Chauncey Giles.

The nature of spirit, and of man as a spiritual being online

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Electrotyped and Printed by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

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"The Nature of Spirit, and of Man as a
Spiritual Being" has already had a circulation
of perhaps one hundred thousand copies. It
has brought comfort to sorrowing hearts, and
has given to many their first conviction that
definite and rational knowledge of the spiritual
world is possible.

At the time that these chapters were written,
the author, the Rev. Chauncey Giles, was pastor
of the ChuicU, of tjiq ^ew Jerusalem in New
York city, and^Av^^is already^ widely known as
an able advocate of the ney*' spiritual truth re-
vealed to the vvoi'ld through the writings of
Emanuel Swedenbcaig. ^ .Having come to a
knowledge of this truth himself after years of
spiritual darkness and doubt, and having felt
its wonderful power to inspire new hope and
courage, Mr. Giles was intensely desirous to
make known the message which was such a
blessing to him. He was well equipped for the
work which he undertook, having the gifts of
an easy and powerful speaker and a mind well



trained by many years' discipline as a teacher.
It was his special effort to dispel the vagueness
associated in most minds with spiritual subjects,
and to treat them always with the utmost plain-
ness and directness. His reasoning was strong
from his habit of referring all things to univer-
sal principles; and his treatment of spiritual
themes was made clear by constant illustration
from the plane of nature, where he showed the
same laws operating in visible, tangible forms.

In November, 1864, Mr. Giles began in the
church of the New Jerusalem on Thirty-fifth
Street, New York, a series of six lectures on
the spiritual world. The first lecture was en-
titled, " The Answer of the New-Jerusalem
Church to the Questions: What is Spirit?
What is the S^^rJ'r^'tjLlEvl V/orld ? W-bpre is it ? and
What are its rR^lkions to ^this-VVorld ?" The
church was crowd'eql qn tlie; ^i'st evening and
throughout the course: "After the delivery of
the first lecture, 'the ^ug^estix^b was made that
it should be printed and be ready for distribution
the next Sunday evening. This was done, and
the experiment seemed so useful that it was
continued through the course, five hundred
copies of each lecture being printed and given

These lectures, as printed from week to week,
became afterward the basis of this little book,


" The Nature of Spirit, and of Man as a Spirit-
ual Being." Tliey were written from week to
week for the next Sunday's use, with no thought
of making a book, and as Mr. Giles was too
busy to revise them for printing, they were seen
through the press by a friend. This was char-
acteristic of Mr. Giles's literary work. Of all
that he has published very little has been writ-
ten originally for that purpose, or has received
the careful finish which an author expects to
give to a book. He wrote right along, with a
plan of what he intended to say, but allowing his
subject to grow and develop as he went ; and as
it was written, so it usually stood, with little
change or revision.

To the six lectures above mentioned, two
others afterward delivered in the New York
church were added, and one on the Resurrec-
tion, delivered in the hall of the Cooper Union
in November, 1865.

His lectures in the Cooper Union were an
interesting incident of Mr. Giles's ministry in
New York. The success of the first season's
lectures in the church, led to a bolder attempt
the following year to bring the truths of the
New Church before the public. A course of
five Sunday evening lectures was given in the
great hall of the Cooper Union, at some of
which probably fifteen hundred persons were


present. One lecture of this series has found a
place in the present volume.

The chapters so collected were afterwards re-
vised by Mr. Giles, with some additions, and
were published as a book. It has been issued
in several languages and in many editions.
The demand has been constant and stiil con-
tinues both in this country and abroad, and a
new edition in somewhat neater and more per-
manent form seems to be called for. In issuing
it we are carrying out a desire expressed by
Mr. Giles himself, and in the matter of style
and in some very slight changes made in the
text, we have been guided by what we know
would be his wishes. May this little book long
continue to be useful in extending a rational
and satisfactory knowledge of man's nature and

Philadelphia, October, 1894.



