The Spirit's First Visit
Part of: SATURN
From: A Journey In Other Worlds
"Greetings and congratulations," he said. "Man has
steadfastly striven to rise, and we see the results in
"I have always believed in the existence of spirits," said
Cortlandt, "but never expected to see one with my natural eyes."
"And you never will, in its spiritual state," replied the shade,
"unless you supplement sight with reason. A spirit has merely
existence, entity, and will, and is entirely invisible to your
"How is it, then, that we see and hear you?" asked Cortlandt.
"Are you a man, or a spectre that is able to affect our senses?"
"I WAS a man," replied the spirit, "and I have given myself
visible and tangible form to warn you of danger. My colleagues
and I watched you when you left the cylinder and when you shot
the birds, and, seeing your doom in the air, have been trying to
communicate with you."
"What were the strange shadows and prismatic colours that kept
passing across our table?" asked Bearwarden.
"They were the obstructions and refractions of light caused by
spirits trying to take shape," replied the shade.
"Do you mind our asking you questions?" said Cortlandt.
"No," replied their visitor. "If I can, I will answer them."
"Then," said Cortlandt, "how is it that, of the several spirits
that tried to become embodied, we see but one, namely, you?"
"That," said the shade, "is because no natural law is broken. On
earth one man can learn a handicraft better in a few days than
another in a month, while some can solve with ease a mathematical
problem that others could never grasp. So it is here. Perhaps I
was in a favourable frame of mind on dying, for the so-called
supernatural always interested me on earth, or I had a natural
aptitude for these things; for soon after death I was able to
affect the senses of the friends I had left."
"Are we to understand, then," asked Cortlandt, "that the reason
more of our departed do not reappear to us is because they
"Precisely," replied the shade. "But though the percentage of
those that can return and reappear on earth is small, their
number is fairly large. History has many cases. We know that
the prophet Samuel raised the witch of Endor at the behest of
Saul; that Moses and Elias became visible in the transfiguration;
and that after his crucifixion and burial Christ returned to his
disciples, and was seen and heard by many others."
"How," asked Bearwarden deferentially, "do you occupy your time?"
"Time, replied the spirit, "has not the same significance to us
that it has to you. You know that while the earth rotates in
twenty-four hours, this planet takes but about ten; and the sun
turns on its own axis but once in a terrestrial month; while the
years of the planets vary from less than three months for Mercury
to Neptune's one hundred and sixty-four years. Being insensible
to heat and cold, darkness and light, we have no more changing
seasons, neither is there any night. When a man dies," he
continued with solemnity, "he comes at once into the enjoyment of
senses vastly keener than any be possessed before. Our eyes--if
such they can be called--are both microscopes and telescopes, the
change in focus being effected as instantaneously as thought,
enabling us to perceive the smallest microbe or disease-germ, and
to see the planets that revolve about the stars. The step of a
fly is to us as audible as the tramp of a regiment, while we hear
the mechanical and chemical action of a snake's poison on the
blood of any poor creature bitten, as plainly as the waves on the
shore. We also have a chemical and electrical sense, showing us
what effect different substances will have on one another, and
what changes to expect in the weather. The most complex and
subtle of our senses, however, is a sort of second sight that we
call intuition or prescience, which we are still studying to
perfect and understand. With our eyes closed it reveals to us
approaching astronomical and other bodies, or what is happening
on the other side of the planet, and enables us to view the
future as you do the past. The eyes of all but the highest
angels require some light, and can be dazzled by an excess; but
this attribute of divinity nothing can obscure, and it is the
sense that will first enable us to know God. By means of these
new and sharpened faculties, which, like children, we are
continually learning to use to better advantage, we constantly
increase our knowledge, and this is next to our greatest
"Is there any limit," asked Bearwarden, "to human progress on the
"Practically none," replied the spirit. "Progress depends
largely on your command of the forces of Nature. At present your
principal sources of power are food, fuel, electricity, the heat
of the interior of the earth, wind, and tide. From the first two
you cannot expect much more than now, but from the internal heat
everywhere available, tradewinds, and falling water, as at
Niagara, and from tides, you can obtain power almost without
limit. Were this all, however, your progress would be slow; but
the Eternal, realizing the shortness of your lives, has given you
power with which to rend the globe. You have the action of all
uncombined chemicals, atmospheric electricity, the excess or
froth of which you now see in thunderstorms, and the electricity
and magnetism of your own bodies. There is also molecular and
sympathetic vibration, by which Joshua not understandingly
levelled the walls of Jericho; and the power of your minds over
matter, but little more developed now than when I moved in the
flesh upon the earth. By lowering large quantities of
high-powered explosives to the deepest parts of the ocean bed,
and exploding them there, you can produce chasms through which
some water will be forced towards the heated interior by the
enormous pressure of its own weight. At a comparatively slight
depth it will be converted into steam and produce an earthquake.
