The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20
Lecture upon Spiritual Communication, Inspiration, or Impression
Lecture upon Spiritual Communication, Inspiration, or Impression,
The craving for communion with the spirit-world, while it is a testimony to the immortality of the soul, since mere matter cannot be attracted towards or by what is immaterial, is also one of the deepest and strongest instincts and desires of our nature. It is an evidence of the emancipation—to some extent—of what is spiritual within us, from the trammels of animalism. But we must be extremely careful how we endeavour to justify this craving. Indulged in, according to some methods, it merely gratifies an idle curiosity, it brings about us undeveloped spirits, with sentiments and sympathies which are still directed to the earth they have quitted and about whose precincts they are still hovering, and it subjects us to be misled, deceived, and in some instances mentally destroyed.
Spiritual communion is governed by immutable law, like all the processes of nature, and obedience to that law is essential for the safe and salutary enjoyment of that intercourse for which so many human beings instinctively yearn. There is no such tiling as a supernatural phenomenon in the universe. Whatever we call by this name is a natural circumstance uncomprehended by us. Supernaturalism is a phrase which ought therefore to be discarded from our dictionaries. Spiritual communion is one of the natural facts of the world. It has existed from the beginning of time upon this our earth, and it will continue to exist until our globe has fulfilled its appointed work. Sacred and profane literature is full of testimonies to the truth and actuality of this communion; and all the religions of civilised mankind repose upon a spiritual basis. Take away this and they crumble to pieces; as everything that is human and material will necessarily do, in virtue of the law of its being. But the records and the preceptive books of all these religions being largely adulterated and contaminated by human error, and what is historical in them having reference merely to but a small fragment of our race, and to a limited period in its annals, mankind has gone astray with respect to its apprehension of spiritual truths.
We must go to the very foundation of things in order to get at the truth of spiritual intercourse, and to explain the beautiful and wonderful gradations of intelligence and rule by which our world is governed. We must understand that the human race made its appearance upon the earth tens of thousands of years before the date assigned to the creation of the world in the Mosaic Cosmogony. We may be said, indeed, to belong to the middle ages of the history of mankind. There have boon three great ingatherings of the human race—spoken of in the vision of John as churches—at intervals of many thousand years; and some idea may be formed of the incorrectness of our systems of chronology from the fact that the ingathering of the Third Church occurred at a period considerably anterior to the bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt. The time has arrived at which the work of gathering in the Fourth Church has been commenced, and although a thousand years may probably elapse before the work is perfected, it is steadily proceeding, and will eventuate in the establishment of such a spiritual civilization of the globe—and of such a confraternity of the spiritually minded in all countries, as has not been witnessed since the consummation and fulfilment of the last Church;
Outside of this earth are a number of spheres, constituting with our own—which is the birth sphere—seven. Ours is the first; in the second abide all those spirits who have quitted the earth page 2 during the last six thousand years, In the sphere above these dwell the advanced spirits who belonged to the Third Church; and in the highest sphere of all, abide the still more glorified spirits, who ascend thither by due gradation from the Second Church. It is their office and privilege to instruct the angels of the Third Church; while they in like manner are the teachers of the undeveloped and progressive spirits in the second sphere, as well as of ourselves under certain conditions. All knowledge that contains within itself an element of value and durability, all inspired literature, all great inventions, all original thoughts, and all pure and noble aspirations come to mankind through these channels from the Most High. What we call genius is His holy gift, and the human being is almost as incapable of originating anything as the lower animals. Man—although unconsciously so to himself—is linked by this chain of intelligences with the Author of all being, and with the Source of all knowledge. From the moment of his birth, guardian angels are assigned to him, and if in infancy he receives a natural training, and if his after life be pure and natural likewise, those angels can continue to act upon him impressionally, and promote his temporal happiness here and his spiritual progression hereafter.
