Spiritualism in the Evolution of Philosophy  by Ernest Thompson


Chapter III

Swedenborg’s Scientific Philosophy

When each new age or epoch is born, it contains the seed of its successor. The 17th century epoch of Newtonian and Baconian Materialism also produced the forerunner of Spiritualism, a Movement that was later inaugurated to overcome Materialism. Isaac Newton (1642-1727) had originated his Theory of Gravitation in 1666. In 1710, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, symbol of the power of the Church, had just been completed. In that same year Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), a young Swedish scientist had come to London to study Newtonian physics. He was destined to become the St John of Spiritualism. Eventually he became one of Sweden’s famous scientists. He was an authority on physics, metallurgy, mining, astronomy, zoology and anatomy. Early spiritual influences were Protestant in character. His father was, in fact, a bishop of the Swedish Church. His first writings were purely of a scientific nature and it was not until 1734, at the age of 46, that he turned his attention to philosophical speculations. These were naturally based upon a very sound and rational basis, for by that time he had acquired an extraordinarily wide knowledge of natural science.

The Soul is Sublimated Matter

In his Principia, the first part of his Opera Philosophica et Mineralia he postulated a theory concerning the origin of things, and propounded the nebular hypothesis many years before Kant, Herschel and Laplace. It is interesting in this connection to note that the nebular hypothesis has recently been revised. Then followed the Economy of the Animal Kingdom and The Animal Kingdom. The Latin title of this latter book was Regnum Animale, which really means the kingdom of the soul.

In this book he strove to fathom the mystery of the human soul and its relationship to the body. He believed that the soul, or vital principle, was closely associated with the blood, which he “regarded as the purest of the organs of the body and the most exquisitely adapted for the reception of life.” He was certain that the soul was a sublimated form of matter. At this point he came into conflict with Orthodoxy which criticised these peering into spiritual mysteries. He replied by saying that he would not “persuade anyone who comprehends these high truths by faith, to comprehend them by his intellect; let him abstain from my books... But these pages of mine are written with a view to those only who never believe anything but what they can receive with the intellect, consequently who boldly invalidate, and are fain to deny, the existence of all supereminent things, sublimer than themselves, as the soul itself, and what follows therefrom - its life, immortality, heaven, etc...” He was already writing for the new age of scientific and materialistic minds, leading them to God “by the analytic method.”

Body and Soul

At this point he also came into conflict with the materialistic philosophers. “I know it will be whispered in my ear by many of the most accomplished philosophers of the day, that it is vain and useless to enter the recesses and interiors of the human body, with a view of arriving at the soul... But these arguments may be met by a few opposite ones. Inasmuch as the soul is the model, the idea, the first form, the substance, the force, and the principle of her organic


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body, and of all its forces and powers; or, what amounts to the same thing, as the organic body is the image and type of its soul, formed and principled to the whole nature of the soul’s efficiency, it follows, that the one is represented in the other, if not exactly, yet quite sufficiently to the life... Thus, by the body, we are instructed respecting the soul; by the soul respecting the body; and by both respecting the truth of the whole.” His researches led him to the conclusion that the centre of the soul’s activity is the brain, which, receiving impressions from outward things, originated conceptions. These “put on rational forms, and became intellectual Ideas...”

“There is in the cerebrum an eminent sensorium, and intimate recesses therein wither the sensuous rays of the body ascend, and where they can mount no further; there the soul resides, clad in the noble garment of organisation, and sits to meet the ideas emerging thither, and receives them as guests. This high and noble place is the innermost sensorium, and it is the boundary at which the ascent of the life of the body ceases, and the boundary from which that of the soul, considered as a spiritual essence, begins.”

Higher and Lower Truths

Whilst he was a student of Newton in physics, we note in his philosophical realism the influence of Bacon. Dr Wilkinson, in his introduction to the economy, calls Swedenborg the “Synthesis of Aristotle and Bacon... The ascending method of Bacon and the descending one of Aristotle,” he says, “are in fact both realised by Swedenborg.” He combined “the inductive and synthetic methods.” J D Morell wrote: “Commencing by observation, his mind seized upon certain high philosophical axioms; and from them reasoned downwards to the nature and uses of particular objects. Perhaps it is the only attempt the world has seen (with the exception of the unsuccessful efforts of Comte) at rising upward to purely philosophical ideas from positive and concrete facts.” Swedenborg contended that higher truth came through intuition whilst the lower truth came through the senses. “These... are so widely separated, that they cannot possibly come together without some uniting medium. Our rational mind is the uniting medium, where mystic meetings are carried on, and sacred covenants ratified... Now since worldly things flow into it from the lowest sphere, through the gates of the senses, and heavenly things from the highest, through the portal of the soul, hence it is the true centre of the universe... We are organic subjects through which the lowest things ascend, and the highest descend; and human minds are the very receiving-rooms of both these guests.”