This will so enlarge your chasm, that a great volume of water
will rush into the red-hot interior, which will cause a series of
such terrific eruptions that large islands will be upheaved. By
the reduction of the heat of that part of the interior there will
also be a shrinkage, which, in connection with the explosions,
will cause the earth's solid crust to be thrown up in folds till
whole continents appear. Some of the water displaced by the new
land will also, as a result of the cooling, be able permanently
to penetrate farther, thereby decreasing by that much the amount
of water in the oceans, so that the tide-level in your existing
seaports will be but slightly changed. By persevering in this
work, you will become so skilled that it will be possible to
evoke land of whatever kind you wish, at any place; and by having
high table-land at the equator, sloping off into low plains
towards north and south, and maintaining volcanoes in eruption at
the poles to throw out heat and start warm ocean currents, it
will be possible, in connection with the change you are now
making in the axis, to render the conditions of life so easy that
the earth will support a far larger number of souls.
"With the powers at your disposal you can also alter and improve
existing continents, and thereby still further increase the
number of the children of men. Perhaps with mild climate,
fertile soil, and decreased struggle for existence, man will
develop his spiritual side.
"Finally, you have apergy, one of the highest forces, for it puts
you almost on a plane with angels, and with it you have already
visited Jupiter and Saturn. It was impossible that man should
remain chained to the earth during the entire life of his race,
like an inferior animal or a mineral, lower even in freedom of
body than birds. Heretofore you have, as I have said, seen but
one side in many workings of Nature, as if you had discovered
either negative or positive electricity, but not both; for
gravitation and apergy are as inseparably combined in the rest of
the universe as those two, separated temporarily on earth that
the discovery of the utilization of one with the other might
serve as an incentive to your minds. You saw it in Nature on
Jupiter in the case of several creatures, suspecting it in the
boa-constrictor and Will-o'-the-wisp and jelly-fish, and have
standing illustrations of it in all tailed comets-- luminosity in
the case of large bodies being one manifestation--in the rings of
this planet, and in the molecular motion and porosity of all
gases, liquids, and solids on earth; since what else is it that
keeps the molecules apart, heat serving merely to increase its
power? God made man in his own image; does it not stand to
reason that he will allow him to continue to become more and more
like himself? Would he begrudge him the power to move mountains
through the intelligent application of Nature's laws, when he
himself said they might be moved by faith? So far you have been
content to use the mechanical power of water, its momentum or
dead weight merely; to attain a much higher civilization, you
must break it up chemically and use its constituent gases."
"How," asked Bearwarden, "can this be done?"
"Force superheated steam," replied the spirit, "through an
intensely heated substance, as you now do in making
water-gas--preferably platinum heated by electricity--apply an
apergetic shock, and the oxygen and hydrogen will separate like
oil and water, the oxygen being so much the heavier. Lead them
in different directions as fast as the water is decomposed--since
otherwise they would reunite--and your supply of power will be
"Will you not stay and dine with us?" asked Ayrault. "While in
the flesh you must be subject to its laws, and must need food to
maintain your strength, like ourselves."
