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which we observe to-day has been operating for ages between this world
and the next.

1005. Let us suppose that whilst incarnate men have risen from
savagery into intelligence, discarnate men have made on their part a
like advance. Let us suppose that they have become more eager and
more able to use, for communication with earth, the standing laws of
relation between the spiritual and the material Universe.

At first, on such a hypothesis, certain automatic phenomena will occur,
but will not be purposely modified by spirit power. Already and always
there must have been points of contact where unseen things impinged
upon the seen. Always there would be " clairvoyant wanderings," where
the spirit of shaman or of medicine-man discerned things distant upon
earth by the spirit's excursive power. Always there would be apparitions
at death, conscious or unconscious effects of the shock which separated
soul from body ; and always " hauntings," where the spirit, already dis-
carnate, revisited, as in a dream perceptible by others, the scenes which
once he knew.

From this groundwork of phenomena developed (to take civilised
Europe alone) the oracular religion first, the Christian later. The golden
gifts of Croesus to Delphi attested the clairvoyance of the Pythia as
strongly, perhaps, as can be expected of any tradition which comes to us
from the morning of history.

And furthermore, do we not better understand at once the uniqueness
and the reality of the Christian revelation itself, when we regard it as a
culmination rather than an exception, as destined not to destroy the
cosmic law, but to fulfil it ? Then first in human history came from the
unseen a message such as the whole heart desired ; a message adequate
in its response to fundamental emotional needs not in that age only, but
in all ages that should follow. Intellectually adequate for all coming ages
that revelation could not be ; given the laws of mind, incarnate alike and
discarnate, the evolution, on either side of the gulf of death, of know-
ledge and power.

No one at the date of that revelation suspected that uniformity, that
continuity of the Universe which long experience has now made for us
almost axiomatic. No one foresaw the day when the demand for miracle
would be merged in the demand for higher law.

This newer scientific temper is not confined, as I believe, to the
denizens of this earth alone. The spiritual world meets it, as I think
our evidence has shown, with eager and strenuous response. But that
response is made, and must be made, along the lines of our normal
evolution. It must rest upon the education, the disentanglement, of that
within us mortals which exists in the Invisible, a partaker of the undying
world. And on our side and on theirs alike, the process must be steady



284 CHAPTER X [1006

and continuous. We have no longer to deal with some isolated series of
events in the past, interpretable this way or that, but in no way renew-
able, but rather with a world-wide and actual condition of things,
recognisable every year in greater clearness, and changing in directions
which we can better and better foresee. This new aspect of things needs
something of new generalisation, of new forecast, it points to a pro-
visional synthesis of religious belief which may fitly conclude the present
work.



PROVISIONAL SKETCH OF A RELIGIOUS SYNTHESIS.

oXjSto? OOTIS I8a>v (Kflva KOI\OV

fiffiv UTTO \66va. ' oiftfv fjifv j3iov Ktivos

oldev 8e 8iocr8oToi> ap\dv. PlNDAR.



1006. I see ground for hoping that we are within sight of a religious
synthesis, which, although as yet provisional and rudimentary, may in the
end meet more adequately than any previous synthesis the reasonable
needs of men. Such a synthesis cannot, I think, be reached by a mere
predominance of any one existing creed, nor by any eclectic or syncretic
process. Its prerequisite is the actual acquisition of new knowledge,
whether by discovery or by revelation knowledge discerned from without
the veil or from within yet so realised that the main forms of religious
thought, by harmonious expansion and development, shall find place
severally as elements in a more comprehensive whole. And enough of
such knowledge has, I think, been now attained to make it desirable to
submit to my readers the religious results which seem likely to follow.

