FREDERICK H. EVANS
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell."
Reprinted by Dr Garth Wilkinson's youngest daughter
MRS FRANK CLAUGHTON MATHEWS
First Published 1912
Printed in Great Britain
by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A bed for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call, when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
CHRISTINA G. ROSSETTI
JAMES JOHN GARTH WILKINSON
TO ask readers nowadays, when new philosophies, new religions abound, when Nietzsche, Bergson, Pragmatism, etc., etc., occupy thinking minds to the exclusion of all else in a philosophical direction, to ask such to turn back to a writer who was born a year short of a hundred years ago, whose books were practically all still-born, and are now mostly out of print, and whose percentage of readers is so small as to be negligible, is to court the rebuff of neglect and indifference. The world of religious thought has only time and an ear for the accustomed, the accredited, or some "new thing," some fashion of an hour.
And yet I am perversely proposing to arouse an interest in the writings of James John Garth Wilkinson, born 1812, died in 1899, author of some twenty-five works, all of which are completely neglected by the ordinary reading world, and known to but few among the super-intelligent.
What is the reason of this neglect? It is a safe dictum that no really good or great thing fails of a message, is lost or dies unsatisfied of a due audience. It must be from the fact that the basis of all Garth Wilkinson's non-medical writings is the message of Swedenborg, and that message has not yet become the fashionable religion. Its lot is slowly but surely to permeate all thought and progress; to be an undercurrent inspiration. Swedenborg himself always deprecated his message being made into a new creed or formula; his work was rather to depose creeds and make his inspired message of the new Truth the mainspring of all forms of religious expression.
But there is so much original philosophical expression in Garth Wilkinson's books as to demand notice on its own account; and further, no wise reader who values literature for the joy of style should neglect him.
It may seem a quaint idea to offer this very special and independent mental food of a religious kind to a medical journal;
Some shallow-witted person once said, "When about to take down a new book, do not; take down an old one instead." This cheap undervaluing of new contemporaries is not real book loving, but fetish worship; names, not things, attract such superficial admiration. The wise reader is he who searches after and values the best of all times, whether it be from Ancient Greece or Modern Brixton. The greatest of authors were contemporaries to someone once;
Garth Wilkinson himself was certainly not of the sort to pass over or undervalue his contemporaries, as his discernment of the immortal greatness of William Blake will prove.
The same extraordinary modesty, willing submerging of self, is seen in the lack of signature to that monumental Introduction he made when editing, completing and re-issuing Clissold's translation of Swedenborg's Economy of the Animal Kingdom, in 1846.
It is one of the anomalies of the business aspect of life that such things cannot be done because of insufficient profit; perhaps when we bask under a paternal Government's beneficent rays it will be a department's duty to keep all such treasures in print and cheaply accessible.
This preface to Blake's poems shows how early Garth Wilkinson gave signs of noble thought and fine style, a style full of weight and dignity, yet never heavy or exhausting to follow or read. Treating of Blake's spiritual drawings and visions, he says:
"Since every human being, even during his sojourn in the material world, is the union of a spirit and a body-the spirit of each being among spirits in the spiritual, even as his body is among bodies in the natural world-
Dealing with the more terrible of Blake's visions, the dreadful things he drew, as he declared, because he saw them, real and objective before him, he has this suggestive passage:-
"These works (Book of Job, Blair's Grave, etc., etc.), in the main, are not more remarkable for high original genius than they are for some self-possession; and show the occasional sovereignty of the inner man over the fantasies which obsessed the outer. Yet he, who professed as a doctrine that the visionary form of thought was higher than the natural one-for whom the common earth teemed with millions of otherwise invisible creatures: who naturalized the spiritual instead of spiritualizing the natural, was likely, even in these, his noblest works, to prefer seeing truth under the loose garments of typical or even mythologic representation, rather than in the divine-human embodiment of Christianity. And, accordingly, his imagination, self-divorced from a reason which might have elevated and chastened it, and necessarily spurning the scientific daylight and material reason of the nineteenth century, found a home in the ruins of ancient and consummated Churches;
Blake had studied Swedenborg, with altering estimations at different periods of his life; but it is interesting to note how these tremendous and most dreadful pictures of his recall and illustrate Swedenborg's appalling doctrine of Vastation, on which Garth Wilkinson has this passage:
"Vastations, devastations; in their consequences wasting away. They are the gradual destruction of men as spiritual organisms, down to the level which the evil has successfully evaded, and to which the freewill has been voluntarily, by acts of life, extinguished.
