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THE MORAL TEACHINGS OF SPIRITUALISM.
We have now to consider whether this vast array of phenomena which claims to put us into communication with beings who have passed into another phase of existence, teaches us anything which may make us wiser and better men. I myself believe that it does, and shall endeavour, as briefly as possible, to set forth what the doctrines of modern Spiritualism really are.
The hypothesis of Spiritualism not only accounts for all the facts (and is the only one that does so), but it is further remarkable as being associated with a theory of a future state of existence, which is the only one yet given to the world that can at all commend itself to the modern philosophical mind. There is a general agreement and tone of harmony in the mass of facts and communications termed “spiritual,” which has led to the growth of a new literature, and to the establishment of a new religion. The main doctrines of this religion are: That after death man's spirit survives in an ethereal body, gifted with new powers, but mentally and morally the same individual as when clothed in flesh. That he commences from that moment a course of apparently endless progression, which is rapid, just in proportion as his mental and moral faculties have been exercised and cultivated while on earth. That his comparative happiness or misery will depend entirely on himself; just in proportion as his higher human faculties have taken part in all his pleasures here, will he find himself contented and happy in a state of existence in which they will have the fullest exercise. While he who has depended more on the body than on the mind for his pleasures, will, when that body is no more, feel a grievous want, and must slowly and painfully develop his intellectual and moral nature till its exercise shall become easy and pleasurable. Neither punishments nor rewards are meted out by an external power, but each one's condition is the natural and inevitable sequence of his condition here. He starts again from the level of moral and intellectual development to which he has raised himself while on earth.
Now here again we have a striking supplement to the doctrines of modern science. The organic world has been carried on to a high state of development, and has been ever kept in harmony with the forces of external nature, by the grand law of “survival of the fittest” acting upon ever varying organisations. In the spiritual world, the law of the “progression of the fittest” takes its place, and carries on in unbroken continuity that development of the human mind which has been commenced here.
The communion of spirit with spirit is said to be by thought-reading and sympathy, and to be perfect between those whose beings are in harmony with each other. Those who differ widely have little or no power of intercommunion, and thus are constituted "spheres,” which are divisions, not merely of space, but of social and moral sympathetic organisation. Spirits of the higher "spheres” can, and do sometimes communicate with those below; but these latter cannot communicate at will with those above. But there is for all an eternal progress, a progress solely dependent on the power of will in the development of spirit nature. There are no evil spirits but the spirits of bad men, and even the worst are surely if slowly progressing. Life in the higher spheres has beauties and pleasures of which we have no conception. Ideas of beauty and power become realised by the will, and the infinite cosmos becomes a field where the highest developments of intellect may range in the acquisition of boundless knowledge.
It may be thought, perhaps, that I am here giving merely my own ideal of a future state, but it is not so. Every statement I have made is derived from those despised sources, the rapping table, the writing hand, or the entranced speaker. And to show that I have not done justice either to the ideas themselves, or to the manner in which they are often conveyed to us, I subjoin a few extracts from the spoken addresses of one of the most gifted “trance-mediums," Mrs. Emma Hardinge.
In her address on “Hades," she sums up in this passage her account of our progress through the spheres :-“Of the nature of those spheres and their inhabitants we have spoken from the knowledge of the spirits, dwellers still in Hades. Would you receive some immediate definition of your own condition, and learn how you shall dwell, and what your garments shall be, what your mansion, scenery, likeness, occupations? Turn your eyes within, and ask what you have learned, and what you have done in this, the school-house for the spheres of spirit land. Therethere is an aristocracy, and even royal rank and varying degree, but the aristocracy is one of merit, and the royalty of soul. It is only the truly wise who govern, and as the wisest soul is he that is best, as the truest wisdom is the highest love, so the royalty of soul is truth and love. And within the spirit world all knowledge of this earth, all forms of science, all revelations of art, all mysteries of space, must be understood. The exalted soul that is then fully ready for his departure to a higher state than Hades, must know all that earth can teach, and have practised all that Heaven requires. The spirit never quits the spheres of earth until he is fully possessed of all the life and knowledge of this planet and its spheres. And though the progress may be here commenced, and not one jot of what you learn, or think, or strive for here, is lost, yet all achievements must be ultimated there, and no soul can wing its flight to that which you call, in view of its perfection, Heaven, till you have passed through Earth and Hades, and stand ready in your fully completed pilgrimage to enter on the new and unspeakable glories of the celestial realms beyond."
Could the philosopher or the man of science picture to himself a more perfect ideal of a future state than this? Does it not commend itself to him as what he could wish, if he could by his wish form the future for himself? Yet this is the teaching of that which he scouts as an imposture or a delusion-as the trickery of knaves or the ravings of madmen-modern Spiritualism. I quote another passage from the same address, and I would ask my readers to compare the modesty of the first paragraph with the claims of infallibility usually put forward by the teachers of new creeds or new philosophies :-“It is true that man is finite and imperfect; hence his utterances are too frequently the dictation of his own narrow perceptions, and his views are limited by his own finite capacity. But as you judge him, so also ye 'shall judge the angels.' Spirits only present you with the testimony of those who have advanced one step beyond humanity, and ask for no credence from man without the sanction of man's judgment and reason. Spirits, then, say that their world is as the soul or spiritual and sublimated essence of this human world of yours—that, in locality, the spirit world extends around this planet, as all spirit spheres encircle in zones and belts all other planets, earths, and bodies in space, until the sphere of each impinges upon the other, and they form in connection one vast and harmonious system of natural and spiritual worlds throughout the universe.”
The effects of vice and ungoverned passions are thus depicted :—“Those spirits have engraved themselves with a fatal passion for vice, but, alas ! they dwell in a world where there is no means for its gratification. There is the gambler, who has burnt into his soul the fire of the love of gain; he hovers around earth's gamblers, and, as an unseen tempter, seeks to repeat the now lost joys of the fatal game. The sensualist, the man of violence, the cruel and angry spirit; all who have steeped themselves in crime, or pained their souls with those dark stain spots which they vainly think are of the body only—all these are there, no longer able to enact their lives of earthly vice, but retaining on their souls the deadly mark, and the fatal though ungratified desire for habitual sin; and so these imprisoned spirits, chained by their own fell passions in the slavery of hopeless criminal desires, hover round those who attract them as magnets draw the needle, by vicious inclinations similar to their own. But you say, the soul, by tempting others, must thus sink deeper into crime. Ay, but remember that another point of the spiritual doctrine is the universal teaching of eternal progress.” And then she goes on to depict in glowing language how these spirits too, in time, lose their fierce passions, and learn how to begin the upward path of knowledge and virtue. But I must leave the subject, as I wish to give one extract from the address of the same gifted lady, on the question, “What is Spirit ?" as an example of the high eloquence and moral beauty with which all her discourses are inspired : Small, and to some of us even insignificant, as seems the witness of the spirit-circle, its phenomenal gleams are lights which reveal, in their aggregate, these solemn truths, to us. There we behold foregleams of the powers of soul, which so vastly do transcend the laws of matter. That soul's continued existence and triumph over death; our