Love and the Prison Door of Death
Dust, to its narrow house beneath!
Soul to its place on high!
They that have seen thy face in death,
No more may fear to die.
Does the continuity of the life chain remain unbroken at death? While it is instinctive and reasonable to believe in immortality, to many people, belief without supporting proof is like faith that produces only the vague realization of its evidence. Where realization is incomplete there is no sense of certainty; and where there is no sense of certainty, satisfaction is only partially experienced; and where satisfaction is only partially experienced, troublesome doubts haunt the mind with annoying fears, and thus a life that was created with inherent capacities of security becomes insecure and miserable.
Most people fear death in one degree or another. They approach it, not inwardly courageous, but with a sort of dull fatalistic emotion; their fear of it being made bearable by the fact that it is inescapable and that every one must face it alike sooner or later. This is one of the many curious graces of life, of compensation, that dread loses much of its sting when shared by others.
But can immortality be proven to the intellect in the same manner in which a scientist might prove the existence of a natural law? Yes and no. A scientist working with concrete facts before him may arrive at his law and prove it by the facts assembled. For instance, Newton, observing the fall of an apple, began to wonder why it didn’t fall up instead of down. From the observation of this fact, he began his investigations that later brought him to his law of gravitation. To prove this law we have only to toss an object in the air and watch it being drawn back to earth. With immortality, however, the procedure is somewhat different. The fact of death occurs, but contemporary men who pass on fail to return in such a manner as to make their testimony of the hereafter valid and acceptable.
With this problem one may experiment only with one’s self. And while one may prove to one’s self intellectually that the life chain remains unbroken at death, one may not prove this truth to another, because the concrete evidence, the body, once the life force has been withdrawn from it, offers no proof of anything, save that death has occurred. As the light bulb refuses to reveal where the light goes when the switch is pressed, so does the cold body refuse to reveal where the life force goes when the mortal heart has ceased to function.
Reason may give another convincing testimony of survival, but not tangible proof. Take the monumental testimony of Sir Thomas Browne, for example. “There is nothing strictly immortal,” said he, "but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning may be confident to have no end.” That is sound reason based upon scientific deduction, because even the most materialistic mind cannot conceive a beginning of life. And certainly to presume an end for something that had no beginning is, at best, to presume an impossibility. But while convincing reason may give courage by strengthening faith, it can prove nothing to the intellect of another. It may remove the greater part of death’s sting; but it will not remove the gigantic question mark. That must be accomplished in the laboratory of one’s own mind.
There is a way to go about it. A scientific way. I am not the discoverer of this way by any means. Eastern seers have been employing the method for centuries, perhaps. I did, however, get an original realization of the method’s existence some time before I saw it formulated in specific detail. And while I may describe the method to you, I can prove nothing to your intellect, unless you evoke enough interest to apply the method, in which case you will inevitably arrive at your own proof, the only possible way to arrive at proof on this most important question.
By this time it had been noised about the prison that since I had entered the cell of Dad Trueblood I had learned from him the art of getting along with almost everybody, no matter how disagreeable the person was with others. I was not surprised, therefore, and neither was Dad, when one day the warden sent for me and offered me a job in the prison hospital. I found the doctor in the warden’s office when I arrived there. The warden asked me bluntly if I was afraid of death or contagion.
I was able to answer promptly and sincerely, “No, I have no fear of the one nor faith in the other."
He looked at me quizzically for a moment. Then he asked, “Do you mean you don’t believe in death?”
“I believe there is a transition called death,” I replied. “In fact, I know there is. But I have neither fear, faith, nor belief in death as a door that cannot be opened with love and understanding before it is reached in the natural way.”
Have you proven this to your satisfaction?” he asked.
Only upon the evidence of reason, warden. It is my hope to prove it by experience some day without having to wait for the experience of death itself.”
Both the warden and the doctor had evidently pondered deeply on the subject, but both had come to about the same conclusion. They saw in death a scientific fact of life. Beyond that whatever speculations they had entertained had dissipated into a sort of nebulous agnosticism.
I put the question to them both. “Do you believe there is a power higher than that expressed through the brain of man?”
