Section XXIII

[On Nov. 2, 1873, a question which I proposed to put was set aside, and a communication was made as to the progressive revelation of God in that part of the universal Church of which we have the record in our Bible. I had been told before that this was but one of many collateral revelations:--]
We would speak to you of the revelation of God amongst men in times of old by agencies similar too those which we use now. Throughout the history of which you possess the record in the earlier part of your Bible there stand out noble spirits who, during their bodily lives, shone as lights of truth and progress, and who, when released from the flesh, inspired in their turn those who were to succeed them. Such, in the early days when God was fabled to deal with man more personally than now--such was he whom you know as Melchizedek. He blessed and conveyed to Abram the seal of Divine favour. He was the chosen vehicle of spirit power in a day when man had not cut himself off from belief in spirit intercourse. He was the light shining in darkness, the prophet of God to one section of His people.

And it is well that we warn you here, on the threshold of your enlightenment, that you must learn to discriminate in the ancient records between that which is record of fact and that which is only expression of belief. The writings which give history of those early days are full of inconsistent statements. They were not, as we assert to you, the compilation of their reputed author, but were compiled from traditional beliefs in a far later age, at a time when history had merged into legend, and much of mere opinion and belief had become stamped with the mark of authenticity. So, though it be most true that fact is embodied in these records, as indeed in the sacred books of other faiths, you must beware how you accord implicit belief to every isolated statement contained in them. Hitherto you have read these stories from a standpoint of unquestioning assent. It is needful now that you study them in a new light--one more profitable, and not less interesting.

God did not associate with man after the anthropomorphic fashion described in Genesis; nor did He personally govern a favoured nation save through His selected instruments.

His dealings with man have been uniform through the ages--intimate in proportion as man cultivates spirituality, remote as his animal nature asserts itself, and he becomes corporeal and material in his instincts.

So, in those now distant days, it was Melchizedek who bore to the chosen Abram the Divine Benediction. He whom Christian and Mahommedan alike have agreed to exalt was not the immediate recipient of spirit guidance as was the Priest-King of Salem. Abram faded from power when he passed from the body, and in the centuries since his incarnation he has been but little concerned in influencing men. It may seem strange that it should be so; but it is so with many a spirit whose name fills a large place in your world's history. The work has been done, and the new work does not bring the spirit in contact with matter. Or, perchance, the work has been badly done, the chosen vessel has lost its perfume, and becomes in spirit-land savourless and useless.

Melchizedek returned again to influence the most powerful reformer your world then had--the leader of the Israelites out of Egypt, and the Lawgiver who framed for them their code and constitution. He was a most powerfully organised and developed instrument of spirit-power. A keen intelligence had been developed in what was then the best school, the esoteric wisdom of the Egyptians. A powerful magnetic will fitted him for the post of ruler; and a powerful band of spirits operated on the Jewish nation through him, and through them on the world. A code of religious observance was perfected, a system of government elaborated, and laws and regulations laid down which were adapted for the specific necessities of a great people in a great crisis of their history. The Jews were then passing through a phase not unlike that which has come to other people in later days--one to which the present age bears some noteworthy points of resemblance, a period of development of knowledge, when old things are passing away, and the creative spirit makes all things new.

Here again beware of false deductions. The laws then given were not meant for all time, as some of your teachers falsely pretend. They were the power of God to that distant age--so much of truth as man could grasp, inspired in the same way, and in no other, as have been all the utterances of truth which the good God permits His messengers to declare to men. They set forth the needed truth that the One Supreme God rules over His people and cares for their well-being. The love due to God and the charity and loving-kindness due to the brother were embodied for a nation which had drunk in the baser forms of Egyptian polytheistic teaching, and had had no part in the inner mysteries where alone truth dwells.

These commandments which have been perpetuated till now, embodied for a changeful age a phase of truth. They contain laws of action which are true in spirit, but not binding in literal exactness on those who have outgrown the necessity for them. They were given by the spirit-guides to Moses on the secluded top of Sinai, above the turmoil of Israel, and removed from the lower influences of earth. They knew then what man has forgotten now--how that perfect isolation is requisite for perfect communing, and that if you would have pure and unadulterated spirit- teaching, it must be communicated to one who has been removed from the mixed influences, the cares and anxieties, the jealousies and disputes which crowd the lower air. So is the message more pure, and so does the medium hear and receive with sincerity and truth.

Moses was to select seventy elders--men of spiritual development, for such alone were then chosen for offices of power--upon whom his own influence was perpetually brought to bear, and who were the channels by which that influence permeated the people. So the code was elaborated and set in operation, and when the Lawgiver passed from his work on earth he became an exalted spirit whose name is emblazoned for all ages as a benefactor of men.