1007. With such a purpose, our conception of religion should be
both profound and comprehensive. I will use here the definition already
adopted of religion as the sane and normal response of the human spirit
to all that we know of cosmic law ; that is, to the known phenomena of
the universe, regarded as an intelligible whole. For on the one hand I
cannot confine the term to any single definite view or tradition of things
unseen. On the other hand, I am not content to define religion as " mor-
ality tinged with emotion," lest morality per se should seem to hang in air,
so that we should be merely gilding the tortoise which supports the earth.
Yet my definition needs some further guarding if it is to correspond
with our habitual use of language. Most men's subjective response to
their environment falls below the level of true religious thought. It is
scattered into cravings, or embittered by resentment, or distorted by
superstitious fear. But of such men I do not speak ; rather of men in
whom the great pageant has inspired at least some vague out-reaching
toward the Source of All ; men for whom knowledge has ripened into
meditation, and has prompted high desire. I would have Science first
sublimed into Philosophy, and then kindled by Religion into a burning
flame. For, from my point of view, man cannot be too religious. I



1009] EPILOGUE 285

desire that the environing, the interpenetrating universe, its energy, its
life, its love, should illume in us, in our low degree, that which we
ascribe to the World-Soul, saying, " God is Love," " God is Light." The
World-Soul's infinite energy of omniscient benevolence should become in
us an enthusiasm of adoring co-operation, an eager obedience to what-
soever with our best pains we can discern as the justly ruling principle
TO -}jyffj.oviKov without us and within.

1008. Yet if we form so high an ideal of religion, raising it so far
above any blind obedience or self-seeking fear that its submission is
wholly willing, and its demand is for spiritual response alone, we are
bound to ask ourselves whether it is right and reasonable to be religious,
to regard with this full devotion a universe apparently imperfect and
irresponsive, and a Ruling Principle which so many men have doubted
or ignored.

The pessimist holds the view that sentient existence has been a
deplorable blunder in the scheme of things. The egotist at least acts
upon the view that the universe has no moral coherence, and that " each
for himself" is the only indisputable law. I am sanguine enough to think
that the answer to the pessimist and the egotist has by our new know-
ledge been made complete. There remains, indeed, a difficulty of subtler
type, but instinctive in generous souls. "The world," such an one may
say, " is a mixed place, and I am plainly bound to do my best to improve
it. But am I bound to feel can any bribe of personal happiness justify
me in feeling religious enthusiasm for a universe in which even one
being may have been summoned into a sentiency destined to inescapable
pain?"

The answer to this ethical scruple must be a matter largely of faith.
If indeed we knew that this earthly life was all, or (far worse) that it was
followed for any one soul by endless pain, we could not without some
moral jugglery ascribe perfection of both power and goodness to a personal
or impersonal First Cause of such a doom. But if we believe that endless
life exists for all, with infinite possibilities of human redress and of divine
justification, then it seems right to assume that the universe is either
already (in some inscrutable fashion) wholly good, or is at least in course
of becoming so ; since it may be becoming so in part through the very
ardour of our own faith and hope.

I do but mention these initial difficulties ; I shall not dwell on them
here. I speak to men who have determined, whether at the bidding of
instinct or of reason, that it is well to be religious ; well to approach in
self-devoted reverence an infinite Power and Love. Our desire is simply
to find the least unworthy way of thinking of matters which inevitably
transcend and baffle our finite thought.

1009. And here, for the broad purpose of our present survey, we may
divide the best religious emotion of the world in triple fashion ; tracing
three main streams of thought, streams which on the whole run parallel,



286 CHAPTER X [1009

and which all rise, as I believe, from some source in the reality of
things.

First, then, I place that obscure consensus of independent thinkers in
many ages and countries which, to avoid any disputable title, I will here
call simply the Religion of the Ancient Sage. Under that title (though
Lao Tzu is hardly more than a name) it has been set forth to us in brief
summary by the great sage and poet of our own time ; and such words as
Natural Religion, Pantheism, Platonism, Mysticism, do but express or
intensify varying aspects of its main underlying conception. That con-
ception is the co-existence and interpenetration of a real or spiritual with
this material or phenomenal world : a belief driven home to many minds
by experiences both more weighty and more concordant than the per-
cipients themselves have always known. More weighty, I say, for they
have implied the veritable nascency and operation of a " last and largest
sense " ; a faculty for apprehending, not God, indeed (for what finite
faculty can apprehend the Infinite?), but at least some dim and scattered
tokens and prefigurements of a true world of Life and Love. More
concordant also; and this for a reason which till recently would have
seemed a paradox. For the mutual corroboration of these signs and
messages lies not only in their fundamental agreement up to a certain
point, but in their inevitable divergence beyond it ; as they pass from
things felt into things imagined ; from actual experience into dogmatic creed.

