We live in an age of universal inquiry, ergo of universal scepticism. The prophecies of the poet, the dreams of the philosopher and scientist, are being daily realized — things formerly considered mere fairy-tales have become facts — yet, in spite of the marvels of learning and science that are hourly accomplished among us, the attitude of mankind is one of disbelief. “There is no God!” cries one theorist; “or if there be one, I can obtain no proof of His existence!” “There is no Creator!” exclaims another. “The Universe is simply a rushing together of atoms.” “There can be no immortality,” asserts a third. “We are but dust, and to dust we shall return.” “What is called by idealists the SOUL,” argues another, “is simply the vital principle composed of heat and air, which escapes from the body at death, and mingles again with its native element. A candle when lit emits flame; blow out the light, the flame vanishes — where? Would it not be madness to assert the flame immortal? Yet the soul, or vital principle of human existence, is no more than the flame of a candle.”
If you propound to these theorists the eternal question WHY? — why is the world in existence? why is there a universe? why do we live? why do we think and plan? why do we perish at the last? — their grandiose reply is, “Because of the Law of Universal Necessity.” They cannot explain this mysterious Law to themselves, nor can they probe deep enough to find the answer to a still more tremendous WHY— namely, WHY, is there a Law of Universal Necessity? — but they are satisfied with the result of their reasonings, if not wholly, yet in part, and seldom try to search beyond that great vague vast Necessity, lest their finite brains should reel into madness worse than death. Recognizing, therefore, that in this cultivated age a wall of scepticism and cynicism is gradually being built up by intellectual thinkers of every nation against all that treats of the Supernatural and Unseen, I am aware that my narration of the events I have recently experienced will be read with incredulity. At a time when the great empire of the Christian Religion is being assailed, or politely ignored by governments and public speakers and teachers, I realize to the fullest extent how daring is any attempt to prove, even by a plain history of strange occurrences happening to one’s self, the actual existence of the Supernatural around us; and the absolute certainty of a future state of being, after the passage through that brief soul-torpor in which the body perishes, known to us as Death.
In the present narration, which I have purposely called a “romance,” I do not expect to be believed, as I can only relate what I myself have experienced. I know that men and women of to-day must have proofs, or what they are willing to accept as proofs, before they will credit anything that purports to be of a spiritual tendency; — something startling — some miracle of a stupendous nature, such as according to prophecy they are all unfit to receive. Few will admit the subtle influence and incontestable, though mysterious, authority exercised upon their lives by higher intelligences than their own — intelligences unseen, unknown, but felt. Yes! felt by the most careless, the most cynical; in the uncomfortable prescience of danger, the inner forebodings of guilt — the moral and mental torture endured by those who fight a protracted battle to gain the hardly-won victory in themselves of right over wrong — in the thousand and one sudden appeals made without warning to that compass of a man’s life, Conscience — and in those brilliant and startling impulses of generosity, bravery, and self-sacrifice which carry us on, heedless of consequences, to the performance of great and noble deeds, whose fame makes the whole world one resounding echo of glory — deeds that we wonder at ourselves even in the performance of them — acts of heroism in which mere life goes for nothing, and the Soul for a brief space is pre-eminent, obeying blindly the guiding influence of a something akin to itself, yet higher in the realms of Thought.
There are no proofs as to why such things should be; but that they are, is indubitable. The miracles enacted now are silent ones, and are worked in the heart and mind of man alone. Unbelief is nearly supreme in the world to-day. Were an angel to descend from heaven in the middle of a great square, the crowd would think he had got himself up on pulleys and wires, and would try to discover his apparatus. Were he, in wrath, to cast destruction upon them, and with fire blazing from his wings, slay a thousand of them with the mere shaking of a pinion, those who were left alive would either say that a tremendous dynamite explosion had occurred, or that the square was built on an extinct volcano which had suddenly broken out into frightful activity. Anything rather than believe in angels — the nineteenth century protests against the possibility of their existence. It sees no miracle — it pooh-poohs the very enthusiasm that might work them.
“Give a positive sign,” it says; “prove clearly that what you say is true, and I, in spite of my Progress and Atom Theory, will believe.” The answer to such a request was spoken eighteen hundred years and more ago. “A faithless and perverse generation asketh for a sign, and no sign shall be given unto them.”
Were I now to assert that a sign had been given to ME— to me, as one out of the thousands who demand it — such daring assurance on my part would meet with the most strenuous opposition from all who peruse the following pages; each person who reads having his own ideas on all subjects, and naturally considering them to be the best if not the only ideas worth anything. Therefore I wish it to be plainly understood that in this book I personally advocate no new theory of either religion or philosophy; nor do I hold myself answerable for the opinions expressed by any of my characters. My aim throughout is to let facts speak for themselves. If they seem strange, unreal, even impossible, I can only say that the things of the invisible world must always appear so to those whose thoughts and desires are centred on this life only.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07