Naturalistic Morality

He was the first to attempt to harmonise science and religion. “It is then futile to assert that philosophy is not connected with theology; since the contrary is demonstrated by Swedenborg as fairly as any law of matter is demonstrated by Newton. For Swedenborg took facts representing integral nature, and investigated them, and the order and mechanism of structure, and the pervading use or function was found to be such as in every case to furnish truths relating to the moral or social existence of man... Nature... Is the mechanism or means of which truth and good are the end.” Introduction by the editor of Economy of the Animal Kingdom. In The Worship and Love of God he gave an account of his conception of creation. After describing the birth of the earth, from the nebulous ring around the sun, he tells of how its surface contained the seeds of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom. “These seeds or beginnings lay as yet unseparated in the rudiments, one folded up in another, namely, the vegetable kingdom in the mineral kingdom, which was to be the matrix; and in the vegetable kingdom, which was to serve as a nurse or nourisher, the animal kingdom; for each afterwards


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was to come forth distinctly from its coverings. Thus the present contained the past, and what was to come lay concealed in each, for one thing involved another in a continual series; by which means this earth from its continued auspices, was perpetually in a kind of birth.” These creations however were all manifestations of God, who is the essential substance, and who has always existed. “It is impossible to exist from what has no being, and out of nothing, nothing can be made.”

In regard to mankind, “We really here live and walk as little universes, and carry both heaven and the world, consequently the kingdom of God, in ourselves.” The transition from the scientific philosopher to the Spiritualist Seer was now imminent.


Swedenborg’s life was divided into two periods, the first of which was devoted to science and philosophy; the second part (thirty years) has been described as “the opening of his spiritual sight.” Swedenborg’s intercourse with the spiritual world commenced in April 1745, when he was fifty-seven. He had already enjoyed a very full and rich life of experiences, had become a famous scientist and philosopher, and nobility had been bestowed upon him, in recognition of his work, by the Queen of Sweden. No one was better fitted to interpret intelligently the spiritual universe, which he was now to explore. His Spiritualist writings were therefore executed with an unimpassioned scientific and philosophical approach and he was thus able to proclaim to the world, in a most convincing way, that survival after death, in a spiritual world, was a law of nature. “To Swedenborg,” wrote F W H Myers, “belongs the first emphatic announcement that this life and the next one are morally continuous.” For nearly thirty years he held daily converse with the spirits of those who had departed this life, and was often privileged to consciously visit the Spirit World and converse as freely with its inhabitants as with incarnate human beings. It was from these experiences that he was able to present, particularly in his most famous book, Heaven and Hell, a complete picture of life after death.

Swedenborg has given to man a great revelation and teaching of the nature of life in the spiritual world and of the universality of Divine Providence. He does not however propound these teachings as his own, but constantly affirms that he wrote under the direction and guidance of the Lord, describing himself humbly as the “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I think that this claim that Jesus was his Spirit Guide can be accepted in the light of modern Spiritualist knowledge and teachings, and provides a spiritual link with the ancient order of psychic prophets known as the Order of Melchisedek in the following order - Melchisedek, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus and Swedenborg. Each one became the spiritual guide of the succeeding one.

Bible Interpreted

In 1749, appeared the first volume of his Arcana Caelestia in which we note philosophical speculation giving place to confident statements regarding spiritual matters. He had become a Spiritualist, for his spiritual ideas were now based on psychic facts and personal experience of the hereafter. “It has been permitted me to hear and see things in another life which are astonishing, and which have never before come to the knowledge of any man, nor entered into his imagination. I have there been instructed concerning different kinds of spirits, and the state of souls after death, - concerning hell, or the lamentable state of the unfaithful, - concerning heaven or the most happy state of the faithful, - and particularly concerning the doctrine of faith which is acknowledged throughout all heaven.”


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Arcana Caelestia is a spiritualistic interpretation of Genesis and Exodus, in twelve volumes. Swedenborg came to London in 1748 to publish them. He spent, on various visits, over five years of his life in London.

Divine Love and Wisdom

Swedenborg insisted that the intellect should not be subordinated to faith. He proclaimed the need for the exercise of reason in spiritual matters as in other matters, and thus enlarged man’s conception of God and his own destiny. His ethics were summarised in the words, “doing good to our neighbour daily and continually, not only to our neighbour individually, but to our neighbour collectively... In whatever office, business or employment he is engaged and with whomsoever he has any connection.” He was the prophet of the coming age of collectivisation in cities, factories and offices. To do good for the sake of reward however, was to negate any merit in the act. The truly charitable “place no merit in their works, for they never think of merit, but only of their duty, which as good citizens they are bound to perform.”

