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Man and the Spiritual World

What may be fairly deduced from these Three Propositions.

We gather that as long as we remain in the earth-life we are three-fold in our constitution. Man is more than a popular theology has imagined him to be. He is not merely an unorganised and bodiless spirit encased in flesh. Christians, of all persons, ought to discard that theory, inasmuch as it wholly fails to account for hundreds of facts recorded in a Book they profess to accept as truth.

Man, in his essence, in the basis of his being, is a spirit, even when passing the first phase of existence on the plane of matter. The act of dying does not transform him into a spirit. He is that before he dies. This essential part of him is commonly termed 'soul'; we think a better and more Scriptural term is 'spirit.'

But man possesses, in addition to his spirit, two bodies—a physical one and a super-physical, or spirit-body.

This spirit-body is the envelope of the spirit. The latter is resident within it, and never exists apart from it. The spirit's envelope is not a gaseous, formless entity, but a body. Not, indeed, a compound of gross matter, but a composition spiritual in its nature, and organised. It possesses shape as well as faculties of sight, hearing and speech, and probably other faculties. In this respect there is a correspondence between it and the coarser physical body—its earthly enwrapment. St Paul noticed this correspondence, for he mentions 'celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial' (1 Cor. xv. 40 v.).

Thus, although death deprives man of a body, it does not leave him bodiless; although it denudes him of fleshly eyes, ears and vocal organs, it does not make him sightless, deaf and dumb. There still remains to him another organisation through which his spirit may express itself. Samuel and Moses, after death, were able to appear in shape, and to see, hear and speak; and all who have died can do the same.

Constituted in this way, the spirit-body of a man is adapted for the plane of spirit, and only for that plane, and, consequently, it must always be at a disadvantage on the plane of matter.

But God has designed that man shall pass the first stage of his existence on this earth. It is to be his stepping-stone to a grander development of life. Thereby he is to be schooled for the Spiritual. Like the unborn babe, he possesses inherent potentialities that demand a higher sphere than the womb in which the initial phase of being is passed.

But the initial phase is necessary, and he, like the babe, must be constitutionally adjusted to the experience. And so, during the earth-life, the spirit and its spiritual envelope are encased in a physical body, as the kernel and the shell of a nut are enclosed in a husk. Man's material body stands in the same relationship to him as the husk does to the nut.

That being so, our existence, while on this earth, is a duplex one. We live in two worlds—the Physical and the Spiritual. By our material body, we are in conscious contact and adjustment with the physical world; while, by our spirit-body, we are consciously or unconsciously in relation to a Spiritual universe that interpenetrates the physical and us.

Further, while we are encased in flesh, the physical part of our nature predominates, in the sense that it is, more completely than is our spiritual part, in its own particular sphere. We can fully exercise our material faculties, but we cannot as yet fully exercise the faculties of our finer spirit-body. Nevertheless, the latter are within us, and they have been partially exercised by numbers of men and women while still in this world. The facts of Clairvoyance and Clairaudience bear witness to this.

The powers of our spirit-body will be quickened into vigour at death, because then the repressing and obscuring presence of the physical will have been removed, and the spirit part of us will have been given a freer scope, and brought into a more complete adjustment to the World of Spirit.

We submit that these are deductions that may be fairly and consistently drawn from the facts mentioned in Scripture, and they furnish a definite and satisfactory answer to the question, 'What is Man?'

The truth may not have been grasped by the Christian world as a whole, but that is not the fault of the Bible, but of the expositors of it. The Book itself has not left us in the dark on this most important point concerning our being.

There we read that, as earthly creatures, we are spirits enclosed in super-physical and physical bodies, and being so, are already parts of a great environing Spiritual Universe.

It only remains for us, before passing on to the next phase of this subject, to briefly notice that—

The Bible's Pronouncement concerning: Man's Constitution is Confirmed by a very General Experience of Mankind.

A moment's reflection will lead us to see that this is a point of no small importance as affecting the truthfulness of the Bible. If there be no other grounds than its statements for the belief that man is possessed of an interior spiritual organisation, those that reject those statements have a weighty reason for doing so. They can argue—and sensibly too—that Man in his constitution is now precisely what he was two and more thousand years ago. Consequently, it is most unlikely, had he been really able to exercise the extraordinary powers ascribed to him by the Bible, that no traces of those powers should remain in him at the present time. Starting with the assumption that this twentieth century has no knowledge and experience of the super-physical, they may contend that there is a strong probability that those instances recorded in Scripture are less likely to be the outcome of fact than of imagination. Why credit the assertion that once upon a time Man was marvellously endowed, whereas now all signs of that endowment have wholly disappeared? Is not this to account him capable of less in the maturity of his race than in its infancy and childhood?

