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Spirit Teachings
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Section XXIX


[March 15, 1874.--We had received many warnings as to the danger of deception by personating spirits, and the warning had gained force by a particular case occurring in our experience, though outside of our circle, in which such an attempt had been made. Many very striking messages were given on the subject, of which the only one sufficiently public in interest is the following:--]

We have been particular in our statements, because we are anxious to reiterate the warnings we have frequently given, as to the danger of attack by deceptive and personating spirits, whom you know as The Undeveloped. Of late, too, we have told you that trouble and perplexity were at hand through this cause, and we gave you special warning lest you should fall prey to their attacks. We have ascertained that the spirit who falsely pretended to be working with us is a personating spirit, whose aim is to injure and retard our work.

We need to explain fully on this point. You have heard of the antagonism between the adversaries and the divine work which is in process amongst you. There is a direct antagonism between them and us, between the work which is for man's development and instruction, and their efforts to retard and thwart it. It is the old battle between what you call the good and the evil--between the progressive and the retrogressive. Into the ranks of that opposing army gravitate spirits of all degrees of malignity, wickedness, cunning, and deceit: those who are actively spurred on by the hatred of light which an unenlightened spirit has, and those who are animated by sportiveness rather than by actual malice. It includes, in short, the undeveloped of every grade and class: spirits who are opposed, for infinitely varying reasons, to the organised attempt to lead men upward from darkness to light, with which we are associated, in company with hosts of others.

It would appear that your inability to see the operations of these adversaries renders you anable to grasp their existence, or to appreciate the magnitude of their influence in your world. Not till your spiritual eyes are open will you really understand how great it is, and how present. To those ranks gravitate, of necessity, the earth- bound and unprogressed spirits to whom incarnation has brought no gain, and whose affections, centred on the earth, where all their treasure is, can find no scope in the pure spiritual joys of the spheres of spirit-life. Hovering over their old haunts, they live over again their wretched, polluted earth-lives, by influencing congenial spirits still in the body, and so gratifying their lusts and passions at second hand.

The poor wreck whose lusts have survived the death of that body in which and for which alone he lived, have survived the means of direct bodily gratification, finds his resource in seizing on an impressionable medium, and goading him on to sin, so that he may get such poor enjoyment as alone remains for him. The debauched drunkard, who sank his body in disease, and soddened his spirit with the poisoned draughts of liquid fire, now haunts the dens where his pleasure used to be, and goads on the wretches whom it finds it possible to influence. He leers with spite as he drives one more soul to a lower state of misery, and gloats as he draws his own foul gratification, though it spread broadcast ruin and woe among innocent women and their babes, and foster in the midst of your centres of knowledge and refinement a sink of infamy and disgrace. These things go on all around you, and attract your notice scarce at all. Where the denunciations that should ring from end to end of your world while such plague-spots linger--nay, flourish and abound amongst you? Why is no voice uplifted? Why? but that the dark influence of those baleful spirits avails to blind your eyes and to paralyse the voice of truth within you. Not in the gin-den alone, but far round it as from a centre, the malign influence radiates, and the vice perpetuates itself. The sot, dead--as you falsely think--is a sot in spirit still, and his influence perpetuates his vice among congenial spirits yet on earth.

The murderer, again, whom your blindness has cut off from the trammels of the body, and let loose in fury on your earth, is not idle. With all his envenomed passions stirred within him, mad with wrath and sense of wrong--for his sin is frequently the result of your civilisation, and he is what you have made him--he goes forth to wreak his vengeance on those who have wronged him. He incites to rage and destruction of life. He is the prolific inciter of crime, and perpetuates the circumstances of which he was the victim. When will you learn that crimes for which you daily, hourly, visit rude vengeance are but the necessary product of those mixed conditions of life which obtain in your crowded centres of life? Why lop off an ugly branch here and there when the root is rotten? Why punish the wretch because he is what you made him? Nay, if you be but selfish, why let loose on you a wrathful avenger to your own hurt? Ah! friend, you must pass through many cycles of progress before you learn that your criminal code is founded on fallacy, and works to mischief and perpetuation of the abuses it is intended to prevent.

