THE SPIRITUAL PHILOSOPHY OF CHRIST

When Jesus said to the nobleman of Capernaum, “Except ye see signs and
wonders, ye will not believe,” he not only correctly summarized the
then existing attitude of the public mind in reference to the doctrines
which he proclaimed, but he declared with prophetic exactitude that
which is as true to-day as it was when he uttered it in Galilee.
He said it, not reproachfully, but as a statement of a condition
inevitable from the nature of things, which must be recognized and
dealt with in a practical manner. The wisdom shown in yielding to the
demand for “signs and wonders” in that day is obvious. Without it
the people could not believe; with it they could not doubt. To them
it was the power of God, working through miracle. It was to them a
sign and symbol of puissance and authority. To doubt the word of one
who was able to work such wonders was to doubt the evidence of their
senses. Without that evidence the spiritual doctrines of Jesus would
have been to them without sanction of authority. Logic and reason
would have been wasted on the people of that age. Their belief that
the signs and wonders were wrought in defiance of natural law was the
only circumstance that could command their respect. Their idea was
that the only way in which God could manifest his power was by some
signal violation of his own laws. To attempt to show them that Christ
healed the sick by a strict observance of natural law would have been
as futile as to attempt to teach a new-born babe the principles of the
differential calculus. To convince them of the fact would be to destroy
their faith in the power of God. Jesus taught them all that they could
understand,–all that it would benefit the world to know in that era of
civilization. He was working, not only for the people of his own time,
but for all future generations. He laid his foundations broad and deep,
and with the most consummate wisdom. He not only conferred the benefits
of his power upon the people of his own race and country, but he left
indubitable evidences of the truth of his history and of his doctrines
for all future generations.

Conceding, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus possessed the power
to work a miracle,–that is, to work outside of the domain of natural
law and in defiance of it,–his consummate wisdom in refraining from
the exercise of that power is now manifest. If he had wrought his
wonders by miracle, only the eye-witnesses of his works would have
been benefited; for there would have been no means provided by which
future generations could verify his history. But if he performed his
works by and through the operations of natural law, it only remains for
science to rediscover that law, in order to demonstrate the truth of
his history. His consummate wisdom is, therefore, manifest in that he
did leave a record, told with such accuracy of detail, that the science
of this generation can verify its truth.

The immediate necessity for showing signs and wonders to his people
was what he declared it to be,–namely, “that they might believe” in
him; that they might be convinced of his power, and have faith in his
declaration.

But he had a grander and a nobler object still than the conversion
of the few people of his own race and country. He foresaw the time
when mankind would not be content to rest its faith upon the dictum
of a history written by obscure and unknown men; when the world would
refuse to believe in the possibility of miracles, and demand a reason
for faith in him, in his works, and in his spiritual doctrines. We
have already seen how amply the truth of the history of his physical
manifestations has been vindicated by the discoveries of modern science.

But he had a more far-reaching wisdom still. It would avail the world
little, simply to know the truth of his physical history, if by that
means he could not demonstrate the truth of his spiritual doctrines
and philosophy. And it is just here that his utterance to the nobleman
of Capernaum applies with equal force to the people of the present
day, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” It is
now apparent that those signs and wonders were as necessary for the
confirmation of the faith of the scientific investigator of to-day as
they were to convince the people of his day that he was invested with
power and authority. Without them there would have been no means by
which we could prove even his probable existence. With them we are put
into possession of data which, by comparison with the known facts of
contemporary science, enable us to predicate with moral certainty his
existence and the essential truth of his history.

They do more. They enable us to know with scientific certainty that
he was in possession of an accurate knowledge of the laws which
pertain to his physical manifestations; and they logically justify us
in the conclusion that by the same means he obtained possession of
a knowledge of the laws which pertain to the conditions of immortal
life. The subject-matter is the same. His physical manifestations
were exhibitions of the powers of the soul. The philosophy of his
psychic power is the philosophy of the soul in its relations to the
physical man. The philosophy of immortality is the philosophy of the
soul in its relations to God. A change in its environment does not
change the nature or attributes of the soul; and hence we may infer
with irresistible logic that Jesus was as correct in his inferences or
knowledge concerning the life beyond as he was scientifically accurate
in his knowledge of the laws of the soul in its relation to its
physical environment.

