Section XV

[The argument was continued, almost without a break, and with much energy and under powerful influence. I cannot hope to convey any idea of the influence that possessed me, and seemed to inspire my thoughts.]


You question whether the tendency of our teaching be not Deism, or pure Theism, or even Atheism. It is indicative of the ignorance which obtains among you, that one usually accurate in thought and well informed should class Theism with Atheism. We know nothing of that cheerless, futile nonsense which denies the existence of a God whose acts are palpable to all, even to the meanest comprehension amongst the most debased of His creatures. Were it not that we know how man can blind himself, we should refuse to believe that anyone could so blunt his senses.

Doubtless we teach that there is one Supreme Being over all: one who is not manifested as man has fancied, but who has always announced to His creatures from time to time such facts about Himself as they are able to comprehend; or, more strictly, has enabled them to develop in their minds truer views of Himself and of His dealings. We tell you, as Jesus told His followers, of a loving, holy, pure God, who guides and governs the universe; who is no impersonal conception of the human mind, but a real spiritual Father; who is no embodiment or personification of a force, but a really-existent Being, albeit known to you only by His operations, and through your conceptions of His nature and attributes. This is what we have spoken to you, eradicating, so far as we have been able, that which in your mind seemed to us to be dishonouring to the All-Wise Father, but leaving undisturbed other theological fancies which are not of special import.

If you say that our teaching tends to show that there is no such thing as absolute truth in such matters, we can but express our thankfulness that we have so far made ourselves intelligible. No doubt there is for you, in your present imperfect state, no such thing as absolute truth, as there is no such thing as absolute perfection. You surely do not expect that your eye can gaze undimmed into mysteries which dazzle the vision of the highest intelligences. Surely you do not hope that your circumscribed mind can grasp the Infinite and Incomprehensible; that which to us in remotest cycles shall still remain a subject of adoring wonder. The suggestion can but be born of ignorance caused by the imperfect state of development in which you now live. For you truth must be variable, not to be grasped in its entirety, not to be viewed in minute detail, but seen only in shadowy outline through an encircling veil. We do not even pretend that we reveal to you absolute truth, seeing that we ourselves are yet ignorant, longing to dive deeper into much that is still mysterious. We do but give you such aid as we are permitted in shadowing forth for yourself conceptions of the Supreme, which are less widely removed from truth than those which have passed current among you as the immediate revelation of the Most High.

We have succeeded in evolving a system of theology which you admit to be coherent, beautiful, and elevated, and which is acceptable to your mind. We have not ventured to do more. We have shown you a God who commands your adoration and respect. We have displayed to you a rational and comprehensible view of your duty to Him, to mankind, and to your own self; and we have established our moral code not by the persuasive inducements of a heaven and hell such as you are wont to hear of, but by arguments not less persuasive, by inducements which do not come home less forcibly to the mind.

To say that we teach a motiveless religion is surely the strangest misconception. What! is it nothing that we teach you that each act in this, the seed-time of your life, will bear its own fruit; that the results of conscious and deliberate sin must be remedied in sorrow and shame at the cost of painful toil in far-distant ages; that the erring spirit must gather up the tangled thread and unravel the evil of which it was long ages the perpetrator?

Is it nothing that we tell you that words and deeds are as the pebble thrown into the stream which causes an ever-widening ripple, ceaselessly enlarging in its effects, and that for such influence you are accountable; that every word, every act, is of incalculable import in its results and influence; that the good which your influence produces is to you a source of gratification hereafter, while of the ill you must view the baleful effects in agony and remorse?

Is it nothing that we tell you that reward and punishment are not delayed till a far-off day faintly imagined, after a period of torpor, almost of death, but are instant, immediate, supervening upon sin by the action of an invariable law, and acting ceaselessly until the cause which produced it is removed?