"It will give me great pleasure," replied the spirit, "to tarry
with you, and once more to taste earthly food, but most of all to
have the blessed joy of being of service to you. Here, all being
immaterial spirits, no physical injury can befall any of us; and
since no one wants anything that any one else can give, we have
no opportunity of doing anything for each other. You see we
neither eat nor sleep, neither can any of us again know physical
pain or death, nor can we comfort one another, for every one
knows the truth about himself and every one else, and we read one
another's thoughts as an open book."
"Do you," asked Bearwarden, "not eat at all?
"We absorb vitality in a sense," replied the spirit. "As the sun
combines certain substances into food for mortals, it also
produces molecular vibration and charges the air with magnetism
and electricity, which we absorb without effort. In fact, there
is a faint pleasure in the absorption of this strength, when, in
magnetic disturbances, there is an unusual amount of immortal
food. Should we try to resist it, there would eventually be a
greater pressure without than within, and we should assimilate
involuntarily. We are part of the intangible universe, and can
feel no hunger that is not instantly appeased, neither can we
ever more know thirst."
"Why," asked Cortlandt reverently, " did the angel with the sword
of flame drive Adam from the Tree of Life, since with his soul he
had received that which could never die?"
"That was part of the mercy of God," the shade replied; "for
immortality could be enjoyed but meagrely on earth, where natural
limitations are so abrupt. And know this, ye who are something
of chemists, that had Adam eaten of that substance called fruit,
he would have lived in the flesh to this day, and would have been
of all men the most unhappy."
"Will the Fountain of Youth ever be discovered?" asked Cortlandt.
"That substances exist," replied the spirit, "that render it
impossible for the germs of old age and decay to lodge in the
body, I know; in fact, it would be a break in the continuity and
balance of Nature did they not; but I believe their discovery
will be coincident with Christ's second visible advent on earth.
You are, however, only on the shore of the ocean of knowledge,
and, by continuing to advance in geometric ratio, will soon be
able to retain your mortal bodies till the average longevity
exceeds Methuselah's; but, except for more opportunities of doing
good, or setting a longer example to your fellows by your lives,
where would be the gain?
"I now see how what appeared to me while I lived on earth
insignificant incidents, were the acts of God, and that what I
thought injustice or misfortune was but evidence of his wisdom
and love; for we know that not a sparrow falleth without God, and
that the hairs of our heads are numbered. Every act of kindness
or unselfishness on my part, also, stands out like a golden
letter or a white stone, and gives me unspeakable comfort. At
the last judgment, and in eternity following, we shall have very
different but just as real bodies as those that we possessed in
the flesh. The dead at the last trump will rise clothed in them,
and at that time the souls in paradise will receive them also."
"I wonder," thought Ayrault, "on which hand we shall be placed in
that last day."
"The classification is now going on," said the spirit, answering
his thought, "and I know that in the final judgment each
individual will range himself automatically on his proper side."
"Do tell me," said Ayrault, "how you were able to answer my
"I see the vibrations of the grey matter of your brain as plainly
as the movements of your lips"; in fact, I see the thoughts in
the embryonic state taking shape."
When their meal was ready they sat down, Ayrault placing the
spirit on his right, with Cortlandt on his left, and having
Bearwarden opposite. On this occasion their chief had given them
a particularly good dinner, but the spirit took only a slice of
meat and a glass of claret.
"Won't you tell us the story of your life," said Ayrault to the
spirit, "and your experiences since your death? They would be of
tremendous interest to us."
"I was a bishop in one of the Atlantic States," replied the
spirit gravely, "and died shortly before the civil war. People
came from other cities to hear my sermons, and the biographical
writers have honoured my memory by saying that I was a great man.
I was contemporaneous with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.
