Section XI

[By this time the influence upon me had become so powerful as to shut out all other communications. On June 24 I attempted strongly to establish communication with the spirit who had usually written, but in vain. The influence was of a singularly elevating character, and dominated my mind. Though I did my daily work with punctuality, I devoted every minute that I could spare from it to pondering on this strange influence and on the teaching which was so new to me. As I pondered, it seemed to grow into my mind, and to present itself with a force and orderly beauty that I had not recognised before. Though I had studied theologies long and deeply, I had not by any means studied the various systems with a view to pick holes in them. I had collated rather than criticised them. But now I was confronted with a totally new view, and one which seemed to me to strike at the root of much that I had previously accepted as de fide. On the 26th I recurred to what had been said by Imperator, and put my case thus:--]

I have thought very much of what has been said by you, and I have read some of it to a friend in whose judgment I rely. It is startling to find doctrines of Christianity, which we have been taught to consider as essential dogmas of the faith, denied under the symbol of the Cross. I cannot more strongly put my difficulty than by saying that though your statements command my assent intellectually, still the faith of Christendom which has lasted now 1800 years, and more, cannot lightly be upset by statements, however reasonable they may seem to me, which are not authenticated by any authority that I can test. Will you state clearly for me what position you assign to Jesus Christ? what authority you can show which gives you any power to reverse or develop teaching which bears His name, and to substitute a new gospel for the old one? Can you give me satisfactory evidence of your own identity and of the reality of the mission which you claim? Evidence that would be accepted by plain, reasonable men. I cannot undertake to accept what seems to me so revolutionary a change as of Divine origin and binding force, on the unsupported word of any angel or man, whoever he may be. Nor ought I to be asked to do so. Though the change is very gradual, I think I discover a perceptible difference in your communications. And there seems to be a divergence in teaching between some spirits who have communicated through you: while the bond which can unite a number of opinions which profess to come from such discordant sources must be slight.

FRIEND, it is to us a source of pleasure that we have so far stirred your mind as to draw from you so earnest and rational a series of questions as these. Believe us, so far at least as this, that no frame of mind is more pleasing to the Supreme than that which seeks earnestly and intelligently for truth; refusing mere dogmatic statements from whatever source they come; weighing all in the balance of right reason, and prepared honestly to accept the result. Far from wishing to quarrel with such a temper, we hail it as the evidence of a receptive and honest mind, which will not resign a former belief without substantial reason, but which, yet, is willing to learn new views of truth so they be authenticated by reasonable internal and external evidence. Such doubts and difficulties are worth far more to us than the credulous frame of mind which gulps down indiscriminately all that comes under specious color; far, far more than that stagnant temper which no storm can stir, whose glassy surface no breeze can ruffle, and on whose impassive, uninterested content no word of spirit warning can make any impression.

We hail your doubts as the best evidence of our successful dealing with you; we welcome your arguments as the intelligent proof that you have seen the full proportions of the claims we make as the messengers of the Most High. Your difficulties shall be answered so far as we have power to answer them. There is a point beyond which it is impossible for us to present evidence. Of that you are aware. We labour under one great disadvantage, as compared with human witnesses; we are not of your earth, and cannot produce for you the kind of evidence which would weigh in your courts of justice. We can but state for your acceptance the evidence on which we ground our claims to your hearing and acceptance, leaving to your mind in fairness to decide upon the points which we cannot clear up by evidence.

For our own statements must, to a very great extent, be unsupported, save by statements of those who work with us. Many of us have told you of our earthly identity, and have given to you proof that ought to be conclusive that we are fully acquainted with the earth- lives of those whose names we bear, even in the minutest particulars. If that is not convincing to you: if you reply that such information might have been gained by false and deceiving spirits, who might have gathered the facts for the very purpose of deluding, we point to the tenor of our intercourse with you, and remind you of the standards of judgment set up by Jesus Himself, "By their fruits shall ye know them." "Men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." We fearlessly refer you to the whole tenor of our teaching for proof that it is Divine.

