Melbourne and Mars/Chapter 4

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Strange Dreams.

WRITING in the year sixty-three, his forty-fifth year, Jacobs tells of a few months of illness and of a low nervous condition into which he drops as a result of that illness. He never entirely recovers. He is often absent-minded, and he needs much more sleep than he used to require. His hard life has evidently told upon him, and the grand climateric has come early.

He writes:—"I had a strange dream last night, a series of strange sensations mostly painful and terribly real. I was struggling in the dark towards some end, and great forces were pitching behind and around me, and I, ever trying to escape, worked in the same direction, until at last I emerged into a blaze of light and a cold air that made me pant and gasp for a long time until I got relief, and cried out loudly for help. No sooner had I called than strong and gentle hands grasped me, and using soothing appliances made me comfortable, and then in my dream I went to sleep."

This experience is never repeated, but for several months he dreams that he is a little child, and all the time, his surroundings are the same. He is frequently listening to sounds that he only understands in part and to music which be tries to imitate. No sooner is he asleep than he is on the knees of a gentle giantess, whom he learns to call mother. Sometimes he appears to pass hours lying on soft, white substances, and playing with any little object that he can grasp. A Few months after the first, of his strange dreams we find the record of his idea.

"I am at length forced to the conclusion that I have been been somewhere else, and am living the life of a happy, healthy baby in a most comfortable and cheerful home. Everything is built to that scale. The people about me are giants in relation to me because of my own littleness, I know several people, and am talked to and played with by first one then another. I am never tossed about, no one ever frightens me. I am learning to talk, and begin to understand much of what is said to me. I can get about in a tumbling sort of way, and might walk if I did not get tripped up by so many things. There is a bright warm fire, but I can never reach it. I am even puzzled to know where I am. There are certainly many things about me that would not be about me if I were a baby in Melbourne, or in any country that I know. Were I to tell anyone that I am at once a man of middle and a baby in the arms, I should be regarded as qualified for a lunatic asylum. Am I in what is called dotage? Do old people who become childish do so because they are children elsewhere?"

The diaries now contain scarcely anything but a record of what he no longer regards us a dream. He says little of business, and not much of domestic life. He only works a few hours daily, and is frequently absent-minded. He attends spiritualistic meetings and reads the literature of people who try to pierce the clouds surrounding birth, life and death. He analyses his memories and feelings, and comes to the conclusion that he is living a dual life, but is only half conscious of its duality, inasmuch as he can remember here what occurs in the new life, but cannot in the new life remember anything that happens in the old one.

He philosophizes thus;—"Are all children rejuvenations, and is the old life always forgotten in the new one? Is the soul always rising on a new life when setting on an old one? If so, what becomes of the souls of infants and those of people killed by accident early in life? Is the memory of the previous life or lives always obliterated by death and birth or by birth and death, which ever happens first? Do our odd sensations and impressions regarding people and places arise from an imperfect memory of something that we passed through in a previous life? We meet a stranger and at once like or dislike in an unreasoning manner: is that stranger one who has strongly influenced us for good or evil in some previous existence? We come to a place that we have never visited and find it quite familiar; we expect at the next turn of the road, a tree, house, or lake, and lo: it is there: is this a memory that has survived?"

He reads stories of ubiquity and wonders if it is common for people to be in two places at one time. About this, too, he makes remarks, but these are not quoted here, as he speaks with fuller knowledge later on. He has already got to thinking that there is more in birth, life and death than appears on the surface. He thinks that fissipation may be a possibility.

"There are lives capable of division. Split the living organism into two and they each begin an individual life. Instead of killing by division we have made one creature into two. Is this in some way possible in higher structures? Have I undergone the process known to naturalists as fissipation?

Meanwhile the days go on and the dream that has taken such a hold upon the life of our hero is unfolding itself rapidly. If he is living two lives there is a great difference between them. One is almost devoid of events of note and changes; the other passes into new experiences and fresh knowledge daily. He runs about now and talks and plays with other children and finds something new to see and think about every day. He is a very happy child in dreamland and there he is not conscious of his duality—not yet.

One morning he wakes up with the knowledge that he is two years old. There has been a gathering of several of his playfellows; there has been music and games during a pleasant summer afternoon, his mother and father looking on and joining in the fun. Several friends, too, have called and all have reminded him that he is two years old. He turns back the pages of his diary, and finds that his dream life has lasted nearly four years: how is it then that he is only two years old in the new life?

Had he been born into some part of the world where time is reckoned differently? That cannot be: a year is a year wherever time is reckoned, there may be differences in the naming of months; may be differences in the time of commencing the year, numbering of the years, and other minor particulars, but the duration of the year is the same, a child has not to live nearly four years in order to be two years old. In China a child is called one year old when born, but he is conscious that he is not in China, and conscious, too, that he is amongst people who are exceptionally happy and prosperous, who are very beautiful to look upon; who are never sick or weary, never poor nor ill-clad, and whose surroundings are harmonious and pleasant in a high degree. The people themselves also never quarrel nor say bitter things of each other when absent. Where on the Earth can this state of things be found? What child can live through infancy without seeing something of sickness, pain, poverty; without knowing something of vice or evil speaking?

"Where am I?" says our hero; are my sleeping hours spent in Heaven? That cannot be, for heaven is an abode of spirits and my dreamland is an abode of tangible bodies, I have an active, healthy little body as anyone could wish; and my father and mother, my playfellows and friends, and all the things around us, are real enough and familiar to me. And yet life is different and the people are different, and there are many things about that would not be found in the best houses in Melbourne or in London. Our fires are warm and bright and keep the rooms pleasant, and yet they never burn anything. In royal households, so far as I know there are no such fires. At night we have no lamps and yet light comes from luminous points in walls and ceilings, and can I only once remember being in the dark and then I had done a rare thing—had wakened in the night.

Am I on Earth? If so not in any part I have heard or read of. I am not in the Christian's Heaven, for I am not dead; on the contrary I appear to be too much alive; to be living two lives while the majority of the people have to be content with one. There must have been a millenium where I have strayed to; for all the imaginings of the poets and dreamers are more than realized; there is no sin nor sorrow where I live—but I am only two years old and it has taken me nearly four years to reach that age—where am I?"

This is the first time that Jacobs asks his whereabouts; the dates have set him off. The answer to his question becomes easy enough in a while and we will not run into future pages of his diary in order to answer his question now.

A few days after this strange second birthday we find a report of a talk with his mother. The mother appears to be the leading spirit in the daily life of the family, of his dream father we hear little. He describes himself as standing by his mother's knee in an oval-shaped room, an upper room of a strangely-shaped house. Not strange in shape to the child, but to the man. Her hand is toying with his curls and she is saying—"My dear boy is now two years old and has therefore reached the age of moral responsibility. He is no longer an infant, but a child who understands many things and knows when he is doing right. He can always appeal to mother for counsel and help; but he is now accounted as responsible to his own conscience and to the Giver of all Good for his actions. So far my boy's life has been all happiness and pleasure; he has not known that wrong is possible, nor that there are such things as temptation and sin. His life will probably be spent amongst good people who are devoid of pride and envy, but temptation of some kind is sure to arise and my boy will have to do right under all circumstances. As he is two years of age my boy must begin his educational course also. This will begin to-morrow.

"Did you go to school when you were two, mother?"

"Yes, I did."

"And how old are you now, mother?"

"I am nearly fourteen. There, now, my boy can go and play with Emma for a little while, and he will join Hildreth's class tomorrow."

This is the first mention of his sister Emma, who is at this period half his age. He mentions no older child, so he must have been the first born in dreamland.