This series of articles summarizes and explores the classic (1896) book, Wanderer in the Spirit Lands. I try to preserve the original meaning in the summary (which is regular type). My observations and comments are in italics.
Ch18. Franchezzo, with his guide Hassein and a team of rescue workers, leaves the earth plane behind and moves, nearly at the speed of thought, sinking away from the bright realms toward that darkest of places: the Christian hell. Everyone falls into silence and foreboding, sensing the horrors and sorrow to come. As vast, inky, black clouds and sulphurous flames from gigantic volcanoes appear, Francezzo and the others are overcome by exhaustion, and they descend to a black mountaintop rising from an inky lake to look out across that awful country. They rest and eat spiritual fruits that revitalize them, and the team leader prays for protection and strength.
Ch19. Once rested, Franchezzo (partnered now with a fellow who was here once before) is surprised by the material reality of the leaping tongues of flame and thick smoke, which he always assumed was a religious figure of speech. His partner explains that the flames are both real and metaphorical, created by the low spiritual thoughforms and tortured consciences of its inhabitants. His partner shares his own backstory: though abused and betrayed by a malicious friend during lifetime, he’d forgiven the betrayer immediately and later even helped the betrayer to overcome his eventual shame and humiliation for the betrayal. Though Franchezzo’s partner had not been purely noble in his life choices (far from it), his noble response as a faithful friend helped him rise quickly, after death, from the lower spheres near the earth plane to level 2, where Franchezzo is now residing… and now they are on this rescue mission together. Approaching a volcano the size of 10,000 Vesuviuses, the sky as black as a starless night, the two men encounter a wall of flame through which anyone entering or leaving this country must pass. The flames flow from the minds of the fierce and powerful beings who reign here and are impassable by anyone of weak will. The friend warns Franchezzo not to be alarmed. Steadiness and courage will let them pass through this “Red Sea” of fire, the embers parting as they pass. So clasping hands, the two pass through the burning wall, which seems to be about a half-mile thick. Passing through into a black fog they can see jagged mountains of black rocks; dreary deserts; black forests of repulsive trees that encircle and imprison those who enter; vast swamps of oozing mud thick with noisy, crawling creatures, slimy monsters, and huge bats; and many other dark landscapes equally foul… all covered by “the dead ashes of misused earthly lives.”
Ch20. Walking along a road of black marble with deep, dark chasms on either side, Franchezzo and his faithful friend approach what looks like a hellish version of a fortified city of the old Roman Empire. Dark spirits move slowly past them from the city, some carrying heavy loads, some crawling like animals, and some enslaved and chained together with heavy iron collars. Franchezzo is puzzled by the magnificent architecture standing in stark contrast to the foul, horrible surroundings. His friend explains that this is one of various living copies or astral templates of an ancient city on Earth. This is the lowest or darkest of the copies, suited to the inhabitants who had led savage lives on Earth. Lighter copies exist at finer levels of spirit, where people of more kind and noble bearing got settled after they died. As the city on Earth slowly crumbled over time, these astral copies remained and evolved slowly with the addition of newer, more modern buildings as civilization advanced on Earth. Through it all, the more hellish or more heavenly ambiance of each realm was sustained. If people from this dark city can make spiritual advancements, they migrate to the finer cities. The two men come to the city’s most magnificent palace, whose breathtaking architecture is offset by big splashes of blood on the walls; giant, twisted vines of fungus; and black, slimy mud oozing through cracks in the marble. Pathetic, dark spirits crawl everywhere, driven by stronger dark spirits with whips and spears amid a pandemonium of abominable cries and curses. The city is essentially a prison and rehabilitation center for spirits of ill intent, especially those from the Holy Roman Empire. Franchezzo enters alone into the Council Chamber, since the reigning dark spirit would recognize his friend and foil their mission, which is to rescue an unhappy spirit whose repentant prayers have reached the higher spirit levels. Inside the chamber are crowds of haughty patricians dressed in worm-eaten robes, disfigured and diseased like lepers, amid furnishings of barbaric splendor but foul and repulsive. The vile Emperor sits on a throne in ragged, royal robe, glaring down on the throng. Franchezzo catches a glimpse of the Emperor’s backstory: On Earth he was a handsome, charming man with a hard, cruel expression and eyes of a scavenger. The vileness that is so stark and obvious in his spirit body was hidden by the dense trappings of his carnal body. Now everyone here can see the vileness of