Dear Mrs. Allen,
I am so glad you have given us your opinion on communion with the departed. I had so often wondered what might be your attitude of mind on the subject, and intended to write about it so many times, but, like many others I am sure, I feared to intrude on your very busy life. Again;—it has happened so many times—l find an answer to my thoughts in the Letter Box without having asked for it. But would you mind writing still further on the subject? You say you never seek for those communications. But is there not some preparation necessary! Are we not to make some provision? Is just the longing for some sign, some word, some revelation all sufficient? I have loved ones on the other side, and oh, if I might have some sense of their nearness to me; some conviction that they still love and help me. I feel you have yet another word for me. Give it to me.
Yes, there is great necessity for preparation. You are right. But do I not say in my answer to "A Lonely One" that it is for me to seek to live in their atmosphere? I quite believe that anything like a disturbed condition of mind will act as a barrier keeping them away from us. That is why we should not give way to uncontrolled grief. l am sure that our grief creates great dark clouds about us, and no matter how they may wish to come to us, they cannot because of our disturbed and confused conditions. I think too (you may take this for what it is worth), that the horrible custom of wearing black makes it very hard for those who are in the LIGHT to come near us. Black is so negative. Black shuts out all light and color, and must be so absolutely foreign to all that belongs to that Summer Land. I am quite sure that one of the results of coming into personal contact with the departed will be the discarding of all that horrible morning. If only people were governed by reason and thought, instead of the worn out conventions and foolish customs of the race, they would very soon see what a foolish, ugly unspiritual, unbelieving thing it is to wear black when a loved one passes into the Summer Land. But above everything else it is necessary to be calm, poised, gentle, loving, and kind. I need not mention how absolutely necessary purity of thought and action is, or how impossible it must be for any who are doing wrong consciously to know the blessed communion of souls. It is not needful to write on those lines to Epoch readers, surely. But apart from any impurity, evil speaking, unholy actions, or unworthy living, which must shut us out completely from that World, apart from these things there is a preparation we all need to study and give heed to. We might do well to meditate a little every day on the conditions that must surround our dear ones. What do you imagine the life must be there? How free from pain, from anxiety, from worry, from care, from regret, from sorrow, from petty and small thinking, from unforgiveness, from condemnation, from harsh judgment. Try to think of what you need to be so that in coming to you they will not come into a lower atmosphere. Cultivate all that you want to carry with you when you too join these who are calling you from the heights. This, to me, is the one thing necessary. The great essential preparation.
How well the poet Tennyson understood this when he wrote those lines,—
How pure at heart and sound in head,
With what divine affections bold
Should be the man whose thought would hold
An hour’s communion with the dead.
In vain shalt thou, or any, call
The spirits from their golden day,
Except, like them, thou too can'st say
My spirit is at peace with all.
They haunt the silence of the breast,
Imaginations calm and fair,
The memory like a cloudless air,
The conscience like a sea at rest.
But when the heart is full of din,
And doubt beside the portal waits,
They can but listen at the gates,
And hear the household jar within.
How can I better answer your letter after all than by quoting those sublime verses from In Memoriam!
If I can help you in any way please do not hesitate to write to me on any subject. I have had so many letters about this part of The Epoch that it has, since receiving them, become really the most important part of my work. So many have written begging me not to discontinue The Letter Box, and so many say, "I always turn to that first." So you see you need never fear to write to me.
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Dear Mrs. Allen,
I do hope there will be no further rear of the Epoch not being supported during this difficult time. I pray it may continue its good work. I was indeed very dangerously near to discontinuing it this year, until I found time to read the December number, for in that I found courage and renewed inspiration, especially in the contributions from the pen of Gunner L. Stuckey and Ingram Turner, both of them B. E. F. men! I am sure their great faith, and coming to us from the "Fire and the Sword," and so many terrible experiences, as they must often be in the midst of, makes one feel ashamed of one’s petty doubts and fears, and one must, with them, have faith in the "ultimate good." But, somehow at times one gets depressed, one begins to wonder why one has to learn life's lessons at such a terrible cost.
Your reply to "Rhoda" also gave me the message I needed myself,...it seems like a reply to my own questioning. So I, as one of your readers trust the Letter Box will continue. The answers to one reader so often help others at the same time. I trust that all will still be well with the Epoch, that it may carry on its good work; and that it may still bless and help the fighting men and find good soil there, seeds that may bring forth much fruit when the lads come home.