The doctor’s ready answer surprised me, for it was sharply metaphysical and strangely illuminating for a purely medical-minded man. He said he knew there was a power operating in the universe beside which man’s brain was comparatively nothing. “But,” he qualified, “I believe there’s a latent capacity in the brain of man that, if it could be fully utilized, would include all the power existent, both natural and supernatural.”
“You’ve expressed it better than I could, doctor,” I told him. And then the warden told me of a condition in the hospital I already knew about, since it was a common topic throughout the prison.
In the tuberculosis ward was a patient known quite aptly as Poison Jasper. This man was about to wind up a long and arduous career of crime. He was ending it, however, true to his colors. Whatever else could be said of him, he determined to die as he had lived, ferociously, consistent to the end.
For months he had been wasting away. As a patient he was the most ungovernable in the ward. As a man his heart was as bitter and black as any heart could be. His fellow patients feared him. He would laugh and sneer at his dying comrades who sought solace in a last prayer or who called for the prison chaplain in their final hour. He picked arguments with those around him. The doctor avoided the caustic in his tongue whenever he could do so. And the keepers were made constant objects of his vile abuse. There was, of course, no way to discipline the man, since the state law forbade the infliction of punitive punishment on the sick and dying.
When he could not rail and rant at men, he cursed the God in whom he had never believed. He was a fanatical disbeliever and was proud to declare it at any moment the occasion might present itself. Nurse after nurse had been driven from the hospital by his fiendish attacks upon them. Every one about him wished and longed for the day of his demise, a fact which he knew all too well, and which he answered with a tightening of his will to live on in spite of their wishes. One of his most demonistic traits would spring to the surface when some dying patient would send for the chaplain and the latter, because of some one of many possible reasons, would fail to comply. The reason, of course, would be conveyed to the patient.
But Poison Jasper would always scoff at such excuses, as he called them. “The same old alibi,” he would cackle throatily, “a preacher, a man of God, afraid to stick his nose in this ward for fear he’ll breathe one of our germs. He can tell all you human skeletons how to die, all about heaven, what a swell joint it is. But he’d just as soon stay right here. He’s yellow. He’s a rank coward.”
These tirades were palpably unjust; yet he sincerely believed them to be true. He detested any one who evinced fear of the disease that was gradually rubbing out his own life.
Before I accepted the task of trying to tame Poison Jasper, I talked to Dad Trueblood about it.
“Well, it ain’t that I want to lose a good cell-buddy,” he said. “But I don’t aim to meddle in your destiny. Every experience presented to us holds something for us, if we’ll only open our eyes and try to find it. Go on up and do your best for them poor devils. You can’t lose anything, and you might gain a lot.”
Old Dad Trueblood possessed an authentic sense of prophecy that I had learned by this time to heed. I expressed doubt, however, as to my ability to handle the situation.
“Lissen,” Dad said thoughtfully, “Old Jasper’s just a poor misguided and misunderstood child. Put love in your eye for him, and then make him look at it. You’ll probably be surprised at the result.”
In the event I found it hard to evoke that love, he explained how I might accomplish it. But first he quoted a passage from Young:
“Men drop so fast, ere life’s mid stage we tread,
Few know so many friends alive as dead.”
“Those who now hate Old Jasper most,” he went on, “will be unable to hold that hate when they look upon his still features. In the presence of the dead the faults of the past are dissolved and the virtues of the past are resurrected. So just look at Old Jasper and imagine that the Almighty has closed his weary lids and forgiven all the human errors and weaknesses. In the presence of the dead the faults that once were are dissolved and the virtues that were are resurrected. So just look at Old Jasper and imagine he’s no more. The love of which I spoke will well up in you and your eyes will become its windows.”
He also explained what I was later to learn in a most significant and helpful way, that tubercular patients were acutely sensitive to the opinions of others, expressed or unexpressed. That they could detect the faintest tremor of fear on the part of the nurse, and this they resented, because it weakened the hope they desired to retain to the end. If the nurse himself was afraid of their disease, what hope had they of becoming cured?
