The Spiritual Delusion/1.1.2
|The Spiritual Delusion/1.1.2/1.1.1||The Spiritual Delusion/1.1.2/1.1.3|
2. In its implicit denial of uniformity in nature.
The researches of the astronomer into the boundless expanse of the universe, filled with worlds and systems of worlds; the investigations of the geologist unraveling the history of our planet down through countless cycles of time to primordial fire-mist; the discoveries of the biologist concerning the genesis and evolution of life from its earliest, scarce recognizable form, to its master-piece, the “human form divine,” are all the result of the mind having clearly conceived the grand idea of uniformity and law in nature. The philosophy of the past has given way to new methods, under which all events are being slowly grouped as the result of natural causes. Not only in the physical world has the conception of uniformity triumphed, but as well in the world of mind. Dr. Draper, well aware of the intimate connection between man and nature, has remarked that but for the Gulf Stream, Newton would not have written his Principia, nor Milton sung; for (otherwise) England would have been as bleak and dreary as Labrador, and the Anglo-Saxon race mere Esquimaux.
If Washington, Lafayette, Kosciusko, and Kossuth had been born and obliged to live in abject poverty, struggling through life for merely enough to prevent the divorce of soul and body, as millions do, the world would never have heard their eloquent words, or witnessed their still more eloquent deeds. Is not life itself influenced by invariable law? Births and deaths are ever relatively the same, not merely in number, but also in regard to sex. By the study of statistics we may even calculate how many letters without any address will this month be dropped in the Boston post-office, apparently one of the most accidental of events.
The same is true, not only of crime in the aggregate, but even as to its nature, enabling us to determine both the perihelion and aphelion of any crime in its annual orbit. In summer, crimes against persons preponderate over crimes against property; in winter, the reverse. The tendency of women to commit crimes against persons is, to men, the same as the relations of physical strength between the two sexes. We cannot assert of this man or of that that he will commit a crime, yet we ascertain the relative number of each given offense that will be committed during the year in any country not disturbed by exceptional exciting events.
It is only by taking in a wider field of vision, a more enlarged retrospect of human action, that uniformity becomes apparent. Yet of individual human action, it must be borne in mind, we can form no definite estimate, nor predetermine an act.
The spiritist theoretically affirms the universality of law, but practically denies it by introducing new factors to still more complicate the mystery; and these unknown factors being “spirits,” they are not amenable to the laws of matter and motion on our terrestrial sphere, but override or annul them at will.
Our knowledge of the uniformity in the aggregate actions of men results from our having abundant means to examine these actions, from the most trivial to the most important. Spiritist literature is replete with anecdotes illustrating the power of “spiritual beings” to suspend the natural order of things to avert some personal calamity. “Spirits” have been known, it is soberly asseverated, to stop the water-wheel of a mill without the use of the lever; to cause persons to fall up hill when destruction would have awaited their downward course. They interfere in all the domestic relations of this world to thwart or aid our plans and accomplish their ends, however whimsical. I have heard a—so-called—“well-attested” instance of a gentleman lying in his bed in the morning and hearing “spirits” strike a match and light a fire in the stove prepared over-night! Some of our prominent spiritist lecturers wear gold charms said to have been brought to them “by spiritual agency.” The question where they got them is not pressed!
Science is based on the universality of law; and to assert that spirits “ are controlled by law does not evade the charge, for, from the very nature of the case, it must be by laws governing their world or condition of existence, not ours, and consequently beyond the grasp of our faculties here, for the evident reason that we are unable to obtain any glimpse of that condition of life, save what is occasionally reflected through “mediumship.” As long as we are unable to observe the “spirits” in their daily and hourly avocations, we can form no conception of the laws governing them, nor of the extent of their power over the physical forces of gravity, light, heat, etc.
The phenomena of individual mental action have not yet been co-ordinated under law, and many philosophers, in fact, all of the school of spiritual philosophy, in affirming the freedom of the will, deny its possibility in individual cases. If, therefore, human will, operating from the unseen, can interfere in all the relations of life, and destroy the apparent connection between cause and effect, then affirmations of law are but empty sound and utterly meaningless. The Greeks recognized the universality of law in the same sense, and when any mysterious event occurred inexplicable to them, it was ascribed to some spiritual being working in accordance with the laws of another sphere of existence.
The crowning glory of science is that it has exorcised the “spirits” out of the trees and winds, out of the rivers and mountains. Even the later forms of the same phase of thought, regarding forces as mysterious entities lying latent in matter, have had to succumb to the power of physical investigation.
A recent writer has aptly remarked, “This broad domain has been conquered little by little; for the spirits have always been very loath to go. They cling longest in the obscurest parts of existence, where it is difficult for the exorcising process to penetrate. They still persist in retaining a certain control of the mental operations; though with most of scientists the mind is placed, with all things else, under the dominion of force and law.”
Is it asserted that a knowledge of mind is not included in a knowledge of nature? If so, it is an unproven assumption, and the cause of the barrenness of much metaphysical speculation. The metaphysician, with his deductions from pure reason, and the theologian, with his Thus saith the ----------- anything but proven facts, have been tried and found incompetent to decide the phenomena of mind, and upon scientists has the task descended. But modern science, we are sometimes warned, is materialistic! Names or epithets have lost their power, happily, in deterring us from investigation. We are first to ask, not where or to what does a principle lead, but, Is it true? Is it based on facts?