It would not consist with the dignity of our mission were we to dwell longer on this point. We are not surprised that you should have referred to it; but if our reply be not convincing to you, we have nothing further which we can add to it, and must await in patient prayer the time when the evidence will come home to you. We would not have you to accept our words before. We will patiently abide the issue.

With respect to the union of spirits who were in their earth-life divergent in their views of God and the hereafter; who dwelt in different climes, at different ages of the world's history, we could say much, and will at another season.

For the present we point to a misconception which is inseparable from the state in which you live. You cannot see, as we see, the almost utter worthlessness of what you call opinion. You cannot know, while yet the eye is veiled, how the veil is rent by the dissolution of the spirit from the earth-body; how the speculations that have seemed so all-important are seen to be but idle, baseless fancies; while the germ of truth that has underlain the theological creeds is found to be very similar in essence, albeit of divers degrees of development.

Ah, friend! religion is not so abstruse a problem as man has made it. It is comprised within narrow limits for the intelligence that is domiciled on earth. And the theological speculations, the dogmatic definitions with which man has overlaid the revelation of God, serve but to perplex and bewilder, and to involve the spirit struggling up to light in the mists and fogs of ignorance and superstition. The groping after truth which has been characteristic of the progressive spirit in every age has been but the same story, different, indeed, in detail, but identical in issue. As with the blinded eye of sense, so with the spirit that gropes blindly to the light. The mazes of superstition bewilder it; the mists of human ignorance close around it. It staggers and wanders on its devious way, now here, now there, now cast down to earth and trodden under foot by the adversaries, but rising anon, and with outstretched arms struggling onwards still. Those wanderings seem to you similar, and when confined within the limits of a single sect they are indeed alike, but to spirit gaze they have very many points of difference. The struggling spirits who in all ages have been groping their way through the maze of human opinion to the fount of light have pushed their way through tortuous paths which bear only a superficial similarity. To us the theological opinions which have charactised certain sets of men called churches are not so identical as you think. We see the inner points of divergence; and we know that no two spirits yet created were precisely identical views of the unknown ever presented. They have framed for themselves ideas more or less like those of other spirits, but never identical with them. It is only when the veil is removed that the fog lifts; the speculations die with the body of earth, the opinions shift aside, and the purged eye sees what it has dimly pictured, and corrects by the quickened senses the impressions of earth. Then it sees how the germ of truth is at the base, helped in some to progress by a receptive mind and a clearer spiritual vision; hampered and clogged in others by a cramped intelligence and a debased earth-body. But in all cases of yearning souls thirsting for true knowledge of God and of their destiny, the opinions of earth rapidly fade, and the spirit sees how baseless and unreal they were. It is only when there is no desire for truth that error is permanent.

So you see, friend, that truth is the exclusive heritage of no man, of no sect. It may and does underlie the philosophy of Athenodorus, as he yearned after the refining of the spirit and the subjection of the flesh in ancient Rome. It was as really existent in the groping after union with his Master which enabled Hippolytus to endure the loss of earthly existence in sure anticipation of a real life, even though he only dimly saw its characteristics. The self-same seeking after truth elevated and ennobled Plotinus, and raised him, even in earth-life, above and beyond the earth-sphere. It dwelt in the breast of Algazzali, in spite of the errors by which it was dimmed. It--the same blessed germ of Divine truth--lightened the speculations of Alessandro Achillini, and gave force and reality to the burning words which fell from his lips. The same pure jewel shines now in one and all of them. It is the common heritage which enables them to be banded together in a common work and for a common end--the purifying of that deposit of the truth which man has from his God, and the ennobling and elevating of man's destiny by the outpouring of more spiritual views of God and of the destiny of spirit. To them their earth-opinions are of little moment now. They have vanished long ago, and have left behind them no trace of the prejudice which clouded the soul on earth and hampered its progress. They have died and are buried, and over their grave no tear of sorrow is dropped. No resurrection awaits them: they are forever done with: but the jewel which they once enshrined shines with ever-increasing lustre, and is imperishable and eternal. In its illuminating influences, in the aspirations which its presence inspires, lies the mysterious bond of sympathy which is powerful to unite in one work spirits who, in earth-life, were so apparently divergent in opinion.

