From the book Dawn of Another Life
Dictated by visible full-form spirit materializations
through the mediumship of William W. Aber
SCIENCE, SPIRITUALISM and THEOLOGY
PROF. WILLIAM DENTON
Friends, you must bear in mind that there is the widest possible distinction between the facts witnessed by spiritual records or demonstrations which are plain statements, and the interpretation which we have been accustomed to place upon these facts that have been associated in our minds for ages, and the modes of expression with which we have been clothed, as set forth by us.
And the conclusions be proved to which spiritual science or its phenomena seem to point, then it is found at the most, to contradict some preconceived notions which you have been used to read, or traditional modes which you have accepted in interpreting it. We will say that even if the spiritualists were convinced of inaccuracies as to some matters of detail, that of itself would no more disprove the truth of essential matters revealed, than the inaccuracies being detected in any other channel. The conclusion to which the course of all scientific observation seems to tend, is that all the complex phenomena of your world are due to simple, original causes which, however once set in motion, have been working through progressive and well marked evolutionary stages from the first nebulous condition to which you may trace primary matter up to a point where all further evolution has been arrested. The nebulous matter out of which this visible order of the universe was formed, has been the debris of former organized worlds as astronomy now appears to indicate. The great facts which alone are material to the purpose, are plainly and simply stated ; that the elements of which your world and the people are composed, were once in a nebulous and disorganized condition ; the controlling, intelligence called them into being first, then placed them under the active operation of forces which evolved by successive stages, the complex world that you have around you. All that you can do, or that you ought legitimately to attempt, is to take the plain statements as facts established on evidence of spiritual intercourse, and then draw the conclusions which properly follow these statements with any other known facts which bear upon this subject of investigation. The only conclusion that you can rationally come to, is that Spiritualism is so essentially progressive that no student who recognizes these necessary conditions, could at once reject the whole group of facts and conclusions which form the province of any one study like theology because they may seem at variance with the contusions of any other special study, or of scientific thought. The most you can fairly argue in such a case is to say : Here are facts which in different fields of thought seem to verify different conclusions; and laws which on their own ground seem sufficiently established; yet are difficult to reconcile with each other.
All that a fair mind can conclude is that the clue to a future life is found, and you must leave the solution to spiritual forces, knowing that the discovery of this fact may at any time supply this clue and guide you to this law which may be found to harmonize with all other laws. And if this be so with scientific progress, then to say that at the present stage of knowledge and research some facts recently brought to light in the material world appear to conflict with their conclusions, that have been hitherto accepted by the theologians, is unwarrantable and illogical. No one unless he be the eeriest charlatan, will say that Spiritualism has exhausted all the possible facts that may be discovered ; or that the laws which spiritual science lays down, are so established that our research into Nature, is perfect, and theology or science can never modify them. But again, we are met with another current objection, and that is scientists in the ordinary acceptation of the term, think they are so progressive and adding fresh facts to its store of knowledge and enlarging the range of its investigation; while Christian theology is not progressive, but remains constant to the system it has taught for centuries. The facts which are its groundwork are those of a history of events which happened at definite times long ago; or have been made known by particular exponents of a divine message to man. Unless fresh facts happen of the sort, or a future revelation is made bearing upon the subject, no progress can from the nature of the case be looked for in theology. And as to any fresh revelation, it would be going too far perhaps, to say that if truth has ever been revealed, no further light ever can or will he given to man.
