BEYOND THE THRESHOLD

Deathbed scenes

- Scene 9 -
Bishop Martin


 

13 August 1847

 
 
A
bishop, who had always been very conspicuous for his dignity as well as his dogmas, fell ill for the last time.
 
 
He, who even still as an assistant priest, had been wont to paint the joys of heaven in the oddest colors and to describe the delights and bliss in the realm of the angels with great enthusiasm, not forgetting to mention hell and purgatory, did not yet desire, even as an old man of almost eighty, to take possession of his much praised heaven. He would have preferred another thousand years on this earth to a future heaven with all its delights and bliss.
 
 
Therefore, our sick bishop did everything in his power to restore his health. He had to be surrounded by the best physicians. Powerful masses had to be celebrated in all the churches of his diocese; all the sheep of his flock were asked to pray for his life. In his sick-room an altar had been erected at which mass had to be celebrated three times every morning to help restore his health, whereas, in the afternoon, three of the most pious monks had to keep praying the breviary in front of the consecrated host.
 
 
He himself kept uttering: "Oh Lord, have mercy upon me! Holy Mary, beloved mother, help me! Have mercy upon my dignity and grace as prince-bishop for your Son's glory! Oh, do not forsake your most faithful servant, you helper in need, you sole support of the afflicted!" But all this did not help. Our man fell into a coma from which he did not awaken again in this world.
 
 
You know of the "highly important", ceremonial for a deceased bishop, and we need not waste any time with its description. Instead, let us look around in the spirit world to see what our man will be doing there.
 
 
Look, here we are - and there our man can be seen still lying on his bed; while the heart is still warm the angel does not sever the soul from the body. This warmth constitutes the nerve spirit, which has to be wholly absorbed by the soul before complete severance can be undertaken.
 
 
At last this man's soul has completely absorbed the nerve spirit and the angel is severing it from his body with the words: "Ephetha - arise thou soul, but thou dust revert to thy decomposition through the kingdom of vermin and decay. Amen."
 
 
Already you see our bishop rising in his full bishop's robes, just as during his lifetime, and he opens his eyes. He looks around in astonishment, not seeing anybody, not even the angel who awakened him. The surroundings are visible only in a fading light, as of late dusk, and the ground seems to be covered with dry alpine moss.
 
 
Our man is not a little astonished at this unusual situation and says to himself: "What is this? Where am I? Am I still alive or have I died? I must have been seriously ill, and it is quite possible that I am already among the deceased! Oh, for God's sake, this must be so! Oh holy Mary, St. Joseph, St. Ann you, my three most powerful helpers, come and help me into the Kingdom of Heaven!"
 
 
He waits for a while, looking around carefully to see from which direction the three will be coming, but they do not come. Recalls once more, this time louder, and waits; but still nobody approaches.
 
 
For the third time he calls, louder still, but again in vain.
 
 
Now our man begins to feel very scared. He realizes his desperate situation and says: "Oh, for God's sake, Lord, help me! (This is only his habitual phrase.) What does this mean? I have called three times and no response!"
 
 
"Am I damned? How can that be, for I do not see any fire nor any devil?"
 
 
"Oh, oh, oh (trembling). It is truly terrible! So alone! Oh God, if one of these devils turned up now while I'm without a consecrated font or crucifix what will I do?"
 
 
"And the devil is said to be particularly keen on bishops. Oh, what a desperate situation! I believe the howling and gnashing of teeth is already upon me!"
 
 
"I will discard my bishop's robe, so the devil will not recognize me. But maybe that would give him even more power over me! Oh, what a terrible thing death is!"
 
 
"If at least I were quite dead, then I would not be afraid, but this being alive after death is so terrible!"
 
 
"I wonder what would happen if I walked on? No, no, I'd rather stay here. What consequences a step in the dark might have only God knows. Therefore, I would rather remain here until Doomsday, in the name of God and the Blessed Virgin!"
 
 
The further events and the guidance of this in his way quite pious man will be shown in the following.
 
 
The above death scene is the opening chapter of the work "Bishop Martin" (English title "Sunsets into Sunrises"), which describes the guidance of a bishop from his transition into the world beyond until his heavenly perfection.
 
 
What happened to the bishop after these first experiences made in the world beyond after his death? He began to be more and more bored, a whole eternity seemed to have passed and he was glad when finally he had company in Peter, who was his spirit guide and whom he mistook for a colleague. Peter instructed Martin, gave him advice in accordance with the Gospel and encouraged him to perform services, each of which was of a nature as to aid Martin in overcoming his former weaknesses carried over from his earthly life. Then the guide left him, so as not to influence Martin when making his decisions.
 
