A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), , at sacred-texts.com
On my awakening for the second time from a sleep of death to consciousness in the spirit world, I found that I was in much pleasanter surroundings. There was daylight at last, though it was as that of a dull day without sun, yet what a blessed change from the dismal twilight and the dark night!
I was in a neat little room quite like an earthly one, lying upon a little bed of soft white down. Before me was a long window looking out upon a wide stretch of hills and undulating country. There were no trees or shrubs to be seen, and hardly any flowers, save here and there some little simple ones like flowering weeds, yet even these were refreshing to the eyes, and there were ferns and grass clothing the ground with a carpet of verdure instead of the hard bare soil of the Twilight Land.
This region was called the "Land of Dawn," and truly the light was as the day appears before the sun has arisen to warm it. The sky was of a pale blue grey, and white cloudlets seemed to chase each other across it and float in quiet masses on the horizon. You who think that there are no clouds and no sunshine in the spirit lands hardly know how beautiful a thing you would shut out, unless you have spent, as I did, a long monotonous time without seeing either of them.
The room I was in, though by no means luxurious, was yet fairly comfortable in appearance, and reminded me of some cottage interior upon earth. It held all that was needful to comfort, if nothing that was specially beautiful, and it had not that bare prison-like look of my former dwellings. There were a few pictures of scenes of my earth life which had been pleasant, and the recollections they called up gave me a fresh pleasure; there were also some pictures of spirit life and oh! joy, there was my picture mirror, and my rose, and the letter--all my treasures! I stopped my explorations to look into that mirror and see what my beloved was doing. She was asleep, and on her face was a happy smile as if even in her dreams she knew some good had befallen me. Then I went to the window and looked out over the country and those long rolling hills, treeless and somewhat bare, save for their covering of grass and ferns. I looked long upon this scene, it was so like and yet so unlike earth, so strangely bare and yet so peaceful. My eyes, long wearied with those lower spheres, rested in joy and peace upon this new scene, and the thought that I had thus risen to a new life filled me with a thankfulness of heart unspeakable.
At last I turned from the window, and seeing what was like a small mirror near me, I looked to see what change there might be in myself. I started back with an exclamation of joy and surprise. Was it possible? Could this be as I appeared now? I gazed and gazed again. This myself? Why, I was young again! I looked a man of about thirty or thirty-five, not more certainly, and I beheld myself as I had been in my prime on earth! I had looked so old, so haggard, so miserable in that Twilight Land that I had avoided to look at myself. I had looked twenty times worse than I could ever have looked on earth, had I lived to be a hundred years old. And now, why, I was young! I held out my hand, it was firm and fresh-looking like my face. A closer inspection of myself pleased me still more. I was in all respects a young man again in my prime of vigor, yet not quite as I had been; no! there was a sadness in my look, a certain something more in the eyes than anywhere else that showed the suffering through which I had passed. I knew that never again could I feel the heedless buoyant ecstasy of youth, for never again could I go back and be quite as I had been. The bitter past of my life rose up before me and checked my buoyant thoughts. The remorse for my past sins was with me yet, and cast still its shadow over even the joy of this awakening. Never, ah! never can we undo all the past life of earth, so that no trace of it will cling to the risen spirit, and I have heard that even those who have progressed far beyond what I have even yet done, bear still the scars of their past sins and sorrows, scars that will slowly, very slowly, wear away at last in the great ages of eternity. For me there had come joy, great joy, wonderful fulfillment of my hope, yet there clung to me the shadow of the past, and its dark mantle clouded even the happiness of this hour.
While I yet mused upon the change which had passed over me, the door opened and a spirit glided in, dressed (as I now was) in a long robe of a dark blue color with yellow borderings, and the symbol of our order on the sleeve. He had come to invite me to a banquet which was to be given to myself and others who were newly arrived from the lower sphere. "All is simple here," said he, "even our festivals, yet there will be the salt of friendship to season it and the wine of love to refresh you all. Today you are our honored guests, and we all wait to welcome you as those who have fought a good fight and gained a worthy victory."
Then he took me by the hand and led me into a long hall, with many windows looking out upon more hills and a great peaceful quiet lake. Here there were long tables spread for the banquet, and seats placed round for us all. There were about five or six hundred brothers newly arrived, like myself, and about a thousand more who had been there for some time and who were going about from one to another introducing themselves and welcoming the new-comers cordially. Here and there someone would recognize an old friend or comrade, or one who had either assisted them or been assisted by them in the lower spheres. They were all awaiting the arrival of the presiding spirit of the order in this sphere, who was called "The Grand Master."
