WHAT IS SPIRITUALISM? by J.M. Peebles 1903
See also Spiritualism and the Cult of the Dead - 120 Books on DVDrom (Spiritism)
Spiritualism is the philosophy of life — and the direct antithesis of materialism. If the illustrious Tyndall saw the "potency and promise" of all life in matter, Spiritualists, with all rationalistic idealists, see the potency and promise of all life and evolutionary unfoldment in Spirit, which Spirit permeates and energizes the matter of all the subordinate kingdoms, mineral, vegetable, and animal.
Thinking — meditating, Columbus concluded that if there was a "this-side," there must necessarily be a "that side" to the world. And so sailing on and still onward towards the western sunset under the inspiration of a lofty faith, he discovered the new world,— and, like a flash, faith became fruition.
And so students of the occult; Spiritualists of the last century, meditating — investigating, discovered, or rather, re-discovered the spirit world — the Spiritualism of the elder ages. Intuition and the soul's higher senses, with the outreaching ideal, are ever prophesying of the incoming ideal. The to-day's, afire with life and love, assure us of a coming to-morrow. This world indicates another — a future world, which Spiritualists have not only re-discovered, but have quite fully described.
Spiritualism does not create truth, but is a living witness to the truth of a future existence. It reveals it — demonstrates it, describing its inhabitants — their occupations and characteristics.
Hannibal crossed the Alps twenty centuries before Napoleon did. Napoleon reasoned that what man had done, man could do, and so with flags and banners unfurled he led the conquering French over the snow-capped Alps. And through all the centuries before and since Hannibal's time, through all the historic ages there were rifts in the clouds — there were visions and voices from the better land of immortality. Inspired mystics and philosophers testified alike to the reality of apparitions, the appearance of good angels and the fulfilment of dreams. An Angel — a spiritual being — appeared to Joseph in a dream announcing the coming of Jesus.
Patriarchs, prophets, and seers in Abraham's and Isaiah's time conversed with spirits and angels according to the Scriptures. Apostles, disciples, and the early Christians before and after John and Paul's time, consciously communed with the spirits of those they had known on earth — and why should not we? Neither God nor his laws have changed. The reputed wise man Solomon, said: "The thing that had been, is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done, and whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever." (Eccl. iii —14).
If there were visions, trances, apparitions, spiritual gifts, and conscious spirit communications all through the past ages — why not now? Have the heavens over us become brass? and have angel tongues become palsied? These things did happen in the past — and they occur to-day. And few, if any, except the most illiterate — except the atheist, the impudent bigot and the iron-clad, creed-bound sectarists deny it. Spiritualism is the most unpopular among the ignorant. It is also very unpopular in sectarian club rooms, idiotic infirmaries, and State penitentiaries.
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When that highly inspired man of Nazareth preached his radical doctrines in Palestine, and performed his astonishing mediumistic works, crowds following him, some of the doubting cautious conservatives of those times asked the question: "Have any of the rulers of the Pharisees believed on him?" That is to say, have any of the reputed great and wise, believed on him? If so, we, the driftwood — we the putty-headed policy men — will fall in line. Human nature is the same in all ages, and cowards are ever the same shrinking, apologizing, oily-tongued moral cowards.
SPIRITUALISM IS NOT SPIRITISM. Spiritualism must be differentiated from spiritism. The terminologies of the two words absolutely necessitate, as every scholar knows, entirely different meanings. Chinese, Indians, and Utah Mormons are spiritists, believing in present spirit communications. Most of the African tribes of the Dark Continent worship demons and believe in spirit converse, but certainly they are not intelligent, religious Spiritualists.
Spiritism is a science — a fact — a sort of modernized Babylonian necromancy. The baser portion of its devotees, hypnotized by the unembodied denizens of Hades, divine for dollars. It is promiscuous spirit commerce with a high tariff. It is from the lower spheres, and morally gravitates toward the dark. It has its legerdemain, its tricksters, frauds, and travelling tramps. They should be exposed and shunned as you would shun dens of adders. Spiritism, I repeat, is a fact; so is geology, so is mesmerism, so is telepathy, and so, also, is a rattlesnake's bite. Facts may be morally true or false. They may serve for purposes of good or direst ill. As an exhibition of wonders — as pabulum for sceptical atheists, who demand visible sight of the invisible infinite One, and insist upon a terrific clap of thunder to convince them of the existence of electricity, commercial spiritism with its seeking for gold-fields, and hunting for "social affinities," with its attending, shadowy hosts, manifesting in illventilated seance rooms, may be a temporary necessity and to a degree useful, but it legitimately belongs, with such kindred subjects as mesmerism, to the category of the sciences.
