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THE DESTINY OF THE SOUL.

A CRITICAL HISTORY
OF THE
DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE,

BY
WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER.

TENTH EDITION,

WITH SIX NEW CHAPTERS, AND

A Complete Bibliography of the Subject.
[Note: bibliography not included here]

COMPRISING 4977 BOOKS RELATING TO THE NATURE, ORIGIN, AND
DESTINY OF THE SOUL. THE TITLES CLASSIFIED AND ARRANGED
CHRONOLOGICALLY, WITH NOTES, AND INDEXES OF THE AUTHORS AND
SUBJECTS.

BY EZRA ABBOT,

PROFESSOR OF NEW TESTAMENT CRITICISM AND INTERPRETATION IN
THE DIVINITY SCHOOL OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY.


BOSTON:
ROBERTS BROTHERS.
1880

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United
States for the District of Massachusetts.

Copyright 1878, W.R. Alger

ELECTROTYPED BY JOHNSON & CO., PHILADA.

University Press: John Wilson & Son,
Cambridge.


PREFACE TO THE TENTH EDITION.


THIS work has passed through nine editions, and has been out of
print now for nearly a year. During the twenty years which have
elapsed since it was written, the question of immortality, the
faith and opinions of men and the drift of criticism and doubt
concerning it, have been a subject of dominant interest to me, and
have occupied a large space in my reading and reflection.
Accordingly, now that my publisher, moved by the constant demand
for the volume, urges the preparation of a new edition introducing
such additional materials as my continued researches have gathered
or constructed, I gladly comply with his request.

The present work is not only historic but it is also polemic;
polemic, however, not in the spirit or interest of any party or
conventicle, but in the spirit and interest of science and
humanity. Orthodoxy insists on doctrines whose irrationality in
their current forms is such that they can never be a basis for the
union of all men. Therefore, to discredit these, in preparation
for more reasonable and auspicious views, is a service to the
whole human race. This is my justification for the controversial
quality which may frequently strike the reader.

Looking back over his pages, after nearly a quarter of a century
more of investigation and experience, the author is grateful that
he finds nothing to retract or expunge. He has but to add such
thoughts and illustrations as have occurred to him in the course
of his subsequent studies. He hopes that the supplementary
chapters now published will be found more suggestive and mature
than the preceding ones, while the same in aim and tone. For he
still believes, as he did in his earlier time, that there is much
of error and superstition, bigotry and cruelty, to be purged out
of the prevailing theological creed and sentiment of Christendom.
And he still hopes, as he did then, to contribute something of
good influence in this direction. The large circulation of the
work, the many letters of thanks for it received by the author
from laymen and clergymen of different denominations, the numerous
avowed and unavowed quotations from it in recent publications,
all show that it has not been produced in vain, but has borne
fruit in missionary service for reason, liberty, and charity.

This ventilating and illumining function of fearless and
reverential critical thought will need to be fulfilled much longer
in many quarters. The doctrine of a future life has been made so
frightful by the preponderance in it of the elements of material
torture and sectarian narrowness, that a natural revulsion of
generous sentiment joins with the impulse of materialistic science
to produce a growing disbelief in any life at all beyond the
grave. Nothing else will do so much to renew and extend faith in
God and immortality as a noble and beautiful doctrine of God and
immortality, freed from disfiguring terror, selfishness, and
favoritism.

The most popular preacher in England has recently asked his
fellow believers, "Can we go to our beds and sleep while China,
India, Japan, and other nations are being damned?" The proprietor
of a great foundry in Germany, while he talked one day with a
workman who was feeding a furnace, accidentally stepped back, and
fell headlong into a vat of molten iron. The thought of what
happened then horrifies the imagination. Yet it was all over in
two or three seconds. Multiply the individual instance by
unnumbered millions, stretch the agony to temporal infinity, and
we confront the orthodox idea of hell!

Protesting human nature hurls off such a belief with indignant
disdain, except in those instances where the very form and
vibration of its nervous pulp have been perverted by the hardening
animus of a dogmatic drill transmitted through generations. To
trace the origin of such notions, expose their baselessness,
obliterate their sway, and replace them with conceptions of a more
rational and benignant order, is a task which still needs to be
done, and to be done in many forms, over and over, again and
again. Though each repetition tell but slightly, it tells.

