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Problems of the Spiritual


I. Our Mother, just before she died, very calmly and emphatically declared that she saw and recognized several persons who had departed this life years before. Do you think this was merely a subjective experience, or were those departed ones actually and objectively present? And if the latter, how was she able to recognize them, seeing that the physical form, in which alone she had known them, had been laid aside?

In answer to the first of these questions, we say— Yes; we believe that persons can, after death, be objectively present, and possess the power, exercised under certain conditions, of manifesting themselves to those living in the earth-life. We submit the reasons on which we ground this belief.

I. There is a very strong presumption that this is so, arising from the fact that there has existed throughout all past ages, and there exists now, an ineradicable conviction that, at times, the so-called "dead" return.

Among all the races of mankind, civilized and uncivilized, and under all the differing phases of religious, or non-religious, thought, men have persistently believed in, and borne testimony to, the possibility of the departed manifesting themselves; and that, in spite of all the efforts which have been made to prove the belief a foolish and groundless one. The science of the past (not the science of to-day) has ridiculed the idea as being the outcome of superstition and ignorance. The Church herself, with a curious lack of consistency, has labelled it as an unscriptural and a rather wicked notion. And yet, throughout the whole history of the race, men have pertinaciously clung to it, and no testimony borne to anything outside the ordinary experiences of mankind has ever been so great and so continuous as that which has been given in regard to appearances after death.

This persistent conviction is significant. It points to fact as the basis upon which it rests. Why, we ask, if the departed have never returned, have men so persistently believed the opposite?

The objector will answer, that this conviction, although so widespread, can only be classed among many other baseless ideas pertaining to ages of un-enlightenment; and that as mankind advances in knowledge, this particular notion will cease to command belief.

This supposition is completely contradicted by present-day fact. The extraordinary advance that has been made in science and general knowledge, during the past twenty or thirty years has neither removed nor shaken this conviction in the minds of men; on the other hand, it has become enormously strengthened and intensified. The belief in the return of the departed, so far from dying out in the light of fuller knowledge, is more persistent and widespread to-day than ever it has been; and in the ranks of the believers are to be found some of the foremost men of Science. In a word, the advance of knowledge has increased the belief. This is inexplicable on the supposition that the belief is founded on a fancy; it is to be accounted for, if it is built on a foundation of fact.

Thus, the persistent conviction on the part of mankind that appearances after death do take place, is to us a very strong presumption (apart from all direct evidence) that such is the case. Had the alleged fact been impossible of verification, the belief in it would have died out, as have baseless notions, long ago.

II. The verification, after careful investigation by scientific men, of the present-day facts of Psychical Phenomena, affords another strong reason for believing that the departed may return to us. The idea of such return is no longer scouted by men who have given their attention to the matter as foolish and impossible. The deniers of the fact are for the greater part those who assume the unscientific attitude of antecedently settling themselves in the conviction that the thing is impossible, and then of declining to make any enquiry, or to accept any evidence whatsoever on the subject.

The pronouncements of such persons count for simply nothing at all. The opinion of the person who says—"The thing, I am convinced, is impossible; and therefore I will consider no evidence in support of it,"—is so completely outside the radius of practical importance, that we may dismiss it as valueless, as we should the opinion of one who, having antecedently come to the conclusion that the North Pole could not possibly exist, ignored every scientifically ascertained fact concerning the same.

But we turn to the men who have given thought and attention to the subject; to men whose opinions are of weight, because, by culture and profession, they are qualified to weigh evidence and estimate fact. I am referring to some of the most distinguished and well-known of the scientific men of the present time. They have investigated the existing facts of Psychic Phenomena, and have given to the world statements concerning them, which have revolutionized the ordinary ideas of men.

We ask the thoughtful enquirer to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" all that is contained in those two exhaustive volumes, which embody the results of the scientific examination of Psychical Phenomena, by the late Professor Myers. ("Human Personality; and its Survival of Bodily Death.") It will open the eyes of some to the possibilities of the Spiritual. It will go very far towards making the thought of manifestation after death a believable one.

An absolute change has come over the mind of Science, in regard to the Spiritual and its possibilities. She, as represented by the ablest of her exponents, is no longer materialistic. She has at length reached the point of acknowledging that it is impossible to account for certain experiences vouchsafed to many men and women on any hypothesis of the merely Physical. She has even gone the length of admitting, that apart from the acknowledgment of that which within us and about us transcends the Physical and which links us with the Spiritual, many of the inherent powers and the experiences of thousands of our race are inexplicable.

