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Spirit Teachings
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Section XII


[I am reluctant to publish what is so private in its nature and bearings: but I am constrained to do so, and my justification is that what was the experience of one may be the experience of many, and the history of my mental and spiritual struggles may be helpful to others who are passing through a similar phase. After an interval of some days, during which I received no communication on the subject of the religious teaching of spirits, I requested permission to state further objections which pressed strongly on my mind. As I recall my state, I was perplexed and startled by what had been said. I was unable to accept what was so new; and the great point that weighed with me was that of "Spirit Identity." It seemed in my then state that I must have complete proof of the earth identity of the communicating spirit before I could accept the statements made. I believed such direct demonstration to be procurable; and I was distressed that it was not given I did not know then (July, 1873) as I do now that the evidence of conviction is what alone is to be had; and that no cut-and-dried plan such as I propounded would really have carried with it the conviction I imagined. Moreover, I was distressed by the feeling that much that passed current for spirit communication was silly and frivolous, if not mischievous. I compared the teaching of the Christian moralists with spirit teaching very much to the disadvantage of the latter. I also considered that there was very wide divergence between teachings given by spirits, and that all sorts of opinions were professed. Most of these I disliked personally, and I did not believe that they benefited the people who received them. I fancied that many such were enthusiasts and fanatics, and was repelled by the idea. Neither from internal nor external evidence was I greatly attracted, and the objections that I put at that time were directed to the points above noticed. They related principally to evidence about identity, to what I thought would be the probable dealings of God with mankind, and to the general character and outcome of Spiritualism. The next answer made to me was as follows:--]

FRIEND, we are pleased to converse with you again; and if it be impossible for us to answer all your queries, and to solve all your problems, we can at least rectify some errors into which you have fallen as to the dealings of God with man, and the tendency of the mission which we have in charge.

The root of your error seems to lie in a false conception of God and of His dealings with mankind. Surely the page of human history bears upon it the story of one uniformly progressive revelation of One and the same God. The attempts of men to realise and picture to themselves the God whom they ignorantly worship have led to the strangest and most fallacious notions as to His nature and operations.

In the early days of man's history the crude notion of a God inherent in His spiritual nature took shape as a fetish, which was alternately prayed to with reverence or cast aside with contumely, in proportion as the prayer was granted or delayed. Men knew not that the block before which they bowed was powerless, and that round them hovered ever the bands of spirit ministers who were ready to succour and defend them, and to bear to them answers to their reasonable prayers. They could grasp no more of God than that. The tangible, palpable image was to them the embodiment of their idea. Mark this! of their idea of God, not of God Himself, but of the crude conception which was the best idea they could frame. Drawing their information from their own dealings, they imagined for themselves certain rules of conduct by which they proceeded to judge the God whom they had created. They feigned for Him human passions such as they found worthy of respect in their fellows. They credited Him with some failings which were inseparable from humanity as they knew it. He was jealous of His honour; long-suffering and of tender pity; according as they who spoke of Him imagined that He ought to be. He was, in short, a glorified man--a man endued with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. They feigned Him such and made Him act accordingly. Consequently all the revelation of God is characteristic of the age in which it is given. It grows with human development, and is progressively proportioned to the development of human intellect and refinement, simply because the human medium becomes capable of being impressed with more accurate views of the Deity in proportion as he has shaken himself free from his former fetters of ignorance, and has himself progressed towards light and knowledge.

We have frequently said that God reveals Himself as man can bear it. It must needs be so. He is revealed through a human medium, and can only be made known in such measure as the medium can receive the communication. It is impossible that knowledge of God should outstrip man's capacity. Were we now to tell you--if we could--of our more perfect theology it would seem to you strange and unintelligible. We shall, by slow degrees, instil into your mind so much of truth as you can receive, and then you will see your present errors. But that is not yet. Indeed, since the conception which each frames for himself is to him his God, it cannot be that revelation can be in advance of capacity. It is in the nature of things impossible.

Hence you see that when you credit God with motives and say, "This cannot be. God is acting here contrary to His nature. He cannot so act now, because He did not so act then," you are simply saying, "My idea of God is so and so, and I cannot at present get another one. According to what I believe, my God would not do so." And that is precisely what we say. You have made your God, and you have made Him act as you see fit. By and by, as your mind expands--either in your present state of being or in another--you will get fresh light, and then you will say, "Now I see that I was wrong. God is not what I fancied at all. How could I ever have entertained such notions!"

This is very much the case with all progressive minds. To some the time of development comes not in this life. They must wait for a newer light in a newer life. But to some there comes a flood of knowledge even in their present place of existence. The old grows flat and profitless. The soul craves for a newer and truer revelation; for something which shall be as the spirit among the dry bones, and shall give them a resurrection unto life.

Well, you have had, or you are having, your revelation. Your mind, as some would say, has widened, and has pictured a God more in accordance with its advanced capacities.

You have received from an eternal source--the same whence all other Divine knowledge flows down to man--a newer and richer revealing of the Supreme, others may say.

