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From the Standpoint of Personal Experience

I had written a good many pages in this book—not those which appear at the beginning as it is at present arranged, but others further on—when a friend asked permission to read them. As he was a man whose literary ability I greatly respected, I gave him the manuscript. When he returned it he said, "You must not make this a heavy book. You know that it is to be the book of life, and, therefore, it must be a live book."

"But how?" I asked.

"You must write it from the standpoint of your own experience," he said. "Then you would put yourself in it, as well as your ideas."

I hesitated. I am always somewhat daunted by the charge of egotism; and one cannot introduce one's self into his writings without being open to this accusation.

Then I reflected a little while, and I said, "Surely there is nothing that holds the reader like the personality of the author. His ideas may be fine, but they are all the finer if he vitalizes them by putting himself into them."

I am not a person to treat lightly such a suggestion as my friend made. No one places more value upon the word "alive" than I do. If I read a book, it must be a live book, or I lose interest in it and cannot finish it.

This aliveness is not only the great charm of books, but of everything else. Artificial flowers can be made quite as beautiful as the real ones, but who cares for them? They are not alive; they do not call out your affection.

The one charm above all other charms, when I see a new face, may be expressed by the word "aliveness." Beauty and even superior intelligence dwindle into insignificance in comparison with the look of vital power to which I am referring. After all, this look of vital power is beauty; and it is intelligence, too; so my comparison falls dead.

I do not think I exhibited more vitality than other children when I was a child; if I did, it was not in the ordinary way, for I never climbed a tree in my life, nor did any other Tomboy act that I can recall. Indeed, if it shall ever be written of me, "She is the woman who conquered death in the body and thereby redeemed the race," my biographer will have nothing remarkable to record of my youth. I was a responsible child, and was much trusted by my mother. But the best part of me was that I had no appetite for what is called the truth. I had the most marvelous imagination, and could not be impressed for any length of time with the actual condition of my surroundings; but lived in air castles, of which I surely was as great an architect as ever existed. I can recall how, when my mother was scolding and threatening me with severe punishment, and sometimes administering it, I would be adding to the last chapter of some wonderful romance that was passing through my mind, so utterly absorbed in my thoughts as not to be aware of what she was saying or doing.

I think that I was born without any conception of death, though the thought was engrafted upon my thought as I grew up. But this was because I was not old enough; neither was my experience ripe enough, to reason upon it. I did reason on it when I became older, and I cast the belief of its power entirely out of my mind.

"What power is there in death," I said, "when death is not a power at all, but the absence of all power? Life is power, and death is nothing but a contradiction of life."

For years and years I puzzled my brain over this thought. I read the Bible, thinking I should find in it the sure way. I did not find it, for it is not there; but I found many things that illuminate my way now, though they did not do it then. T had to ascend to a higher plane of thought than I had previously attained, in order to make a safe application of the things I found in it.

The Old Testament interested me most, and it still does; for truly it points to the kind of immortality that I have always been searching for—immortality in the flesh. In the meantime the years were doing their worst for me. I was growing old, in spite of the fact that I cherished my dream of ultimate conquest over the enemy that had, so far, submerged the entire race.

During all these years which were passing so rapidly my ideas were dreamlike, and had not yet taken the form of an absolute determination to conquer death. I could see quite clearly, I thought, that the people were going on to the time when they would conquer death, but I placed this time away off in the future—not knowing that the hour for the execution of a hope comes with the birth of the hope.

So I kept reading the Bible and praying to the God of the Scriptures until my whole life became one unbroken aspiration for truth. I had been a church member, but got nothing from this experience except disappointment; the heaven of the future was not the thing I was searching for; just to think of my soul and its after-death salvation made me impatient. "Others," I said, "may comfort themselves on a promise, but I will not invest my hope in that which requires me to yield up what I have, and desire to keep, for that which, even if attained, I may not find desirable; for how could any reasoning creature really desire the heaven depicted by the orthodox clergy of fifty years ago?

And yet I was in the dark about the final outcome of my ideas. I knew nothing of how they were to be executed, though I clung to them with the greatest tenacity, and tried many an experiment in working them out.

At one time I was strong in the belief that the favorite disciple of Jesus was still living on the earth; some words that Jesus spoke at his last meeting with John the Divine induced me to believe this, and I built up a theory about it that would read like a romance if I should write it out.

My husband laughed at me for my beliefs, though I only told him a very few of them. I had no idea that he himself had imbibed them, until he came to me one day with beaming eyes, and brought a paper containing a strange theory concerning the power of the race to overcome death. It was founded on the Bible account of creation; but, beyond showing me that there were others besides myself who were striving for the conquest of death, it did me no good. And yet it did me good in one way; the circumstance itself revealed the fact that my husband was with me in the thought, though he had never admitted it. This strengthened me, and we got in the habit of discussing the matter together.

I think I have never seen anyone who dreaded death so much as he did, unless it was the little child we lost when she was only nine years old, and whose terror concerning it she must have inherited from her father. For my part, I did not have it at all. I have never met anyone so entirely free from this fear as I have always been; but, in spite of this absence of fear, there is no one living more determined than I am to overcome death. With me it is just as if the life principle itself kept pouring its vitality into me, and thus asserting itself through my body, whether I cared or not. And, in a sense, this was the case, only I did care; I did recognize it, not only bodily, but in a dim way I recognized it intellectually; and my salvation lay in this fact. At least, it will lay in this fact when I am saved; and it would be difficult to convince me that I am not being saved at the present time. But for feeling my own power in the matter of conquering death, I would not now be writing this book. I am as sure that this power is vested in my brain and body as I can ever be of anything in the world.

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Helen Wilmans

  • Born in 1831 and died in 1907
  • Studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins
  • Was a journalist and author
  • Was active in the Mental Science Movement
  • Was charged with postal fraud for healing through mail. Fighting this charged caused her lose most of her fortune.

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