Section V

[On the following day I had a long conversation as to the power exercised by spirits on our earth, which was said to be great and widespread. I asked as to the power over individuals, and was pointed to cases where it was said absolute obsession was established. It was said that this power over men was being so widespread, it were wise to place it in the reach only of spirits of integrity and wisdom, and to give conditions for its exercise by them, and so to drive away obsessing and undeveloped spirits, or to materially reduce their sphere of action. It was insisted that spirit-action was universal, and that it was a question for man, to a great extent, whether that action was beneficent or not. I asked what character was most suitable so such influence.]

There are a varieties of mediumship, as you know, and there are divers modes in which spirit influence is exercised. Some are selected for the mere physical peculiarities which make them the ready vehicles of spirit power. Their bodily organisation is adapted for the purpose of manifesting external spiritual influence in its simplest form. They are not influenced mentally, and information given by the spirits who use them would be of trifling or even foolish nature, and untrustworthy. They are used as the means of demonstrating spirit power, the external invisible agency capable of producing objective phenomenal results.

These are known to you as the instruments through whom the elementary phenomena are manifested. Their work is not less significant than that which is wrought through others. They are concerned with the foundation of belief.

And some are chosen because of their loving, gentle nature. They are not the channels of physical phenomenal actionin many cases, not even of conscious communication with the spirit world; but they are the recipients of spirit guidance, and their pure and gentle souls are cultivated and improved by angel superintendence. By degrees they are prepared to be the conscious recipients of communications from the spheres; or they are permitted with clairvoyant eye to catch stray glimpses of their future home. A loving spirit friend is attracted to them, and they are impressionally taught and guided day by day. These are the loving souls who are surrounded by an atmosphere of peacefulness and purity of love. They live as bright examples in the world, and pass in ripe maturity to the spheres of rest and peace for which their earth life has fitted them.

Others, again, are intellectually trained and prepared to give man extended knowledge and wider views of truth. Advanced spirits influence the thoughts, suggest ideas, furnish means of acquiring knowledge, and of communicating it to mankind. The ways by which spirits so influence men are manifold They have means that you know not of by which events are arranged as to work out the end they have in view. The most difficult task we have is to select a medium through whom the messages of higher and more advanced spirits can be made known. It is necessary that the mind chosen should be of a receptive character, for we cannot put into a spirit more information than it can receive. Moreover, it must be free from foolish worldly prejudices. It must be a mind that has unlearned its youthful errors, and has proved itself receptive of truth, even though that truth is unpopular.

More still. It must be free from dogmatism. It must not be rooted and grounded in earth notions. It must be free from the dogmatism of theologies and sectarianism and rigid creed. It must not be bound down by the fallacies of half-knowledge which is ignorant of its own ignorance. It must be a free and inquiring soul. It must be a soul that loves progressive knowledge, and that has the perception of truth afar off. One that yearns for fuller light, for richer knowledge than it has yet received; one that knows no hope of cessation in drinking in the truth.

Again, our work must not be marred by the self-assertion of a positive antagonistic mind, nor by the proud obtruding of self and selfish ends and aims. With such we can do very little, and that little must all tend to the gradual obliteration of selfishness and dogmatism. We desire a capable, earnest, truth-seeking, unselfish, loving spirit for our work. Said we not well that such was difficult to find among men? Difficult indeed, well-nigh impossible. We select, then, such a soul as we can best find, and prepared by constant training for its appointed work. We inspire into it a spirit of love and tolerance for opinions that do not find favour with its own mental bias. This raises it above dogmatic prejudice, and paves the way for the discovery that truth is manifold, and not the property of any individual. Store of knowledge is given as the soul can receive it; and, the foundation of knowledge once laid, the superstructure may be safely raised. The opinions and tone of thought are moulded by slow degrees, so that they harmonise with the end we have in view.

Many and many fail here, and we abandon our work with them, finding that not in this world of yours can they receive the truth; that old earth-born prejudices are firm, dogmatic beliefs ineradicable, and so that they must be left to time, and are to us of no avail.

Moreover, a perfect truthfulness and absence of fearfulness and anxiety are the steady growth of our teaching. We lead the soul to rest in calm trust on God and His spirit teachers. We infuse a spirit of patient waiting for that which we are permitted to do and teach. This spirit is the very reverse of that fretful, restless querulousness which characterises many souls.

Here, too, many fall away. They are fearful and anxious, and beset with doubt. The old theology tells them of a God, who watches for their fall; and of a devil, who lays perpetual traps for them. They wonder at the novelty of our teaching; their friends are ready to point to so- called prophecies which tell of anti-Christ. The old foundations are shaken, and the new are not yet laid; and so the adversaries creep in and tempt the wavering soul, and it fears and falls away, and is useless to us.