True Christian Religion

The fundamental principle of Swedenborg’s philosophy is the substantial reality of spiritual things. He attributed this reality to Love and Wisdom. “The truth is that love and wisdom are the real and actual substance and form which constitute the subject itself. The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom are Substance and Form in itself, thus Very Reality and the One Only Realty.” - Divine love and Wisdom. All things therefore derive their being and nature from God the “One Only Substance.”

Immanent Conception of God

Here we note the origin of the modern spiritualistic conception of the immanent, Supreme Spirit, which was later passed on from him, in spirit, to Andrew Jackson Davis. “Every one who thinks from clear reason sees that the universe was not created out of nothing, because he sees that it is impossible for anything to be made out of nothing... God alone is substance in itself, and thence very esse; it is evident that the existence of things has no other source.” - Divine love and wisdom. God is a Spirit. “Nothing in nature exists except from a spiritual origin... The essence from which it exists is the spiritual, because this has in itself the Divine esse, and also the Divine power of acting, creating and forming.” Apocalypse explained. Swedenborg was consistent with his idea of eternity and did not invent a beginning. Creation was eternally continuous; the spiritual being the cause, and nature the effect.

Doctrine of Correspondence

This was the basis of his great doctrine of “correspondences,” the natural world being a corresponding image of the spiritual world. The Divine Spirit, as it expresses itself, is received according to the state and capacity of matter, and thereby presents infinite variety God however, although all powerful, does not operate arbitrarily, but by law, and it is part of the Divine law that man shall be free in spiritual matters. Man is placed between forces, some of which are good and some bad, and with his wisdom he is able to choose between them. His science of correspondences was created to enable man to understand the inner reality of creation and existence. There was a correspondence between the spiritual and the material, and also between God and man. Man is a microcosm - a universe in miniature. As God’s


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Spirit rules the universe, so also man’s spirit rules his body. The light of Heaven is wisdom and its heart is love. Light and darkness correspond with truth and error. Light is man’s universal symbol of truth. Jesus was the light of the world.

Heaven and Hell

On the subject of survival after death Swedenborg tells us that “when the soul thus separates himself, he is received by good spirits, who likewise do him all kind offices whilst he is in consort with them. If, however, his life in the world were such that he cannot remain associated with the good, he seeks to be disunited from them also, and this separation is repeated again and again until he associates himself with those whose state entirely agrees with that of his former life in the world, among whom he finds, as it were, his own life. They then, wonderful to relate, live together a life of similar quality to that which had constituted their ruling delight, when in the body. On returning into this life, which appears to them as a new commencement of existence, some after a longer, and others after a shorter space of time, are carried thence towards hell; whilst such as have been principled in faith towards the Lord, are led by degrees from this new beginning of life to heaven.” - Arcana Caelestia.

On the nature of heavenly existence he states that heavenly joy “is the delight of doing something that is of use to oneself and others; and the delight of use derives its essence from love and its existence from wisdom. The delight of use, originating in love through wisdom, is the soul of all heavenly joy.” - Conjugal Love.

Conjugal love

He pointed out how death does not alter either man or woman. Both keep their contrasting and complimentary natures. Sex is not altered for it is not merely a bodily distinction; “the mutual and reciprocal love of the sex remains with human beings after death... Now since conjugal love is the fundamental love of all good loves, it follows that the delights of that love exceed the delights of all other loves... The reason why all delights, from primes to ultimates are collected into this love, is on account of the surpassing excellence of its use; its use is the propagation of the human race, and hence of the angelic heaven; and as this use was the end of ends of creation, it follows that all the blessedness, blissfulnesses, delights, joys, and pleasures, which could possibly be conferred upon man by the Lord the Creator, are collected into this his love.” - Conjugal love. In most respects heavenly life resembles earth life. There are people and buildings, flowers and trees, mountains and rivers, animals and birds. There are work and play, struggles and triumphs, and as life evolves existence becomes more refined, joyous and beautiful. In all this the spiritual impulses are love and wisdom.


The nineteenth century was described by Alfred Russel Wallace as ‘The Wonderful Century.’ Man’s achievements in this period outshone all his triumphs in former centuries. Modern science had given birth to mighty industries which soon over-produced the demands of the world’s markets. Man with his new knowledge conquered the world and completely subdued nature to his needs. This new knowledge however, not only changed his material life but also his spiritual life. He began to realise that his knowledge of nature’s laws and processes contradicted the relationship, which the Church preached as existing between God and His creations. In fact the hypothesis of a God became unnecessary. Nature was but the


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manifestation of blind forces, and so gradually the philosophy of Modern Materialism, based largely on Darwin’s Origin of Species and Spencer’s First Principles became acceptable to an increasing number of people, and slowly the Church began to lose its influence over the masses. By the middle of the century the Church was regarded, by an important intelligent section of the community, as no longer a progressive force. It is true that for the greatest part of eighteen hundred years Christianity had fulfilled the historic role of changing the heart of man from that of a savage to a reasonably tolerant civilised person, but now, as that influence was losing its hold, it appeared that it was only a matter of time before man would become devoid of either spiritual guidance or spiritual standards.

