Frederic William Henry Myers.

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987. We have reached at last a position very remote from that from
which we started. Yet it will not be easy to say exactly at what point we
could have paused in our gradual sequence of evidence. In the first
place, it now seems clear that a serious inquiry, whenever undertaken,
was destined to afford ample proof of the inadequacy of the current
material synthesis ; to demonstrate the existence of faculties and opera-
tions which imply a spiritual environment, acted upon by a spirit in man.
Telepathy and telaesthesia, as we now see, indisputably imply this enlarged
conception of the universe as intelligible by man ; and so soon as man is
steadily conceived as dwelling in this wider range of powers, his survival
of death becomes an almost inevitable corollary. With this survival his
field of view broadens again. If we once admit discarnate spirits as
actors in human affairs, we must expect them to act in some ways with
greater scope and freedom than is possible to the incarnate spirits which
we already know.

We cannot simply admit the existence of discarnate spirits as inert or
subsidiary phenomena; we must expect to have to deal with them as
agents on their own account agents in unexpected ways, and with novel
capacities. If they are concerned with us at all, the part which they will
play is not likely to be a subordinate one.

We are standing then, on this view, at a crisis of enormous importance
in the history of life on earth. The spiritual world is just beginning to
act systematically upon the material world. Action of the spiritual world
upon our own there must always have been ; action both profound,
universal, and so to say automatic, and very probably also irregular action
with specific moral purport, such as has been assumed to accompany the
rise of religions.

But a change seems to be impending, and the kind of action which
now seems likely to be transmitted from the one world to the other is of
a type which in the natural course of historic evolution has scarcely been
likely to show itself until now. For it depends, as I conceive, on the
attainment of a certain scientific level by spirits incarnate and excarnate

A few words will suffice to sum up broadly the general situation as it
at present seems to me to stand. The dwellers on this earth, themselves
spirits, are an object of love and care to spirits higher than they. The
most important boon that can possibly be bestowed on them is know-
ledge as to their position in the universe, the assurance that their
existence is a cosmic and not merely a planetary, a spiritual and not


merely a corporeal, phenomenon. I conceive that this knowledge
has in effect been apprehended from . time to time by embodied
spirits of high inward perceptive power, and has also been communi-
cated by higher spirits, either affecting individual minds or even (as
is believed especially of Jesus Christ) voluntarily incarnating themselves
on earth for the purpose of teaching what they could recollect of that
spiritual world from which they came. In those ages it would have been
useless to attempt a scientific basis for such teaching. What could best
be done was to enforce some few great truths as the soul's long upward
progress, or the Fatherhood of God in such revelations as East and
West could understand. Gradually Science arose, uniting the beliefs of
all peoples in one scheme of organised truth, and suggesting as has
been said that religion must be the spirit's subjective reaction to all
the truths we know.

But when once this point was reached it must have become plain to
wise spirits that the communications from their world which hitherto had
had somewhat the character of inspirations of genius ought now to be
based upon something of organised and definite observation, something
which would work in with the great structure of Truth which organised
observation has already established. Here, then, new difficulties must
have arisen, just as they arise on earth when we endeavour to reduce to
rules practicable for the many the results achieved by the extraordinary
gifts of the few. Now it is that we are forced on both sides of the gulf to
recognise how rare and specific is that capacity for intercommunication on
which our messages must depend. Now it is that we feel the difficulty of
being definite without being trivial ; how little of earthly memory persists ;
how little of heavenly experience can be expressed in terms of earth ; how
long and arduous must be the way, how many must be the experiments,
and how many the failures, before any systematised body of new truth can
be established. But a sound beginning has been made, and whatever
may be possible hereafter need not be wasted on a fresh start ; it may be
added to a growing structure of extra-terrene verities such as our race has
never known till now.

