In looking back I now see that a belief in death as a fixed and unalterable fact never had full possession of me. I doubt whether in a true sense it really has full possession of anyone; for, while it seems real enough so far as the dying of other people is concerned, we rarely think of it as being an inevitable reality to ourselves. It always seems a far-off and shadowy possibility, but not an irresistible fate, such as a man feels it to be who is under sentence of death for some crime.
And yet reason, so far as our reason is based on observation, tells us that death is as certain to come to us as to the condemned felon in his cell. And why are we so little disturbed by it? Is it because we anticipate life beyond the grave? The felon also anticipates this; and moreover his expectations for happiness in another world are usually as bright to his imagination as ours can be. Then why does he dread death while we do not? It is because he realizes that to him it is inevitable, while we can never quite bring ourselves to do so.
Our reason, based on observation, admits that it is inevitable. No person has ever escaped death yet; but in spite of this fact there is some hidden impulse within us that denies the inevitableness of it. And this hidden impulse betrays the presence, deep down at the very foundation of individual existence, of some unseen spring of ever present vitality, the discovery of which will overcome death. We feel it though we do not see it; we know it to be true though as yet it has never been proved; and there is an undefined something in man that exists more by feeling than by seeing, and so death is inwardly rejected, while verbally accepted.
If man accepted the belief of death in every part of his consciousness, in his inner as well as his outer self, he would feel about it very much as the condemned felon does. It would occupy his every thought and render him unfit for any effort in life, except a preparation for death. In short, the certain knowledge of coming death would be equivalent to present death, so far as the uses of life are concerned.
But men are not expecting to die; their lives prove it; they are intensely interested in a thousand schemes of activity on the earth plane; and they find their greatest happiness in bettering their conditions and in surrounding themselves with objects that are beautiful and pleasing. And these objects do surely give them happiness, which, even though it may be fleeting, stimulates them to greater efforts in the same direction, and ends in the further accumulation of treasures such as the clergy caution us against, and which certainly are not those we are requested to lay up in heaven. Everywhere and all the time in these latter years men are living more and more in the present; and the wisdom of this has already born results in the increase in the average length of human life, which is becoming greater every year.
"Death is inevitable." Men almost universally say this; but their words do not touch their own convictions; they do not excite any emotion within them. It is only when they feel its icy touch that they begin to have even the slightest realization of it as applicable to their own cases. As soon as they begin to feel that death is impending, their fears are aroused and they seek to escape from it.
That they do fear it and seek to escape from it is proof conclusive that there is a way of escape. There is no truth in the cosmic growth of the race more true than that every hope is the sure prophecy of its own fulfillment.
No matter whether we take the evolutionary view, that man created himself, or the Scriptural view, that he was created by a personal God, the very fact that his hope stretches forward into the future is absolute assurance that the future exists, and that it exists for the purpose of fulfilling man's desires. This thought came to me before I had the intellectual grasp to follow it out in all its details, and thereby to prove it conclusively to myself. But I never ceased to believe and to trust it with all the force of my nature; and it was my solace in hours that were dark as midnight. I accepted it as truth, never for a moment clouding it with doubt, even before I had followed it out to the absolute knowing. I felt that it was invulnerable, long before I found out why it was so; long before my reasoning faculties were sufficiently awakened to understand it fully. There was the statement just as I have made it. Every hope is the prophecy of its sure fulfillment—a mighty and incontrovertible truth, that became a part of my brain structure and eventually worked its way to externals, and left its impress upon every atom of my body. It took the form of a fixed principle that each succeeding experience confirmed, until I began to feel the power of a conqueror, and was lifted from a position of pitiful weakness and self-distrust to one of unswerving strength. In this position fresh vitality was generated by my body, which poured its power into my heretofore sluggish brain, until by slow degrees the whole problem of growth was unfolded.
There is many another expression that helps to unfold the problem of growth or life, but not one of them struck me with such force as this. Every hope is the sure prophecy of its own fulfillment.
And why? Because hope is related to the thing hoped for; this being so, it is inseparable from it. Suppose that there is a God that made us, and that He is great and wise and above all things good and true, then how would it be possible for Him—our Father—to plant a lie deep down in the first impulse of our individual lives, that would prove a most deceptive allurement, holding out promises that He never intended should be realized? Could anyone believe in God and accept this fact?
But suppose we reject the belief in special creation, and dwell for a moment upon the theory of evolution; there will be no difference in results. If the life cell, or the first principle of individualized life, whatever it may be, contains the essence that later, under higher development, expands into this hope, then the hope points to the time of realization and to the conditions that will render realization possible, as surely as the grain of wheat planted in the ground will germinate and unfold itself until the full prophecy of its being is fulfilled.
