Joseph Addison was born in 1672 and died in 1719. He was an author and a politician. He is especially known for his contributions to periodicals called “The Tatler” and “The Spectator.” He was the co-founder of the latter periodical, together with his friend Richard Steele.
I have read only a few of Addison’s writings, principally because I have rarely encountered them during my peregrinations on this globe. However, from the few that I have read, I would say that Addison is a wholesome writer and well worth reading.
Addison begins “The Vision of Marraton” with an important introductory note. He tells us that the American Indians had some unusual ideas concerning the afterlife. They believed that all things possessed a soul that persisted after death, even plants, animals, and inanimate objects. For this reason, when a warrior died, they put a bow and arrow in his grave so that he could use their souls in the hereafter.
After this introduction, he proceeds with the story. Marraton performed a feat similar to that of Orpheus, Ulysses, Aeneas, and Dante. He paid a visit to the world of spirits while he was yet alive.
He had to travel a considerable distance under a hollow mountain. When he arrived at the world of spirits, he encountered an impenetrable forest composed of bushes, brambles and pointed thorns.
Unfortunately, a lion approached him. Fortunately, there was a rock nearby with which he might be able to defend himself. Unfortunately, he could not pick up the rock because it was only the rock’s soul and did not have any material substance. Fortunately, the tiger was also a soul and therefore could not claw or eat him.
It did not immediately occur to Marraton that the brambles and bushes in front of him might also be a collection of immaterial souls. He learned this quite by accident. When he finally plunged into the forest, it did not obstruct his progress in any way.
Eventually the thorns and briars came to an end. Marraton then saw trees covered with lovely fragrant blossoms. When he emerged from the trees, he discovered that the woods enclosed a plain on which the souls of the dead engaged in various activities. He saw a young man on a milk-white steed, accompanied by beagles and chasing a hare. Of course, the young man and all the animals were souls. Other souls were engaged in handicrafts or playing games. Since Marraton liked to fish, he was especially interested in a soul who was catching fish in a river.
The soul of Yaratilda, his deceased wife, was on the other side of the river. He saw that she was crying. She told him that the river was impassible.
The phantom river was undoubtedly impassable for a soul, but not for Marraton, who had a material body. He crossed the river without any difficulty. When he and Yaratilda were together, he deeply regretted the fact that he still was encumbered with a material body that prevented him from embracing her.
Yaratilda led Marraton to a beautiful bower which she had adorned with her own hands. She had prepared it in anticipation for his arrival. She kept enhancing its beauty every day.
Yaratilda had given Marraton many children when she was still alive. Two of them had died several years before. They were living with Yaratilda in the bower. Marraton now enjoyed a reunion with his two deceased offspring.
Yaratilda encouraged Marraton to teach their surviving children to lead virtuous lives, so that they would come to this happy bower when they died.
Before returning to the land of the living, Marraton beheld the sufferings of the souls of the wicked. Their punishments seemed to fit the crime. Some Europeans had killed thousands of Indians so that they could take their gold. In the hereafter, they were thrown into a molten sea of gold.
From the Bible, we know that happiness in the afterlife cannot be achieved by good works. It is a gift of God’s grace. At present, many American Indians trust in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. I myself have witnessed Apache children sing Christian hymns in their own language.
Project Gutenberg: Essays and Tales of Joseph Addison