We consider this reasoning logical on the premiss upon which it is based, viz., that there exists no present-day knowledge and experience of the super-physical.

But we deny the premiss. We assert that there is available to every open-minded and unprejudiced inquirer a very great mass of evidence, furnished by men of all ranks and conditions from the four quarters of the globe, conclusively proving that the spiritual exists not only within man himself, but all around him.

By every Christian this evidence should be welcomed. It stamps his text-book as the word of truth, because, in regard to its statements as to the super-physical, he can find their counterparts in present-day experience. Thereby he will be no longer obliged to resort to reservation and hyperbolism in dealing with its records.

There are tens of thousands that reverence the Bible, who, however, in spite of its assertions staring them in the face, resolutely refuse to believe in anything that can be termed 'spiritualistic.'

Select, as an instance, an ordinary church or chapel goer. Tell him of a well-authenticated case of someone having appeared after death, or of Mr Jones or Mr Smith having had a clairvoyant or clairaudient experience. He will immediately look incredulous; very likely he will be candid enough to say he does not believe in such 'nonsense'; and in all probability he will inform the first acquaintance he meets that you are religiously 'going to the bad,' and becoming a 'crank.'

To a person of this type, we say, Do you know that you cannot really accept the statements of the Bible without believing in spiritualism? Its pages are full of the super-physical. Why profess to be shocked at the Materialist labelling the accounts of the post-mortem appearances of Samuel and Moses as 'nonsense,' or worse, when you yourself do the same thing in regard to similar appearances, only because these last took place at a later date!

Why should you wax piously indignant at the mere suggestion that the old historians were not truth-tellers or fact-tellers, while you antecedently view their present-day corroborators as prevaricators or dreamers!

To those who openly say that they reject the statements of the grand old Book, we reply, Very well, then! put it aside, if you will, and in the confidence of your supposed superior knowledge ignore it; shut your eyes to its facts, treat its records as no more than the outcome of superstitious thought, the offspring of disordered brains and hysterical constitutions—but know this, that in so disposing of the Bible you will not have disposed of the facts of spiritualistic truth.

Thousands of your fellow men and women, from all countries and of all centuries, rise up with their witness to the super-physical, that point for point corresponds with the Bible records. You must dispose of their testimony before you will have rendered a belief in the Spiritual incredible. The testimony of the Bible, valuable as it is, is after all but a single current in a great time-long stream of witness. There is a general experience of mankind in regard to—

(A). Appearances after death.

And a very widespread experience it is; far exceeding the possibility of any one person, or any number of persons, adequately estimating it.

Let anyone who doubts this assertion take the trouble to gather up the testimony that comes merely within the limit of his own knowledge. He will, probably, be astonished to discover how great is the witness borne to the fact that the departed have been seen after their earthly bodies have been placed in the grave.

Suppose we start at the comparatively very small circle of our own family and friends. There will be some in that circle who will tell of a dear one having been seen under those conditions.

A father or mother whose veracity and common sense we should not dream of doubting, calmly tells us that a deceased parent, partner or child, appeared under circumstances that make it impossible for us to put it down to a dream, or to over-strung nerves.

A friend, ordinarily so practical and unimaginative, positively asserts, in spite of our smile of incredulity, that a brother, thought to be alive and well at the time, was seen by him at the very hour at which (as he afterwards learned) he had died in a distant part of the world.

I could give a number of instances coming within my own small area of observation. I select only three. A highly-educated friend—a lawyer—one day said to me, 'I want to tell you something, although I hardly expect you will credit it, in spite of the fact that, as a clergyman, you are supposed to believe in a Spiritual World.' He then, in the most matter-of-fact way, that reminded me of the Bible-writers, informed me that since her death he had seen his wife five times, and, on two of those occasions, in broad daylight. Once she spoke to him, and advised him against a business project which, had it been carried out, would have made him a ruined man. That person was certainly sane, and I cannot think he was a liar.

Two ladies—sisters—were one summer afternoon sitting at needlework in a drawing-room in the suburbs of London. Happening to look up at the same moment, they saw, standing in the centre of the large room, a fair-haired little girl, who after a minute or more vanished. Both ladies were intensely astonished, and found that their description of what each had seen exactly tallied. They there and then made a note of the day and time of the appearance.

Four weeks later the mail from India came in, and brought them a letter from a sister who had married abroad and had not since been home, informing them of the sudden death of her little child, and enclosing a photograph taken a few weeks before she died. The two ladies immediately recognised the photograph as that of the child they had seen, and, moreover, the hour mentioned by the mother, as that at which the death had occurred, corresponded (after allowing for the difference between London and Indian time) with the memorandum they had made.