When one truth has been definitely established on facts fully ascertained, no change is possible except in the direction of error. Reason and common sense are the faculties by which knowledge is apprehended by the human mind, whether in the material or spiritual world. Spiritualism is professedly communication from another world not cognizable by human senses; which nevertheless, when once communicated, are to be apprehended by the ordinary process of reasoning. If therefore spiritual science is rightly understood, there could hardly be a collision; for spiritual science begins where the other ends. Friends, Spiritualism is the science which reason deduces from facts; and in building it up, it is essential that the process of reasoning be followed. As in every other science, we find that the whole is professedly built upon a basis of facts, and consists of conclusions drawn from them. The existence of Spiritualism itself is a great fact; its history is a course of events linked together by cause and effect. There is indeed a more noticeably characteristic system as compared with any other religion of faith: and its basis is professedly a collection of facts. Spiritualism is no theory of life and death, like Plato's and others; no system of the schools, no pious dream, but a knowledge of living based upon facts and a life and a literature grouped around them. You must take it as an admitted axiom, that any true science rests upon the basis of all known facts, and that her conclusions are drawn by generalization from all particulars that bear on any given point. Is it not perfectly clear that no observer, indeed no group of observers in any time or place, can claim to observe or ascertain all facts or phenomena which bear on this subject for himself or themselves, but is bound to take the evidence of other competent observers ? To refuse to accord this belief to such evidence when it tells of matters that have not come within your own experience, argues no scientific spirit but the mere incredulity of ignorance. Spiritual phenomena are demonstrated facts; they rest upon such evidence as establish proof and must be admitted as sufficient evidence for all we claim. To reject these facts as being contrary to ordinary experience, is utterly unscientific. At any time, a scientific thinker, if satisfied of the competence and credibility of other observers who bring fresh facts to his knowledge, is bound to accept their testimony and marshal the added facts with those already ascertained, even though they may be wholly unknown to himself. So too, with regard to kindred objections that the spiritual evidence deals with, are matters not cognizable by human faculties: phenomena of the spirit world of which you know nothing because you have no means of observing its facts or laws, of which therefore the scientific mind can take no account.
That objection is precisely the same as if a physician refused to take into consideration any Spiritual phenomena on the ground that his science dealt with the body and could take no cognizance of things of the spiritual world. Every doctor knows or should know, that there are facts and laws of the spirit world which little as they may be understood, and inexplicable by any material science, are so real that he cannot disregard them. You must accept all that you can learn about them, and take them into account as far as you are able. All reason and experience and the universal observation of mankind teach you that there is a series of phenomena observable in your world which are unexplainable by any other source than by a spirit, a departed human being who once lived and breathed, and had his being, and moving indeed, on a plane so different from things cognizable by natural sense, that your faculties hardly can grasp them. Now it is of the spheres in which these forces move, the material world in which we tell you. If you only dealt with matters which ordinary experience could observe, and the laws that human faculties could induce, it would be wholly unnecessary; indeed as a divine disclosure, it would be a contradiction in terms. The whole contention and claim of Spiritualism is that it reveals to you facts and laws of another world by which you are affected in the highest of all human concerns; but of which you have not yet sufficient experience to comprehend all of its wonderful yet strictly natural laws. This treats of the Spirit world which all human experience recognizes as lying about you; but no human senses or faculties can adequately grasp, that divine processes to tell you: and that in a properly scientific way, by the observation of competent witnesses, adding fresh facts to those which you can glean from your own experience—facts sufficient to establish a law about such phenomena which you could not arrive at by the unaided process of the human mind, from the paucity of the data which comes within your observation in ordinary life. Therefore, it is wholly wrong and unjust to try and sweep away the whole of Spiritualism as fraud or delusion and to say that because its conclusions contradict some theories of science, they must be either false or unknowable.
