26 June, 1918
A battle field as it is seen from the other side. There is nothing of the din and smoke, and the physical horror, those don't matter at all, insofar as the impression of them remains in the minds of those who come over. My first impression is of chaos of forms striving, each striving to free himself, he does not know from what, he does not know what he is striving towards.
Our work is to help them, and I wonder if you can understand how that help is carried out. In reality we have to give them the thoughts and feelings that will help them, first of all sympathy, then the feeling that we understand and can explain things, so that they will trust us and allow us to help them. In reality it is those thoughts and feelings that we give and we have to think jolly hard to see what each one really needs, and give it to him.
But in appearance we have to do a great deal to make things easy for their minds. There is a certain amount of harmless pretence, more than harmless, helpful; if they are mortally wounded they are still anxious about the wound, they can't realize that it is left behind with the body, the thought form of their broken body is with them, and we have to humor their illusion; they get the impression of all sorts of marvelous dressings, of doctors with unheard of abilities to close up wounds however desperate, and to start them healing, and of strange new ointments to take away the pain.
This is like suggestion, only it appeals to something they already know, their knowledge of themselves which is underneath the conviction in the foreground that they are still wounded and in pain, and nearly all of them are undeveloped they have these thought forms, these symbols, created for them to represent the real healing of their troubles that is going on.
They are truly wounded spirits, because the body wound is a shock to the spirit, and the spirit carries over with it the sense of that shock, and naturally can only think of it through the symbol of the body. So the though form of the shattered physical frame is with them, and in a way we can see it, in a way it is like dealing with bodies; it is rather like the way that you might dress a wound in a dream, if you suppose that in your dream you know all the time that it is not a wound in concrete flesh, but that it is a thought form for a different wound, for the shock of the spirit.
So all spirit life for some little time after separation from the body is in a word full of bodily shapes. But they are like the shapes in dreams. They are there because they are thoughts.
Those who are killed quite suddenly - shot through the heart or the head, or suddenly stunned with a concussion from which they don't recover, or simply in a physical sense are blown to nothing by a shell - come over with feelings and thoughts that they had just before. Often it is these who think they have to go on fighting, and have to be calmed; often they think they must have suddenly gone mad, because the scene has changed. That is not surprising if you can imagine the tremendous state of tension, almost like madness, the actual fighting is carried out. They often think that they have been knocked over in the battle without knowing what happened, which is actually the case, only they think they are now in a base hospital and want to know what did happen to them.
We have to humor them at first and only gradually explain to them what the hospital means. Sometimes they are profoundly glad, those who have come to the limit of endurance, and rejoice to be free from the world of wars. Sometimes, with those who have very strong home ties, we have to let them realize as gently and gradually as possible; most are so weary in spirit that they worry over little, and are soon ready to settle down to their rest.
Others have foreseen that they must be killed, they have seen the shell or bomb about to explode, and have known when it explodes they must go. These sometimes tumble right into their period of sleep, because their idea of death was simply obliteration, and the rest period links up with the idea at once. They need nothing explained until their rest is over, but sometimes they sleep a very long time if their conviction that death is the absolute end was very deep rooted.