Home  | The Zodiac Messages | Articles | Services | Visitors Book | Books | Site Map | Contact | Search 

Man and the Spiritual World

I.—That the Spiritual is a World of widely-differing life and experience.

That is a truth but rarely grasped. The common idea of the Spiritual World is, that it consists of two circumscribed areas, marked off somewhere in far-away space; one of which areas is allotted to the spirits of good people, and the other to the spirits of wicked ones. When a person departs this life, it is imagined that he goes into one or other of those localities, and there enters upon a life and experience that is stereotyped and uniform for all in that particular division. There, among the good or bad, he finds himself in the midst of an environment that never varies. All the beings with whom his lot is cast are thought to have precisely the same character, the same experiences, to possess the same ideas, and to do (if they do anything at all) the same things. In that place, it is supposed, he will remain, leading an aimless existence in a long anticipation of bliss or misery, until the final Judgment shall declare his destiny of Heaven or Hell.

Consequently, to a healthy mind, the Intermediate Life is presented as about as undesirable a Life as it is possible to conceive: a dull, sleepy, workless, and half-alive condition; a place to be quiet in, and do nothing but dream of future 'beatific visions' or awful pains.

The marvel to me is how those who profess to have these notions can think it possible that any being, after a century of such experiences, could maintain a vestige of his manhood or sanity.

Nothing more clearly shows how deeply rooted is this idea of the fixed and unalterable uniformity and aimlessness of the Life after death, than the horror felt by many at the suggestion that we should still continue to pray for those who have gone into that Life. To numbers it appears a superstitious absurdity to speak to the great loving Father-God about a dear departed one.

I know some good people who would not be half so shocked at your slandering a neighbour, or doing him some other wrong, as they would be if you prayed for him after his decease.

But why, we ask, a little indignantly, is it absurd and reprehensible to pray for the departed? 'Why?' is the rejoinder, 'what possible good can we do the dead by praying for them?' To this we answer— 'None whatever, if they be dead things, or drowsy, inactive, trance-like entities, fixed in an unalterable environment; but a great deal of good—depend upon it—if they are living men and women, capable of thinking, working and acting, and expanding into something better and nobler.' And it is just because we are convinced that our departed are living, and are leading real lives, and not droning out a monotonous existence on the dead-level of a paralysing uniformity, that we absolutely refuse to believe that our unselfish prayers for them are either un-Christian or un-Scriptural.

If poor lost souls in the World Beyond were not out of the reach and concern of a loving Saviour, (and St Peter shows they were not), why, in the name of common sense, should it be wrong for us to pray for others who may be in the same condition?

Methinks I hear the objector say, 'There is not one text in the Bible that bids you offer such prayers.' 'Quite true,' we answer, 'but what of that? There is no text that commands us to baptize little children, or to read a Burial-Service over dead bodies, or to build churches, and hold Festivals and Saints' Days; but we do these things, nevertheless.'

When will some Christians learn that the Bible only gives us broad, grand principles to guide us in our thought and conduct, and assumes that Christlike instinct and sanctified common sense will suggest the rest?

Had men but a better grasp of the truth concerning the World of Spirit, we should hear no more of the foolish outcry that prayers for the departed are dreadfully wicked and essentially Popish. If the Roman Church has piled up a mass of Mediæval rubbish upon a beautiful and Christ-like practice, sweep away the rubbish, but do not get rid of the practice. He is not a skilful surgeon who cuts off a man's leg to get rid of an abscess upon it; nor is he a wise teacher who, in order to remove an incrustation of error, clears away the truth that lies beneath.

Those who pray for the departed have a far worthier conception of the Life Beyond than those who think that the voice of supplication must cease with the dying breath, and that Death will seal the ears of God against our cry for a blessing on dear ones who 'live unto Him.'

Before we turn to the Bible to show that it does not teach uniformity of life and experience in the Spiritual World, let us briefly refer to two considerations that point to this conclusion.

(a) The impossibility of imagining that persons, on leaving this life, can be rigidly divided into only these two classes of good and bad.

