The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.4

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The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.4/1.3.4 The Spiritual Delusion/1.3.4/2.1

4. In its effect on moral health by weakening self-control.

It may seem a truism to observe that moral conduct is the result of possessing control over our faculties and passions, yet it is a truism that sadly needs reiterating in these days, when thousands are busily engaged in protracted endeavors to place their faculties under the control of some other power,—when, instead of action being the aim, the mind is systematically reduced to a state of “passive receptivity,” and self-control deliberately abnegated. Having no controlling idea within them, no inspiring soul at the helm, many become captivated with the prospect of becoming spiritual watering pots, and that we may become media for their use in conversing with those remaining on the shores of time, we should still regard the method adopted as one detrimental to physical perfection, and unnatural.

Our organs of speech will but give what there is in us to say, whether wise or otherwise. If we have the thought, an inspiring idea, it will soon enough clothe itself in articulate words and go on its way, doing its mission wheresoever it may find lodgment. Ideas are never isolated. “One-idea men” are illusive monstrosities, existing nowhere in nature, for ideas are creative; they are active, agitating, fruitful, filling the mind with light and eventuating in healthful action.

If the thought be not there, but only a barren waste, destitute alike of beautiful verdure and refreshing springs ever overwelling, and “passively” content with reflecting the rays falling upon it, instead of absorbing and outworking them, the natural end and purpose of existence is wanting, and action of a manly sort can never ensue. Man is not a machine whose motive power may be estimated in terms of beef or grain; he is more than the sum of his senses, and must be master of his faculties to even develop physical manhood. The child that is always waited upon, whose every wish is gratified, that finds no occasion for inquiry or thought, remains a child; he never reaches manhood, whatever may be his longitudinal standard. If we are to become mere auxiliaries to tin trumpets for the transmission of the wisdom of the “spheres,” there must be an arrest of normal growth, and manhood lies not in us, but far removed from us.

Nature, with all her reticence as regards herself, is prodigal in her gifts, and has bountifully supplied us with faculties for perceiving truth and beauty, if we would but use them, and methods for giving expression to them infinitely better than we can find through any other channel never adapted to the purpose; methods far more inspiring than “passive receptivity” to every Tom, Joe, or Harry that may desire to give vent to spherical idiocies or sentimental drivelings.

If we could thus be used by entirely unknown persons, subject to questionable—ay, often unquestionable—“influxes,” and our divine faculty of speech be made a trumpet of uncertain tone, or prostituted to base influences, if the very possibility of such a degradation lay before us, we should sacredly guard ourselves from the remotest danger of such utter prostitution. Only in the healthful, natural use of our powers are we warranted by nature, and only by such use are we benefited and blessed.

and distributing to thirsting souls, by a mechanical process, what they instinctively realize they have not the natural means of supplying.

The process of “development” being an unnatural one, and necessarily resulting only in the development of abnormal or morbid faculties, the individual control must be so far weakened. The mind loses its healthful condition of spontaneous activity, and regards every action as the result of “external agencies.” It may well be questioned, even whether passivity on our part, and activity on the side of thousands of jacketless men and women “ever with us,” could possibly be conducive to morality. Though assuming to be the “spiritual philosophy of the nineteenth century,” we fail to discover the ghost of evidence that this system possesses even the rudiments of spiritual thought, or influences its followers in their daily conduct to nobler lives.

It is impossible, of course, to lay before the reader any examples to show that this is actually the result, yet the fact remains patent to all familiar with the private histories of a large proportion of our constantly-employed media, and is still further evidenced in the scandalous stories regarding each other current among mediums themselves, and occasionally outcropping in their harangues, as was recently the case, at the “Spiritualists’ National Convention,” with the physical organism controlled by Demosthenes. When a distinguished spiritist lecturer arrives in a town, and after a brilliant lecture on temperance is seen in public resorts, exhibiting himself as a “frightful example” of the need of temperance reform, the excuse of “obsession” is urged to palliate his fault and remove the responsibility. Is a female lecturer left by her husband for lewd and adulterous conduct? “evil spirits” are deemed the cause, and her graceful figure and coquettish ways are as welcome as ever on the rostrum to expound “spiritual truth”! Are families broken up by some ex-reverend whose carnal propensities have overmastered him? we are gravely informed that “certain spirits delight in producing discord”!

Granting that these excuses be correct, it remains a virtual confession that passivity has resulted injuriously to moral health; that moral self-control did not lie within them, and that they were powerless in the hands of unknown agencies, who delight to return and through them gratify their baser passions and propensities, “obsessing” them for their own vile purposes. A spiritist, known in nearly all the Northern States, once remarked to me that he believed he could eat a hearty meal and then be “obsessed” by a “hungry spirit” and eat as much more! The very admission that such a state of things exists, or belief in its possibility, is tantamount to confession of the fact alleged.

It has been urged that the result obtained is worth far more than the cost; that we have thereby the fact demonstrated to us that it is possible for those whom we had sadly thought to be dead to return and influence us. Is it not a great, transcendent fact that they live and are still with us? Does not this knowledge outweigh all incidental injury to those willing to make “martyrs” of themselves in so holy a cause?

Alas! it is not so apparent. Aside from the grossness of the thought that the attainment of a knowledge of spiritual realities may be detrimental to moral uprightness in conduct, and is dependent upon physical conditions, we see with sorrow the evidence of complete spiritual paralysis. The soul has become conscious of itself, and sees itself to be a “sublimated” image; it has become an entity, and concerns itself exceedingly as to its ultimate condition. It is no longer a healthful, animating cause, but an effect. Spiritual anatomists dissect it, and give us treatises on spiritual physiology. Soul, as an indwelling motive power, unconsciously outworking a purpose in life, by noble and manly endeavor, with firm faith and undoubted reliance in all goodness and nobleness, now lies sick,—has become anxious to know the why and how. Spiritual digestion has become disordered, and craves for nostrums, and nostrums enough abound! The soul is no longer shrouded in mystery and reverently regarded, but “parceled out into shop-lists of what are called ‘faculties,’ ‘motives,’ and such like.”

We are to have a new religion to meet the soul’s dyspeptic cravings; a “religion made easy,” with improved mechanism in good working order, whereby we may have “demonstrated to us the existence of other realms wherein we are to reside and progress.” Religion, in such sense, becomes but the apotheosis of self! The true, heroic soul will rather answer in the words of one somewhat widely known as a thinker,—

“Let that vain struggle to read the mystery of the Infinite cease to harass us. It is a mystery which, through all ages, we shall only read here a line of, there another line of. Do we not already know that the name of the Infinite is Good, is God? Here on earth we are as soldiers fighting in a foreign land, that understand not the plan of the campaign, and have no need to understand it; seeing well what is at our hand to be done. Let us do it like soldiers; with submission, with courage, with a heroic joy. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.’ Behind us, behind each one of us, lie six thousand years of human effort, human conquest: before us is the boundless time, with its as yet uncreated and unconquered continents and Eldorados, which we, even we, have to conquer, to create; and from the bosom of eternity there shine for us celestial guiding stars.

“‘My inheritance how wide and fair!
Time is my fair seed-field, of Time I’m heir.’”