     "To be loved by all men a teacher must be known to all men, and we reveal ourselves only to a few chosen ones. Why do we not go the way of the Messiahs? Because the balance must be maintained. For every great worker in the sight of men there is another worker out of sight. Which kind of teacher is of greater value? The question is out of order. The North and the South are interdependent, and there are two poles to every magnet."

LETTER XXXVIII

LETTER XXXVI