It may be asked—In regard to Science, what has brought about this change of front? Why has Science, so materialistic in the past, become now so pre-eminently the means by which men are so much better realizing the possibilities of Spirit?

We answer,—the fact of Psychic Phenomena of late years, has become so persistent and demonstrable, that Science has been unable any longer to ignore it.

In the past, the followers of Science, no less than the adherents to Religion, have been handicapped against the acquirement of fuller knowledge, by prejudice and traditionalism. It is very different now. Both Systems are learning that all the facts of human experience must be honestly faced, if truth is to be attained. Many of the old conceptions in regard to Religion are vanishing away, and better and truer ideas are taking their place. And the Science of to-day has made admissions with respect to human life and experience, which would have been ridiculed by the scientific men of fifty years ago. The existence of the soul; its survival of bodily death, and the possibility of communication between those in Spirit-life and those in Earth-life, are no longer ideas which Science proclaims to be groundless and incredible.

There are many of our distinguished men of Science, unlabelled as to religious creed, who, in consequence of a knowledge acquired through the investigation of Psychical Phenomena, have an in-tenser belief in the reality of the Spiritual, than many Christians who persuade themselves that they believe all the Spiritual wonders recorded in the Bible.

Thus, in the face of the admissions of Science in regard to the Spiritual; in face of the enormous testimony borne by mankind to the effect that the departed may, and do return, which testimony has not been overthrown by scientific investigation, we are driven to the conclusion that the reappearance of those who have passed hence is a verifiable fact.

III. An enormous amount of direct testimony has been borne by "all sorts and conditions" of men, as to the fact of appearances after death.

Let any enquirer on this point but take the trouble to ask those with whom he may come into contact, if any such experience has come within the range of their knowledge, and we venture to say that every other person so questioned will recount some instance of a departed one having been seen, either by himself, or by someone whose testimony he accepts. It is only as we make enquiries, that we find out how widespread is the experience with which we are dealing. Thousands never mention to others—save, perhaps, to their own circle—what they know in regard to this subject. They are afraid of being accounted weak-minded, or untruthful, and so the testimony adduced—great as it is, is less than it would be, if it were not for this fear of the scoffer. Moreover, it is a notable fact, that the ones who give their testimony as to any personal experience of manifestation after death, are convinced that their experience was objectively real, and not to be attributed to hallucination. The following is an instance. An old gentleman (connected with the writer) lost his wife, to whom he was deeply attached. He felt the bereavement acutely. One morning, at the breakfast-table, he told his sons he had had a strange experience: all the more strange to him, because, until then, he had deemed such a thing impossible. He, when lying awake, and thinking of other matters, had seen his departed wife standing beside his bed. She had smiled on him, and said: "John, you will be with me in May." The sons pronounced the experience to be only a dream, or the outcome of overwrought imagination. The father most calmly asserted that it was not so, but an objective reality. His sons remained unconvinced, and the old man never again alluded to the subject. Five or six months passed, and the father regained all his old cheerfulness and interest in life. An evening-party was given by him to celebrate his birthday, and those present remarked how well he appeared to have recovered the shock of his wife's death. On the following morning, he was found dead in his bed; and it was the month of May. There are thousands of recorded experiences similar to this, and we contend that it is more reasonable to regard them as based on fact, than on fancy; of being objective rather than subjective. A person completely sane, calm, and invariably truthful, deliberately affirms that he has seen a dear one after death, and that the experience was not imagination. Those who have not had the experience, or any like experience, as positively assert the opposite.

But which statement, we ask, is of the more evidential value—that of the one who had the experience, or that of those who did not have it? We do not usually attach much importance to the pronouncement of any one concerning a subject, about which he acknowledges a total lack of experience, and a fixed conviction that no idea but his own can possibly be right. We drop him outside the reckoning, as not possessing the necessary data upon which to come to a true conclusion.

Thus, the testimony of one person who has had any experience of post-mortem appearances, is worth more in assisting us to come at the truth of the matter, than all the assertions of a hundred others, who have had no such experiences. We admit this principle in the concerns of every-day life.