others, but not their own… with one exception. One man crouches in a corner, fully aware of his own vileness, covering his face with his hood and yearning in his heart for some form of escape from this hell. Franchezzo knows instinctively that this is the man he is here to rescue. He has no idea how, but trusts his invisible spirit guides will open the path and show him the way. The Emperor suddenly notices Franchezzo and insists he approach and join the feast. Franchezzo declines, knowing that a taste of the dense food and proximity to the Emperor would lower his vibration and trap him there with the others. Furious, the Emperor commands his guards to seize him and force-feed him, the spirit from the corner throws himself between Franchezzo and the vicious mob to protect him, and Franchzezzo’s courage and determination create an invisible barrier around them both, protecting them from the vicious onslaught. They back out the door, and strong, invisible arms lift them both away to a place of safety on the dark plain. Four finer beings descend on Franchezzo and his rescued friend, who is now sleeping, and Franchezzo watches in awe as a mist rises from the dark, disfigured body and slowly materializes into a fine, unblemished astral body, which is carried, still sleeping, to finer realms by the four angels… leaving Franchezzo alone once again on the bleak plains of hell.
Ch21. Franchezzo then locates a series of other lost souls to be rescued from this hell:
- In a dark, rocky vault he finds a fiery pit of writhing spirits being prodded by dancing, shouting demons with spears, and he sees the backstory tracing to the Age of Discovery and the Spanish Inquisition. Jesuit missionaries from Spain spent years persuading the peaceful, welcoming natives in South and Central America to convert to Christianity. Their reports of primitive, gentle tribes of hunters and gatherers, who’d amassed great treasures of gold and gems from the rich land, fired the imaginations of shipload after shipload of the most ruthless, self-seeking treasure hunters from Europe, who, under a thin guise of Christianity, tortured and burned thousands of the native Americans at the slightest provocation, and then carted their treasures back to Europe to live in luxury. Now these torturers, unaware of the passage of centuries since their death, still endure fiery sessions created by their own guilt and shame for the unimaginable horrors they imposed on peaceful natives whose spiritual beliefs in a great, creative force were as noble as any other on the planet. Like the Inquisitor in the icy cage (Ch9), the agonized souls of these torturers, writhing in the fire pit, are now themselves being victimized by two types of tormentors: 1) many empty astral shells of native victims who’ve forgiven and moved on but whose soul-less astral shells are still attracted to the torturers, and 2) living spirits of some victims whose vengeance and inability to forgive keep them trapped in this fiery drama in this dark, desolate, unforgiving land. Franchezzo sees the fires subside, and the spirits rise from the smoldering pit to rejoin the community, where much of the drama is subdued. Natives pass along the streets, mingling with people from Spain and other countries. Franchezzo sees one man who’d been among the most ruthless of torturers and who now, deeply shamed by his inhumanity, tries to warn other Jesuits of their errors. This man will eventually reincarnate (return to another lifetime on Earth) to spread empathy and mercy. Meanwhile, the man is stuck in this dark place trying to release the souls of his victims who were dragged down with him.
- Then Franchezzo finds two men, both skin and bone, one with wild, feverish eyes, chained to a wall, and the other watching calmly as the chained man is taunted and tortured by angry spirits. Again Franchezzo sees the backstory: the chained man was one of the torturing judges sent to 17th Century America who returned to a life of luxury in a Spanish palace. Attracted to the beautiful wife of a local merchant, he had the merchant imprisoned for heresy, then kidnapped the wife and her young child. The wife was accidentally killed in the struggle, so he had the child murdered as well. After their deaths, the mother and child quickly forgave and forgot the brutality and got settled in a paradise world in the lighter realms. The imprisoned husband, though, was filled with bitterness and vengeance. When he died in prison, dark spirits taught him how to enter the body of a living man and compel him to kill the torturing judge with a knife, then to drag his spirit down to the dark realm where he could watch him being tortured. His Catholic upbringing has convinced this vengeful husband that he’s now confined in this hell for all eternity. By the time Franchezzo finds him two centuries after his death while in prison, the wife is now living in a light paradise realm. She is well aware of the situation, has never faltered in her love, and prays often for her husband’s release and redemption. Franchezzo’s similar connection to a redeeming love enables him to convince the husband that he can leave this hell and, with earnest work, find his way up to paradise. .. and they leave together from the city.
