"We do not seek to shape the clauses of the great Act of Faith, but merely to prove its preamble . . . to be able to say to the theologian or philosopher: 'Thus and thus we demonstrate that a spiritual world exists - a world of independent and abiding realities, not a mere epiphenomenon or transitory effect of the material world but a world of things, concrete and living, not a mere system of abstract ideas'; and Myers adds, 'This would indeed, in my view, be the weightiest service that any research could render to the deep disquiet of our time - to the world-old and world-wide desire of mankind.'"
Myers, Human Personality, Vol. ii, P. 297
THIS quotation is even more applicable at the present day than when Myers wrote those words. What is the world-old desire of the heart of man?
Peace through Truth. "Earnest for leave to live and labour well." And this Truth must come to the present age, not as a revelation from above, nor as a creed imposed by authority, however high, but as an acknowledged principle interwoven in the very structure of the universe. The scientific view is the religious view.
In the foregoing pages it has been indicated how A. R. Wallace was led to the perception that the cosmic process has actually eventuated in a spiritual being - Man - whose further progress depends on his spiritual, not his bodily evolution. This supplies the natural principle - the supernormal facts are its experimental proof. The Goodwill which is the sign of spirituality is not a merit, it is the mark of evolutionary advance.
The Causes of Unrest
Apart from economic conditions (which also have their roots in a certain Mentality), this unrest has four principal spiritual causes:
(1) The undermining of the authority of the Bible by scholarly criticism without corresponding explanation of its history and meaning. Criticism has established beyond all question (a)
that the Hebrew Old Testament is the product of three centuries of collation, revision, editing, and re-editing of original material long since lost - a revision that began after the Restoration from the Exile, in 457 B.C., and did not reach finality till about 150 B.C.; and
(b) that the New Testament is the result of a similar process which began with Jerome's editing of available material in A.D. 384, and has proceeded ever since by emendations of the the Greek text from MSS, none of which is earlier than the fourth century, and from Patristic quotations of older MSS., with corresponding revisions of the English versions.
This knowledge is far from being limited to the clergy and scholars. It is wide-spread, and the popular form of it is a travesty of the facts, as if the Scriptures were human inventions and unhistorical.
(2) A second cause of spiritual unrest is the principle of Naturalism in Science based on the orderly and
invariable working of "natural laws" - a principle that rules out all "miraculous interventions." There are no miracles, in the sense of violations of natural laws; and therefore, as some think, no Divine Ruler.
(3) A third cause is the intuition that, despite the fact that the sacred writers necessarily use the geo-centric language and notions of their day, they are, for the most part, recording real events; and that the metapsychic facts indicate that there really is a spiritual world transcending the perceptions of our senses.
(4) There is also an acute desire to find some means to avert further cataclysms like the late war by removing the causes of such upheavals in a social order more imbued with the Christian spirit. This desire has given rise to the C.O.P.E.C. movement, which "is not devised to compel non-Christian individuals to become members of a Christion order of society against their will, but rather to help individual Christians to think out and to act upon the social implications of their personal beliefs. It is claimed that the teaching of Jesus contains certain fundamental principles capable of detailed application to the varied problems of modern life."
These four are not irreconcilable, but if they, or rather the men who hold to one or other of them, are to be reconciled, such reconciliation can only be brought about by tangible facts to which all must bow. Such are the supernormal
Origins of Christianity
According to the Gospel records, Christianity began in supernormal facts and laid down an individual change of heart as the remedy for evils in the Roman world which were in main outline ante-types of those of the twentieth century - the rule of Force, the unequal distribution of wealth, and the unfeeling arrogance which characterizes the superman in all ages.
Its driving force lay in the Resurrection of Christ, and Adolf Harnack, "whose distinctive characteristics are his claim for absolute freedom in the study of Church history and the New Testament; his distrust of speculative theology, whether orthodox or liberal; his interest in Christianity as a religious life and not a system of theology," remarks in his
Expansion of Christianity (vol. i, P. 253, first edition) that supernormal happenings were powerful agents in that expansion. He says:
The amplest evidence of all these traits is to be found in the pages of early Christian literature from its earliest record down to Irenaeus. The apologists allude to them as a familiar and admitted fact, and it is quite obvious that they were of primary importance for the mission and propaganda of the Christian religion.