The Nature of Spirit, and of the Spiritual World 9

Man Essentially a Spiritual Being , » 35

The Death of Man 64

The Resurrection of Man 88

Man in the World of Spirits 109

The Judgment of Man 132

Man's Preparation for his Final Home 155

The State of Man in Hell 180

Man in Heaven 210







I INVITE your attention to a subject which
must interest every one who believes in the
possibility even of a life after this, and of
another world in which we are to dwell for
ever. Nothing can explain the indifference of
those who have any belief in Christianity to the
great realities of the future, but the conviction
that it is impossible to know anything concern-
ing spiritual beings and a spiritual world be-
yond the bare fact of their existence. How
can an intelligent being remain indifferent to a
subject of such infinite importance, if he believes
in its reality ? If any one of you knew that
you must sooner or later remove to some



remote country, to spend the remainder of
your life there, and that you might be called
upon at any moment to go, you could not remain
indifferent to the nature of the country, and to
your own situation when you arrived there.
You would lose no opportunity for personal
inquiry ; you would read every book you could
procure, that treated upon the subject; you
would exhaust all the means in your power to
learn where you were going, and what your
condition would be when you had reached
your new home. How, then, can any one who
believes in the existence of a spiritual world,
and who sees one after another of those whom
he knows and loves — beings as dear to him as
his own life — daily passing away, and who knows
that he must soon follow them ; — how can a
rational being, with such a belief, be indifferent
to the nature of that world, and to the condition
of its inhabitants ? It is impossible to account
for this general unconcern upon any other sup-
position than the prevalent opinion, that nothing
definite and certain can be known about it.

There is conclusive evidence that this has
long been, and is now, the state of the Christian
world upon this subject. We are even told
that it is not best for us to know anything
about the world that lies upon the other side of
the grave ; that the Lord did not intend to have


US know anything definite about it. But all
inquiries and all thoughts upon a subject so
vital to our eternal interests cannot be sup-
pressed, even by those whose doctrines teach
them that such knowledge is impossible. Ac-
cordingly we have many theories and specula-
tions ; but they are so vague, so various, and
contradictory, that they keep the mind in per-
petual doubt, and finally defeat the end for
which they were instituted. They confirm the
mind still more strongly in the belief that noth-
ing can be known about the future life, beyond
the bare fact of its existence ; and multitudes
go still further — they deny its existence, and
they now live as though there was no world
and no life but this.

It was this general ignorance of the nature,
and this practical denial of the existence, of a
real spiritual world, and of a substantial con-
scious spiritual life for man, that rendered a New
Dispensation of truth necessary. All knowl-
edge, and consequently all practical belief in the
immortality of man, and in the existence of a
spiritual world, had nearly died out from the
minds of men, and there were no means in the
church to reinstate it. It required light from
above. Open communication with that world,
and with those who had passed into it, was
necessary before the reality of its existence


could be brought home to the minds of men
with convincing power. This is one of the
special uses which the Nev/ Church will per-
form for humanity. It is one of the distin-
guishing features of this Church that she has a
clear and logical doctrine upon this subject.
She has disclosures to make which are consist-
ent with themselves, with enlightened reason,
and with the Sacred Scriptures; disclosures
which satisfy all the wants of those who accept
them, and which are generally acknowledged to
be beautiful and consolatory, even by those who
do not fully assent to their truth. It is to these
disclosures that I invite your attention at present.
I propose to give the answer of the New Church
to the following questions : i. What is Spirit?
2. What is the Spiritual World? 3. Where is
it ? 4. What are its relations to this world ?

I. What is Spirit? I use the term spirit in
the same sense I would use the corresponding
term matter, in the question, What is matter ?
This is a primary and important question, and
upon its correct answer depends all distinct and
true knowledge concerning the spiritual world.