Again, if it is difficult to cast aside as unreliable the testimony regarding an appearance after death, of a person whom, in all other respects, we regard as sober-minded and truth-loving, it is still more difficult to reject the testimony of several persons who conjointly and simultaneously have the same experience. There are a great number of verified instances of two, three, or more persons who have seen the departed at the same time, and in precisely the same way, as to leave no room for the supposition that the experience can be explained as hallucination. The writer himself has had such an experience. He saw, in company with an intimate friend, a manifestation which presented itself, in every detail, in precisely the same way to him as it did to his friend. If this experience is to be accounted for on the hypothesis of its being merely subjective, then we are shut up to the conclusion that two absolutely independent minds were suddenly and simultaneously so affected, as to similarly see, in every particular, something which had no existence except in imagination. We ask, in the face of this concurrent experience, which is the more reasonable explanation—that the experience is to be attributed to a disordered mind, or to objective fact?

Thus, we have, in the direct testimony adduced by thousands of our fellow-beings, another strong reason for accepting as true, that the departed may, and do, at times manifest themselves to us.

IV. We have the statements of the Bible that persons, after death, have objectively manifested themselves. The testimony of the Bible on this point is very emphatic, and it ought to settle the question at once for those who profess to believe that Book. And yet, strange to say, the ones least disposed to admit the possibility of post-mortem appearances are very often those whose Religion, as Christians, is founded on the fact of appearances after death.

The Christian Religion rests on the acknowledged truth that our Lord Jesus Christ was seen, after death, by a considerable number of persons. He was seen under circumstances which preclude the possibility of accounting for His appearances on the hypothesis of merely mental impressions. He was, moreover, seen in such a way as to demonstrate the fact that He had passed beyond the restrictions of the Physical, and was living in the environment of the Spiritual. He could suddenly present Himself before the eyes of astonished Apostles, in a room whose door was closed and barred. He could instantly vanish from their sight; could quickly transport Himself from place to place; could change His form; be unrecognized for a while by those who knew Him well, and could cause Himself to soar upward in seeming contravention of the law of gravitation. In a word, from a World transcending the Physical, into which He had entered at death, He presented Himself to men and women still on the earth-plane; and they acknowledged the fact, and the Christian Religion was built on it. No Christian, after this, can consistently and logically doubt the possibility of manifestations from the World of Spirit.

If the Bible be true in stating that Samuel and Moses and Jesus, and "many of the saints which appeared unto many" at the time of the Crucifixion, and the "fellow-servant of the brethren, the prophets," who came to St. John at Patmos—presented themselves after death, then we contend that the Christian Religion itself demands us to believe that the so-called "dead" may, and do, return. If we deny that such manifestations are possible, we have cut away from ourselves all reasons for believing the Scripture records. The Spiritual World to-day is no different from what it always has been. What was possible and actual in the past is so to-day. And the accumulated evidence of this age in regard to Spiritual realities confirms this statement.



We proceed to answer the other question submitted above :—How was the mother, who on her death-bed declared she saw and recognized departed ones—able to recognize them; seeing that the physical body, in which only she had previously known them, had been laid aside? There are two ways by which a being passed into spirit-life can manifest himself and make himself recognizable to those in earth-life.—(a) By the clothing of his spirit-presence with a thought-form, in such a manner that he assumes the appearance in which he had been previously known by those to whom he manifests, (b) By building up around his spirit-presence a temporary encasement, constructed from particles and emanations drawn from physical bodies. This latter is commonly called "Materialization."

With regard to the first of these two methods of manifestation. The appearance produced as a thought-form is not physical, nor can it be physically perceived. It is a creation of Thought.

