In the spring of 1914 there was published
in London and New York a book of mine called “Letters From a Living Dead
Man,” being automatic writings from an American Judge and teacher of
philosophy who had been known to his intimate friends as “X.”
There were circumstances connected with the writing of that
book, explained in some detail in the Introduction, which made any other
hypothesis than that of genuine communication from the other world seem
untenable to me. It began, for instance, some days before I knew in Paris
that my friend had died on the Pacific coast of America.
In that first book of “X” I did not state who the writer was,
not feeling at liberty to do so without the consent of his family; but in
the summer of 1914, while I was still living in Europe, a long interview
with Mr. Bruce Hatch appeared in the New York Sunday World, in which
he expressed the conviction that the “Letters” were genuine communication
from his father, the late Judge David P. Hatch, of Los Angeles, California.
For the benefit of those who have not read
the former book, I wish to say that “X” was not an ordinary man. He came
nearer than any other Occidental of my acquaintance to the mastery of self
and life which has been called Adeptship.
After the “Letters” were finished in 1913, during a period of
about two years I was conscious of the presence of “X” only on two or three
occasions, when he wrote some brief advice in regard to my personal affairs.
On the fourth of February, 1915, in New York, I was suddenly
made aware one day that “X” stood in the room and wished to write; but as
always before, with one or two exceptions, I had not the remotest idea of
what he was going to say. He wrote as follows:
“When I come back and tell you the story
of this war, as seen from the other side, you will know more than all the
Chancelleries of the nations.”
This letter I confided to two friends who
had been much interested in the former book, Mr. and Mrs. Vance Thompson;
and it was arranged, with the cordial consent of “X,” that they should sit
with me about once a week, to make a better “focus.” Their loyal faith was a
great support to me during the first half of a trying labor.
The writing was not confined to the days when we three sat
together; but about a third of the first half of the book was written in the
presence and in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson. Then they went to
California, and I continued the work alone.
It may be of interest to some readers if I describe the process
of this writing, which has changed gradually from a violent and mechanical
seizure of the hand from the outside, as in the beginning of the first book,
to a quiet impression on the mind within.
If the reader will imagine a well-known friend of vivid
personality present with him, then subtract from that impression the seeing
of the physical eye, leaving only the subtle vibration of the actual
thinking and feeling presence, then add the indescribable “inner sight,” he
may begin to realise how I know that “X” is in the room.
It is probable that Helen Keller knows when
her friends are near her, and can tell one from the other, though she is
deaf and blind.
When made aware of the presence of “X,” I take a pencil and a
notebook, as any other amanuensis would, and by an effort of will, now easy
from long practice, I still the activity of my objective mind, until there
is no thought or shadow of a thought in it. Then into the brain itself
come the words, which flow out without conscious effort at the point of the
pencil. It is exactly as if I heard the dictation with a single auditory
instrument, like a small and very sensitive sphere, in the centre of the
I never know at the beginning of a sentence how it will end. I
never know whether the sentence I am writing will be the last or if two
thousand words will follow it. I simply write on, in a state of voluntary
negativity, until the impression of personality described above leaves
suddenly. Then no more words come. The writing is at an end for that time.
The question will naturally arise in the
mind of the skeptical reader (it has in mine), whether my own subconscious
mind has not itself dictated the following “War Letters from the Living Dead
Man,” in the attempt to explain a world tragedy which would have seemed
impossible two years ago.
But from my long experience in writing for “X,” and from the
fact that during two years I had not written for him except on two or three
unimportant occasions, though often thinking of him, and from my acquired
habit of minute observation of supernormal phenomena, I now feel safe in
assuming that I know the difference between the actual presence of
“X” and my own imagination of him, my reminiscence of him, or even the
suggestion of his presence from another’s mind.
No person who had had even a minute fraction of my occult
experience could be more coldly critical of that experience than I am. I
freely welcome every logical argument against the belief that these letters
are what they purport to be; but placing these arguments in opposition to
the evidence which I have of the genuineness of them, the affirmations
outweigh the denials, and I accept them.
This evidence is too complex and much of it
too personal to be even outlined here; but the Letter XXXVI, written one
hour after the sinking of the Lusitania and nine hours before I knew
of it, is merely one incident out of dozens. Also it may be considered at
least an interesting coincidence that at the very time I began writing this
book, three occult students, in different countries, wrote me that they
felt that “X” had come back and would write again through my hand. Since
then several other persons have so expressed themselves by word or pen.
