LIFE AND DEATH: PROGRESS AND
[April 28, 1876.—The following message
relates to a case in which the personal identity of the communicating
spirit was established by very strong evidence. Among many such this
seems to me to stand out prominently, and, making all allowance for
ability to deceive, I find it impossible to understand how so coherent
and complete a
series of proofs can be explained away by any theory of personation or
self-deception. The messages relate to the death, under melancholy
circumstances, of a friend whom I had known intimately all his life. A sitting at Mr Hudson’s had resulted in
his image appearing on the photographic plate, and I have since seen and
known the presence of the spirit about me continually. When the photograph was
taken I was entranced, and the name of the spirit was given to me,
another spirit at the same time describing the position in which the
figure had placed itself. The development of the plate showed this
description to be correct, and I have no difficulty in recognising a bad
my friend who had been specially brought before my mind before going to
Hudson’s. There was another and more striking point connected with this
matter which I cannot print: it must suffice that I state that identity,
both of external form and of mental characteristics, is distinctly made
out to my mind.
The first message I received respecting
this photograph related to the method of its production. It was said
that a spirit who just then was very active about me had directed
invisible operators. The shroud-like drapery which characterises all
described as an expedient for saving time and power: the head being
fully formed, the rest
“sketched in,” as one might say. There were a number of these spiritual
operators who did the mere mechanical work of partial materialisation as
they had learned to do it. Hence there is a family likeness in all the pictures produced by a particular
The whole manifestation was described as
being contrary to the wish of IMPERATOR, who “did not wish that I should
be brought again within the physical phase of manifestation.” “It was
only when we found that we could not prevent that we aided.”
The spirit had been in my company:
there had been special reasons for his being attracted that
day, and so it was easier to produce his image than that of any other
spirit: though I went with
two friends in the hope of securing some evidence for them and not for
This being so, he was taken in hand by
M., who directed Hudson’s spirit-people to mould a representation of his
face and to sketch drapery, the
was made of spiritsubstance, actually
posed, and photographed.
After this IMPERATOR said:—]
We would speak with you of your friend. But first, we wish to explain
that we prevented, so far as we could, any return to physical
manifestations to you. We did not wish the medial power to recur to that
phase. Hence we have prevented you from being placed in circumstances
where it would be likely to be encouraged. We have explained before that
we do not wish you to remain on the physical plane, and have therefore
discontinued our meetings. Nor did we wish that your friend should
become attached to you. His spiritual state is low, and it would have been well that you had not attracted him. Since you have done so,
you must now help him to progress. M. has rightly told you that you had entered
into his sphere from association and conversation with——, and from your
thoughts being directed towards him strongly. That is the law of
attraction of spirit to
spirit. You know this?
Yes; but it does not always act, or rather its results are seldom
manifest to us. Is he unhappy?
How should he be blest? He lifted
sacrilegious hands against the shrine in which the All-wise had placed
spirit for its progress and development. He wasted opportunities, and
far as he was able, the temple in which dwelt the Divine spark, which
was his portion. He sent forth his spirit alone and friendless into a
world where no place was yet prepared for it. He impiously flew in the
face of the Great Father. How should he be blest? Impious, disobedient, wilful in his death,
heedless, idle, selfish in his life, and yet more selfish in bringing
pain and sorrow on his earthly friends by his untimely death,—how should
he find rest? The wasted life cries out for vengeance. The fostered
self-hood dominates him still, and makes him ill at ease. Selfish in his
life, selfish in his earthly end, he is selfish still. Miserable, blind,
and undeveloped, there is no rest for such as he till repentance has had its place, and remorse leads to
regeneration. He is outcast.
What hope of progress?
Yes; there is hope. Already there stirs within him the consciousness of
sin. He sees dimly through the spiritual gloom how foolish and how wicked was his
life. He begins to wake to some faint knowledge of his
to strive for light. Hence he remains near you. You must help him though
at your own cost.
Willingly; but how?
By prayer first. By fostering the dawnings of the higher life. By
allowing the unhappy spirit to breathe the higher atmosphere of work.
His spirit knows not what that pure and bracing atmosphere is. You must
though his presence be unpleasant to you. You have summoned him, and he
comes obedient to
your call. You must bear with him now. You cannot undo what you have
done in spite of us and of our wishes. Your consolation must be that you will be engaged in a work
that is blessed.