The Religion of the Ancient Sage is of unknown antiquity. Of un-
known antiquity also are various Oriental types of religion, culminating in
historical times in the Religion of Buddha. For Buddhism all inter-
penetrating universes make the steps upon man's upward way; until
deliverance from illusion leaves the spirit merged ineffably in the imper-
sonal All. But the teaching of Buddha has lost touch with reality; it
rests on no basis of observed or of reproducible fact.

On a basis of observed facts, on the other hand, Christianity, the
youngest of the great types of religion, does assuredly rest. Assuredly
those facts, so far as tradition has made them known to us, do tend to
prove the superhuman character of its Founder, and His triumph over
death ; and thus the existence and influence of a spiritual world, where
men's true citizenship lies. These ideas, by common consent, lay at the
origin of the Faith. Since those first days, however, Christianity has been
elaborated into codes of ethic and ritual adapted to Western civilisation ;
has gained (some think) as a rule of life what it has lost as a simplicity
of spirit.

From the unfettered standpoint of the Ancient Sage the deep concord-
ance of these and other schemes of religious thought may well out-
weigh their formal oppositions. And yet I repeat that it is not from
any mere welding of these schemes together, nor from any choice of
the best points in existing syntheses, that the new synthesis for which
I hope must be born. It must be born from new-dawning knowledge ;



1010] EPILOGUE 287

and in that new knowledge I believe that each great form of religious
thought will find its indispensable I may almost say its predicted
development. Our race from its very infancy has stumbled along a
guarded way ; and now the first lessons of its early childhood reveal the
root in reality of much that it has instinctively believed.

1010. What I think I know, therefore, I am bound to tell ; I must
give the religious upshot of observation and experiment in such brief
announcement as an audience like this l has a right to hear, even before
our discoveries can be laid in full before the courts of science for definite
approval.

The religious upshot, I repeat : for I cannot here reproduce the mass
of evidence which has been published in full elsewhere. Its general
character is by this time widely known. Observation, experiment, infer-
ence, have led many inquirers, of whom I am one, to a belief in direct or
telepathic intercommunication, not only between the minds of men still
on earth, but between minds or spirits still on earth and spirits departed.
Such a discovery opens the door also to revelation. By discovery and by
revelation by observation from without the veil, and by utterance from
within certain theses have been provisionally established with regard to
such departed souls as we have been able to encounter. First and chiefly,
I at least see ground to believe that their state is one of endless evolution
in wisdom and in love. Their loves of earth persist; and most of all
those highest loves which seek their outlet in adoration and worship. We
do not find, indeed, that support is given by souls in bliss to any special
scheme of terrene theology. Thereon they know less than we mortal men
have often fancied that we knew. Yet from their step of vantage-ground
in the Universe, at least, they see that it is good. I do not mean that
they know either of an end or of an explanation of evil. Yet evil to
them seems less a terrible than a slavish thing. It is embodied in
no mighty Potentate ; rather it forms an isolating madness from which
higher spirits strive to free the distorted soul. There needs no
chastisement of fire ; self-knowledge is man's punishment and his reward ;
self-knowledge, and the nearness or the aloofness of companion souls.
For in that world love is actually self-preservation ; the Communion of
Saints not only adorns but constitutes the Life Everlasting. Nay, from
the law of telepathy it follows that that communion is valid for us here
and now. Even now the love of souls departed makes answer to our
invocations. Even now our loving memory love is itself a prayer
supports and strengthens those delivered spirits upon their upward way.
No wonder ; since we are to them but as fellow-travellers shrouded in a
mist ; " neither death, nor life, nor height, nor depth, nor any other
creature " can bar us from the hearth-fire of the universe, or hide for more
than a moment the inconceivable oneness of souls.