He, too, in his turn, influenced men after many generations as the inspiring guide of Elijah. We intentionally pass over the other manifestations of spirit-power which occur in other directions, in order that we may preserve intact the grand chain which stretched from Melchizedek to the Christ. Nor do we name more than it is necessary to indicate in order to show you the continuity, and to press on you the fact that these, who had been great workers for God during their lives on earth, did influence man's destinies even after their withdrawal from the body. Many other chains of influence there were, and many other centres from which truth, more or less advanced, was diffused, but you are not concerned with them. That which culminated in Jesus Christ is that with which you are concerned, though we implore you to cast aside that ignorant and selfish sectarianism which would arrogate to itself the sole proprietorship of truth.

Elijah, the great master, the grandest spirit who ever graced the nation of Israel, was in a very high degree the recipient of spiritual guidance from Him who had been the Leader of His people. The traditional reverence for Moses and Elias felt by the Jewish people is shown you in a fable that God buried the body of Moses, while he caught up Elijah in a chariot and horses of fire to the skies where he fancied heaven lay. Such was the reverence felt, that they were fabled to be singular even in death. We need not tell you that no material body was ever translated to lead a corporeal life in the land of spirit. You know that such is but an allegory to indicate the glorious translation of an exalted spirit from a sphere where his work is done, to one where his extended influence is to begin. He left to his successor a two-fold portion of his spirit, not indeed in that Elisha was endued with double virtue, for that was far from being so, but that the glorious results of Elijah's power showed with two-fold force in the days of his successor, who seconded his efforts and carried on his work.

He, too, reappeared in after ages, and exercised his great influence again, and stood, as you know, with his Master side by side with the Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. And in the vision of John the Divine, they are again depicted as coming to revisit the earth in still later days.

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[I did not at all understand the allusion made to his return in later days when the communication was written, November 2, 1873. It has only been lately that I have been led to refer it to "the two witnesses" mentioned in Revelation xi. 3, etc. Nor should I have noticed this at all, but for a pamphlet on the Apocalypse which some unknown friend sent to me. The pamphlet deals with these witnesses, and their prophesyings, and came to me most opportunely to elucidate what I could not undestand.

I asked some questions at the time, and, among others, whether there were not some before Melchizedek who were recipients of Divine inspiration. It was replied:--]

Assuredly. We commenced with the first link in the chain which culminated with Jesus. In it we left many links unnoticed, and we expressly said that out of it there were many who were recipients of Divine inspiration. Such was Enoch, a highly-gifted spirit. Noah, in like manner, but imperfectly. Deborah was highly favoured, and all they whom history calls Judges of Israel, were chosen for the special reason that they were amenable to spirit-influence. It were long to particularise all, and we shall speak hereafter of other manifestations of spiritual power in the Jewish records. For you will see that we confine ourselves now, first, to the Jewish records; and, next, to one particular chain in these records.

You said that the ancient records were not to be depended on for literal accuracy. As to the Pentateuch, is it the work of one author?

The Books to which you refer are the compilation of the days of Ezra. They were compiled from more ancient records, which were in danger of being lost, and some parts of which had to be supplied from tradition or memory. The original records of the days previous to Moses did not exist; and the record which you have in Genesis is partly imaginary, partly legendary, and partly the transcript of records. The account of the Creation and the story of the Deluge are legendary. The account of the Egyptian Ruler, Joseph, is transcribed from records. But in no case are the books as they now stand the work of their reputed author. They are the compilation of Ezra and his scribes, and do but embody the conceptions and legends of the period. The accounts which concern the Mosaic law are more exact, because precise records of the code were preserved as sacred books, and from thence the particulars were drawn up. We mention this to avoid at once the necessity of replying to any texts from these books which may be quoted as an argument. The records themselves are not of literal accuracy--in the earlier portions not to be relied on at all, and in the later, only where they refer to that part of the Mosaic record which was preserved.

Imaginary, you say.

It was necessary to supply lost books, and what was drawn up was from memory or legend.
Abraham. You speak slightingly of him.

No; but in comparison with the great spirit, who was to him God's messenger, he was on a lower plane. We do not show man's opinion in all such matters. His name has been widely known; but he has played no great part with us.

The translations of Enoch and Elijah. What were they?

Legendary beliefs. A halo of glory was shed around even the death of those whom men reverenced. In earliest days the man who attracted to himself the reverence of his fellows, and round whose name a certain reverential awe had gathered, was fabled to have been taken to join God in the heaven for which his life had fitted him. Moses, the mysterious agent of Divine power, the commanding head of his people, was so fabled to be mysteriously removed from earth. He had talked familiarly with the Deity whom he had revealed, and now he was to go to join Him. Elijah, in like manner, the strange, weird, mysterious power, who came and went as with the freedom of air, who seemed to be guided by no human laws, governed by no such restrictions as fence in man's movements--he, too, it was imagined, was translated from earth to heaven in such sort as he had lived. In all cases it was the imaginings concerning an anthropomorphic God and a material heaven that lay at the root of the fancy. We have before told you that man can only receive such ideas about God and heaven as he is fitted to grasp by his spiritual development. In the early days of your world's history man pictured a God who was but an omnipotent man--a man in every respect, with certain qualities superadded, those qualities being such as man would fancy as natural additions to the being with which he was already acquainted. In other words, man took the highest ideal of humanity, and added to it certain qualities; the result he called Deity. In this he was doing only what man has always done. The human conception of Deity must ever be clouded with mortal mist, even as the revelation of God can only come through a mortal medium, and be proportioned to human capacity. This is a natural and invariable consequence of the conditions under which you exist. So, the knowledge of God being progressive, and man having grown in wisdom, he discovers from time to time that his conception of God must be revised. The need is felt, and the additional light is given. (This is the best answer to those among you who fancy that man can learn nothing from us of God and the spirit's life and progress.)