New Revelation Needed

The scientific and industrial revolution had created a spiritual crisis in the affairs of man. A new revelation was therefore needed which would not contradict, but harmonise with man’s scientific knowledge. This was provided by Spiritualism which proclaimed a religious philosophy based on scientific research into psychical phenomena, and which proved the truth of human survival and communication with spirits, thus providing religion with a new and certain basis for its continued existence. The philosophy of Spiritualism originated from the combined efforts of Swedenborg, a scientist, who had passed to the Spirit World in 1772, and Andrew Jackson Davis, an American medium, who in 1844 began to communicate the new teachings from the spirit of Swedenborg, and later developed and extended them himself. These teachings became known as the Harmonial Philosophy of Modern Spiritualism. The writings of Andrew Jackson Davis filled thirty one volumes, the most important of which were The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations and The Great Harmonia, the latter appearing in five volumes.

The Great Harmonia was “A Philosophical Revelation of the Natural, Spiritual and Celestial Universe,” and formed the basis of the Harmonial Philosophy, which now filled the spiritual void that had been created by modern materialism and the incompetence of orthodox religion, and at the same time gave to the world the first great synthesis of science and religion.

A Scientific Conception of God

A belief in God has always been the fundamental principle of all religions. This belief had originated in ancestral ghost worship and later evolved into the idea of an external, almighty, though very human intelligence which, it was claimed, had created the universe and ruled it very much in the fashion of an earthly king ruling his kingdom. He governed in an arbitrary manner and when occasion demanded, joined forces with his followers, and helped to defeat their enemies; which no doubt he did, as Jehovah was obviously the ghost of a former tribal chief. The advent of modern science caused man to abandon these ideas; there was no evidence in modern times of such a deity. Science however, in revealing how the forces of the universe created and developed natural phenomena, opened the way to the acceptance of the idea that these forces could be regarded as a manifestation of God. Natural laws began to be regarded as the mode of existence of an indwelling Supreme Spirit. Was nature not the body of God, and its motion and life His Spirit? This was the conception of God which Spiritualism, through Andrew Jackson Davis, proclaimed to the world. “God scientific really considered is the greatest fact in the universe - He is the greatest principle - He is the greatest reality. God is, in this sense, the active or moving principle, and is different from nature in this one particular respect, that, while God is active and moving, nature is passive and moved. Inasmuch, therefore, as God is the greatest fact, and the greatest reality in being, it follows,


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from scientific principles, or from principles of scientific induction, that he is a fixed fact, a fixed reality.”

Hormonal Conception of God

In his Great Harmonia Davis describes God as “vitalising all things to the universal satisfaction of all things, and substantialising everything to the universal realisation of substances, God dwells in connection with all substances and elements, and individualises His motion, His life, His sensation, and His intelligence in them. Inasmuch as God is a fact, a reality, a principle, it is agreeable with science to suppose that He is substance - is matter. Being substance in and of Himself, and exerting an active and moving power continually in the empire of matter, it is reasonable to conclude that his attributes and elements are also matter or substance, and that they are apprehended, but not acknowledged as such by the superficial observer of objects and phenomena in external nature. Therefore, according to scientific principles, we are led to the legitimate conclusion that all the life of plants and animals, and all the phenomena of attraction, gravitation, and of the imponderable elements are referable to the active and moving principle called God.”

Infinite Intelligence

The harmonial conception of God however is not a mechanical philosophy. It claims that this supreme Spirit of nature has supreme intelligence, for it manifests according to law and order, and all nature demonstrates that its possibilities, organisation and development are infinite. “Science considers God in reference to things, effects, and phenomena, philosophy... as the great cause, around which infinite and universal effects congregate, and from which infinite effects proceed, and He appears as the great central source of all life and love, of all order and form, and as the sustainer and unfolder of all things - the magnificent universe! Beholding the infinite cause of all existences in His works, the mind is irresistibly persuaded to believe that God is an infinite organisation and intelligence. That He is an intelligent being is seen by what He does. The proofs are that all things flow into forms, series, degrees, and progressive organisations.”

