Section XIX

[Some reiterated objections of mine, which have been stated before, were finally answered thus (Aug. 31, 1873):--]

We propose to speak to you on a subject of which we have before treated, but not at large. You have alleged, and it has frequently been said, that the creed we profess and the system of religion which we teach, are vague, shadowy, and impalpable. It has been said that the effect of our teaching is to unsettle men's minds as to the old faith, without providing a new and rational form of belief. Many of these objections we have dealt with separately, but we have not yet attempted to set before you an exhaustive outline of the religion which we desire to see rooted among men. This we propose to do now, so far as it is possible.

We commence with God, the Supreme, All-Wise Ruler of the universe, who is enthroned over all in eternal calm, the Director and Judge of the totality of creation. Before His Majesty we bow in solemn adoration. We have not seen Him, nor do we hope yet to approach His presence. Millions of ages, as you count time, must run their course, and be succeeded by yet again myriads upon myriads, ere the perfected spirit--perfected through suffering and experience--can enter into the inner sanctuary to dwell in the presence of the All-pure, All-holy, All- perfect God.

But though we have not seen Him, we know yet more and more of the fathomless perfection of His nature, through a more intimate acquaintance with His works. We know, as you cannot, the power and wisdom, the tenderness and love of the Supreme. We trace it in a thousand ways which you cannot see. We feel it in a thousand forms which never reach your lower earth. And while you, poor mortals, dogmatise as to His essential attributes, and ignorantly frame for yourselves a being like unto yourselves, we are content to feel and to know His power as the operation of a Wise and Loving and All-pervading Intelligence. His government of the universe reveals Him to us as potent, wise, and good. His dealings with ourselves we know to be tender and loving.

The past has been fruitful of mercy and loving-kindness; the present has been instinct with love and tender considerations; into the future we do not pry. We are content to trust it in the hands of One whose power and love we have experienced. And we do not, as curious mortals please themselves with imagining, picture a future which has its origin in our own intelligence, and is disproved by each advancement in knowledge. We trust Him too really to care to speculate. We live for Him and to Him. We strive to learn and do His will, sure that in so doing we shall benefit ourselves and all created beings whom we tend; the while we pay to Him the honour which is His due, and the only homage which His Majesty can accept. We love Him; we worship Him; we adore Him; we obey Him; but we do not question His plans, or pry into His mysteries.

Of man we know more than we are permitted to tell, as yet. We are not charged to gratify curiosity, nor to open out to you views and speculations which would but bewilder your mind. Of the origin of man you may be content to know that the day will come when we shall be able to tell you more certainly of the spiritual nature, its origin and destiny; whence it came and whither it is going. For the present you may know that the theological story of a fall from a state of purity to a state of sin, as usually detailed and accepted, is misleading. Few, perhaps, even of those among you who have pondered on the subject, have not given up all attempts to reconcile with reason so distorted a legend. You may better direct your attention for the present to man's condition as an incarnated spirit, and seek to learn how progressive development, in obedience to the laws which govern him, leads to happiness in the present and advancement in the immediate future. The far-off spheres, into which only the refined and purified can enter, you may leave in their seclusion. It is not for mortal eye to gaze into their secrets. Sufficient that you know that they unfold their portals only to the blessed ones, and that you and all may be ranked within them after due preparation and development.

It is more important that we speak of man's duty and work in the earth-life. Man, as you know, is a spirit temporarily enshrined in a body of flesh; a spirit with a spiritual body which is to survive its severance from the earth body, as one of your teachers has inculcated rightly, though he erred in minor particulars. This spiritual body it is the object of your training in this sphere of probation to develop and fit for its life in the sphere of spirit. That life, so far as it concerns you to know, is endless. You cannot grasp what eternity means. Sufficient now that we demonstrate to you enduring existence, and intelligence existing after the death of the physical body.