This may serve to suggest for your consideration reasons why it may not be so strange as it now seems to you, that we should be now banded together for a common object, consecrated to a common work by one earnest desire to spread abroad the knowledge of a higher and purer religion, through an instrument chosen by us for special indications of fitness, of which we are the best judges.

We are confident that continued thought will lead you to recognise the reasonableness of what we say. For definite proof you must be content to wait until you, too, have rent the veil, and stand with unclouded eye in our company. The most we hope for now is the gradual establishment of conviction. We desire that you should apply to us the same law by which the Master judged--the Divine law of judging others as you would yourself be judged.

You err in supposing that there has ever been any discrepancy in our teaching to you. Arguments have been variously put, and different points have been taken by different intelligences who have communicated with you. We do not deny that we have gradually led you up to the general idea which we have wished to convey, and we have, in so doing, avoided points of indifferent opinion which were not essential to our message, as well as points on which we know full well that your previous notions were rooted firm, and would clash with our knowledge. We have sought rather to develop the germs of truth which we discovered that to come into contact with the singularities of opinion which exist. To this end we have seized upon points of contact, and have made much of them; while we have not dwelt on disputed and unimportant points, and have avoided discussing matters that do not lie in our path. Hereafter many points that at present are slurred over, or avoided, will be taken up. But when you have sought information on points whereon we knew your opinion to be erroneous and untenable for long, we have not scrupled to enlighten you. We can see well when the drift of thought is carrying you away from old mooring-places which no longer afford safe anchorage for your spirit; and, seeing this, we have preferred to pilot you rather than to allow you to drop down the stream at the mercy of wind and current, and at risk of shipwreck. We have loosened the ropes, one by one, gently and gradually, and we have charged ourselves with the mission of landing you in safer and surer harbourage. Had we tightened the moorings, the old ropes would have broken, and your spirit would have been tossed helpless on a stormy sea of doubt and difficulty, with no pilot at the helm, and no port in view, at the mercy of wind and wave, and with scant prospect of rescue. Do not blame us that we have chosen to anticipate the inevitable, and to smooth the rough passage. We could not prevent; we may and can assist. We would not, if we could, have added to the chains which would bind your spirit to the dead past. We will, if you co-operate with us, enable it to rise superior to the storm, and to emerge with a new and living faith, on a calmer and more open sea, ready to cross what yet remains between the probation of earth and the haven of peace.

In this endeavour we have studiously guarded ourselves from inflicting on you any rude shocks. We have not misled you on any point. We have never deceived you in aught. Scrupulous exactness has characterised all our statements to you. But we have preferred to take the ideas which we found in your mind, and to enlarge and develop them. We have fostered, directed, instilled newer and truer views, but we have in no point falsified, distorted, or misled.

Nor is there actually any divergence in the teachings of those who have spoken to you. Any apparent discrepancy is referable to difficulties of communication, to the varying influence of your mind, to the state of your bodily health; to the novelty of the work to some; and especially to your own circumscribed views. We cannot teach you what you cannot receive. We can only dimly symbolise truths which one day your unclouded eye will see in their full splendour. We cannot speak with clearness when the spirit of our medium is troubled, when his body is racked with pain, or his mental state is vitiated by disease. Nay, even a lowering atmosphere, or electric disturbance, or the neighbourhood of unsympathetic and unfavourable human influences, may colour a communication, or prevent it from being clear and complete. Hence the various discrepancies which your minute gaze has detected. They are small enough and few enough, and they will all vanish when the difficulties are removed. Then will you recognise the superior insight which has guided you in a time of no ordinary difficulty and peril.