Yet more, we must eradicate selfishness in all its many forms. There must be no obtruding of self, or we can do nothing. There is nothing so utterly fatal to spirit influence as self-seeking, self-pleasing, boastfulness, arrogance, or pride. The intelligence must be subordinated, or we cannot work upon it. If it be dogmatic, we cannot use it. If it be arrogant and selfish, we cannot come near it. Self- abnegation has been the virtue which has graced the wise and holy men of all time. The seers who bore of old the flag on which was inscribed for their generation the message of progressive truth were men who thought little of themselves and much of their work. They who spoke to the Jews, whose messages you have in your sacred records, were men of self-denying purity and singleness of life. Jesus, when He lived amongst men, was a grand and magnificent instance of the highest self- abnegation and earnestness of purpose. He lived with you a life of pure self-denial and practical earnest work, and He died a death of self- sacrifice for truth. In Him you have the purest picture that history records of man's possibilities. They who since have purged the world from error, and have shed on it the beams of truth, have been one and all men of self-denial and earnest devotion to a work which they knew to be that for which they were set apart. Socrates and Plato, John and Paul, the pioneers of truth, the heralds of progress, all have been unselfish soulssouls who knew naught of self-seeking, of proud aggrandisement, of boastful arrogance. To them earnestness and singleness of purpose, devotion to their appointed work, forgetfulness of self and its interests, were given in a high degree. Without that they could not have effected what they did. Selfishness would have eaten out the heart of their success. Humility, sincerity, and earnestness bore them on.

This is the character we seek. Loving and earnest, self-denying and receptive to truth; with single eye to God's work, and with forgetfulness of earthly aims. Rare it is, rare as it is beautiful. Seek, friend, the mind of the philosopher, calm, reliant, truthful, and earnest! Seek the spirit of the philanthropist, loving, tolerant, ready to help, quick to give the needed aid. Add the self-abnegation of the servant of God who does his work and seeks no reward. For such a character work, high, holy, noble, is possible. Such we guard and watch with jealous care. On such the angels of the Father smile, and tend and protect them from injury.

But you have described a perfect character.

Ah no! You have no conception of what the perfect spirit is. You cannot know; you cannot even picture it. Nor can you know how the faithful soul drinks in the spirit-teaching and grows liker and liker to its teacher. You see not as we see the gradual growth of the seed which it has cost us so much labour to plant and tend. You only know that the soul grows in kindly graces, and becomes more lovely and more lovable. The character we have faintly pictured in such terms as are intelligible to you is not perfect, nor aught but a vague and distant resemblance of that which it shall become. With you is no perfectness. Hereafter is progresssion and constant development and growth. What you call perfect is blotted and blurred with faults to spirit vision.

Yes, surely. But very few such are to be found.

Few, few: and none save in the germ. There is the capability on which we work with thankfulness. We seek not for perfection: we do but desire sincerity and earnest desire for improvement: a mind free and receptive; a spirit pure and good. Wait in patience. Impatience is a dire fault. Avoid over-carefulness and anxiety as to causes which are beyond your control. Leave that to us. In patience and seclusion ponder what we say.

I suppose a secluded life is favourable for your influence, rather than the busy whirl of town?

[Here the writing suddenly changed from the minute and the very clear writing of Doctor to a most peculiar archaic writing, almost indecipherable, and signed Prudens.]

The busy world is ever averse from the things of spirit life. Men become absorbed in the material, that which they can see, and grasp, and hoard up, and they forget that there is a future and spirit life. They become so earthly that they are impervious to our influence; so material that we cannot come near them; so full of earthly interests that there is no room for that which shall endure when they have passed away. More than this, the constant preoccupation leaves no time for contemplation, and the spirit is wasted for lack of sustenance. The spiritual state is weak: the body is worn and weary with weight of work and anxious care, and the spirit is well-nigh inaccessible. The whole air, moreover, is heavy with conflicting passions, with heart-burnings, and jealousies, and contentions, and all that is inimical to us. Round the busy city, with its myriad haunts and vice, its detestable allurements, its votaries of folly and sin, hover the legions of the opposing spirits, who watch for opportunity to lure the wavering to their ruin. They urge on many to their grief hereafter, and cause us many sorrows and much anxious care.

The life of contemplation is that which most suits communion with us. It is not indeed to supersede the life of action, but may be in some sort combined with it. It is most readily practised where distracting cares come not in, and where excessive toil weakens not the bodily powers. But the desire must be inherent in the soul; and where that is, neither distracting cares nor worldly allurements avail to prevent the recognition of a spirit world, and of communion with it. The heart must be prepared. But it is easier for us to make our presence felt when the surroundings are pure and-peaceful.