This Being, temporarily enshrined in the body of earth, we regard as a conscious, responsible intelligence, with duties to perform, with responsibilities, with capacities, with accountability, and with power of progress or retrogression. The incarnated spirit has its conscience, rude frequently and undeveloped, of inherent right and wrong. It has its opportunities of development, its degrees of probation, its phases of training, and its help in progression if it will use them. Of these we have spoken before, and shall say more hereafter. For the present we tell you of man's duty in the sphere of probation.

Man, as a responsible spiritual being, has duties which concern himself, his fellow-man, and his God.

Your teachers have sufficiently outlined the moral code which affects man's spirit, so far as their knowledge has extended, and has been communicable to you. But beside and beyond what they have taught you lies a wide domain. The influence of spirit upon spirit is only now beginning to be recognised among men; yet therein lie some of the mightiest helps and bars to human progress. Of this, too, you will learn more hereafter; but for the present we may sum up man's highest duty as a spiritual entity in the word PROGRESS --in knowledge of himself, and of all that makes for spiritual development. The duty of man considered as an intellectual being, possessed of mind and intelligence, is summed up in the word CULTURE in all its infinite ramifications; not in one direction only, but in all; not for earthly aims alone, but for the grand purpose of developing the faculties which are to be perpetuated in endless development. Man's duty to himself as a spirit incarnated in a body of flesh is PURITY in thought, word, and act. In these three words, Progress, Culture, Purity, we roughly sum up man's duty to himself as a spiritual, an intellectual, and a corporeal being.

Respecting the duty which man owes to the race of which he is a unit, to the community of which he is a member, we strive again to crystallise into one word the central idea which should animate him. That word is CHARITY. Tolerance for divergence of opinion; charitable construction of doubtful words and deeds; kindliness in intercourse; readiness to help, without desire for recompense; courtesy and gentleness of demeanour; patience under misrepresentation; honesty and integrity of purpose, tempered by loving-kindness and forbearance; sympathy with sorrow; mercy, pity, and tenderness of heart; respect for authority in its sphere, and respect for the rights of the weak and frail: these and kindred qualities, which are the very essence of the Christ-like character, we sum up in the one word Charity, or Active Love.

As to the relation between man and his God, it should be that which befits the approach of a being in one of the lowest stages of existence to the Fountain of Uncreated Light, to the great Author and Father of all. The befitting attitude of spirit before God is typified for you in the language of your sacred records when it is said that the exalted ones veil their faces with their wings as they bow before His throne. This in a figure symbolises the REVERENCE and ADORATION which best become the spirit of man. Reverence and awe, not slavish fear. Adoring worship, not cowering, prostrate dread. Mindful of the vast distance that must separate God from man, and of the intermediary agencies which minister between the Most High and His children, man should not seek to intrude himself into the presence of the Supreme, least of all should he obtrude his curiosity, and seek to pry into mysteries which are too deep for angel-minds to grasp. REVERANCE, ADORATION, LOVE; these are the qualities that adorn a spirit in its relation to its God.

Such, in vaguest outline, are the duties which man owes to himself, to his fellow, and to his God. They may be filled in by future knowledge; but you will find that they include within them those qualities which fit a man for progress in knowledge, and render him a good citizen, and a model for imitation in all the walks of life. If there be nothing said of that external and formal duty which is made so much of by the Pharisaic mind, both now and heretofore, it is not that we do not recognise the importance of external acts. So long as man is a physical being, physical acts will be of importance. It is because we have no fear that sufficient importance will not be attached to them that we have not dwelt on this side of the question. We are concerned rather with spirit, and with the hidden spring, by which, if it be working aright, the external acts will be duly done. We carry throughout the principle on which we have always dealt with you, of referring you back to that which is your true self, and of urging you to consider all you do as the outcome and external manifestation of an internal spirit, which, when you leave this sphere, will determine your future condition of existence. This is the true wisdom; and in so far as you recognise the spirit that animates everything, that is the soul of all, the life and reality which underlies Nature and Humanity, in all their several manifestations, are you actuated by true wisdom. This being the duty of man in such sort as we are now able to put it before you, we have now to deal with the results of the discharge of that duty, or its neglect. He who fulfils it according to his ability, with honesty and sincerity of purpose, and with a single desire to discharge it aright, earns his legitimate reward in happiness and progress. We say progress, because man is apt to lose sight of this enduring fact, that in progress man's spirit finds its truest happiness. Content is, in the pure soul, only retrospective. It cannot rest in that which is past; at best it views the achievements of the bygone days only as incentives to further progress. Its attitude to the past is one of content, to the future, of hope and expectation of further development. That soul which shall slumber in satisfaction, and fancy that it has achieved its goal, is deluded, and in peril of retrogression. The true attitude of the spirit is one of striving earnestly in the hope of reaching a higher position than that which it has attained. In perpetually progressing it finds its truest happiness. There is no finality; none, none, none!