You complain that there is little change of the acceptance of such views as we have put forward. Of this you can know very little. The time is far nearer than you think when the old faith which has worn so long, and which man has patched so clumsily, will be replaced by a higher and nobler one--one not antagonistic, but supplementary--and the pure Gospel which Jesus preached shall find its counterpart again on an advanced plane of knowledge. For know, good friend, that no effort which, as this, is the plan of the Supreme, is entered on untimely, or with disregard of the correlation between God's Gospel and man's wants. What comes to you from us is coming to others too. This is but one among many branches of one great plan. It will go on gradually and spread steadily among the children of faith who are fitted to receive it. The Master has so willed it. His time is not yours, nor is our vision circumscribed as yours. In due time the knowledge which we come to spread will be known among men. Meantime, progressive souls are being educated; precious seed is being sown, and the reaping and garnering shall come in their course. For that you and we alike must wait.

If you will now think carefully over what has been said, you will see that the nature of the case precludes more than presumptive proof being given of the validity of our claims. We say again, that God forces blessings on none. He offers: the responsibility of acceptance or refusal rests with you. The internal evidence will be admitted by you and by all to whom we are now concerned to address ourselves. None but those who are hopelessly involved in the meshes of the shallowest bigotry, who are bound by the fetters of a conventional theology, and shackled by an iron dogmatism, will refuse to acknowledge the internal evidence of a Divine origin in the creed which we put forward. With such as we have enumerated, the dogmatist, the bigot, the narrow- minded, the wise in their own conceit, we have no dealings. Nay, we do not even speak to those who find in the faith which has become ingrained in their very souls a sure and sufficient guide. In God's name let them cling to it. Hereafter their time of progress will come. It is not yet. To you, and to those who have advanced far enough to think with you, we need not further prove that we are not of diabolic origin or intent.

If you will further consider the views which we have put forward with respect to inspiration, you will see that we claim for our teaching that it is just one of those rungs in the ladder of progressive knowledge of God which mankind has been gradually mounting, from the time when man framed for himself a god like himself, to the present, when you are slowly learning that to attribute human infirmities and passions to the Supreme is not to do Him honour. Our revelation is in no respect different from that which has preceded, save that it is a step in advance, even as each development of human knowledge has been. Our knowledge flows from the same source, and is made known through similar channels. They are now, as then, human, fallible, and at times wrong. It must be so, as long as God reveals Himself through human agencies.

If you will further recollect the standpoint we have selected, you will see that in place of blind faith, which accepts traditional teaching--the old, merely because it is old--we appeal to your reason: and in place of credulity we demand rational, intelligent investigation and acceptance grounded on conviction. So far from desiring you to accept what we tell you simply because we are spirit- messengers--the new merely because it is new--we ask you to weigh in the scales of reason, to ponder in the light of intellect, to reject if you be not satisfied, in no case to assent or to act until conviction has been thoroughly established.

So that not only is the matter of spirit-creed eminently conformable to right reason, but the grounds on which we ask you to accept it are those which a rational and logical mind will be most disposed to accept. God forbid that we should even seem to hurry any man into antagonism, real or fancied, with a creed which has for eighteen hundred years and more been adorned by the lives of many myriads of earnest and progressive, as well as earnest though mistaken souls. The fact that it has long endured entitles it to the reverence due to antiquity, though with our extended view we can see that it also makes it needful that some of its provisions, admirably suited as they were for a less advanced generation, should now fitly be enlarged and spiritualised. At any rate, we would not disturb its reign with violent revolution. We would refine and infuse new life; we would not dethrone and humble in the dust. As the Saviour told, in the accents of a life of loving and self-sacrificing purity, the story of a nobler faith than that which Sinai had revealed in accents of thunder, so we take up the Divine story at a later day, and proclaim for a world's acceptance a creed more fitted to its advanced capacities, more suited to its later wants.