Is this no incentive to a life of sanctity and holiness? Which, say you, is the most potent incentive to a holy life of progress: that creed which we have indicated? or that which teaches that a man may live as seems to him good, may wrong his neighbours, insult his God, and debase his own spirit, may break all laws, divine and human, may be loathsome in his moral nature, a blot on the name of man, and then, by a fanatical cry, by a fancied faith, by a momentary operation of the mind, may be fitted to enter into a dreamy heaven, where his sole joy is to be that which his nature would view with distaste, but which, now that the magic change has been effected, is to become the congenial occupation of eternity? Which faith will move the degraded most? To tell him that for each sin, discovered or undiscovered by his fellow, he will have to repent; that each must be remedied, not by another, but by himself; and that no happiness is possible for him till he grows a purer, better, truer man ? or, to tell him that, do what he will, heaven is open to the vilest reprobate, and that a dying cry, when fainting nature is wrung with agony, can magically change his spirit, and send it, after a distant judgment, pure and good, in the immediate presence of his God, in a heaven where his unvarying occupation will be that which he would now regard as most insipid and undesirable?

We know and you know which faith is most likely to appeal to a man's reason and judgment; which would be the strongest deterrent from sin: which would keep a wanderer in the paths of rectitude most surely. And yet you say that we preach a vague religion in place of a definite; a colourless gospel in place of one backed by a definite system of reward and punishment. Nay, nay, We are they who preach a definite, intelligible, clear system of reward and punishment, but in doing so we do not feign a fabled heaven, a brutal hell, and a human God. You are they who relegate to a far-off speck the day of retribution, and encourage the vilest to believe that he may enter into the very presence of the Most High sometime, somewhere, somehow, if he will only assent to statements which he does not understand, which he does not believe, and in truth of which he feels no sort of real interest.

We boldly assert that we teach a faith which is more calculated to deter from open sin than any yet propounded for man's acceptance; one that hold out to him more rational hopes for his hereafter, one that is to him more real, more comprehensible than any which has yet been put before him. That faith, we say again, is Divine. It comes to you as the revelation of God. We do not expect or wish that it should become current among men until they are fitted to receive it. For that time we wait in patient prayer. When it does spread among men, and they can yield its precepts an intelligent obedience, we do not hesitate to say that man will sin less in hope of a cheap salvation; that he will be guided by a more intelligent and intelligible future; that he will need fewer coercive regulations, fewer punishments by human law, and that the motive-spring within him will be found to be not less forcible and enduring than the debased system of heavenly inducements and hellish deterrents, which can stand no serious probing, and which, when once rationally examined, ceases to allure or to deter, and crumbles into dust, baseless, irrational, and absurd.

[In answer to my objection that the outcome of Spiritualism was bad in the mass, or, at any rate, of mixed benefit, it was written, July 10th, 1873:--]

We would speak to you on this point, and endeavour to show you the errors into which you have fallen. You fall, first of all, into a mistake almost inseparable from your circumscribed vision. You mistake the results which obtrude themselves on your notice for the total outcome of the movement. You are as they who are bewildered by the din and outcry of a small sect of enthusiasts, and who mistake them and their vociferations for a mighty power, for the voice of a representative body of opinion; and lo! they heed not the silent power which works deep down below, which is seen only in its results, and is not heard by its much crying. You hear much of a noisy, undisciplined mass, not numerous, indeed, but obtrusive; and you say well that it is not such cries that can regenerate the world. You shrink intellectually from their utterances, and are inclined to question whether this, that is so forbidding, can indeed be of God, and for good. A part only is visible to you, and that part but dimly. Of the hidden, silent votaries of a faith which comes to them from the God who is revealing Himself to them in ways which come home to their several necessities, you hear and know nothing. Such are outside of your ken; though they may and do exist all around you, the faithful communers with the spheres, who know in what they have believed, and who drink in, hour by hour, fresh store of grace and knowledge, waiting for the time when they, too, shall be emancipated from the prison-house of the body, and rise to take their part in the glorious work.

And so it chances that, both from the obtrusive crying of the one and from the silence of the other, both from the limited nature of your faculties and from the still more limited opportunities for observation, you take a narrow view, and substitute a part for the whole, representing the great body by that limb which is least fairly a specimen of it. We are disposed to question your conclusion as to any phase of Spiritualism being bad or mischievous in its outcome, while we deny altogether your ability to pronounce any opinion upon the broad question in its ultimate issues.