Individuality of God

This God, this directing Spirit and organisation of the universe, can also be regarded as an individual on the same basis that the directing spirit and organisation of a human being is regarded as an individual. God’s Spirit is the consciousness of the universe just as man’s spirit is the consciousness of his being, and that is why Davis wrote, “God as a consciousness of personality,” but the word personality, when used in this sense, must be free of the limitations of human personality which are finite. God has an infinite personality for His nature has infinite possibilities. Without this conception of God as an individual, we cannot fully realise or become conscious of our part or share of that individuality. “As is our God, so are we. If He is apprehended as an organised principle, organised as the human soul is in its most interior principles; and if it is accepted that He operates according to eternally established laws or rules of action, which being in themselves so surpassingly righteous that they produce a kind of necessary freedom, or independence, and which rules cannot be violated with impunity - then will our Spirits bow with all the pleasure of an intellectual obedience to the laws or will of our father, and feel a beautiful freedom in the fact of moving in harmony with universal nature.” From this conception Spiritualists based their principle of the “Fatherhood of God.”


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In surveying the whole realm of universal nature one cannot help but be impressed with the high position occupied by man. Materialists explain this by stating that this has only come to pass because man survived more successfully than other species in the struggle for existence, and that at one time it was an even chance on insects ruling the world. Nevertheless it has been ordained that man shall rule the world, and the fact stands out clearly that the whole of nature is today at man’s command and subjected to his use. materialists will also point out that man is merely a parasite, and exists on the carcasses of other life which he kills in order to survive. There is however a higher aspect and deeper explanation of our dependency on other forms of life for existence. Our mode of subsistence is also a means whereby lower forms are absorbed to produce higher forms. In the struggle for existence higher forms have emerged, and this struggle has been the dynamic of progress. In general, plant forms have evolved by absorbing mineral forms, plants in turn have helped the procreation and development of animals, and animals of humans. These four main stages of evolution have had the human spiritual principle as an ultimate. Our great universe (it is all made of the same basic substance) seems specially adapted for the ultimate creation and maintenance of immortal human spirit.

Harmonial Philosophy is Evolutionary

The attitude of the Harmonial Philosophy in regard to man is an evolutionary one. Man is obviously, so far, the crowning effort of creative power, and all forces and manifestations of nature play direct or indirect parts in the production of this great masterpiece of creation. This is not an egotistical view, but quite a reasonable conclusion, which A J Davis sums up a follows. “First, the stupendous universe is organised for the ultimate purpose of developing and organising man. Secondly, the anatomical and psychological construction of man are designed to receive and elaborate the animating elements of nature into an immortal and endlessly progressive soul.” Man is the culmination of nature, and has power over nature. The vast spiral of ascending forms in creation strove to be man. Man is indeed an epitome of nature; energy and matter, plant and animal. Some argue that a man’s Spirit exists prior to the physical body but the Harmonial Philosophy teaches, on scientific grounds, that if the purpose of a material world is the elaboration and individualisation of the spiritual substance, man as an individual, cannot have existed prior to his birth here on earth. The potential man has, of course, always existed, but the actual man has not. Potential man has evolved through millions of years, under the direction of Eternal Spirit, through energies, gases, minerals, plants and animals. The potential human spirit has evolved as it has risen from lower to higher forms. Simple motions have become complex sensations, but matter has always been the vehicle of spirit, for spirit is the directing power, and matter the forming substance which has evolved into the human body.

Harmonial Health

Hence it will be seen how close is the relationship between spirit and body, and this relationship is most important form the point of view of health. It is common knowledge how the mind affects the body and vice versa. What a mighty power is faith in the recovery of health, for faith is will in action. “Perfect health,” wrote Davis, “is perfect harmony. By perfect health I do not merely mean that the stomach, or liver, or lungs, or other members of


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the structural brotherhood are free from disease, but I mean that state where the immortal spirit is circulating harmoniously through every organ, tissue, and ramification of the organism.” Illness is therefore a state of disharmony between spirit and body. This does not mean only mind and body, for the mind is merely the directing ego or nucleus of the spirit. Every part of the body is filled with the human spirit, and the human spirit directs the humblest operations of life in the numerous spheres of its organisation. “The internal spiritual principles must be correspondingly harmonious. In pure health, the spirit permeates, penetrates, and actuates, every particle in the human body,” and therefore “a truthful system of medical practice will be found to rest wholly upon a truthful recognition of the vibrating essence.” This spiritual moving principle acts magnetically upon the organism. “Magnetic action here means the galvanic action which begins at and with the brain, and thence expands in a corresponding manner throughout every department of the organism.” It will be seen therefore how this law lies at the basis of psychic healing.