In discussing the above proposition, the question as to how it was
possible for Jesus to obtain a knowledge of the condition of the
soul after the death of the body will first be considered. It has
already been shown that under certain conditions the soul perceives
with absolute accuracy the fixed laws of nature. It has also been
shown that the soul does not possess during its sojourn in the flesh
the power of inductive reasoning, but that its powers of reasoning
deductively from any suggested premise are marvellous. I have ventured
to use the expression in that connection, that “the subjective mind
reasons deductively with extraordinary acumen.” I have not ventured
the assertion that its deductions are infallible, though there is good
reason to believe that under certain conditions the assertion would be
substantially correct. The instances cited of mathematical prodigies
would seem to bear out that assertion. The power of perception in them
must be perfect, or there would be nothing to distinguish them from
other mathematicians. Their answers to mathematical problems, to be
remarkable, must be correct. That they are correct would seem to give
us warrant for the inference that under favorable conditions the powers
of the soul for correct deductive reasoning, or perception of fixed
laws, are perfect. If it is true in mathematics, it must be true in all
other matters governed by fixed laws, especially since all the forces
of nature are correlated, and all are governed by mathematical laws.

It has also been shown that the deductions of the subjective mind are
always logically accurate, even though the premises may be false. Any
one who has had experience in dealing with persons in a hypnotic trance
will bear me out in that statement.

The question now arises, What are the conditions necessary to give
us assurance of infallible deductions from given premises? Before
proceeding to discuss that matter, it is proper to premise that it is
difficult, in dealing with the subtle forces of the subjective mind, to
draw a distinct line between its powers of perception of fixed laws and
its powers of deduction from given premises. Its perceptions seem to be
instantaneous, and to preclude the idea of the employment of any such
processes of reasoning as are known to the logic of objective education.

The distinction seems to be this: If the premises are given from an
extraneous source, in the form of a suggestion, the processes of
deductive reasoning are employed. If the premises are the result of
intuitive perception, the conclusion is also perceived simultaneously.
In such a case the whole law pertaining to the subject-matter is
perceived at once; and it is inconceivable to the finite mind how any
processes of reasoning have been employed. Thus, in the case of Zerah
Colburn, his answers to mathematical problems of the most intricate
character were given instantaneously, and he was never conscious of
employing any process of calculation whatever. Moreover, his answers
were always correct.

Now, whether the processes of deductive reasoning employed by the
subjective mind lead to infallible results, it is not my purpose to
discuss. It is certain that they are marvellously accurate, whether
the premises are true or false; but whether they may be relied upon as
always correct when the premises are true, I am not prepared to say
from the data before me; nor is it important, for my present purpose,
to know.

It is certain, however, that where the powers of perception are
employed, under proper conditions, the conclusions are infallible.

We have now a starting-point from which we may form a correct estimate
of the scientific accuracy of the spiritual philosophy of Jesus.

If we are to concede that his doctrines are true, it is obvious that we
must demonstrate the correctness of the following propositions:—

1. That Jesus was endowed with the power to obtain a perfect knowledge
of spiritual law by perception or intuition.

2. To demonstrate this we must show, (_a_) that his knowledge of
spiritual law was scientifically accurate; and (_b_) that it could not
have been obtained by the ordinary processes of objective education.

3. To show that his knowledge was accurate, it must be demonstrated
that the conclusions arrived at by the inductive processes of modern
science are identical with the doctrines that he proclaimed.

It has already been shown that, as far as his physical manifestations
are concerned, each of the statements embraced in the foregoing
propositions is true. It has been shown that he must have had an
intuitive perception of the law of healing by subjective power, for
the reasons, first, that in the state of occult knowledge existing in
his day, it was impossible that he could have obtained his knowledge
by means of objective education; and, secondly, that his knowledge
of the law of healing was scientifically accurate, as shown by the
fact (_a_) that he proclaimed and constantly reiterated the essential
condition of the exercise of the power of healing precisely as it
is known at the present day; (_b_) that he constantly practised by
the methods known at the present day to be the best; (_c_) that he
surrounded himself and his patients with the best attainable aids to
the exercise of his powers,–precisely such aids, the utility of which
has been demonstrated by modern practice; and (_d_) that he constantly
sought to secure the mental environment which is now known to be of the
first importance, if not absolutely essential, to successful mental
healing. In short, it has been shown that he must have understood every
principle and every law of mental therapeutics, the rediscovery of
which has distinguished the present century.

Reasoning, therefore, from the premises which have thus been
established, we have the logical right to infer that he understood all
the laws which pertain to the soul. If he understood the laws which
govern it in its relations to its physical environment, it is fair to
presume that he knew the laws which pertain to its continued existence
after it is freed from the trammels of the flesh. Without any further
proofs, therefore, we have the logical right to consider the one as
presumptive evidence of the other.