Many of the events of this war I myself have seen “astrally” at
the time of their occurrence. I was a wide-awake astral participant in the
first action in which the British army was engaged on the Continent, and
related the experience to a British officer in England before it was
reported there, my narrative being verified the following day by a French
newspaper brought over from Paris by a friend.
I saw in New York the shelling of
Scarborough at the hour when it occurred, and related the incident to a
friend some hours before it was reported in the newspapers; though I did not
know the name of the English coast town where I had seen the assault.
Nevertheless, I cannot read what is in the mind of “X” even when
I am conscious that he is actually present in the room. I know only what he
dictates, and have no idea how much or how little he knows. He has stated in
one of the letters that he should tell me only what his judgment approved
from time to time.
There is one point where I myself do not quite follow “X.”
Sometimes when he says that the German people are so and so, had I been
writing I should have said the Prussians. I have many German friends, and I
cannot hold them individually accountable for the awful conditions into
which their government has plunged the world.
I must emphasize that I do not assume personal responsibility
for what “X” writes, but merely record his words.
It did not occur to me until several days after his last letter
was written, on July 28th, that he had finished the war book
exactly one year from the date of the first declaration of war, that of
Austria against Serbia, and on the very day when the Pope sent out his great
appeal for peace.
In his former writing, which began more
than three years ago, “X” requested that I should never summon him, and
later advised me not to ask questions. I have therefore generally refrained
from doing either; though the temptation has often been great to ask him as
to the final issue of this war by which I have been so profoundly affected.
But I knew that such questioning might stimulate the action of my own
objective mind and becloud my receptivity. I have recently shrunk from
seeking for such answers even in my hypnogogic visions, lest I should see
something which would make me less negative in the reception of these
This situation seems to have cured me forever of curiosity; it
has made me feel detached as a comet and almost as lonely, and strong enough
to be willing to remain so. But, by a strange paradox, as my hatred for the
brutalities of this war grew deeper and deeper, my love for all those
struggling human souls in every camp grew with it, until I came to
feel that each one of all those millions who died and suffered on those
battlefields was my brother and my friend. Love is a miracle that touches
the brutal facts of life and makes them divine.
In the third letter of this book, dated
March 10th, “X” said that the forces of good had overpowered the
forces of evil and that peace would return to the world—though he did not
say when. Before I learned of the Lusitania sinking, but one hour
after it had actually taken place, he wrote that the demons whom the workers
out there had driven back had rallied and returned to the assault, and that
he ought to have known that the very Law of Rhythm would drive them forward
again after they had generated another supply of energy.
In the light of rhythmic law, that letter is to me the most
interesting part of the book. It illustrates what he has said so often, that
even the “living dead” do not know everything, and that the reason why they
know so much more than we do is because they have a wider vision and a
greater fund of data on which to base their conclusions.
In regard to that second onslaught of the powers of darkness, it
is perhaps significant that the letter describing his first conversation
with the “dark-veiled one” was written next before the Lusitania
Aside from his narrative, two major ideas
seem to dominate “X” in this writing: the mystery of good and evil (love and
hate), and the brotherhood of man.
Through his soul-changing exposition of the conflict between
good and evil, both in the human heart and in the universe, a man might
learn to protect himself against his own evil as well as the evil outside
In pursuit of this end “X” has revealed certain mysteries to
which the attention of the common man has not heretofore been effectively
That there is an “astral world” permeating and extending beyond
the world of dense matter has been stated in Theosophical and other
literature; “X” makes his readers realize the fact. The astral world is said
to be the world of feeling and desire; and it is through a man’s astral,
feeling or desire body, made of a tenuous kind of matter invisible to
untrained eyes, that he connects with and functions in that world.
Within and beyond this again is said to be
the thought world, and the theory is that man has also a thought body
through which he contacts with and functions in it. And so on, plane after
plane, till man reaches the formless and universal, in other words pure
The evil astral beings described by “X” are beings dwelling in
the astral world. Some of them have no physical bodies in the material
world; others are the more or less independent astral selves of men, which
during sleep go here and there in the world invisible to our open eyes. They
have been active in this war.
There are also said to be beings of the elements, earth, air,
fire and water, who are evolving along a line different from that of man.
Some of these are amiable, some are malicious. Much information about these
elementals can be found in the writings of Paracelcus. They also have been
active in this war.