Our doctrines teach us clearly and explicitly
that spirit is a substance, and must necessarily
have a form. There are material substances and
spiritual substances, entirely distinct from each


other. Matter is not spirit, and spirit is not
matter; but both are real substances. As
this is a most important point, and one that is
contrary to common opinion, it is worthy of as
clear statement and elucidation as possible.

And, first, let us get a clear idea of what
we mean by substance. I do not use the
term in any metaphysical sense. I use it in the
common meaning as that out of which, or from
which, any being, existence, or entity is formed.
Every material thing is made out of some mate-
rial substance. The potter makes his vessels of
the substance we call clay. The carpenter builds
houses, and forms various material objects, out
of the substance we call wood. Ice is formed
from the substance we call water, and water
from the substance we call gas. The earth itself
is probably formed of a gaseous substance. The
material body is organized of material substances
of various kinds.

In the same sense, we mean that spirit is a
substance, and that every spiritual existence is
formed from some spiritual substance. All
Christians acknowledge that angels are spirits ;
if they are, they are formed of spiritual sub-
stances. Man is a spirit as to one part of his
nature, and that part is formed of spiritual sub-
stances. If there is a spiritual world distinct
from the material world, that world and all


things in it must be formed of spiritual sub-
stances. But if we are asked what a spiritual
substance is in itself^ we cannot tell. It is just
as impossible, however, to form any idea of what
a material substance is in itself Who can tell
what clay, or wood, or iron, or water, or gas, is
in itself? Our knowledge of eveiything is lim-
ited by its relations to us ; by its effects upon
us. We are no more called upon to define what
spirit is in itself, than we are to define what mat-
ter is in itself It is impossible to do either. It
is no objection, therefore, to the doctrine that
there are distinct spiritual substances, that we
cannot define what they are in themselves. All
that we can know of any substance, material or
spiritual, is the necessary conditions of existence,
and the qualities that inhere in it as their sub-
ject; and we can learn these qualities only from
the relation of their subjects to us. The blind
man' can form no true idea of the nature of
light, for it has no relation to him. He has no
organism to be affected by it ; but if you tell him
that there is no luminous body, and no substance
which is the subject of light, he can come to no
other just conclusion than that there is no such
existence or entity as light. We can say the
same of spirit, though it is not appreciable by any
of the senses.

We may now advance a step further, and say


that no existence is possible without a form. If
there is any such existence, or being, or entity,
as a spirit, it must have substance and form ; for
there can be no substance without a form. It is
impossible for the mind to conceive of anything
without form. Let any one try to conceive of
such a material thing, and he will see how ab-
surd it is. The very idea of conception implies
form. An idea is an image ; an idea, then, is a
form. Spirit as well as matter, therefore, must
have substance and form, for they are the two
factors which are essential to any existence, or
to the conception of any being or thing. Spirit
is the correlative, not the negation, of matter.

Here is the point in which philosophers and
Christians have made the mistake, fatal not only
to all true knowledge, but to all knowledge of
spirit. It has generally been assumed that the
only way to arrive at a true idea of spirit, was
to regard it as the opposite of matter in every
respect. They reason in this way. Matter has
form, therefore spirit has none. Matter has sub-
stance, therefore spirit has none. In this way they
deny to spirit all possible modes of existence.
The Christian stops here, and ends by simply
affirming its existence, but denies that we can
know anything more about it. But many push
this destructive logic a step further, and deny
the existence of spirit altogether. And this is


the logical result, for denial can never end in
anything but negation and nothing. This is
inevitable ; and the Christian escapes this con-
clusion only by stopping before he reaches it.
We must admit that there is a spiritual sub-
stance, and that this substance has form, or we
must deny the existence of spirit altogether.
No other conclusion is possible.