If I stopped right here, I might reasonably claim to have established
the fact that the religion of Christ is founded upon a purely
scientific basis. But I do not intend to rest content with mere
presumptive evidence. I propose to show that his knowledge of the
law of immortality did not rest upon inferential deductions from the
facts known by him regarding the relations of the soul to its physical
environment. I propose to show that the world is now in possession of
facts from which we can reason inductively up to the same conclusions
which he proclaimed, _ex cathedra_, as the law of immortality.

Before proceeding to do so, we must first inquire just what he
taught. In doing so I intend to confine myself to the one essential
proposition which he made regarding the condition essential to the
soul’s salvation; for I do not propose to be led into a discussion of
the great fabric of doctrinal religion which has been built up since
he ascended to the Father. I leave that to the theologian. What I
intend to show is, that, viewed from a purely scientific standpoint,
the declaration which he made regarding the condition precedent to the
salvation of the soul is necessarily true.

The first question, therefore, is, What did Jesus declare to be the
one essential condition necessary to the attainment of immortal life?
When I say, “necessary to the _attainment_ of immortal life,” I mean
literally what I say; for I hold that if there is one principle
laid down by the Master that is more clearly defined than any
other, it is contained in his declaration, so often repeated, that
faith–_belief_–is the one essential condition precedent to the
continued life of the soul after the death of the body; and that, in
the absence of belief in immortality, the soul itself will necessarily
perish. That this was his doctrine, literally interpreted, no one will
deny. That he meant exactly what he said, I shall attempt to show. That
his declarations to that effect were statements of a scientific truth,
I shall attempt to demonstrate by the process of inductive reasoning
from facts known to modern science.

Before proceeding with the main argument, I hasten to say that the
doctrine of future rewards and punishments will be left untouched.
That question will stand just where it has always stood,–for each
one to decide for himself according to his own interpretation of the
Scriptures on that point, or his own sense of Divine Justice. I shall
not even attempt to destroy the comfort and consolation which many
good persons seem to derive from their belief in eternal fire. My
only object is to show, from a purely scientific standpoint, that the
history and essential doctrines of Jesus are confirmed by the facts and
necessary inductions of modern science, and, incidentally, to harmonize
certain passages of the New Testament which, through misinterpretation,
have seemed to be at variance.

According to the Gospel of Saint John, the first declaration by Jesus
of his doctrine of immortality was made to Nicodemus in the following
words:–

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must
the Son of Man be lifted up:

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.”[53]

Again, in John vi. 40, 47, he makes the same declaration in the
following clear-cut sentences:–

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which
seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life….

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath
everlasting life.”

Again:–

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and
believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not
come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”[54]

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”[55]

Other passages might be quoted to the same effect, but these must
suffice.

The question now is, Did Jesus mean just what he said; or were these
idle words, having no significance taken in their literal sense? Jesus
was not in the habit of uttering idle words, or of making statements
that did not contain the elements of eternal truth. If these are
exceptions, they are the only ones recorded in his history. I hold that
they are not exceptions, but that they are authoritative statements of
a literal scientific truth.




I have already shown that in formulating the doctrine of faith as
the essential condition prerequisite to successful healing, he gave
utterance to a scientific principle which it has taken nineteen hundred
years for the world to understand and appreciate. It is equally true
that, in formulating the proposition that _belief_ is the essential
prerequisite to the attainment of immortality, he gave words to a
scientific principle of far greater importance than the other.

I am aware that one portion of the Christian Church believes that by
the words “eternal life” Jesus meant that reward in heaven which is
promised to the just, and that by “eternal death” he simply meant
the punishment which the wicked must undergo for their sins. On the
other hand, there are those of the Church who hold that the literal
death of the soul is the punishment meted out to all who die in their
sins, while “eternal life” is the reward promised to all who are good.
Neither of these sects has, however, satisfactorily explained to
unbelievers why it is that belief or unbelief enters as a factor in the
case, since man is not supposed to be able to command his belief.

It is to the reconciliation of these conflicting theories that I shall
now address myself.

The first proposition of my theory is that the death, or practical
extinction, of the soul as a conscious entity is the necessary result
of unbelief in immortality.

The second proposition is that the soul, having attained immortality
through belief, is then subject to the law of rewards and punishments
“according to the deeds done in the body.”