The ex-carnate being, knowing that he would be unrecognized, except in the appearance in which he had been known in earth-life, thinks of himself in that way, and his thought takes form, and his spirit-presence is invested with that form. Thus a being in spirit-life is able to manifest himself in different ways to different persons, in accordance with the manner in which he may think of himself. If he were to appear to one who had only known him in earth-life as a young man, he would think of himself as such, and be presented in that form. If he were to manifest to another who had known him in later life, he would mentally draw the picture of himself in that condition, and be seen in correspondence with that thought. When the prophet Samuel was seen after death, it was in the form of an "old man " (I Sam. xxviii. 14 v.)—the form in which alone he would have been recognized. As to this power of the Mind to produce form, and how it does so, we know but little as yet; but there are many indications that the fact is coming within the bounds of scientific demonstration. It is known that, pervading all space and interpenetrating all physical matter, is a subtile element—the Aether. It may be that thought-forms are the result of mental energy, projected as vibratory motions, upon the aetheric atmosphere, and that these register thereon the impressions and images created in the Mind. There seems to be no greater difficulty in supposing the aether capable of registering a Mind-image, than in knowing that the sensitized plate of the photographer can register the likeness of a physical object. A spirit-being appears to possess the power, not only of projecting these Mind-images which he creates upon the aetheric atmosphere in which he has his being, but of so identifying himself with the projected image, as to merge, for a while at least, his spiritual self into it. He is seen, then, in a thought-form of his own creating. Thus, in the Spirit-World, our environment and our self as we appear to others, is mainly determined by our Mind.

If this be so, it may be asked—How can non-physical thought-forms be seen by one whose vision of objective realities is dependent upon the physical eyes? In other words,—How can a spirit-being who has enwrapped himself in a thought-form be seen by those still living in the earthly body? The answer is—by means of the faculties of the interior spirit-body. Within our outer physical body lies this spirit-body—the encasement of our spirit-self.

St. Paul, writing on this subject in 1 Cor. xv. 44 v. states—

there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body

—there is a natural body (i.e. a body pertaining to this life only), and there is (i.e. now) a spiritual body. Spirit and spirit-body constitute what we call "soul." A man after death is an ex-carnate being—a spirit; but he is not a shapeless entity, a fluidic essence: he has a bodily form; he is in a spirit-body. This spirit-body possesses faculties, which correspond with the faculties of the physical body, but transcend them. The powers of sight and hearing in the spirit-body are intensified. The eyes and ears of the physical body can be sensitive to only a limited number of vibrations in regard to sight and sound.

The faculties of the spirit-body, on the other hand, are capable of receiving aetheric vibrations; whereby sights invisible to physical eyes, and sounds inaudible to physical ears are perceptible to the spiritual organization. The normal condition of the spirit-body, while encased within the physical, is undevelopment. The latent powers are there, but their close association for a while with the Physical body places them under restriction. The inherent capabilities of the soul-man are at a disadvantage in exercising themselves through the environment of the physical man. The bright electric light can only shine but dimly through the coarse, enveloping medium of a London fog. There is a likeness between the condition of our spirit-body and that of the physical body of a child shortly before birth. The latter has all the potentialities of perceiving sights and sounds. It has eyes and ears; but until birth they are unopened. The praenatal conditions of existence afford no scope for the exercise of those powers. Birth to it means a quickening and an opening of already existing faculties. It becomes, then, en rapport with a world of physical sight and sound.

To us, physical death involves a similar experience. Death removes from us the restrictions of the Physical. By it, the body of our spirit-self is brought into adjustment, and is made capable of functioning in an environment where the possibilities of spiritual seeing and hearing surpass the possibilities of the physical. After death, the conditions of being become altered: then we live and move in the domain of the aetheric, and the horizon of perception, of observation and inherent power becomes enormously extended.

Thus the "resurrection" (the anastasis, the advance) which Christ referred to, in His argument with the Sadducees, means the liberation of the spirit-body from the obstructive connection with the Physical, and the exercise of higher powers by the spiritual man. But this opening and quickening of the faculties of our interior spirit-body takes place, sometimes, before death. Persons, still resident in the earthly body, at times see and hear that which physical eyes and ears are incapable of perceiving. From beginning to end, the Bible is full of such instances. The spiritual beings who were seen by patriarchs, seers and others were not seen through the mediumship of the physical eyes, but by an abnormal opening of the sight of the spirit-body. "Lord, open his eyes that he may see," prayed Elisha, in regard to the young man, whose physical eyes were insensible to the nearness and reality of the Spiritual. (2 Kings vi. 17 v.) And the opening of his eyes disclosed to him wonders beyond the ken of the Physical. There can be no doubt that the reason why our Lord selected St. Peter, St. James and St. John to be witnesses of that Spiritual revealment on the Mount of Transfiguration, was because they alone of all the other Apostles were so spiritually constituted, as to be clairvoyantly and clairaudiently capable of seeing and hearing the spiritual visitants who there manifested themselves.

