Chapter 2 - What is the Agency in Question?
HAVING now shown that there are connected with Spiritualism supermundane phenomena that cannot be denied, and equally evident superhuman intelligence, sufficient to give to the movement unprecedented recognition in all the world, the way is open for the most important question that can be raised concerning it, and one which now demands an answer; and that is, What is the agency by which these phenomena are produced, and by which this intelligence is manifested? This question must be examined with the utmost care, and, if possible, a decision be reached of the most assuring certainty; for, as Mr. M. J. Savage says, "Spiritualism is either a grand truth or a most lamentable delusion."
It is proper that the claim which Spiritualism puts forth for itself, in this regard, should first be heard. This is so well known that it scarcely need be stated. It is that there is in every human being a soul, or spirit, which constitutes the real person; that this soul, or spirit, is immortal; that it manifests itself through a tangible body during this earth life, and when that body dies, passes unscathed into the unseen world, into an enlarged sphere of life, activity, and intelligence; that in this sphere it can still take cognizance of earthly things, and communicate with those still in the flesh, respecting scenes which it has left, and those more interesting conditions still veiled from mortal sight; that it is by these disembodied, or "discarnated" spirits that raps are given, objects moved, intelligence manifested, secrets revealed, slates written, voices uttered, faces shown, and epistles addressed to mortals, as friend would write to friend. If this be true, it opens what would indeed be considered a grand avenue of consolation to bereaved hearts, by giving them evidence that their departed friends still lived; that they recognized, loved, and accompanied them, and delighted still to counsel and instruct them. If not true, it is a masterpiece of superhuman craft and cunning; for it takes Christendom on the side where it is least guarded; as the view is everywhere held that the dead are conscious, and the only question would be as to their power to communicate with persons still living in the body; and it throws its arms around the individual when the heart is the most tender, when plunged into a condition in which every pang of bereaved sorrow, every tie of affection, amid every throb of love, press him to crave with all his being that communication with the dead may be proved a fact, and to constrain him to accept the doctrine, unless kept from it by some power stronger than the cords that bind heart to heart in deathless love. If it be a deception, it occupies a vantage ground before which men may well tremble.
But, as has been already stated, the question is here to be discussed from the standpoint of the Bib le; the Bible is to be taken as the standard of authority by which all conflicting claims respecting the nature of man, must be decided. The authenticity of the Scriptures, in reference to those who deny their authority, is an antecedent question, into the discussion of which it is not the province of this little work to enter. A word, however, by way of digression, may be allowed in reference to its authorship.
CREDENTIALS OF THE BIBLE
1. The Bible claims to be the word of God. Those who wrote it assert that they wrote as they "were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and they append to what they utter, a "Thus saith the Lord."
2. If it is not what it claims to be, it is an imposture invented by deceivers and liars.
3. Good men would not deceive and lie; therefore they were not the ones who invented the Bible.
4. If, therefore, it was invented by men at all, it must have been invented by bad men.
5. All liars and religious impostors are bad men; but --
6. The Bible repeatedly and most explicitly forbids lying and imposture, under the threatening of most condign punishment.
7. Would, therefore, liars and impostors invent a book which more than any other book ever written, denounces lying and imposture, thus condemning themselves to the severest judgments of God, and at last to eternal death?
8. If, then, the Bible is not the invention of good men,-- because such men would not lie and deceive; nor of evil men,-- because such men would not condemn themselves; nor of good or evil angels, for the same reasons, who else can be its author, but he who claims to be, that is, the living God?
9. If, therefore, from the very nature of the case, it must be God''s book, why not believe it, and obey it?
To return: Appeal is therefore made to the Bible; and the object is to learn what the Bible teaches about Spiritualism. When the claim is put forth that it is the disembodied spirits of dead men who make the communications, the Bible reader is at once aware of a conflict of claims. In times when the Bible was written, there were practices among men which went under the names of "enchantment," "sorcery," "witchcraft," "necromancy," "divination," "consulting with familiar spirits," etc. These practices were all more or less related, but some of them bear an unmistakable meaning. Thus, "necromancy" is defined to mean "a pretended communication with the dead." A "familiar spirit" was "a spirit or demon supposed to attend on an individual, or to come at his call; the invisible agent of a necromancer''s will."-- Century Dictionary. Spiritualists do not deny their their intercourse with the invisible world comes under some, at least, of these heads. But all such practices the Bible explicitly forbids.
