Spirit Teachings thought The Mediumship of William Stainton Moses






[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 willingness and 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 image or simulacrum of 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 Hudson’s invisible operators. The shroud-like drapery which characterises all Hudson’s pictures was 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 photographer.

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 myself.

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 simulacrum 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?


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How should he be blest? He lifted sacrilegious hands against the shrine in which the All-wise had placed his spirit for its progress and development. He wasted opportunities, and destroyed, so 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 strange 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 desolation, and 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 teach him, 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


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himself and to his friends. There are grades of sin, and his was deep. Listen while the story is recounted for your instruction. But rest awhile, and we will remove the disturbing influence from your mind.


[I 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 cruel 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 rest, 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


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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
a man, however much he strove to progress. I said the ideal was too high for earth.]


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 selfishness and 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 growth.


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 lacks quietness.


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


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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 the knowledge.