The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.1
|The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.1/1.1.5||The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.1/1.2.2|
MODERN SPIRITISM UNPHILOSOPHICAL IN ITS TEACHINGS.
1. In its materialistic spiritualism.
“In the early stages of human culture,” says Dr. Alger, “when the natural sensibilities are intensely preponderant in power, and the critical judgment is in abeyance, whatever strongly moves the soul causes a poetical secretion on the part of the imagination. Thus, a rainbow is personified; a waterfall is supposed to be haunted by spiritual beings; a volcano with fiery crater is seen as a Cyclops with one flaming eye in the centre of his forehead. This law holds not only in relation to impressive objects or appearances in nature, but also in relation to occurrences, traditions, usages. In this way innumerable myths arise,—explanatory or amplifying thoughts secreted by the stimulated imagination, and then narrated as events.”
Thus Fetichism slowly emerged as the natural result of man’s necessities. Every forest, river, mountain, and glen had its own inward life; every tree, rock, and inanimate thing was endowed with a conscious personality. But, it has been often asserted, this tends to prove that religion and philosophy had their origin in ignorance of the natural causes of events. Not entirely so: through ignorance men offered their prayers or supplications to imaginary beings, but ignorance only caused the misdirection of their prayers; it was never the cause of their heart-felt need of prayer. This exists independently of fear and ignorance. Aspiration, the soul of all prayer, has its existence in the very constitution of mind, and in an ignorant age must necessarily have been manifested in other than an enlightened method; and from that remote epoch to our own time, man has never been able to shake off this feeling of dependence on the Unseen.
“As thought advanced,” says Mill, “not only all physical agencies capable of ready generalization, as Night, Morning, Sleep, Death, together with the more obvious of the great emotional agencies. Beauty, Love, War, but by degrees also the ideal products of a higher abstraction, as Wisdom, Justice, and the like, were severally accounted the work and manifestation of as many special divinities. “ The conception of higher power could not exist in primitive minds, independent of the idea of form. By the very constitution of our minds, we cannot think of things at all, without calling into action the imaginative faculties which deal with mental pictures of material objects. To the primitive man these mighty spirits must necessarily be endowed with form, organs, and passions similar in nature to our own.
Long ages of steady advancement must have passed away before man could rise to a comprehension of the meaning of that grand statement—“God is Spirit!” And still how many there are who fail to even dimly discern the depth and beauty of that saying, and persist in regarding form as essential to personality! Spirit is illimitable, infinite; formless, yet not void; invisible, intangible, yet real. Goethe has said, and it is as true now as in prehistoric times, “Man is a true Narcissus; he delights to see his own image everywhere; and he spreads himself underneath the universe like the amalgam behind the glass.”
On the part of our spiritist friends we find a similar failure to comprehend the radical difference between spirit and matter. In fact, most of them fail to make any distinction whatever in essence, and recognize them as virtually one, spirit being etherealized matter, more highly rarefied than anything of which we are now cognizant; possessing less density than a physical force, permeating or passing through any form of gross matter, yet not affecting it physically.
We have it stated by “spirits,” as reported by Judge Edmonds in his book on “Spiritualism,” that “spirit-body or spirit-matter is intangible; and it is so sublimated that it is like electricity almost. We do not pass grossly through matter; but we will, and like a current of electricity we pervade matter. Our clothing is adapted to our conditions, and thus we are able to take with us what is on us.” The illustrious Swedenborg has so far “progressed” since his advent in the spheres, as to have the following highly “spiritual” conceptions: “Now, spirits possess a material nature, and this nature, or form, in some is so gross that it is almost subject to laws as imperative as those on earth. I mean as material laws. Their material nature is under influences that require obedience, and though there is none of the physical suffering you have, yet there is as much material necessity and absolute want, in proportion to the grossness of their nature, as there possibly can be in your material world.” “We eat and drink of the fruit of the countries where we reside.” “The new spirit often finds it necessary to shelter its body from the sun or storm.”
Swedenborg gives us the following pretty picture of the scenes which burst upon his spiritual vision on entering the spiritual world: “As soon as I reached the sixth sphere, I was conducted to my own home and left alone. I sank upon the grass, and listened to the exquisite singing of the birds. . . . I felt as though I was just born into a most beautiful world. I went to my bed, which was made of roses, and laid myself upon it, and in a dreamy state of happiness fell asleep.”
