THAT such a contention as that mentioned at the end of the preceding chapter is false is well known
to people of experience; but so long as the demand for verification and proof of identity persists-and it will
be long indeed before they can be dispensed with-so long are trifling reminiscences the best way to achieve the
desired end. The end in this case amply explains and justifies the means. Hence it is that novices and critics
are naturally and properly regaled with references to readily remembered and verifiable facts; and since these
facts, to be useful, must not be of the nature of public news, nor anything which can be gleaned from
biographical or historical records, they usually relate to trifling family affairs or other humorous details such as seem likely to
stay in the memory. It can freely be admitted that such facts are only redeemed from triviality by the affectionate
recollections interlinked with them, and by the motive which has caused them to be reproduced. For their special
purpose they may be admirable; and there is no sort of triviality about the thing to be proven by them. The idea that a
departed friend ought to be occupied wholly and entirely with grave matters, and ought not to remember jokes and
fun, is a gratuitous claim which has to be abandoned. Humour does not cease with earth-life. Why should it?
It should be evident that communications concerning
deeper matters are not similarly serviceable as proof of identity, though they may have a value and interest of
their own; but it is an interest which could not be legitimately aroused until the first step-the recognition of veridical
intercourse-had been taken; for, as a rule, they are essentially unverifiable. Of such communications a multitude could be
quoted; and almost at random I select a few specimens from the automatic writings of the gentleman and schoolmaster known to a
former generation as M.A.Oxon.(1) Take this one, which happens to be printed in a current issue of Liqht (22 April 1916), with the
statement that it occurs in one of M.A.Oxon.'s subliminally written and private notebooks, under date 12 July
1873 - many others will be found in the selections which he himself extracted from his own
script and published in a book called Spirit Teachings.
The Rev. Stainton Moses (M. A. Oxon) was one of the masters at University College School in London. He wrote automatically, i.e.
subconsciously, in private notebooks at a regular short time each day for nearly twenty years, and felt that he was in touch with helpful and
"You do not sufficiently grasp the scanty hold that religion has upon
the mass of mankind, nor the adaptability of what we preach to the wants and cravings of men. Or perhaps it is necessary that you be reminded of
what you cannot see clearly in your present state and among your present associations. You
cannot see, as we see, the carelessness that has crept over men as to the future. Those who have thought over their future have come
to know that they can find out nothing about it, except, indeed, that what man pretends to tell is foolish, contradictory, and unsatisfying. His
reasoning faculties convince him that the Revelation of God contains very plain marks of human origin; that it will not stand the test of sifting such as
is applied to works professedly human; and that the priestly fiction that reason is no measure of revelation, and that it must be left on the threshold
of inquiry and give place to faith, is a cunningly planned means of preventing man from discovering the errors and contradictions which throng
the pages of the Bible. Those who reason discover this soon; those who do not, betake themselves to the refuge of Faith, and become blind devotees,
fanatical, irrational, and bigoted; conformed to a groove in which they have been educated and from which they have not broken loose simply because
they have not dared to think. It would be hard for man to devise a means [more capable] of cramping the mind and dwarfing the spirit's growth than
this persuading of a man that he must not think about religion. It is one which paralyses all freedom of thought and renders it almost impossible for
the soul to rise. The spirit is condemned to a hereditary religion whether suited or not to its wants. That which may have
suited a far-off ancestor may be quite unsuited to a struggling soul that lives in other times from those in
which such ideas had vitality. The spirit's life is so made a question of birth and of locality. It is a question over which he can exercise no control,
whether he is Christian, Mohammedan, or, as ye say, heathen: whether his God be the Great Spirit of the Red Indian, or the fetish of the savage;
whether his prophet be Christ or Alahomet or Confucius; in short, whether his notion of religion be that of East, West, North, or South; for in all these
quarters men have evolved for themselves a theology which they teach their children to believe.
"The days are coming when this geographical sectarianism will give
place before the enlightenment caused by the spread of our revelation, for which men are far riper than you think. The time draws nigh apace when the
sublime truths of Spiritualism, rational and noble as they are when viewed by man's standard, shall wipe away from the face of God's earth the sectarian
jealousy and theological bitterness, the anger and ill-will, the folly and stupidity, which have disgraced the name of religion and the worship of God;
and man shall see in a clearer light the Supreme Creator and the spirit's eternal destiny.
"We tell you, friend, that the end draws nigh; the night of ignorance is
passing fast; the shackles which priestcraft has strung round the struggling souls shall be knocked off, and in place of fanatical folly and ignorant
speculation and superstitious belief, ye shall have a reasonable religion and a knowledge of the reality of the spirit-world and of the ministry of angels
with you. Ye shall know that the dead are alive indeed, living as they lived on earth, but more truly, ministering to you with undiminished love,
animated in their perpetual intercourse with the same affection which they had whilst yet
Any one of these serious messages can be criticised and
commented upon with hostility and suspicion; they are not suited to establish the first premise of the argument for continuance of
personality; and if they were put forward as part of the proof of survival, then perhaps the hostility would be legitimate. It ought
to be clear that they are not to be taken as oracular utterances, or as anything vastly superior to the capabilities of the medium
through whom they come, - though in fact they often are superior to any known power of a given medium, and are frequently
characteristic of the departed personality, as we knew him, who is purporting to be the Communicator: though this remark is not
applicable to the particular class of impersonal messages here selected for quotation. Yet in all cases they must surely be more or
less sophisticated by the channel, and by the more or less strained method of communication, and must share some of its limitations and
However that may be, it is proper to quote them occasionally, as
here; not as specially profound utterances, but merely in contradiction of the imaginary and false thesis that only trivial and
insignificant subjects are dealt with in automatic writings and mediumistic utterances. For such utterances-whatever their value or
lack of value - are manifestly conclusive against that gratuitous and ignorant supposition. Whatever is thought of them, they are at least
conceived in a spirit of earnestness, and are characterised by a genuine fervour that may be properly called religious.