 
Gradually, Martin comes to think that he was forsaken by his guide and becomes more and more enraged because of it. Instead of wanting in all humility the "path in the name of the Lord" pointed out to him by the guide, he turns to the "evening" and in the vicinity of the "midnight" region stumbles into an ever-growing night and darkness. In this soul condition he becomes lost in a marshy region. Finally, in utter despair, he arrives at the shore of a sea, where he can go neither forward nor backward. In this hopeless situation, the Lord Himself in the person of a friendly skipper comes to his aid and lets him enter his rescue boat.
 
 
A dialogue ensues which reveals the condition of Martin's inner soul state and, finally, leads him to self-recognition, repentance and to turning back.
 
 
In the following an excerpt of the dialogue (Chapters 13-17):
 
 
(The Lord as the skipper replies to Martin, who complains bitterly of the injustice of his fate: "It may be disagreeable to be on your own for quite a long period; however, such a prolonged solitude is really most beneficial. It gives one plenty of time to reflect on one's follies, to detect them and rid oneself of them altogether. (...) Therefore, your state of loneliness, though most unpleasant, was actually beneficial for your character. For the Lord of all beings looked after you and showed great patience with you."
 
 
"I am quite aware of the fact that in the world you were a Roman bishop and that, although in your heart you did not care about them, you attended to your heathenish, idolatrous duties with pedantic strictness. However, how could this be of any value since, as you know, God looks only at the heart? Besides, you were arrogant and tyrannical and, notwithstanding your vows of celibacy, you were too fond of the flesh of women. Can you imagine that God would look kindly on acts like those?" (…)
 
 
Did you ever say in your heart: "Let the little ones come to me? Oh, no! Only the great personages counted with you! Or did you ever take into your home a destitute child in the Lord's name, and clothed or fed it? How many naked did you clothe? How many hungry did you feed? How many prisoners did you free? ... I did not know of any! However, I do know of thousands whom you imprisoned spiritually; and you often deeply wounded the poor by your curses and damnation. At the same time, you gave dispense upon dispense to the great and rich - for money, of course! And only in exceptional cases was it free of charge - to the very important people, to impress them. Do you seriously believe that God could look with favor upon your acts and that, after your physical death, you would be admitted to heaven right away?"
 
 
"I am not telling you all this in order to judge you, but merely to convince you that the Lord did not wrong you, if He apparently withdrew from you here; and that only His mercy saved you from being thrust into hell immediately after your death, much as you deserved it."
 
 
Think this over and do not abuse your guide, but realize, in all humility, that you do not deserve the Lord's mercy at all. For, if even the most faithful servants are to consider themselves bad and
 
 
useless, how much more does this apply to you, who has never done a thing in accordance with God's will!"
 
 
(The bishop:) "It is absolutely true, but what could I now do about it? I now feel the deepest contrition about all I did, but it can never be undone, and thus my guilt and sin remain as the seed and root of death. How could I in my sin find mercy with the Lord?"
 
 
"I realize that I am ripe for hell, and there is nothing I can do about it, except that, perhaps, the Lord would grant me another life on earth where I could make up for my wrongdoings as much as possible. Or, since I am so terribly afraid of hell, maybe the Lord could place me as the very least being in some comer for all eternity where, as a farmer, I could make a meager living with my own two hands. I would not expect to attain to any higher degree of beatitude, being aware that I am much too unworthy for even the lowest sphere of heaven."
 
 
"This is how I feel about it. In the world it might be rather hopeless, as the general trend is evil all through, making it almost impossible to do good, as you have to baffle against the current like a swimmer."
 
 
"Not that I mean He (the Almighty) should consider my guilt less serious, but the fact that the world is what it is and that you cannot help it even if you would like to and, therefore, eventually cease trying, should carry some weight?"
 
 
"My dearest rescuer, do not be cross with me for what I have said, as this is the way I have seen things until now. Judging from your words, you are full of divine wisdom and will be able to tell me what I should do to at least save myself from hell."
 
 
"I assure you that, as demanded by you, I forgive my former guide with all my heart! For I was only annoyed with him because I couldn't understand what he actually planned to do with me. If he came along now, I would, for your sake, embrace him like a son would embrace his long-lost father."
 
 
(The Lord as the skipper): "Listen carefully to what I shall tell you!"
 
 
"I know very well what the world is like, and if it had not always been like that, the Lord would not have been crucified. Therefore, the Lord's words, as quoted in the Gospel, have once and for all to be applied where the world is concerned, namely:
 
 
In these days, that is, the time of this world - the kingdom of heaven needs force; only those who apply force will possess it. However, you my friend, have never applied this moral force where the kingdom of heaven is concerned. Therefore, do not accuse the world too much, for I know that you were at all times more concerned with the world than with the spirit. In this respect, you were one of the chief opponents of enlightenment, an enemy of the Protestants, whom you persecuted for alleged heresy with bitter hatred." (...)
 