It is not we who are in reality the discoverers here. The experiments
which are being made are not the work of earthly skill. All that we can
contribute to the new result is an attitude of patience, attention, care ;
an honest readiness to receive and weigh whatever may be given into our
keeping by intelligences beyond our own. Experiments, I say, there are,
probably experiments of a complexity and difficulty which surpass our
imagination ; but they are made from the other side of the gulf, by the
efforts of spirits who discern pathways and possibilities which for us are
impenetrably dark. We should not be going beyond the truth if we
described our sensitives as merely the instruments, our researchers as
merely the registrars, of a movement which we neither initiated nor can
in any degree comprehend.


988. The true discoverers, however, show no wish to be thus sharply
distinguished from ourselves. Their aim is a collaboration with us as
close as may be possible. Some of them were on earth our own familiar
friends ; we have spoken with them in old days of this great enterprise ;
they have promised that they would call to us, if it were possible, with the
message of their undying love. It may be that the most useful thing that
some of us have done on earth has been to interest in this inquiry some
spirit more potent than himself, who has passed into that world of un-
guessed adventure, not forgetful of his friend.

The very faintness and incoherence of such a spirit's message, besides
being a kind of indication that we are dealing with the imperfections of
actual reality rather than with the smoothly finished products of mere
imagination, does also in itself constitute a strong appeal to our gratitude
and reverence. Not easily and carelessly do these spirits come to us, but
after strenuous preparation, and with difficult fulfilment of desire. So
came Tennyson's Persephone :

" Faint as a climate-changing bird that flies
All night across the darkness, and at dawn
Falls on the threshold of her native land,
And can no more. ..."

They commune with us, like Persephone, willing and eager, but
"dazed and dumb with passing through at once from state to state."
They cannot satisfy themselves with their trammelled utterance ; they
complain of the strange brain, the alien voice. What they are doing,
indeed, they desire to do this is their willing contribution to that
universal scheme by which the higher helps the lower, and the stronger
the weaker, tkrough all the ideal relationships of the world of Life. But
we on our part ought to remember that there may be a dignity in this
very confusion, a proof of persistent strong affection in the very
hesitancies and bewilderments of some well-loved soul.

"After the tempest a still small voice." One may have listened
perhaps, to the echoing pomp of some (Ecumenical Council, thundering
its damnations Urbi et Orbi from an Infallible Chair ; and yet one may
find a more Christlike sanctity in the fragmentary whisper of one true
soul, descending painfully from unimaginable brightness to bring strength
and hope to kindred souls still prisoned in the flesh.

Vicit iter durum pietas. But here the effort has been, so to say, on
the part of Anchises, not of ^Eneas ; the piety of heaven towards earth
rather than of earth towards heaven. It is some enfranchised soul some
soul, like George Eliot's, filled to the brim with loving pity for struggling
lives on "the dark globe" which has penetrated the world-old secret,
and has piloted the innavigable way.

Beyond us still is mystery ; but it is mystery lit and mellowed with an
infinite hope. We ride in darkness at the haven's mouth ; but sometimes


through rifted clouds we see the desires and needs of many generations
floating and melting upwards into a distant glow, " up through the light
of the seas by the moon's long-silvering ray."

The high possibilities that lie before us, should be grasped once for
all, in order that the dignity of the quest may help to carry the inquirer
through many disappointments, deceptions, delays. But he must re-
member that this inquiry must be extended over many generations ; nor
must he allow himself to be persuaded that there are byways to mastery.
I will not say that there cannot possibly be any such thing as occult
wisdom, or dominion over the secrets of nature ascetically or magically
acquired. But I will say that every claim of this kind which my
colleagues or I have been able to examine has proved deserving of
complete mistrust ; and that we have no confidence here any more than
elsewhere in any methods except the open, candid, straightforward
methods which the spirit of modern science demands.

All omens point towards the steady continuance of just such labour
as has already taught us all we know. Perhaps, indeed, in this complex
of interpenetrating spirits our own effort is no individual, no transitory
thing. That which lies at the root of each of us lies at the root of the
Cosmos too. Our struggle is the struggle of the Universe itself; and the
very Godhead finds fulfilment through our upward-striving souls.



