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Can Death Be Overcome?

To many, probably the majority of people, the question, "Can death be overcome?" will appear a foolish one, and a person a foolish person who would, in seriousness, ask it, expecting a serious answer. Yet the question has been asked in all seriousness by some of the greatest minds the world has known, and one whom the Christian world regards most highly has answered it affirmatively, if not with absolute directness. He said, "The last enemy that shall be overcome is death."

Where is one to whom has been given rightful authority to interpret this saying of St. Paul as meaning other than what he says—that when man should have overcome all other enemies, should have learned the law of the lightning and have harnessed it; when the winds and the waves had become his servants, and did his bidding; when on land and on sea man commanded the forces in nature, and was master over the elements, which, in his more ignorant state, he conceived to be engines of the gods, who used them in their anger for his destruction—who has authority or where is the reasonableness in saying that Paul did not mean to express that when man had thus far conquered he should also conquer death? I insist that the language quoted can, in reason, be given no other meaning, and has been otherwise construed simply because the mass of humanity has been unable to conceive of the possibility of immortality in the flesh, and so has been compelled, since it felt that it might not reject the saying, to attribute to it a meaning other than that which it was evidently intended by its author to convey.

Death is everywhere and universally understood to mean the dissolution of a bodily form. Where form does not exist there can be no dissolution, no death. It is absolutely certain, then, that when the apostle used the word, he did so because of the meaning which attached to it, and must, therefore, have meant one of two things—either that men would eventually learn the law by which life could be perpetuated in these bodies indefinitely, or that there existed spiritual bodies which were subject to dissolution and death, but which might be some time, though they were not yet, able to overcome death.

This latter supposition, that the spiritual body, of which the theologians make so much, is subject to death, is altogether antagonistic to the teachings of every religious organization founded upon the Bible; and, since there are but two horns to the dilemma, it is to be hoped that in deciding between them theology will accept the former and concede that which is altogether the most reasonable; namely, that Paul intended to be understood as referring to our present fleshly bodies when he said death should finally be overcome.

The writer of this is not a theologian—not, at least, in the commonly accepted meaning of the word. She does not believe that all wisdom resided in those men who lived two thousand years ago, or that it died with them. She does believe, however, that there were minds in those days, as in more recent times, whose grasp of natural law so far exceeded that of the mass of humanity as to make their utterances unintelligible to other than the very few. The same condition of things exists today, though in a much less marked degree, the general diffusion of knowledge and the commingling of men and of nations having lifted the race to a plane so much above that upon which it stood two thousand years ago, as to have gone far toward obliterating the line between the most illumined of minds and the many.

But, though the line of demarcation is less distinct, it still exists, and exists largely because of the tendency of the race to cling to old ways and old habits of thought, rejecting the new, simply because it is new, and which, because it is new, appears strange and improbable.

The tendency toward investigation, due to the wonderful discoveries and inventions made within the last half of the century, has, however, so increased in all directions and among all classes—even the most stubborn adherents to ancient lines of thought—that no one need longer fe3r being considered mad who advances a new idea, provided he can sustain his proposition by a fair show of fact or logic; and it is because of this fact that I anticipate at least a respectful and thoughtful consideration of my work at the hands of the public. Conceding that I am off main-traveled roads, I yet insist that I am not only traveling in the right direction, as designated by the compass of reason, backed by logic, and not unsupported by fact, but that the way has been blazed by others who have preceded me in other centuries. I would not have it understood that I care very greatly whether anybody has ever passed along this way before, for I do not value truth because of its long residence among men; but I wish to give credit where credit is due, and, further, I am not above quoting precedent, if thereby I can gain a more attentive audience. I believe most sincerely that heaven is a condition, and not a place, and that it cannot be attained while the fear of death exists; death, which is nothing less than the removal by force, and without their consent, or of that of their friends, of human beings from all their associations and interests just when they are best prepared to be of most service to themselves and to the world.

If the reader likes, he may consider these writings as a protest against such a condition of things; but I would wish him to first ask himself if he is satisfied with such conditions, and if he knows to an absolute certainty that the power through which he came to exist as an individual is incapable of continuing, or has any settled objection to his continued existence.

The author of this work believes it entirely possible for the human race to overcome death. She believes that Jesus believed it, and that both before and since his time there have been others who believed in and sought for the overcoming of death, and that it will yet be attained. That it has not been is no argument to prove that it will not be. A very great many things that have not yet been proven will be some time. We knew little about steam or steam engines, electricity or magnetism, or sound waves or the ether a century ago. And the most we now know about some of them is that there is much more to be learned than we yet know. We are only just beginning to get under the blanket beneath which Nature has hidden her secrets; just beginning to learn a little something about her and about ourselves. We are her children, the eldest and best beloved of our mother—the immortal, the deathless. Shall she not impart the secret of life to us, if by diligence in searching and faithfulness in obeying we prove worthy?

Most implicitly do I believe so.

When I say I believe it possible to overcome death and continue to live in our bodies, I do not mean that our bodies must, necessarily, continue exactly as they are. It is reasonable to suppose that they will gradually refine and become more beautiful, and that other senses than the five we now possess will develop, and men become more perfect in every way, physically, mentally and morally. This will be a growth, as all things else are, but growth will be much more rapid, though endless, when the fear of death has been removed through a knowledge of the law whereby life may be sustained indefinitely.

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Helen Wilmans

  • Born in 1831 and died in 1907
  • Studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins
  • Was a journalist and author
  • Was active in the Mental Science Movement
  • Was charged with postal fraud for healing through mail. Fighting this charged caused her lose most of her fortune.
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