—Milton to his friend Diodati
The world war has forced upon the minds of the masses thoughts which previously had given them hardly a moments serious consideration. Materialism held a death grip on the life of the people, and the world was drifting—drifting towards—we know not what.
With tragic suddenness the whole aspect was changed. We were brought face to face with the Unseen, with the things that really matter. Men, many of whom had been living for this world only were called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, and they, to their eternal credit unhesitatingly responded with a willingness, ay, and an enthusiasm which struck us dumb with admiration and pride. Had we previously doubted man's immortality, such an event should have eliminated it once and for all from our minds.
This superb spirit of self-sacrifice heroism and patriotism must have had its foundation in something indestructible, unchangeable, "Eternal in the heavens." So many are mourning their so-called dead today without ever having attempted to grasp to themselves the assurance of the immortality of their emancipated loved ones. They are like one, who having inherited a huge fortune fails to benefit thereby because his incredulity prevents him from practically accepting the fact. All the same, we cannot help but pity them, as they flounder about, in the mist of grief as those without hope.
In the light of immortality—for the departed we should have no regrets. And our attitude even towards those who have passed into the Unseen without faith or Vision should be that of Florence Nightingale towards Harriet Martineau. Miss Nightingale was a great admirer of the famous writer but Miss Martineau's inclinations towards atheism was a cause of regret and grief to her. When the news came of the authoress's death in unbelief, and friends, shocked and stern, were making remarks about her sad end and her lost soul, Florence Nightingale smiled as she said: "How glorious must have been her surprise when she awoke in Paradise to find she had been mistaken."
There is a vast difference between "otherworldliness" and a healthy attitude towards the "Unseen and Real," we are far too materialistic in our conception of what we call life, hence the severity and heaviness of the blow when the Angel of Death descends into our midst.
On the other hand, to some of us there lingers no shred of doubt as to the persistence of the individual soul beyond the grave. We have even satisfied our human longings with tangible proofs and have therefore no room for doubt with regard to the testimonies of convinced investigations such as Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor Myers, Barrett and Crooks, Sir Conan Doyle and others.
Nevertheless the strength of our own convictions cause us to deplore the fact that there are still so many men and women uninformed as to the mass of evidence in proof of the life beyond. People who have professed adherence to the Christian faith from childhood—who have serenely taken it for granted that they thoroughly believed their Bible, have sunk in the depth of unutterable despair at the news of the death of a relative or beloved friend. Without a ray of hope they have allowed themselves to drift into an awful despondency and have been forced, to admit that their mental and spiritual position differed little if any, from that of the atheist or agnostic.
The mere acceptance of a creed or printed formula, the mere adherence to a Church or religious society will not avail in the hour of need without Vision without first-hand knowledge of the things of the Spirit.
Faith is not the blind acceptance of a system of belief, it is the "Substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It cometh by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, by "doing the will," by self-discipline, meditation, by prayer and fasting, by concentration upon the things that matter—"The Unseen and Eternal." "Table-turning," "Mediumism," "Materializations," and all such phenomena will fail to yield one iota of satisfaction to a degenerate soul. "Like attracts like," and if we would fain place ourselves in rapport with the Angels of God, or help on their upward way those we have loved and lost awhile, it is of vital importance that we advance ourselves, we must "follow the gleam." The life that now is and that which is to come are not really separate in fact, no more separate than childhood and maturity. On the other side it is less limited and more intense. The atmosphere being purer, finer, and more stimulating. The friend or relative withdrawn from us into the spirit-world is only separated from us in proportion to the responsiveness or irresponsiveness of our own spiritual development. If we have lived in mutual sympathy and affection with our departed one, his or her withdrawal into the unseen will only intensify the relationship, will make it more direct than was possible on the earth plane. Human life is sanctified by death, we are thereby lifted up above the sordidness and materialism of our environment to the deep mystic richness of new and wonderful experiences. We begin to function on a new and ideal plane, the attraction of old things passes away and all things become new. Instead of giving way to the gloom of pessimism and unbelief we begin to live our life more intensely with added fervor of love, with broadened sympathies and a stronger unity with the forces that make for progress, because we shall have learned thro' the discipline of a temporary loss to see of the travail of our soul and be satisfied. As we are freed from the illusion of physical life, our spiritual vision will become clearer and brighter.
A mist retreating from the morning sun,
A busy, bustling, still repeated dream;
Its length? a minute’s pause, a moments thought
And happiness? a bubble on the stream,
That, in the act of seizing sinks to naught.
"The things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal." When once this great truth is thoroughly grasped and realized by man he will be able to face all the exigencies of life with equanimity.
Let us, who suffer the temporal anguish of separation, look upon it as a passing phase in a necessary experience. Let us face the situation with that Courage which is born of the "sure and certain hope" of Immortality.
When you see the dawn with dread;
When you wish that God would give you shelter with the cloistered dead—
Turn aside where none may see you, bare the head and bend the knee—
Pray to God to give the grace to fill thine own allotted place with gentle strength,
Think of sunshine and of flowers—brood not on the bitter hours.
Could the scales but leave your eyes for a moment night or day,
You would see a legion round you of the dear ones passed away:
You would know there is no dying; no more sorrow no more sighing—
Death is but a swift transition, but a part in each life's mission, not an end—
Life and death are God's own giving, death leads on to higher living.