Man being thus related to the angels, their watchfulness over him is incessant, and their influence upon him for good would be great, and no less unceasing, were it not, as I have said, that he alienates them from his side, and violates by disobedience the law of his being. This law is harmony and happiness, and its first transgression, in the case of most of us, springs from our getting outside of our individual spheres. Every person in the world has his appointed place in it, determined by the nature of his faculties and by the specific bent of his genius. Occupying these, the whole family of man would be as one brotherhood. Each unit of us belongs as much to a fixed order of things as the infinite varieties of animal and vegetable life below us fit into their proper places, and act and move to one consentaneous purpose. Between each human being and every other human being there are the same differences as between the quadruped and the bird, and the bird and the fish. Not only so, but as there are innumerable species of the bird tribes, so there are equally innumerable varieties of the man tribe; and it is just as erroneous, just as much an infringement of the law, and just as much a source of pain and perplexity for one human being to step out of his sphere, as it would be for a wolf to adopt the plumage of the peacock, or for an eagle to clothe himself in the skin of the tiger. Most of the crime and confusion which prevail in the world, and no small part of its vice and disease, are attributable to this very aberration of human beings from their respective spheres. It pervades all grades of society, and is productive of endless discord and incalculable suffering. There are many kings who should be tending swine, or following the vocation of hunters, or cooks, or dancing masters; and in like manner there are many mute inglorious Miltons, possible Hampdens, and probable Cromwells, who are leading lives of obscurity and arduous toil. Not only is the work of the world done badly in consequence, but mankind is deprived of innumerable inventions of which it might reap the advantage if those who are capable of communicating them were not repressed by unspiritual circumstances.
But, it will be asked, how is each man or woman to discover his or her proper sphere, and to occupy the same? God has defined it for each of us. There is not a child who would not clearly indicate it if carefully studied. It betrays itself in very early life, and it is the duty of every parent to provide for its fulfilment. But convention steps in and says, No! If the son of a professional man, or of a person in opulent circumstances, evinces a marked inclination for mechanical pursuits, it is discouraged and repressed. He is otherwise trained. He is subjected to a learned education. His mind is crammed with dead languages, and with equally lifeless facts, and he is put to some employment which he follows from habit or necessity, but which—if it brings him success-never brings him happiness. There is an unsatified craving which he can neither account for nor allay. He endeavours to minister to it by pleasure, by excitement, by the accumulation of wealth, or by its expenditure upon objects which he no sooner possesses than they become indifferent to him. This happiness eludes his grasp. He has got outside his individual sphere; the evolution of his spiritual nature—if it evolves at all—is at variance with the evolution of his physical nature, and the result is enduring discord. Do you not suppose that Louis XVI. would have been a happy man if it had been consistent with the practice of kings to have placed him apprentice with a locksmith, and to have permitted him to pass his life in the peaceful pursuit of the mechanical employment to which he was so much attached? Do you not suppose, also, that if, instead of ascending a throne, Mario Antoinette could have folio wed the healthy calling of a rosy dairymaid, she would have been one of the happiest women in Europe? Who have been the world's chief benefactors? Have they not been the men and women who, knowing their own spheres, resolutely kept within them, developing their own natures on all sides, and growing up into the glorious stature of noble and natural human beings—unspoiled by erroneous systems of education, untrammelled by circumstance, and un-warped by any of the distorting influences of an improper and uncongenial training.
Such persons being natural, and having undergone no mental distortion, are necessarily more amenable to spiritual impressions; and to these, as I have said, humanity is indebted for everything precious that it possesses. If mankind have gone astray, if the world is a scene of turbulence and bloodshed, of wrong and rapine, if it presents to us the spectacle of enormous wealth, immense luxury and shameful self-indulgence, side by side with squalid poverty, with abject want and absolute starvation, who is to page 3 blame? Ourselves. Docs not every believer in a God and in a hereafter, acknowledge that there is a superintending Providence, and at the same time feel it hard to reconcile the existence of the "evils" which he sees and feels, with the operation and omnipotence of that Providence. It is not at fault, however. Its decrees are beneficence itself, its purposes are infinitely wise and infinitely loving. There is not a planet in this vast universe that is not under the direction of gradations of angels, subordinate to the highest hierarchies, these being in their turn subject to our Heavenly Father, whose service is delight, and whose commands are love. And so it is with respect to our own small globe; but we, humans, in the pride and vanity of our pigmy intellects, and in the exercise of that freedom winch has been graciously vouchsafed to us by the Supreme Ruler of all things, apply ourselves to the task of thwarting the benevolent designs, and traversing his sublime decrees. We deliberately ignore the spiritual nature which is within us, and live only for the animal; setting the perishable above the imperishable, and acting as if in the great chain of being there were no intermediate links between ourselves and God, no open communication between the seen and unseen no angels to instruct and guide us, no spiritual forefathers watching over us, and striving to impress us for good. It seems to be an article of popular faith that when we die, owing to some mystical trust in the merits of somebody else, we shall leap at once into the presence of our Maker, and that the murderer who yesterday expiated his crime upon the scaffold and died penitently, will be at once ushered into the abode of God himself, of that inconceiveably august and glorious Being whom it is the privilege alone of the highest archangel to look upon.
