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The Future Life

The teaching of the Bible regarding the future life and its conditions is veiled, and in the Old Testament, especially, there is little recognition of immortality. There is more or less implication in that direction, but a seeming dearth of positive or definite statement. Even in the New Testament, outside of the teaching of Paul — who is the leading theologian of the Bible — allusions to the next plane of existence are few and generally mystical in form. Considering the importance of the subject and its transcendent interest to mankind, we naturally might expect that eschatology or the doctrine of "the last things," would have a more prominent place in Holy Writ.

Two inferences may be drawn from the apparent lack of biblical emphasis upon ultimate and eternal verities. The first, that for wise reasons there is a curtain, somewhat impenetrable, hung between the two planes of expression, and the second, that the higher life is not another, or a different state of being, but simply a continuance — in fact, that there is but one life. The arbitrary distinction which is so common is misleading, for it is not life but its relations and methods which change.

Without dogmatizing upon the conditions which follow the event called death, we have sufficient light upon this great problem, both from the Bible and through spiritual perception for all practical purposes. It is reasonable to conclude that as we are constituted, some mystery regarding the last things is best. Every revelation comes to us when it is matured, or rather when we are ripened for the same, and never before. We crave positive evidence, but perhaps have not considered all the factors which are involved. There is ever a beyond of the indefinable to which the human mind is reaching forth, and it is not for us to know it all. We may well reserve a little room for future revelations of truth. Faith and hope are fundamental faculties in human consciousness, and they require a field for exercise. Were we able fully to penetrate the future, even of the present life, there would be a loss of rich anticipation, no place for "walking by faith," and no field for fresh and buoyant expansion. We have an equipment for a mystical looking forward and upward, and it must be used, otherwise atrophy will result. Without denying — in fact accepting the possibility and even utility of communications across the line — there is still enough that is incomprehensible to call out the delightful prophetic activities and visions of the soul. Even if we accept the clearest and most definite testimonies which are wafted back to us from those who have laid aside the visible form, there is yet an important residuum of mystery. Our sensuous and even our intellectual equipment does not serve us in that direction, and it is not intended that it should. What would become of all the grand ideals, hopes, and aspirations which now attract us forward if we could see clearly in advance? Expansion requires room ahead. Life, love, truth, and progress are certain, because they are unending in their nature. These we know positively because we have their samples within, while the realm of mystery, both here and hereafter, is in environment and relation. Life, now and forever, is an individuated and enduring stream of soul force — a microcosmic current of the divine energy in a local channel. Because it is spiritual it is immortal. Upon the present plane of existence it takes hold of, and objectifies some passive material which we call matter. The real or spiritual self builds up a visible organism and takes it into temporary partnership to register and interpret itself outwardly. But even matter is indestructible. Water may be transformed into ice or steam without coming to an end, or losing any of its potential energy. It has a kind of life, but how much higher and more coherent is that of the soul! The conservation of energy, scientifically established in the physical realm, has its correspondence in the zone above. Form and expression change, but energy, of whatever quality, never ceases. The soul, here and hereafter, acts upon related environment and also receives orderly reaction from the same.

Death is the laying down of an instrument which is no longer fitted for, or responsive to soul growth. It is emergence from an "outgrown shell." To be dead is good if it be death in the right direction. It is the leaving behind of that which is no longer useful. Death to sin is life to righteousness. Such is the real "resurrection," rather than any collecting of dust which once served as a temporary costume or tenement. Few now hold to the dogma of a material reconstruction of dust, and it is plain that it is not necessary to identity. The creeds, in the letter, seem to teach it, but their unresponsiveness to present actual belief shows how fossilized they have become.

But while death in the usual sense is only an event in life, we may naturally ask, is physical dissolution — as a method of advancement — to be ultimately outgrown, and is it in some sense a failure of the normal spiritual ideal? Is that unwelcome process forever to remain as the only gateway between the present expression and that which is higher and more refined? Of what will consist the vanquishment of "the last enemy" to which Paul makes repeated reference? It is now coercive, and to common consciousness abrupt and unlovely in character. This question does not directly bear upon immortality, but though secondary is of deep interest. Toward what should we aim, and what will be the normal and ideal transition? The present crude embodiment is not fitted for a spiritual inheritance. Will it forever continue to be necessary to bury it out of sight, "dust to dust," or is there to come a time when a gradual spiritualization and refinement will leave no impurity to deposit? Immortality in the crude fabric of the present is impossible, while continuance in a more refined organism would at least fill the assumption of the defeat of death, as it is now known. Will the process of the higher evolution finally bring the time for the race when there will be nothing earthy to give back? Does the Bible, the Book of types and ideals, throw any light upon this problem? If the experiences of Enoch and Elijah have valid typical significance, we must conclude that they are in accord with a higher law, to which gradual conformity will be a human achievement. Paul affirms (Hebrews xi, 5) that, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him." Is there any other way in which death, defined as an event, can be "swallowed up in victory"? Modern interpretation shows that nothing happens by chance or is arbitrary, so that if there be validity in the accounts of Enoch and Elijah, it logically follows that they were advanced and ripened types of a spiritual quickening which is normal and potentially available. A completed type, as an ideal, may greatly anticipate racial human achievement and not be contrary to evolutionary precedent. What a complete triumph over "the king of terrors" there would be in a recognition of the normality and possibility of a beautiful and orderly translation as the human goal. Such a vision of the coming time would inspire a new faith in the divinity of man.

