The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.1

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The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.1/1.2.4 The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.1/1.3.2



1. In its effect on mental health, by destroying self-reliance.

True mental health can only consist in the untrammeled use of our intellectual faculties through their normal development. The old reply of the plowman to the dyspeptic inquirer, that he “had no system,” was an indication of physical health. The healthy man has no knowledge of the operations performed by his secretory organs. In health they perform their work silently and naturally, and only disease brings them into prominence in our consciousness; they have then assumed an unnatural character, and we are forcibly reminded of their existence. Even so in mental and spiritual health; the organs of the mind must work with a natural spontaneity, neither forced nor starved.

Whatever assumes to give us a royal road to knowledge in any direction other than that worked out by our own faculties, or pretends to reveal to us the mysteries of time, is unnatural, and would produce an unhealthy state of mental growth. Man must hew out his own knowledge, rather than obtain it by gift, if he would not stagnate in imbecility. The use of organs must be under the direction of our consciousness: if we neglect the use or remit it to others, the result is the same. By a process of natural selection, the disuse of organs renders them practically worthless. As the Hindu devotee that stands upon one foot for years sees the other limb shrink and wither from disuse, so the surrender of our minds for the thoughts of others, while we remain unconscious of such use, can never prove otherwise than injurious to mental health.

Thought kindles thought. As the light applied to the slow-match sends activity into the heart of the rock, so does an idea once fully possessed awaken a train of ideas, until the whole shell, in which custom so often encases the mind, shakes and crumbles away before its active powers.

If our ideas are obtained by impressions from without through mechanical means, mental activity can never ensue. The organs of man are the outlets of an indwelling controlling force, not the inlets of knowledge by external control; man is an intelligence served by organs, not a mere instrument to be played upon. Man has a nobler mission than serving as a spiritual watering-pot in the hands of any hypothetical “influence,” either of the earth earthy, or of the “spheres” sublimated!

The grand prerequisite for mental independence, the condition of health, is to have a soul within us, an animating, invigorating, inspiring soul,—not an etherealized phantasm of the physical man, who is to continue his etherealization through a sevenfold existence hereafter, unless sooner reincarnated, but a soul that can recognize divine order here, and by and through its own faculties put itself in keeping with it; something in us that will stir up all our slumbering powers into new activities under the dominating rule of a purpose; without which we may as well be automatic implements in the hands of others, mere voluble dischargers of second-hand thought, with even the wadding furnished; for without soul—purpose—all powers are useless.

What is it to us to know that “the first sphere is the natural, the second the spiritual, the third the celestial, the fourth the supernatural, the fifth the super-spiritual, the sixth the super-celestial, the seventh the Infinite Vortex of Love and Wisdom”? No! nature’s divine revelations teach us not of the names of conditions of being held in store by her, but to so live and develop our own transcendent powers as to insensibly pass into those higher conditions.

“To know that which before us lies
Is the prime wisdom; what is more is fume,
Or emptiness, or fond impertinence,
And renders us in that which most concerns us
Unpracticed, unprepared.”

Words are but the garments of thought. Terminology should never take the place of the animating idea. Thought, which necessarily clothes itself in action, is needed to make the truly self-reliant man. Soul once attained, all is attainable; for where purpose exists, action will result, and so far as the actions are the result of spontaneity, is mental health indicated.

Many of our spiritist friends seem to regard mental action as a mechanical influx, instead of a spontaneous outgrowth; no inner fire burns on the hearth to warm the whole man into a glow of healthy activity, rousing a passive will into a sovereign principle, but we are offered the cold reflection of distant star-beams, which, however deep they may pierce, can excite no molecular motion. The man of purpose cannot remain the passive shuttle-cock of contending forces, “compelled to act as he is acted upon,” but resolutely seizes the refractory circumstances, places a bit in their mouths, and renders them subservient to his will. Intensely realizing the duties of the present, he has neither time nor inclination to spare in profitless inquiries concerning the vocations and avocations of the departed.

“Life is real, life is earnest;”

and a healthful, natural condition of the mental faculties rejects all external developing processes of the mechanical sort, as savoring of the quack. Manly self-reliance, therefore, is not attainable by placing ourselves under the control of others, whether in a physical or sublimated body; not in the school of mediumship do we learn better to battle the waves of life as they surge around and over us. Only in the development of our own mental powers, under the master-hand of soul, recognizing in life a purpose, and unconsciously outworking every thought into action’ can we ever arrive at a healthful activity of the mind.

Inspiration, of the mechanical kind, declares man to be “a gland or minute organ” in the “great Body of the Divine Mind,” a species of Æolian harp to be played upon; but another inspiration, not of the baser sort, moved the mind of Matthew Arnold when he wrote these lines:

“From David’s lips this word did roll,
‘Tis true and living yet;
No man can save his brother’s soul,
Nor pay his brother’s debt.
“Alone, self-poised, henceforward man
Must labor, must resign
His all too human creeds, and scan
Simply the way divine.”

Is the “spiritual philosophy of the nineteenth century” to become a mechanical one, confuting materialism and soulless sadduceeisms by converting the mind into a mechanical trough, with the sole faculty of “passive receptivity”? Those sparks from the inner hearth where the soul sits enshrined, and known in mortal speech as ideas, talent, genius, are not to be reduced to a phantasm or worshiped as super--human, but reverently regarded as dim signs of almost infinite possibilities. Inspiration does dwell in the innermost recesses of the soul, and is often manifested, notably so in these words of Carlyle, which many might read with profit:

“‘Man of Genius:’ Mæcenas Twiddledee, hast thou any notion of what a man of genius is? Genius is ‘the inspired gift of God.’ It is the clearer presence of God Most High in a man. Dim, potential in all men; in this man it has become clear, actual. So says John Milton, who ought to be a judge; so answer him the voices, the Voices of all Ages and all Worlds. Wouldst thou commune with such a one? Be his real peer, then: does that lie in thee? Know thyself and thy real and thy apparent place, and know him and his real and apparent place, and act in some noble conformity with all that. What! The star-fire of the Empyrean shall eclipse itself, and illuminate magic-lanterns to amuse grown children? Be, the god-inspired, is to twang harps for thee, and blow through scrannel-pipes, to soothe thy sated soul with visions of new, still wider Eldorados, Houri paradises, richer lands of Cockaigne? Brother, this is not he; this is a counterfeit; this twangling, jangling, vain, acrid, scrannel-piping man. Thou dost well to say with sick Saul, ‘It is naught—such harping!’ and, in sudden rage, to grasp thy spear and try if thou canst pin such a one to the wall. King Saul was mistaken in his man, but thou art right in thine. It is the due of such a one: nail him to the wall, and leave him there. So ought copper shillings to be nailed on counters, copper geniuses on walls, and left there for a sign!”