The same propositions are more sententiously expressed in Romans ii.
12: “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without
law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.”

In other words, the condition precedent to the attainment of
immortality, or salvation,–that is, the saving of the soul from
death,–is _belief_. The condition precedent to the attainment of
eternal bliss and the avoidance of the punishments incident to sin, is
righteousness.

It will thus be seen that if it can be shown that these two
propositions are necessarily true, we shall avoid, on the one hand,
the incongruous idea that _belief_ will atone for all sin; and, on the
other, the equally incongruous idea that the extinction of the soul is
the necessary consequence of all sin.

In discussing the first proposition we shall first inquire what are
the inherent probabilities regarding the meaning which Christ attached
to the words which are quoted above. Is it probable, or even possible,
that he could have taught that _belief_ alone was a sufficient
atonement for the sins of the wicked? Knowing, as all must know who
have followed his career and noted his sayings, his utter abhorrence of
all wickedness; reading, as all may read, his sublime code of ethics
and morals, together with the awful maledictions pronounced upon all
violations of that code, and the punishments which he held before the
world as a consequence of sin,–it is simply impossible rationally to
conceive the idea that he taught that all consequences of a life of
sin could be avoided by _belief_. It is a self-evident proposition
that a man may believe in Christ, may believe in immortality, and at
the same time be steeped in all manner of wickedness and crime. No
more devout believers can be found in all Christendom than those of
an unfortunate race in America who are proverbial alike for their
devoted piety and for their propensity to steal on their way home from
prayer-meeting; unless we except the bandits of Italy, who are as noted
for their strict observance of the forms of the Church as they are for
the fact that they live by the perpetration of murder and robbery.
Unfortunately, our illustrations cannot be drawn exclusively from any
one race or nation. In every Christian society there are all too many
devout believers who live in constant violation of every law, human and
Divine. It is an insult to the intelligence of Christ and of humanity
to hold the monstrous doctrine that the belief of these men can shield
them from the punishment due to infamy, or that they can be adequately
punished, “according to their deeds,” by annihilation.

On the other hand, it is impossible to believe that Christ summarized
all the virtues, human and Divine, in the one word _belief_, or that by
the employment of that word he simply meant that all who live pure and
virtuous lives before God and man will be entitled to the rewards of
heaven. If this was all that he meant, he taught nothing new, either to
the Jewish nation or to any other civilized nation then in existence;
for the Hebrews had been taught the doctrine of future rewards and
punishments, of heaven and of hell, long before the appearance of
the Messiah. It is true that Moses did not teach the Israelites any
doctrine of the future world, and very vague mention is made of it
in the later books of the Old Testament. It is a historical fact,
nevertheless, that before the advent of Jesus the Jews had become
imbued with the Greek doctrine of Hades, which was an intermediate
waiting station between this life and the judgment. In this were
situated both Paradise and Gehenna, the one on the right and the other
on the left, and into these two compartments the spirits of the dead
were separated, according to their deserts. Jesus found this doctrine
already in existence, and in enforcing his moral precepts and in his
parables he employed the symbols which the people understood, neither
denying nor affirming their literal verity. I remark, therefore, that
in simply teaching the doctrine of future rewards and punishments he
taught nothing new; and, in that sense, he is no more entitled to be
considered the Saviour of mankind than would be any other successful
teacher of the same doctrine.

We are, therefore, forced back to a literal interpretation of the
statements under consideration. In this sense they can have but one
meaning, and that is, that _in the absence of belief in immortality,
the soul cannot have a conscious existence_. Reasoning from known
facts, there is no other rational conclusion. In explanation of
the meaning of “conscious existence” in the sense in which I have
employed that phrase, it is only necessary to direct the attention
of the intelligent reader to the accepted definition and doctrine
of consciousness. “In taking a comprehensive survey of the mental
phenomena,” says Sir William Hamilton, “these all seem to comprise
one essential element, or to be possible only under one necessary
condition. This element or condition is consciousness, or the knowledge
that I–that the ego exists, in some determinate state.”[56] Again, he
compares consciousness to “an internal light, by means of which, and
which alone, what passes in the mind is rendered visible.”[57]

The existence of a man without the knowledge of sensations or of mental
operations would be one without consciousness, and would constitute a
purely vegetative existence as long as it continued. One can readily
understand this condition in the objective mind from the observation
of physical phenomena. It is equally comprehensible how the subjective
mind, or soul, may be deprived of a conscious existence when we
remember the fundamental law of its being, the law of suggestion. We
have already seen how the law of suggestion operates upon the soul
in cases of cataleptic trance, where the suggestion is made that the
patient is dead. In that case the suggestion was believed implicitly,
and the preparations for the funeral did not disturb the equanimity
of the patient in the least. Nor did the incongruity of the situation
suggest itself to the patient; namely, the idea of being dead and of
thinking of being dead at the same time.