I now quote a few more of the records published in the book
cited above in this case dealing with Theological', questions and puzzles in the mind of the automatic writer himself -.
"All your fancied theories about God have filtered down to you
through human channels; the embodiments of human cravings after knowledge of Him; the creation of minds that were undeveloped, whose
wants were not your wants, whose God, or rather whose notions about God are not yours. You try hard to make the ideas fit in, but they will
not fit, because they are the product of divers degrees of development. . ."
"God! Ye know Him not! One day, when the Spirit stands within the
veil which shrouds the spirit world from mortal gaze, you shall wonder at your ignorance of Him whom you have so foolishly imagined! He is far
other than you have pictured Him. Were He such as you have pictured Him, were He such as you think, He would avenge on presumptuous man
the insults which he puts on his Creator. But He is other, far other than man's poor grovelling mind can grasp, and He pities and forgives, the
ignorance of the blind mortal who paints Him after a selfimagined pattern. . . . When you rashly complain of us that our teaching to you controverts
that of the Old Testament, we can but answer that it does indeed controvert that old and repulsive view . . . but that it is in fullest accord
with that divinely inspired revelation of Himself which He gave through Jesus
Christ - a revelation which man has done so much to debase, and from which the best of the followers of Christ have so grievously fallen
And again, in answer to other doubts and questions in the
mind of the automatist as to the legitimacy of the means of communication, and his hesitation about employing a means which
he knew was sometimes prostituted by knaves to unworthy and frivolous or even base
objects, very different from those served by humorous and friendly family messages, about which no one with a spark of human feeling has
a word to say when once they have realised their nature and object;- the writing continued thus :
"If there be nought in what we say of God and of man's after-life
that commends itself to you, it must be that your mind has ceased to love the grander and simpler conceptions which it had once learned to
drink in. . . ."
"Cease to be anxious about the minute questions which are of minor
moment. Dwell much on the great, the overwhelming necessity for a clearer revealing of the Supreme; on the blank and cheerless ignorance of
God and of us which has crept over the world: on the noble creed we teach, on the bright future we reveal. Cease to be perplexed by thoughts
of an imagined Devil. For the honest, pure, and truthful soul there is no Devil nor Prince of Evil such as theology has feigned. . . . The clouds of
sorrow and anguish of soul may gather round [such a man] and his spirit may be saddened with the burden of sin-weighed down with
consciousness of surrounding misery and guilt, but no fabled Devil can gain dominion over him, or prevail to drag down his soul to hell. All the
sadness of spirit, the acquaintance with grief, the intermingling with guilt, is part of the experience, in virtue of which his soul shall rise hereafter.
The guardians are training and fitting it by those means to progress, and jealously protect it from the dominion of the foe.
"It is only they who, by a' fondness for evil, by a lack of spiritual
and excess of corporeal development, attract to themselves the congenial spirits of the
undeveloped who have left the body but not forgotten its desires. These alone risk incursion of evil. These by proclivity attract
evil, and it dwells with them at their invitation. They attract the lower spirits who hover nearest Earth, and who are but too ready to rush in and
mar our plans, and ruin our work for souls. These are they of whom you speak when you say in haste, that the result of Spiritualism is not for
good. You err, friend. Blame not us that the lower spirits manifest for those who bid them welcome. Blame man's insensate folly, which will
choose the low and grovelling rather than the pure and elevated. Blame his foolish laws, which daily hurry into a life for which they are unprepared,
thousands of spirits, hampered and dragged down by a life of folly and sin, which has been fostered by custom and fashion. Blame the
ginshops, and the madhouses, and the prisons, and the encouraged lusts and fiendish selfishness of man. This it is which damns legions of spirits-not,
as ye fancy, in a sea of material fire, but in the flames of perpetuated lust, condemned to burn itself out in hopeless longing till the purged soul rises
through the fire and surmounts its dead passions. Yes, blame these and kindred causes, if there be around undeveloped intelligences who shock you by their
deception, and annoy you by frivolity and falsehood."
I suppose that the worst that can be said about writing of this
kind is that it consists of 'sermon-stuffe' such as could have been presumably invented-whether consciously or unconsciously-by
the automatic writer himself. And the fact that with some of it he tended to disagree, proves no
more than the corresponding kind of unexpected argumentation experienced by some dreamers. (Cf.
L. P. jacks, Hibbert Journal, July, 1916 The same kind of explanation may serve for both phenomena, but I do not know
what that explanation is.