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A Wanderer in the Sprit Lands, by Franchezzo (A. Farnese), [1896], at

CHAPTER IV.--The Brotherhood of Hope.

In the spirit world there are many strange places, many wondrous sights, and many organizations for helping repentant souls, but I have never seen anything more strange in its way than this Home of Help, conducted by the Brotherhood of Hope, to which I was now conducted. In the then feeble condition of all my spiritual faculties I was not able to see what the place was like. I was almost like one who is deaf, dumb and blind. When I was with others I could scarcely see or hear them, or make them hear me, and although I could see a little, it was more as though I was in a perfectly dark room with only one small feeble glimmer of light to show me where I went. On the earth plane I had not felt this so much, for though all was darkness I could both see and hear enough to be conscious of those near me. It was in ascending even to the little distance at which this place was above the earth that I felt the absence of all but the most material developments of my spirit.

That time of darkness was so awful to me that even now I scarce like to recall it, I had so loved the sunshine and the light. I came from a land where all is sunshine and brightness, where the colors are so rich, the sky so clear, the flowers and the scenery so beautiful, and I so loved light and warmth and melody; and here as elsewhere since my death I had found only darkness and coldness and gloom; an apalling, enshrouding gloom, that wrapped me round like a mantle of night from which I could in no way free myself; and this awful gloom crushed my spirit as nothing else could have done. I had been proud and haughty on earth. I came of a race that knew not what it was to bow before anyone. In my veins ran the blood of its haughty nobles. Through my mother I was allied to the great ones of earth whose ambitions had moved kingdoms to their will; and now the lowest, humblest, poorest beggar of my native streets was greater, happier than I, for he at least had the sunshine and the free air, and I was as the lowest, most degraded prisoner in the dungeon cell.

Had it not been for my one star of hope, my angel of light, and the hopes she had given me through her love, I must have sunk into the apathy of despair. But when I thought of her waiting, as she had vowed she would do all her life for me, when I recalled her sweet and tender smile and the loving words she had spoken to me, my heart and my courage revived again, and I strove to endure, to be patient, to be strong. And I had need of all to help me, for from now began a period of suffering and conflict I shall in vain seek to make anyone fully realize.

This place where I was now I could barely see in all its details. It was like a huge prison--dim and misty in its outlines. Later on I saw it was a great building of dark grey stone (as solid to my eyes as earthly stone) with many long passages, some long large halls or rooms, but mostly composed of innumerable little cells with scarcely any light and only the barest of furniture. Each spirit had only what he had earned by his earthly life, and some had nothing but the little couch whereon they lay and suffered. For all suffered there. It was the House of Sorrow, yet it was also a House of Hope, for all there were striving upwards to the light, and for each had begun the time of hope. Each had his foot planted upon the lowest rung of the ladder of hope by which he should in time mount even to heaven itself.

In my own little cell there was but my bed, a table and a chair--nothing more. I spent my time in resting or meditating in my cell, and going with those who, like myself, soon grew strong enough to hear the lectures which were delivered to us in the great hall. Very impressive those lectures were; told in the form of a story, but always so as to bring home to the mind of each of us those things wherein we had done wrong. Great pains were taken to make us understand, from the point of view of an impartial spectator, the full consequences to ourselves and others of each of our actions, and where we had for our own selfish gratifications wronged or dragged down another soul. So many things which we had done because all men did them, or because we thought that we as men had a right to do them, were now shown to us from the other side of the picture, from those who had in a measure been our victims, or where we personally were not directly responsible for their fall, the victims of a social system invented and upheld to gratify us and our selfish passions. I cannot more fully describe these lectures, but those amongst you who know what are the corruptions of the great cities of earth will easily supply for yourselves the subjects. From such lectures, such pictures of ourselves as we were, stripped of all the social disguises of earth life, we could but return in shame and sorrow of heart to our cells to reflect over our past and to strive to atone for it in our future.

And in this there was great help given to us, for with the error and its consequences we were always shown the way to correct and overcome the evil desire in ourselves, and how we might atone for our own sins by timely efforts to save another from the evil into which we had fallen, all these lessons being intended to fit us for the next stage of our progression, in which we would be sent back to earth to help, unseen and unknown, mortals who were struggling with earth's temptations.