Two years ago, I was visiting at the bedside of a middle-aged man, who was dying of consumption in one of the infirmaries of London. On the day before that on which he passed away, at the close of a long conversation, during which I noticed his intellect seemed to be particularly bright, he said to me, 'You consider, do you not, that my mind is perfectly clear?' I assured him that I had never known it to be more so. 'Very well, then,' he continued, 'now I want to tell you what occurred last evening. But, first, you must understand that I was neither dreaming, nor under a delusion. As I lay here, my father, who died some years ago, stood in the place where you are now standing and spoke to me. He told me I had only a very little longer time to remain on earth, and said that he and other dear ones passed away were waiting to welcome me into the Spiritual World. I tried to raise myself in bed, in order to attract the attention of the nurse who was at the other end of the ward. I thought you might still be in the building, and I wanted her to send for you, that you, too, might see my father. I suppose the effort to raise myself must have been too much for me, for I slipped back on the pillow and felt I was fainting. When I opened my eyes again I looked for my father, but he was gone. Don't tell me I was dreaming, because I tell you with my dying breath I was not. My father was as really there as you are now, and I think he will come again.'

Two days later the poor fellow had been called away. I passed the empty bed and spoke to a man in a bed close by. Without knowing what had been said to me, he described the death-scene. Just before he died, he saw him raise himself into a sitting posture, fix his gaze very earnestly on the spot where I had so often prayed and conversed with him, smile as if he were recognising someone, and then fall back on his pillow motionless. A minute or two afterwards the screen was put around the bed, and he knew he was gone.

I am convinced that dying man was not relating a dream, and I do not believe he was the victim of a fevered imagination.

I instance these cases as a sample of what the inquirer will gather, if he do no more than prosecute his inquiries within his own immediate circle of family and acquaintances.

But suppose we go farther afield. Suppose we try to accumulate the testimony of all those with whom we have, or may, come into personal contact. In a few weeks or months we shall have obtained enough instances of post-mortem manifestations to fill a book.

Go on with the investigation. Let us note all the accounts of manifestations of which we read, not in sensational novels, but in the sober-minded books and literature of the day. Our high-class magazines and periodicals abound in articles on the subject; often written by men who are distinguished for intelligence and honesty. Many of them recount their own personal experiences. Are we prepared to label their testimony as falsehood, or fiction?

But when we shall have gone so far in our inquiry, we shall not have gathered one-thousandth part of the testimony furnished by mankind as to after-death experiences. Thousands and thousands have gone hence, who have borne their unwritten record that the departed have been seen by them; and these, not only unknown and unlettered witnesses, but men and women whose names are remembered and venerated, distinguished in this and in past centuries for high culture and moral excellence.

Hundreds of thousands of books have been written which we can never read; other thousands, lost and forgotten, that have all declared the same great fact and experience.

How are we going to deal with this huge, this unthinkable, mass of evidence?

There are two ways. We can reject the testimony, and in so doing brand a great body of our fellow-creatures (probably including some of our own family and friends) as deceivers, prevaricators and dreamers; or we can accept the testimony, and, after having made every allowance for exaggeration on the part of some, can find in it the consentient voice of Man proclaiming that the Word of God is true.

It may be well, in passing, to notice an objection often urged against this witness of mankind. Those who have taken the least pains to inquire into the subject are usually the ones to urge it. The objection may be stated in some such way as follows: ' We will grant that there is, and has been, from the earliest ages, a very widespread belief in appearances after death; but that is to be accounted for in much the same kind of way as we should account for children having all sorts of funny and foolish ideas. Somebody invents a story about a bogy, or Jack-the-Giant-Killer, and the child-mind believes it.

'When our race was in its infancy, somehow or another, without any basis in fact, the idea that the dead come back took hold of the mind of mankind, and ever since it has lingered there.'

It is astonishing that men, claiming to be scientific, will accept this reasoning without detecting the fatal flaw in it. The answer is patent. How can you account for it, we ask, that this idea, pronounced to be childish, holds possession of the mind of man now? Judged by his marvellous achievements during the past fifty years, he is, surely, no longer an infant.

Then how is it he has not discarded a foolish thought that is supposed to be characteristic of infancy?

As a little boy, I had a very silly idea—I imagined the counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex had each differently coloured soils, because they were so represented on the map. When I attained manhood that idea had completely died out in me.

If the objector be right, ought not the belief in appearances after death, on the same principle, to have died out, or, at least, to be dying out, now that Man is striding towards the maturity of civilisation and science? Should not his testimony on this point be growing less and less?

But this is not the case. In no age has he been so interested in the super-physical as in the present one; never, as now, so soberly and reasonably convinced of its reality, and so ready to bear his testimony concerning it.

