Section VII

[Some communications respecting the Neo-Platonic philosophy followed. A spirit with whose features I was familiar had been photographed, and his dress was something I was unused to. I inquired, and was told that the conditions under which the partial materialisation necessary for photography are possible differ from those in which the spirit presents himself to clairvoyant vision.

The account of the special phase of the Neo-Platonic teaching was most minute and entirely new to me. Souffism, the ecstatic meditation that endeavours by transport to throw off all that is not God, and to attain truth by transfusion into the Divine, was expounded at length, and illustrated in the person of one of its professors. I thus learned much that I have since been able to trace in operation, and especially in the teachings of the spirit in question, albeit toned down and modified by experience.

After this there was a short cessation; and another evidence of imposture at a circle which I attended caused me much questioning. I was urged to refrain from attending any circles at all so long as our own was held; and it was explained that it was of greatest importance to avoid coming into contact with mediums, or strong magnetic influence of any kind. I should act as a disturbing element in other circles, and bring away disturbing influences to our own.

Some remarkable extracts from old poems, chiefly of Lydgate's, were now written by a spirit who seemed to delight in such work, who did nothing else, and who used a very marked handwriting.

Afterwards, at a seance held June 13th, 1873, many questions were put on points of theology, and a long trance- address was delivered, which was partially taken down at the time, but many points were necessarily omitted, or imperfectly recorded. On the following day, without questioning it was written by the same communicating spirit who had spoken on the previous evening:--]

There was much in what was said last night that was imperfectly said, and hurriedly, and that was not accurately perserved in the record which was taken at the time. It is of the last importance that, on a subject so momentous, we should speak with care, and that you should understand exactly what we wish to convey. We therefore wish to state more clearly what was said imperfectly to the circle. The conditions of control do not always enable us to be so precise in speech as we are studious to be when communicating thus with you. Perfect isolation commands conditions suitable for precision and accuracy.

We are dealing with the Devine mission which we have in charge. Of the many difficulties which beset our path this is one of the most considerable, that those who are most congenial to our purpose, and whose co-operation we most desire, are usually so hampered by preconceived theological notions, or are so fearful of what seems to contradict some things which they have learned, that we are unable to influence them, and grieve sorrowfully to find that which is derived from God charged on the adversaries, and boldly attributed to an all- powerful and malignant Devil.

Of all classes of our opponents these are to us the most sad. The pseudo-scientific man, who will look at nothing save through his own medium, and on his own terms--who will deal with us only so that he may be allowed to prescribe means of demonstrating us to be deluders, liars, figments of a disordered brain--he is of little moment to us. His blinded eye cannot see, and his cloudy intelligence, befogged and cramped with lifelong prejudice, can be of little service to us. He can at best penetrate but little into the mysteries of communion with the spheres; and the foundation of knowledge that he could acquire, though useful, and valuable even, would be of little service to us in our special work. We deal with other issues than those which would principally engage the attention of those few men of science who design to notice the phenomenal aspect of our work. The mind long trained in observation of the phenomena of physics is best devoted to the elucidation of those facts which come within its province. Our sphere is different, connected rather with the influence of spirit upon spirit and the knowledge of spirit-destiny that we can impart.

And the ignorant and uncultured mind which knows not of what we would tell, and cannot know until a long course of preliminary training has prepared the way--this class of mind, though hereafter it may attain to a plane of knowledge on which we can work, is of no service now.

To the proud, the arrogant, the wise in their own conceits, the children of routine and respectability, we can say very little. The more physical evidence is necessary to reach them. The story which we are charged with would be but an idle tale to them.

Is it to the receptive souls who know of God and heavan, and love and charity, and who desire to know of the hereafter and of the haven to which they tend, that we turn with earnest longing. But, alas! too often we find the natural religious instincts, which are God-implanted and spirit-nurtured, choked or distorted by the cramping influence of a human theology, the imperceptible growth of long ages of ignorance and folly. They are armed at all points against the truth. Do we speak of a revelation of the Great Father?--they already have a revelation which they have decided to be complete. Do we tell them of its inconsistencies, and point out that nowhere pretends to the finality and infallibility which they would assign it?--they reply to us with stray words from the formularies of a Church, or by an opinion borrowed and adapted from some person whom they have chosen to consider infallibly inspired. They apply to us a test drawn from some one of the sacred records which was given at a special time for a special purpose, and which they imagine to be of universal applications.

Do we point to our credentials, and to the miracles, so called, which attest the reality of our mission, even as the attested the mission of those whom we influenced of old? --they tell us that the age of miracles is past, and that only the inspired of the Holy Ghost long centuries ago were permitted to work such wonders as evidence of Divine teaching. They tell us that the Devil, whom they have imagined for themselves, has the power to counterfeit God's work, and they consign us and our mission to darkness and outer antagonism to God and goodness. They would be willing to help us; for, indeed, we say that which is probable, but that we are of the Devil. We must be, because in the Bible it is said that false and deceiving spirits will come; and so we must be the deceivers. It must be so, for did not a holy and elevated Teacher prophesy of those who should deny the Son of God? And do not we practically remove Him and His work from the place in which God has placed it and Him? It must be so; for do we not place human reason above faith? Do we not preach and teach a seductive Gospel of good works, and give credit to the doer of them? And is not all this the work of the arch-fiend transformed into an angel of light, and striving to win souls to ruin?

It is such arguments, honestly put forward by those whose respect we fain would win, that are to us a bitter sorrow. They are in many cases loving, earnest souls, who need but the progressive tendency to make them bright lights in the world's gloom. To them we fain would give our message; but before we can build on the sure foundations which they already have of knowledge of God and duty, we must perforce clear away the rubbish which renders further elevation unsafe.

Religion, to be worthy the name, must have it two sides--the one pointing to God,, the other to man. What has the received faith, which is called orthodox by its professors, to say on these points; and wherein do we differ in our message; and how far is such difference on our part in accord with reason? For, at the very outset, we claim, as the only court to which we can as yet appeal, the Reason which is implanted in man. We claim it; for it was by Reason that the sages settled the list of the writings which they decided to be the exclusive and final revelation of God. To Reason they appealed for their decision. To Reason we appeal too. Or do our friends claim that Divine guidance prescribed for them what should be for all time the body of revealed truth? We, too, are the messengers of the Most High, no less surely sent than the spirits who guided the Hebrew seers, and who ministered to those whose fiat settled the Divine word.

We are as they: our message as their message, only more advanced; our God their God, only more clearly revealed, less human, more Divine. Whether the appeal be to Divine inspiration or not, human Reason (guided doubtless by spirit agency, but still Reason) sways the final decision. And those who reject this appeal are out of their own mouths convicted of folly. Blind faith can be no substitute for reasoning trust. For the faith is faith that either has grounds for its trust or not. In the former case the ground is reasonable; in which case Reason again is the ultimate judge; or it is not, in which case it would commend itself to none. But if faith rest on no ground at all, we need not further labour to show it baseless and untrustworthy.

To Reason, then, we turn. How far are we proved reasonably to be of the Devil? How far is our creed an evil one? In what respect are we chargeable with diabolic tendency? These are points on which we will instruct you.