Shortly after I reached threescore and ten, according to earthly
years, I caught what I considered only a slight cold, for I had
always had good health, but it became pneumonia. My friends,
children, and grandchildren came to see me, and all seemed going
well, when, without warning, my physician told me I had but a few
hours to live. I could scarcely believe my ears; and though, as
a Churchman, I had ministered to others and had always tried to
lead a good life, I was greatly shocked. I suddenly remembered
all the things I had left undone and all the things I intended to
do, and the old saying, 'Hell is paved with good intentions,'
crossed my mind very forcibly. In less than an hour I saw the
physician was right; I grew weaker and my pulse fluttered, but my
mind remained clear. I prayed to my Creator with all my soul, 'O
spare me a little, that I may recover my strength, before I go
hence, and be no more seen.' As if for an answer, the thought
crossed my brain, 'Set thine house in order, for thou shalt not
live, but die.' I then called my children and made disposition
of such of my property and personal effects as were not covered
by my will. I also gave to each the advice that my experience
had shown me he or she needed. Then came another wave of remorse
and regret, and again an intense longing to pray; but along with
the thought of sins and neglected duties came also the memory of
the honest efforts I had made to obey my conscience, and these
were like rifts of sunshine during a storm. These thoughts, and
the blessed promises of religion I had so often preached in the
churches of my diocese, were an indescribable comfort, and saved
me from the depths of blank despair. Finally my breathing became
laboured, I had sharp spasms of pain, and my pulse almost
stopped. I felt that I was dying, and my sight grew dim. The
crisis and climax of life were at hand. 'Oh!' I thought, with
the philosophers and sages, 'is it to this end I lived? The
flower appears, briefly blooms amid troublous toil, and is gone;
my body returns to its primordial dust, and my works are buried
in oblivion. The paths of life and glory lead but to the grave.'
My soul was filled with conflicting thoughts, and for a moment
even my faith seemed at a low ebb. I could hear my children's
stifled sobs, and my darling wife shed silent tears. The thought
of parting from them gave me the bitterest wrench. With my
fleeting breath I gasped these words, 'That mercy I showed
others, that show thou me.' The darkened room grew darker, and
after that I died. In my sleep I seemed to dream. All about
were refined and heavenly flowers, while the most delightful
sounds and perfumes filled the air. Gradually the vision became
more distinct, and I experienced an indescribable feeling of
peace and repose. I passed through fields and scenes I had never
seen before, while every place was filled with an all-pervading
light. Sometimes I seemed to be miles in air; countless suns and
their planets shone, and dazzled my eyes, while no
bird-of-paradise was as happy or free as I. Gradually it came to
me that I was awake, and that it was no dream. Then I remembered
my last moments, and perceived that I had died. Death had
brought freedom, my work in the flesh was ended, I was indeed
"'O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?'
In my dying moments I had forgotten what I had so often
preached--'Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened
except it die.' In a moment my life lay before me like a valley
or an open page. All along its paths and waysides I saw the
little seeds of word and deed that I had sown extending and
bearing fruit forever for good or evil. I then saw things as
they were, and realized the faultiness of my former conclusions,
based as they had been on the incomplete knowledge obtained
through embryonic senses. I also saw the Divine purpose in life
as the design in a piece of tapestry, whereas before I had seen
but the wrong side. It is not till we have lost the life in the
flesh that we realize its dignity and value, for every hour gives
us opportunities of helping or elevating some human being-- it
may be ourselves--of doing something in His service.
"Now that time is past, the books are closed, and we can do
nothing further ourselves to alter our status for eternity,
however much we may wish to. It is on this account, and not
merely to save you from death, which in itself is nothing, that I
now tell you to run to the Callisto, seal the doors hermetically,
and come not forth till a sudden rush of air that you will see on
the trees has passed. A gust in which even birds drop dead, if
they are unable to escape, will be here when you reach safety.
Do not delay to take this food, and eat none of it when you
return, for it will be filled with poisonous germs."
"How can we find you? " asked Ayrault, grasping his hand. "You
must not leave us till we know how we can see you again."
"Think hard and steadfastly of me, you three," replied the
spirit, "if you want me, and I shall feel your thought"; saying
which, he vanished before their eyes, and the three friends ran
to the Callisto.
Next: Doubts And Philosophy