Deut. 18: 9-12: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord." Lev. 19:31: "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." See also, 2 Kings 21: 2, 6, 9, 11; Rev. 21:8; Gal. 5: 19-21; Acts 16: 16-18; etc. Thus plainly in both the Old and New Testaments, are these practices forbidden.
But why does the Bible forbid such practices as necromancy, or a "pretended" communication with the dead? -- Because it would be only a pretense at best; for such communication is impossible. The dead are unconscious in their graves, and have no power to communicate with the living. Let this truth be once established, and it is the death-blow to the claims of Spiritualism, in the cases of all who will receive it. Allusion has already been made to a popular and wide-spread dogma in the Christian church which furnishes a basis for Spiritualism. It is that the soul is immortal, and that the dead are conscious. Spirits make known their presence, and claim to be the spirits of persons who have once lived here in human bodies. Now if the Bible teaches that there is no such thing as a disembodied human spirit, a knowledge of that fact would enable one to detect at once the imposture of any intelligence which from behind the curtain should claim to be such spirit. Any spirit seeking the attention of men in this life, and claiming to be what the Bible says does not exist, comes with a falsehood on its lips or in its raps, if the Bible is true, and thus reveals its real character to be that of a deceiver. In this case the Bible believer is armed against the imposture. No man likes to be fooled. No matter therefore how nice the communicating intelligence may seem, how many true things it may say, or how many good things it may promise, the conviction cannot be evaded that no real good can be intended or conferred by any spirit, or whatever it may be, masquerading under the garb of falsehood, or pretending to be what it is not. On such a foundation 110 stable superstructure can be reared. It becomes a deathtrap, sure to collapse and involve in ruin all those who trust therein.
It is very desirable that the reader comprehend the full importance of the doctrine, as related to this subject, that the dead are unconscious and that they have no power to communicate with the living. This being established, it sweeps away at one stroke the entire foundation of Spiritualism. Evidence will now be presented to show that this is a Bible doctrine; and wherever this is received, the fabric of Spiritualism from base to finial falls; it cannot possibly stand. But where the doctrine prevails that only the thin veil that limits our mortal vision, separates us from a world full of the conscious, intelligent spirits of those who have departed this life, Spiritualism has the field, beyond the possibility of dislodgment. When one believes that he has disembodied spirit friends all about him, how can he question that they are able to communicate with him? and when some unseen intelligence makes its presence known, and claims to be one of those friends, and refers to facts or scenes, known only to them two, how can the living dispute the claim? How can he refuse to accept a claim, which, on his own hypothesis, there is no conceivable reason to deny? But if ''the spirits are not what they claim to be, how shall the inexplicable phenomena attending their manifestations be explained? -- The Bible brings to view other agencies, not the so-called spirits of the departed, to whose working all that has ever been manifested which to mortal vision is mysterious and inexplicable, may be justly attributed.