The suggestion to the patient’s subjective mind that he was dead,
rendered that mind unconscious of its own mental operations, and he
was, to all intents and purposes, dead.

This is, obviously, but a feeble illustration of the principle
involved. It is, however, sufficient to show how the soul may be
deprived of a conscious existence. A lifelong scepticism regarding
the existence of the soul, and a consequent disbelief in immortality,
constitute a suggestion that must operate to deprive the soul of a
conscious existence, if the law of suggestion is universal in its
operations.

The phenomena of experimental hypnotism also demonstrate the truth of
the proposition. Every hypnotist knows that a suggestion to a deeply
hypnotized subject that he is dead will produce a condition of such
profound lethargy or catalepsy as closely to simulate death, and were
the impression not removed, it would doubtless end in death. When
the subject remembers what has passed, he testifies that he believed
himself dead, and saw no incongruity in the situation. A settled belief
that the death of the body ends all, and the absence of any belief or
knowledge of the subject, must each operate to the same end.

It is this principle which constitutes the difference between men and
animals, and which gives the one the power and potency of immortality,
and leaves the other to perish. Animals, in common with men, are
possessed of a duality of mind; the subjective in the former being
proportionately stronger than in the latter, as is shown in their
stronger instincts. Objective reason being weak, and the power of
speech being absent, there is no possibility of the idea or suggestion
of immortality being imparted to the animal. Hence its soul can have no
conscious existence after the death of the body. It has the instinct of
self-preservation in common with man, but it is the preservation of the
life of the body. If the animal has any definite idea regarding life
and death, it all pertains to the body. An animal certainly can have no
idea of the possession of a soul, much less of its immortality.

When, therefore, Jesus proclaimed the law that belief was a condition
precedent to immortal life, he formulated a scientific proposition then
new to the world, and at the same time proclaimed himself master of the
science of the soul. He had declared the law of faith as it applied
to the power of the soul to heal the sick, and he knew that the same
law governed the soul in its relations to eternal life. He did not
formulate his propositions in the terms demanded by the science of the
nineteenth century, nor did he give such reasons for his conclusions
as inductive processes require. The time for that had not yet come.
Reasons would not have been appreciated in his day and generation. Nor
was it necessary for the accomplishment of his mission–which was to
proclaim the law of immortality–to show that the man whose soul has
not been aroused to consciousness dies as the brute dieth. This was
his mission; and in so far as he has accomplished that mission is he
entitled to be called the Saviour of the souls of mankind. He preached
no new doctrine other than this. His code of ethics was sublime and
god-like in its purity and simplicity, but it was not new. He taught
the doctrine of future rewards and punishments; but the symbols which
he employed to describe the condition of the soul after death–the
rewards bestowed and the punishments inflicted–were those which were
current among the people with whom his earthly lot was cast; nor does
this fact argue for or against his omniscience. It would, obviously,
have been impossible for him to convey to the world any adequate idea
of the modes of spiritual existence in terms which could be understood.
He used the current coin of expression to convey to mankind the broad
idea that the soul that is “saved” to immortal life through “belief”
will then be punished or rewarded according to the deeds done in the
body. It would, obviously, have been useless and confusing to his
hearers had he attempted to employ any new symbols, or any language to
which they were not accustomed, to convey that idea.

His mission, therefore, as the Saviour of the souls of men was
accomplished when he revealed to the world the essential condition
of immortal life. His mission as a moral teacher was secondary in
importance. The one doctrine was new, the other old. The one was a
scientific fact, the other a code of ethics. The one was essential to
the attainment of man’s ultimate destiny as an immortal entity, the
other a standard of right and justice in this world, and a condition of
felicity in the world to come.

It is said that when Hillel, who flourished in the century preceding
Christ, was asked whether he could give the whole Jewish law in one
sentence, he answered: “Yes, perfectly well. What you do not want
anybody to do to you, do not you to them. That is the whole law;
everything else is only commentary.”

The same may be truly said of the New Testament doctrines and the law
of faith. The only thing wholly new was the doctrine of faith. That is
the whole law; everything else is commentary.

You may also like