These and such as these, coming from your world such as you have made them, are, of necessity, enemies of progress, purity, and peace; adversaries of ours, and leaders in the attack on the work in which we share. What else can they be? Can that spirit whose earth-life has been one long scene of debauchery and degradation become of a sudden pure and good? Can the sensualist be changed into one who lives for purity, or the degraded animal into a progressive and aspiring spirit? You know it cannot be. They are, in company with hosts of others, the foes of man and spirit so far as their desire is to thwart progress and keep down truth. Count on them as a perpetual source of antagonism, and if you cannot realise to the full their influence for evil, do not ignore their power, or invite their attacks by exposing yourself to them.

We will leave no word of warning unuttered, for the danger is all the more real that it is so secret and so far-reaching. To their efforts operating on congenial spirits in your world you must refer much of crime and misery that exists among you: war with its attendant horrors which yet disgrace and defile your world, and blots your boasted civilisation and refinement. To them attribute the fostering of the crimes that befoul your great cities, that spread a mantle of corruption over them, and make them homes of iniquity and dwelling- places of shame.

You tell of your progress of knowledge, in art and science, in culture and refinement. You boast of your civilisation, and are at pains to send to far-distant peoples the religion which adorns and elevates your own country. Nay, you even force it on them as that Divinely-given panacea for human ills of which you are the favoured recipients. It would be well that you should keep silence over the fruits which religion and civilisation between them have produced among you. For your religion we have said frequently that it is a degenerate offspring of that simple and pure faith which alone deserves the name of Christianity. For you civilisation and culture they are but of the surface, and do but faintly hide festering sores, all too plain to spirit-gaze, while in their ultimate effect upon the nature they are too frequently demoralising to the truest and noblest instincts, and productive of hollowness, deceit, and selfishness. The Arab of the desert, the Indian of the far west, in whom nature's instincts have not been dwarfed, distorted, paralysed by civilisation, is frequently a nobler man than the crafty trader, who thinks it clever to outwit and overreach, or than that baser product of civilised life from whose foul tongue no character is safe, and whose lustful, sensual life marks none as sacred from attack.

Foul, weltering masses of vice and cruelty, and selfishness, and heartlessness, and misery that your great cities are! In them the spirit is starved and crushed; dwelling in an atmosphere through which life-giving influence can hardly penetrate, it groans in agony as it aspires to a purer and serener air; but its groans ascend hardly above the pall of darkness that hovers round. The aspirations are crushed out by reiterated temptation; good resolves are stolen away by the adversaries nigh at hand, and the spirit cares less and less to struggle against the efforts of its foes. These are only too well seconded by the recklessness and folly which offer a premium to vice, and make virtue well-nigh impossible.

And even when the body is removed from those dens of impurity, sensuality, and woe, which are tenanted by so many of your fellows even within reach of your own homes, where riches secure exemption from bodily distress, what is the result? We do but see gross vice, shameless physical surroundings, open degradation of soul and body, but we breathe an atmosphere scarcely less spiritually bad. Money-hunting is the business of life, and pleasure is too often found in bodily gratification and sensuous enjoyment. The air is thick with the greed of gold, with lust of power, with self-seeking in all its myriad forms. The spirit--do you ever think what is the state of such a spirit? It has no food, no development, no occupation. It is dwarfed, or compelled to occupy itself in concerns which drag it back, and give the adversaries their best chance of fostering and inflaming passions and desires which are to us detestable. Hardly can we reach these more than the debased, where in crowded alleys and lanes vice has its home--where in the thronged exchanges and marts money rules supreme, and breeds its progeny of selfishness and greed, and larceny--there the adversaries have their centres of action, from which their baleful influences radiates.