When we were not attending the lectures we were free to go where we might wish; that is, such of us as were strong enough to move about freely. Some who had left dear friends on earth would go to visit them, that, unseen themselves, they might yet see those they loved. We were always warned, however, not to linger in the temptations of the earth plane, since many of us would find it difficult to resist them.

Those who were strongest amongst us and who possessed the needful qualities and the desire to use them, were employed in magnetising those who were weakest, and who, by reason of the excessive dissipations of their earthly lives, were in such terrible condition of exhaustion and suffering that the only thing which could be done with them was to allow them to lie helpless in their cells while others gave them a little relief by magnetising them; and here I must describe to you a very wonderful system of healing those poor spirits which was practiced in this House of Hope. Some advanced spirits, whose natural desires and tastes made them doctors and healers, with the help of other spirits of different degrees of advancement under them, would attend upon these poorest and most suffering ones--where indeed all were sufferers--and by means of magnetism and the use of others' powers which they could control, they would put these poor spirits into temporary forgetfulness of their pain; and though they awoke again to a renewal of their sufferings, yet in these intervals their spirits gained strength and insensibly grew more able to endure, till at last their sufferings were mitigated with time and the growing development of the spirit body, and they in turn would, when fit to do so, be employed to magnetise others who were still suffering.

It is impossible for me to give you a very clear picture of this place and those in it, for although the resemblance to an earthly hospital was very great, there were many little points in which it resembled nothing which you have yet on earth, though as knowledge on earth advances the resemblance will become closer. All was so dark in this place, because the unfortunate spirits who dwelt there had none of the brightness of happy spirits to give into the atmosphere, and it is the state of the spirit itself in the spiritual world that makes the lightness or darkness of its surroundings. The sense of darkness was also due to the almost total blindness of these poor spirits, whose spiritual senses never having been developed on earth made them alike insensible to all around them, just as those born on earth in a state of blindness, deafness and dumbness would be unconscious of the things which were apparent to those fully endowed with senses. In visiting the atmosphere of the earthly plane, which was a degree more suited to their state of development, these poor spirits would still be in darkness, though it would not be so complete, and they would possess the power of seeing those beings like themselves with whom they could come into direct contact, and also such mortals as were in a sufficiently low spiritual degree of development. The higher and more spiritualized mortals, and still more the disembodied spirits in advance of them would be only very dimly discernible, or even totally invisible.

The "working" Brothers of Hope, as they were called, were each provided with a tiny little light like a star, whose rays illuminated the darkness of the cells they visited and carried the light of hope wherever the brothers went. I myself at first was so great a sufferer that I used simply to lie in my cell in a state of almost apathetic misery, watching for this spark to come glimmering down the long corridor to my door, and wondering how long it would be in earth time ere it would come again. But it was not long that I lay thus utterly prostrate. Unlike many of the poor spirits who had added a love of drink to their other vices, my mind was too clear and my desire to improve too strong to leave me long inactive, and as soon as I found myself able to move again I petitioned to be allowed to do something, however humble, which might be of use. I was therefore, as being myself possessed of strong magnetic powers, set to help an unfortunate young man who was utterly unable to move, and who used to lie moaning and sighing all the time. Poor fellow, he was only thirty years old when he left the earth body, but in his short life he had contrived to plunge into such dissipations that he had prematurely killed himself, and was now suffering such agonies from the reaction upon the spirit of those powers he had abused, that it was often more than I could bear to witness them. My task was to make soothing passes over him, by which means he would obtain a little relief, till at stated times a more advanced spirit than myself would come and put him into a state of unconsciousness. And all this time I was myself suffering keenly both in mind and in my spirit body, for in the lower spheres the spirit is conscious of bodily sufferings. As it grows more advanced the suffering becomes more purely mental--the less material envelope of the higher spirits making them at last insensible to anything like material pain.