The great difference between the spiritual intercourse which is ordinarily enjoyed upon the earth, and that which has been permitted to mankind through the agency of the magnetic teaching, is this—that whereas the former brings us into contact with spirits only one remove from humanity—spirits in many instances not yet enfranchised from the errors of belief, and the intellectual trammels which impeded their mental progress and spiritual growth on earth spirits who are being cured and instructed—spirits, in a word, occupying the second sphere—the magnetic teaching is bestowed upon us by those advanced intelligences which occupy the higher spheres of this our globe, and are the appointed channels through which the Most High conveys his love and light to his creatures upon earth, and to the undeveloped and progressive spirits in the second sphere. In that sphere reside all the spirits which have taken their departure hence, ever since the present branch of the human family—or in other words the members of the Fourth Church—appeared upon the earth. In the infinite wisdom of our Almighty Father he has prescribed that there shall be seven great ingatherings of the human race. Three of those, as has been said, have already taken place. The first was gathered in some 21,000 years ago, when our globe was much smaller than it is at present. The members of this Church, at their ascension, became the spiritual guides, teachers, and counsellors of the human race next dwelling on the earth. At the completion of each Church the earth underwent a great convulsion. Its physical aspect was changed, and its bulk expanded. When, in the fulness of time, and at the expiration of seven thousand years, the Second Church was gathered in, the first ascended to a higher sphere, and became the guide and teacher of the Second, which remained in the second sphere. And so in like manner with the Third. When that arose, the First passed into the Sun, and its members were invested with a lustre corresponding with the glorious radiance of the centre of our planetary system. Our teachers and instructors, as I have said, are members of the Third Church, and they flourished on the earth shortly before the epoch at which Biblical chronologists have fixed the creation of the world. When the ingathering was completed, our globe underwent yet another change and expansion of its bulk. Up to that time there was but one continent and one sea. The four continents which now exist were riven asunder, and the islands we inhabit began to emerge from the ocean. We foolishly imagine that the discovery of America was first accomplished a few centuries back. Nothing can be more erroneous than the supposition. That land was perfectly well known to the members of the third church; it was the seat of a pure and spiritual civilization, and the dwelling place of a noble and natural race of beings.
When our own Church is gathered in, all the spirits of the human race translated to the second sphere since what we are pleased to call the creation of the world-that is, since the date of the last great cataclysm—will ascend, and will take the place now occupied by the Third Church, and this last will take the position of the Second Church, which will pass into the sun, and there join its glorified predecessor. After us will come three other Churches, and when these have reached their completion, our earth—which has been described to me as one thought of the Most High, and as enclosing within itself when it first emanated from the Supreme Mind the germ of every being which ever has lived or ever will live upon its surface—will have fulfilled its work, and will pass away perhaps, or be prepared for the residence of a more exalted race of beings than ourselves.
And it is because the time has arrived for the commencement of the ingathering of the Fourth Church, that this spiritual awakening is taking place all over the globe. In every part of it, the loving and wise ministers and messengers of God are acting impressionally upon the minds of such persons as are susceptible to their impressions. Men of science and theologians are finding them-selves brought face to face with doubts and difficulties which they are unable to solve. The old superstitious are crumbling to ruin, scepticism is invading the sanctuaries of orthodoxy; the belief in a physical death and a physical hell page 4 is being discarded by all but an unenlightened few; the theory of the plenary inspiration of the Bible is rejected by many of those who were formerly its staunchest advocates and defenders, and mankind are beginning to extricate themselves from the meshes of a pernicious theology and to seek communion with God through the instrumentality of his holy angels. All those things are but the faint foreshadowing of more momentous changes which await us, even before the expiration of the present century; and if I were to repeat the assurances and distinct predictions which I have received—and not I alone, but many others—on this head, I might be suspected of being a visionary and a dreamer; possibly the victim of some extraordinary hallucination. Enough to say, however, that the effects of the magnetic teaching—teaching which is purely inspirational—teaching which is conveyed to men, women, and children by the magnetic fire and light, by that which—I speak it with the most unfeigned reverence, and merely utter what it has been given me to utter—by that which is of the very nature of God—have been seen by scores of persons, and will be visible to hundreds and thousands. There is much in it which transcends the human mind to explain. God's ways are not our ways; and it is only becoming on our part to receive with humility and gratitude the blessed light which descends upon us in vivifying and exhilirating power from above, and to acknowledge with heartfelt thankfulness, the happiness which we enjoy in living at a period of the history of [unclear: om] branch of the human race, in which this glorious gift was revealed to, and bestowed upon us.