But Spiritualism, originating in God who is Spirit, and grounded in man's moral nature, is a substantial fact, and infinitely more — a fact plus reason and conscience; a fact relating to moral and religious culture — a sublime spiritual truth ultimating in consecration to the good, the beautiful, and the heavenly.
Spiritualism — a grand, moral, science, and a wisdom religion— proffers the key that unlocks the mysteries of the ages. It constituted the foundation stones of all the ancient faiths. It was the vitalizing soul of all past religions. It was the mighty uplifting force that gave to the world in all ages its inspired teachers and immortal leaders.
Rightly translated, the direct words of Jesus are (John iv: 24) —"Spirit is God." The spiritual is the real and the substantial. The spiritually minded are reverential. They are religious. Their life is a prayer. "The fruit of the Spirit," said the apostle to the Gentiles, "is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Spiritualism, by whatever name known, without the fruit of the Spirit, without religion and moral growth, is but the veriest rust and rubbish; and religion, by whatever name known, in any age, without Spiritualism and its accompanying spiritual gifts, is only an empty shell — an offensive creedal cadaver, that should be buried without ecclesiastical formalities.
Spirit is God. And, Spiritualism while inhering in and originating from God, does not center alone therein, nor rest entirely upon phenomena, but upon spirit — upon the spiritual and moral constitution of man, which constitution requires such spiritual sustenance as inspiration, prayer, vision, trance, clairvoyance, and heavenly impressions from the divine sphere of love and wisdom. Spiritualists, like the primitive Christians, believe in God the Father and in the brotherhood of the races. They acknowledge the living Christ; they feel the influx of the Holy Spirit; they converse with angels; they cultivate the religious emotions; they open their seances, many of them, with prayer. They are richly blessed with visions and calm, uplifting ministrations from angelic homes. They see in every pure crystal stream a Jordan, in every verdure-clad mountain a present Olivet, and in every well-cultivated prairie a Canaan flowing with the milk and honey of spiritual truth — love to God and love to man.
Spiritualism teaches salvation by character; or by the life, as did Paul in his higher inspired moments, who said—"Being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans v — 10).
Spirit is God. And neither matter nor sea-slime nor protoplasm constitutes the basis of conscious life, but spirit — that is to say, spiritual or divine substance. Spirituality is the substantial reality. And man is a spirit now — a spirit living in a material body, which body bears something of the same relation to the real, conscious, invisible man, that the husk bears to the corn,— chaff to the wheat.
Evidently man is a trinity in unity, constituted of a physical body, a soul, or soul body, and a conscious, undying spirit — one uncompounded, indestructive divine substance — the Divine Ego. Advanced spirits are denominated angels. Spirits are but men and women divested of their mortal bodies. They have taken with them consciousness, memory, reason, sympathy, character. They walk by our side often, and yet unseen. Philosophically considered there is but one world, and that one world embraces the yesterdays, the todays, and the innumerable to-morrows of eternity.
Spiritualism, with its signs, wonders, visions, and healing gifts, was the religion of the apostles; of the post apostolic fathers, and of the primitive Christians up to the reign of Constantine, the murderous Roman Emperor.
Spiritualism has not only positively demonstrated a future life, but it has explained the philosophy and psychic methods of spirit intercourse; it has greatly liberalized the religious mind; it has encouraged the philanthropic reforms of the age, and it has given us a revised geography of the heavens and the hells. Mortals enter the future world with as absolutely substantial bodies as we have here, only more refined and etherialized. There are different degrees of happiness there. Memory is the undying worm. There is intense mental suffering in those Cimmerian spheres. And yet, God builds no hells; He burns no man's fingers here, damns no souls hereafter. Men are the architects of their own hells; they reap what they sow. Every child born into this world is a possible archangel or a possible demon; his head touching the world of light, his feet the world of darkness. Man is a rational moral being and responsible being, having the power of choice. Punishment follows sin, as cause and effect. There is no escape. Divine punishment is disciplinary in all worlds. Christ Jesus and other martyred reformers still preach to undeveloped imprisoned spirits. The angels call, and souls are constantly coming up through tribulation deep. The door of mercy is not shut; there is ever the opportunity of progress from darkness to light. God is love.
Modern Spiritualism — of which Swedenborg was the John the Baptist and that Christian people, the Shakers, the first organized body of men and women in America to fully realize the true meaning of the spiritual phenomena — has disclosed some of the unspeakable beauties awaiting us in the many mansioned house of the Father. These mansions — aural spheres, enzoning stars and planets — are real, substantial, and adaptively fitted for the abodes of spirits, angels and archangels. These, aflame with love, are ever active in some educational or redemptive work. Heaven's rest is not idleness; the soul's activities are intensified by the transition. The future life is a social life, a progressive life, a heavenly life of growth, of love, of wisdom, and of truth.
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