THE SOUL NOT IMMORTAL
Spiritualism declares it to be the great object of its mission, to prove the immortality of the soul, which, it says, is not taught in the Scriptures with sufficient clearness, and is not otherwise demonstrated. It well attributes to the Scriptures a lack of plain teaching in support of that dogma; and it would have stated more truth, if it had said that the Scriptures nowhere countenance such a doctrine at all. But, it is said, the Scriptures are full of the terms, "soul" and "spirit." Very true; but they nowhere use those terms to designate such a part of man as in common parlance, and in popular theology, they have come to mean. The fact is, the popular concept of the "soul" and "spirit" has been formulated entirely outside the Bible. Sedulously, unremittingly, for more than six thousand years, the idea has been inculcated in the minds of men, from the cradle to the grave, that man is a dual being, consisting of an outward body which dies, and an inward being called "soul," or "spirit," which does not die, but passes to higher spirit life, when the body goes into the grave. The father of this doctrine is rarely referred to by its believers, as authority, possibly through a little feeling of embarrassment as to its parentage; for he it was who announced it to our first parents in these words: "Ye shall not surely die!" Gen. 3: 4. When men began to die, it was a shrewd stroke of policy on the part of him who had promised them that they should not die, to try to prove to those who remained that the others had not really died, but only changed conditions. It is no marvel that he should try to make men believe that they possessed an immaterial, immortal entity that could not die; but, in view of the ghastly experiences of the passing years, it is the marvel of marvels that he should have succeeded so well. The trouble now is that men take these meanings which have been devised and fostered into stupendous strength outside the pale of Bible teaching, and attach them to the Bible terms of "soul" and "spirit." In other words, the mongrel pago-papal theology which has grown up in Christendom, lets the Bible furnish the terms, and paganism the definitions. But from the Bible standpoint, these definitions do not belong there; they are foreign to the truth, and the Bible does not recognize them. They are as much out of place as was the inventor of them himself in the garden of Eden. Let the Bible furnish its own definitions to its own terms, and all will be clear. The opinion of John Milton, the celebrated author of Paradise Lost, is worthy of note. In his "Treatise on Christian Doctrine," Vol. I, pp. 250, 251, he says: --
"Man is a living being, intrinsically and properly one individual, not compound and separable, not, according to the common opinion, made up and framed of two distinct and different natures, as of body and soul, but the whole man is soul, and the soul, man; that is to say, a body or substance, individual, animated, sensitive, and rational."
In this sense the word is employed many times; but whoever will trace the use of the words "soul" and "spirit" through the Bible, will find them applied also to a great variety of objects; as, person, mind, heart, body (in the expression "a dead body"), will, lust, appetite, breath, creature, pleasure, desire, anger, courage, blast, etc., etc., in all nearly fifty different ways. But it is a fact which should be especially noted, that in not a single instance is there the least hint given that anything expressed by these terms is capable of existing for a single moment, as a conscious entity, or in any other condition, without the body! This being so, none of these, according to the Bible, are the agency claimed to be present in Spiritualism.
Another fact in reference to this point, should be allowed its decisive bearing. The question now under investigation is, Is the soul immortal, as Spiritualism has taken upon itself to teach, and claims to demonstrate? The Bible is found to be so lavish in the use of the terms "soul " and "spirit," that these words occur in the aggregate, seventeen hundred times. Seventeen hundred times, by way of description, analysis, narrative, historical facts, or declarations of what they can do, or suffer, the Bible has something to say about "soul" and "spirit." The most important question to be settled concerning them, certainly, is whether they are immortal or not. Will not the Bible, so freely treating of these terms, answer this question? Very strange, indeed, if it does not. But does it once affirm that either the soul or the spirit is immortal? -- Not once! Does it ever apply to them the terms "eternal," "deathless," "neverdying," or any word that bears the necessary meaning of immortal? -- Not in a single instance. Does it apply to them any term from which even an inference, necessary or remote, can be drawn that they are immortal? Even reduced to this attenuated form, the answer is still an emphatic and overwhelming, No! Well, then, does it say anything about the nature and capabilities of existence of that which it denominates soul or spirit? -- Yes; it says the soul is in danger of the grave, may die, be destroyed, killed, and that the spirit may be wounded, cut off, preserved, and so, conversely, made to perish.
It is sometimes claimed that it is not necessary that the Bible should affirm the immortality of the soul, because it is so self-evident a fact that it is taken for granted. But no one surely can suppose that the immortality of the soul is more self-evident than that of Jehovah; yet the Bible has seen fit to affirm his immortality in most direct terms. 1 Tim. 1: 17: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Tim. 6:16: "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man bath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen." Let, then, similar Bible testimony be found concerning the soul; that is, that it is "immortal," or "hath immortality," and the taken-for-granted device will not be needed.