The magnetic teaching, as now vouchsafed to mankind in its more direct and obvious form, is another variety of that inspiration which has been bestowed upon a favoured few in all ages of the world's history, which is to be found in all the so-called religions which have taken rise in the East—which has created and vitalised whatever is durable in art, literature, and science, and which would become the common property of all mankind, if mankind lived in obedience to the laws of God, and listened to and acted upon those impressions which our good angels are over waiting and watching for an opportunity of imparting to us. For, as each living being, from the lowest organism to the highest, does actually ensphere an archangel, so in every member of the human family lie all the potentialities of genius. This, though rare among us, is not a privilege, is not an exclusive gift, is not a special favour. God, our infinite Father, does not deal in this wise with his children. They are equally dear in his eyes—equally precious to his all-com-prehending love. What he gives to one, he bestows on all, and that with a lavish hand—with the free bounty of a Being whoso goodness is inexhaustible, whose love knows no limit, whoso active beneficence is incapable of rest, whoso superintending Providence embraces the whole uniyerse within its stupendous grasp.
The day will come when men, brought back to a sense of His presence in the world, weaned from the pernicious errors, the degrading superstitions, and the amazing absurdities of human theologies, and studying Him in his glorious works, will participate as freely in the attributes of genius as they now share in the blessed sunshine, in the free air of heaven, and in the enlightened enjoyment of the spectacle daily presented to us by this beautiful earth. In every human brain lie the germs of genius—that is to say, of creative power. All they require is to be quickened by the magnetic light and fire which God's holy angels and our ministering spirits are commissioned to confer upon us if we only prepare the soul, and keep it free from the weeds of human doctrine and human error. Our part in the work is very simple, and our duty very easy. It is not oven a labour. God, in his wonderful goodness, has made it absolutely delightful. Consider for a moment all that is required of us. Obedience! nothing more! We have but to do as the lower animals and the vegetable world do—obey impressions. These come to us from above—from the ministering angels just spoken of. If we followed them, every human being would occupy precisely that sphere which he is peculiarly and pre-eminently qualified to fill. In it he would enjoy health and happiness. Out of it he would never wish to depart. He would resemble one wheel out of millions in a wisely conceived, exquisitely constructed, and harmoniously-working piece of machinery. He would fit in with every other part of that complicated mechanism, and would contribute his quota to the results produced.