It is not fair to say I summoned him; but I will do anything. He was mad
and not accountable.
He was and is accountable, and he begins to know it. The seeds of his
final sin wherewith he has cursed himself were sown in a life of idle
uselessness. He fostered and encouraged morbid self-introspection. He
brooded over self, not for the purpose of progress and development, not
to eradicate faults and foster virtues, but in selfish exclusiveness. He
was enwrapped in a cloud of distorted selfishness. This bred in him
disease, and in the end he fell a prey to tempters in the spirit, who
fastened on him and drove him to his ruin. He exposed himself a prey to
those who are always ready to seduce to ruin, and so
far he was mad, as you say; but the mad act was the result of his own acts. And
now he throws the same influence around those whom he wounded in his
death. A curse to himself, be becomes a curse to those he loves.
Horrible! That seems to me the very bitterness of retribution. I can
understand how an idle, selfish life breeds spiritual disease.
Selfishness seems to me to be the root of sin.
It is the plague-spot of the spirit, that which wrecks more souls that
you dream of. It is the very paralysis of the soul. And when to it is added
this, moreover, that the selfishness is passive, it becomes more fatal.
There is a selfishness which is far less baleful in its poison, and
which finds it counteracting power in activity, and which even becomes the spring of actions which
have in them a form of good. There is a selfishness
which causes a spirit to do well that it may have the good report of its fellows: and there is
a selfishness which is content to do good so it be not vexed or troubled,
which will yield to any influence, so it may escape anxiety. These are
faults which hold the spirit back from progress; but they are not the
baleful plague which ate into this spirit’s life, and drove it to
despair and death. That was the meaner selfishness which stirred him not
to any deeds or to action of any kind. It was idle and useless, no less
than self-pleasing; nay, it was not even self-pleasing, for the whole
life was blurred and blotted with morbid scrutiny of self, till its very
lineaments were eaten out. This selfishness was cruel alike to
himself and to his friends. There are
grades of sin, and his was deep. Listen while the story is recounted for
instruction. But rest awhile, and we will remove the disturbing
influence from your mind.
was a good deal disturbed: but I fell into a deep trance-like sleep,
during which I
had a soothing vision and from it I awoke refreshed.]
It is not necessary to go through in
detail the story of that wasted life. Its spirit was eaten out with
selfishness, and its end was destruction of self-consciousness. Mad he
was, as you estimate
madness. None lifts the hand of the suicide against himself save when
the disordered mind has lost its power of judgment. The balance is
destroyed, and the spirit has fallen a
prey to the tempters which surround it.
But your estimates of sin are rude. The
state was self-induced. The spirit delivered itself over to the foes,
and wrought its own ruin. This was not one of the cases where hereditary
conditions of disease unfitted a spirit for judgment and right action.
The suicide was the outcome of the selfish idler. It was an access of
temptation that withdrew the power of reason, and caused the crime. In
others the temptation might have taken other forms; but whether it led
to destruction of self, or to ruin or hurt of others, to whatever
gratification of self it tended, the root is the same.
That spirit which neglects to use its
powers, which acts not, but morbidly dwells on fancied ills or
sufferings, assuredly breeds in itself disease. The law of existence is
work—for God, for brethen, for self; not for one alone, but for all.
Transgress that law, and evil must ensue. The stagnant life becomes
corrupt, and acts as a corrupter of
others. It is vicious and noisome; hurtful to the community, in that it
defrauds it of its
due from one of its members, and sets up a plague spot of infection which becomes a fertile centre of
mischief. It matters not what course the evil takes, its source is still the
same. In this case the evil eventuated in personal harm,
and in the wrecking of a wasted life. It has ended in sorrow and shame to the injury of
all who were associated with him.
When the cord of earth-life was severed,
the spirit found itself in darkness and distress. For long it was unable
to sever itself from the body. It hovered round it even after the grave
had closed over the shrine which it had violated. It was unconscious,
without power of movement, weak, wounded, and distressed. It found no
welcome in the world to which it had come unbidden. Darkness surrounded
it, and through
the gloom dimly flitted the forms of congenial spirits who had made
shipwreck of themselves, and were in unrestful isolation. These drew
near, and their atmostphere added vague
discomfort to the half-conscious spirit.