But you know it not. You are ignorant in respect of the world of causes, and foolish in respect of what you do in your world in providing conditions favourable to crime and sin. Your ignorance perpetuates these conditions, and renders it more hard for us to impress upon you the true principles which should govern the origination and development of life upon your globe and the cultivation of spiritual progress. Some of your more advanced reformers have seen the vast importance which attaches to the subject of marriage; and we have endeavoured to put forward such views as you were fitted to receive. Much remains to be said when the world is ready, but that is not yet. We do but allude to the subject as being intimately bound up with the great questions of disease, crime, poverty, insanity, which vex and disturb us in our dealings with men. To the folly, and worse, to the criminal recklessness, and not less criminal and more foolish conventional law which governs the marriage customs among you, very much is chargeable. And this no less among those whom you call the educated and refined than among the ignorant and uncultured--rather, perhaps, does the greater sin rest with the rich. You must unlearn much that men have dreamed; you must undo much that society has sanctioned in the trafficking that goes under the name of marriage; and you must learn truer and diviner rules for happiness and progress than you now tolerate, before you wipe away the great original source of deterioration and retrogression. Mistake us not! We are no advocates of license--no apostles of social freedom so called. Liberty ever degenerates with the foolish into license. We spurn such notions with contempt, even with more than we view the infamous buying and selling, the social slavery into which you have degraded the holiest and divinest law of life.

Nor have you yet learned that the body is the avenue of spirit, and that laws of health and conditions under which bodily development are possible are essential for man incarnated on earth. We have spoken before of this. Now we only say that in this, as in the other matter, you are in alliance with our foes. Nineteen centuries have passed since the pure and refined teachings which you profess to treasure were spoken amongst men; and you are but little better in all that makes for true progress, but little wiser in real wisdom, but little advanced in pure religion; nay, you are worse than the Essenes, amongst whom Jesus lived and was trained. You are the Scribes and Pharisees, who drew from Him his bitterest denunciations.

And you know it not. In matters of body and spirit--matters of vital import that touch both the life here and the life hereafter--you have well-nigh all to learn.

These are some of the adversaries of whom we have told you aforetime. They are massed in force, ever ready to thwart, and vex, and injure us. Their ranks are being perpetually swelled by spirits debased and degraded by human ignorance.

In all that we have said we have made no account of those who strive to do for their race and for its development what in them lies. We have said nothing of the acts of self-sacrifice and devotion, the simple noble lives, the generous acts that redeem your race, and make us hopeful of its future. Our business now is to paint the dark side of the picture: and we have so drawn it as best to attract your attention to it. We earnestly warn you that its lineaments are sketched with the pencil of truth; and we warn you in all solemnity that the great truth which underlies this message, viz. the antagonism between good and evil, and the fostering of evil by human folly and ignorance, is one which vitally concerns you and us in the future of the work which we have in charge. In what has now been said, we have but recapitulated what has been said before of the organised opposition from those who are our opponents. But one special form of attack, which will become more and more frequent, we have not yet dealt with. As objective spiritual manifestations become more and more frequent, and as the inconsiderate craving for them increases, so will it come to pass that powerful instruments will be developed through whom our adversaries may be enabled to produce their frivolous or tricky manifestations, so as to discredit the true spiritual work. This is one of the special forms of opposition, and the most dangerous: for in proportion to the undeveloped character of the spirit will be its power over gross matter, its cunning, and, in some cases, its malignity. Powerful agencies are even now at work, as we are assured, who will seize every opportunity of developing mediums through whom phenomena the most startling may be produced, so as to convince the inquirers of supernatural power so called. This done, the rest is easy. By degrees trick and fraud are allowed to creep in, the moral teachings are allowed to appear in their true light, doubt is insinuated, and the uncertainty and suspicion which have become the fixed attitude of the mind regarding phenomena which at first seemed so surely spiritual, gradually extend to all manifestations and teachings.