Presently the large doors at one end of the hall were seen to glide apart of themselves, and a procession entered. First came a most majestic, handsome spirit in robes of that rich blue color one sees in the pictures of the Virgin Mary. These robes were lined with white and bordered with yellow, while a hood of yellow lined with white hung from the shoulders, and on the sleeve was embroidered the symbol of the Order of Hope. Behind this man were about a hundred or so of youths, all in white and blue robes, who bore in their hands wreaths of laurel. At the upper end of the hall there was a handsome chair of state, with a white, blue and yellow canopy over it, and after saluting us all the Grand Master seated himself in it, while the youths ranged themselves in a semicircle behind him. After a short prayer of thanksgiving to Almighty God for us all he addressed us in these terms:
"My Brethren, you who are assembled to welcome these wanderers who are to find for a time rest and peace, sympathy and love, in this our House of Hope, and you our wandering brothers, whom we are all assembled to welcome and to honor as conquerers in the great battle against selfishness and sin, to you we give our heartiest greeting, and bid you accept, as members of our great brotherhood, these tributes of our respect and honor, which we offer and which you have fairly won. And from the increased happiness of your own lives we bid you stretch forth your hands in brotherly love to all the sorrowing ones whom you have left still toiling in the darkness of the earth life and in the spheres of the earth plane, and as you shall yourselves know yet more perfect triumphs, yet nobler conquests, so seek ye to give to others yet more and more of the perfect love of our great brotherhood, whose highest and most glorious masters are in the heavens, and whose humblest members are yet struggling sinners in the dark earth plane. In one long and unbroken chain our great order shall stretch from the heavens to the earth while this planet shall support material life, and each and every one of you must ever remember that you are links of that great chain, fellow workers with the angels, brother workers with the most oppressed. I summon you now, each in your turn, to receive and to cherish as a symbol of the honor you have won, these wreaths of fadeless laurel which shall crown the victors' brows. In the name of the Great Supreme Ruler of the Universe, in the name of all Angels and of our Brotherhood, I crown each one and dedicate you to the cause of Light and Hope and Truth."
Then at a signal we, the new arrivals, many of us almost overcome by these kindly words and this mark of honor, drew near, and, kneeling down before the Grand Master, had placed upon our heads these laurel crowns which the youths handed to the Master, and with which he crowned us with his own hands.
When the last one had received his crown, such a shout of joy went up from the assembled Brothers, such cheers, and then they sang a most beautiful song of praise, with so lovely a melody and such poetical words that I would I could reproduce it all for you. When this was over we were each led to a seat by an attendant brother and the banquet began.
You will wonder how such a banquet could be in the spirit world, but do you think that even on earth your all of enjoyment at such a scene is in the food you eat, the wine you drink, and do you imagine that a spirit has no need for food of any kind? If so, you are in error. We need, and we eat, food, though not of so material a substance as is yours. There is no animal food of any sort, nor anything like it, save only in the lowest spheres of earth-bound spirits, where they enjoy through others yet in the flesh the satisfaction of the animal apetites.
But there are in this second sphere the most delicious fruits, almost transparent to look at, which melt in your mouth as you eat them. There is wine like sparkling nectar, which does not intoxicate or create a thirst for more. There are none of those things which would gratify coarse apetites, but there are delicate cakes and a sort of light bread. Of such fare and such wine did this banquet consist, and I for one confess I never enjoyed anything more than the lovely fruits, which were the first I had seen in the spirit world, and which I was told were truly the fruits of our own labors grown in the spirit land by our efforts to help others.
After the banquet was over there was another speech, and a grand chorus of thanks in which we all joined. Then we dispersed, some of us to see our friends upon earth and try to make them feel that some happy event had befallen us. Many of us, alas! were being mourned as among the lost souls who had died in sin, and it was a great grief to us that these earthly friends could not be made conscious how great were now our hopes. Others of the Brothers turned to converse with newly-found spirit friends, while for my part I went straight to earth to tell the good news to my beloved. I found her about to attend one of those meetings for materialization, and, trembling with joy and eagerness, I followed her there, for now I knew there was no longer any reason why I should not show my face to her who had been so faithful and so patient in waiting for me--no longer would the sight of me give pain or shock her.
Ah, what a happy night that was! I stood beside her all the time. I touched her again and again. I stood there, no more the dark shrouded figure hiding his face from all eyes. No! I was there in my new dress with my new hopes, my risen body, and the ashes of my dead past were there no more to give me such shame and sorrow of heart as I had known. And then--oh! crowning joy to that most joyful day--I showed myself to her wondering eyes, and they gazed into my own. But she did not know me at once; she was looking for me as she had seen me last on earth, with face of care and wrinkled brow, and the young man's face looked strange to her. Yet not quite strange, she smiled and looked with a puzzled wondering look which, could I but have held the material particles of my form together for but a few more minutes, must have changed to recognition. But, alas! all too soon I felt my material form melting from me like soft wax, and I had to turn and go as it faded away. But as I went I heard her say: "It was so like, so very like what my dear friend must have been in youth. It was so like and yet so unlike him, I hardly know what to think."
Then I went behind her and whispered in her ear that it was I myself, and no other. And she heard my whisper and laughed and smiled, and said she had felt sure it must be so. Then indeed the cup of my joy was full, then indeed was the crown of my day complete.