1 The Synthetic Society, before which these sections were first read as a paper in
March 1899. EDITORS.



288 CHAPTER X [1011

1011. And is not this a fresh instalment, or a precursory adumbration,
of that Truth into which the Paraclete should lead? Has any world-
scheme yet been suggested so profoundly corroborative of the very core of
the Christian revelation? Jesus Christ "brought life and immortality to
light." By His appearance after bodily death He proved the deathless-
ness of the spirit. By His character and His teaching He testified to the
Fatherhood of God. So far, then, as His unique message admitted of
evidential support, it is here supported. So far as He promised things
unprovable, that promise is here renewed.

I venture now on a bold saying ; for I predict that, in consequence of
the new evidence, all reasonable men, a century hence, will believe the
Resurrection of Christ, whereas, in default of the new evidence, no
reasonable men, a century hence, would have believed it. The ground of
this forecast is plain enough. Our ever-growing recognition of the con-
tinuity, the uniformity of cosmic law has gradually made of the alleged
uniqueness of any incident its almost inevitable refutation. Ever more
clearly must our age of science realise that any relation between a material
and a spiritual world cannot be an ethical or emotional relation alone ;
that it must needs be a great structural fact of the Universe, involving
laws at least as persistent, as identical from age to age, as our known laws
of Energy or of Motion. And especially as to that central claim, of the
soul's life manifested after the body's death, it is plain that this can less
and less be supported by remote tradition alone ; that it must more and
more be tested by modern experience and inquiry. Suppose, for instance,
that we collect many such histories, recorded on first-hand evidence in our
critical age ; and suppose that all these narratives break down on analysis ;
that they can all be traced to hallucination, misdescription, and other
persistent sources of error ; can we then expect reasonable men to believe
that this marvellous phenomenon, always vanishing into nothingness when
closely scrutinised in a modern English scene, must yet compel adoring
credence when alleged to have occurred in an Oriental country, and in a
remote and superstitious age? Had the results (in short) of "psychical
research " been purely negative, would not Christian evidence I do not
say Christian emotion, but Christian evidence have received an over-
whelming blow?

As a matter of fact, or, if you prefer the phrase, in my own personal
opinion, our research has led us to results of a quite different type. They
have not been negative only, but largely positive. We have shown that
amid much deception and self-deception, fraud and illusion, veritable
manifestations do reach us from beyond the grave. The central claim
of Christianity is thus confirmed, as never before. If our own friends,
men like ourselves, can sometimes return to tell us of love and hope, a
mightier Spirit may well have used the eternal laws with a more com-
manding power. There is nothing to hinder the reverent faith that,
though we be all " the Children of the Most Highest," He came nearer



1012] EPILOGUE 289

than we, by some space by us immeasurable, to That which is infinitely
far. There is nothing to hinder the devout conviction that He of His
own act " took upon Him the form of a servant," and was made flesh
for our salvation, foreseeing the earthly travail and the eternal crown.
" Surely before this descent into generation," says Plotinus, 1 " we existed
in the intelligible world ; being other men than now we are, and some of
us Gods ; clear souls, and minds immixed with all existence ; parts of the
Intelligible, nor severed thence ; nor are we severed even now."

1012. It is not thus to less of reverence that man is summoned, but
to more. Let him keep hold of early sanctities ; but let him remember
also that once again " a great sheet has been let down out of heaven ; "
and lo ! neither Buddha nor Plato is found common or unclean.

Nay, as to our own soul's future, when that first shock of death is
past, it is in Buddhism that we find the more inspiring, the truer view.
That Western conception of an instant and unchangeable bliss or woe
a bliss or woe determined largely by a man's beliefs, in this earthly
ignorance, on matters which " the angels desire to look into " is the
bequest of a pre-Copernican era of speculative thought. In its
Mahomedan travesty, we see the same scheme with outlines coarsened
into grotesqueness ; we see it degrade the cosmic march and profluence
into a manner of children's play.

Meantime the immemorial musings of unnumbered men have dreamt
of a consummation so far removed that he who gazed has scarcely known
whether it were Nothingness or Deity. With profoundest fantasy, the
East has pondered on the vastness of the world that now is, of the worlds
that are to be. What rest or pasture for the mind in the seven days of
Creation, the four rivers of Paradise, the stars " made also " ? The
farther East has reached blindly forth towards astronomical epochs,
sidereal spaces, galactic congregations of inconceivable Being. Pressed
by the incumbency of ancestral gods (as the Chinese legend tells us), it
has " created by one sweep of the imagination a thousand Universes, to
be the Buddha's realm."