Hope, which is an expression of the law of growth in a man, cannot possibly point to that which does not exist. It always streams forth in the direction of the object which is correlated to it; of the object which is its complement, and the acquisition of which fixes it in living substance as a new creation.
The idea that projects life beyond the grave does not fully allay the fear of death; nor does the promise of heaven, with all its attractions, reconcile us to it. So long as even a modicum of the old vitality lasts, we prefer this troublesome and poverty-stricken world to the "spheres of the blest." It is only when the vitality is too low to permit further resistance to death that men, as a rule, become reconciled to go. To be sure, there are abnormal instances where men's imaginations have been so stimulated by descriptions of the world to come, that they have let go the hold they had upon this one, and have seemed anxious to go. But we all admit that men, in such conditions, are unbalanced.
We do not want to die—this is the plain fact. We do not want to die, no matter how hard life seems, or how enchanting the future is painted for us. We not only do not want to die, but we do not expect it. Death always comes upon us as a surprise.
The race believes that it believes that an implacable and inexorable God has passed sentence of death upon it; it also claims to justify God in having done so; but its position is self-deceptive, and its actions contradict its assumed belief in God's power and wisdom. It is constantly seeking remedies by which it can thwart God's purpose in killing it; and, deep down in the soul of it, it rests more hope in the power of a pill than in the power of God.
It has its body tinker and its soul tinker; and it clings to its body tinker until hope deserts it, and then, in despair, it turns to its soul tinker. And when a loved one has passed through the veil and from out our sight, though we say, "He is happy now; he is in the bosom of God, and sorrow, sickness and death shall touch him no more," we weep and refuse to be comforted. And I say that it is not the mere pain of separation that wrings our hearts, for he might have gone to another country, or even to another planet, and if he had gone alive, we would not have felt as we do.
And this feeling we have for him—what is it; and why is it what it is?
Now, listen: It is the intuitive perception of a truth that has not yet been made apparent to our reasoning faculties. It is because death is a violation of some natural principle, with which we are not yet acquainted. And, because it is a violation of some natural principle, some innate possibility of infinite value, hidden at present from our dwarfed perceptions, we are rent asunder by it, and cannot reconcile it with our long accepted belief that death is a blessing in disguise. It is human nature overturning human religion.
It seems to me, judging by my own feelings, that if man actually knew that death was to be his doom, from which there was no possibility of escape, he would so dread the event as to make life one protracted horror, and would be prompted to hasten the thing in order to relieve himself from the thought of it; just as men condemned to hang will hang themselves in their cells to get the fearful catastrophe off their minds.
The fact is, men do not anticipate death for themselves, whatever they may do for others. Undefined in their own minds, there remains fixed forever that intuitive perception of immortality, which belongs to the unchanging and undying life principle of which they are the expression, or the visible manifestation.
Undefined by themselves, I say; so undefined is it, so misunderstood by them, and yet so potent that out of it, out of this simple, intuitive perception, this vague feeling of immortality, has arisen every theological creed ever yet projected for the perpetuation of individual life in another stage of existence. Thinkers and reasoners on this subject actually believe they have accepted as inevitable the death of the body, but they still hold fast, with unswerving tenacity, to the feeling of immortality which they find implanted in all men; and they have, as a last resort, endowed each individual of the nice with a soul that is supposed to live beyond the death of the body. This soul they have provided, out of their ample imaginations, with many and various modes of escape from annihilation.
Theology offers another world to us as a substitute for its unconquerable desire to live. It was the best thing that could be done in the past, while man was so ignorant of the powers of his body; but this ignorance is beginning to pass away, mid the splendors of the heretofore misunderstood functions of the body are on the verge of asserting themselves in a manner that will soon astonish the world.
The belief in the power of death belongs to the unawakened intelligence of a baby race, not yet grown to even the faintest conception of what it is, or what it can do.
Religion is but the pointing of infallible intuition, indicating the fact that there is a road through the untrodden wilderness of fast-coming thought, which experience must traverse, but which has never yet been traversed; and which, when once traversed, will put an entirely new face upon our implanted belief in immortality.
Han may possess a soul that lives beyond the body, 'and I hope and believe that he does; but I know that he possesses a body, and I know, and am proving individually, that this body possesses the power to conquer all its disabilities and save itself here, in the present world, and in the present generation.
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More Articles by This Author 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.