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A Corrected Standpoint in Psychical Research

We are so accustomed to deal directly and almost solely with the objective, that any attempt to readjust our own end of a line of relationship is unconventional, and by many is regarded as irregular, if not unscientific. The great obstacle to the apprehension of truth is not so much in its complexity or occultism, as in the lack of perception that is consequent upon predisposition, bias, authority, and even upon what is often regarded as learning itself.

Not long since a prominent clergyman, whose dogmatism is most pronounced, preached from the text, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein." But to whom is it more difficult to become childlike, in the reception of truth, than to one whose creed is positive, whose opinions are fixed, and to whom "revelation" is fully completed?

The dogmatism of theology is often paralleled by that of so-called science. To venture beyond the conventional limits of the regular materialistic schools, or to question their traditional methods, subjects one to the charge of being eccentric, and often requires more courage than is needed for a new departure in the realm of theology. In other words, the scientist is often quite as punctilious regarding "orthodoxy" in his own domain as is the dogmatic theologian in his. To approach a subject in such a way as to get a view of its true outline often necessitates the brushing away of much subjective rubbish which unconsciously hides the very object sought. True insight is often gained only at the expense of some preliminary learning. With a proposed effort to search for truth is often linked a strong, even though unconscious, desire for evidence to confirm existing opinions. Authority, traditionalism, and unsymmetrical education are often, one or all, fatal to the openness, plasticity, and intuitive transparency which are indispensable to the discovery and reception of things which are deep and veritable. Prevailing systems of education are scholastic rather than educive. That conventional cramming of unrelated objective facts, termed learning, is the rival, if not the enemy, of a delicate and impartial inner perception through which truth comes into the consciousness. The excessive intellectuality of the age, being entirely objective, has dulled and obscured the keenness of the intuitional faculty, which normally is of higher rank.

Coming to a more specific application of these principles as related to psychical investigation, it is evident that a higher point of view would greatly facilitate progress. Disregarding, therefore, not only the traditions of the regular materialistic scientists, but also the methods of many other earnest explorers, well intentioned, but almost wholly objective, we propose a brief introspective study among foundation principles.

If we look at mind and spirit from the plane of materiality, we find ourselves in a valley which lacks breadth of outlook. While practically regarding ourselves as bodies, we naturally begin to speculate whether or not it be scientifically possible for that airy, intangible something called mind to act, live, and be conscious when its physical "basis" is laid aside. Our prevailing objective materialism gives us the feeling—from careless habits of thought—that mind depends upon material organism rather than the reverse. Does body build life and mind, or do they build body for the purpose of outward and correspondential expression? Manifestly the latter. The former would logically end in pure materialism; but it is remarkable that thousands are practically thorough materialists without being aware of the fact.

The real man (ego) is mind, soul, spirit. He is soul, and has a body. Nearly all will agree to this proposition in the abstract; but so soon as they begin to reason in any direction, they unconsciously abandon their premises, and practically regard themselves as material beings. With daily consciousness centered exclusively upon the sensuous and objective, it becomes almost impossible, from force of habit, to maintain a correct standpoint and perspective. How greatly it would simplify all psychological research to squarely hold the position, not that we have souls, but that we are souls—yes, spirits—now, as much as we ever shall be. The physical organism is no part of us, but it is expression made visible—nothing more and no less. To be sure, it is educational; for it is in accordance with law that soul must have an experience in matter. But it is important that we educate our thought to regard the body only as an instrument belonging to the man, entirely secondary and resultant.

If soul be only a function or exercise of body, as conventional "science" and materia medica have practically assumed, then immortality is illogical; for when a thing perishes, its functions, which depend upon it, perish also.

The body, being but a sensuous form or plane of expression for the real man, bears a similar relation to him to that of his clothing. He is not merely its tenant, however, but its architect and builder. Its construction is from within through the force of mind, conscious and unconscious. Thought—mind in action—is creative. It is the universal motor and the fountain of primary causation. There are molecular changes in the "gray matter" of the brain, but they are the material correspondence or result, and not the cause of thinking.

While many physical processes take place involuntarily, or below the surface of consciousness, they are nevertheless all directed by mind. But a small part of mentality is upon the plane of consciousness. The key to the interpretation of a large part of the phenomena of hypnotism, psychology, and mental therapeutics is found in a proper discrimination between the objective and subjective mind. The latter, which is so responsive to suggestion, and which so directly moulds and directs all bodily activity, till quite recently has hardly been considered.

The atom, or theoretical unit of matter, has not yet been discovered, and therefore is, to this day, only an intellectual abstraction; but although scalpel has never touched it, nor microscope revealed it, we need not question its existence. But whatever it be, its use is to objectively express different grades, qualities, and operations of life, or organized mind. The same material is picked up and used in one form after another, to temporarily manifest the special peculiarities of the life that is then using it, in exact correspondence. At length disintegration follows, and leaves it free to be again seized upon as before. It logically follows that life, or organized mind, is more deeply real than matter, and the immaterial than the material. The former is true substance, the latter more properly shadow. Taking the evidence of the real, intuitional self or ego against the objective or sensuous self, we conclude that reality, permanency, and solidity are terms which can only be properly applied to mind and spirit. As in the case of the apparent revolution of the sun around the earth, sensuous appearances are misleading. The world for so long a time has had its consciousness filled with forms and expressions, that it has almost become incapable of beholding the immaterial. Any faculty long unused gradually decays.