He sums up these traits as follows:
"God speaks in visions and dreams and ecstasy, revealing matters of moment and also trifles. [My italics. S.D.B.] Visions of dead martyrs appearing to their friends. Some are inspired to explain and interpret and foretell. Others are filled with the Spirit and lose consciousness (trance). Others not only speak but write. The sick are healed. Others perceive the presence of the Spirit with every sense ... they peer into what is hidden and distant and to come."
All these things, however, are quite secondary to the Resurrection of Christ. With the growth of the concept of invariable law the whole of this story has been discredited on the ground that "miracles do not happen."
The Modernist View
This Naturalism has been adopted by the exponents of Modernism. The very Rev. the Dean of St. Paul's says
(Outspoken Essays, P. 33), "Miracles must be relegated to the sphere of pious opinion." In his Essay on
Survival and Immortality, he takes the neo-platonic view and leaves it a matter of faith, merely saying that with regard to the conditions of average men in the future life "we are confronted with a blank wall of ignorance". Modernist writers in their reaction against the puerile literalism which makes belief in the impossible a matter of "faith," take the same ground.
They dismiss the Gospel records, especially the Fourth Gospel, as "unhistorical," and tell us that as St. Paul's faith was independent of a legendary story, ours can be equally independent of that story. If he built his faith on a spiritual experience surely ours can need no other foundation" (the Rev. J. Todd, in
The Modern Churchman, December 1924). Mr. Todd's conclusion is the same as that of Renan, that the whole accounts of the Resurrection are legendary, though he thinks that the legends may have gathered round a kernel of fact - the visions testified to by St. Paul.(1) This seems to be the accepted Modernist view, as the editor of
The Modern Churchman declines to admit my reply to it.
(1) The sermon by the Rev. Dr. Worcester answers this view (vide p. 168, infra).
Unless, however, the Gospel records can be shown to have some inherent probability, the vision mentioned by St. Paul can easily be resolved by sceptical criticism into subjective illusions. Visions (as corresponding to realities, such as Daisy Dryden's) are as much an invasion of Naturalism as any other supernormal phenomena, and the mystical convictions of the most earnest Christian, however true, have no effect whatever on the sceptic; not to speak of the facts
(a) that a vague emotion without much practical result is often mistaken for the mystical light, nor
(b) that actual supernormal phenomena are frequently recorded in the lives of mystical saints.
If the Resurrection of Christ is to be reduced to visions and internal mystical experiences, the large majority of laymen will be fortified in their inference that it is entirely mythical - a conclusion that is further supported by materialistic science and is now the general opinion, evidenced by the sceptical treatment of survival in conversation and in the Press. Neo-platonism may satisfy certain refined and scholarly minds; it has no hold on the average man or woman. If Modernism continues to ignore facts it will fail, as every system that ignores facts must fail.
It is curious that, despite much modern discovery, Modernist commentary should have altered so little since the days of Strauss'
Leben Jesu and Renan's Vie do Jesus. In the thirteenth edition of the latter work, containing the author's final corrections, he says:
It is because the Gospels recount miracles that I say "the Gospels are legends"; they may contain history, but certainly all that they set forth is not historical.... Now the question of the supernatural is determined to us with absolute certainty by this single reason, that there is no room for belief in a thing of which the world can offer no experimental trace.
Of course no student of the subject would maintain that the Gospels are (in their detail)
accurate history, and the former of the above two sentences may stand; but it is amusing how soon "absolute certainty" is reversed by indestructible facts. Renan's statement, if it ever was true, is certainly not true now. There is abundant evidence for the supernormal, or even for the supernatural if that word is used as connoting an order superior to the material order-belonging to a part of Nature with which we are but little acquainted. "Miracle" is a purely subjective term, depending on the knowledge of causes in those who use it. It is always associated with the notion of supersession of natural laws by a special act of the Deity (as Hume defined it), whereas it really means nothing more than a wonder whose cause we do not understand. It is often applied to any great acceleration of a normal process, e.g. healing. The words so translated in our New Testament are "signs" or "powers," in fact signs of supernormal power. The word "miracle" should be given up altogether.
It is obvious, too, that the same solvent that disposes of the Resurrection, disposes also of all the other events narrated, both those that were signs of supernormal powers and the beautiful discourses of the Fourth Gospel, especially those just before the Passion. If that Gospel is "unhistorical," does that mean that those words were not spoken by Jesus? If so, there must have been another writer who could show as much spiritual perception as Jesus, and in trusting those words we are trusting an anonymous writer, and the account of the Passover Eve is fictitious.