Mankind have not yet come to recognise this their inter-dependence and in tor-relationship—have not yet felt that each unit of the mass is just as closely related to every other human being on the globe, as the nerves behind my eye are to those which are ramified through my hands or feet. Not only so, but we are akin, on the one side, to the dust beneath our feet; upon the other, to those celestial beings whose privilege it is to be admitted to the councils of the Almighty. "the chain of being" is something more than a figure of speech: it is an eternal fact. And this is a truth which is in process of revelation by the magnetic teaching, and will become before long so patent to the understandings of all men who have eyes to see and ears to hear, that they will wonder that they could have lived so many years upon the earth in utter blindness of verities which are being proclaimed every hour of every day by the million voices of animated Nature, speaking to us from every animal, from every bird, from every insect, from every tree and flower, and from every—so called—inanimate object, that looks up in wonder and gratitude—in love and adoration—to the great Creator and Father of us all. But upon this subject of inspiration or impression it is necessary I should speak in greater detail. The question is one about which civilized mankind have agreed to differ, and chiefly because we have been accustomed to consider the gift as something partial and exclusive; as limited, indeed, to one sot of books, produced by one family of people, arrogantly assuming to page 5 be the chosen of the Almighty. But when we come to recognise the fact proclaimed by all the million voices of nature, and testified to by our own reason, that God is the Father and Creator of all things, loving all equally, and regarding all with an eye of uniform benevolence, then it is that we begin to apprehend the erroneousness of the popular superstition that the Old and New Testaments have exclusive claims to be considered as inspired; then it is that we arrive at the legitimate and rational conclusion that the saered books, and even the profane literature of all nations, put forth similar claims to inspiration, and that those claims must be allowed. And while on the one hand mankind—or rather Christendom—has abandoned, by almost universal consent, the doctrine of the plenery in-spiration of the Bible and the New Testament, and has agreed that both what is historical and what is preceptive in those books must be subjected to the test of criticism, and must be accepted or rejected, according as it stands or resists this test, so, in like manner, we are called upon to subject the sacred books of the Hindoos, the Chinese, and the Mahomedans, the philosophical essays of the Greeks and Romans, and the "profane" literature of all countries and of all ages to the same test, carefully discriminating between what is inspired—what is spiritual, that is to say—and what is merely human. Nor, for the application of this test, is there any necessity for learning. We can arrive at our object intuitionally, that is to say, by impression. For impression and inspiration are synonymous terms. What is inspired comes to us from without—is communicated to us by the higher intelligences; and from the same source we derive the capacity of discriminating between inspired and uninspired literature. All genius, no matter what may be its particular manifestation, is the gift of the Most High, transmitted to men through his messengers and ministers. And there are many men of genius besides those whom the world recognizes and honours as such; men, indeed, of whom the world never hears, but to whom it is indebted for numerous inventions, for proverbs, and even for homely weather maxims, and the like; these being founded upon a careful observation of nature, and upon a cheerful and humble obedience to her laws, combined with a susceptability to angelic impression.
Let us illustrate the difference between what is inspired and what is uninspired, by a reference to two familiar passages of the Old Testament. In the one we find the following commandment:—"I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have none other Gods but me." Of the inspiration of this no reasonable being can entertain a doubt. Not that it is to be supposed that the Creator of this stupendous universe ever stood face to face with Moses upon the mountain and delivered the first commandment to the great lawgiver who goes by that name, by word of mouth. For this, if not an impossibility—as we believe it to be, since no merely human being could look upon God and live—is obviously a gross improbability. But, examined by the light of reason, that is to say by the illuminating power of the Divine principle within us, how do the commandments present themselves? As having been framed by some sagacious and enlightened ruler, who asked for assistance from on high in the preparation of a code of laws for the government of an idolatrous, covetous, cruel, and generally inferior race of people, and who received the assistance—the impressional or inspirational help he asked for. But knowing the abject superstition, and at the same time the overweening pride, of the unruly tribe of fugitives he had to deal with, he felt that, in order to make these just and wise and salutary laws binding and authoritative upon the minds of the people, he must profess to have received them, not indirectly, but directly, from the Most High, Hence he goes up into a high mountain, of which the summit is habitually veiled in clouds, and as he is versed in all the meteorological lore of the Egyptians, he selects for the period of his visit, the time at which a tempest is impending. In all probability—if we assume that the historical narrative is correct in the, man—he take? with him—unknown to the people generally—two tablets of stone, and a priestly artificer. He is absent from the camp for a long time, and in the interval a terrific storm breaks over the mountain. Thick darkness envelopes the summit, the thunder rolls, the lightnings flash, and the wondering spectators at the foot of the mountain, ignorant and credulous, and believing all such phenomena to be special and irregular manifestations of Divine power, are prepared to receive with undoubting minds the assurance which Moses gives them on his return, that he has conversed with God, and that the ten commandments he brings with him were traced upon the two tablets of stone by the finger of the Almighty himself.