Every sound argument is instantly crowned with universal victory
in the sight of God, and therefore must at last be so in the sight
of mankind. However slowly the logic of events limps after the
logic of thoughts, it always follows. Let the mind of one man
perceive the true meaning of the doctrine of the general
resurrection and judgment and eternal life, as a natural evolution
of history from within, and it will spread to the minds of all
men; and the misinterpretation of that doctrine so long prevalent,
as a preternatural irruption of power from without, will be set
aside forever. For there is a providential plan of God, not
injected by arbitrary miracle, but inhering in the order of the
world, centred in the propulsive heart of humanity, which beats
throb by throb along the web of events, removing obstacles and
clearing the way for the revelation of the completed pattern. When
it is done no trumpets may be blown, no rocks rent, no graves
opened. But all immortal spirits will be at their goals, and the
universe will be full of music.

NEW YORK, February 22, 1878.

PREFACE.


WHO follows truth carries his star in his brain. Even so bold a
thought is no inappropriate motto for an intellectual workman, if
his heart be filled with loyalty to God, the Author of truth and
the Maker of stars. In this double spirit of independence and
submission it has been my desire to perform the arduous task now
finished and offered to the charitable judgment of the reader. One
may be courageous to handle both the traditions and the novelties
of men, and yet be modest before the solemn mysteries of fate and
nature. He may place no veil before his eyes and no finger on his
lips in presence of popular dogmas, and yet shrink from the
conceit of esteeming his mind a mirror of the universe. Ideas,
like coins, bear the stamp of the age and brain they were struck
in. Many a phantom which ought to have vanished at the first cock
crowing of reason still holds its seat on the oppressed heart of
faith before the terror stricken eyes of the multitude. Every
thoughtful scholar who loves his fellow men must feel it an
obligation to do what he can to remove painful superstitions, and
to spread the peace of a cheerful faith and the wholesome light of
truth. The theories in theological systems being but philosophy,
why should they not be freely subjected to philosophical
criticism? I have endeavored, without virulence, arrogance, or
irreverence towards any thing sacred, to investigate the various
doctrines pertaining to the great subject treated in these pages.
Many persons, of course, will find statements from which they
dissent, sentiments disagreeable to them. But, where thought and
discussion are so free and the press so accessible as with us, no
one but a bigot will esteem this a ground of complaint. May all
such passages be charitably perused, fairly weighed, and, if
unsound, honorably refuted! If the work be not animated with a
mean or false spirit, but be catholic and kindly, if it be not
superficial and pretentious, but be marked by patience and
thoroughness, is it too much to hope that no critic will assail it
with wholesale condemnation simply because in some parts of it
there are opinions which he dislikes? One dispassionate argument
is more valuable than a shower of missile names. The most vehement
revulsion from a doctrine is not inconsistent, in a Christian
mind, with the sweetest kindness of feeling towards the persons
who hold that doctrine. Earnest theological debate may be carried
on without the slightest touch of ungenerous personality. Who but
must feel the pathos and admire the charity of these eloquent
words of Henry Giles?

"Every deep and reflective nature looking intently 'before and
after,' looking above, around, beneath, and finding silence and
mystery to all his questionings of the Infinite, cannot but
conceive of existence as a boundless problem, perhaps an
inevitable darkness between the limitations of man and the
incomprehensibility of God. A nature that so reflects, that
carries into this sublime and boundless obscurity 'the large
discourse of Reason,' will not narrow its concern in the solution
of the problem to its own petty safety, but will brood over it
with an anxiety which throbs for the whole of humanity. Such a
nature must needs be serious; but never will it be arrogant: it
will regard all men with an embracing pity. Strange it should ever
be otherwise in respect to inquiries which belong to infinite
relations, that mean enmities, bitter hatreds, should come into
play in these fathomless searchings of the soul! Bring what
solution we may to this problem of measureless alternatives,
whether by Reason, Scripture, or the Church, faith will never
stand for fact, nor the firmest confidence for actual
consciousness. The man of great and thoughtful nature, therefore,
who grapples in real earnest with this problem, however satisfied
he may be with his own solution of it, however implicit may be his
trust, however assured his convictions, will yet often bow down
before the awful veil that shrouds the endless future, put his
finger on his lips, and weep in silence."