- A gold-seeker, recently dead, had abandoned his sick comrade and stolen his gold… and is now in the same condition in hell that his comrade was in on Earth: sprawled on the ground, nearly comatose. Franchezzo urges him to rise, to help others, and to begin his ascent to finer realms, but the man is still too wrapped up in his lust for gold and his fear of someone else finding it. As Francezzo turns to go, the man throws a rock at him as a parting shot.
- Deeply depressed and weary from the suffering around him, Franchezzo sits and prays for the safety and well-being of his love on Earth. A brilliant light appears briefly around him, he catches of glimpse of her smiling at him, and he feels revitalized enough to resume his mission.
- Small groups of scrappy, repulsive spirits who had been pirates, highwaymen, slave traders and kidnappers during lifetime now fight viciously among themselves, clawing and biting each other to the point of exhaustion, then moaning on the ground until strong enough to resume fighting. They seem trapped in hopeless brutality until one man crawls to Franchezzo’s feet and begs for water to quench a parched throat and stomach that have been burning for years. With a few drops of his replenishing elixir and some additional healing work, Franchezzo lightens the man’s spirit and removes the pain to the point where he’s able and eager to join Franchezzo in trying to help others.
- The redeemed pirate knows a place of terrible suffering and guides Franchezzo to a vast, dismal sea of black, watery mud covered by an oily slime. Dinosaurs wade in the slime, perch on rocks, and fly overhead. Human spirits can be heard wailing through the dense fog. With great reluctance, Franchezzo wades into the repulsive slime, locates someone, and helps him to shore. His friend plunges eagerly into the slime with wild shouts and yells that Franchezzo finds amusing, and drags another spirit to shore. Together they rescue five of these lost souls, and they all clean themselves up in a clear spring that magically appears nearby. After urging the five rescued souls to start helping others out of the swamp, Franchezzo moves on to new challenges, shadowed closely by his new helper who’s afraid to let Franchezzo out of his sight lest he stay trapped in this hell.
- They rescue several lost souls who’ve fallen into deep chasms below sharp, jagged cliffs, and then they find a forest where thick, sticky wax on tree trunks and slithering vines trap souls of people who on Earth had enjoyed watching the agony of their fellow men, for example, by being torn apart by hungry beasts in arenas. These souls of men and women attracted to abomination now remain stuck in the forest until they get the urge to help another, even at their own peril.
At last Franchezzo realizes he’s done all he can do on this mission. A welcome voice from an invisible source tells him he’s done here for the time being, since most of the spirits he’s now trying to help can’t be rescued and find their way to a finer spiritual level until they feel genuine remorse for their choices and begin to express genuine concern for others.
There certainly seems to be a pattern throughout the first half of the book.
Being kind and thoughtful of others during lifetime pulls us to areas of light and happiness after we die.
Living a self-absorbed life, thoughtless of the suffering of others, pulls us to a gray, dismal afterlife for a while.
People who during lifetime intentionally cause a lot of suffering and who derive pleasure from other people’s suffering consign themselves to the darkest of afterlife realms where unimaginable suffering is the norm. Their vengeful victims can also be pulled into these hellish afterlife scenarios until they can forgive, forget, find inner peace, and move on.
Most important, there’s always a way to leave these dark dramas behind and to migrate to lighter realms:
- Feeling genuine remorse not for our own suffering but for the suffering of others,
- Committing our self to helping or protecting others, and
- Appealing for help from a higher power, which is like a 9-1-1 emergency call to the many networks of rescue workers from many levels of the spirit worlds whose mission is to help lost souls find their way.