So it is with regard to heaven. You have unlearned much that previous ages have fancied about heaven. And none save the most ignorant would now imagine that a material body could find a home in heaven, as once men thought it could. The time of material heavens, into which mysterious beings who had been deified on earth were translated bodily into the society of an anthropomorphic God, is past. You do not imagine God as an omnipotent, omnipresent man, living in a place where His throne is surrounded by a throng who do naught else but worship and adore, as men would worship were they to see God amongst them on earth. Such a heaven is but a baseless dream. Into spirit-life spirit alone can enter. You know that you have outgrown the fable of the bodily translation of a material frame somewhere into the skies, there to live as it had lived on earth, in the society of a God who was human in all respects save that He was superhuman, in a heaven which was borrowed from the images of a vision which typified under a symbol spiritual truth to John the Seer. You know that no such God exists. A translation will await each good and true man, but not of his human flesh and bones. His glorified spirit shall rise from the dead and worn-out shroud of flesh that has served its purpose, to a brighter life than man has pictured, in a brighter heaven than human seer has ever imaged.

No doubt there are a number of legends which come in the end to be accepted as truth. The difficulty is to know truth from legend, and the danger, to uproot the tares with the wheat. And even a myth may have a very discernible meaning, and embody truth.

It is so. The legends of which your sacred records are full are in very many cases superstitious beliefs that have centred round great names. There is a nucleus of truth enveloped in a surrounding of myth. We have frequently told you that man has erred greatly in his conceptions of us and of our influence and work. Some causes which have produced this result are beyond his control, others he can govern. He cannot in the childhood of his intellect grasp knowledge which his mind has not the power to comprehend.

That is unavoidable. He cannot picture correctly a condition of life which is utterly different from the state in which he has lived, and with which alone he is acquainted. He must be naught by illustration and analogy. That too is unavoidable. But he heaps together words and ideas which were intended to be figurative, and constructs from them a notion which is incoherent and absurd. Each step of knowledge will lead you to see this more clearly.

Moreover, man has fancied that each revelation of God enshrines permanent truth of universal application, of literal and exact accuracy. He did not see that man is taught by us as man teaches his own children; and accurate definitions of abstract truth do not suit the comprehension of a child. With all the literalness of a child he accepts the very words of revelation as mathematically and logically accurate, and builds upon them a number of theories, absurd in their nature, and conflicting among themselves. The child accepts the parent's word unhesitatingly, and quotes it as law. It is only later that he learns that he was being taught in parables. Man has dealt with Revelation in the same way. He has assumed literal exactness where there is only Oriental imagery, and mathematical accuracy where he has only a very fallible and frequently legendary record. So he has perpetuated ignorant ideas about a jealous God, and a fiery hell, and a heaven in the skies where the elect are gathered, and a physical resurrection, and a universal assize, and such notions, which belong to the age of childhood and are outgrown by the developed man. The man should put aside the notions of the child, and soar to higher knowledge.

But in place of that legendary belief, primitive superstitions, ignorant fancies, are perpetuated. The hyperbolical visions of an imaginative people are taken for hard fact; and a medley of fancy, folly, and truth is jumbled together, which no reflecting mind on an advanced plane of knowledge can continue to accept as matter of belief. Faith is the cord that has bound together this incoherent mass. We cut that cord, and bid you use your reason to try that which has been received and held by faith alone. You will find much in the mass that is of human invention, dating from the infancy of man's mind. You will reject much that is both cumbersome and profitless. But you will find a residue that commends itself to reason, is attested by your own experience, and is derived from God. You will gather hints of what the good God destines for his creatures. You cannot get more in your present state. Sufficient that you enter on a new phase of being free from the blunders and misconceptions too rife in the present. You will see by degrees that the past is valuable principally for the light which it sheds on the present, and the glimpses which it gives you of the future.

This, as you should know by this, is the purpose of our present work--to lead to purer and less dishonouring views of God, of life, and of progress, than have hitherto obtained among you. To this end we must first point out the errors in your creed, the human figments that have passed current for Divine truth, and the legendary fancies that have become crystallised into history, accepted by faith, but rejected by right reason. We do but require patient and honest thought on your part. Nor think that our work is all destruction. We shall be able to construct when the rubbish is removed. Till then, if we seem to be scattering destruction broadcast, bethink you that we are but gathering the rubbish in heaps, and removing it, preparatory to the erection of a nobler edifice, a holier temple to a Diviner God.