« AnteriorContinuar »
and immediately worship Him ; for He is invisible, and being invisible can neither be thought of nor loved.'
Of God's Providence he says: “As in the Lord we are and act, His Providence is over us from birth to death, and even to eternity.. .. To talk of the Lord's Providence as universal, and to separate it from particulars, is like talking of a whole in which there are no parts, or of something in which there is nothing. Consequently it is most false, a mere picture of the imagination, and downright stupidity, to say that the Lord's Providence is universal, and not at the same time in the minutest particulars; for to provide and rule in the universal, and not at the same time in the minutest particulars, is not to rule at all.'
Swedenborg likewise believed in an intermediate state analogous to purgatory, although he objected to the name. This was called by him the world of spirits, after staying in which, for a longer or shorter time, the souls of the departed were drafted off to heaven on the one side, and to hell on the other.
47. We have now said enough to give our readers some idea of Swedenborg's spiritual system. Un questionably it is the system of a profound thinker, and many great men have not hesitated to express their admiration of Swedenborg and his works. It is one thing however to admit the beauty, the philosophical completeness, and even the possible truth of many of his statements, and another thing to believe that he actually conversed with the inhabitants of another world in the way in which one man converses with another. But, after all, suppose that the everyday experience
of men is that only he who lives in the world as not of the world lives a true life, and this is the Bible teaching-whose then is the true doctrine ? Swedenborg errs if he claims this as his exclusive personal experience. Paul claimed it as belonging to all men. Surely men of science should of all men claim this likewise.
Now, when a man unquestionably honest makes an assertion such as Swedenborg made, there are only two possible conclusions to which we can come, unless we choose to remain in a state of mental suspense. We must either believe that he really saw what he professes to have seen, or that he was the victim of some strange hallucination, in virtue of which his subjective impressions became transferred into the realms of objective realities. We know very well that the human mind is extremely prone to such delusions, and that the nature of the case is frequently betrayed by some indiscreet admission which we have external grounds for believing to be incorrect. Had Swedenborg confined himself to the invisible world it would have been very difficult to prove him the subject of a delusion, but when he converses with angels from the planets, and thus comes to describe their inhabitants, he enters at once upon dangerous ground.
Concerning his description of the various planets it has been remarked that his information relates only to those, the existence of which was known when he wrote, Uranus and Neptune being passed over. This of itself is a suspicious circumstance. Again, he peoples the planets Jupiter and Saturn with inhabitants as well as own Moon;
now, scientific analogy is strongly against either of these two planets
being inhabited, while it is next to certain that our moon is entirely without inhabitants.
In fine, there is no reason to suppose that the speculations of Swedenborg were anything else than the product of his own mind, in the same sense as that in which the speculations of this volume may be regarded as the product of the minds of its authors.
48. Before concluding this historical sketch let us say a few words about modern spiritualists in so far as their pretensions have reference to our subject. They assert the presence among them of the spirits of the departed, assuming sometimes a visible shape, and they compare these appearances to those which are recorded in the Sacred writings. But there is this prominent distinction between the two: the spiritual communications recorded in the Scriptures are represented as made to those who were unprepared to receive them, and also for the most part as taking place in open daylight, or, to speak more properly, having no sort of reference to light or darkness Whatever be their explanation they have an openair look about them. On the other hand, the manifestations recorded by the spiritualists take place as a rule in insufficient light, if not in total darkness, and in presence of those who are in a state of mental excitement.
Now, for our own part, we should not be disposed to credit any communication from the world of spirits that was not made openly, and to those unprepared to receive it, and therefore unprejudiced.
The man of science must be perfectly recipient, but he must in the interests of truth guard himself against the possibility of delusion. We know the almost infinite power of the mind not only to delude itself, but to propagate its delusions to other minds, and, as we have already remarked, the conditions of these manifestations are specially favourable to the spread of such delusions. We do not therefore hesitate to choose between the two alternative explanations, and to regard these pretended manifestations as having no objective reality.
49. But while we altogether deny the reality of these appearances, we think it likely that the spiritualists have enlarged our knowledge of the power which one mind has of influencing another, and this is in itself a valuable subject of inquiry. We agree too in the position assumed by Swedenborg, and by the spiritualists, according to which they look upon the invisible world not as something absolutely distinct from the visible universe, and absolutely unconnected with it, as is frequently thought to be the case, but rather as a universe which has some bond of union with the present.
This line of argument will be developed in the following chapters of our book.
POSITION TAKEN BY THE AUTHORS-PHYSICAL
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.'—HEBREWS XI. 3.
50. In the preceding chapter we have given a very brief epitome of the various beliefs regarding immortality and the invisible world held by the civilised nations of the earth, from the earliest dawn of history to the present day. Our object has been not so much to enter even into general details as to present boldly those particular features of each system of belief which are most closely concerned with the subject of our work. Thus our account of each separate system is intentionally incomplete, even as a simple sketch. It is now time to say something about the object of this book, as well as to define the position from which we mean to start in pursuance of that object. We shall therefore commence by dividing those who at all concern themselves about our theme into three great classes.
First, we have those who are so absolutely certain of the truth of their views of religion, and of the immortality which they believe it teaches, that they are not