But turning to death as now defined and as presented in the Bible, aside from the exceptions before noted, the dissolution of the tie between the soul and its material servant is beautifully likened by Paul to the sowing of seed. "It is sown a natural (earthy) body and raised a spiritual body." A spiritual body must be an organism, a real unitary entity with members which are fitted to its new relations and surroundings. We are not to be disembodied spirits, but "clothed upon." Such an organic being involves individuality, consciousness, and even definite place. That which is "dead"—left behind — enters into new relations upon its own plane, while the soul or spiritual body which has dwelt within it steps forth untrammeled. The man himself is intact. As the infant upon its entrance into the outward world has lungs already prepared to inhale the atmosphere of its new realm, so the developed man comes into the spiritual environment with a ready adjustment. Among all the grades of being, from the monad, upward, the moral order never presents any unfledged candidate for advancement. Under the cover of the old, his new equipment in some measure has been provided.

Paul reminds us that the seed which is cast into the ground must die — be left behind—before the new and higher order can come into expression. The simile is a beautiful and expressive one. Ripeness and seeming decay in the lower is followed by newness in the higher. By immutable law the oak comes from the acorn, and can the higher steps of life be any less certain of succession and orderly identity?

But the "resurrection" in a vital sense, quite independent of the event of physical dissolution, is an advancement of the soul to a higher life and consciousness. It is taking place every day, in and all about us. The immaterial and immortal forward trend is not conditioned upon material events or conditions. Life! Whether here or hereafter; how much its expansion includes and what wonders are to be unwrapped and made manifest! Even in the lowest orders, no chemistry can discover its secret. Think what it means to have a body which is "incorruptible"! No weakness, decay, disease, or physical limitation. Primarily, it is not in the province of the intellect to prove validity of a conscious existence after death. It is beyond its latitude and in deep soundings its testing line is too short. Our ears are receptive to atmospheric vibrations and our eyes to those that are etheric, which we call light. Everything has its peculiar office and one faculty does not perform the function of another. But while the cognizance of the future is not of the intellectual order, there are certain logical implications which are conclusive.

Take the "law of supply and demand," and consider its universality. Though mainly recognized in its material application its higher range will be evident. The paramount wonder and glory of the divine order is its unity and interrelation. Nothing is superfluous and nothing can be spared. Everything is related to everything else. As Emerson aptly says:

"All are needed by each one;
Nothing is fair or good alone."

Supply and demand are the positive and negative poles of being, and each is a sure prophecy of the other. In vain do we look for either in any realm of matter or mind without a conscious recognition of its counterpart. Each demands satisfaction in the other and there is a reaching out until it is gained. The demand for continued existence in the human soul is so nearly universal that it must be regarded as normal and implanted. Design, compensation, balance, and fitness being found everywhere, they must be profoundly basic in the nature of things. If the soul itself were a unique exception to this natural law, and if it inherently included a positive desire for what is not to be, we might well conclude that all analogy is valueless, and that the moral order is planned to deceive. Where in the whole cosmos can an exception to the law be found? A well-formed wrist without a hand, an eye with nothing outside to see, and an ear-drum especially designed for vibrations when there were no vibrations, would be no more irrational than that a soul should come to an end. Did one ever find a leaf and have any doubt about the existence of a tree?

Man in his very constitution is designed to receive revelations of truth, and revelations are therefore scientific in a strict sense. In proportion as the human mind is held open to the divine Spirit of Truth a positive assurance of the future is developed. It unfolds like a plant in the sunshine. If we are offshoots of the infinite intelligence — children of God — we must be spirit, and spirit is immortal. Man is made of God-stuff. A constant oneness with the Universal furnishes a certificate that man, in his real being, is no less permanent than the Divine Being. "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." That which is perfect cannot be subject to loss or decay. Man's divinity is a guarantee of his persistence and duration, and his divinity comes as a progressive revelation of himself to himself.

