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SENTIMENT LINKED TO ACTION.
And if it should be alleged, as to this class of facts, that they have no intrinsic importance, the reply is, first, that although the present age, as at the outset I have admitted, be a utilitarian one,-though it seek the positive and hold to the practical,-yet the positive and the practical may be understood in a sense falsely restrictive. Man does not live by bread alone. He lives to develop and to improve, as much as to exist. And development and improvement are things as real as existence itself. That which brings home to our consciousness noble ideas, refined enjoyment, that which bears good fruit in the mind, even though we perceive it not with our eyes nor touch it with our hands, is something else than an idle dream. The poetry of life is more than a metaphor. Sentiment is linked to action. Nor is the world, with all its hard materialism, dead to these truths. There is a corner, even in our work-a-day souls, where the IDEAL lurks, and whence it may be called forth, to become, not a mere barren fancy, but the prolific parent of progress. And from time to time it is thus called forth, to ennoble and to elevate. It is not the enthusiast only who aspires. What is civilization but a realization of human aspirations?
Yet I rest not the case here, in generalities. When I am told that studies such as form the basis of this work are curious only, and speculative in their character, leading to nothing of solid value, and therefore unworthy to engage the serious attention of a business world, my further reply is, that such allegation is a virtual begging of the very question which in this volume I propose to discuss. It is an assuming of the negative in advance; it is a taking for granted that the phenomena in question cannot possibly establish the reality of ultramundane interference.
For, if they do, he must be a hardy or a reckless man who shall ask, "Where is the good?" This is not our
THE HOME ON THE OTHER SIDE.
abiding-place; and though, during our tenancy of sixty or seventy years, it behoove us to task our best energies in the cause of earthly improvement and happiness,— though it be our bounden duty, while here, to care, in a measure, for the worldly welfare of all, more especially for the wants and comforts of our own domestic hearth,— and though, as human workers, much the larger portion of our thoughts and time must be, or ought to be, thus employed,—yet, if our permanent dwelling-place is soon to be established elsewhere; if, as the years pass, our affections are stealing thither before us; if the homecircle, gradually dissolving here, is to be reconstituted, fresh and enduring, in other regions,* shall we hold it to be matter of mere idle curiosity, fantastic and indifferent, to ascertain, whether, in sober truth, an intimation from that future home is ever permitted to reach us, here on our pilgrimage, before we depart?
We cannot curtly settle this question, as some assume to do, by an a priori argument against the possibility of human intercourse with the denizens of another world. Especially is the Bible Christian barred from employing
"We start in life an unbroken company: brothers and sisters, friends and lovers, neighbors and comrades, are with us: there is circle within circle, and each one of us is at the charmed center, where the heart's affections are aglow and whence they radiate outward on society. Youth is exuberant with joy and hope; the earth looks fair, for it sparkles with May-dews wet, and no shadow hath fallen upon it. We are all here, and we could live here forever. The home-center is on the hither side of the river; and why should we strain our eyes to look beyond? But this state of things does not continue long. Our circle grows less and less. It is broken and broken, and then closed up again; but every break and close make it narrower and smaller. Perhaps before the sun is at his meridian the majority are on the other side; the circle there is as large as the one here; and we are drawn contrariwise and vibrate between the two. A little longer, and almost all have crossed over; the balance settles down on the spiritual side, and the home-center is removed to the upper sphere. At length you see nothing but an aged pilgrim standing alone on the river's bank and looking earnestly toward the country on the other side."—" Foregleams of Immortality,” by Edmund H. Sears, 4th ed., Boston, 1858: chap. xvi., "Home,” p. 136.
WHITHER SADDUCISM MAY LEAD.
any such. That which has been may be.* The Scriptures teach that such intercourse did exist in earlier days; and they nowhere declare that it was thenceforth to cease forever.
And when, in advance of any careful examination of this question, we decide that, in our day at least, no such intervention is possible, it might be well that we consider whether our Sadducism go not further than we think for; whether, without our consciousness perhaps, it strike not deeper than mere disbelief in modern spiritual agencies. Let us look to it, that, in slightingly discarding what it is the fashion to regard as superstition, we may not be virtually disallowing also an essential of faith.† Does the present existence of another world come home to us as a living truth? Do we verily believe that beings of another sphere are around us, watching, caring, loving? Is it with our hearts, or
"Why come not spirits from the realms of glory,
To visit earth, as in the days of old,—
The times of ancient writ and sacred story?
Is heaven more distant? or has earth grown cold? ...
