Marryat, Florence – The Spirit World – Her mother comes back to tell her what heaven is really like
Type of Spiritual Experience
I have provided more of the chapter than the final communication [in a seance] that took place between Florence and her mother because it provides context for the observation
A description of the experience
CHAPTER 1. THE CURE FOR DEATH.
I should like to speak to you first of death — that change which to most of you is a nightmare of terror, but which, in reality, should be the gladdest event of all your life.
This unnatural dread of a change as natural as being born, is one of the best proofs we have, of the little good that has been effected by the religions of the world — of how little real influence they have exerted on the comprehensions and souls of men — for if they had had the power to make their proselytes realize the truth of their teachings, the expected glories of heaven would have done away with the fear of death, and the terrors of hell with the vices of humanity. But neither one effect, nor the other, has been the result of eighteen hundred years of preaching and praying. Why should we fear death in our own persons so much, that in the majority of instances, we cannot summon up courage even to sit down and look the " bogey '' of our childhood straight in the face ? We know that it is inevitable — that it must happen to all of us.
Our lives are as varied as ourselves. Some of us are born to prosperity, others to misfortune ; some to health, others to disease ; some to attain the highest honors, or to occupy the proudest positions in this world, others to live and die in obscurity. But, sooner or later, we must all come to the same end — that end, which equalizes the king with the pauper ; which turns the body of the young, rich and noble Duke of Clarence, lying in his crimson velvet-covered coffin in the mausoleum in St. George's chapel, at Windsor, into precisely the same dust, no finer nor less objectionable, than that of the last- half-starved and diseased cripple who was bundled out of a workhouse cart, into the overladen public grave, that already held a dozen such as he.
Death is not like the typhoid fever, nor the smallpox, which we may hope, by care or precaution, to escape or overcome. It is inevitable — we must all pass through it.
Yet the majority put the thought away from them, as something not to be alluded to ; they shudder when they hear it mentioned. That with which they must all become acquainted, is thrust out of sight, as if it were their greatest enemy ; that which their religion teaches them is but the entrance to an eternity of happiness is avoided as if it were, indeed, the beginning of the typical hell, which has been thrust down their throats, with no better effect than to make them dread the idea of passing into the presence of their Heavenly Father. Now, is the fault here, in the religion, or in the teaching? If they believe the religion, Why do they fear death? If they do not believe the religion, is it because, in their inmost hearts, they feel it is not true — that heaven and hell, as they have been represented to us, are "bogies,' set up, the better to keep us under the thumbs of our spiritual pastors and masters, and to prevent our enquiring and learning for ourselves ?
If you read the history of the churches, you will find that, from the beginning, the people have ever been exhorted to place their judgments and consciences into the hands of the ministers, and that it is not only the Roman Catholic Church who has arrogated to herself the virtue of infallibility. Each, in its own way, has done the same, from the Calvinistic Church, with its horrible doctrine of election by grace, to the lowest psalm-singing conventicle, whose teacher shrieks hell fire and everlasting burning into the ears of its ignorant congregation. But, thank God, there is a better and more reasonable view of the matter than these, and if Spiritualism served no higher purpose than to dismiss this causeless fear of death, and what comes after it, from the minds of men, it would accomplish what nothing else before it has ever done.
A great deal of this unnatural dread of death has been inculcated in our minds from our childhood, but it has all arisen from the same cause — the futility of religion to convince us of the reality of the beautiful life to which we are hastening. From our tenderest years, we cannot remember hearing the subject mentioned, except with lowered voice and bated breath. One of my earliest recollections is of being dragged by an ignorant nursemaid to see all the funerals that took place in an adjoining churchyard — of watching the mourners in their sable garments, of seeing the black plumes and weepers — of hearing the clay clods rattle down upon the coffin and wondering what the ghastly face, hid underneath it, looked like — to say nothing of having the occasion improved for me, the very next time I could not go to sleep) as quickly as my nurse desired, by being told that if I didn’t shut my eyes directly, she would tell the dead men to come and carry me away to the churchyard.
I had a very pious mother — pious according to the fables she had been taught to receive as truth — but not a word did she ever say to me in those childish days to mitigate the sense of fear inspired in my breast, by that with which it pleases Christians, with the hope of 'a joyful resurrection,’ to surround their funeral ceremonies — not a word of the happy state of the enfranchised soul, who was viewing those ceremonies, perhaps, with " the proud contemplation of spirits risen.” I saw nothing but the yawning grave and the weeping countenances, and heard nothing but the sobs of the mourners ; or, if the subject were mentioned afterwards, it was with those terrible old accompaniments of the bottomless pit, or an alternative, almost as bad, of singing psalms for ever and ever, before a great white throne.
A little brother of mine, called Willy, died at seven years old, long before I was born. My mother, who really was a good woman , often told me how distressed she was, because, as the poor child was dying of inflammation of the bowels, which creates an unquenchable thirst, and she was disturbing his last moments by a description of heaven, which she supposed he was about to enter, he raised himself upon his elbow and exclaimed:
" I don't want to go there ! I want some beer! "
Poor mother ! She actually believed that our dear, tender Father, God, would punish an infant of seven years for speaking such blasphemy, and that if little Willy ever entered her mythical and most undesirable heaven, it would only be after being purified as by fire.
But she knows better now.
She passed over more than ten years ago, and the first words she said to me, on coming back, were :
"Oh ! it is all so different from what I imagined, so very, very different."