The evolutionary philosophy, from the changed standpoint, becomes simplified and intelligible. If matter be passive, and the same material be repeatedly used in integration and disintegration, it is plain that the progression is only in the advancing qualities of organized life and mind; and these successively embody and express themselves in suitable and corresponding shapes. After full expression, each of these external correspondences dissolves, and the plastic material of which it was composed is again utilized and built up anew. The matter which composes a human form today may be found, a few decades hence, built up into plant or animal form, to manifest the particular quality of life which then possesses it. It is over and over again erected into living statues, sometimes of higher and again of lower plane, demonstrating that evolution is entirely and solely of the organized immaterial life, and not of its passive material.

Look which way we may, we are brought back to the fact that, in any deep and exhaustive sense, reality can only be predicated of the unseen and immaterial. Iron, steel, and gold are unreal and unsubstantial, as compared with mind and spirit. Material science all through the ages has been dealing with shadows, and it has not only insisted that they were solids, but has denied solidity to everything else. The recent conclusion of science that the universal interplanetary ether has a density vastly greater than steel, is one of many significant hints of the coming emphasis that will everywhere be placed upon unseen entities and forces. If life and mind are the supreme realities, they, instead of matter, constitute the substance of things, sensuous testimony to the contrary notwithstanding. The oak tree life picks up plastic material, but it never makes the mistake of erecting it into a birch or maple expression. The same principles hold good on the animal and human planes. The law is uniform and universal. We find that all sequential expression is uniformly exact to the most minute detail, not only in species, but in quality, amongst its own class.

Advance a step farther, and note that outward expression, assuredly when the human plane is reached, is not a mechanical, but an intelligent manifestation. The embodiment is an index to the quality of past thought; for thought is a secondary creator. That thought sequences are slow in manifestation does not render them any less sure. When the scientific basis of mental therapeutics and suggestion, which is now but dimly apprehended by the great majority, comes into general recognition, it will be seen that the human material organism in any given instance is an exact, composite, outward index in rank and quality of past individual and collective thinking. Such a conclusion is simply the logical outcome of the admitted proposition that man is soul. Prenatal or hereditary influences, which are powerful, do not disprove, but rather broaden, this order of causation, which is uniformly from the within to the without—from the immaterial to the material.

This simple though unconventional spiritistic philosophy, which has only been briefly outlined, is shown to be scientific, because it accords with the highest ascertained laws; harmonizes and translates psychological phenomena, and satisfies human aspiration and intuition. It solves a thousand problems, and dissipates innumerable difficulties that are met with on every hand in the great domain which has heretofore been a terra incognita to scientific materialism.

Planting our feet on the foundation—practical as well as theoretical—that man, the ego, even on the present plane, is soul, and soul only, many things are brought near and made distinct that have been dim and distant . It at once furnishes a broad outlook from a standpoint that cannot shift. It renders superfluous such terms as "supernatural," and even "supernormal," and enlarges the boundaries of the natural and normal beyond all limitation. It renders the human sense of life spiritual rather than material. It lifts man above an earthly gravitation that is burdensome and enslaving. It unfolds a consciousness in him that he is a "living soul," and not merely an animated physical organism. It discovers him as made in the "image of God;" because a spirit, which, though finited in its range, is the natural offspring of the Universal Spirit. It makes religion—not dogma, which is quite another thing—not only spiritual, but natural and scientific. It lifts order, law, and inter-relationship from their material limitations, so that the whole "supernatural" realm becomes unified and systematic rather than chaotic and capricious. It interprets "death" as only the cessation of a false sense of life. It restores to man (the soul) a consciousness of his primal independence and divine sonship. It lifts him from the animal plane, and bids him regard his body as his temporary and useful servant, instead of his hard and tyrannical master. It interprets pain as a friendly monitor whose real purpose and discipline are kindly, rather than as a deadly antagonist. It discloses the divine in man as the real man, or, in other words, restores him to himself. It reconciles and brings together those two traditional antagonists. Science and Religion, which for so long have suspected and frowned upon each other. It opens to view Truth as an harmonious unit, and changes general discord into harmony, even though all its vibrations may not yet be understood. In its last analysis, it does away with evil, per se, as an entity; for while admitting it as an apparent and relative condition, it finds in its unripened and imperfect stage the potency and promise of endless progression and unfoldment. Is this outline visionary? Not in the least, but rather scientific in the highest and best sense of that term. The sidelights and reflections from every possible direction here converge and come to a focus.

All the factors discovered from this corrected point of view not only fit each other, but go far to classify and interpret all the phenomena of the human soul.

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Henry Wood

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