The second instance to which I would refer is this of the alleged standing still of the sun and moon--or more correctly speaking, of the globe we inhabit—in order to enable a sanguinary engagement to be completed during daylight, between the Israelites and their enemies. Now here we have a narrative which is not only full of improbabilities, but also of impossibilities. It is unnecessary to discuss the question whether such a battle was over fought. We may conclude that it was, and that it was recorded by an Israelitish scribe; but when we examine the record by the light of our reason, what do we discover in it? A total absence of inspiration. All inspiration comes to us, as has been said, from the Most High. Therefore it is absolutely true, because He him-self is absolute Truth. But in this case we find the narrative contaminated by human error. In the first place, in order to justify what was probably an act of wanton aggression and cruel ferocity, the historian professed to assert that God had authorised the battle, and approved of the wholesale destruction. That nothing happens save by His permission we must all reverently admit; but to make a God of love the particeps criminis in sanguinary outrages is obviously little short of blasphemy. In the next place we have the utter impossibility of the sus- page 6 pension for a single instant of the rotatory motion of the globe we inhabit. God cannot transcend His own laws; because he and they are one, and because they are absolutely perfect. Their imperfection would be implied by the fact that some circumstances might arise, rendering it necessary for Him to suspend their operations, or to go outside of them. This also would detract from His infinite prescience. For He foreknew all things when He framed those laws; therefore He foreknew that an occasion would arise in which a semi-barbarous horde would want an hour or two's additional daylight to finish a battle in; and if he considered the conclusion of that engagement within the limit of a single day essential to His divine purposes, we may be perfectly certain that He would have provided for the contingency by a natural law.
But what are—according to a rational hypo-thesis—the facts which probably underlie this partly fictitious narrative. May we not easily imagine the Captain of the Israelites, when expatiating on the events of the day, in the midst of his companions in arms around the camp fires at night, exclaiming, "In that momentous crisis of the battle, when victory was in suspense, and for a moment the issue of the conflict was doubtful, so much incident and excitement, and such a throng of hopes and fears come crowded into a few minutes, that it appeared to me as if the very setting sun lingered over the mountains of the west, as loth to look his last upon the scene, and that as the moon rose out of the east, she was awed by the spectacle presented to her pure gaze, and shrank for awhile from rising in the heavens?" Now, it requires very little intelligence on our part to know that language of this kind, reported from mouth to mouth, traditionally preserved, and committed to writing years after the event, perhaps, would undergo an inevitable transmutation. A chronicler as zealous for the honour and glory of his race, as Clarendon was for the Royalists, or as Carlyle is for the Roundheads, would drop the word "seems" out of his narrative, and would tell a proud, vainglorious, and superstitious people that the sun and moon actually did stand still in order to enable this battle to be brought to a close, and that this prodigy was of course the act of that Deity whom, in the narrowness of their belief and the egregious vanity of their minds, they declare to be the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, and of them and their descendants only; leaving all the other and the far more numerous children of the human family, outside of the sphere of the Divine Providence, and of his all-comprehending love.
Thus, then, you will perceive how necessary it is to discriminate between what is inspirational in the Scriptures and what is merely human; and if yon study them by the light of reason—asking for, awaiting, receiving, and acting upon those impressions which are given to us as freely as the blessed sunshine, all difficulties will disappear, all doubts will be cleared up, and you will able to sift the truth from the error, and to discern, amidst the illusions and extravagances of both the Hebrew and the Christian writers, the imago of the true God shining out upon us through the clouds of human darkness and the mists of human misconception.
All these errors, and all this darkness and misconception, are the result of disobedience to impression. There is and can be no mystery in religion—no mystery in the relationship to Almighty God. It is a purely filial one: full of infinite love on His part, and demanding nothing on our own but childlike obedience. An earthly father does not convey his injunctions and wishes to his little ones in parables and allegories. He adapts them precisely to the growth and character of their minds. He makes them simple, lucid, perspicuous, and intelligible. If he did otherwise, could he wonder at their disobeying what they failed to comprehend? And if this be so with human parents, frail, feeble, and fallible as we are, how much more so must it be with our Heavenly Father, who is perfection itself, omniscient, and infinite in goodness and in power? There is and can be no mystery in His commandments. Wherever you find anything that is mysterious and provocative of controversy in what is called Sacred Literature, you may be perfectly sure that it is of human origin—that it is the product of the human intellect, professing to know so much better than God himself, and substituting its own ignorant dogmas for his simple truths.