Origin of Human Spirit

The Harmonial Philosophy is very illuminating regarding the wonderful function of the brain and its part in finally transforming human substances into human spirit. Pure spirit is of course simply the directing or moving principle. When this principle creates a ‘human Spirit’ it does so through the vehicle of a very refined and highly evolved substance, and it is the brain which acts as the crucible for the final refinement of matter for use as the vehicle of organised intelligence. “The brain is the most positive and superior stomach or digestive apparatus in the organism.” Gross matter is absorbed by the stomach and is passed through numerous refining processes so that “particles are refined and sublimated, far beyond the power of chemical instruments to detect, ere the brain or spirit receives, prepares and appropriates them to its own constitution.” Eventually the elements are so refined that they are absorbed into the “very organisation of mind or spirit itself. Thus we see that the spirit sustains and perpetuates itself upon the same principle of refinement and reciprocation as that by which the physical organs, nerves and muscles are rebuilt and actuated. But it may be asked - from what substances does the spirit draw its appropriate nourishment? I reply - the spirit not only draws from the food which enters the stomach, but from the electrical and magnetic elements which pervade all nature, - it draws from the atmosphere which enters the lungs; from the element of light which inspires the eye and permeates the system; it draws from the odours that penetrate the senses - in truth, the spirit draws from all nature, and appropriates to itself every particle which is capable of assimilating with its exalted organisation.”

Sleep and Death

Each day is like a little lifetime, at the end of which we grow weary and are glad when slumbers overtake us, but we go to sleep knowing that we will awaken again. So also after a full life, the aged grow tired and enter their last earthly sleep - also to awaken again - but in the glorious life of the spirit world. These sleeps are caused by the fatigue of our physical bodies, but the spirit of man never sleeps for it is endowed with eternal motion that never tires, so pure is its substance. One of the functions of the spirit in sleep is to keep life going in the body, but its highest function is digesting the spiritual experiences of the day. Sleep on a problem and it will often solve itself. Sometimes we can remember these spiritual processes and we call these remembrances dreams, but often the spirit travels far from the body in what is called the soul or etheric body. Sometimes these travels are on the earth plane and sometimes in the spirit world. It is in this spirit body or soul that the human spirit initially


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takes its leave of earthly life, and maintains its individuality in the Spirit World where, with his etheric senses, man is able to continue consciousness of his spiritual evolution. Man is therefore, on this earth plane, a triune individual, consisting of spirit, soul and body.


We have seen how man is part of God. He is not an isolated entity but a spirit, which is very much bound up with, and inter-related with all Spirit and all things. When he is born he comes into being bearing the spiritual and physical qualities of the family and race which produce him. His mental and bodily qualities have been laid down for him by millions of years of evolution, and he inherits strong and well-marked characteristics. He is placed upon the ladder of progress by his ancestors and parents, and finds himself in an environment which is not of his own choosing. In other words his beginning is completely determined for him, and from his first moment he becomes a spiritual focus of struggle between his inherited powers and his environment. His sphere of action is limited and conditioned from the commencement, but he can become conscious of his limitation, and in contrasting his own with other lives can desire progress. His capacity to compare and desire is however also limited by his degree of consciousness, but the fact that he is part of a greater spiritual process than himself which, while determining and fixing his start in life, can equally facilitate his development. Friends and ministering angels help even the helpless, and there are some alas, who are practically helpless. This is the function of “The Brotherhood of Man,” a principle which all people should uphold.

Determinism or Free Will?

The Harmonial Philosophy of A J Davis is definitely deterministic in its attitude, and holds that a man has not free will to do as he pleases. It is pointed out that free will implies immunity from the laws of cause and effect, which is a purely idealistic attitude, disregarding the real facts of life. This would reduce a world of law to one of chaos. The Harmonial Philosophy teaches that true freedom is found only in obedience to natural law, and that Spiritualism is essentially a teaching of that law. Natural law cannot be broken, but breaks those who disobey it. If a person upholds the principle of complete free will, he implies that no law can hold dominion over him. What actually happens is that our environment offers us certain alternatives, and our instincts offer several tendencies, and we can choose between them. There is a vast difference between choice and free will. The capacity for choosing is of course at first fixed, but the Harmonial Philosophy regards man as an evolving being whose consciousness expands, whose wisdom and loving attributes are constantly developing, and therefore whose power to govern his life and direct his progress is always increasing from experience and study. To Spiritualists, determinism is not mechanical and fixed, but a spiritual process in which the individual takes a constantly increasing share in the determining process. He evolves from being determined by his environment to the power of determining his environment. The former condition dominates earthly life, but the latter is the chief characteristic of spirit life when the faculty is developed to perfection.

