IS THAT A MORTAL?- " THE END OF THE EARTH."
At length I perceived, in the distance, a crescent-shaped ring of silver luster. It grew broader, expanding beneath my gaze, and appeared to approach rapidly.
" Hold; cease your desire for onward motion," said the guide; " we approach too rapidly. Quick, wish with all your mind that you were motionless."
I did so, and we rested in front of a ridge of brilliant material, that in one direction, towards the Earth's outer circle, broadened until it extended upward as far as the eye could reach in the form. of a bold precipice, and in the other towards the inner world, shelved gradually away as an ocean beach might do.
" Tell me, what is this barrier?" I asked.
" It is the bisected edge of the earth crevice," he said. " That overhanging upright bluff reaches towards the external surface of the earth, the land of your former home. That shelving approach beneath is the entrance to the " Inner Circle," the concavity of our world."
Again we approached the visible substance, moving gently under the will of my guide. The shore became more distinctly outlined as we advanced, inequalities that were before unnoticed became perceptible, and the silver-like material resolved itself into ordinary earth. Then I observed, upright and motionless, on the edge of the shore that reached toward the inner shell of earth, towards that " Unknown Country " beyond, a figure in human form.
" Is that a mortal?" I asked. " Are we nearing humanity again?"
" It is a being of mortal build, a messenger who awaits our coming, and who is to take charge of your person and conduct you farther," he replied. " It has been my duty to crush, to overcome by successive lessons your obedience to your dogmatic, materialistic earth philosophy, and bring your mind to comprehend that life on earth's surface is only a step towards a brighter existence, which may, when selfishness is conquered, in a time to come, be gained by mortal man, and while he is in the flesh. The vicissitudes through which you have recently passed should be to you an impressive lesson, but the future holds for you a lesson far more important, the knowledge of spiritual, or mental evolution which men may yet approach ; but that I would not presume to indicate now, even to you. Your earthly body has become a useless shell, and when you lay it aside, as you soon can do, as I may say you are destined to do, you will feel a relief as if an abnormal excrescence had been removed; but you can not now comprehend such a condition. That change will not occur until you have been further educated in the purely occult secrets for which I have partly prepared you, and the material part of your organism will at any time thereafter come and go at command of your will. On that adjacent shore, the person you have observed, your next teacher, awaits you."
" Am I to leave you?" I cried in despair, for suddenly the remembrance
of home came into my mind, and the thought, as by a flash, that this being alone
could guide me back to earth.
" Recall your words, do not desert me now after leading me beyond even alchemistic imaginings into this subterranean existence, the result of what you call your natural, or pure, ethereal lessons."
He shook his head.
" I beg of you, I implore of you, not to abandon me now; have you no compassion, no feeling? You are the one tie that binds me to earth proper, the only intelligence that I know to be related to a human in all this great, bright blank."
Again he shook his head.
" Hearken to my pleadings. Listen to my allegation. You stood on the edge of the brook spring in Kentucky, your back to the darkness of that gloomy cavern, and I voluntarily gave you my hand as to a guide; I turned from the verdure of the earth, the sunshine of the past, and accompanied you into as dismal a cavern as man ever entered. I have since alternately rebelled at your methods, and again have trusted you implicitly as we passed through scenes that rational imagination scarce could conjure. I have successively lost my voice, my weight, my breath, my heart throb, and my soul for aught I know.
Now an unknown future awaits the on the one hand, in which you say my body is to disappear, and on the other you are standing, the only link between earth and my self-existence, a semi-mortal it may be, to speak mildly, for God only knows your true rank in life's scale. Be you man or not, you brought me here, and are responsible for my future safety. I plead and beg of you either to go on with me into the forthcoming uncertainty " Within the Unknown Country " to which you allude, or carry me back to upper earth."
He shook his head again, and motioned me onward, and his powerful will overcoming my feeble resistance, impelled me towards that mysterious shore. I floated helpless, as a fragment of camphor whirls and spins on a surface of clear, warm water, spinning and whirling aimlessly about, but moving onward. My feet rested on solid earth, and I awkwardly struggled a short distance onward and upward, and then stepped upon the slope that reached, as he had said, inward and upward towards the unrevealed " Inner Circle." I had entered now that mysterious third circle or sphere, and I stood on the very edge of the wonderful land I was destined to explore, " The Unknown Country." The strange, peaceful being whom I had observed on the shore, stepped to my side, and clasped both my hands, and the guide of former days waved me an adieu. I sank upon my knees and imploringly raised my arms in supplication, but the comrade of my journey turned about, and began to retrace his course. Suspended in vacancy, he seemed to float as a spirit would if it were wafted diagonally into the heavens, and acquiring momentum rapidly, became quickly a bright speck, seemingly a silver mote in the occult earth shine of that central sphere, and soon vanished from view. In all my past eventful history there was nothing similar to or approaching in keenness the agony that I suffered at this moment, and I question if shipwrecked sailor or entombed miner ever experienced the sense of utter desolation that now possessed and overcame me. Light everywhere about me, ever-present light, but darkness within, darkness indescribable, and mental distress unutterable. I fell upon my face in agony, and thought of other times, and those remembrances of my once happy upper earth life became excruciatingly painful, for when a person is in misery, pleasant recollections, by contrast, increase the pain. " Let my soul die now as my body has done," I moaned; " for even mental life, all I now possess, is a burden. The past to me is a painful, melancholy recollection; the future is "-
I shuddered, for who could foretell my future? I glanced at the immovable being with the sweet, mild countenance, who stood silent on the strand beside me, and whom I shall not now attempt to describe. He replied:
" The future is operative and speculative. It leads the contemplative to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of the Creator, and inspires him with the most exalted ideas of the perfections of his divine Creator."
Then he added:
" Have you accepted that whatever seems to be is not, and that that which seems not to be, is? Have you learned that facts are fallacies, and physical existence a delusion? Do you accept that material bliss is impossible, and that while humanity is working towards the undiscovered land, man is not, can not be satisfied?"
" Yes," I said; " I admit anything, everything. I do not know that I am here or that you are there. I do not know that I have ever been, or that any form of matter has ever had an existence. Perhaps material things are not, perhaps vacuity only is tangible."
" Are you willing to relinquish your former associations, to cease to concern yourself in the affairs of men ? Do you "-
He hesitated, seemed to consider a point that I could not grasp; then, without completing his sentence, or waiting for me to answer, added:
" Come, my friend, let us enter the expanses of the Unknown Country. You will soon behold the original of your vision, the hope of humanity, and will rest in the land of Etidorhpa. Come, my friend, let us hasten."
Arm in arm we passed into that domain of peace and tranquillity, and as I stepped onward and upward perfect rest came over my troubled spirit. All thoughts of former times vanished.
The cares of life faded; misery, distress, hatred, envy, jealousy, and unholy passions, were blotted from existence. Excepting my love for dear ones still earth-enthralled, and the strand of sorrow that, stretching from soul to soul, linked us together, the past became a blank. I had reached the land of Etidorhpa