"It will reject it!" Well, then, we at least have offered it, and to those who will surely grasp at it, its blessed influence shall seem the brighter from the contrast. It is long, frequently, between the first promulgation of a truth and its final acceptance. The seed- time must precede the crop, and the rain and the frost and the cheerless wintertide may seem to be long drawn out, but the sun bursts forth at length, and the crop springs up, and the glad summer comes with the reaping and housing of the fruit. The day of preparation may be long, the night during which the sower waits may be weary, but the harvest surely comes. You cannot retard it; you may aid in reaping it; you may even assist in sowing the seed; but in spite of man's opposition, whether he aids or not, God's work will be done. It is to the individual alone that acceptance or rejection of the Divine message matters materially. A soul is advanced or retarted in the life of progress; and the angels rejoice or mourn over the issue. That is all.

You inquire from us what position we assign Jesus the Christ. We are not careful to enter into curious comparisons between different teachers who, in different ages, have been sent from God. The time is not yet come for that; but this we know, that no spirit more pure, more godlike, more noble, more blessing and more blessed, ever descended to find a home on your earth. None more worthily earned by a life of self- sacrificing love the adoring reverence and devotion to mankind. None bestowed more blessings on humanity; none wrought a greater work for God. It is not necessary that we should enter into curious comparisons between God's great teachers. Rather would we give to all the meed of praise that is their due, and hold up the example of self-denial, self- sacrifice, and love to the imitation of a generation which sadly needs such a pattern. Had men devoted their energies to the imitation of the simplicity and sincerity, the loving toil and earnest purpose, the self- sacrifice and purity of thought and life which elevated and distinguished the Christ, they had wrangled less of His nature, and had wasted fewer words upon useless metaphysical sophistries. Those of your theologians who dwelt in the days of darkness, and who have left to you an accursed heritage in their idle and foolish speculations, would have turned their minds into a more useful channel, and have been a blessing instead of a curse to mankind. Men would not have derogated from the honour due to the great God alone, but would have accepted, as Jesus intended, the simple Gospel that He preached. But instead of this they have elaborated an anthropomorphic theology which has led them to wander further and further from the simplicity of His teaching; which has turned His name and creed into a battle-ground of sects; and has resulted in a parody on His teachings--a sight on which His pure spirit looks with sorrow and pity.

Friend, you must discriminate between God's truth and man's glosses. We do not dishonour the Lord Jesus--before whose exalted majesty we bow--by refusing to acquiesce in a fiction which He would disown, and which man has forced upon His name. No, assuredly: but they who from a strict adherence to the literal text of Scripture--a text which they have not understood, and the spirit of which they have never grasped--have dishonoured the Great Father of Him, and of all alike, and have impiously, albeit ignorantly, derogated from the honour due to the Supreme alone. Not we, but they dishonour God! Not we, but they, though they have the prescription of long usage, though their words be coloured by extracts from writings which they have decided to be Divine: and though in those writings there be found words which pronounce a curse on any who may disagree with what is stated there. We do not regard such curses save with pity. We do not labour to upset belief when it is a harmless error, but we can lend no countenance to views that dishonour God, and retard a soul's progress. The attributing to a man of Divine honour, to the exclusion in very many cases of personal honour and love for the Great Father, is a mischievous error which derogates from the duty of man to his God. The holding of a narrow, cold, dogmatic creed, in all its rigid, lifeless literalism, cramps the soul, dwarfs its spirituality, clogs its progress, and stunts its growth. "The letter," says your Scripture, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Hence we denounce such views of God as are contained in the fable of a material hell; and we proclaim to you purer and more rational ideas than are contained in the orthodox notions of atonement and vicarious sacrifice. We proclaim to you a spiritualised religion. We call you from the dead formalism, the lifeless, loveless literalism of the past, to a religion of spiritualised truth, to the lovely symbolism of angel teaching, to the higher planes of spirit, where the material finds no place, and the formal dogmatism of the past is for ever gone.

We have spoken to you with care, and with a due sense of the importance of what we say. Dwell on it with care. Ponder it with single desire for truth, and seek the Divine aid ministered to all who pray for it.

+IMPERATOR.