Call it what you will. The two operations of revelation and comprehension, of knowledge and capacity, must be correlative. The knowledge does not come until there is capacity to receive it. Neither does the mind get higher revelation until is has so far advanced as to feel the want of it; and that for the simple reason that it is itself the agent through which comes the revelation of which it is the recipient.

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 in, because they are the produce of divers intelligences in divers degrees of development.

Think! You say to us that we are not of God, because our ideas of Him made known to you are not compatible with some notions which you have derived from certain of the books in your sacred records. Tell us which is the God with whom we are at variance in our ideal. Is it the God who walked in human form with Adam, and is fabled to have wreaked direful vengeance on the ignorant creatures who are said to have committed what you now see to be a very venial fault? Or, is it the God who commanded His faithful friend to sacrifice to Him the only child of his love as an acceptable offering? Or is it the God who reigned over Israel as an earthly monarch, and whose care was feigned to be devoted to the enunciation of sanitary laws, or to the construction of a tabernacle, who went forth with the armies of Israel to battle, and issued bloodthirsty laws and regulations for the extirpation of innocent and unoffending peoples? Or is it, perchance, the God who enabled His servant Joshua to arrest the course of the universe and to paralyse the solar system, in order that the Israelites might revel a few hours more in gore and carnage? Or is it rather with the God who feigned to be so angry with His chosen people because they wished for a visible monarch, that He visited upon them an elaborate revenge extending over many hundred of years? Or with which of the Gods of the prophets are we at variance? with Isaiah's God, or with Ezekiel's? or with the lugubrious Deity that Jeremiah's morbid mind imagined? or with David's Divinity--half father, half tyrant, cruel and yielding by turns, always inconsistent and irrational? or with Joel's? or with John's? or with Paul's Calvinistic conception, imagined and painted with horrid phantasies of predestination, and hell, and election, and a dreamy, listless heaven? Are we at variance with Paul, or John, or Jesus?

But there is no need to press the fact that revelation has always been proportioned to man's capacity, and coloured by man's mind. The idea of God has been throughout the ages the conception, more or less vivid, of those who have been the media of revelation. The implanted idea has taken form and shape from the mental surroundings of the medium through whom it was given. Such portion of truth as the teachers have been able to impart has been moulded by the spirit of the medium into an individual shape. To none has complete truth be given, only so much of truth, such aspect of truth, as was necessary for a particular age and people. Hence it is that the conceptions of God, such as those we have now alluded to, are various and divergent. Of course, we and our God are not Joshua and his God: neither are we Paul and his God: though we challenge comparison between the God we know and reveal, and that God who was dimly shadowed forth to a people that knew Him not, by Him who knew Him best, and lived nearest to Him, the man Christ Jesus. He had received conceptions of Deity far clearer than any which His followers have grasped; His religion was simple, plain, and earnest. His theology was equally plain. The cry to "Our Father who art in Heaven," how widely does it differ from the elaborate dissertions on theology in which the Supreme is first informed of the character which man has assigned Him, and then is requested to act up to it with especial reference to the wants or fancied wants which the ignorant worshipper puts forward!

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 self-imagined pattern. He blames not the ignorance. That is no shame, so it be not wilful. But He blames the folly which hugs a low conception of Him, and will have no light let in on the dark and musty temple in which the idol is enshrined. He blames the lovers of darkness, the haters of light, who cling to the undeveloped fancies of the past, and can see no beauty in the simple moral grandeur of the God whom Christ revealed, but must needs graft on to that noble conception the anthropomorphic fancies of previous unenlightened ages. Of such there are not a few who cannot receive higher teachings yet. But of such are not you! 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 of the good God which made Him an angry, jealous, human tyrant: 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 away.

If there be naught in what we say of God and of man's afterlife 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. It must be that the machinations of the adversaries have availed to reach your spirit, and that the dark edge of that cloud which they have interposed between your world and its God, is resting with baleful influence upon you. We pray that we may be permitted to raise it, and to pour into your soul once more the beams of enlightenment and peace. We do not fear that any permanent harm will rest with you. Nor do we regret that you should try the foundations on which your knowledge rests. It will not be wasted time to do so.

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 or Prince of Evil such as theology has feigned.

Evil comes not nigh him; the adversaries flee from his presence, and the powers of evil are powerless before him. He is guarded around by angel guards, ministered to by bright spirits, who watch over him and direct his footsteps. For him there waits a career of progressive increase in knowledge, and in all that elevates and ennobles the intelligence. He need fear no Devil, unless he creates one for himself. His affinity for good draws around him influences for good. He is fenced around by guardians; nor can he, save by voluntary surrender, fall a final victim to the foe. His is no exemption from temptation, from the snares of the destroyer, or from the atmosphere which during his probation time he must breathe. The clouds of sorrow and anguish of soul may gather round him, 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 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 have 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 is it 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.

More on this hereafter. Already we have said more than we had intended. And for myself, I hear the call which summons me to the adoration of the Supreme, when my prayer shall rise to the throne of Divine pity that a rill of that consoling grace may trickle down to your vexed spirit, and may shed on it healing and peace--the peace of God, the quietness of assurance and peace.

+IMPERATOR.