Spirit Teachings thought The Mediumship of William Stainton Moses



[On Aug. 26th, 1873, I had been reading over previous communications, and had thought much about the symbolic nature of spirit utterances. I had wondered whether we erred in being too literal in their interpretation. I put the question, and was told that I was in no fit state for communing. This is one instance out of many where the difficulty of communication was apparent. I was told to refresh myself. The day was rainy, dreary, and comfortless. I was below par, and in a strange place, being from home on a visit. I did as I was bid, and then it was written, at first with pain and slowly, then more easily:—]


The conditions, though still unfavourable, are better. You would be well advised to prepare yourself always, both mentally and bodily, for communion. As we have before said that we cannot operate when the body is overloaded with food, so now we say, that a system depressed and weak is not favourable for our purposes. We do not advocate the depression of the vital powers by neglect of due food any more than we countenance gluttony and drunkenness. We preach the mean in all things where it is knowable. Asceticism and self-indulgence are the extremes which are evil in their results. That is the mean for each which leaves the bodily powers in perfect play whilst it leaves the mental faculties unclouded and unexcited. A clear, active, undepressed yet unexcited mind we ask for, and a body whose powers are vigorous and neither in excess nor defect of their capacity. Each man might do much, by the exercise of a judicious self-control, to render himself better fitted both for his work on earth, and also for receiving instruction from those who are sent to minister to him. The habits of daily life are frequently unwise, and lead to a diseased state of body and mind. We lay down no rule beyond the general one of care and moderation. We can only tell what suits individual wants by being brought into personal contact. Each must learn to settle for himself what is best for him.


It is part of our mission to teach the religion of the body as well as of the soul. We proclaim to you, and to all, that the due care of the body is an essential prerequisite to the progress of the soul. So long as spirit is prisoned in the earth body through the avenues of which it finds its expression on the plane of matter, it is essential that you care intelligently for that body, lest it react on the spirit and affect it injuriously. Yet it is only in rare cases that intelligent discrimination is exercised with regard to food and clothing, and the habits of life which have so great an effect on spirit. The artificial state of existence which prevails, the ignorance with respect to all or nearly all that influences health, the vicious habits of excess that are so nearly universal, these are all bars and hindrances to true spiritual life.


Touching the matters on which you question, we remind you that we have many times said that we take the knowledge already existing in the mind, refine and spiritualise it, and build upon it as a foundation, only rejecting that which is noxious and untrue. We deal with old opinions as Jesus dealt with the Jewish law. He apparently abrogated the letter while He gave to the spirit a newer and nobler meaning. We do the same with the opinions and dogmas of modern Christianity as He did with the dicta of the Mosaic law, and the glosses of Pharisaical and Rabbinical orthodoxy. Even as He proclaimed the truth, true for all ages, that the letter might well be dispensed with, so that the spirit were retained; so do we, in words drawn from your own teachings, say to you that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. Rigid adherence to the strict letter of the law is quite compatible with—nay, usually leads to—neglect of the true spirit. The man who begins by observing scrupulously the minutiae of the ritual law ends by becoming the proud, arrogant, unlovely Pharisee, whose religion is swallowed up by his theology, and who yet can thank God that he is not like other men.


It is against this insidious form of religion that we wage determined war. Better for each struggling spirit that it should grope unaided after its God, trusting in the end to find Him, though after many wanderings, than that it should be cramped and confined by the trammels of an earth-born orthodoxy, which prescribes the God, as well as the way to reach Him—that way being through a wicket of which it holds the only key—which cramps all natural aspirations, drowns all soaring thoughts, and condemns the free spirit to mere mechanical action without a particle of true spiritual religion in it. Better, we say, anything than this parody on spiritual religion.


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Some there are, and they not the noblest of your race, for whom it is essential that deep subjects of religion should be thought out ready to their hand. For them free spiritual thought would mean doubt, indecision, despair, death. They cannot climb the giddy heights where man must gaze into hidden mysteries, and face the unclouded radiance of the Sun of Truth. Not for them the pinnacles which overhang precipices deep down in which lie hid the Eternal Verities. They cannot gaze lest they fall: they cannot endure the ordeal: they must fall back on safer and more beaten paths, where others have walked before, even though the way be tortuous and uncertain. They must be hemmed in between high walls over which they dare not look. They must walk warily, picking their way step by step, and avoiding all inequalities, lest they stumble and fall. And so they fall back on the prescribed dogmas of unyielding orthodoxy. So it has been decided by the wisdom of the Church is the answer of their priests. Doubt is ruin; thought only ends in bewilderment; faith is the only safety. Believe and be saved. Believe not, and be damned. They are not able to receive these things. How should they? They have not yet grasped the fragments of truth that lie on the very threshold of knowledge. How, then, should they enter in and dwell in the penetralia where truth is enshrined in fulness?


Some there are who are not merely unable, but unwilling, to receive or entertain anything which militates against that ancient and received theology which they have learned to consider as the embodiment of Divine truth.