“To,” Dad added, “some of the cases will have a purely imaginary basis. If your actions are fearless and your hints to them convincing and constructive, you might succeed in supplanting the sick thought in their minds with a well thought strong enough to set their minds to building new bodily tissue faster than the germs can destroy it. With this hope will likewise become stronger; faith will increase; the will to survive will take on renewed persistence; bodily resistance will grow in proportion; and as the power of resistance increases the destructive power of the germs will decrease. T.B. germs don’t thrive on resistance, but on a lack of it.” When I walked into the ward the next night, I was immediately conscious of the strained, fearful and suspicious atmosphere of the place. With me I had brought an old copy of Volney’s “Ruins of Empire.” Dad had told me to give it to Jasper, and to tell him casually that one of his old cronies had asked me to bring it in to him. I was to mention, also, that he must keep the book hidden when the keeper was around; that it was a book on the chaplain’s restriction list; and that if it was discovered that I had brought it to him, I would be thrown into the dungeon for breaking this rule.
Jasper mumbled something in a grudging tone about his not being the kind of a rat who would knife a man who favored him. I had nothing to fear on that score. But he was obviously suspicious of me as he had been of all the other nurses who had preceded me. I could plainly see that he was determined not to show any signs of friendliness toward me. But the book incident had disarmed him, and he was forced, unwillingly of course, to at least respect a man who would gamble with the dungeon in order to do him, a total stranger, a good turn.
For several nights I was aware that Jasper watched me like an evil cat waiting for a justifiable opportunity to pounce upon its prey. It was a game of wits I played with him. I parried with all the skill I had at my command to forestall the opening he sought. My second victory over him was scored on the night my first patient passed on.
The dying man had begged for the chaplain to come over and administer last minute prayers and spiritual consolation. But, unfortunately, the chaplain was away from the prison at the time. Knowing what Jasper would have to say when this disheartening news came back, I had prepared for the event. I had taken up a position at the foot of Jasper’s bed, and was standing there looking down at him when the keeper came with the message—I was looking down at him and reasoning in my heart that I stood before a potential Christ. In fact, I knew I was standing before a potential Christ. The only difference was that Christ had used the media of love to create a useful life, while Jasper had used it to create a misspent life. Plainly, under such circumstances of reasoning, Jasper, not being so fortunate as Christ, deserved sympathy instead of censure, love instead of hate. This feeling consumed me as I stood there. Just as the keeper informed the dying patient that the chaplain was away at the time, Jasper looked me squarely in the eye, opened his mouth to unlimber a bitter epithet, then turned his eyes from mine without speaking.
“I’ve never said many prayers,” I told him in a confidential tone, “but I’ve a notion to try it for that poor guy. If doing that much will make things seem a little easier for him, I believe I’d feel pretty much like a cad not to do it. What do you think, Jasper?”
He made no comment. But he studied me intently as I lifted the patient in my arms and asked him to follow my words in his mind. The man died in this position, apparently comforted by the awkward but sincere prayer of a layman. His head had dropped against my shoulder, somewhat in the manner of a tired babe falling to sleep.
It was this test of my disregard for the disease that convinced Jasper I had no fear of it. It also convinced all my other patients, and because of this incident the morale of the patients was lifted to a marked degree.
From that moment on until Jasper’s hour to go had arrived, there was no more trouble with him during my time on duty. In the day time, however, he made no such voluntary concessions as he had reluctantly conceded to me.
Jasper died about two o’clock one morning. He died without any apparent fear or pain. His mind was active and he was able to whisper right up to the last minute left him. He asked for no spiritual consolation, and he indicated no complaint.
Ten minutes before the end came his body began to relax. The hard brutal lines on his wasted face softened, and the eyes that had burned so feverishly and fiercely in their sunken black sockets, became softly brilliant, like a pair of luminous twin stars. Standing directly in front of him, I seemed unable to hold his gaze. While his eyes were fastened directly on me, they appeared to be fastened on something through and far beyond me. He beckoned feebly and I sat down on the edge of his bed.
“I’m dying,” he whispered.
Of course I knew he spoke the truth, but I awkwardly sought to reassure him.
“Don’t be a fool,” he murmured. “I see it all there as plain as day.”
“Where? What?” I asked, leaning eagerly toward his lips for the answer.
“I tell you I’m dying,” he repeated, ignoring my query. “I tell you I can see-----” His eyes rolled
upward and the lids partly closed over them.
