The Way We Were: What does happen to us when we die?

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A WHILE ago, this column featured Dr Richard Sandy, the Great Linford rector who talked to angels, and another mystic of local note was Thomas Lake Harris, who was born in 1823 at Water Eaton Mill.

At an early age he moved with his parents to America, and there he became the minister of a chapel in New York. Having earned a certain reputation as a mystic he died in 1906, and among his legacies left the vision of “looking forward to an era of love and liberty and peace, when there shall be visible signs of brotherhood in Christ among all Christian men.”

However, perhaps he meant in the very distant future, for within nine years of his death there would be the most horrific war in human history. In fact a war in which there would be further mysteries, from the ‘Angel of Mons’ to the tale told by a local soldier, who, in a letter to his parents in July 1915, wrote; “There is a big chateau near us which the Germans shell every day, and yet there is one picture they have failed to touch – it is a picture of the Virgin Mary.

The rest of the place is in ruins, and yet they cannot seem to touch that picture. It is very funny, but it is the same in many cases.” Perhaps the Reverend Ernest Sill, the vicar of Little Linford, could provide enlightenment, for in January 1915 at Newport Pagnell he gave a lecture on ‘What happens at death,’ and ‘Our condition after death’ – ‘There will be music and solos between part 1 and 2.’ Included would be the experience of those who had returned after death, and perhaps he recounted the story told to him by his friend Dr Ingram; “A Mother whom he knew well lost her son in an air battle. He fell 13,000 feet. On hearing the news she was broken-hearted. Suddenly she saw her son and felt his arms around her, his lips on hers, and in a voice of indescribable tenderness he said: “No Mummy. I am not allowed to come back to you on earth again,” and vanished.

The Reverend Sill was as equally mysterious in earthly matters, for during the war he had occasion to discuss ‘important matters of national interest’ with the Prime Minister’s secretary at 10, Downing Street. The prediction that the First World War was a war to end all wars sadly proved a little premature, and following the outbreak of the rematch, in 1940 a gentleman from Newport Pagnell caused a minor stir by unearthing what seemed to be a relevant 300 year old prophecy, written in Latin by the ‘Monk Johannes.’

Extracts included; ‘Near the year Two Thousand the Anti Christ will appear. His army will surpass in numbers anything before imagined; there will be Christians among his hordes and many defenders of the lamb. … On the whole of the Christian world there will not be space that will not be red, and the heavens, the earth, the water, and even the air will be red for the blood will flow in the sphere of the four elements at the same time. … The Anti-Christ will be recognisable by several masks.

He will chiefly massacre priests, monks, women and children and old people. He will show no mercy, he will pass along holding a torch, like the barbarians, but invoking the name of Christ. … The white Eagle, which will come from the north, will surprise the black Eagle and the other Eagle will completely invade the land of the Anti-Christ from one end to the other. …

Then an era of peace and prosperity will commence for all the universe, each nation being governed according to its wish and living in justice.’ Oh well, not a bad try, but perhaps his crystal ball got a bit frosted over with the onset of the Cold War.

As for the present troubles, it’s interesting that the recent Wikileak disclosures allude to an atomic device being ready for activation ‘somewhere in Europe.’

For in the 1970s a mystic of international repute ‘foretold’ that regarding trouble in the ‘Middle East’ such an incident would occur in the French capital. Blimey, let’s just hope that the accuracy of fortune telling hasn’t now arrived at the nuclear option.