Spiritualism, as a divine order, professes to give the testimony of witnesses who have had the power of observing things not within ordinary ken. If the competence and credibility of witnesses be proved—which must be tested by the same methods as you apply to the evidence of any fact or facts, then you are bound by the principles and in the interests of all true science, to admit the facts, and the conclusions which right reason draws from them. This is an instance to show that you cannot too strongly insist on pinning down science to be true to her own principles. We have spoken of the antagonism that seems to actuate science and theology in its attitude towards Spiritualism; you must not forget that there is often a hostility shown by theologians towards spiritualist quite unfounded and unreasonable. If you are careful to determine the relation of Spiritualism to the subject there are no other branches of scientific investigation which can supply the all vital question of life after death. Take as an instance the research of Prof. Faraday; probably nothing in modern times has been received with such a storm of disapproval by the religious world as the publication of his theories. The whole existing human race has sprung from one parent stem is a fact, of which for centuries provoked a smile of incredulity from the spirit world. This has been proven by spirit intercourse and research, and is as certain as any such position can be. Spiritualism therefore, is itself a science, and must be judged according to its own subject-matter and the evidence adduced on its own ground. The peculiarity in it is that the facts on which it rests come within the scope of ordinary observation, and are established for you by competent witnesses. So far it is drawn out by human reason from these facts, and is unquestionably an element of possible infallibility in its induction. And indeed, nothing is more noticeable than the objections which are brought against the truth of Spiritualism. All the old schools of philosophy were thus formed on the theories of some great thinker, whose dicta were conducive to his disciples, and the facts of the universe had to fit themselves in with the theory, or left out in the cold. Have we not the task before us in these times, as heirs of all that human reason and knowledge have gone through in the same task in matters revealed which your generation of science has had in matters observed—to make use of the world of fresh facts bearing upon material and spiritual life which the progress of modern investigation has ascertained, and the improved methods of reasoning which better acquaintance with Natural laws and thought has perfected, to go carefully over the field of divine intelligence? This is a process covering a wide range of thought, and requiring infinite care and pains, trained abilities and very patient and minute investigations. Truth stands immovable like a vast pyramid, a weighty structure based on the whole wide field of facts that form its ground work, built up with care and pains in layers on layers of solid reasoning that narrows up to the point where its conclusion may be grasped by the finite intellect unalterable in its massive solidity by lapse of time or any shock or rude assault. It is but error that is like the pyramid upside down—a spreading superstructure reared on the narrow point of a single accepted theory, or the insufficient base of an isolated group of facts, that cover but some few points of the ground on which the structure professes to be built; the very emblem of instability which the first rude breath of hostile criticism must upset, even as the pyramid of truth on its proper basis, is the very emblem of stability as solid as the everlasting hills. It is a fact that this has been one generating influence upon mankind with which nothing in all history can be compared. And to be told that you must hand over Spiritualism as a worn out superstition, only because the higher culture of the present day will not take the pains to inquire into the basis on which it rests, is rather preposterous! At least we feel inclined to say to this higher culture—Prove your own ground, my friends—prove that the culture of tomorrow will not demolish you as it has done with your brother of yesterday. If the higher culture can prove its grounds, it will be found a real young giant that can drive all creeds and churches out of its way, or if you dissect it, may you not find that it is but a thin mask after all, behind which a little shivering masquerades, and has played many characters, and has been hissed off the stage in all? Indeed, the advocates of religion assume too much. They take it for granted that the ground of their opponent's arguments have already been disposed of and they offer absolutely nothing solid in the shape of counter proof. They call mankind from the green pastures and living streams where they have fed in peace and say: Come, my children, here you have no abiding place; all is unsatisfying and vain : a gloom is over it which will make this fair and pleasant view vanish from before your eyes, and the food you eat turns to ashes between your teeth. They say: Come and see the fairer vision of better pastures and clearer streams that they have to offer you. But when you walk up to them, they are but a mirage ; and you find yourselves standing on the arid sands of a desert, with the sky dark above your head and hungry and thirsty, your soul faints within you. The most preposterous of all is the way in which writers of different schools will take the phrases of Spiritual teaching, and assume that all vital meaning has been extracted from them ; play with them as with counters, and then assure you they are empty shells, and there never was a kernel in them at all. Let us then turn to this special point: what is the antagonism between Spiritualism and religion, and how far can the former assume to supersede or set aside the latter? And at the outset we ask, what is religion? No definition has yet been offered by its votaries, and perhaps you shall find that if it were clearly drawn, any possible ground of conflict between it and Spiritualism will be so materially narrowed that sensible men will pay little regard to it.