God speaks—through his angelic ministers and messengers—to every one of us, every day, every hour, and every minute of our lives, if we will only listen to Him. And not alone to us, but to every object in animated nature; and there is no such thing as an inanimate object, organic or inorganic, in nature. Every mineral, every vegetable, insect, reptile, fish, bird, and animal has its own magnetic atmosphere—its individual atmosphere, upon which plays that magnetic fire which has been described to me as the very nature and spirit of God. There is not one of these things, from the pebble beneath our foot to the stately elephant in the forests of Ceylon, that is not necessarily acted upon by this magnetic force-that is not obedient to the impressions thus received, and that is not perfectly happy in consequence. They obey natural laws, and that obedience is an act of worship—is the only worship that is acceptable to Almighty
Man is the only animal on the face of this beautiful globe that is disobedient to impressions, and he is accordingly the only animal that is unhappy, the only animal that is subject to vice, disease, and misery; excepting only in so far as the lower animals are liable to these things when brought out of their sphere, and vitiated and injured by contact with him, and by what we call domestication, which usually means debasement and degradation.
Man did not fall away from God-did not become an exile from a figurative Paradise by eating of the fruit of a forbidden tree. In all these poetical allegories and Oriental fables there lurks a germ of truth. Man suffered from disobedience page 7 to impression, still suffers from it, and always will continue to suffer, so long as he refuses to listen to that impression, which is identical with what theologians and mental philosophers call conscience. "Paradise Lost" is capable of becoming "Paradise Regained" for each of us. Eden lies within our reach. We can still walk and talk with angels—still see the heavens bending down upon us, morning and evening in holy love—still breathe the fragrance of the new earth and taste the freshness of the primal dawn. For our globe is as beautiful as ever it was. It was not cursed with sterility then or now. All that is necessary for the perception, comprehension, and enjoyment of its inexhaustible beauty, is that we should be in harmony with it and with its Almighty Creator. A nd this can be accomplished by a simple act of obedience. Upon no other condition. Obedience to impression. In all the concerns of life—in the greatest as in the least—our angelic guides, counsellors, teachers, and loving friends, are waiting to impress us, waiting to feed us with the magnetic fire—with the love of God! It is ready to be given to us without reservation and without stint. We have only to obey—to receive and to be thankful—in order to be happy. Heaven lies about us, even here. It is not a place, but a condition; not a remote country, but an ever-present reality to all who seek it in obedience. The earth is not a vale of tears - that is an invention of the theologians. It is a possible Paradise, and it will actually become so before our own branch of the human race finally disappears from its surface in their physical bodies.
The more the great truth of inspiration or impression is investigated, and the better it is understood, the more harmonious does it appear with God's beneficent purposes and with man's nature and necessities. According to the generally received belief, our Infinite Father is infinitely remote from us. In our prayers we acknowledge His nearness, but that nearness is not a living reality to us. If it were so, we should not live as we do. If the conviction that He is omnipresent and all-seeing had any firm hold upon our minds, could we, as ratioual beings, think, act, speak, and live as we do? The question has only to be stated in order to be answered with an emphatic No! Once a week we make a sort of compromise with our consciences. We enter what we call the House of God—as if the whole universe were not the abiding place, and each of us were not, or ought not to be. His living temple—and we declare ourselves to be miserable sinners. On that day, we abstain to a considerable extent from worldly occupations, and endeavour—sometimes with a reasonable degree of success—to appear as gloomy and morose as if we actually supposed that the Infinite Being, who is love itself, and who has willed that all men shall be happy, on the simple condition of obedience—could be pleased or propitiated by the spectacle of austere countenances and mortifying practices. But, on the morrow, we resume our buying and selling, our cheating and overreaching, our adulterations, and our sordid practices of all kinds, with a sort of tacit understanding that we can live for ourselves during the rest of the week, and make our peace with God—by means of putting up certain prayers, singing certain hymns, and listening to certain edifying discourses on the Sunday following. And so we go on from year to year; balancing the worldliness of six days by the devotional exercises of the seventh, as we imagine, and keeping a kind of debtor and creditor account with the Almighty.
It is no part of my purpose to utter a tirade against Sabbatarianism. What I am anxious to declare to you is this—That every day in the week and in the year should be a Sabbath—should be consecrated by the love of God and by the love of our neighbours, by the abnegation of self, by a growth in knowledge, and by a steady advancement in happiness and spiritual light and life.