TIS /tot ywrj Trpo<re\Qov<ra Ka\rj KOI cveiSi;?, XCVKO, t/xarta

e K<U etiretv, *

1000. The task which I proposed to myself at the beginning of this
work is now, after a fashion, accomplished. Following the successive
steps of my programme, I have presented, not indeed all the evidence
which I possess, and which I would willingly present, but enough at
least to illustrate a continuous exposition, and as much as can be compressed
into two volumes, with any hope that these volumes will be read at all.
I have indicated also the principal inferences which that evidence
immediately suggests. Such wider generalisations as I may now add
must needs be dangerously speculative ; they must run the risk of
alienating still further from this research many of the scientific minds
which I am most anxious to influence.

This risk, nevertheless, I feel bound to face. For two reasons, or,
I should perhaps say, for one main reason seen under two aspects, I
cannot leave this obscure and unfamiliar mass of observation and experi-
ment without some words of wider generalisation, some epilogue which
may place these new discoveries in clearer relation to the existing schemes
of civilised thought and belief.

In the first place, I feel that some such attempt at synthesis is needful
for the practical purpose of enlisting help in our long inquiry. As has
been hinted more than once, the real drag upon its progress has been
not opposition but indifference. Or if indifference be too strong a word,
at any rate the interest evoked has not been such as to inspire to steady
independent work anything like the number of coadjutors who would
have responded to a new departure in one of the sciences which all men
have learnt to respect. The inquiry falls between the two stools of
religion and science ; it cannot claim support either from the " religious
world" or from the Royal Society. Yet even apart from the instinct
of pure scientific curiosity (which surely has seldom seen such a field
opening before it), the mighty issues depending on these phenomena
ought, I think, to constitute in themselves a strong, an exceptional appeal.
I desire in this book to emphasise that appeal ; not only to produce


1002] EPILOGUE 279

conviction, but also to attract co-operation. And actual converse
with many persons has led me to believe that in order to attract such
help, even from scientific men, some general view of the moral upshot
of all the phenomena is needed ; speculative and uncertain though such
a general view must be.

1001. Again, and here the practical reason already given expands
into a wider scope, it would be unfair to the evidence itself were I to
close this work without touching more directly than hitherto on some
of the deepest faiths of men. The influence of the evidence set forth
in this book should not be limited to the conclusions, however weighty,
which that evidence may be thought to establish. Rather these dis-
coveries should prompt, as nothing else could have prompted, towards
the ultimate achievement of that programme of scientific dominance
which the Instauratio Magna proclaimed for mankind. Bacon foresaw
the gradual victory of observation and experiment the triumph of actual
analysed fact in every department of human study ; in every department
save one. The realm of " Divine things " he left to Authority and Faith.
I here urge that that great exemption need be no longer made. I claim
that there now exists an incipient method of getting at this Divine know-
ledge also, with the same certainty, the same calm assurance, with which
we make our steady progress in the knowledge of terrene things. The
authority of creeds and Churches will thus be replaced by the authority
of observation and experiment. The impulse of faith will resolve itself
into a reasoned and resolute imagination, bent upon raising even higher
than now the highest ideals of man.

Most readers of the preceding pages will have been prepared for
the point of view thus frankly avowed. Yet to few readers can that point
of view at first present itself otherwise than as alien and repellent. Philo-
sophy and orthodoxy will alike resent it as presumptuous ; nor will science
readily accept the unauthorised transfer to herself of regions of which
she has long been wont either to deny the existence, or at any rate to
disclaim the rule. Nevertheless, I think that it will appear on reflection
that some such change of standpoint as this was urgently needed, nay,
was ultimately inevitable.

1002. I need not here describe at length the deep disquiet of our
time. Never, perhaps, did man's spiritual satisfaction bear a smaller
proportion to his needs. The old-world sustenance, however earnestly
administered, is too unsubstantial for the modern cravings. And thus
through our civilised societies two conflicting currents run. On the
one hand health, intelligence, morality, all such boons as the steady
progress of planetary evolution can win for man, are being achieved
in increasing measure. On the other hand this very sanity, this very
prosperity, do but bring out in stronger relief the underlying Welt-Schmerz,
the decline of any real belief in the dignity, the meaning, the endlessness
of life.