It has sufficed the needs of the saints of Christendom. It has cheered the martyr at the stake, and consoled the dying saint in ages long gone by even as now. It was their fathers’ creed. It was the gospel of salvation which they learned from a mother’s lips. It is that which they have received as the deposit of the truth, and which they are determined to teach their children, that they in turn may hand on the truth whole and undefiled. And so a feeling of heroic determination comes over them that they will not even touch that which seems to contravene this faith of theirs, consecrated to them by so many associations, and endeared by so many memories. They are, as they fancy, defenders of the faith: and all a martyr’s zeal burns within them. They cannot be reached by any influence that we can bring to bear. Nor would we willingly interfere with so comfortable a faith. Were we to make the attempt, we should need to upset from the very foundations the edifice they have reared. We should need to make war on this faith which they love so well, and hew it down with merciless axe. Their Immutable God and their stereotyped religion, changeless and unchangeable, we should need to attack, and show that though God changes not, yet the mind of man does, and that what was sufficient for the past may be, and often is, quite inadequate for the future. We must show them—what they could never see—the progressive march of revelation, the gradual enlightenment of man in proportion to the freedom of his thought and the enormous mass of purely human fiction which they have dignified by the title of Divine Revelation. The task would be vain: and we are not so foolish as to attempt it. They must gain their knowledge in another sphere of being.


Some, again, have never thought about the matter at all. They have a sort of conventional idea about the external profession of religion, because they cannot get on well socially without it. But it is of the slenderest make, and will go into very small compass when not in use. It is indeed but the outside covering, which is not intended for anything but show. So long as it looks well from a distance, it serves the purpose for which they use it. These and such as these are our bitterest opponents. To force them to think about religion is most irksome and annoying to them. The subject is distasteful, tolerated only in its lightest form from sheer necessity. It is the business of priests to settle what is right, they take as much as is necessary on trust. To force them not only to see the flaws in the old faith, but to admire the excellences in the new, is a double aggravation, involving double trouble. They will have none of it. They cling to the past, and live in it. They are well as they are. Progress they hate. Freedom they know nothing of save in that conventional sense in which it approaches very near to slavery. Free thought to them means scepticism, doubt, atheism, and these all are not respectable. They are social blunders. Progress means something which politically and religiously is horrible to them. They not only shrink from it, but they view it with loathing and contempt. The good old times enshrine their ideal; and in the good old times such things were never heard of. Hence they are manifestly wicked, and to be avoided.


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It is, no doubt plain to you that we have no dealings with these three classes, and with the myriads who lie in between them, enclosed within the poles of inability and unwillingness, or positive aversion. Hereafter you will learn that it does not rest with us to choose in the matter. We cannot reach them even if we would.


We strive to inculcate on all that the way to know God is open and free, and that the man who prefers stagnation to progress is violating one of the first conditions of his being. We say that man has no right to close the road to God, and to lock up the wicket, compelling all to pass through his door. We say again that rigid orthodoxy, dogmatic faith prescribed in human words, inflexible lines within which he who walks not is therefore lost—these are human figments, bonds of man’s making to tie down aspiring souls, and pin them to earth. Better, we reiterate, for each struggling spirit to wander forth with no guide but its appointed angel, to pray for itself, to think for itself, to work for itself till the day-dawn of truth rise upon it, than that it should surrender its freedom and accept its religion at the dictation of any. Far, far better that the wanderings should be tortuous and long drawn out, and the creed scant and little satisfying; better that the cold winds should brace it, and the storms of heaven beat upon it, than that it should be cramped within the narrow, choking, airless avenue of human dogmatism, gasping for breath, crying for bread, and fed only with the stones of an ancient creed, the fossilised imaginings of human ignorance. Better, far better, that the shallowest and crudest notions of the Great Father should come to His child direct from spirit to spirit, the Divine inbreathing of Divine truth, than that he should consent to receive the most elaborate theology which fits and suits him not, and dream on in drowsy carelessness through the probation life, only to awake to a bitter consciousness of the falsity of that which he has so heedlessly accepted. Honesty and fearlessness in the search after truth are the first prerequisites for finding it. Without these no spirit soars. With these none fail of progress.


We have yet to show you more of this as exemplified in the Life and Example of the Lord Jesus.


We have shown you what to the enlightened mind is the true attitude of the spirit. This fearless thinking out of the way to God by those who are enabled to attempt it, will infallibly lead to what we unceasingly proclaim, a spiritual, refined, and elevated religion, in place of a literal, dogmatic interpretation of the words of your sacred records. For all utterances of spirits through man have a spiritual interpretation as well as a material one which meets the eye. And it is this spiritual interpretation which is entirely missed by a materialistic age. Man has gradually built around the teachings of Jesus a wall of deduction, and speculation, and material comment, similar to that with which the Pharisee had surrounded the Mosaic law. The tendency has increasingly been to do this in proportion as man has lost sight of the spiritual world. And so it has come to pass that we find hard, cold materialism deduced from teachings which were intended to breathe spirituality, and to do away with sensuous ritual.