We are confronted with facts, and it is well that we should honestly look them in the face. What are they? First, that not one in every ten thousand persons departing this life can either be designated as altogether good or altogether bad. Between those extremes lies an infinite variety of characters that approach nearly, less nearly, distantly or more distantly, either goodness or wickedness.

Here is a man who is not wholly good, inasmuch as he has some bad qualities and habits. Here is another, not wholly bad, since at times he can act rightly and even nobly. To which division, at death, are we to assign each of these men? Do we mentally put them (as it were) into a scale that will measure their moral worth, and as the good or bad in them predominates, assign them a place in one of the two divisions?

In that case, what will happen to those (and there are millions of them) whose character at death is in a state of equipoise between good and bad? Does it accord with the fitness of things that such persons should be herded with those in whom goodness has been all but extinguished, or, on the other hand, should they be made, although unfitted for the experience, to consort with saints?

How, for instance, will those who only think of two classes in the Spiritual World—viz., the good and the bad, the saved and the unsaved—argue in respect to the following case—a true one?

Not long ago, on a very rainy day, a large vessel, laden with oranges, was discharging her cargo at one of the quays near London Bridge, and a number of porters were carrying the boxes of fruit across a plank stretched from the vessel to the quay. Lounging on the quay was a disreputable, drunken fellow, too lazy to work, and bad enough to disgust the dock-labourers. There he stood, watching the operations, and making foul remarks to the toilers as they passed and repassed him. Suddenly there was a cry. A poor fellow had slipped on the wet plank, and fallen into the water. An instant later the swift current had swept him out into mid-stream. Without a moment's hesitation, the drunken loafer dashed the short clay pipe from his mouth, flung off his ragged coat, plunged into the river, and, after a desperate struggle, succeeded in reaching the drowning man, and kept him from sinking until a boat reached them, and both were rescued in an unconscious condition.

Now suppose that loafer had lost his life in his magnificent effort to save a fellow-creature who was nothing to him, to where, I ask, would the commonly accepted teaching have consigned him? The so-called 'orthodox' system only gives the choice of two places. Would his spirit have risen from the muddy Thames to go among the good in Paradise? He, the drunken, dissolute man, would have been out of place with the ones there, and as for imagining that faith and good character were acquired by him in his death-struggle, what if he had known nothing at all about Christianity, and in the act of dying had been too busy to think of anything except saving a fellow-creature's life!

Would his spirit then have gone among the bad, to that place regarded as the awful and hopeless ante-chamber and waiting-room of an everlasting Hell? Such a thought ought to shock any Christian whose moral sense has not been blunted and drugged by long familiarity with a cruel doctrine invented in a hard and fierce age.

Had that loafer died before the boat reached him, he would have done what many who go to Church or Chapel, and count themselves 'the elect,' would not have done. If he was a child of the devil in his life, he was very much like Christ in his death.

Where, we ask again, will the theorists who regard the Spiritual World as only two waiting-places for a future of weal or woe, determined at death, place that man? It will do violence to their creed if they put him among the blessed. It is an abominable thought that one in whom the Christ-spirit is energising should have no other prospect than Hell.

Our friends are in a moral difficulty. It does not confront us who can conceive of varied life and experience in the World Beyond. We can believe that that disreputable loafer, who dared to do what the loving, beautiful Saviour did, would go, after death, not into a cruel and remorseless sphere of inexorable destiny, but into a department of the Spiritual World where He Who came not 'to destroy men's lives, but to save them,' and Who declared that He will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, will, unless He is not 'the same yesterday and to-day and forever,' most certainly go after the poor lost sheep to raise him to something better.

But that could not be so, on the supposition that there are only two divisions and two classes in the Spiritual World: in the one, none but those ready and waiting for Heaven, and in the other, only the hopelessly doomed ones expectant of Hell.

Let us pass to the other consideration that points to varied life and experience after death.