280 CHAPTER X [1003

There are many, of course, who readily accept this limitation of view ;
who are willing to let earthly activities and pleasures gradually dissipate
and obscure the larger hope. But others cannot thus be easily satisfied.
They rather resemble children who are growing too old for their games ;
whose amusement sinks into an indifference and discontent for which the
fitting remedy is an initiation into the serious work of men.

A similar crisis has passed over Europe once before. There came
a time when the joyful naivete, the unquestioning impulse of the early
world had passed away ; when the worship of Greeks no more was beauty,
nor the religion of Romans Rome. Alexandrian decadence, Byzantine
despair, found utterance in many an epigram which might have been
written to-day. Then came a great uprush or incursion from the spiritual
world, and with new races and new ideals Europe regained its youth.

The unique effect of that great Christian impulse begins, perhaps,
to wear away. But more grace may yet be attainable from the region
whence that grace came. Our age's restlessness, as I believe, is the rest-
lessness not of senility but of adolescence ; it resembles the approach of
puberty rather than the approach of death.

1003. What the age needs is not an abandonment of effort, but an
increase ; the time is ripe for a study of unseen things as strenuous and
sincere as that which Science has made familiar for the problems of earth.
For now the scientific instinct, so newly developed in mankind, seems
likely to spread until it becomes as dominant as was in time past the
religious; and if there be even the narrowest chink through which man
can look forth from his planetary cage, our descendants will not leave
that chink neglected or unwidened. The scheme of knowledge which
can commend itself to such seekers must be a scheme which, while it
transcends our present knowledge, steadily continues it ; a scheme not
catastrophic, but evolutionary ; not promulgated and closed in a moment,
but gradually unfolding itself to progressive inquiry.

Must there not also be a continuous change, an unending advance
in the human ideal itself? so that Faith must shift her standpoint from
the brief Past to the endless Future, not so much caring to supply the
lacunae of tradition as to intensify the conviction that there is still a higher
life to work for, a holiness which may be some day reached by grace and
effort as yet unknown.

It may be that for some generations to come the truest faith will lie
in the patient attempt to unravel from confused phenomena some trace
of the supernal world ; to find thus at last " the substance of things hoped
for, the evidence of things not seen." I confess, indeed, that I have
often felt as though this present age were even unduly favoured ; as
though no future revelation and calm could equal the joy of this great
struggle from doubt into certainty ; from the materialism or agnosticism
which accompany the first advance of Science into the deeper scientific
conviction that there is a deathless soul in man. I can imagine no other

1004] EPILOGUE 281

crisis of such deep delight. But after all this is but like the starving
child's inability to imagine anything sweeter than his first bite at the crust.
Give him but that, and he can hardly care for the moment whether
he is fated to be Prime Minister or ploughboy.

Equally transitory, equally dependent on our special place in the story
of man's upward effort, is another shade of feeling which many men have
known. They have felt that uncertainty gave scope to faith and courage
in a way which scientific assurance could never do. There has been a
stern delight in the choice of virtue, even though virtue might bring no
reward. This joy, like the joy of Columbus sailing westward from Hierro,
can hardly recur in precisely the same form. But neither (to descend to
a humbler comparison) can we grown men again give ourselves up to
learning in the same spirit of pure faith, without prefigurement of result,
as when we learnt the alphabet at our mother's knees. Have we therefore
relaxed since then our intellectual effort? Have we felt that there was
no longer need to struggle against idleness when once we knew that
knowledge brought a sure reward?

Endless are the varieties of lofty joy. In the age of Thales, Greece
knew the delight of the first dim notion of cosmic unity and law. In the
age of Christ, Europe felt the first high authentic message from a world
beyond our own. In our own age we reach the perception that such
messages may become continuous and progressive ; that between seen
and unseen there is a channel and fairway which future generations may
learn to widen and to clarify. Our own age may seem the best to us ;
so will their mightier ages seem to them.