No more sure means of discrediting the teaching of those who are sent to instruct, and not merely to astonish or amuse, was ever devised by cunning. For men say: We have tried, we have tested for ourselves, and we have found it out. Either it is connected with fraud, or it teaches base and immoral doctrines, or is full of falsehood; in short, it is diabolical. It is no use to appeal to such, and tell them that they must discern between the true and the false, for their shaken faith will not allow of this. They have proved what they trusted to be false, and the whole edifice of their belief lies in ruins around them. The foundation is not secure, and will not support the building.

We say again that no more diabolical device for paralysing our work was ever planned. We solemnly warn you of it. See to it that you act upon our warning. Beware of encouraging the promiscuous evolution of violent physical power. Such comes generally from the lower and more undeveloped; and its development is frequently attended by spirits for whose absence you should pray. In the encouragement, especially in newly-formed circles, of undue care for physical marvels is a great risk. Such are necessary to the work, and we do not in any degree undervalue their importance to certain minds. We desire to bring home evidence to all; but we do not desire that any should rest in that material form of belief, in an external something which is of little service to any soul. We labour for something higher than to show curious minds that we can do badly under certain conditions what man can do better under other conditions. Nor do we rest content even with showing man that beings external to himself can interfere in the order of his world. If that were all, he might be so much the worse for knowing it. We have before us one sole aim, and that alone has brought us to your earth. You know our mission. In days when faith has grown cold, and belief in God and immortality is waning to a close, we come to demonstrate to man that he is immortal, by virtue of the possession of that soul which is a spark struck off from Deity itself. We wish to teach him the errors of the past, to show him the life that leads to progress, to point him to the future of development and growth.

It is not with such an end before us that we can tamely allow our work to be set aside for the development of any strange phenomenal power that spirits may possess over gross matter. If we use such power at all it is because we find it necessary, not because we think it desirable, save always as a means to an end. Were it harmless we should say so much. But being what it is, an engine of assault from the adversaries, the worst we have to dread, we are urgent in warning you against promiscuous seeking after these physical marvels, and against resting in them as the end and aim of intercourse with us.

Regard them only as means of conviction, as so many proofs to your minds of actual intervention from the world of spirit with the world of matter. Look upon them as such only, and use them as the material foundation on which the spiritual temple may be built. Rest assured that they of themselves can teach you no more than that; nay, if the operating spirits find in you no capacity to grasp more, they will gradually give way to those who can do such work better than they can, and so the means of further knowledge will pass away. From that basis you must go on to further steps. You must seek to know of the nature of the agency, of its source and intent. Surely you would desire to be assured that it is of God, beneficent and pure in origin and intent. Surely you would seek to know how much the visitors from beyond the grave can tell you of that universal dwelling-place of your race; how they can satisfy you of your own soul's destiny, and of the means by which you may best fit yourself for the change which you call death. For if we be not as you, how is our experience fruitful to you? If we cannot tell you of your own immortality, what profits it that we prove to you never so conclusively that we ourselves exist? Such may be a curious fact; it can never be more.

When you can reach out beyond the phenomenal to the actual investigation of Truth for its own sake--when, in short, you can believe our pretensions--then we can open out to you a realm of which you are yet ignorant, and which has been far more fully revealed to earnest seekers in other lands than yours. To few only in your land have higher revealings of spiritual truth been vouchsafed. Even this means of communing by writing, which seems to you such an advance on the clumsy rapping out messages and such material means of communication, is as nothing, compared with the inner communing of spirit with spirit without the intervention of material signs. In America, the land from which dates this movement in your days, there are many who have been so far developed as to lead a dual life, and to hold face to face intercourse with us. We have even now a band of workers there who are achieving results which we cannot command here through faithlessness of mind, materiality of interests, and even grossness of atmospheric surroundings. It is not with our work as with your mundane affairs. We read the heart, and it is useless to feign interest which you do not feel--that you would not do--or to proceed on our way while faith is lacking. It has been so in all ages of the world. Efforts have been made from time to time to pour advanced knowledge; it has been found that the time was not come, and the effort has been withdrawn. But this is not what we wish to say. We desire only to warn you against a danger, and to encourage you to rise above the material to the spiritual plane. Receptivity must precede higher development: but we yearn and pray for the time when you shall have shaken yourselves free from earthly trammels, and seek only after the higher revealings of Truth. To that end you must have singleness of purpose: you must have shaken yourselves free from human opinion, and have dissociated yourselves from the material plane, so far as an occupant of earth may do so.