“I dressed myself, and went into my garden. I saw all kinds of tempting fruit hanging upon the trees. . . . I took some of the fruit, and eat it. It was the first time I had tasted spiritual food!” “When I rose to the seventh sphere, I had but one guide, who carried a lamp.” Probably to find the “opening” through which they were obliged to pass. (“Supernal Theology.”) Swedenborg’s experience in the spirital world having been so extensive and varied, we are loath to part with so valuable a witness, and hence will quote again from him, as written through the mediumship of Dr. Dexter. He is again describing the beauties of the sixth sphere:
“The newness of everything impressed me with delight. The air was pure, and the whole heavens were clear and bright beyond all comparison. I saw no difference in the sky, except in its brightness and purity; and on looking abroad on the earth I could detect no difference in its appearance from our earth, except in the heavenly beauty and harmony in the arrangement of the landscape. The trees, the rocks and mountains, the flowers and birds, the gushing torrents and murmuring rivulets, the oceans and rivers, man, woman, and child, all passed before me.” “We occupy earth,—tangible, positive earth,—as much as your earth; but the advanced state of both spirit and locality renders it unnecessary for us to labor much to obtain food for the support of our bodies. Then, again, the earth brings forth spontaneously most of the food required for our bodies. Advanced spirits do not require as much food as those who are below them.—Spiritualism, sec. xv.
The “clear vision” of the seer is in accord with these angelic visitors. Andrew Jackson Davis reports as follows the result of his personal observations. “The Spirit Land! What do you mean by these terms? Something figurative, or something literal? I mean a substantial world; a sphere similar in constitution to this world, only in every conceivable respect one degree superior to the best planet in our solar system.
“What is the external appearance of the Spirit Land?
“It appears like a beautiful morning! The surface is diversified endlessly, with valleys, rivers, hills, mountains, and innumerable parks. These parks are particularly attractive. The ten thousand varieties of flowers lend a peculiar prismatic charm to the far-extending territories, and the soft divine ether in which the entire world is bathed surpasses all conception.”—Present Age and Inner Life, p. 273.
The illustrious band of “spirits” who made the Banner of Light Free Circle their headquarters are no less explicit. Cardinal Cheverus is the respondent.
“Ques.—It is said that the spiritual body possesses all the organs of the physical body, and that there is nothing without use. If this be the case, of what use to the spirit are the teeth and stomach? Do spirits eat food, masticating and digesting it, and passing it out of the system, in the spirit-world, as we do in this? If not, of what use are the internal organs?
“Ans.—The spirit-body possesses all the organs known to the natural body, and all the attributes, all the functions, known to the natural body, and more also; for at each successive step in progress the spirit has need of new functions, new attributes, and the divine Providence provides for all it hath need of. Yes, the spirit hath a stomach, has teeth, and uses them. Spirits have need to eat, as you have. They do not subsist upon nothing. Here you are in the rudimental state of spirit-life, and here you eat. These spirits dwell in a more refined state, but there they eat also. Receive and give is the order of nature, divine and human. Therefore all the processes by which progress is carried on here, are known also and made use of in the spirit-world.”—B. of L., August 14, 1869.
On another occasion, when Theodore Parker was presiding, we have additional testimony. (As each “spirit” is only responsible for his own utterances, I desire to submit quotations from those whose utterances are deemed most authoritative, for, of course, the views of the medium are immaterial.)
“Ques.—Different answers have been given as to whether spirit-animals exist in the spirit-world. What information would you give with reference to that question?
“Ans.—There are spheres in the spirit-world where no animals exist; there are others where they do exist; but the sphere in which they are found most plentiful is that which is contiguous to your earth,.—that which forms the inner sphere, or spirit-circle of your earth. These animals are a necessity to the inhabitants of the spheres in which they are found; they are not a necessity where they are not found.
“Q.—In more advanced spiritual spheres there is spiritual scenery; they have trees and plants, why not animals? We should consider the animal kingdom higher than the vegetable.
“A.—You say, in our ‘more advanced spheres.’ These conditions exist in all spheres. We do not know why spirits are not found in all spheres, but we know they are not; no more than tropical flowers bloom in frigid zones. They are not a necessity there.”—B. of L., April 6, 1872.
Rabbi Lowenthal, through Mrs. Conant, describes a “spiritual home” as “dwellings surrounded by the beautiful in nature, perhaps by trees, water, shrubbery, flowers. All that goes to make up a beautiful rural home here generally constitutes the beauty of a spiritual home.”—B. of L., August 10, 1872. Father Fitz-James, another member of the “band,” declares that all the various secret orders and fraternities existing among us “are perpetuated in the spirit-world, and all the various modes of protection against fraud, through outsiders, exist there as here.”—B. of L., June 8, 1872.
