a 'dead' Civil War soldier narrates his death and view of war by direct voice
A CONSCIOUS DISSOLUTION
YES, I know that I am no longer an inhabitant of the earth sphere, that I am numbered among the dead; so because I thoroughly understand the great change through which I have passed, the group of spirit people working with you, and controlling conditions on this side, have asked me to speak to you, and through you to all those who sorrow for their dead. You know, of course, that in speaking I am now using my own voice.
Out of the silence, out of the darkness, in a room devoted solely to psychic investigation came those words; one whom the world calls dead was speaking. I have never ceased to be startled when a voice first speaks from the invisible world—so unusual, so marvelous, so wonderful, and yet to me so natural. I know of but two psychics who are able to contribute to conditions that make the direct or independent voice possible. Emily S. French, who devoted to my work the best years of her life, was one of them, and on this occasion she was alone with me in the room in my own home devoted solely to such work. At this time the conditions were such that it was possible for those out of the earth body to so talk that their voices were audible.
The public wants to know, and I had always wanted to know, the sensation involved in the death change, in the awakening; what it is that the eyes behold, or the ears hear when first consciousness continues or returns. So when this man spoke so clearly and strongly, I determined to get from one who had made the change a comprehensive statement of the mental state, not only before but after the transition.
So much, I said, of the information that we get from the plane where you now live is general in character, won't you be specially specific and tell us, first, something of your occupation and of the conditions immediately preceding your dissolution? I came, he replied, from a long line of soldiers. My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, and were among those who aided in establishing your Republic; possibly I inherited a martial spirit. When the first shot was fired by the Confederates, and Lincoln issued his call for volunteers, I was possessed with a desire to enter the army.I had a wife and two children, to whom as I now know, I owed a far greater duty than to my country, but the speech of people, the danger of the nation, the condition of slavery prevailing in the Southern States, and the preparation for war, incited me. With forced words of good cheer, I left the brave wife and little children, enlisted, and became a soldier of the Union.
I will not take the time to tell you of my life in the army, except to speak of the nights in camp when my thoughts went out to those at home, knowing as I did that funds were slowly diminishing. Ever the idea was dominant that the war would soon be over, then there would be the home coming, and the plans I formed to make compensation for my long absence would come to fruition. But the war did not end as battle after battle was fought with success first on one side, then on the other. I participated in many, seeming to bear a charmed life, for while thousands about me fell, I passed unharmed, and so grew fearless.
Under what circumstances did you meet your end, I asked.
It was at Gettysburg, he replied, I can see and feel it all again as my mind concentrates on that tragic event. It was the second day of that great fight. I was then a colonel and commanded a regiment in reserve; in front of us the battle roared. Shot and shell filled the air and fell near us, muskets belched forth their fire, the earth seemed to tremble; wounded in great numbers were carried to the rear, and we knew that countless dead lay where they had fallen. We waited, knowing it was only a matter of hours, possibly minutes before the order would come to advance. I looked down the line at blanched faces, we all knew that many would not answer the roll call at night. Still we waited. Suddenly out of the smoke galloped an officer from the general's staff. 'Forward,' came the command.
There was no faltering now that the hour had come. The column moved. Soon shot and shell fell among us, on we went. All was excitement, fear was gone; we had but one desire, and that to kill; such is the lust of battle. I recall but little more. We reached the front and saw the grey line charging up the hill toward us; then, oblivion. I now know that I was shot.
Tell me of returning consciousness and what you saw, I said.
You must remember, the spirit answered, that these tragic events occurred nearly half a century ago, and that at that time it had not been discovered that there is another life, a plane as material as the one you now inhabit, where life continues. I had no conception of a hereafter, for with all my religious teaching I had no idea of what or where the future life might be; nor was I at all sure there was one; so you can imagine how startled I was to awake as from a deep sleep; bewildered I got to my feet, and looking down saw my body among many others upon the ground. This was startling. I made a great effort to collect my thoughts and recall events. Then I remembered the awful battle; still I did not then realize I had been shot. I was apart from, still I seemed in some way, held to the body I had so lately worn. My mental condition was one of terrible unrest. How was it I was alive, had a body and yet separate and apart from the covering I had thought constituted the body.
I tried to think and realize my situation. I looked about; others of the seeming dead moved, seemed to stir. Then many of them stood up, and like me seemed to emerge from their physical bodies, for their old forms still lay upon the field. I looked at other prostrate bodies, examined many; from each something was gone. Going among them again, I found other bodies inhabited, still living as you would say, though wounded and unconscious. Soon I found myself among thousands in a similar mental state. Not one among them knew just what had happened. I did not know then as I do now, that I always possessed a spirit body composed of a material called Ether, and that the physical body was only the garment it wore while in earth life.