But to make the proof as strong and clear as
possible, let us assume that there is a spiritual
world, and that there are spiritual beings ; but
deny that there is a spiritual substance, and see
to what absurdities it will lead us. What is
a world ? What is the meaning of the word,
world ? Has not the world form ? Is it not
made up of innumerable objects, all of which
have form : all of which are composed of ma-
terial substances ? Suppose you take away
from this world all its forms and substances :
would there be any world left ? There would
be nothing left. Is it not just as absurd to say
that there is a spiritual world, while you deny to
it any substance or form ? You would not hesi-
tate a moment to pronounce a man foolish, or
insane, who should deny that there could be any
such material substance or form as wood, and
then begin to describe a tree; or who should
ridicule the possibility of the existence of water,
and then proceed to expatiate on the nature and


beauties of a river, or the grandeur of the ocean.
But are not all those guilty of this absurdity
who talk of heaven as a real place ; who think
of the Lord as seated on a throne, surrounded
by saints and angels, dressed in white robes,
wearing golden crowns, and playing on golden
harps, and making " heaven's wide arches ring"
with their hallelujahs; or writhing in the tor-
ments of hell, and filling the dreary abodes of
the lost with lamentation and woe ? Christians
delight to sing —

** Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand drest in living green,"

and yet, according to the theory, they have no
substance and no form. What kind of a field
would that be which had no substance and no
form ? How could it be " drest in living green "?
Christians often talk of meeting their friends and
loved ones who have gone before. But how can
two beings without form or substance, beings
which are no beings, meet? How could they
recognise each other? What can be more
absurd than such an idea? Christians think of
the Lord as seated on a throne, with the Re-
deemer at His right hand ; and yet they declare
in doctrine that " He is a being without body,
parts, or passions," and think it derogatory to
His nature to attribute to Him any form. But


if He has no form and no substance, He has no
existence. Instead of gaining any worthy con-
ception of Him by denying Him substance and
form, they, doctrinally, annihilate Him. Into
such difficulties, contradictions, and absurdities,
the mind is led by trying to do that which is
impossible. We conclude, therefore, that if
spirit has any existence, it must be a substance
and have a form.

The mind has the power of conceiving of
qualities without, or abstracted from their sub-
jects. But those qualities do not and cannot
exist separate from their subjects. We can con-
ceive of sweetness ; but sweetness has no exist-
ence apart from some substance that is sweet.
We can conceive of strength ; but strength has
no existence apart from some being or thing
that exercises it. There is no abstract power.
We can conceive of love, goodness, and truth,
but they are not abstractions; they have no
existence but in their subjects. But, because
we can conceive of them without connectinsf
them with any subject, men have been insensibly
led to regard them as distinct and independent
existences. In this way the mind and sr^irit,
and all our intellectual qualities, have cor i to
be regarded as abstractions without fori*:4 or
substance, and yet as real existences. But if we
apply the same process of reasoning to the body


or to any material thing, we shall see its absurd-
ity at once. Take the power of steam, for ex-
ample. We can conceive of the power ab-
stracted from the steam itself The engineer
talks and reasons about its existence, nature,
quality, and application, as though it was a dis-
tinct existence ; and if the steam itself was not
appreciable by any of the senses, we might
come to regard it as a distinct thing, without
any substance or form. But we know that it is
impossible to abstract the power from the steam,
and say here is the power, and there is the
steam. The power is the force with which the
steam expands. Where there is no steam there
is no power. They cannot be separated in fact.
The same principle applies to all qualities, men-
tal and spiritual. There can be no thought,
affection, goodness, or quality of any kind, with-
out some subject in which these qualities reside ;
and those qualities cannot exist separate and
distinct from their subjects. All qualities are
essentially the forms, activities, and relations of
their subjects. If there is no spiritual substance
and form, there can, therefore, be no spiritual
qualities. While, therefore, we can see how the
mind is led away to regard an abstraction as a
reality, and to conceive of it as existing without
any form, we can see, at the same time, the utter
impossibiUty of such an existence.