Other and superior beings work on all three
planes, physical, astral and mental, and in still higher worlds beyond our
cognizance. But for the beneficent activity of some of these, mankind would
destroy itself or be destroyed.
“X” says that the feelings of hatred and the sufferings
engendered by the great war have made the astral world at this time a very
unpleasant place of sojourn. The purgatory of the Roman Catholics is the
same thing as the place of post-mortem trial described by “X”. The Church
has great knowledge.
Good and evil may be called opposite and complementary forces,
one working in harmony with the Law of the Universe (otherwise called the
will of God), the other working disharmoniously with the Law.
Some readers may be shocked by what “X” says of black magic. He
is not writing to shock them, but to protect and instruct them. Superstition
has been called the dark side of religion; but superstition is to be
understood, not dismissed with the lifting of superior eyebrows. All things
are to be understood. The great psychologists, scientists, do not now
consider these subjects beneath their investigation. Refer to Professor
William James, to Sir Oliver Lodge, to Dr. Baraduc. The names of recognized
scientists who are now investigating occult phenomena would fill a small
directory. When I admit that I am seeking to chart the unseen world, I am
modestly enrolling myself in good company.
“X” speaks of the “dark-veiled one” who
inspired Nietzsche in the misleading of young Germany. Perhaps behind every
powerful man or woman whose work has told in the world there has been an
invisible one, either light or dark-veiled. The question is not without
interest, both practical and theoretical. Inspiration, like magic, may be
either black or white.
The “voices” of Jeanne d’Arc would in our day be called
clairaudient phenomena. History declares that they rendered her more, not
less, efficient as the saviour of France. Martin Luther threw his ink-pot at
“the devil”; but the Reformation was no less ably engineered because Luther
had visions. Saul of Tarsus also had a vision, if we may credit the
“X” speaks of his own Teacher, a “Master.” When I compare the
California Judge whom I knew with most of the men and women with whom I
prattle about commonplaces, I do not find it difficult to admit the
possibility that man may progress even further than “X,” given the
resolution so to do. If “X” became what he was in a little less than seventy
years, there is hope for us who look forward to eternity.
The second major idea of these “War
Letters” seems to be the brotherhood of man.
The world has progressed thus far through a series of
well-marked periods, and by means of a series of predominant races which
stamped their time with their own peculiar color. “X” says that a new race,
the Sixth Race so-called, is about to arise now in the United States.
If America would accept this idea as a
working hypothesis—not another “Deutschland über Alles,” but say
“America for (not over) all”—she might build a peace-machine as
Germany has built a war-machine. If she should go about it with the same
thoroughness, postulating the ideal brotherhood as Germany has postulated
world-dominion, she might make a demonstration in the next generation. In
the mixture of races in America she has all the materials for any kind of
spiritual experiment. Asia and Europe would look on with interest. England,
Germany, and France, even Japan who is spiritual underneath and material
only on the surface, perhaps Russia above all, would respect such an avowed
purpose. It may be that the world will have suffered enough by the end of
this war to be ready to welcome universal brotherhood.
Already there are movements in America
which would gladly fall into line. “X” speaks of the Woodcraft movement, a
loosely organized body of perhaps a hundred thousand men and boys and a few
women, who in their playtime have gone back to Nature and the campfire for
that fraternity which cities do not give.
“X” says that he has another service to perform in the future. I
do not know what that service is, nor whether I have any part in it; but if
he should one day declare to me that it was in connection with the Woodcraft
purpose, I should not be surprised.
But after living for months with this war book, I cannot yet see
it in perspective nor gauge its value. I give it to the world because it
seems to belong to the world, and because among the thousand letters which I
have received from the readers of “Letters From a Living Dead Man,” so many
have asked for further writings of “X.” The first book is now being
translated into four European languages, and other translations have been
I want to thank all those persons in many
countries who have written me so kindly about the book. It was more for them
than for myself that I embraced the offered opportunity to hear what “X” had
to say about the Great War. To receive genuine communications from the other
world (assuming as I must that such communication is possible) involves
sacrifice on the part of the amanuensis, even in the protected quiet of a
country home. To do it in a great rushing city like New York, amidst the
distractions of a complex social life, and during a war like this by whose
horrors the “sensitive” is especially buffeted, and in a clashing pro-German
pro-Allies environment, has been an education in self-control.
But the war cannot last forever, and some
day joy will come back to the world.
New York, Sept., 1915. Elsa Barker.