For what is the real truth? The operations of the Supreme are uniform in this as in all things else. The evil and the good are mingled. He does not use great messengers for that work which can be accomplished by more ordinary spirits. He does not send the high and exalted ones to minister conviction to an undeveloped and earth-bound spirit. Far otherwise: He proportions his causes to the effects which they are intended to produce. In the operation of the ordinary processes of nature, He does not produce insignificant results from gigantic causes. So in this domain of spirit agency. They who are crude in intellect, and undeveloped in aspiration, whose souls do not soar to heights of moral and intellectual grandeur, such are the charge of spirits who know best how to reach and touch them; who proportion their means to the end in view; and who most frequently use material means for operating on an undeveloped intelligence. To the uneducated in mind and soul, the spiritually or intellectually unprogressed, they speak in the language most intelligible to their wants. The physical operation of force that can be gauged by external sense is necessary to assure some--nay, very many, of existence beyond the grave.

Such receive their demonstration, not from the inspiring voice of angels, such as those who in every age have spoken to the inner souls of the man who formed and guided that age, but from spirits like unto themselves, who know their wants, their mental habits and altitudes, and who can supply that proof which will come home to and be acceptable by those to whom they minister. And you require to remember, good friend, that extreme intellectual may co-exist with scarce any spiritual development; even as a progressive spirit may be hampered by the body in which it is confined, or bound down by imperfect mental culture. Not to every soul is the spirit voice audible. Not to every spirit is the same proof made clear. And it is very frequently the case that souls which have been so hampered by superabundance of corporeal or deficiency of mental development, find their spiritual progress in a sphere where those faults are remedied.

For nature is not changed all at once as by a magic wand. Idiosyncrasy is gradually modified and elevated by slow degrees. Hence, to one who has been born with mental faculties in a high state of development, and who has improved them by perpetual culture, the means employed to reach the uneducated and unrefined must needs seem coarse and rude, even as the issues seem rough and undesirable. The voice is harsh, and the zeal evoked is not according to discretion. The nature is being gradually changed from a blank and cheerless materialism, or a still more hopeless indifferentism, and there springs within them an enthusiasm at the new life which they feel swelling in their souls. They give vent to the joy they feel in tones not cultured but not less real, not pleasing, perhaps, to your critical ear, but not less grateful to the ear of the Good Father than the cry of the returning son who has wandered from his home and disowned his kindred. The voice is real, and that is what He and we regard. We are not scrupulously nice to mark the exact accents in which the cry is syllabled.

So to the spiritually undeveloped the means used to ensure conviction are not the voices of the angels who minister between God and man, for they would cry in vain. Means are used which may lead the spirit to ponder on spiritual things, and guide it to discern them spiritually. Through the agency of material operations the spirit is led up to the spiritual. Such operations you are familiar with, and the time will never come when they will be unnecessary. To some it will always be requisite that such training should be the commencement of their spiritual life. And none can deny the wisdom of adapting means to ends, but those who are unwise and narrow in the view they take. The only danger is in substituting the physical for the spiritual, and resting in it. It is but a means a valuable and indispensible means to some, which is intended to eventuate in spiritual development.

So, then, to confine ourselves to the more conspicuous example which offends you--the rude, uncultured, undeveloped spirit. Is the voice which cries to Him in tones which sound so harsh, and which produces such results, the voice of evil as you seem to fancy?

With the question of evil we have dealt before, and shall deal again; but here we fearlessly say that, save in cases readily discernible, and which bear on their face the marks of their origin, it is not as you fancy.