The present work is in a sense, an epitome of the thought of
mankind on the destiny of man. I have striven to add value to it
by comprehensiveness of plan, not confining myself, as most of my
predecessors have confined themselves, to one province or a few
narrow provinces of the subject, but including the entire subject
in one volume; by carefulness of arrangement, not piling the
material together or presenting it in a chaos of facts and dreams,
but grouping it all in its proper relations; by clearness of
explanation, not leaving the curious problems presented wholly in
the dark with a mere statement of them, but as far as possible
tracing the phenomena to their origin and unveiling their purport;
by poetic life of treatment, not handling the different topics
dryly and coldly, but infusing warmth and color into them; by
copiousness of information, not leaving the reader to hunt up
every thing for himself, but referring him to the best sources for
the facts, reasonings, and hints which he may wish; and by
persevering patience of toil, not hastily skimming here and there
and hurrying the task off, but searching and researching in every
available direction, examining and re examining each mooted point,
by the devotion of twelve years of anxious labor. How far my
efforts in these particulars have been successful is submitted to
the public.

To avoid the appearance of pedantry in the multiplication of foot
notes, I have inserted many authorities incidentally in the text
itself, and have omitted all except such as I thought would be
desired by the reader. Every scholar knows how easy it is to
increase the number of references almost indefinitely, and also
how deceptive such an ostensible evidence of wide reading may be.

When the printing of this volume was nearly completed, and I had
in some instances made more references than may now seem needful,
the thought occurred to me that a full list of the books published
up to the present time on the subject of a future life, arranged
according to their definite topics and in chronological order,
would greatly enrich the work and could not fail often to be of
vast service. Accordingly, upon solicitation, a valued friend Mr.
Ezra Abbot, Jr., a gentleman remarkable for his varied and
accurate scholarship undertook that laborious task for me; and he
has accomplished it in the most admirable manner. No reader,
however learned, but may find much important information in the
bibliographical appendix which I am thus enabled to add to this
volume. Every student who henceforth wishes to investigate any
branch of the historical or philosophical doctrine of the
immortality of the soul, or of a future life in general, may thank
Mr. Abbot for an invaluable aid.

As I now close this long labor and send forth the result, the
oppressive sense of responsibility which fills me is relieved by
the consciousness that I have herein written nothing as a bigoted
partisan, nothing in a petty spirit of opinionativeness, but have
intended every thought for the furtherance of truth, the honor of
God, the good of man.

The majestic theme of our immortality allures yet baffles us. No
fleshly implement of logic or cunning tact of brain can reach to
the solution. That secret lies in a tissueless realm whereof no
nerve can report beforehand. We must wait a little. Soon we shall
grope and guess no more, but grasp and know. Meanwhile, shall we
not be magnanimous to forgive and help, diligent to study and
achieve, trustful and content to abide the invisible issue? In
some happier age, when the human race shall have forgotten, in
philanthropic ministries and spiritual worship, the bigotries and
dissensions of sentiment and thought, they may recover, in its
all embracing unity, that garment of truth which God made
originally "seamless as the firmament," now for so long a time
torn in shreds by hating schismatics. Oh, when shall we learn that
a loving pity, a filial faith, a patient modesty, best become us
and fit our state? The pedantic sciolist, prating of his clear
explanations of the mysteries of life, is as far from feeling the
truth of the case as an ape, seated on the starry summit of the
dome of night, chattering with glee over the awful prospect of
infinitude. What ordinary tongue shall dare to vociferate
egotistic dogmatisms where an inspired apostle whispers, with
reverential reserve, "We see through a glass darkly"? There are
three things, said an old monkish chronicler, which often make me
sad. First, that I know I must die; second, that I know not when;
third, that I am ignorant where I shall then be.

"Est primum durum quod scio me moriturum: Secundum, timeo quia hoc
nescio quando: Hine tertium, flebo quod nescio ubi manebo."

Man is the lonely and sublime Columbus of the creation, who,
wandering on this cloudy strand of time, sees drifted waifs and
strange portents borne far from an unknown somewhere, causing him
to believe in another world. Comes not death as a means to bear
him thither? Accordingly as hope rests in heaven, fear shudders at
hell, or doubt faces the dark transition, the future life is a
sweet reliance, a terrible certainty, or a pathetic perhaps. But
living in the present in the humble and loving discharge of its
duties, our souls harmonized with its conditions though aspiring
beyond them, why should we ever despair or be troubled overmuch?
Have we not eternity in our thought, infinitude in our view, and
God for our guide?