And this applies not only to the fragment of existence which you call life, but to the totality of being. Yea; even the deeds done in the body have their issue in the life disembodied. Their outcome is not bounded by the barrier which you call death. Far otherwise; for the condition of the spirit at its inception of its real life is determined by the outcome of its bodily acts. The spirit which has been slothful or impure gravitates necessarily to its congenial sphere, and commences there a period of probation which has for its object the purification of the spirit from the accumulated habits of its earth-life; the remedying in remorse and shame of the evil done; and the gradual raising of itself to a higher state towards which each process of purification has been a step. This is the punishment of transgression, not an arbitrary doom inflicted to all eternity by an angry God, but the inevitable doom of remorse and repentance and retribution, which results invariably from conscious sin. This is the lash of punishment, but it is not laid on by a vengeful Deity; a loving Father leads his child to see and remedy his fault.

Similarly, reward is no sensuous ease in a heaven of eternal rest; no fabled psalm-singing around the great white throne, whereon sits the GOD; no listless, dreamy idleness, cheaply gained by cries for pity, or by fancied faith; none of these, but the consciousness of duty done, of progress made, and of capacity for progress increased; of love to God and man fostered, and the jewel of truth and honesty preserved. This is the spirit's reward, and it must be gained before it can be enjoyed. It comes as the rest after toil, as the food to the hungry, as the draught to the parched, as the pulsation of delight when the wanderer sights his home. But it is only the toil-worn, the travel-stained, the hungry, the parched traveller who can enter into the full zest. And it is not with us the reward of indolent, sensuous content. It is the gratification which has been earned, and which is but and additional spur to future progress.

In all this you will see that we have dealt with man as a living intelligence, alone in his responsibilities, and alone in his struggles. We have not thought it necessary here to touch upon the aid ministered by guardian spirits, nor upon the impulses and impressions which flow in upon the receptive soul. We are concerned now with that phase of man's existence which is open to your inspection, and which is manifested to your eye. Neither have we made any mention of a boundless store of merit laid up for him by the death of the sinless Son of God, or of the Co-equal Partner of the Throne of Deity--a store on which he may draw at will to make up for his own shortcomings. We have not spoken of such an atonement of magical potency and universal application in answer to a cry of faith. Nor have we told you that a death-bed repentance has power to obtain for man--base, evil, grovelling animal as he may be--an entrance in the very society of God and the blessed ones, by the charm of imputed righteousness bought by vicarious suffering. We have not pointed to any such conception of a debased and foolish imagination. Man has helps, powerful, near, always available. But he has no reserve fund of merit on which he can draw at large at the close of a lifetime of debauchery, sensuality, and crime, when he has drunk to the very dregs the cup of physical enjoyment, and so go straight to the holy of holies and the sanctuary of God. He has no vicarious sacrifice on whom he can call to suffer in his stead when his coward heart is wrung with fear at the prospect of dissolution, and his base spirit trembles at the prospect which remorse conjures up. Not for such base uses would any of the messengers come; not to such would the ministers bring consolation. They would let the coward feel his danger, if perchance he may see and repent him of his sin. They would let the lash be laid on, knowing that so only can the hard heart be made to feel. Yet for such, your teachers tell you, the Son of God came down, and died! Such are the choicest recipients of mercy! the most appropriate subjects for divine compassion!