Eternal Father! Thou in Whose Name we work, and for the revealing of Whose Truth we are sent to earth, enable us to elevate and purify the hearts of those to whom we speak, that they may rise from earth and open their spiritual senses to discern the things which we reveal. May Faith grow in them, so that they may aspire to Truth, and, leaving earthly interests behind, press on to learn the Revelation of the Spirit.

+IMPERATOR

[I remarked that I had no doubt that all that was said was true, and I added that I had difficulty in understanding why some law and order did not obtain on the spiritual side, so as to curb those unruly spirits. They seemed to do what they pleased, and to be under no governance. Also I expressed my wonder at their false statements. I could not see why a spirit should take pleasure in personation.]

You err in supposing there is no law and order with us. It is that the neglect of conditions on your part frustrates orderly effort. You must learn to fence your circles round with proper conditions, and then you will eliminate half the trickery and contradiction. The time will not come when all that you call evil will be wiped out; for this is a matter of spiritual training, and we have no power to save you from the process, which is for your progressive development. It is necessary that you pass through it. You have much to learn, and this practical experience is one of the ways of learning.

As to personation you will learn more hereafter. For the present, we tell you that there are spirits who delight in such personation, and who have the power, under certain conditions, of carrying out elaborate deception. Such take names which they see to be desired, and would reply equally to any name given them. They may usually be excluded by careful attention to conditions, and by the efforts of a strong guardian who is able to protect the circle. Those who sit frequently and in open circles, where no care is taken of the spiritual conditions, and who have no powerful spirit friends to protect them, are in danger of incursion from these. In most circles, as far as we know, every facility is given for the intervention of tricky spirits. The phenomena are sought after in a spirit of mere curiosity. Personal friends are greedily summoned, and no pains taken to ascertain whether the spirit answering be indeed a friend or a deceiver. Foolish queries are addressed, and foolish replies eagerly swallowed. What wonder that such are the sport of the undeveloped!

How is one to know that this personation does not extend to all? And that what in Spiritualism appears good and coherent, will not in the end prove to be only a clever trick? If such powers are behind, who is safe?

We can but give you the answer you have had before. We have proved to you our good faith, our truth, our external individuality. We have given you proof upon proof. We have shown our moral consciousness by consistent truthfulness in all things--by the presence of a tone in our teachings to you, which you must estimate for yourself. When complete they shall stand forth to all as pure and good. Even now you admit them to be elevated and good in tendency. Your knowledge of us, of our work, and of our aims must lead you to judgment such as you would frame of a fellow-man under similar circumstances.

Yes. This personating spirit, by speaking of whom I commenced, would upset one's faith very soon, if it had got access.

It might have been so; we cannot tell how far we could have counteracted the effort; but we do not wish to run the risk. For contradictory statements would surely have been made, personation carried on, and in the end the scanty faith you have would have sustained a rude shock. This is a real danger to you; for the introduction of false and contradictory statements would do more to foster a suspicious feeling in your mind than anything. In the end it would undermine us and drive us away.

Really the subject seems to be a most dangerous one to meddle with.

