The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.2

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The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.2/1.2.1 The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.2/1.2.3

2. In its confusion of distinctions between physical and spiritual realms of being.

The confusion of thought thus indicated pervades all spiritistic literature. Warren Chase, of the Banner of Light, asserts thought and love to be material substances. Dr. P. B. Randolph has treated of love in the same sense as a physician would of bile, as a material secretion. A lecturer advertises in the Banner of Light a course of lectures, the last of which has the following title, “Spiritualism and Materialism Uncontradictory,” and adds, “As I am a thorough spiritualist, as well as a thorough infidel, I offer the last lecture as an alternative to those infidels who are also spiritualists.”

Spirital beings are described as of different degrees of grossness. “As they progress, they leave their grosser part from sphere to sphere;” but in each successive sphere we find cottages and husbandmen, palaces and privileged classes, those who serve and those who are waited upon. However “sublimated and etherealized” their bodies may be, still, as we have seen, they possess all the organs and functions of the physical body, and they can influence, control, or “obsess” mortals. In what manner are we controlled by these hybrid beings? Their material organism is too “sublimated and etherealized” to affect us physically, and their spiritual nature is too trammeled with bodily organization to have any influence on us spiritually. They pass through the most solid substances without leaving a trace of their presence, yet delight in physical manifestations. If they are spiritual, what influence can they wield over physical forces? how handle or direct electricity, magnetism, or psychic force? If they are material, as claimed, then their “influence” is a material influence, and no evidence of spiritual existence; for they are not from a distinct sphere of existence. If we are influenced by spiritual beings, it must be through our spiritual natures, and not through our physical nerves; the communication must come direct to the mind which, by the attainment of higher spirituality, has been drawn nearer to the spiritual world, to which our souls are ever attracted in their highest moments, nearer to the fount of all spiritual truth, closer in soul-relation with the higher realms, of thought and existence. This is an inward, a subjective experience; not an outward, physical event induced by sitting at a table and harmonizing nerves and will.

God occupies an anomalous position in spirital theology. While assuming to be pantheistic, it bears no relationship with the profound spiritualism of Spinoza, and looks pityingly on the “crude” views of Carlyle and Emerson. Swedenborg had some reputation while “in earth-life” of being versed in metaphysical philosophy, and the added years of experience and study in the highest spheres should lead us to expect his contributions to religious thought to be fraught with wisdom; yet, if we may believe Judge Edmonds, Swedenborg is capable of uttering the following unphilosophical expressions: “When the mind attempts to separate spirit from matter, it has no just conception of spirit. Therefore we cannot invest the Creator with form or personality. What sort of person would God be if the form depended upon the idea of man? The form would resemble that of man: as he is supposed to be the image of the Being who created him. There is no point from which an idea can be formed; and if, with all the various attributes with which the Creator is invested, there is but one point from which any resemblance could be traced, how utterly does the mind fail in carrying out this connection other than through the whole of God’s manifestations of himself through his works! But the condition of matter necessary for such an amalgamation must be unknown to us as well as to you; for if the identification of spirit with matter were unfolded to your minds, the whole mystery of the Great First Cause would be understood.”—Spiritualism, sect. xxxi.

The above extract is not given to show that spirital theology is pantheistic, but to show the effect of spirital knowledge on the mind of Swedenborg,—that he, of all men, can return and commit so glaring an error as to confound form with personality, to speak of them as if they were identical or correlative in thought. We are told that God is a “Germ,”—the “Universal Germ.” “In short, God exists as a principle;” and it is added, “The soul of man is a part of God,”—a finite edition of an infinite “Germ;” too often an unprincipled portion of the omnipresent “principle.” The following passage from Judge Edmonds’s work on “Spiritualism” will most fully illustrate the confusion of thought existing among spiritists, and will need no comment:

“In short, God exists as a principle, . . . still resolving itself into direct and pertinent manifestations of the incomprehensible specialties of his nature. . . . God is the very spirit of life in everything; and it is eternally at work, sublimating and progressing every particle of matter, from the rudest form to its ultimate end, the immortal spirit of man!”

“The universal germ” is made more intelligible by being described as “pervading essence” with moral attributes!

In this same volume are communications from “my Lord Bacon” and “Daniel Webster,” and heralded as “profound” contributions to modern thought. “Daniel Webster” is responsible for the following: “When we say light, we mean the pure essence of God that the sun reflects into your system. It is fraught with the life eternal; is the secret of your happiness, and the cause of your existence. . . . The partial obscuration of light at night is for the resting of spirits.” What terrible materialists our coal-miners and coal-consumers must be! for science has taught us to look upon coal as the tangible form of the solar rays “reflected into our system” millions of years ago, and they have calmly consumed countless tons of “ pure essence” to satisfy material wants!

In their moral philosophy we find the same confusion of thought,—a failure to discriminate between the relative and the absolute. “Whatever is, is right,” is regarded as an axiom, and, frequently held with the lowest and most depraved conceptions, is urged as an excuse for the most flagrant violations of the law of Right and Duty, which notwithstanding exists in humanity, and is ever manifesting itself when not followed.

“Powers there are
That touch each other to the quick, in modes
Which the gross world no sense has to perceive;”

and to attempt the task by talking of Germs and Principles indifferently as he and it, or correlating Laws and Ideas by “the material connecting link” of Essences, is an unphilosophical confusion of

“The seen and the unseen,
The world of matter and the world of spirit.”