 
"I do hope you will understand that in this world nothing counts but pure truth combined with eternal love and all your excuses are futile except your Mea quam maxima culpa (my greatest possible guilt). You must admit that God alone knows the world in its minutest detail from eternity. Therefore, it is absurd of you to try and describe the world to the Lord, in defense of your attitude, for His consideration, without realizing that you were one of those mainly responsible for the world's deterioration."
 
 
"To what extent you, as a prisoner of the world, deserve consideration, it will be afforded you. What the world owes you before God will be only a minor account. However, your debt will not be so negligible unless you repent and confess that you - who have always been bad - can do absolutely nothing, but the Lord alone can redeem and forgive you."
 
 
"You have a great fear of hell because your conscience tells you that this is where you belong, and you think God will throw you into hell like a stone into a chasm. But you do not realize that you fear only your imagined hell, whilst you enjoy being inside the real one."
 
 
"Behold, all your thoughts so far represented were more or less hell literally. For wherever there is a spark of egoism, arrogance and blaming of others, there is hell; where carnal desire has not been dispelled voluntarily, there is still hell. As all this is still part of you, you are still very much in hell. Do you see how idle your fear is?"
 
 
"The Lord, who has mercy with all beings, wants to save you from this hell and not condemn you deeper into it - as per your Roman maxim. Therefore, don't claim the Lord may say to those who want to go to hell: "If you insist on going to hell, let it be so!" This is a sacrilegious claim! Though you do not wish to renounce hell, when did you ever hear the Lord condemn you to it?"
 
 
"Ponder over these, my words, and change your attitude accordingly, and I will pilot this boat that it will take you away from your hell into the realm of life. So be it!"
 
 
(The bishop) "Oh, my dear friend, I must admit to my regret that you are right in every detail and I do see now that I have no excuse whatsoever and am alone responsible for everything that has happened. But I would like to learn from you where you are taking me and what my lot will be for eternity."
 
 
(The skipper) "Ask your heart, your love! What does it say? What does it say? What does it desire? When your love will have given a definite answer to your query, your lot will have been decided within you. For everyone is judged by his own love or desire."
 
 
(Bishop Martin:) "Oh friend, if I were judged by my love, only God knows where I would get to! For my mind is still like that of a fashion-crazy woman, who has a choice of hundreds of dress materials and is unable to make up her mind which to take. An innermost feeling draws me towards God, my Creator. But then my numerous great sins get in the way and make the realization of this wish seem impossible."
 
 
"Then I remember those sheep and lambs of this world (the young women of his first test in the beyond) and that it wouldn't be unpleasant at all to live with such sheep in eternity. But an inner voice warns me that it would never bring me nearer to God, it would rather take me further away. Thus, also this pet idea of mine sinks into this fathomless sea."
 
 
"Once more the thought comes to my mind that I could live as a simple farmer in some comer of this eternal spirit world and maybe once be granted the favor of seeing Jesus, even if only for a moment. But then my conscience again reminds me that I am not worthy of such a great honor - and I sink back into my sinful insignificance before Him, the Most Holy!"
 
 
"Only one idea seems to me the least difficult to realize, and I must admit it has now turned out to be my pet idea - namely, to stay with you through all eternity, wherever you may go. Although in the world I could not stand those at all who dared face me with the truth, I have come to love you very much, as you have told the truth to my face like a wise but mild judge. To this pet idea of mine I would stick in eternity!"
 
 
(The skipper:) "All right, if that is your main love, of which you will still have to convince yourself, this can be realized immediately. We are not far off the shore now and quite near the hut where I live. You are aware of my trade by now - that I am a pilot in the truest sense of the word. You can take part in my business and in my little plot of land, which we shall work diligently in our free time to provide our livelihood. And if you now look, you will find somebody beside you, who will stick to us faithfully."
 
 
For the first time on this voyage, the bishop turns around and immediately recognizes the angel Peter. He embraces him, asking his forgiveness for insulting him. Peter reciprocates with the same love and praises the choice the bishop's heart has made.
 
 
The boat has meanwhile reached the shore, is tied to a post and the three enter the hut.
 
 
So far it has been rather dark. Inside the hut, the light seems to increase and a pleasant dawn gradually banishes the darkness of night. This, of course, takes place only before the eyes of the bishop, as it is always the brightest, everlasting and unchangeable day for the Lord, as well as for the angel Peter.
 
 
The reason why it begins to dawn also for the bishop, is that love began to emerge in his heart because, through My mercy, he had, of his own free will, thrown out a lot of worldly filth and was still continuing the process.
 
 
(The remainder can be read in the book "Sunsets into Sunrises, Bishop Martin - The Progress of a Soul in the Beyond" through Jakob Lorber.)