Spiritualism and the Christian Churches 1
Theosophist, December, 1881
Magna est veritas et prevalebit. The reality of the phenomena has prevailed, and the Church is now forced to seek alliance with the Spiritualists against “materialism and infidelity.” How will the faithful Christian “sceptics” receive the news, and what effect it will produce on the churchgoing “scoffers of spiritual phenomena” is a question which time alone can answer.
For the first time, since the “raps” and “knockings” of an alleged disembodied pedlar, at Rochester, in 1848, inaugurated the era of Spiritualism, which has gradually led the people to accept the hypothesis of discarnated spirits communicating with the world of life, the divines have become alive to the danger of dogmatizing too strongly. For the first time, as the reader may see in the long account of the Congress we reprint further on, the divines seem ready for any concession—even to giving up their hitherto immovable and cherished dogma of eternal torments and damnation. And now they seek to compromise. While Dr. Thomas, the liberal-minded Wesleyan minister in America, is brought on his trial before a Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (as so many other clergymen have been of late before him), for the same heresy of denying endless torments in hell-fire, the English divines are seriously discussing the advisability of giving the doctrine up. They are ready, they say, to “thankfully acknowledge the truths of Spiritualist teaching, as weapons which we (they) are too glad to wield against Positivism, and Secularism, and all the anti-Christian ‘isms’ of this age of godless thought.” (Rev. R. Thornton’s speech.) Mirabile dictu!—the reverend gentleman went so far as to say: “Let us lay to heart the hints given (by Spiritualists) as to our own shortcomings” ! !
The extracts from the reports of the Congress which we here republish from Light 2 will give the reader a better idea of the position of the Protestant clergy in England. It is evidently very precarious. The divines seem to find themselves most uncomfortably situated between the horns of a dilemma. How they will emerge from it is one problem; whether many Spiritualists are likely to succumb to the unexpected coquetry of the Church they have parted company with is another one—and of a still more difficult solution. If, en desespoir de cause the reverends finally accept the theory of spirits—and we do not see how the reconciliation could be otherwise effected—then, acting upon the rule: “every spirit that confesseth not Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God”—they will have with the exception of a handful of “spirits” acting through a handful of so-called “Christian Spiritualists,” or rather their mediums who accept Jesus Christ—to pronounce the enormous majority of the “angels” who do not, as—“of the Devil.” Then, they will have to encounter a still greater difficulty. Even the Christian Spiritualists have their own peculiar views upon Christ, which, according to the canons of the established Church are “heretical,” but which, we doubt, the Spiritualists will ever give up. Then again, how about—“Though an angel from Heaven preach unto us any other Gospel than that which has been preached unto us, let him be accursed”? Well, time will show, and time is the only and best inspirer of wise schemes and devices. Meanwhile, the Spiritualists—and so far the Theosophists with them—have won the day, for the reality of the phenomena has been admitted at the Church Congress; and we have as good hopes, that, whatever happens, it is neither the Spiritualists nor the Theosophists who will be the conquered in the long run. For, divided as we may be in our conflicting beliefs as to the agency of the phenomena, we are at one as regards the reality of the manifestations, mediumship in all its various aspects, 3 and the highest phases of Spiritualism such as personal inspiration, clairvoyance, etc., and even the subjective intercourse between the living and the disembodied souls and spirits under conditions fully defined in Part I of “Fragments of Occult Truth” (See October Theosophist ) At all events, there is a far lesser abyss between the Spiritualists and the Theosophists than there is between the Protestants and the Roman Catholic clergy, their common Christianity notwithstanding. Their house is one and, divided against itself, it must finally fall; while our houses are two. And if we are wise and, instead of quarrelling, support each other, both will be found built on a rock, the foundation being the same though the architecture be different.
1. This “article” was untitled in the original publication, being but an introductory note to the articles “The ‘Banner of Light’” and “The Church Congress and Spiritualism”. The title here is the one used in the Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky. [ED.]
2. See “The ‘Banner of Light’” and “The Church Congress and Spiritualism”, Theosophist, December, 1881, p. 55-60. [ED.]
3. We never denied mediumship, we have only pointed out its great dangers and questioned the advisability of giving way to it and to the control of yet (to Spiritualists) unknown forces.—H.P.B.