The abuse of everything is bad; the use, good and commendable. To those who in frivolous frame of mind place themselves in communion with the spheres; to those who force themselves from low motives in that which is to them only a curious thing; to the vain in their own conceit, the triflers, the untruthful, the worldly, the sensual, the base, the flippant, there is doubtless danger. We never advise any of unbalanced mind to meddle with the mysteries of mediumship. It is direful risk to them. Those only who are protected and guarded round, who act from no inner motive, but in obedience to the impulse of the guardians, who are wise and powerful to protect, should meddle, and they carefully and with earnest prayer. We deprecate always any unlicensed meddling. Nor can any safely mingle with the spirit-world, and so introduce one more disturbing element into his earth-life, except he be of even mind and steady temper. Any unhinged mind, spasmodic temperament, fitful, purposeless character, becomes the prey of the undeveloped. Doubtless it is perilous for such to meddle, more especially if their interest be only in the marvellous, to gratify an idle curiosity, or to solace their own vanity. The higher messages of the Supreme are not audible to such. Would that they who can hear them would forsake the trifling of the lower spirits, and, leaving the inferior planes, press on to the purer atmosphere of the higher spheres of knowledge.

But all this is caviare to the world. They think far more of a good thump on the head, or of a floating chair, than of all your information, which, by-the-by, is hard enough to get.

True, we know it only too well. The present phase of our work is one that must be passed through. The physical accompanies, but is no real part of our work. It must, as we say, precede the real development for which we wait. It will go on all around you with increasing development; and while we warn you against the dangers which accompany it, we do not disguise the necessity for it in the present material state of your knowledge. While we deplore, we acknowledge the necessity. We have more to add to what has been said, but not now. For the present, cease.

[After a short rest, this addition was made to what had been said.]

We have told you of the operations of the adversaries, and of the danger to be apprehended from them. But other there are who, without being malignant foes, are nevertheless a cause of trouble to us. Many of those who are withdrawn from earth are not, as you know, very progressive, nor, on the contrary, very undeveloped. The majority of those who pass from the body are neither very evil nor very good in spirit. Such, indeed, as are so far progressive as to gravitate rapidly through the spheres nearest the earth, do not return unless called to a special mission. The earth-bound we have already told you of.

It remains to speak of the agency of a class of spirits who, from mischievous design, or from pure sportive fun, or from love of mystification, frequent circles, counterfeit manifestations, assume names, and give erroneous or misleading information. Such are not evil, but unbalanced spirits who lack even balance, and who delight in plaguing mediums and circles: in giving exaggerated tone to communications, in introducing false elements, or in personating friends, and reading in the thought the answer which they give to a query. The work of such is that which causes you to say that spiritual manifestations are frequently foolish or silly. This is due to the efforts of these spirits, who, from fun or mischief, counterfeit our work, and play on the feelings of those who trust them. These are they who personate relatives whose presence is desired, and answer to their names. These are they who make true identification of friends in mixed circles impossible. Most of the stories current of such return of friends are due to the work of these spirits. These are they who infuse the comic or foolish element into communications. They have no true moral consciousness, and will pray readily, if asked, or will do anything for frolic or mischief. They have no aspiration beyond the present: no desire to injure, but only to amuse themselves.

These are they who allure to wrong paths, and suggest wrong desires and thoughts. They secretly influence mediums much, and prevent noble aspirations. They view with impatience noble and elevated aims, and suggest the material. They act as bars and clogs. They are greatly concerned with physical manifestations. They are usually shrewd and clever at such work, and they delight in presenting bewildering phenomena for the purpose of disturbing the mind. They victimise mediums in divers ways, and find a pleasure in the bewilderment of mind which they cause. Obsession and possession, and the various forms of spiritual annoyance, proceed very frequently from such. They are able to psychologise a mind over which they have gained influence....These, again, are spirits who befool inquirers who have asked for personal information. They return plausible answers, and bewilder the deluded inquirers, or if a personal friend have once appeared, and given a good test, his or her place on the next occasion may be filled by one of these spirits, who takes the name and replies to queries, giving vague and unsatisfactory replies, or telling false stories. It is always well to put the personal element as far from you as possible, lest you open the way to deceit.

+IMPERATOR