This incident I put down as a deathbed visual hallucination, and allowed it to pass quickly from my thoughts. Then several days later, during my sleep period, I was awakened out of a dream that had to do with this patient. It seemed that I had failed in my effort to draw the lids over his eyes. I dozed off again and immediately I began dreaming of the garden and the Christ Who walked there. This time the words He spoke were clearly audible. These words were first in my mind when again I had awakened. One phrase was, “Lift up thine eyes to Heaven,” and the other, “Let thine eye be single.”
The dream itself seemed to have no special significance; nor was it unusual. Doubtless many persons have had similar dreams. It was the channel of thought it opened up that stirred me so profoundly. An observation I had made numerous times before of a sudden became sharply provocative.
Why was it, I thought, that during the transition from life to death the eyeballs turned upward instead of downward?
I began to probe into the question in search of a reasonable answer. Certainly the action was contrary to nature. The well-trained muscles that controlled the movement of the eyeballs were adjusted to only two natural positions, the level position, and the downward position. Rolling the eyeballs up was neither natural nor an easy feat to accomplish even by force. It seemed quite singular, therefore, that in death the eyeballs would ignore natural custom and roll up instead of down, thus making an exception to a life-long rule of following the habit of least resistance. That death brought muscular relaxation failed, as it seemed to me, to account for the phenomenon.
Later, as I continued to ponder the matter, I came into possession of a fugitive piece of reading material. And this in itself was strange, although such relative things do seem to have a peculiar way, often a most curious way, of finding those in search of that particular type of information sought.
In this paper the author told how when the eyes were down as in ordinary sleep, we drifted through dream states evolved from the subconscious reservoir of memory. When the eyes were level, as in our waking hours, we were living in the conscious state of being. When the eyeballs were lifted upward in meditation, we entered into the superconscious realm. The paper, also, gave a detailed system for practice which I promptly began to follow.
TRUTHUNITY NOTE. Starr Daily does not reveal the name of this "fugitive piece of reading material" but the reference to subconscious, conscious and superconscious states of mind indicate it may be Unity. Unity magazine in July 1918 (p.52) and in March 1924 (p.253) ties the practice of rolling the eyes upward to David "going up to Hebron" in II Samuel 5:1. Starr Daily was likely reading Unity materials in 1924.
My practice was carried on in a darkened room while I lay flat on my back without pillows. It took me many days to so train the unaccustomed muscles that controlled the movement of the eyeballs before I could make them respond to my wishes easily and free of strain, that is, before I could lift my eyeballs and hold them in that position without their tiring or becoming fluttery.
When I had accomplished this a most surprising thing happened. I sat down one night to snatch a brief period of meditation. Closing my eyes, I began to think about the many things that had come to me of late for which to feel grateful. As I continued to enumerate them silently, I felt an irresistible tugging sensation in my eyes, and presently, without conscious effort on my part, I was aware that my eyeballs were being drawn upward toward a single focal point in the center of my forehead. On this point they became riveted. As they did so, the effect was that of turning on an electric switch. The entire front part of my head became illuminated with brilliant multicolored light. In comparison the light of the sun was as a white beam beside a radium dial; a candle beside a lighthouse beacon.
To me the discovery was a sublime revelation. I became immersed in the boundless luminosity of it. The consciousness of self vanished in it. I no longer appeared as an individualized speck in the universal scheme of things. I was the universe itself, with all its limitless freedom, its endless expansion, its blissful enchantment. A mighty symphony of celestial music seemed to vibrate through my uncurbed being. I saw and heard what Poison Jasper saw and heard when he told me not to be a fool, that he saw it all as plain as day. I saw more, I saw my own body, inert, motionless, apparently lifeless, and I had compassion on those who were compelled to live in such cramped quarters as the body I had inhabited, and now looked upon from a perspective vantage point of limitless freedom and joy.