"To Bethlehem's air was their last anthem given
Whence do such able reasoners as Dr. Strauss derive their most efficient weapons in the assault upon existing faith? From the modern fashion of denying all ultramundane intrusion. That which we reject as incredible if alleged to have happened to-day, by what process does it become credible by being moved back two thousand years into the past?
"The totality of finite things," says Strauss, "forms a vast circle, which, except that it owes its existence and laws to a superior power, suffers no intrusion from without. This conviction is so much a habit of thought with the modern world, that in actual life the belief in a supernatural manifestation, an immediate divine agency, is at once attributed to ignoance or imposture."—"Life of Jesus,” vol. i. p. 71.
with our lips only, that we assent, if indeed we do assent,* to the doctrine contained in Milton's lines?—
"Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep."
If all this be more to us than mere idle sound, with what show of reason can we take it for granted, as a point settled prior to all discussion of it, that intercourse with another world is no longer vouchsafed to us in this?
All reasoning a priori, if resorted to at all, tells in favor of such intervention. One of the strongest natural arguments in proof of the soul's immortality has ever been held to be the universality of man's belief in an after-life; a sentiment so common to all ages and nations that it may claim the character of an instinct. But the belief in the occasional appearance,
* "Men have ever been familiar with the idea that the spirit does not rest with the body in the grave, but passes at once into new conditions of being. The opinion has gained adherence, and disputes the ground with the more material one, that it rests in sleep with the body to await one common day of awakening and judgment; and so confused are the common impressions on the subject that you may hear a clergyman, in his funeral sermon, deliberately giving expression to both in one discourse, and telling you, in the same breath, that my lady lately deceased is a patient inhabitant of the tomb, and a member of the angelic company. But the idea of uninterrupted life has so strong a hold on the affections, which cannot bear the idea of even the temporary extinction of that which they cling to, that it has the instinctive adherence of almost every one who has felt deeply and stood face to face with death.”—(London) National Review for July, 1858, p. 32.
The question of a mediate state of existence commencing at the moment of death, the Hades alike of the ancients and of early Christianity, will be touched upon later in this volume.
There are those who admit the objective reality of apparitions, yet, denying the existence of any mediate state after death, adopt the theory that it is angels of an inferior rank created such, who, for good purpose, occasionally personate deceased persons, and that the departed never return. This is De Foe's hypothesis, and is ably advocated by him in his "Universal History of Apparitions," London, 1727.
The broad question is, whether "spiritual creatures," be they angels or departed souls, are present around us.
†The best analogical argument which I remember to have met with in
OPINIONS OF JOHNSON, BYRON,
or influence on human affairs, of disembodied spirits,* is scarcely less general or less instinctive; though it is to be admitted that in the Dark Ages it commonly degenerated into demonology. The principle, however,
may be true and the form erroneous; a contingency of constant recurrence throughout the history of the human mind, as when religion, for example, assumed and maintained for ages the pagan form.
The matter at issue, then, must be grappled with more closely. We have no right to regard it as a closed question, bluffly to reject it as involving incredible assumptions, or to dismiss it with foregone conclusions under terms of general denial.‡ It is neither
favor of the immortality of the soul is contained in Isaac Taylor's work already referred to, the “Physical Theory of Another Life,” at pp. 64 to 69. This argument from analogy must, I think, be regarded as much more forcible than the abstract logic by which the ancient philosophers sought to establish the truth in question. When Cicero, following Socrates and Plato, says of the soul, "Nec discerpi, nec distrahi potest, nec igitur interire," the ingenuity of the reasoning is more apparent than its conclusiveness.
* Disembodied, disconnected from this natural body; not unembodied; for I by no means impugn the hypothesis of a spiritual body.—1 Cor. xv. 44. † “To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence, of witcheraft and sorcery, is at once flatly to contradict the revealed word of God, in various passages both of the Old and New Testament; and the thing itself is a truth to which every nation in the world hath, in its turn, borne testimony, either by examples seemingly well attested, or by prohibitory laws, which at least suppose the possibility of commerce with evil spirits.”—Blackstone's Commentaries, b. 4, c. 4, § 6.
I adduce the above from so distinguished a source on account of its bearings on the universality of man's belief in ultramundane intercourse, and to rebut a presumption against that intercourse, now in vogue; not as proof of the reality of such intercourse.
It may not be amiss here to remind the reader that by such men as Johnson and Byron the universal belief of man in intercourse with the spirits of the departed was regarded as probable proof of its occasional reality. It will be remembered that the former, in his “Rasselas," puts into the mouth of the sage Imlac this sentiment:-"That the dead are seen no more I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent testimony