One of the proofs of this is, that in this enlightened century a Society for Psychical Research exists for investigating this particular testimony of mankind. The names of men distinguished in the circles of science, art and letters, appear on the roll of that Society— Professor Henry Sidgwick, Professor Balfour Stewart, Professor Barrett, Sir William Crookes, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, the Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour, and a host of others.

Mr Gladstone, in accepting an honorary membership in the Society, wrote, 'It is the most important work which is being done in the world—by far the most important.' Such men—members of the Society—as Professor Lodge, Dr Hodgson and Frederick W. H. Myers have openly avowed their belief (as the result of psychical research), that those whom we call dead are alive, and can, undoubtedly, occasionally communicate with us.

I commend these facts to those who think they can dismiss an overwhelming mass of evidence regarding a Spiritual Life with a contemptuous wave of the hand, or smile of incredulity.

This would, also, seem to be the place to refer to a difficulty that many experience in accepting this testimony. It is this. Persons, after death, are said to have been seen in the form, and even in the dress, in which those who saw them had been accustomed to know them before they departed from the earth-life. Thus, the prophet Samuel appeared, in the cave of the woman of Endor, as an old man covered with a mantle, and others since him have presented themselves invested with the characteristics of a physical body and a material garb.

How can you account for that? it is asked. Even if it be granted that Man possesses an interior spirit-body, in which after death he can manifest himself, how is it possible that he can appear in a body and dress that he laid aside in dying? It cannot be supposed that the material envelope and its dress are taken into the Spiritual World.

This was a difficulty that perplexed me for a long while, and I give the reader the explanation that was given to me by a clairvoyant and clairaudient friend who in turn received it from a departed acquaintance, who on several occasions appeared and spoke to him.

I reproduce the words as nearly as I can remember them.

'We who have left the earth-life (until we have advanced so far as to be unable to come back to the lower spheres of spirit) are very often near you whom we have left behind. But it is not always permitted to us to manifest ourselves.

'When it is permitted, we have to come in a form and appearance that you can recognise. Although, in a measure, there is a correspondence between our spirit-body and the coarser envelope that enclosed it while we were on earth, yet in many respects it is dissimilar; and were you to see us as we are, we should be unknown to you.

'This is how we establish our identity. We think of ourselves as we know you think of us. We mentally picture ourselves in a form and dress in which you knew us, and in so doing we temporally clothe our spirit-body with an appearance that you see. What seem to you a physical body and a material dress are not so, but only thought-forms, assumed for the purpose named, and which afterwards pass away. As yet you know little about the power and possibilities of Mind; although your thoughtful men are fast advancing to a better knowledge of it. Here, in the Spiritual World, Mind is predominant, and one of its capabilities is that it can express itself in form?

That this latter statement is a fact I am fully convinced; and there are good grounds for believing that we are on the eve of scientifically demonstrating it.

Bearing on the subject of this marvellous power of Mind, let me give you one pregnant sentence spoken to me. An aged working-man lately accosted me as I was leaving my house, and pointing to the trees and grass, said, ' What do you make of those?' ' God's beautiful works? ' I replied. ' Yes,' responded the old man, 'the thoughts of God materialised.' He had grasped a truth overlooked by many. A word or two will suffice as to another general experience of mankind, viz.:—

(B). The facts of Clairvoyance and Clairaudience.

That these super-physical powers are still existent in man must be admitted, whatever hypothesis we adopt to account for them. The testimony that declares their existence may not be so widespread as that which bears witness that the departed have been seen after death; but at all events it is general, clear and emphatic. That is acknowledged by all who know anything of the subject. Not only have there been, but there are at this present moment, many persons in all parts of the world who are either themselves clairvoyant and clairaudient, or who, not so endowed, can bear witness that those powers are possessed by others whom they know.

The subject comes rightly within the province of science. It calls for no exercise of faith, but of knowledge. The facts may be ascertained by inquiry and observation. Anyone may prove for himself that there are numbers of men and women who are clairvoyant and clairaudient. I have myself done so, and am as convinced that many are so gifted as I am certain that I can physically see and hear.

The phases of clairvoyance and clairaudience, to which allusion has been made, are not experiences merely of the past, but also of the present. What was true of Bible-times is true of to-day. There are, at the present time, persons who can see and hear external spiritual realities that are near them, although those realities are imperceptible to the ordinary senses.

There are others who can see and hear spiritual realities distant so far as to be absolutely beyond the range of material vision and hearing. And, further, there are many who can clairvoyantly see and clairaudiently hear external physical realities, under circumstances of time and distance precluding all possibility of ordinary eyes and ears being the media of the sight and hearing. Those who are ignorant of these facts, or, knowing them, ignore them, will do well to give the subject careful study.

The facts afford data helpful to those who wish to give a right answer to the question—'What is man?'

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
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