The evidence of the future life already adduced makes it practically unnecessary to dwell at any length upon the actual testimony which comes from friends in the higher life. Under certain favorable conditions those who have left us behind manifest themselves and make communications. The realization of this fact is no longer limited to those who technically call themselves "spiritualists," or to people who from motives of curiosity merely seek the phenomenal for its own sake. Among those who are definitely known as spiritualists, there are many who are as reputable, conscientious, and intelligent as any members of the community, and many of them use their best efforts to root out the fraud and charlatanism which is known to masquerade under their general name. Some of the most careful and conservative scientists of the present era, whose names are known and honored throughout the civilized world, unhesitatingly affirm the validity of intelligible messages from the Beyond. While the writer has made but little personal concrete investigation, he regards the fact of the passage of thought and recognition between the two planes of expression as well and forever established. The time has passed when anyone who has regard for truth can find any excuse for dogmatic denial which when made is usually without any attempt at honest investigation. While the mystery may not be fully cleared up until there is a higher spiritual level, and while the veil may not be removed, it will probably grow thinner. If we live in a social universe, and if there is a certainty of love and interest, what more natural than the desire on each side of the line for some real sign or message from the other? If our dear friends cross the Atlantic do we not rightly seek, and do they not desire to send us tidings of their welfare and progress? It is our materialism and abnormal ideas of the transition which has put the natural counterparts wide asunder. Such a consciousness regarding the higher sphere does not comport with the spirit of an enlightened Christianity or a living faith and trust. When we "lose friends," let us cultivate the feeling that they are not far away, lost to former ties, interests, and friendly oneness, but, though invisible to the dull organs of sense, are right in our midst as they are drawn or can render service. In conventional "spiritualism," there is much that is unspiritual, spectacular, and not genuine. This is admitted by its best exponents. But can we find any philosophy or even religion that is free from human flaw? Crossing the line makes no one truly spiritual. Character and inner unfoldment is not a matter of place or condition. The laws through which tidings from beyond are practicable are yet but vaguely understood. In general, the instrument through which they are conveyed is liable to give some local coloring which may modify their integrity. Certain subjective conditions, methods, and attunement are necessary to successful communication. In the lower range of the telephone or wireless telegraphy the utmost delicacy of adjustment to their own laws is indispensable, and nothing less could be expected on the psychic and spiritual levels.

Even on the other side, there is an earthly zone of ignorance, crudeness, and darkness which is wrapped about the mundane consciousness. This dense obstruction prevents a free and ready interchange across the line between the higher and purer souls in either direction. The dark belt includes the abuses and the negative side of what, rightly used, would be normal and wholesome. These lower states are denominated in the Bible as witchcraft, familiar spirits, evil possession, and other abnormal conditions which include the activities of low and undeveloped "spirits in prison." The unclean and devilish elements are over there as well as here, and they are drawn to mingle with and influence their kind who are still in the flesh. There is a realm of the occult which is unspiritual and which should be avoided. The Bible is crowded with references to spiritual intelligences of widely diverse character. There are many terms employed which to us have become almost meaningless, but they all have spiritual significance. We read of angels, archangels, seraphs, messengers, the heavenly host, heaven opened, visions and trances, as signifying exalted intelligences, experiences and states of being. Perhaps an equal number of terms are used to define low and contrasted conditions. The Bible is not honored by regarding either as mythical or insignificant. By immutable law every order of character and consciousness is attracted to its "own place." Saint John, "the divine," in that highly symbolic Book of Revelation, names certain moral qualities which persist and these are evidently typical of all. He that is "unrighteous," "filthy," "righteous," or "holy," let him be so "still." It is also added that reward is rendered to each man "according as his work is." This does not indicate that there is to be no progress, but rather that it is to be wrought out through great effort.

The degree of salvation to which we are heirs corresponds with the ideals of the heart. Even if these are high, we are incapable, except in some measure through the eye of faith, of understanding the unseen world. But our imagination is a divine faculty of creative power and it may be profitable at times to free it in range, send it aloft, and through it to cultivate our spiritual discernment. Paul declares that, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Saint John also delineates the splendors of the heavenly state to the extent of the power of human imagery. Can we catch a glimpse of what an ideal salvation may be? What wonders of beauty and harmony, and how glorious the celestial sunshine! What a warm unison of love, thrill? through reunited souls! What restoration and compensation! What an introduction to grand spiritual activities and unexpected ministries of loving service! What far-reaching vistas and opportunities for educational advancement. How many mysteries solved and anxious fears allayed! How many new faculties and powers unfolded and exercised! What an increase of knowledge and breadth of view! What journeys of exploration, unhindered by the boundaries of time and space! What eons of spiritual progression stretch on and upward toward the ultimate goal and Ideal!

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Henry Wood

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