Evil there is enough, alas! nor will it cease till the adversaries be overthrown, and the victory be complete. We are far from denying or making light of the danger which encompasses us and you; but it is not such as you imagine. Not everything ill-regulated, uncultured, or rude is necessarily bad. Far from it! There is little, very little there that is bad; while evil may lurk where you least suspect it. Those struggling souls, so young in their spiritual life, are learning to know that an existence of infinite progression is before them, and that their progress then depends on their mental, bodily, and spiritual development now. So they try to care for their bodies. In place of grovelling drunkards, they become enthusiastic abstainers from intoxicating drinks; and in their zeal they would force the habit upon all. They cannot discern nice shades of difference. And frequently their zeal outruns their discretion. But is the rabid enthusiast, with all his illogical reasonings and his exaggerated utterances offensive to cultured taste, is he a worse man spiritually than was the loutish, loafing sot, whose mind was paralysed with fiery drink, whose body was defiled with sensuality, and whose moral and spiritual progress was utterly checked by habitual intoxication? You know that he is not; that he is alive and awake to what he believes to be his duty; that he is not the hopeless, aimless creature that he was; that he has risen from the dead, a resurrection which causes joy and thankfulness amongst the angels of God. What if his cries lack in logic what they gain in zeal and energy! They are the voice of conviction, the cry of a spirit awaking from the lethargy of death. There is more value, friend, to us and to our God in the one earnest, honest voice of a spirit struggling to make its new-found convictions heard, more to gladden us in our mission, and to cheer us on to renewed exertion, than in the conventional, dreamy, dilettante respectability which will only utter its half convictions in the monotous drawl of decorous fashion, and will, moreover, be studious to avoid even a whisper that may chance to be unpopular.

You say that popular or vulgar Spiritualism is undesirable; that its utterances are rude, and its tone repellent. We tell you, nay. Those who thus forcibly state their convictions in terms not very exact and polished come home to the masses far more than any others could with polite and polished utterance. The rough, jagged stone shot from their sling with all the rude energy of assured conviction is more forcible than the calculated utterance of the most cultured and refined mind, whose words are measured by custom, and toned down to the line of respectable moderation. Because they are rough they are serviceable; and because they deal with actual physical facts they come home to minds which are incapable of discerning metaphysical distinctions.

In the army of the spirit-messengers there are ministers suited to every want. There is for the hard materialist who knows naught but matter, the spirit that can show him of an invisible force superior to material laws. To the shrinking, timid soul which cares not for great issues, so it can be assured of the welfare of its own loved ones and of reunion with them, there comes the voice of the departed, breathing in recognisable accents the test needed for conviction, or conveying assurance of reunion and of affectionate intercourse in the hereafter. To the spirit that is best approached through the avenues of the mind by processes of logical argument, there comes the voice that demonstrates external agency, evolves orderly and sequential proof, and builds up by slow degrees an edifice of conviction founded on the indisputable fact. Aye, and above all, to those who have passed beyond the alphabet of spiritual agency, and who long to progress further and further into the mysteries which are not penetrable by the eye of sense, to such come teachers who can tell of the deep things of God, and reveal to the aspiring soul richer views of Him and of its destiny. To each there is the suitable messenger and the appropriate message, even as God has ever adapted His means to the end in view.

Yet once again. Remember that Spiritualism is not, as was the Gospel message of old, a professedly external revelation, coming from the spiritual hierarchy to mankind: proclaimed as a revelation, as a religion, as a means of salvation. It is all this: but it is also other than this. To you, and to such as approach it from your point of view, it is this: but to the lowly and suffering, the sorrow-laden and ignorant, it is other far. It is the assurance of personal expectation of reunion; an individual consolation, of private application first of all. It is, in effect, the bridging over, for divers purposes, of the gulf which separates the world of sense from the world of spirit. With the disembodied, as with the incarned, degrees of development differ: and to the undeveloped man comes most readily the spirit who is on his own mental plane. Hence it is that manifestations vary in kind and in degree; and that frequently enough scum rises to the surface, and prevents you from seeing what is going on beneath.

Could you see, as you now see, the signs which have attended and followed similar movements in other ages of the world, you would not fall into error of supposing that these signs are exclusively confined to our mission. They are inherent in your human nature, inseparable from anything which deeply stirs the heart of man. They attended the mission of Moses to the Israelites of old, of the Hebrew Prophets, as well as of the Christ. They have appeared at every fresh epoch in the history of man, and they attend the present development of divine knowledge. They are no more a sample of our work than in your political history are the ravings of the excited demagogue evidence of real and influential political opinion.

You must distinguish: and to one who lives in the midst of a great movement it is not always easy to do so. It will be easier when, in the time to come, you look back upon the struggle which is now seething around you.

We shall have more to say in answer to you.

For the present--Farewell.