A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), , at sacred-texts.com
The companion who was assigned to me in this expedition was a spirit who had been in this sphere before, and who was, therefore, well fitted to act as my guide on entering this Land of Horrors. After a short time we were to separate, he told me, and each to follow his own path--but at any time either of us could, if needful, summon the other to his aid in case of extremity.
As we drew near the great bank of smoke and flame I remarked to my companion upon the strangely material appearance they presented. I was accustomed in the spirit world to the realism and solidity of all our surroundings which mortals are apt to imagine must be of some ethereal and intangible nature, since they are not visible to ordinary eyesight,--still these thick clouds of smoke, these leaping tongues of flame, were contrary to what I had pictured Hell as being like. I had seen dark and dreary countries and unhappy spirits in my wanderings, but I had seen no flames, no fire of any sort, and I had totally disbelieved in material flames in a palpable form, and had deemed the fires of Hell to be merely a figure of speech to express a mental state. Many have taught that it is so, and that the torments of Hell are mental and subjective, not objective at all. I said something of this to my companion, and he replied:
"Both ideas are in a sense right. These flames and this smoke are created by the spiritual emanations of the unhappy beings who dwell within that fiery wall, and material as they seem to your eyes, opened to the sight of spiritual things, they would be invisible to a mortal's sight, could one still in the body of flesh by any miracle visit this spot. They have, in fact, no earthly material in them, yet they are none the less material in the sense that all things earthly or spiritual are clothed in matter of some kind. The number and variety of degrees of solidity in matter are infinite, as without a certain covering of etherealized matter even spiritual buildings and spiritual bodies would be invisible to you, and these flames being the coarse emanations of these degraded spirits, possess for your eyes an appearance even more dense and solid than for the inhabitants themselves."
My companion's spirit name was "Faithful Friend," a name given him in memory of his devotion to a friend who abused his friendship and finally betrayed him, and whom he had even then forgiven and helped in the hour when shame and humiliation overtook the betrayer, and when reproach and contempt or even revenge might have seemed amply justifiable to many minds. This truly noble spirit had been a man of by no means perfectly noble character in his earthly life, and had therefore passed at death into the lower spheres near the earth plane, but he had risen rapidly, and at the time I met him he was one of the Brotherhood in the second sphere, to which I had so recently been admitted, and had been once before through the Kingdoms of Hell.
We now drew near what appeared like the crater of a vast volcano--ten thousand Vesuviuses in one! Above us the sky was black as night, and but for the lurid glare of the flames we should have been in total darkness. Now that we have reached the mass of fire I saw that it was like a fiery wall surrounding the country, through which all who sought to enter or leave it must pass.
"See now, Franchezzo," said Faithful Friend, "we are about to pass through this wall of fire, but do not let that alarm you, for so long as your courage and your will do not fail, and you exert all your will-power to repel these fiery particles, they cannot come in actual contact with your body. Like the waters of the Red Sea they will fall apart on either side and we shall pass through unscathed.
"Were any one of weak will and timid soul to attempt this they would fail, and be driven back by the force of these flames which are propelled outwards by a current of strong will-force set in motion by the fierce and powerful beings who reign here, and who thus, as they imagine, protect themselves from intrusions from the higher spheres. To us, however, with our more spiritualized bodies, these flames and the walls and rocks you will find in this land, are no more impenetrable than is the solid material of earthly doors and walls, and as we can pass at will through them, so can we pass through these, which are none the less sufficiently solid to imprison the spirits who dwell in this country. The more ethereal a spirit is the less can it be bound by matter, and at the same time the less direct power can it have in the moving of matter, without the aid of the physical material supplied by the aura of certain mediums. Here, as on earth, we would, in order to move material substances, require to use the aura of some of the mediumistic spirits of this sphere. At the same time we shall find that our higher spiritual powers have become muffled, so to say, because in order to enter this sphere and make ourselves visible to its inhabitants, we have had to clothe ourselves in its conditions, and thus we are more liable to be affected by its temptations. Our lower natures will be appealed to in every form, and we shall have to direct our efforts to prevent them from again dominating us.
My friend now took my hand firmly in his and we "willed" ourselves to pass through the wall of fire. I confess that a momentary sense of fear passed over me as we began to enter it, but I felt we were "in for it," so exerting all my powers and concentrating my thoughts I soon found that we were floating through--the flames forming a fiery arch below and above us through which as through a tunnel we passed. Thinking of it now I should say it must have been about a quarter to half a mile thick, judging as one would by earthly measurements, but at the time I did not take sufficient note to be very exact, all my energies being directed to the repelling of the fiery particles from myself.
As we emerged we found ourselves in a land of night. It might have seemed like the bottomless pit of desolation had we not stood upon solid enough ground, while above us was this canopy of black smoke. How far this country extended it was impossible to form any idea, since the heavy atmosphere like a black fog shut in our vision on every side. I was told that it extended through the whole of this vast and dreadful sphere. In some parts there were great tumbled jagged mountains of black rocks, in others long and dreary wastes of desert plains, while yet others were mighty swamps of black oozing mud, full of the most noisome crawling creatures, slimy monsters, and huge bats. Again there were dense black forests of gigantic, repulsive-looking trees, almost human in their power and tenacity, encircling and imprisoning those who ventured amongst them. Ere I left this awful land I had seen these and other dreadful regions, but truly neither I nor anyone else could ever really describe them in all their loathsomeness and foulness.
As we stood looking at this country my sight, gradually becoming used to the darkness, enabled me to perceive the surrounding objects dimly, and I saw that before us there was a highway marked by the passage of many spirit feet across the black plain on which we stood. A plain covered with dust and ashes, as though all the blighted hopes, the dead ashes of misused earthly lives had been scattered there.