THE PASSING OF LIONEL
I have lost my boy
Lionel. He has gone—I started to say the way of all flesh; but I must revise the
figure and say the way of all spirits, sooner or later, and that way is back to
One day not long ago I found him absorbed in thought
in our favorite resting-place, the little hut beside the stream at the foot of a
wooded hill, which I told you about in one of my former letters.
I waited for a time until the boy opened his eyes and
looked at me.
“Father,” he said, “my favorite teacher is going to be
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Why, I have been listening!” he answered. “Every
little while I go back and pay her a visit, though she does not know I am there.
I have been aware that there was something in the wind.”
“Because she has been so shining; there is a light
around her which was not there before.”
“What caused the light, Lionel?”
“Well, I suppose she is what they call in love.”
“You are a phenomenally wise child,” I said.
He looked at me with his large, honest eyes.
“I am not really a child at all,” he answered. “I am
as old as the hills, as you, or as anybody. Have you not told me that we are all
immortal, without end or beginning?”
“Yes, but go on, tell me about your teacher.”
“She is in love with the big brother of one of my
playfellows. I used to know him when I was a little boy. He let me use his
magnet, and taught me kite-flying, and showed me how machinery went. He is an
“Oh!” I said. “In this case, of course, you are glad
that your favorite teacher is going to marry him.”
Lionel’s eyes were larger than ever as he said:
“I shall be sorry to leave you, Father; but it is a
chance I cannot afford to miss.”
“It is my opportunity to go back. I’ve been watching
for it a long time.”
“But are you ready?”
“What is it to be ready? I want to go.”
“And leave me?”
“I shall find you again. And—Oh, Father!—when you come
back I shall be older than you.” This idea seemed to delight him.
I was still human enough to be sorry that the boy was
going of his own free will; but as will is free, I would not make any
effort to detain him. Though young in that form, which had not yet had time to
grow up in the tenuous world since he came out as a child, yet he was old in
“Yes,” I said, “perhaps you can help me along when I
also shall be a child again.”
“You see,” he went on, “with a father like Victor I
shall learn all I want to know about machinery—that is, all that he can teach
me; but when I am grown I shall find out for myself many things which he does
not know. You remember the little machine I have been working with, up in the
“When I am back on the earth I shall make it a
reality. Why, it actually runs now with the electricity from my fingers!”
“But will it, when you have fixed it in material form,
in steel, or whatever it is to be made of?”
“Yes, of course it will. It is my intention. I shall
be a famous man.”
“But supposing that somebody else finds it first?”
“I don’t think anybody will.”
“Shall I help you to lay a spell around the pattern,
so that no one can touch it?”
“Could you do that, Father?”
“I think so.”
“Then let us go up there at once,” he said, “and do it
immediately. I may have to leave this world in a day or two.”
I could not help smiling at the boy’s desire to hurry.
Doubtless he would be present at that wedding, and I should see little or
nothing of him afterwards.
We went up to the pattern world, and with his
assistance I drew a circle around the little machine—a spell which, I think,
will protect it until he is ready to make his claim.
Oh inspiration! Oh invention! Genius! Little do the
men of earth know the meaning of those words. Perhaps the poet’s famous poem was
sung before his birth; perhaps the engineer’s invention lay in the pattern
world, protected by his spell, while he grew to manhood and advanced in science
and made ready to claim it for his own, his prior and spiritual creation.
Perhaps, when two men discover or invent the same thing at about the same time,
one has succeeded in appropriating the design which the other left behind him
when he came back to earth. Sometimes, perhaps, both have taken from the
invisible the creation of a third man, who still awaits rebirth.
Lionel babbled on to me about the life to come, and of
what a charming mother Miss –– would be. She had always been good to him.
“Perhaps,” I said, “many of us who return almost
immediately, as you hope to do, seek out those who have been good to us in a
“There is another point,” Lionel said. Miss –– is
a friend of my own mother, the one I left a few years ago. It will be so good to
have her hold my hand again.”
“Do you think she will recognise
you?” I asked.
“Who knows? She believes in rebirth.”
“How can you say that? You were so little when you
“I was seven years old, and already she had told me
that we live many lives on earth.”
“Bless the souls who first brought that belief to the
Western world!” I exclaimed. “And now, my boy, is there anything I can do for
you after you leave me?”
“Yes, of course; you can watch over my new mother, and
warn her if any danger threatens her or me.”
“Then make me acquainted with her now.”
We went out into the material world, the boy and I.
Already I have told you how we go.
He took me to a little house in one of the suburbs of
Boston. We entered a room—it was then about eleven o’clock at night upon that
part of the earth,––and I saw a fair young woman kneeling beside her bed,
praying to God that he would bless the union of the morrow which was to give her
to the man she loved.
Lionel went close to her and threw his arms about her
She started, as if she actually felt the contact, and
sprang to her feet.
Miss ––, Miss ––, don’t you know me?” he
cried; but while I could hear him, she evidently could not, though she looked
about her in a half-frightened way.
Then, supposing that the touch and the presence she
felt were imaginary, she again fell upon her knees and went on with her
“Come away,” I said to the boy; and we left her there
with her dreams and her devotions.
That was the last I saw of Lionel. He bade me
“I shall stay near her for a few days. Perhaps I shall
go back and forth, from her to you; but if I do not return, I will meet you
again in a few years.”
“Yes,” I said, “it is affinity and desire which draw
souls together, either on earth or in the other world.”
When next I met the Teacher I told him about Lionel,
and asked him if he thought the boy would come out to me now and then, after his
life on earth had begun, as an unborn entity in the shelter of his mother’s
“Probably not,” he replied. “If he were an adept soul,
he might do that; but with a soul of even high development, lacking real
adeptship, it would be impossible.”
“Yet,” I said, “men living on earth do come out here
“Yes, but when the soul enters matter, preparing for
rebirth, it enters potentiality, if we may use the term, and all its strength
is needed in the herculean effort to form the new body and adjust to it. After
birth, when the eyes are opened, and the lungs are expanded to the air, the task
is easier, and there may be left enough unused energy to bridge the gulf.
“But,” he went on, “those who are soon to be mothers
are often vaguely conscious of the souls they harbour. Even when they do not
grasp the full significance of the miracle that is being performed through them,
they have strange dreams and visions, which are mostly glimpses into the past
incarnations of the unborn child. They see dream countries where the entity
within has dwelt in the past; they feel desires which they cannot
explain—reflected desires which are merely the latent yearnings of the unborn
one; they experience groundless fears which are its former dreads and terrors.
The mother who nourishes a truly great soul, during this period of formation may
herself grow spiritually beyond her own unaided possibility; while the mother of
an unborn criminal often develops strange perversities, quite unlike her normal
state of mind.
“If a woman were sufficiently intelligent and
informed, she could judge from her own feelings and ideas what sort of soul was
to be her child some day, and prepare to guide it accordingly. More knowledge is
needed, here as elsewhere.”
So, as in all my experiences, I learned something through the passing out