CONTENTS


Part First.

HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL INTRODUCTORY VIEWS.

CHAPTER I.

THEORIES OF THE SOUL'S ORIGIN

CHAPTER II.

HISTORY OF DEATH

CHAPTER III.

GROUNDS OF THE BELIEF IN A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER IV.

THEORIES OF THE SOUL'S DESTINATION

Part Second.

ETHNIC THOUGHTS CONCERNING A FUTURE LIFE.

CHAPTER I.

BARBARIAN NOTIONS OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER II.

DRUIDIC DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER III.

SCANDINAVIAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER IV.

ETRUSCAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER V.

EGYPTIAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VI.

BRAMANIC AND BUDDHIST DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VII.

PERSIAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VIII.

HEBREW DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER IX.

RABBINICAL DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER X.

GREEK AND DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER XI.

MOHAMMEDAN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER XII.

EXPLANATORY SURVEY OF THE FIELD AND ITS MYTHS

Part Third.

NEW TESTAMENT TEACHINGS CONCERNING A FUTURE LIFE.

CHAPTER I.

PETER'S DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER II.

DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS

CHAPTER III.

DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE IN THE APOCALYPSE

CHAPTER IV.

PAUL'S DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER V.

JOHN'S DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VI.

CHRIST'S TEACHINGS CONCERNING THE FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VII.

RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

CHAPTER VIII.

ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF DEATH AND LIFE

Part Fourth.

CHRISTIAN THOUGHTS CONCERNING A FUTURE LIFE.

CHAPTER I.

PATRISTIC DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER II.

MEDIAVAL DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER III.

MODERN DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

Part Fifth.

HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL DISSERTATIONS CONCERNING A FUTURE LIFE.

CHAPTER I.

DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE IN THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES

CHAPTER II.

METEMPSYCHOIS; OR, TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS

CHAPTER III.

RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH

CHAPTER IV.

DOCTRINE OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT; OR, CRITICAL HISTORY OF THE IDEA OF
A HELL

CHAPTER V.

THE FIVE THEORETIC MODES OF SALVATION

CHAPTER VI.

RECOGNITION OF FRIENDS IN A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER VII.

LOCAL FATE OF MAN IN THE ASTRONOMIC UNIVERSE

CHAPTER VIII.

CRITICAL HISTORY OF DISBELIEF IN A FUTURE LIFE

CHAPTER IX.

MORALITY OF THE DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE

Part Sixth.

SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTERS.

CHAPTER I.

THE END OF THE WORLD

CHAPTER II.

THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

CHAPTER III.

THE MYTHOLOGICAL HELL AND THE TRUE ONE; OR, THE LAW OF PERDITION

CHAPTER IV.

THE GATES OF HEAVEN; OR, THE LAW OF SALVATION IN ALL WORLDS

CHAPTER V.

RESUME OF THE SUBJECT: HOW THE QUESTION OF IMMORTALITY NOW STANDS

CHAPTER VI.

THE TRANSIENT AND THE PERMANENT IN THE DESTINY OF THE SOUL

PART FIRST.


HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL INTRODUCTORY VIEWS.

CHAPTER I.

THEORIES OF THE SOUL'S ORIGIN.

PAUSING, in a thoughtful hour, on that mount of observation whence
the whole prospect of life is visible, what a solemn vision greets
us! We see the vast procession of existence flitting across the
landscape, from the shrouded ocean of birth, over the illuminated
continent of experience, to the shrouded ocean of death. Who can
linger there and listen, unmoved, to the sublime lament of things
that die? Although the great exhibition below endures, yet it is
made up of changes, and the spectators shift as often. Each rank
of the host, as it advances from the mists of its commencing
career, wears a smile caught from the morning light of hope, but,
as it draws near to the fatal bourne, takes on a mournful cast
from the shadows of the unknown realm. The places we occupy were
not vacant before we came, and will not be deserted when we go,
but are forever filling and emptying afresh.