Determinism is More Humane

The great spiritual value in the philosophy of determinism is that we can achieve a greater understanding in dealing with the outlaw, thief and murderer, who may have inherited strong


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tendencies to act in a criminal way. It also makes us realise that to apply punitive measures is wrong, and that the correct course is to apply remedial ones. Surely it is wrong to hang a man, whose inherited animal instincts have been so strong that he cannot help committing murder? What is required is mental adjustment and healing. Punishment is contrary to natural law for nature never punishes; there is simply cause and effect. Any suffering which emerges is really remedial and in the end benefits the whole.

It will be seen therefore that determinism is more humane than the free will doctrine. Further, moral standards are constantly changing and all we can expect from members of society is to try and live up to current moral standards. This is where the principle “Personal Responsibility” operates. It is very important however, to remember always that an individual is not an isolated phenomenon of nature, but is part of and shares in, the well being or distress of all nature, especially human nature. This should be particularly borne in mind in the times of natural calamities and war. For this reason the Harmonial Philosophy, which is realistic, does not involve idealistic contradictions with facts.

Love and Wisdom

In regard to the relationship between the individual and society, Davis wrote, “individuals by a combination of their constitutional tendencies and impulses, develop families, societies, nations, and circumstances. These same individuals become the victims of their own developments, and consequently they bear the impress of those circumstances, customs, opinions, and superficialities, which they were instrumental in establishing among men. Individuals not only create and develop, but in their ignorance become the victims of the conditions of one another.” Ignorance is the root of all evil, but it is clear that man in his evolution is proceeding from states of ignorance to states of enlightenment. He is not falling but rising, and is overcoming ignorance with love and wisdom, “love is found to be the parent or residence of all those feelings and impulses and sentiments which characterise the spirit in its three fold external connection with nature, with society, and with nations. And wisdom is ascertained to be the parental fount of all form and order, beauty and precision, which environ the intelligent individual, and which are the natural companions of erudition. In this philosophy of the human soul, it is well to remember that Will is considered more as an effect of a class of faculties than as a. faculty by itself; hence, that it is manifested only when love, unguided or guided by wisdom, as the case may be, prompts the individual to action, emotion, or determination of purpose.”


In the Harmonial Philosophy, love is regarded as an omnipresent actuating principle in all things; the union of atoms in a molecule, the bonds between a man and woman, and the brotherhood of all peoples. Love is the life of God. Wisdom is the governing principle in the direction of self, family, nation, world and universe. There is an evolution from self-love and ignorance to universal love and wisdom. “In everything and everywhere is manifested an indwelling principle of life and motion, which is love; and over all things there seems to preside a governing principle which is wisdom. Harmony is the most perfect form and highest manifestation of all attributes of wisdom; it is the guardian angel of universal-love; and its mission is to teach that proper organisation, cultivation, and direction of the innate elements of the soul, will result in the unfolding of a useful, a just, a powerful, a beautiful, an aspiring and a harmonious individual.”


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The fundamental characteristic of all life is that it struggles to maintain existence. Man has an innate love of life, and uses every device to preserve himself. The fear of death has always been his greatest dread and that is why his greatest hope has been immortality. To civilised man immortality means something more than mere continuous existence, it is the prospect of continuous evolution and progress towards greater works, vocations and pleasures.

To the majority of people however, the prospect of a life after death is still a vague hope wrapped up in orthodox faiths; but to Spiritualists, who have received undeniable proof of the continued existence of those whom they once knew in the body, life after death is not only a certainty, but an assurance that “Eternal progress is open to every human soul.” Now the fact that we survive this material life is no proof that we survive eternally, but it does give us some assurance that, if we can survive one death, we shall continue to exist after further changes have taken place. Andrew Jackson Davis, in his Harmonial Philosophy, endeavours by an intelligent interrogation of nature, to reveal those life principles which indicate that immortality is indeed the natural destiny of the human spirit.

Divine Vital Principle

In the first place, matter and spirit are regarded as the dual manifestation of one universal substance or God (or Eddington’s ‘Mind Stuff’). According to the laws of modern science this substance could not have been created out of a void, for astronomy and physics reveal that it has always existed. The eternal nature of the universe is supported by the First Law of Thermo-dynamics (the Conservation of Energy); the Second Law (Entropy) can only be applied to a given stellar body; therefore a beginning and an ending of things is illogical and has no support in scientific knowledge. Davis’ first postulate is a universal and eternal “Divine Vital Principle” which gives movement and life to all natural phenomena. It is energy, law, love, wisdom, and everything else which nature and human nature manifests. It is present in all things, infinite in operation, and dual in nature, for everything is generated and regulated upon the fundamental law of positive and negative, “by and through the unitary operation of these reciprocal mate and female principles.” His next proposition is: “What is usually termed inert matter contains not only all form but also all force; that inorganic substance clasps and embraces the essential principles of both shape and vitality - the laws of both body and soul - and therefore, also, the power to construct them, and the nutrition wherewith to nourish them.”