And what do they mean by religion? It is not worth while to ask this, because this is one of those terms which are on everybody's lips, and as no one ever thinks what it really means, and its sense becomes most vague and indeterminate. In such a case the only hope of arriving at a definite understanding is to trace the history of its gradual use from that first usage in which you find it current. Friends, be true to your own principles; and do not give us mere fine spun theories as to what the cultus might do for humanity. Our facts are strewn thickly over the whole world. Show us a single race of people who, to any real extent, or over any fair period of trial, have been raised in the moral scale and quickened to any true sense of a higher life by any religious influence, save that of Spiritualism. But we do say without fear of contradiction, that the only evidence, in any large scale, that has exercised any really regenerating influence upon mankind, is to be found in Spiritualism.
What has ever ennobled the world of men, and emancipated it from the thralldom of superstition and vice, like Spiritualism ! Further, the new life of which this is the informing principle, is not to be reached by any religion; for it is professedly based upon natural communication and influence. Spiritualism is unquestionably the key that unlocks the door to another life. You claim that man can only know what is cognizable by his senses or deducible by fair reasoning from what his senses perceive. This does not in any way prove that there may not be a whole world of which human senses are not cognizant, and laws equally uniform in that world of which therefore, human faculties can know nothing unless it be revealed by some communication from the spirit world, and of this, competent evidence has been given.
If science can recognize matter and force, then its must recognize spiritual phenomena because these are alone what your senses can perceive. And if you have competent evidence from credible witnesses that such have been observed, then it is utterly unscientific to reject their existence as impossible.
We therefore assert, there is a world around you not cognizable by the senses, because not material, or at least, is of matter of imperceptible tenuity and organized intelligence, peopling that world; there is nothing improbable in the action of these intelligences called into the play of forces of which you are not cognizant, to counteract those which form part of the observed order of things. This is said to be impossible because it is contrary to the experience of mankind. It may be contrary to the observed powers of men, for there is nothing more clear than that if a law of Nature is known, you can predict with absolute certainty what will be the result from given conditions, according to that law. One of the recognized modes of verifying a Natural law is to supply the conditions and predict the consequences, which may often be done with great minuteness through whole chains of cause and effect. The gift of prophecy is through a Natural law and has the power to predict a certain result, or a chain of consequences resulting from the operation of higher spiritual forces than any observed by human faculties; and is therefore Spiritual. But if these higher laws or forces were to be brought within the range of your observation, as they are now known to you only through the evidence of witnesses, they would be recognized as spiritual powers. Spiritualism is unquestionably based upon facts by communication or some ocular demonstration which is expressly stated to be the germ of a new life, which is set before you as its object. This is therefore, something essentially different from, and above anything that religion can supply.
We claim that there is nothing impossible or even improbable in the world of spirit; and that communication itself or the evidence; we cannot see from the communications and the established evidence; or the evidence by which it is established that should necessarily differ with anything that science can legitimately claim as her province. It is surely worth while in a matter of such importance, to see what is the value of the evidence to which Divine Law itself appeals; and to inquire if there is not abundant testimony to the truth of Spiritual phenomena on their own ground, within the experience of the world, in comparison with which any apparent discrepancies or contradictions that may be gathered against it from other grounds, are absolutely unimportant. We challenge any man to see in its true light what Spiritualism really claims to be; to weigh carefully what it professes to reveal: and verify the grounds on which it claims our assent. In the great failure of humanity which all experience confesses it the fact apparent or not, that just so far as men do live in accordance with the laws that govern and control and realize the highest, the best life and purest happiness that humanity is capable of and according as they fall away from, or violate the laws, so they are the prey of vile affections and hateful lusts, and the corruption that is in the world through lust that makes the life of men a chaos and a wreck? And amid that general chaos and wreck of human life, is it a fact or not, that the highest and best life ever known has been the Spiritualist ideal; so that if that ideal could be made wholly true for all humanity, the world would regenerate to new life, and the sin of the world would be taken away? Is it not a fact that the only power which has ever been able to do anything towards regenerating human nature and saving the world from its inherent corruption, is Spiritualism? Is it not true that Spiritualism has sown the seed of divine teaching, and the message of revealed truth that stands above all other, and has developed into a power which nothing else can compare? Is it not a fact that Spiritualism is rapidly becoming the dominant power on your earth and among the people ?