These are very grave statements, and are certainly not warranted by any evidence that can be called decisive. They would never have been made but for the desire to accommodate Christian beliefs to materialistic science, and in protest against the notion that the Resurrection was the reanimation of a corpse.
The net result of such criticism is that clergy with Modernist leanings have to read in the Lectionary and the Offices of the Church, as sacred truth, things that they disbelieve; the instructed laity are aware of this, and "working men" are likewise confirmed in what they are told in many atheistic pamphlets
A Higher Naturalism
It is amazing how reluctant critics are to go to present-day facts, but prefer comparison of ancient documents and laborious re-criticism of dead predecessors the whole of whose work proceeds on ignorance, sometimes wilful ignorance, of the supernormal facts. Naturalism is perfectly true as long as we are dealing with Matter and Energy in Space and Time, but is only very partially true of the operations of Mind, even of its normal operations. I was personally as free from theological prepossessions as my late friend Alfred Russel Wallace, but I can see that, however cogent the pragmatic argument that a Christian outlook is the only remedy for the world's unrest, that outlook will never be taken unless through conviction that it is supported by historical evidence, and by the much more powerful proof of spiritual laws quite as sure as those we call physical.
The weak point in what is called Naturalism is that it assumes physical laws to be supreme, and thought a product of organization, chiefly of the brain; it ignores the selective, directive, and organizing power pervading all Nature; and it
assumes that all mental reality is dependent on the physical organization.
A higher naturalism recognizes the paramount action of Mind in cosmic evolution; in individual conformity to type, in personal growth; in the phenomena of healing; and in objective supernormal facts. Matter is ideo-plastic - moulded by mind in many ways that we do not yet conceive of.
We have the fact that there are in Man certain supernormal faculties, which, at the present day, produce phenomena
(mulatis mutandis) closely parallel to those recorded in the Gospels. Healing in particular appears to be the direction of the immanent Creative Principle to the restoration
of its normal result, when untrammelled by the control of the conscious mind, whether that dissociation be brought about hypnotically, or by auto-suggestion, or by faith in the supernormal power wherever located.
We have, too, the palmary fact that materializations whose reality is certified by sight, touch and hearing, and by flashlight photographs
taken under laboratory conditions, are actual experiences at the present day. Living, tangible and intelligent forms, acting from their own initiative, are able to appear and disappear when conditions are suitable. "A ghost hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me having" might be said of some of them to-day.
Of course the notion of the resuscitation of the corpse was the natural inference in an age when "heaven" was located in the sky, to which Jesus was supposed to have ascended and sat down on the right hand of God; but it is certainly remarkable how much more closely the words of the evangelists when describing the appearances, accord with metapsychic facts than the interpretations subsequently put upon them.
Nothing can alter the fact that appearances and disappearances are possible here and now. They may involve the properties of an etherial body, the "spiritual body " -
of 1 Cor. xv. 44. We do not know for certain: it is difficult, or even impossible, to imagine an intelligence without any substantial(1) vehicle. These phenomena are only a very small part of a vast amount of fact. The faculties independent of spatial conditions are not so very difficult of comprehension if they are faculties native to the soul and its etherial environment, manifest in exceptional cases now, but normal in the after-life, by which thoughts are open and character seen exactly as it is. The hidden memory of the soul may well be its own "book of record" by which we judge ourselves and determine our own status. On a change of heart there is instant forgiveness for the past, but though
involuntary transgression has but slight mental consequences, there is no obliteration of consequences to the transgressor: "God is not mocked; whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap.
(1) "Substantial." This word is used in its strict sense of substance, which is not necessarily material.
"God is Spirit," as Jesus, in the "unhistorical" Gospel, told the woman at the well - not a spirit, one among others, but Spirit, the origin of all that is, directing the energies of Nature according to law. "God is Love," not a loving Person in any human sense, except as realized in the simile of the Divine Fatherhood, but Love itself in which we live and move and have our being. But Spirit and Love are abstractions to us till personified.