New Bodies for Old

After explaining the evolution of stellar bodies and the cooling of the earth, he deals with the origin of life within the chemical actions, which eventually produced the first forms of life. “These electromagnetic beds of gelatinous matter contained the first germs of life out of which all nature awoke from the profound solitude of countless ages of inanimation.” He then traces the evolution of man and explains the evolution of his triune nature. “As the physical body is the fruit of vitalised matter, so is the spiritual body the fruit of its vitalised exterior. This spiritual embodiment evolves and perfects the spirit, not in essence, but merely in form and organisation.” The essence of spirit or pure spirit is the activating Spirit of God, man being merely an individualised expression or unit of this spirit; in short the spirit of man and the eternal Spirit of God are one, and therefore share divine and eternal characteristics. Jung’s


Ernest Thompson MSNU

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depth psychology has indicated that the entire past is recorded in the subconscious. The germ of our immortal nature is of the Spirit and not of the body. Our bodies change and evolve, new bodies replace old bodies, the etheric survives the material, but the spirit is never replaced for it is part of the immortal principle of God. Its manifestation is always changing, but the principle is an unalterable and eternal law. The spiritual principle however is always embodies in some form of substance in which it is able to organise nature. Within each given form there is constantly being evolved and refined a more perfect form, for the spirit, after a period of development, suffers a contradiction between its old external form, which becomes unsuitable for further progress, and its more refined and higher vibrations. This contradiction is resolved by the death of the old external body and rebirth in the new more etherealised internal body.

The Spirit’s Internal Affinities

His final proposition is that “the mind’s internal affinities are inter-cohesive and stronger than all extrinsic attractions.” The evidence provided by Spiritualism, of the survival of the human spirit, gives proof that the mind’s “internal affinities” are stronger than all “extrinsic attractions” of physical nature. “The foundation of this argument,” Davis continues, “is that the human soul is the focalised, concentrated action or epitome of all forces and vitalic laws which fill, inspire and actuate the immeasurable empire of nature and God.

If it were otherwise, if we should discover outside of the soul, a single force, essence, property, or quality not to be found in man, we would in that moment also discover a fatal defect in the foundation of our whole superstructural evidence, that man’s interior personality will survive and outride unchanged the perpetual destruction and construction of physical forms. If man is not the summit of a proper proportion of all known and unknown forces, if he is not a concentrated inter-affinitised combination of all that exists essentially outside of his soul and spirit, then the time will come when an attraction, somewhere beyond his own interdependent centre, will dominate and separate those elements which constitute his present individuality. But methinks it has been definitely shown that man’s soul is a repository; and that when man knows himself, he has found a treasure opulent with all things ultimated. Firmly standing on this incontestable ground, I affirm that the soul of man (including the spirit) possesses internal and self-tending affinities stronger and more positive than any that are external; in a word, that there is no attraction, outside of men, superior in strength to that which pervades and prevails within.”

Origin of Spirit World

Finally, after stating his theory of immortality Davis proceeds to describe, from his own personal experiences, observations and proofs, where the spirit of man continues to live after he has survived the change called death. We have seen how various kingdoms have evolved in the development of Spirit; energy, gas, liquid, and matter; cell, plant, animal and human; so also have innumerable more advanced and refined kingdoms come into being beyond the material sphere of universal evolution. In one ascending octave of the eternal spiral of evolution, fine cosmic mists have been transformed into solid human bodies. In the next spiral we note a return to more refined states of existence. “The Spirit World is developed by a reverse complementary action of the ‘materialising’ process.”

“The spiritualising process must repeat on a higher scale, in reverse order, the cycle of the career of world building, because action and reaction are equal. The Spirit world is made up


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of the aggregate emanations, in zonal forms, of all the teeming planets of one great circle of suns, each one of which contributes its quota of spiritualised elements. The earth as it revolves through space, becomes more dense; its inner life flowing from it; where does it go? Out into space like an aura.” This is in complete harmony with Einstein’s Victor Field Theory. “It is a process of eliminating what you call ‘matter’ into spirit, unfolding its powers and qualities, and making it real, substantial, perfect, and beautiful hence, the relation between the Spirit world and this earth, or other earth, that are peopled or unpeopled, must be first an elemental relation.” He concludes by describing the appearance of the Spirit world, the difference in the various spheres, the mode of travel by will-power, and how social life is governed by the law of affinity, of interests, development and refinement, and how all the facts point to the eternal progress of the human spirit in these infinite realms of spiritual existence.

Chapter 4 Modern Spiritualist Philosophy