It was not till the first shudder of
awakening conscience attracted the ministering spirits that anything
could be done to palliate the misery, not yet half felt or acknowledged,
or to minister healing to the soul. When it stirred amid the darkness,
the ministers drew near and strove to quicken the seared conscience and
to awaken remorse. In seeming cruelty they strove to bring home a
knowledge of its state, and to paint before it a picture of its sin.
Only through the portal of remorse could it enter into
rest; and so the conscience must be quickened at the cost of pain.
For long their efforts availed little;
but by degrees they succeeded in awakening some measure of
consciousness of sin, and the spirit began to grope blindly for some
means of escape from a state which had become loathsome to
it. Frequent relapses dragged it back. The tempters were all around it,
and no effort of theirs was spared to mete out to the spirit the full measure of its lawful
penalty. They know it not; they do but gratify their debased instincts, but they
are the avenging ministers of doom.
The hope for the spirit is that it may
be nerved to occupy itself with some beneficent work, and so to work out
its own salvation. To this end it must journey on through remorse and
uncongenial labour: for by no other means can it be purified.
Selfishness must be eradicated by self-sacrifice. Idleness must be
rooted out by laborious toils. The spirit must be purified by suffering.
This is the only upward path of progress; a path that its past has made
it difficult, nearly impossible, for it to tread. Reiterated efforts
must secure each onward step, and frequent slips and
backslidings will try endurance to the utmost. Step by step the way must
be won in sorrow, remorse, and shame, with faintings and cries of the
despairing soul; won, too, against temptation all around, against the
suggestions of the foe who will not fail to goad the aspiring soul; won
as through a baptism of fire. Such is the penalty; such the road to the
heaven that can be won in no other way.
Such help as the ministers can give will not be withholden. It is their
glorious mission to help on the aspiring, and to cheer the fainting soul. But,
though they may comfort, they cannot save one pang, nor
palliate by one jot the penalty of transgression. No vicarious store of
merit can avail; no friend may bear the burden, or lift it from the
weary back. It must be borne by the soul that sinned, though helps and
aids be given to strengthen and support the failing energies.
This is the inevitable penalty of a wasted life. It may be that the
half-quenched spark may be quickened again, and be fanned into a flame
strong enough to light the spirit onward. It may be that the spirit may
wander in gloom and desolation, deaf to the voice of the ministers, and
groaning in lonely unrest, nerveless for the struggle, till the sin
through cycles of purgatorial suffering, has eaten out its virulence. It
may be that the time consumed in such purgation may seem to you an eternity; or the soul may
wake and stir before its condition has become fixed; and so by an effort of
despairing energy may struggle up to light, and may welcome the
suffering that leads to
purification, and may have strength not all sapped to cast off the
habits of earth, and wake to
newness of life.
It may be; but such cases are rare. Characters are not so easily
changed; nor does the fire of purification work so rapidly. Too frequently he
that died selfish or filthy is selfish or filthy still, and the present
proves only a perpetuation of the past. Pray for strength to minister to him who has in
him the first faint dawnings of progression. Pray that his darkness may be
enlightened, and his unrest soothed by the angelic ministrations.
Such prayers are the most potent medicine for his disease.
[On reading over what had been written, I suggested that the picture was
one to strike dismay into
man, however much he strove to progress. I said the ideal was too high
Nay! We have not painted the picture in all its details; nor have we
overdrawn or overcoloured it in any way. We are not able to bring home
to you the full horror of the desolation and misery of such a wasted
life. No words
that we can write would express the full measure of the woe felt by a
soul that has awakened to remorse after a life such as this of which we speak. For the rest, we
are not responsible for any ideal. We put forward none, save that
which exists in the eternal and unalterable sequence of events.
Selfishness and sin bring
misery and remorse before they can be purged away. It is not we who laid
down that law, but the Eternal and All-wise. We have but pointed out to
you again the operation of a law the working of which you may see all
around you. We desired to point out what men are apt to forget, that though there be no formal judgment such
as has been imagined, at a far-distant day, in presence of an assembled
universe, when the Recording Angel shall produce the Books of Doom, and
the Christ shall sit in judgment, and shall condemn the sinner to an
everlasting hell; though there be none of this, yet that every act is
registered, every thought recorded, every habit known as a factor in the
future character. We would show you that the judgment of condemnation
need no paraphernalia of assize, but is conducted in the silent recesses
of the soul itself. No judge is there but the voice of Spirit communing
with itself, and reading its own doom. No books but the records of
conscience; no hell but the flame of remorse that shall eat into the
soul and purge it as by fire.