(b) The difficulty of supposing that persons on leaving this life can have, in the face of the intellectual, moral and spiritual dissimilarity that exists, a uniform experience beyond.

How can there, we ask, be a uniform experience either of pleasure and happiness, or of pain and misery in either of two spheres of Spiritual existence, unless in mind, character and spiritual condition the ones who enter those spheres are constituted alike? Even were all outwardly conditioned the same, variety in character and mental and spiritual capabilities must necessitate a wide dissimilarity in experience.

Place two persons here on earth amid the same surroundings, let us say, for example, in a delightful country spot. It will by no means follow that the experiences of both will be similar. One may be an intense lover of the country, and a thoughtful observer and student of nature. The other may have cultivated no tastes and desires, except such as pertain to town - life. To the one man the country surroundings will be a delight, an inspiration, a means of expanding the internal resources he possesses; to the other they will be uninteresting, dull and irksome.

On the same principle we argue that the one who has lived out his earthly life without cultivating a love for God and spiritual things, would be as unable to suddenly appreciate and enjoy spiritual realities of a high order, as a schoolboy, who has just learned the four first letters of the Greek alphabet, would be to find a delight in the classics.

Now, the general notion is that there are two departments of Intermediate Life, and a particular set of surroundings for each department, and, moreover, a particular set of experiences common to all in that department.

Thus it is assumed that the man who has never cultivated his mind and spirit—e.g., the drunkard and wife-beater who repents on his death-bed—will go directly after death into the immediate Presence of his Saviour and will live with the saints, and become absorbed in the contemplation and enjoyment of heavenly things; because St Paul who went to the abode of the saved spoke of dying as a gain, and went to be with Christ. Again, it has been confidently taught that the irreligious man drowned by the capsising of a boat (provided he has not been suddenly converted as he chokes in the water—an idea, by the way, that finds no sanction in Scripture) will assuredly go into a place of awful pain and remorse; because selfish Dives was shown to be so circumstanced after he left this world.

It never seems to strike some that surroundings that are possible and suitable to St Paul and other developed Christians may be impossible, and certainly would be most unsuitable, to an ex-wife-beater and others whose characters have not been moulded, and who are but 'babes' in Christ.

Dives went into the right place to unlearn his selfishness and to learn a concern for others, but it does not follow that his experience would be proper for another, who, although irreligious, might not be selfish.

Thus, we believe that, even if it could be shown that everybody's everlasting destiny is unalterably fixed at death (and I have never yet been able to discover that doctrine in the Bible), and even if it could be shown that the saved have but one spiritual environment, common to all, yet, we contend, their experiences in that environment would be wholly different. The relationship of some towards it would be unlike that of others. To the man or woman of moulded character and expanded nature, it would be what to others of unmoulded, or less moulded, character it could not be.

That is why, I think, our Lord and the Bible-writers laid such enormous stress upon character, and, seemingly, such little stress upon mere theological opinions. Their rebukes and condemnations were reserved for those who acted wrongly, rather than for those who thought erroneously. The severest words that ever fell from the lips of Jesus Christ were launched against the 'orthodox' Pharisees.

Nor is it difficult to see the reason of this. Knowing the all-important part that character plays in forming and complexioning our life and experience in the World Beyond, Christ and those who were taught by Him placed the cultivation of character before all else. They knew that one flash of Divine light after death might set a man right whose theological ideas were wrong, if his conduct had been true and Christ-like; but that no amount of mental illumination could suddenly transform a neglected, or warped, or misshapen nature into one en rapport with that which is spiritually grand and beautiful.

What a wealth of meaning and hope (so generally unsuspected) underlies those magnificent words of the Saviour, 'If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God' (John vii. 17 v.). Think over those words. They embody a Gospel-message that half the Gospel-preachers have missed.

To Next Chapter »

Return To Contents of "Man and the Spiritual World"

floppy save button Download "Man and the Spiritual World" (.pdf) floppy save button

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
 Home  | The Zodiac Messages | Articles | Services | Visitors Book | Books | Site Map | Contact | Search