"Still to every draught of vital breath
Renew'd throughout the bounds of earth and ocean,
The melancholy gates of death
Respond with sympathetic motion."

We appear, there is a short flutter of joys and pains, a bright
glimmer of smiles and tears, and we are gone. But whence did we
come? And whither do we go? Can human thought divine the answer?

It adds no little solemnity and pathos to these reflections to
remember that every considerate person in the unnumbered
successions that have preceded us, has, in his turn, confronted
the same facts, engaged in the same inquiry, and been swept from
his attempts at a theoretic solution of the problem into the real
solution itself, while the constant refrain in the song of
existence sounded behind him, "One generation passeth away, and
another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever." The
evanescent phenomena, the tragic plot and scenery of human birth,
action, and death, conceived on the scale of reality, clothed in

"The sober coloring taken from an eye That hath kept watch o'er
man's mortality,"

and viewed in a susceptible spirit, are, indeed, overwhelmingly
impressive. They invoke the intellect to its most piercing
thoughts. They swell the heart to its utmost capacity of emotion.
They bring us upon the bended knees of wonder and prayer.

"Between two worlds life hovers, like a star'
Twixt night and morn upon the horizon's verge.
How little do we know that which we are!
How less what we may be! The eternal surge
Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar
Our bubbles: as the old burst, new emerge,
Lash'd from the foam of ages: while the graves
Of empires heave but like some passing waves."

Widely regarding the history of human life from the beginning,
what a visionary spectacle it is! How miraculously permanent in
the whole! how sorrowfully ephemeral in the parts! What pathetic
sentiments it awakens! Amidst what awful mysteries it hangs! The
subject of the derivation of the soul has been copiously discussed
by hundreds of philosophers, physicians, and poets, from Vyasa to
Des Cartes, from Galen to Ennemoser, from Orpheus to Henry More,
from Aristotle to Frohschammer. German literature during the last
hundred years has teemed with works treating of this question from
various points of view. The present chapter will present a sketch
of these various speculations concerning the commencement and
fortunes of man ere his appearance on the stage of this world.

The first theory to account for the origin of souls is that of
emanation. This is the analogical theory, constructed from the
results of sensible observation. There is, it says, one infinite
Being, and all finite spirits are portions of his substance,
existing a while as separate individuals, and then reassimilated
into the general soul. This form of faith, asserting the efflux of
all subordinate existence out of one Supreme Being, seems
sometimes to rest on an intuitive idea. It is spontaneously
suggested whenever man confronts the phenomena of creation with
reflective observation, and ponders the eternal round of birth and
death. Accordingly, we find traces of this belief all over the
world; from the ancient Hindu metaphysics whose fundamental
postulate is that the necessary life of God is one constant
process of radiation and resorption, "letting out and drawing in,"
to that modern English poetry which apostrophizes the glad and
winsome child as

"A silver stream
Breaking with laughter from the lake Divine
Whence all things flow."

The conception that souls are emanations from God is the most
obvious way of accounting for the prominent facts that salute our
inquiries. It plausibly answers some natural questions, and boldly
eludes others. For instance, to the early student demanding the
cause of the mysterious distinctions between mind and body, it
says, the one belongs to the system of passive matter, the other
comes from the living Fashioner of the Universe. Again: this
theory relieves us from the burden that perplexes the finite mind
when it seeks to understand how the course of nature, the
succession of lives, can be absolutely eternal without involving
an alternating or circular movement. The doctrine of emanation
has, moreover, been supported by the supposed analytic similarity
of the soul to God. Its freedom, consciousness, intelligence,
love, correspond with what we regard as the attributes and essence
of Deity. The inference, however unsound, is immediate, that souls
are consubstantial with God, dissevered fragments of Him, sent
into bodies. But, in actual effect, the chief recommendation of
this view has probably been the variety of analogies and images
under which it admits of presentation. The annual developments of
vegetable life from the bosom of the earth, drops taken from a
fountain and retaining its properties in their removal, the
separation of the air into distinct breaths, the soil into
individual atoms, the utterance of a tone gradually dying away in
reverberated echoes, the radiation of beams from a central light,
the exhalation of particles of moisture from the ocean, the



Online LibraryWilliam Rounseville AlgerThe destiny of the soul. A critical history of the doctrine of a future life → online text (page 1 of 96)