By and by the luminosity began to gather into a unity of one color, a mauve purple, and out of this there presently appeared at the spot where my eyes were riveted, a perfectly pointed star. It presented the illusion of vast distance, although it appeared quite near. When I opened my eyes, the keeper was shaking my arm and informing me that a patient was in need of attention. He thought I had fallen asleep. But I hadn’t. I had never been so much awake. In that brief moment I had proven to my intellect that I possessed an immortal soul. In that short period of time, I received the secret in the Master’s words uttered to me in a dream. I knew what He meant when He said “Lift up thine eyes to Heaven.” I knew in that star between my eyes I had found the eye that is forever single.
I’ve died twice daily and once nightly since that first discovery. Three times during the twenty-four hours I induce the little death in exchange for a few moments of the boundless life.
As I plainly stated at the beginning of this chapter, immortality can be proven to the intellect in a scientific way and by a scientific method. But I cannot, nor can any one else, prove it to the intellect of another. I say again, it is not my desire to prove, but to describe. To those of you, however, who have feared death, and who have doubted the unbroken continuity of life, I can assure you that a little effort will give to you the proof that it gave to me; and perhaps at a much less expenditure of effort, for I, like Poison Jasper, can hardly be considered a person with unusual psychic development. I’m not. I’ve lived a hard doubting, skeptical life. Even now I come from superconscious meditations doubting many of the very things I’ve realized there. Had I been more sensitive to the cosmic influences than I am, my spiritual conflict would have been over with the discovery just recounted. But the human animal is still very much alive in me, and I have still many arresting habits that must be sublimated before the smoke of Armageddon’s war ceases to roll in blotting clouds across my mind.
But if you need more than the evidence of faith, if you are one of those persons who are compelled by nature to find your way by reason and experiment, as I am; if you need intellectual proof, if you must realize immortality through actual experience here and now, if you really care to contact the fourth dimension by a conscious method and explore for yourself the vast realm of superconsciousness—I repeat, if you are sincerely interested, enough so to make the little effort necessary, then you need search no farther for the means to that end. It is in your hands. You have only to use it. No information is worth an iota to the person who merely receives it and does not apply it.
This chapter has been read in manuscript by several persons of varying faiths and schools of thought, including one occultist and an orthodox minister. By the latter I was informed that no one should dare to experiment in this manner, that one should not deliberately meddle in destiny.
Not in another person’s destiny, perhaps, but in your own destiny—by all means.
The occultist informed me in the most sonorous tones that I had stumbled upon a secret that had been known to Eastern seers for centuries. I didn’t stumble upon it. It was attracted to me when I was ready to use it. One of the very seers he mentioned authored the paper that came into my hands and gave me the method I later used successfully. The same seer is today busy trying to give the method to others.
Another bit of information my occultist critic gave me was, “You should guard this wisdom lest it fall into the hands of others—others who in their ignorance or avarice might misuse it.”
Now of course I’m no seer nor adept. I’ve lived no life of renunciation or strict austerity. I’ve just blundered along through life like fate, taking the hard knocks that invariably accompany unintelligent living, and finally after a long time waking up to the fact that there was such a thing as plain mule sense in the world for any one who wanted to use it.
This mule sense tells me, despite the warning of my occult friend, that neither knowledge nor wisdom can be misused. To have wisdom is to have a realization of truth, and to have a realization, a consciousness of truth, is to be uplifted by it. In my humble opinion, the capacity to receive truth is God’s guarantee against its misuse; and surely any guarantee of God’s is man’s opportunity to rise, not sink.
I was reminded, likewise, that one should knock at the door of superconsciousness inspired only by the highest motives, thus revealing to me that he had never remotely approached true superconscious being. The methods employed to open this door are of no importance whatever, save as a means to an end. The motive may be the worst form of selfishness, an idle sense of curiosity. The important thing is to open the door. Once opened, and during the stay therein, human motives vanish, all low human qualities and characteristics become wholly and completely dissolved in the illimitable sea of all-pervading truth.
Immersed in this sea all meditation becomes impersonal; the finite aspect of love falls away as universal love closes in around you. You think without being conscious of thinking, you feel without being conscious of feeling, you receive without appearing to receive. Always you come out of these meditations a better spiritual entity than when you entered.
And since the ultimate purpose of life is to grow spiritually, I disagree with those who would tell you not to meddle in your own destiny; not to approach the door that leads to life eternal.
1935 Edition Printed by DeVorss & Co., Publishers
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