What brought you to the full realization of what had happened? I asked.
I am coming to that, he said; While the passing out of the old body was without pain, it is a terrible thing to drive a strong spirit from a healthy body, tear it from its coverings. It is unnatural, and the sensation following readjustment is awful. In a short time I became easier, but I was still bewildered. It was neither night nor day; about us all was gloom, not a ray of light, nor a star. Something like an atmosphere dark and red enveloped us all, and we waited in fear and silence; we seemed to feel one another's thoughts, or to be more correct, hear one another think. No words were spoken. How long we remained in this state I cannot now tell, for we do not measure time as you do. Soon there was a ray of light that grew brighter each moment, and then a great concourse of men and women with kindly faces came, and with comforting words told us not to fear; that we had made the great change; that death so-called only advanced our sphere of life; that we were still living beings, inhabitants now of the first plane beyond the earth; that we would live on forever, and by labor reach a higher mental development; that for us the war was over, we had passed through the valley of death.
I will not attempt to tell you of the sorrow that came with such realization, not for myself, for I soon learned that only through death could we progress, and that the personal advantages beyond the physical were greater than those in the physical; it was sorrow for the wife and the babies; their great grief when they learned what had happened, bound me to their condition, and we sorrowed together. I could not progress or find happiness until time had healed their sorrow. If only those in earth life knew that their sadness binds and holds us, stays our progress and development! After coming with the aid of many friends to full consciousness, and being able to move at will, I followed at first the movements of both armies. I saw the route of Lee's army, the final surrender at Appomattox, and I want to tell you of the great effort the inhabitants of this land in which I live put forth, not only to prevent war, but to bring peace when nations or people are at war, for war has never been right. No taking of human life is ever justifiable.
This is the first time it has been my personal privilege to get a message through to the world I once inhabited. It has been a great pleasure to tell you something of the sensations during and after the change. There is one experience that I want to relate, for it made a profound impression. One day I saw many people passing into a building having the appearance of a great Temple of Music. I was told I could go in if I desired—I did. There were assembled, I should judge, five thousand people. They sat with bowed heads in a silence, so absolute that I marveled; turning I asked one beside me the object of the meeting, and I was told they were concentrating their thoughts, sending out peace vibrations to nations at war. I did not comprehend, but, curious, I waited. Soon above that great company arose a golden cloud that formed and moved as if directed. Having learned that I could go at will, I followed and found the cloudy substance enveloping another battle field. Again a dark condition with flashes of red, immediately surrounding and above two great armies, for the thoughts of those in battle give out emanations producing such effect. It had substantially the same appearance that prevailed on my awakening.
As I watched, the dark condition seemed to change, to dissolve before the peaceful conditions of the light that I had followed, just as mist dissolves before the sun. With the change a better thought filled the minds of those engaged, an inclination to treat more humanly the wounded and the prisoners. This is one of the ways those experienced among us help the mental, as those among you aid the physical; both are equally real.
Among us are the great who counsel together and work to influence those in authority against war, while others among us by thought suggestions help and sustain those poor soldiers forced into battle, either to satisfy the greed, selfishness, and ambition of those in authority, or to defend a nation or the integrity of their country. We know neither the one side nor the other. We see only the suffering of humanity, a mother's mourning, a wife's heart breaking, a child's sobbing. They are all human, and without distinction or class we labor to comfort and help them by mental suggestion. In such work we enter their homes, a great invisible host, and many a heart has been cheered through our ministrations. Other wars will come, unless the thought of those now in authority changes; then a great work will be required of us, for which we are ready.
This has been exceedingly interesting, but just one word more. How does your earth-life appear, after so many years? I asked.
How much do you remember of those first years, when as an infant you gazed upon your world? the man replied. So it is with me. I have but an indistinct recollection of the events that made up my earth-life, only a memory remains, still enough to make me regret many lost opportunities. I was not then a thinker, only a drifter; I accepted what was told me without question; the result was that I did not develop my mental faculties. This life offers such splendid advantages, my joy of living in the present is so intense, that I seldom think of the earth-life at all. All the trials, sorrows, and sufferings incident to birth and the few years in your physical world, were necessary, and from my present vantage ground the matter of living a few years more or less, the manner of my going were unimportant; it is all forgotten now in the wonderful reality about me. As soon as I came to understand what death was and to what it led, I immediately commenced to complete my education, and build a home for the wife and children, and I am happy to tell you that again we dwell together, for they are all here in this land of happiness and opportunity.