It is our task to do for Christianity what Jesus did for Judaism. We would take the old forms and spiritualise their meaning, and infuse into them new life. Resurrection rather than abolition is what we desire. We say again that we do not abolish one jot or one title of the teaching which the Christ gave to the world. We do but wipe away man’s material glosses, and show you the hidden spiritual meaning which he has missed. We strive to raise you in your daily life more and more from the dominion of the body, and to show you more and more of the mystic symbolism with which spirit life is permeated. They take but a shallow view of our teaching who pin themselves to the letter. We would raise you from the life of the body to that which shall be to you the fit approach to the state disembodied. There is but a glimpse possible as yet; but the time will come when you will be able to see, as we cannot explain to you in your present state, the true dignity of man’s higher life even on the earth sphere, and the hidden mysteries with which that life is teeming.


Before you can reach so far you must be content to learn that there is a spiritual meaning underlying everything; that your Bible is full of it; man’s interpretations, and definitions, and glosses being but the material husk which enshrines the kernel of divine truth. Were we to throw away this husk the tender kernel would wither and die. So


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we content ourselves with pointing out, as you can bear and understand, the living verity which underlies the external fact with which you are familiar.


This was the mission of the Christ. He claimed for Himself that fulfillment of the law, not its abolition or abrogation, was His intent. He pointed out the truth which was at the root of the Mosaic commandment. He stripped off the rags of Pharisaical ritual, the glosses of Rabbinical speculation, and laid bare the divine truth that was beneath all, the grand principles divinely inspired which man had well-nigh buried. He was not only a religious but a social reformer; and the grand business of His life was to elevate the people, spirit and body, to expose pretenders, and to strip off the mask of hypocrisy; to take the foot of the despot from the neck of the struggling slave, and to make man free by virtue of that truth which He came from God to declare. “Ye shall know the truth,” He told His followers, “and the truth shall make you free: and ye shall be free indeed.”


He reasoned of life and death and eternity; of the true nobility and dignity of man’s nature; of the way to progressive knowledge of God. He came as the Great Fulfiller of the law; the man who showed, as never man showed before, the end for which the law was given—the amelioration of humanity. He taught men to look into the depths of their hearts, to test their lives, to try their motives, and to weigh all they did by the one ascertained balance—the fruits of life as the test of religion. He told men to be humble, merciful, truthful, pure, self-denying, honest in heart and intent; and He set before them a living example of the life which He preached.


He was the great social reformer, whose object was at least as much to benefit man corporeally, and to reveal to him a salvation from bigotry and selfishness, and narrow-mindedness in this life, as it was to reveal glimpses of a better life in the hereafter. He preached the religion of daily life, the moral progress of the spirit in the path of daily duty forward to a higher knowledge. Repentance for the past, amendment and progress in the future, summed up most of His teaching. He found a world buried in ignorance, at the mercy of an unscrupulous priesthood in matters religious; under the absolute sway of a tyrant in matters political. He taught liberty of both; but liberty without license; the liberty of a responsible spirit with duties to God and to itself; of a spirit corporeally enshrined with a corresponding duty to its brethen in the flesh. He laboured to show the true dignity of man. He would elevate him to the dignity of the truth, the truth which should make him free. He was no respecter of persons. He chose His associates and His apostles from the mean and poor. He lived amongst the common people; of them, with them, in their homes; teaching them simple lessons of truth which they needed and which they could receive. He went but little among those whose eyes were blinded by the mists of orthodoxy, respectability, or so-called human wisdom. He fired the hearts of His listeners with a yearning for something nobler, better, higher than they yet possessed; and He told them how to get it.


The gospel of humanity is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the only gospel that man needs; the only one that can reach his wants and minister of his necessities.


We continue to preach that same evangel. By commission from the same God, by authority and inspiration from the same source, do we come now as apostles of this heaven-sent gospel. We declare truths the same as Jesus taught. We preach His gospel, purified from the glosses and misinterpretations which man has gathered around it. We would spiritualise that which man has hidden under the heap of materialism.


We would bring forth the spirit-truth from the grave in which man has buried it, and would tell to the listening souls of men that it lives still; the simple, yet grand truth of man’s progressive destiny, of God’s unceasing care, of Spirit’s unslumbering watch over incarnated souls.


The burdens that a dogmatic priesthood has bound upon men’s backs, we fling them to the winds; the dogmas which have hampered the soul, and dragged down its aspirations, we tear them asunder, and bid the soul go free. Our mission is the continuation of that old teaching which man has so strangely altered; its source identical; its course parallel; its end the same.


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[ I inquired whether I rightly understood that the work of teaching, a section of which is under the direction of Imperator, derived its mission from Christ.]


You understand aright. I have before said that I derive my mission, and am influenced in my work, by a spirit who has passed beyond the spheres of work into the higher heaven of contemplation. . . .Jesus Christ is now arranging His plans for the gathering in of His people, for the further revelation of the truth, as well as for the purging away of the erroneous beliefs which have accumulated in the past.


I have heard something of this from other sources. Is this then the return of Christ?


It is the spiritual return. There will be no such physical return as man has dreamed of. This will be the return to His people, by the voice of His Messengers speaking to those whose ears are open; even as He Himself said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”


Is this message coming to many?


Yes, to many it is being made known that God is now specially influencing man at this epoch. We may not say more. May the blessing of the Supreme rest on you.