I am sure that your letter will be a great cheer and uplift to Gunner Stuckey and Ingram Turner when they read it. For their sakes especially I have printed it in the Letter Box. Dear, brave lads! In the midst of all the hardness and loneliness they find time to write down
their beautiful thoughts for The Epoch and I am sure that your words will greatly inspire and help them. How many beautiful hearts we have found through the war. I am sure those boys, hundreds of them, would never have expressed all the depth and beauty of their thoughts if they had not known the life into which this war has thrown them. I am astonished at times at the beautiful simplicity of their thoughts, how deep within them there has ever been the desire for all that is pure, and gentle, and good; but in the old days they did not feel the need to express it, and neither was there the channels through which it could flow out to the world. The need for sympathy towards one another, the need for cheerfulness, the way in which they have served one another, all these things have brought out characteristics until the war so hidden because there was not the immediate need for it. I really bow my head in reverence before some letters I receive from the boys, letters so simple in their earnest beauty, so full of trust and confidence, optimism and cheer, so saturated with faith in the Good. I cannot express to you the joy I feel that those articles from the pens of my two soldier friends helped and blessed you so much.
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Extract from the Letter of a War Worker.
"What a good thing it is that we cannot be robbed of the real things. There’s Memory, that takes us back to beauties and joys of the past; and Hope, that takes us forward to a wondrous future; and Love, that makes the present Heaven! Memory so often takes us back to a sunny day in the Sterrage Valley, and other scenes. Hope bids us work for a world where men and women will be really free, and Love makes home around a strange fireside when the day’s work is done."
What a precious gift Memory is. I really believe if I had to give a list of what I thought to be Heaven’s greatest gifts to man I should put Memory among the very first. It is indeed beautiful in the sorrow and stress of the present to look back to those happy days that were so filled with innocent joys, and simple happiness. How good it is to remember old love and old companionships; old friendships and the dear old ties that bind us with such unending love to those who have passed to the Beyond—and they are so many now. But what a poor, desolate world it would be without those blessed memories! A friend who became a widow on the same day that I did, almost the same hour, was talking to me the other day of, her dear one, speaking of all the goodness and nobility of his life and character, and then she spoke of her loss, but I answered her quickly,—"But you had him!" And the sunshine of joy and happiness flooded her face as she cried out, "Oh, thank you for that, I had him, I had him!" Let us recall many times the scenes of the past, they will ever bless and cheer us in the hour of weariness and discouragement.
Hope; Thank God for that too. Do we ever hope enough? It is one of the beautiful things I always want people to cultivate. I am always building castles and hoping they will come true. So many have come true, that I think surely all must some day. And, dear friend, won’t we hope for this old world! Won’t we just hope, and hope, and hope for all the sad hearts in it; for all the suffering ones, for all the weary ones, and one day all our hopes will be realized. It would be impossible to tell you all the hopes in my heart, for you, for all my readers, for The Epoch for The James Allen Library, for the Peace that is coming! Emerson said, "Hope puts us in a working mood." How true it is. The more I hope the harder I want to work; and the greater and bigger my hope the greater and bigger is my energy, my ambition, and my output of labor in every direction. So, thank God for hope. "Charity hopeth all things.
I know what you mean when you say "Love make home round a strange fireside." Love, makes all burdens light, Love, makes the longest and the roughest road short and easy; Love, softens the hard places and makes hearts rejoice even in pain. To love is to become a very Christ. It is greater and more blessed to love than to be loved. And have you ever thought how in this very thing alone we are made co-workers with God, for we can do more by loving than by any gold or silver gifts. I wish we understood this better. Sometimes I catch just glimpses of the vast power of Love. How we could save the world by loving it. Just think how this war could be brought to an end at once and all strife and hatred and bitterness and cruelty cease if only men loved. It is the meaning of life. It is the one solution to the riddle of the Universe. So, dear friend, let us ever remember, ever hope, and always love. In these three we shall find Heaven.
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I am sorry so many were kept waiting for Life's Inspirations. But when you quite understand you will pardon what was really inevitable. Now it has come to hand will you pardon me when I say I am very proud of it? It is my sixth "Mental Child" and I do believe it is going to be a blessing and inspiration to many and many a heart. For this it was written. I thank all those who have written to me so kindly about Personality, and I hope with a great hope that Life's Inspirations will help and bless even more than Personality. If my readers will send direct to the Publishers for it instead of to me it will be the best for me, as my time is so occupied with the Editorial work, and all that belongs to the Magazine, I must give up the book trade. I really have not the time to attend to it. So please send your orders to my publisher, or insist on your book seller stocking the books.
I must thank all those who have written so kindly when renewing their subscriptions. Once a year so many kind and encouraging letters come, and all are so precious to me, and so helpful. I do appreciate kind words and loving expressions. I am very much made that way! And though I may not personally answer all those beautiful letters, every one of them is treasured and my heart goes out to every writer in blessing and love.
So I remain,
Always yours affectionately,
Lily L. Allen