From whatever point of view we regard the
subject, therefore, we come back to the con-
clusion that spirit must be a substance, and have
a form. The doctrines of the New Church are,
therefore, in harmony with analogy, necessity,
and reason, in declaring that spirit is a substance^
and has forms, qualities, modes, and-estabhshed
laws of existence relatively the same as matter.

2. Our second question is : What is the
Spiritual World ? Having established the truth
that there must be a spiritual substance, if there
is any distinct spiritual existence, everything
necessary to constitute a distinct spiritual world
and substantial spiritual beings follows as a
necessary consequence. For if a material world
can be formed out of material substances, surely
it is not illogical to infer that a spiritual world,
composed of objects as numerous and various
in quality, can be formed out of spiritual sub-
stances. Indeed, it would be quite absurd to
infer the contrary.

Consequently, our doctrines teach us that
spiritual substances bear the same relations to
each other that material substances do. They
are solid, and fluid, and aeriform. The solids
exist in ^very possible variety that material
solids do. There are spiritual earths, rocks, and
metals, as gold, silver, and iron, in every variety


of quality and form. Indeed, there is a perfect
mineral kingdom formed of spiritual substances.
These substances are also organized into vege-
table and animal forms. There is also, then,
a vegetable and an animal kingdom, based upon
the mineral kingdom, and bearing the same re-
lations to it that the same kingdoms do to the
mineral kingdom in this world. The spiritual
earth is diversified with mountains, hills, valleys,
rivers, and smaller streams, and out of this
earth, grass and flowers, shrubs and trees of
every kind, grow, relatively the same as in this
world. Birds fly in the air, and animals walk
upon the earth, and the spiritual beings who
dwell there have their habitations, and gardens,
and fields. They look out upon beautiful land-
scapes, and look up to the heavens above them.
The earth is as solid and firm to their tread as
this is to ours. And the spiritual objects are
hard and soft, solid and fluid, cold and hot, light
and heavy, rough and smooth, transparent and
opaque, and of every conceivable form and color
and quality, that objects have in this world.
And there are many forms and qualities besides,
that cannot exist in matter, because it is so
gross and dead* compared with spiritual sub-

Now it may be, and sometimes is, objected
to this view of the spiritual world, that it is only


materializing it ; attributing to it those qualities
which this world possesses ; and instead of a
spiritual world, by this process of reasoning, it
is said, we only get another material world.
This might be true, if spiritual substances and
objects had no other qualities than material ob-
jects. But, as we shall see hereafter, they have
many qualities impossible to material objects,
and they are altogether superior, and pre-emi-
nently excellent in every respect, in their forms,
origin, and relations to the inhabitants who
dwell in that world.

But let us suppose that there is a spiritual world,
which has nothing in common with this world,
not even substance and form, and see what will
be the result. We can do nothing more than
affirm that there is such a world ; we can have
no idea of it. We cannot conceive it under
any form, or mode, for by the supposition it
has none. It has no mountains, hills, earth,
rivers ; no sun, no light, no atmosphere ; nothing
in common with this world. What is it, then ?
Nothing. It is no ivorld ; for the very idea of
a world presupposes substance and form and
objects. Thus we cannot go beyond the simple
affirmation of the existence ©f such a world.
We cannot form any idea of it ; for by the sup-
position it has no form, it has nothing in com-
mon with this world ; and we even deny its ex-


istence by the very conditions of our affirmation.
It is this absurdity of denying to the spiritual
world every possible mode and form of exist-
ence, and then trying to conceive it or think
upon it, that has resulted in such doubt and
practical denial of its reality, and of the possi-
bility of spirits being really human beings, hav-
ing a complete human form. There can be no
middle ground between the practical denial of
any substantial spiritual world and the acknowl-
edgment that it must be similar in general form
and relations to this world. If we take any
step beyond a simple affirmation of the exist-
ence of spirit under conditions of which we can

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Online LibraryChauncey GilesThe nature of spirit, and of man as a spiritual being → online text (page 1 of 13)