" ' Talia saecla ' suis dixerunt ' currite ' fusis
Concordes stabili Fatorum numine Parcae."

Spiritual evolution : that, then, is our destiny, in this and other
worlds; an evolution gradual with many gradations, and rising to no
assignable close. And the passion for Life is no selfish weakness, it is
a factor in the universal energy. It should keep its strength unbroken
even when our weariness longs to fold the hands in endless slumber ; it
should outlast and annihilate the " pangs that conquer trust." If to the
Greeks it seemed a XuroTa.ia a desertion of one's post in battle to
quit by suicide the life of earth, how much more craven were the desire to
desert the Cosmos, the despair, not of this planet only, but of the Sum
of Things !

Nay, in the infinite Universe man may now feel, for the first time, at
home. The worst fear is over ; the true security is won. The worst fear
was the fear of spiritual extinction or spiritual solitude ; the true security
is in the telepathic law.

1004. Let me draw out my meaning at somewhat greater length.

As we have dwelt successively on various aspects of telepathy, we have
gradually felt the conception enlarge and deepen under our study. It

282 CHAPTER X [1004

began as a quasi- mechanical transference of ideas and images from one to
another brain. Presently we found it assuming a more varied and potent
form, as though it were the veritable ingruence or invasion of a distant
mind. Again, its action was traced across a gulf greater than any space
of earth or ocean, and it bridged the interval between spirits incarnate and
discarnate, between the visible and the invisible world. There seemed no
limit to the distance of its operation, or to the intimacy of its appeal.

ev Qripviv iv ftpoTolonv cv Ocois avco.

This Love, then, which (as Sophocles has it) rules " beasts and men
and gods" with equal sway, is no matter of carnal impulse or of emotional
caprice. Rather it is now possible to define Love (as we have already
defined Genius) in terms which convey for us some new meaning in con-
nection with phenomena described in this work. Genius, as has been
already said, is a kind of exalted but undeveloped clairvoyance. The sub-
liminal uprush which inspires the poet or the musician, presents to him a
deep, but vague perception of that world unseen, through which the seer
or the sensitive projects a narrower but an exacter gaze. Somewhat simi-
larly, Love is a kind of exalted, but unspecialised telepathy ; the simplest
and most universal expression of that mutual gravitation or kinship of
spirits which is the foundation of the telepathic law.

This is the answer to the ancient fear ; the fear lest man's fellowships
be the outward and his solitude the inward thing ; the fear lest all close
linking with our fellows be the mere product of the struggle for existence,
of the tribal need of strength and cohesion ; the fear that if love and
virtue thus arose, love and virtue may thus likewise perish. It is an
answer to the dread that separate centres of conscious life must be always
strangers, and often foes; their leagues and fellowships interested and
illusory ; their love the truce of a moment amid infinite inevitable war.

Such fears, I say, vanish when we learn that it is the soul in man
which links him with other souls ; the body which dissevers even while it
seems to unite ; so that " no man liveth to himself nor dieth to himself,"
but in a sense which goes deeper than metaphor, " We are every one
members one of another." Like atoms, like suns, like galaxies, our spirits
are systems of forces which vibrate continually to each other's attractive

All this as yet is dimly adumbrated ; it is a first hint of a scheme of
thought which it may well take centuries to develop. But can we suppose
that, when once this conception of the bond between all souls has taken
root, men will turn back from it to the old exclusiveness, the old contro-
versy ? Will they not see that this world-widening knowledge is both old
and new, that die Geisterwelt ist nicht verschlossen ? that always have such
revelations been given, but develop now into a mightier meaning, with
the growth of wisdom in those who send them, and in us who receive ?

Surely we have here a conception, at once wider and exacter than ever

1005] EPILOGUE 283

before, of that " religious education of the world " on which theologians
have been fain to dwell. We need assume no " supernatural interference,"
no " plan of redemption." We need suppose only that the same process

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 38 of 89)