The radical difference between Spiritualism and other religions is that the aim which it sets before it is not the stimulating a sense of fear and scruple of conscience, or the mere sentiment of worship alone; but a new life, revealed as the only perfect life of earth, in communion with the unseen forces of the spirit world by actual communication. You have been told that there is a future life which is revealed, and you can, and have had the absolute proof to offer: for the only proof is demonstrative facts through the death of the body. You know that you shall not die. You know you have that within you that of which the death of the body is not the end. You see a gradual development from lower to higher forms of life—one eternal process moving on, by which higher and higher faculties are developed in successive organisms, and a gradual evolution of higher powers in the highest organisms to the very hour of death. Are you then to believe in the sudden and absolute reversal of all laws of evolution, and the abrogation of any design in existence—that these highest faculties are capable of no further development, and the whole course of nature falls shattered in blank annihilation? And the analogy is proof almost irresistible, that the material and the spiritual world are all the work of one Creative Mind which was taught mankind centuries ago; and this law shall not be broken. We have revealed the creation of the race, with special faculties to fulfill a declared purpose, as intelligent agents of Nature's laws, a law of the moral world declared, and a spiritual force revealed. In no case is any truth contradicted: but the observed facts of human existence are shown to be explained by a higher law and force that any you have faculties to ascertain, and which are therefore to us natural.
But these forces are ruled by exactly the same laws to which observed uniformity of natural causes and effects are observed. Spiritualism asserts the existence of a future world, of which it states the conditions and laws. The absolute proof is only to be reached by living facts. We also assert a spiritual life and the conditions and laws to be the same, only in a different stage of development; man makes or mars the happiness and goodness of his fellowmen, and as you look around the world you see in that all the foundations of the world are out of course; sin and self interest marring all the order and progress of mankind. You see a great striving and yearning in the heart of man for some perfect social order, that grows stronger as knowledge increasing, enabling men to see more and more clearly what might be and in what a contrast it stands to what is a great upheaving and mighty surging; each knot of men fancying that they have some panacea for the ills of mankind, and forcing it on their fellows. Where can such dreams be realized save in the community of interests by which all who are Spiritualists are bound to prefer each the other's good in one universal brotherhood of mutual helpfulness? Each one filling up that which is behind of the suffering and self sacrifice. And if Spiritualism thus proved to be the only true philosophy of life, so far as you can verify it, the one science that is found to harmonize all phenomena of man's higher nature which come within your observation and experience, are you not bound to accept it when it teaches of other phases and developments of man's life which are as yet beyond your observation, and of which therefore, your faculties can ascertain nothing, save so far as may be revealed by the witness of those who have been admitted behind the veil? The phenomena of life present the most subtle mysteries that can engage the thoughts of men ; yet of the most real, deep interest.
It is a force acting on matter that you see and feel, of which you are made, you can know nothing so ethereal and impalpable as it, though so terribly real. These are subtle forces, which you can perceive only through its action upon matter, but most real. Do not all observed phenomena point to the conclusion that it is independent of the material world, and must therefore be presumed in its higher developments to have a separate existence of its own, in another world of which your faculties as yet have no cognizances ? But as the laws of that higher life have been revealed on credible evidence, and shown to be such as harmonize with all experience so far as you can trace and test its working, are you not bound as reasonable men to accept the evidence as to these further phases of life, which are distracted, to be possible for the future without dependence upon matter, such as your bodies are made of? The higher life is declared to be subject to strict and uniform laws revealed by messages from the unseen world that made the force and ordained its laws, which have been verified with absolute fidelity by all subsequent experience and observation of mankind. Now, friends, we hope we have made Spiritual philosophy plain to all and we ask, can you find, or can you cite us to any science or religion that can offer the proofs and demonstrated facts other than Spiritualism? In a few years the world will know that Spiritualism is the only religion that is able to show absolute proof for its claims!