< Pons Asinorum. (continued from page 1-204) >
Sir, — If I may judge from the number of letters I get on the subject, the question of immortality or perpetuated individuality is one that interests and exercises many. I cannot find the time necessary to reply to all my correspondents, nor am I able to answer several of the queries put to me. Since, however, the same questions are asked over and over again, I venture to ask you to print for me the following letter which I wrote a short time ago in reply to a correspondent who inquired of me as to the perpetuation of conscious individuality after physical death.
In doing this I have no other object in view than to say, once and for all, in such a way as one can deal with these matters in a letter, what lies on the surface of a great question. I am conscious enough of the crudities that the letter contains. It is needless to say that it was not written for publication. But I believe that profound thought on these abstruse points would defeat my object, which is simply to say, in plain and intelligible language, what may be a partial answer to questions that rise in many minds.
Madam, —Your favour of the 8th has been forwarded to me by the Editor of The Spiritualist, and I trust you will excuse me if I return what you may consider a brief reply to the very important questions which it opens out. In the midst of a pressing and increasing mass of work I have hardly time to systematise my ideas, and I shrink from putting forward crude notions on a very important matter.
One or two things are clear. Of immortality, other than perpetuated existence, we can know nothing. I venture to think in this connection that the title of my friend Mr. Epes Sargent’s excellent little book, The Proof Palpable of Immortality, is a misnomer. Exactness, however, is not required in the title of a popular work.
Moreover, the phenomena of modern Spiritualism, however strong a presumption they set up, seem to me to fall short of positive demonstration of our own perpetuated existence. Those who have gone deepest seem to feel most uncertain as to the nature and character of many of the operating intelligences whose existence is adduced as evidence for our own immortality.
Again, individuality is most probably greatly concerned with the outward manifestation in the human form, and would accordingly be (to a great extent) merged, impaired, or changed at physical death.
The higher individuality, or self hood—the selecting power of which you speak—is something (as you well point out) which is inherent in the interior principle, and is the conscious Ego which through endless cycles of progress is developed upwards to perfection.
I cannot conceive this principle as other than immortal, though I can perfectly well fancy myself passing through numberless changes of being in each of which (save in the innermost) I am utterly unlike what I was in a previous state.
So far as I can put in words what is in my mind I should say that your statement is accurate. But probably there is a laxness in the use of terms all through this argument. The word immortality should be carefully defined in its use. Individuality, personality, self hood, and the like should be equally, clearly, and specially limited in use. And when all is done we shall find, I think, that our present powers do not enable us to grasp the full meaning of or the niceties of distinction between the terms we use.
Not venturing here and now to attempt precise definition, I say, roughly, that it seems to me: —
1. That we have grounds, more or less sure, for the belief that human existence does not end with physical death. (In some cases certainly not.)
2. That we have grounds for belief that the future of the human spirit is one of development in progress where progress has been begun in the earth-life; and of purgatorial cleansing away of the dross of sin and corruption where the opportunities of earth-life have been wasted.
3. That personality has been fairly proven to be perpetuated over a very long course of years by the fact that departed spirits have returned and have given trustworthy evidence of their perpetuated personality.
4. That, having in view the infinitude of eternity, we have no sure ground for saying that this individuality is indefinitely perpetuated.
5. But, rather, that there is within what we now understand as individuality a germ of spiritual life, which is destined, probably, to be gradually eliminated from all exterior manifestations, and is the death-surviving, immortal principle in the soul of man—that by virtue of the possession of which he is a “son of God.”
6. That this inherent principle we never can estimate in our present state of knowledge: but that we seem to come nearest when we say that it is “life essence,” implanted by the Great Creator for development and final perfection through cycles of varying purgation.
This, I take it, is the selecting principle of yourself and G. T. C. M.
If this seems to you vague, I pray you to consider the low state of progression in which we now are, and that these are mysteries enveloped in the clouds and darkness that enshroud the throne of the Eternal. Vagueness and tentative handling seem best suited to such abstruse subjects. * * *
The “Double". Who are the Producers thereof?