No such fable finds a place in our knowledge. We know of no store of merit save that which man lays up for himself by slow laborious processes. We know of no entrance to the spheres of bliss save by the path which the blessed themselves have trod; no magical incantation by which the sinner may be transformed into the saint, and the hardened reprobate, the debased sensualist, the purely physical animal become spiritualised, refined, glorified, and fitted for what you call heaven. Far from us such blasphemous imaginations.

And while man feigns for himself such ignorant and impossible fancies, he neglects or ignores those helps and protections which encircle him all around. We have no power, indeed, to work out for man the salvation which he must work out for himself; but we are able to aid, to comfort, and to support. Appointed by a loving God to minister, in our several spheres, to those who need it, we find our power curtailed, and our efforts mocked at by those who have become too gross to recognise spirit-power, and too earthy to aspire to spiritual things. These helps man has ever round about him; helps which he may draw to himself by the mighty engine of prayer, and knit to him by frequent communion with them.

Ah! you know little what power you neglect when you omit to foster, by perpetual prayer, communion with the spirits, holy, pure, and good, who are ready to stand by and assist you. Praise, which attunes the soul to God, and prayer, which moves the spirit agencies--these are engines ever ready to man's service. And yet he passes them idly by, and makes his hopes of future bliss rest on a faith, on a creed, on an assent, on a vicarious store of merit, on any shadowy, baseless figment rather than on fact.

We attach little importance to individual belief: that is altered soon enough by extended knowledge. The creed which has been fought over with angry vehemence during the years of an earth lifetime is surrendered by the enfranchised spirit without a murmur. The fancies of a lifetime on earth are dissipated like a cloud by the sunlight of the spheres. We care little for a creed, so it be honestly held and humbly professed; but we care much for acts. We ask not what has such one believed, but what has he done? For we know that by deeds, habits, tempers, characters are formed, and the condition of spirit is decided. Those characters and habits, too, we know are only to be changed after long and laborious processes; and so it is to acts rather than words, to deeds rather than professions, that we look.

The religion which we teach is one of acts and habits, not of words and fitful faith. We teach religion of body and religion of soul; a religion pure, progressive, and true; one that aims at no finality, but leads its votary higher and higher through the ages, until the dross of earth is purged away, the spiritual nature is refined and sublimated, and the perfected spirit--perfected through suffering and toil and experience--is presented in glorified purity before the very footstool of its God. In this religion you will find no place for sloth and carelessness. The note of spirit-teaching is earnestness and zeal. In it you will find no shirking of the consequences of acts. Such shirking is impossible. Sin carries with it its own punishment. Nor will you find a convenient substitute on whose shoulders you may bind the burdens which you have prepared. Your own back must bear them, and your own spirit groan under their weight. Neither will you find encouragement to live a life of animal sensuality and brutish selfishness, in the hope that an orthodox belief will hide your debased life, and that faith will throw a veil over impurity. You will find the creed taught by us is that acts and habits are of more moment than creeds and faith; and you will discover that that flimsy veil is rent aside with stern hand, leaving the foul life laid bare, and the poor spirit naked and open to the eye of all who gaze upon it. Nor will you find any hope that after all you may get a cheap reprieve--that God is merciful, and will not be severe to mark your sins. Those human imaginings pale in the light of truth. You will gain mercy when you have deserved it; or rather, repentance and amendment, purity and sincerity, truth and progress will bring their own reward. You will not then require either mercy or pity.

This is the religion of body and spirit which we proclaim. It is of God, and the days draw nigh when man shall know it.

+IMPERATOR.