And this, not in a far-off future when the arisen myriads of humanity
shall all have been gathered up, but instant on death, quick as consciousness
awakes, sure as the soul stirs in the new life. This too, not subject to
a faint perhaps, in a dim and hazy light seen far off down the vista of
the future, but sure and certain, instant and inevitable. We would teach you this. For
it has been said of us that our Gospel removes the
terror from religion, by which motive alone the most of men may be
governed and restrained, and substitutes for it a faith which teaches
salvation for all, whatever their deeds may be, whatever creed they may
profess. We do not teach any such
insensate creed. You know it; but you need to have repeated again and
again the truth on which we have beein insisting:
Man makes his own future, stamps his own character, suffers for his own
sins, and must work out his own salvation.
We did but dwell on this side because the story of that wasted life
invited by its example. We have dwelt often enough on the lighter side
of grace and beauty and angelic ministration. You need not to be told of
the abounding mercy and love of the Supreme, nor of the tender watchful
care which is ceaselessly exercised by those who minister between Him
and you. It is well sometimes to show the dark side of loneliness and
desolation, and temptation by the foes.
The ideal was not high: and if it were, high ideals serve only to brace
the aspiring soul: they are too high for those only who have no ambition
to ascend: not for those whose lives have not been eaten out by
sin, whose energies are yet strong, and will grow stronger by the
exercise of them. Be
assured, good friend, that the grand truth can never be escaped. Life is
a journey, a conflict, a development. The journey is up-hill, and the
way is thorn-beset and difficult. The conflict is unending till victory
crowns the final effort. The development is spiritual from a lower to a
higher plane, from the child of earth to the measure of the stature of
the Christ. You cannot change the unalterable. You cannot reach the
Perfect Good, save after a conflict with evil. It is an eternal necessity that you be purified through struggles with the
evil that surrounds you. It is the means by which the spark
once struck off from the Divine Soul wins back its way to Him and enters
into its rest.
Do you need to be told that true happiness is to be had only by living
up to the highest ideal? That the idler and the sluggard know it not? That the
vicious man and the evil-doer,
who sins of choice and by preference,
have no part in it? That peace on earth springs up only in the soul that
soars heavenwards, and finds its happiness in viewing the dangers and difficulties that have been
overpassed? Do you need to be told again that the angels watch
over such to bear them up—that the ministers count it honour to support
them, and that no
final harm can fasten on the spirit which keeps a high ideal before it? Victory is assured: but
it would not be victory were it found without a struggle in selfish and inglorious
ease, by those who would not value what every idle hand might pluck.
Victory comes after conflict: peace after tribulation: development after steady
I replied that this seemed to me matter of course; and that in the
seed-time of life man must get as much knowledge, do as much work, and
enjoy such peace as he can. But the work and the knowledge (especially
of God Himself and His future) must precede Peace, or Rest. Perhaps too
little room was left for meditation.
No; the life is threefold: of meditation and prayer; of worship and
adoration; and of conflict with the threefold enemy. The meditation is
necessary to self-knowledge. It is an element of steady growth. With it
goes prayer, the communion of the prisoned soul with the Father of
spirits, and with us His ministers. Worship and adoration, in any of the
countless phases that the soul seeks out for itself, whether in silent
solitude beneath the heavens that speak to him of his God, or in
communion with Nature, the external and material manifestation of Deity,
or in the solemn service of song within some
stately temple which man has separated for God: or in the upward
aspiration of the heart unuttered and unheard of man—in any or all of
these ways the instinct of adoration divinely implanted may find its
vent. These are the necessary helps for the sustained conflict. We do
not undervalue them: rather do we insist on them. We tell you that it
would be well if you devoted more time to peaceful thought. Your life
As to the accountability of this spirit for its rash act, surely you
admit some cases where the spirit is not accountable.
Assuredly. The human instrument may be jarred and out of tune, and so
may faultily transmit the will of the spirit within. There are many
cases in which madness is the result of bodily disease. For such the
spirit is not
blameworthy. Accidental injury may derange, or congenital defect, or
overstrain of trouble and distress. For such causes the spirit is blamed
by none, least of all by the Holy and Just One, who deals not with body
but with spirit, and who judges according to spiritual motive and intent.
We reprobated the case on which we spoke, because the end was the result of life-long sin. He
was and is responsible, and he begins to know it.
May the All-wise foster and increase