The “communications” from the spirit-world published recently under the title of “Strange Visitors,” embracing articles on philosophy, science, government, and religion, from Irving, “Willis, Thackeray, Richter, Humboldt, Sir David Brewster, and others, give us the same crass conception of spiritual existence. Margaret Fuller communicates an essay on “Literature in Spirit-Life.” Professor Olmsted informs us of the “Locality of the Spirit-World;” Edward Everett contributes his more matured views on “Government;” Professor Bush discourses pleasantly on “Life and Marriage in Spirit-Life;” W. E. Burton informs us concerning “Acting in Spirit-Life;” and Charles B. Elliott tells us what he knows of “Painting in Spirit-Life.’ We have in this volume minute descriptions of “spiritual” architecture; and from the pen, if my memory serves me right, of N. P. Willis, we have a pen-and-ink sketch of a spiritual entertainment, where “spiritual” guests were served by “spiritual” waiters with “spiritual” food!
Andrew Jackson Davis has given the world some most searching criticisms and earnest rebukes of this grosser form of spiritism now so prevalent. His powerful protests against spasmodic and phenomenal spiritism entitle him to the highest respect as an independent thinker. Xo writer, however, has materialized spirit more completely than Mr. Davis. In his work, “The Stellar Key;” we find the same error most grossly expressed:
“Until you come to perceive and comprehend these grand progressive truths, namely: that the solid world was once fluid; that fluid was once vapor; that vapor was once ether; that ether was once essence; that essence is the highest material connecting link for the operation of positive spiritual laws; that these natural inherent laws constitute a negative medium for the manifestation of invisible celestial positive force; that this force is the negative side of a yet more positive expression, called power; that this last potential demonstration is animated by interior intelligence and more positive energies, termed principles; that these immutable principles of the universe are external methods of positive and still more interior ideas; that ideas are the self-thinking, inter-intelligent, purely spiritual attributes and properties of the Divine Positive Mind.” (P. 90.)
Are these the distinguishing characteristics of spiritual existence? The aspirations of the human mind are insatiable, ever ascending and approaching the attainment of higher and more spiritual development. Spiritual progression is more than the removal of the form from one material sphere into another; more than an entrance through an “opening” to another physical existence. The dying words of that highly-gifted and representative man, Goethe. “More light;” are the soul’s truest utterances, even though encased in a worn-out and enfeebled body, nearly ready to crumble into the dust. In the revelations made by the “spirits” we find no conception of true spirituality. Their arrangements of spheres, one rising above the other, with trap-door entrances, differ only in material aspect. The soul of man has higher and nobler aspirations than can be gratified with such crude conceptions.
The mind gives out its own phenomena without itself appearing, and originates in no previous phenomenal compound. It is not phenomenal, a state of some other things, but has its own successive states, while it perdures through them all. Nor is it ideal; for that presupposes a mind to construct the ideal, and the mind perdures through all its ideal constructions. All mental action is conditional to some object or end of action. There must be the agent acting, and the object or end of action, and the mind discriminates between them and assigns to each its own distinct identity. Its acts only appear in consciousness; and while its own successive states come and go, that still remains a something that produces them, which does not come and go. The mind lives under the act, and is a ground for it. Its agency is its own and originates its own causality. What mind is, remains an unsolved problem; and while we may have reason to conclude that it is not necessarily dependent upon the physical organization, but may survive it, we cannot picture to ourselves the conditions of its independent existence. To speak of mind, soul, and spirit as three distinct entities has no warrant in true spiritual philosophy. The desire of man to understand mental existence has necessarily led to physical expressions of it; living in a world of sense, we can apprehend only after its methods; but to assume that these expressions of mental existence are absolutely correct would lead any thoughtful mind to believe in materialism undisguised with pseudo-spiritualism.
Matter and mind should not be confounded; and their capacities cannot be judged from the same stand-point. Matter is but the outward form of existence. “The animal is built up, not by masonry from without, but by an organific power within, till he roams forth the effigy of the instinct that animates and rules him.” But to attempt to bring this “organific power” within the compass of physiological laws as a physiological entity is more than we have any warrant for in philosophy.
As well talk of the form of thought, the weight of love, or the solidity of the affections, as to theorize on the attenuation of spirit. They are materialistic who assert the correlation of things so distinct, so opposed to each other, both in essence and function, through “the material connecting links” of essences, laws, and principles. To term such crassitude of thought and imbecile jargon spiritualism par excellence is emphatically unphilosophical.