That Jesus was the incarnation of Spirit in the highest degree that could be objectified in a human form is a reasonable statement suggested by the phenomena. The vastness of the universe revealed by modern science involves a corresponding advance in our notion of God, and though the objectification of the Life of that universe is inconceivable except as the universe, it is truer to speak of Jesus as the Word made Flesh (quite apart from the legendary Virgin Birth) than as "the Galilaean Peasant." Our imperfections forbid definitions. One of the writers to whom I have alluded above, after giving very detailed experimental instances of supernormal cognition, says:
If the divers kinds of supernormal cognition were attributes of a single mind, their possessor would excite the stupefied amazement of other men. At any moment the succession of events that weave the web of his personal life, both in the past and the future, would be accessible to representation in his consciousness as memories are in ordinary thought ... Neither his birth nor his death, nor the field of direct and indirect sensorial perception would limit his environment in time and space. The human beings he might meet would reveal to him by their mere presence, their thoughts of the moment, the Secrets of their intellectual, moral, and organic personalities, of their relations with others, and the knowledge of their whole surroundings ... He would know and could tell the details of events happening at great distances from himself ... Such a being, superhuman to our ideas ... is a logical possibility, since he would be no more than the possessor of all the latent psychic faculties whose different phenomenal forms are found isolated and scattered. - OSTY, Supernormal Faculties in Man, p. 162.
Well, according to the Gospels, just such an One did visit this earth. Instances of every one of these traits are recorded of Him. In addition to these faculties He wielded a power of healing so unparalleled, and manifested a love so unbounded, a will so inflexible, a courage so undaunted, and a wisdom so sublime, that His coming has been made the central event in history, and He has been hailed as the Archetype of a perfect Humanity. We are told how He actually was received. Because He devoted these faculties to the regeneration of the world and not to His own aggrandisement, He was condemned for heresy and blasphemy under the Law He had abrogated, and was crucified under a false charge of sedition. He returned as Leader and King-the only religious Leader who manifested in His own person the victory over Death.
To the mediaeval mind the Creation, the Fall, the sentence on mankind, the Sinaitic Dispensation, the miracles of Hebrew legend, the Sacrificial system, the Virgin Birth, the Redemptory Sacrifice, the physical resurrection of Jesus His Ascension into a local heaven, the Second Advent from the skies, the general Resurrection and the Day of judgement, followed by the millennial reign of Christ in person, were all parts of a perfectly consistent and rational "Scheme of salvation" in complete accord with then-existing astronomical knowledge and with the root-idea of Divine interventions.
The discoveries of the immensity of the universe, of the antiquity of man, and of the compilation of the Old Testament between 458 and 150 B.C., cut away the whole foundation of this theology. It was quite natural that St. Paul, brought up under the sacrificial system and writing to those who were penetrated by the same idea, should represent the death of Christ as a supreme sacrifice; natural too, perhaps, that his successors should erect this into a dogma; but this has no binding force on us.
After all, St. Paul only used that figure to abolish sacrifices; what he really insists upon is the Resurrection. He says nothing of the Virgin Birth.
Now the enlarged idea of God as the Source of Life and mind, and of Law, physical and moral, throughout the entire universe, would make Him so vast and unapproachable that a manifestation of Him as complete as is possible in a human body was absolutely necessary if He were not to be felt to be removed to an infinite distance from human lives and human sufferings. That manifestation was given by Christ, whose "glory" was entirely a
moral glory till the Resurrection, not of a physical body, but of that spiritual body of which we have many modern proofs.
We can now see that the Infinity of God extends both ways - to the infinitely great in the universe and the infinitely small in atoms and cells, for in these latter Life takes its origin. If there were no law in the atom there could be none in the planet made up of atoms; if there were no life in the cell there could be no organism. So that "in God we live and move and have our being."
That He is internal to us, as well as external, is one of the logical inferences of the larger idea: and it can be made practical as well as logical, i.e. it can be brought into consciousness without any sort of mystical exaltation or "make-believe." The method consists simply in awareness that the Cosmic Almighty and the inmost spirit in Man are indivisible, and therefore that the personal appeal is "heard." To any difficulty the answer will come if we make the appeal
and wait; not asking that our will may be done, nor cultivating "resignation," but just waiting. It will not answer questions on material advantage, it will not advise you on your investments or stand in lieu of an insurance policy, it will not warn you of danger or inform you of any other person's character or affairs, but it will give you a clear lead on any matter bearing on your actual duty concerning which you are honestly in doubt.