Sir,—The Baroness Adelma Von Vay says:—“Persons of strong mesmeric power, who understand the art of magic, can draw numbers of doubles around them, and can send them out on various missions; but a deep knowledge of magical power is necessary for this.” As yet I am unable to obtain the evidence that a “double” is any other than what is termed a “materialisation.” I do not pretend to understand how, or by what law these forms are produced; but the most prevalent idea seems to be that the materials for manufacturing these forms are drawn from the body of a medium, from persons sitting in circle, and from surrounding elements; that these materials are so drawn and put in form by disembodied spirits, and it is quite a natural conclusion on the part of investigators that these “materialised” forms, so-called, are a covering, or are pervaded by a spiritual form which is the producer of the materialised form of such materialising spirit. Now, there is ample evidence to show that these materialised forms are produced by some intelligence which has the power to change the outline and general appearance of a materialised form, so as to represent different persons, or a person or spirit, with or without the deformities of earth life; this destroys the evidence of identity, and throws the scale of evidence of identification in favour of the producers of materialised forms being competent to produce as many imitations or representations of a single person in earth life as they choose to manufacture. The author of the above quotation further says:—“Some mediums, and even those without any special medial gifts, have been seen to appear in distant places, while they were quietly at home; this happens by the attraction of certain spirits who are able to take on the form of the person in question.” Now, this is admitting that spirits can manufacture as many fac-similes, imitations, or representations of the same individuals as they choose. The only difference, then, between a form called a “double,” and a form called a materialised spirit is, that the one is an imitation of an embodied form, and the other is an imitation of the earthly form of a disembodied spirit. If spirits have the ability to manufacture fabrics for wcaring apparel, I see no reason why they may not have the power to produce an imitation of a human form. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that spirits can sometimes make material objects invisible to mortals at will, which being the case, spirits are enabled to carry on a materialising seance, with the aid of permanent material masks and attire, and to multiply imitations to any extent, whether such spirits are tricksters, or qualified angel missionaries. If the latter, they are governed by the laws of development; if the former, they are under no restraint, and have no high authority, therefore will act in accordance with their own natural inclinations, and produce such phenomena as they have the ability to exhibit, and which best subserves the purposes of their own gratification, so that doubles, or materialised forms, so called, of any description, maybe produced in either case.
The Baroness further says:—“When a spirit becomes incarnated, and lives on earth as man, a so-called guardian spirit accompanies him, who becomes likewise, to a certain extent, incarnated with him. The child is born into the flesh, the guardian spirit dwells in the perisprit, or nerve aura, and takes a form exactly similar to that of its medium or foster child. This guardian is the double or twin spirit of the incarnated spirit of the man. In this way every man has with him a living ever-abiding facsimile, a protecting spirit who is inseparable from him.” If I understand the Baroness, this guardian, or double, has the ability to do the manual labour of his ward, separate and apart from him, but I suppose he must first materialise a physical body and clothe it. So it is plain that if a double cannot be produced in one way it can in another, and that “persons of strong mesmeric power who have a deep knowledge of magic,” can, when they have more business than they can attend to alone, summon as many doubles as they require to perform the required labour, on a very economical scale. I do not intend to ridicule this idea, but it seems to me this is a plain matter of fact, provided the Baroness is correct in her statements.
It seems to me that Spiritualism is becoming lumbered with much that is valueless in the unfolding of truth; yet, I think it quite important that the advocates of new ideas should have a hearing, if such ideas bear any semblance of truth, whether such advocates be of high or low repute, as regards their literary standing or ancestral celebrity. It matters but little through whom the communications come—whether the author be a spirit embodied or a spirit disembodied, the truth or falsity of all sayings must be determined by logical tests. What are called logical tests are not unfrequently mere decisions in accordance with a certain standpoint, which standpoint is but a descendant of an ancestral dogma, for error produces only error.
The doctrine of reincarnation, I am fully persuaded, is a doctrine that has been handed down from on high, either as a stepping stone to a real truth or principle, or as an antagonism necessary to the development of truth. The doctrine of a devil, of evil spirits, with a lake of fire and brimstone in which to put them, it seems to me, was a necessity in a developing process, antagonistically considered. Different doctrines
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- April 21, 1876 (Rus.)
- Perpetuated Individuality by Oxon, M. A., London Spiritualist, v. 8, No. 191, April 21, 1876, p. 190
- The “Double". Who are the Producers thereof? by Mosher, D. G. (Mesher ?), London Spiritualist, v. 8, No. 191, April 21, 1876, p. 190