And thus it would be if we were only obedient to His holy will which His ministers and messengers are ever ready to impress upon us if we only listen to them. Surely no scheme of the moral government of the universe could possibly be so beautiful, so loving, so wise, or so perfect as this. For what does it reveal to us? Is it not the fulfilment and realisation of that dream of the patriarch in which he saw a ladder stretching from Heaven to earth, and angels ascending and descending by it, while he slept at the foot? And in this vision or allegory we discover a great truth, for, in all men, the receptiveness of or susceptibility to angelic impressions is most vivid during sleep. Our guides and counsellors can then reach us when our animal passions are laid to rest, when the sensorial avenues to the brain are all closed, and when the mind alone is active and open to impressions.
But at all times, and in all the circumstances of life, this impressional guidance and instruction is equally open to us, provided we will listen to and obey it. It comes to us like the winds of Heaven, like the fragrance of the flowers that surround us, like the blessed light of day, or the tranquil shadows of the evening. There is nothing mystical or mysterious in its nature; nothing occult or incomprehensible in its operation. "My law is easy, and my commandments are light," was said of old, and every one who has once been accustomed to obey impression must acknowledge the truth of this—must perceive that obedience is happiness, and that to submit to the voice of what we call conscience will infallibly confer upon us the peace which passeth all understanding. Men ever substituting the complicated inversions of the human mind for the beautiful simplicity of God's most holy will, have devised innumerable forms of religion, innumerable rites and ceremonies, innumerable dogmas, doctrines, and professions of faith. They have imagined that by the adoption of these, they can either perform an acceptable service to our Infinite Father, or avert what they are pleased to call His wrath, or propitiate His favour. And multitudes of men, professing these forms of faith, and devoutly believing in these dogmas, have drawn nigh to Him; but page 8 they have done so In spite of their creeds and their superstitious practices. Unconsciously, perhaps, to themselves, they have been obedient to impressions—have been, in short, much better than their creeds. And hence they have known and loved God, and have lived in conformity with His laws. Nor is it of the slightest moment to their eternal welfare that they have been disciples of Christ, or of Confucius, or Brahma, or Zoroaster, or Plato, or Mahomet. Truth is one immutable and, eternal. It knows no variations of clime or country, of race or epoch. The love of God may be just as firm in the mind of the poor Indian who worships a stock or a stone as in that of an Oberlin or a Fenelon, according to their respective grades in the scale of being, and their respective lights. The savage acts from impression, so does the sago. In general, the "grey barbarian" is not "lower" but, higher: "than the Christian child," simply because he is strictly natural—strictly obedient to the law of his being. Therefore he is happy, and therefore he is healthy; and it is the same, as I have said, with all the lower animals. It is the lord of creation alone who acts in disobedience to the loving admonitions of his Heavenly Father, and is miserable, diseased, and criminal in consequence.
Ah! men and brethren, if the human race could only be brought to feel its relationship with the invisible world, could only perceive that it is surrounded by angelic intelligences, could only know that we have perpetually by our side the ministers and messengers of the Most, High, filled with His love, affectionately submissive to His will, and overflowing with tenderness towards their human kindred, what a total transformation would be effected in the aspect of this fair and lovely world of ours! Vice and wrong-doing of all kinds would speedily disappear. We might pull down our lunatie asylums, dismantle our prisons, and abolish our hospitals. We could dispense with our armies, and navies, and fortresses, and relegate to productive labour the millions of men whom we now train and support in comparative idleness as the instruments and implements of homicide upon a scale of gigantic magnitude. But do you imagine that this transformation will not take place! Let any man who has lived for fifty years upon the earth look back to the state of society all over the civilised globe in 1820, and compare it with what it is now, and then let him attempt to dispute the imminency of the great change which is impending. It will be attended with great convulsions, doubtless; I believe, indeed, that the whole fabric of social life in Europe and America is threatened with subversion and ruin, because it is founded upon a rotten—because a godless—basis; upon the worship of wealth and the apotheosis of egotism; and that when the convulsion shall have been over past, the great body of the people—the poor and the ignorant, as we term them—more impressionable to angelic instruction and guidance than their "superiors," will proceed to reconstruct the edifice upon the enduring foundations of righteousness, truth, and love.
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