It will even answer specific questions bearing on conduct and duty if we ask them with an honest and open mind just before going to sleep; the answer will form during sleep. We are all apt to think of Love as an external rather than an internal power: but the Divine Love is like the sunshine to the daisies - each has all that it can use, it could have no more if it stood alone, it gets no less however many there be.
This is not mysticism, it is spiritual common sense. It may have its foundation in the intellect, but when it is experienced it is above intellect. There are daisies of thought - little humble flowers - as well as roses. Nothing is too small for the Spirit that makes the flowers of the earth, and flowers of the mind.
Metapsychic and psychical phenomena are merely the external proofs to the intellect that there really is a world of Spirit. They neither prove nor disprove any form of creed under which that world is apprehended. Forms of creed do not really matter. What we need is contact with Reality.
That contact we can have. As we contemplate the pattern of a moth's wing or the depth of star sown space, we may realize something of the meaning of omnipresent and Infinite Power. There may fall on us also a chilling sense of our own minuteness till we feel that this Infinite Power is also Infinite Love, which will see us safely through all contingencies of life and death if we are acting in the Practice of the Presence of God and are doing the Will of the Eternal each in our tiny sphere of action.
"Speak to Him thou, for He hears, and spirit with Spirit can meet:
Closer is He than breathing; nearer than hands and feet."
We shall find this to be literal truth. Provided only that we obey the best that we know, quite fearlessly, we find that the unseen Power answers: mysticism is reduced to secret experience, and we understand the promise:
"Ask what ye will and it shall be given you." The notion that transitory material possessions are referred to can but raise a smile.
An Easter Sermon
The metapsychic facts are stupendous confirmiations of the Gospel story, and must prevail just because they are facts, not opinions. They are ignored by a generation bemused by scepticism and absorbed in material interests, but they are gathering momentum and are known to thousands.
To show their effect on enlightened clergy I give below (by kind permission) some extracts from a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Elwood Worcester in Emmanuel Church, Boston, U.S.A., Easter,
"On Easter Day, it appears to me, a congregation has a right to expect of its preacher, not merely the result of his thought and studies, but a candid statement of his personal faith. I suppose there are few men in this country ... who have studied the beliefs we commemorate to-day more attentively than I have-both the resurrection of Jesus through the critical study of the New Testament, and our survival of bodily death, by every honourable means open to us. As a result, I find my faith in both growing stronger and stronger, until it has become the chief possession of my life; and I know of no fact or discovery which is dangerous to either. I regard the resurrection of Jesus as a true, objective, historical fact....
"When we consider the nature of these appearances, which were sudden, brief, unexpected, and made to different persons, we are not surprised that the accounts in the Gospels are also short and fragmentary and that they were written without much reference to one another. The case was entirely different with St. Paul.
"In 1 Cor. xv. St. Paul gives us an extended survey of the whole subject. He gives, it is true, no bright sensuous pictures, no detailed narratives after the fashion of the Evangelists; but he presents to us a complete inventory of all the Resurrection appearances which he considered genuine and the correct order of their occurrence. The denial of any resurrection on the part of certain Corinthian Christians compelled him to consider carefully the historical evidences of the resurrection of Jesus.
"Are you aware how good this evidence is?...
"It is contained in an epistle whose authenticity has never been seriously questioned. The measured sobriety of his language, the strict limitation of the appearances of the Risen One, his careful mention of names, his confident appeal to many living witnesses, the psychological probability of the sequence, his rigid exclusion of all legendary highly coloured incidents, all produce an impression most favourable to his truthfulness and painstaking care. He introduces this evidence by the significant statement, 'I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I myself also received.' The usual date assigned to this epistle is about the year 55, but the word 'I delivered unto you, first of all' carry us back about four years farther to St. Paul's first visit to Corinth; while the words, 'That which I myself also received,' can hardly have any other meaning than that these statements in regard to the Lord's resurrection appearances formed part of the traditions of the old Apostles and the earliest Christians, communicated to him during his two weeks' visit to Peter, described in Galatians as taking place three years after Paul's conversion, somewhere about the year 35. So that, instead of an oral tradition flying about the world for a generation, we have here a written and carefully considered statement from the hand of Paul, whose substance dates not more than five years from the event. . . .