As my strength grew so did my desires revive and cause me so much torment that I was often tempted to do what many poor spirits did--go back to earth in search of the means to satisfy them through the material bodies of those yet on earth. My bodily sufferings grew very great, for the strength I had been so proud of and had used to so bad a purpose made me suffer more than one who had been weak. As the muscles of an athlete who has used them to excess begin after a time to contract and cause him excruciating pain, so those powers and that strength which I had abused in my earthly life now began, through its inevitable reaction on my spirit body, to cause me the most intense suffering. And then as I grew stronger and stronger and able to enjoy what had seemed enjoyment in my earth life, the desire for those pleasures grew and grew till I could scarce refrain from returning to the earth plane there to enjoy, through the organism of those yet in the flesh, whose sordid lives and low desires placed them on a level with the spirits of the earth plane, those pleasures of the senses which had still so great a temptation for us. Many and many of those who were in the House of Hope with me would yield to the temptation and go back for a time to haunt the earth, whence they would return after a longer or shorter period, exhausted and degraded even below their former state. All were free to go or to stay as they desired. All could return when they wished, for the doors of Hope's castle were never shut upon anyone, however unthankful or unworthy they might be, and I have often wondered at the infinite patience and tenderness which were ever shown for our weaknesses and our sins. It was indeed only possible to pity these poor unfortunates, who had made such utter slaves of themselves to their base desires that they could not resist them and were drawn back time after time till at last, satiated and exhausted, they could move no more and were like the unfortunate young man whom I tended.

For myself, I might also have yielded to the temptation had it not been for the thoughts of my pure love, and the hopes she had given me, the purer desires she had inspired, and I at least could not condemn these poor erring souls who had no such blessings granted them. I went to earth very often, but it was to where my beloved one dwelt, and her love drew me ever to her side, away from all temptations, into the pure atmosphere of her home, and though I could never approach near enough to touch her, by reason of this icy invisible wall which I have described, I used to stand outside of it, looking at her as she sat and worked or read or slept. When I was there she would always be in a dim way conscious of my presence, and would whisper my name or turn to where I was with one of her sad sweet smiles that I would carry away the recollection of and comfort myself with in my lonely hours. She looked so sad, so very sad, my poor love, and so pale and delicate, it made my heart ache even while it comforted me to see her. I could tell that in spite of all her efforts to be brave and patient, and to hope, the strain was almost too great for her, and each day she grew more delicate looking. She had many other things to try her at this time; there were family troubles and the doubts and fears suggested by the strangeness of her intercourse with the world of spirits. At times she would wonder if it were not all a wild delusion, a dream from which she would awake to find there was after all no communication between the dead and the living, no means by which she could reach me again, and then a dull despair would seize upon her and upon me also as I stood beside her and read her feeling, helpless and powerless to make her realize my actual presence beside her, and I would pray to be allowed in some way to make her know that I was there.

One night when I had watched her sink into sleep after a weary time of weeping, I, who could have wept, too, in my grief for us both, was suddenly touched upon the shoulder, and looking up beheld her guardian spirit who had first helped me speak with her. He asked me if I would be very quiet and self-restrained if he allowed me to kiss her as she slept, and I, wild with this new joy, most eagerly promised. Taking my hand in his we passed together through the transparent icy wall that was to me so impervious. Bending over her the guide made some strange motions with his hand, and then taking one of my hands in his for a few moments he bade me touch her very gently. She was lying quietly asleep, with the tears still on her eyelashes and her sweet lips slightly parted as though she was speaking in her dreams. One hand rested against her cheek and I took it in mine, so gently, so tenderly--not to awaken her. Her hand closed half consciously upon mine and a look of such joy came into her face that I feared she would awake. But no! The bright spirit smiled at us both and said, "Kiss her now." And I--ah! I stooped over her and touched her at last and gave her the first kiss I had ever given. I kissed her not once but half a dozen times, so passionately that she awoke and the bright spirit drew me away in haste. She looked round and asked softly: "Do I dream, or was that indeed my beloved one?" I answered, "Yes," and she seemed to hear, for she smiled so sweet a smile--ah! so sweet! and again and again she repeated my name softly to herself.

Not for long after that would they allow me to touch her again, but I was often near, and the joy of that one meeting dwelt in our hearts for many an hour. I could see how real had been my kiss to her, and for me it was as an anchor of hope encouraging me to believe that in time I should indeed be able to make her feel my touch and hold communication with her.

Next: Chapter V.--Spirits of the Earth Plane