The sacred tale of Buddha, developed from its earlier simplicity by
the shaping stress of many generations, opens to us the whole range and
majesty of human fate. "The destined Buddha has desired to be a
Buddha through an almost unimaginable series of worlds." No soul
need ever be without that hope. "The spirit-worlds are even now
announcing the advent of future Buddhas, in epochs too remote for
the computation of men." No obstacles without us can arrest our way.
" The rocks that were thrown at Buddha were changed into flowers."
Not our own worst misdoings need beget despair. " Buddha, too, had
often been to hell for his sins." The vast complexity of the Sum of
Things need not appal us. "Beneath the bottomless whirlpool of
existences, behind the illusion of Form and Name," we, too, like

1 Enn. vi. 4, 14.
VOL. IL T



290 CHAPTER X [1013

Buddha, may discover and reveal "the perfection of the Eternal Law."
Us, too, like Buddha, the cosmic welcome may await ; as when " Earth
itself and the laws of all worlds " trembled with joy " as Buddha attained
the Supreme Intelligence, and entered into the Endless Calm."

1013. I believe that some of those who once were near to us are
already mounting swiftly upon this heavenly way. And when from that
cloud encompassing of unforgetful souls some voice is heard, as long
ago, there needs no heroism, no sanctity, to inspire the apostle's
i-mOvfjiia fc TO dvoAwrai, the desire to lift our anchor, and to sail out
beyond the bar. What fitter summons for man than the wish to live in
the memory of the highest soul that he has known, now risen higher ; to
lift into an immortal security the yearning passion of his love ? " As the
soul hasteneth," says Plotinus, 1 " to the things that are above, she will
ever forget the more ; unless all her life on earth leave a memory of
things done well. For even here may man do well, if he stand clear of
the cares of earth. And he must stand clear of their memories too ; so
that one may rightly speak of a noble soul as forgetting those things that
are behind. And the shade of Herakles, indeed, may talk of his own
valour to the shades, but the true Herakles in the true world will deem
all that of little worth ; being transported into a more sacred place, and
strenuously engaging, even above his strength, in those battles in which
the wise engage." Can we men now on earth claim more of sustainment
than lies in the incipient communion with those enfranchised souls?
What day of hope, of exaltation, has dawned like this, since the message
of Pentecost ?

1014. Yet a durable religious synthesis should do more than satisfy
man's immediate aspiration. It should be in itself progressive and
evolutionary ; it should bear a promise of ever deeper holiness, to answer
to the long ages of heightening wisdom during which our race may be
destined to inhabit the earth. This condition has never yet been met.
No scheme, indeed, could meet it which was not based upon recurrent
and developing facts. To such facts we now appeal. We look, not
backward to fading tradition, but onward to dawning experience. We
hope that the intercourse, now at last consciously begun although as
through the mouth of babes and sucklings, and in confused and stammer-
ing speech between discarnate and incarnate souls, may through long
effort clarify into a directer communion, so that they shall teach us all
they will.

Science, then, need be no longer fettered by the limitations of this
planetary standpoint ; nor ethics by the narrow experience of a single life.
Evolution will no longer appear as a truncated process, an ever-arrested
movement upon an unknown goal. Rather we may gain a glimpse of an
ultimate incandescence where science and religion fuse in one ; a cosmic
evolution of Energy into Life, and of Life into Love, which is Joy.

1 Enn. iv. 3, 27.



1015] EPILOGUE 291

Love, which is Joy at once and Wisdom ; we can do no more than ring
the changes on terms like these, whether we imagine the transfigurement
and apotheosis of conquering souls, or the lower, but still sacred, destiny
which may be some day possible for souls still tarrying here. We picture
the perfected soul as the Buddha, the Saviour, the aurai simplicis ignem,
dwelling on one or other aspect of that trinal conception of Wisdom,
Love, and Joy. For souls not yet perfected but still held on earth I have
foretold a growth in holiness. By this I mean no unreal opposition or



Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 89)