"In all this I have made no claim for the reanimation of a physical body. Some of our Bishops, but by no means all of our Bishops, assert that faith in Jesus demands and requires physical resurrection. In this they are not well guided, and this demand will not strengthen faith, It only strengthens incredulity, especially as it is contradicted not only by St. Paul, who speaks only of a spiritual body, but by the very Gospels to which we are obliged to appeal. For a body which appears and disappears at will, is not immediately recognized, and which passes through closed doors, is no body of flesh and bones. No sooner do the materially minded find themselves with a material body on their hands, than they are obliged to de-materialise it again, and to pass, with uncertain steps, from eating and drinking to vanishings and re-appearances and to passage through material substances. The present ending of St. Mark's Gospel even describes one of these appearances as ' in another form.' Moreover a physical resurrection would be no support at all to faith, for we know well no such fate is in store for us... Death is not a passage from one part of the universe to another. It is a passage from one state of being to another. We shall not want these old bodies in our new life ... for they belong to this world. They were made altogether of earth's substance, with reference to the surface of the earth, this atmosphere, this temperature, and when we die they are resolved to dust. It is the destruction of the old life that makes the new life possible.
"No one has believed in the resurrection of Jesus with more passionate ardour than St. Paul. It was the cause of his conversion, the substance of all his preaching; and yet from first to last he speaks only of a spiritual body. He establishes the strongest antitheses between the body that dies and the body that lives hereafter: 'It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.' In rehearsing the various appearances of the Lord, he monotonously repeats the same word, ophthe - he was seen, he appeared, but nothing more.
"From this point of view the whole matter of the resurrection is so much more probable and in accordance with our knowledge of what is possible the sudden appearance, the passing through closed doors, the traumatic stigmata, and the fact that these appearances ceased a few days after death-all are so comprehensible and natural that it becomes mere perversity to doubt them.
"Without the experience of the phenomena such stories would not have been invented, especially as the Apostles were looking for no such humble occurrences, but, if they had any expectations for the future, for the return of the Lord in glory ...
"No one who truly looks forward to a life after death conceives of it as involving the loss or diminution of his personality. We do not think of the mingling of all souls together, or the disappearance of our personal life in the life of God. That is pantheism, but it is neither Christianity nor immortality. Neither are we able to think of the soul as existing without a body-without some form or organism and expression which distinguishes it from everyone else - a body by which it acts on its world and receives impressions from its world.
"Once before, in the first life, God, through your soul, mysteriously built for you a body, wholly and perfectly adapted to a life which was to come. So again, here and now, you are secretly and invisibly building for yourself the body you shall wear hereafter, and that body, though not yet complete, is already in existence ... A body that represents you perfectly, in your thoughts, your affections, and memories, which some time will disengage itself from the old body and stand forth, strong and radiant and beautiful to enter its new life ... A new body will not be made for you out of nothing. It will not be sent down from heaven for you. The body you have made yourself, and which perfectly represents you is revealed as the old body falls from you. That is all.
"... In the course of my long ministry I have sat by many a deathbed. Several times I have seen the faces of dying men and women brighten with an unearthly light as they appeared to see and to recognize some unseen presence. I have heard them greet and address, with loving rapturous words, departed friends totally invisible to me. In every instance within my experience this has proved the immediate precursor of death.
"In commenting on this with a learned and widely experienced physician, I received from him several highly interesting examples of similar events which had taken place under his observation, one of which occurred just before the death of my famous and saintly relative, Dr. Joseph Worcester of San Francisco. This physician added: 'Among the old doctors who were accustomed to remain with their patients to the end, these facts were well known, and it was commonly held that the appearance of the dead to the very ill was to be regarded as a definite indication of approaching death.' This means that as our end approaches, those whom we have known and loved are aware of it and that they are close beside us, and that when our eyes close on this world, the first objects we shall behold are the faces of those we have most loved, who stand beside us to welcome us and to go with us into our new life.
"And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since and lost awhile."
The Law of Spiritual Consequence
Dr. Worcester says: "The body you have made for yourself
and which Perfectly represents you is revealed as the old body falls from you. That is all" Yes: that is all; and more than enough too, as many communicators assert - the realization of more than they had dared to hope for, and More than enough in the penalty of visible degradation.
There is no "punishment" but obvious degeneracy; and no "reward" but manifest development and beauty.(1)
(1) This is the natural consequence of open conditions and characteristic form. Lowest of all are those who take pleasure in inflicting or seeing pain, whose form expresses their diabolical nature.