In the case of the Mother who declared, just before she died, that she saw and recognized departed ones, we believe that there was a quickening, an opening, of the faculties of her interior spirit-body, by which she was made capable of perceiving the presence of those persons. Those dear ones had been drawn to that death-chamber by the magnetic power of Love. We dare believe that the great All-Father of Love commissioned them to come, in order to remove the "sting of death," and to mitigate that feeling of strangeness which must come to a human soul, in passing from the conditions of the Physical to those of the Spiritual. The spirit-friends wanted the dying woman to know they were with her. They pictured themselves as they knew she was thinking of them. In so doing, they enwrapped their spiritual selves in thought-forms. Others in the death-chamber saw them not. The eyes of their spirit-body were unopened; and like Balaam, under those conditions, they were conscious of no angel beside them. The Mother saw the God-sent visitants. Her indwelling spirit-body, feeling the first throb of expanding life, received the "Ephphatha" of God, and looking through the crumbling walls of the Physical, she saw the Spiritual.

Apart from the creation of Thought-forms, those who have passed hence can manifest themselves to those on earth in .another way. By means of Materialization. There is an incontrovertible mass of evidence to prove that it is possible, under certain physical conditions, for a spirit-being to present himself as encased in a temporarily-assumed physical body. Materialization is a verifiable fact; it has been attested by some of the foremost scientists and investigators of the present time. Of course, there is a considerable section of mankind which is unconvinced in regard to it, and it is absolutely hopeless to try to convince such. Persons of this class know little or nothing about the subject; they do not want to know, and, moreover, they are antecedently positive that such a thing could never be. We are not concerned about them. They are simply lagging behind the ascertained knowledge of the day; the fact of Materialization will be admitted by them before long, and then will come to them a startling revelation as to the possibilities of spirit.

It is for the information of those who are prepared to enquire and to accept investigated and verified facts, that we are writing. Materializations have taken place, and are constantly taking place, under conditions and circumstances which shut out the possibility of hallucination or imposture. The writer, in the presence of a clergyman and others, has seen, on the same evening, two such materializations (the one of a child and the other of a man) in the barely-furnished parlour of an artisan's cottage. The whole process of materialization and de-materialization was seen. And testimony similar to this has been adduced by scientific men.

It will be asked—How can a spirit materialize? By taking the aura, which is matter in a fluid condition, as it exhales from the physical bodies of persons, and consolidating and constructing this around the spirit-self in such a way as to form a temporary physical encasement; which encasement is as appreciable by the eyes and the touch as any ordinary physical body. This aura is similar in appearance to the mist-like exhalation which can be seen arising from a hard-driven horse on a frosty day. It is physical matter in a gaseous state; and from all persons it is constantly exhaling. Some bodies give it off more freely than others; and those with whom this is the case constitute the "mediums," the ones so essential to materialization. When a number of persons are together in a room in which this aura is confined, the conditions are favourable to materialization. A spiritual being can collect it, can draw it to himself, can consolidate and mould it, and build it up around himself as a body physically substantial and tangible. And more than this—the enhanced power of Mind and the formative energy possessed by it, enables the spirit-being, desirous of being recognized by those to whom he is manifesting, to impress upon the structure which he has temporarily built for himself, the form and characteristics of that picture of himself which he has antecedently created in his mind.

The adaptation of physical matter by a spirit for the purpose of manifestation to those whose vision does not extend beyond the physical, would seem, from what has been observed, to be not granted to all. Moreover, a spirit appears to possess no power of retaining for any length of time the materialized body he may have formed. In the personal experience to which I have alluded, the little child who materialized at arm's length before us, was heard by all of us to say: "I cannot keep the power; it is going"; and we saw the form that had touched us, and had kissed the mother who was present, melt and disappear. May not the explanation be, that a spiritual being, although, at times, permitted by the Father-God to come again into relationship with the Physical, is not allowed to remain therein? May this not be the reason why the spiritual visitants seen by the ones of Bible-times suddenly vanished, and why the Christ, when He appeared in that room at Emmaus "vanished out of their sight"? We regard, therefore, Materialization, not as a normal experience of spirit-beings, but as a means permitted to some to lift the dark shadow flung by Death, and to verify the words of Jesus—"They all live unto God."

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)

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