The very idea of "merit" is a mark of low development: the opportunity of doing a kind act comes to a man: one rejects it as no business of his: another passes it by because of inconvenience or expense: another does it for self-satisfaction: another does it as a duty: and yet another does it from desire to help and thinks no more about it. Each of these acts according to his moral development his soul is just what it is, and is seen as such.
If the idea of "salvation" is dissociated altogether from reward or punishment it will be seen as "saving" from degradation and ugliness, with their attendant misery and remorse, not from elemental fire.
Even in this life a truthful man does not make a "merit" of truthfulness; he simply hates lies and deceptions because they degrade.
More than this inasmuch as every civilization is the exact representation of the minds that make it, the Law of Spiritual Consequence judges our civilization today. Its existence is menaced by Ill Will - the ill will that stirs up class-war and invents poison-gas and all the huge paraphernalia of conflicts that have shed every semblance of chivalry.
Mr. Kipling has recently said with perfect justice:
For the moment there is a lull in the wars fought with visible weapons. We are deep in the world-war that aims to destroy the spirit and will of man in his home and at his work. A sound man whose morale can be gassed and gangrened in time of peace till he condones and helps to create every form of confusion that will ruin himself and his neighbours, is doing his country infinitely more harm than a thousand casualties on the battle-field.... And this is the essence of the New Model War - to create ill will which is the mother of despair, and through that ill will to exploit the damnable streak in each of us which leads us to stop our own work and talk about the duties of others. The rest follows by itself.
It is the Law of Spiritual Consequence fulfilling itself automatically. But behind the dark clouds that veil the future there are many signs of a dawn. There is an increasing number of persons who see that the cause of strife is ill will, and the root of ill will is lying - lying misrepresentations - the lying Which says one thing and means another, the lying that leads each political partisan to vilify opponents without attempting to understand their position or to sympathize with their trials, the casuistry that builds up false analogies and false positions, and refuses to face facts.
In all classes there are men who sincerely desire peace, who wish to see truly and to think rightly. In all lands there are those who are wishing to get away from hatreds, to break with an evil past, and to forgive as they would be forgiven. It is not "the old men" that are chiefly to blame; the blame rests with all who refuse to look at facts which show the remorseless working of spiritual causation. There is no need to ignore history and to pretend a change of heart that has not taken place, but to endeavour to increase the number of those in whom it has taken place, and for this there is no more powerful instrument than the recognition of the new truths.
The knowledge of spirit-life is the cure for hate. On the other side of life there are no English, no French, no Germans, nor any other nationality; there are just men and women, their real selves, with character bare and obvious. The mistakes of deeds done in the body, when these were not the deeds of deliberate cruelty or meanness, are passed from them, and because they see them in the light of truth, they forgive as they are forgiven. Why can we not begin now?
Only because our minds are riveted on this life and its errors of understanding, its lures of desire, and its illusions of passion and pride. Set these aside, and we shall realize that "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth" in amity. If the new truths could be taught throughout Europe to the rising generation,(1) and war be staved off for twenty years, the new generation would seek peace and ensue it, less from fear than from wisdom.
(1) See Appendix. I do not mean the supernormal facts but the truths they confirm.
Professor W. McDougall remarks that "a civilization which resigns Itself wholly to materialism lives upon and consumes its moral capital and is incapable of renewing it . . . Unless psychical research can discover facts incompatible with materialism, materialism will continue to spread; no other power can stop it."
Those facts have been discovered. The real need now is to proclaim them and insist upon them. They show principles embedded in the very structure of the universe. They confirm the essence of Religion while leaving open all modes of its expression. They emphasize personal responsibility and imply that there is no obliteration of consequences by the profession of any creed. The outlook on life here adumbrated not only harmonizes religious differences among ourselves, but has very much wider applications. Metapsychic science, like physical science, is universal. It might even lead to a reconciliation of Christianity with Islam and Judaism. It gives a common ground on which East and West could meet. I have personally known Moslems and Hindus to whom its truths are welcome.
Carved on the tomb of Akbar - the greatest of the emperors of India, who by equal religious freedom and firm and wise government made all men loyal to the State - are the words In which he compared all religious creeds to the dust of the flowers whence the scent-maker has distilled their fragrant essence:
Said Jesus, on whom be peace, "This world is a bridge; pass over it but build no habitation thereon." Who hopes for an hour hopes for eternity. Heresy to the heretic and orthodoxy to the orthodox, but only the dust of the rose-petal remains to him who has sold its perfume. The rest is unseen.