This obsession theory of Garth Wilkinson's to explain Blake's monstrous ideas and imaginings may perhaps find a contemporary example in the deceased English artist, Aubrey Beardsley, and some of his dreadful inventions. It does not seem possible for any youth of twenty-four or so to have had any social experience in our time capable of giving birth to such things. There are aeons of hell, of vice, behind them; sin indulged in till it becomes integral; the sole expression possible; and with an awful latent misery, a weary cruelty behind its mask of pleasure, that confirms Swedenborg to the core. Debased as some of Beardsley's intimates were in their confirmed erotomania, they would not account for the curiously ages-old whoredoms so many of his subjects revelled in, vivid living realities of sin and vice that only the irresistible obsession of some foul old spirit can account for.
On Blake as a poet our author has this criticism:-
"In his Songs of Innocence, Blake transcended Self and escaped from the isolation which Self involves; and, as it then ever is, his expanding affections embraced universal man, and, without violating, beautified and hallowed even his individual peculiarities. Accordingly, many of these delicious lays belong to the era, as well as to the author. They are remarkable for the transparent depth of thought which constitutes true simplicity-they give us glimpses of all that is holiest in the childhood of the world and the individual-they abound with the sweetest touches of that Pastoral life, by which the Golden Age may be still visibly represented to the iron one, they delineate full-orbed age, ripe with the seeds of a second infancy, which is the Kingdom of Heaven."
The conclusion of this remarkable essay is in these words: "If this volume gives one impulse to the new spiritualism which is now dawning on the world; if it leads one reader to think that all reality for him, in the long run, lies out of the limits of space and time, and that the spirits, and not bodies, and still less garments, are men, it will have done its work in its little day, and we shall be abundantly satisfied with having undertaken to perpetuate it, for a few years, by the present re-publication."
Garth Wilkinson calls it a re-publication, though he of course knew that the only previous publication, if it could be called so, was in the home-engraved and coloured copies prepared entirely by Blake's and his wife's hands, and sold privately to patrons; the issue under notice was therefore practically the first public edition.
Before dealing with some of the more special topics in Garth Wilkinson's teaching, I would like to urge his claims as a master of English; and I hope that the quotations I shall make in illustration of what he had to say to his day and generation will make many go to his books and explore their riches for themselves. They will be amply repaid in reading him for style alone; for it is a style almost unique in English literature; a style of such sonorous dignity and gravity that it affects one like great music;
So manifestly in earnest is he that though we may start reading for style only, his matter is so vital, so heart-searching, that we are presently engrossed in that, though as charmed as ever with the expression of it. He indulges in no clichs of thought or utterance; he is uniquely honest and free from affectation, and makes an appeal of a freshness that no other theological writing does, with the one outstanding exception of Henry James (senior); and his style is the very opposite, though equally spontaneous and unaffectedly honest. Garth Wilkinson's style is of an epic grandeur, a slow-moving rhythmical succession of sentences that are more akin to the finest blank verse, though always strictly prose in construction.
But it is difficult, when philosophical theology is the subject, to create readers outside the special few to whom the promise of a superb style is an open sesame. Ordinary readers are repelled because they expect the customary barrenness of theological writing; so lacking in reality and in vital attraction is all such to the average man.
The only hope of a new audience then lies in the chance that the quotations I shall make will prove so stimulating to those who from mere curiosity read my halting exposition, that something of the extreme value and present-day importance of his teaching, his vivid and penetrating outlook on Life and its Consequences, will come home to them and cause them to study our author for themselves.
The freshness of the point of view, the practicality, the very real adaptation to the daily needs, the close relatedness to the daily experiences and difficulties, the absence of the usual narrowing orthodoxies, will all be quickly realized. In his great work, Human Science and Divine Revelation, Garth Wilkinson bids us realize that "there is no God like that which the Atheists deny;
A live man's prayer should be, deliver me not from consequences, even if it were possible; it is only by bearing the consequences of my voluntary acts and thoughts that I can possibly come to find my real self, to realize what I really want to be.
If a man's ignorance prevents him from choosing consciously and vitally for either good or evil here, his education must continue till he makes his own settled future; the man who consciously neglects good, runs the risk of losing the power of choice, and so drifts to negation. It is the internal, not the external and superficial aspect we are all so ready to class each other by, which is thus concerned; none of us is wholly good; it is the ruling tendencies, the foundational characteristics that we have to watch and judge our upward or downward progress by.
The essential condition, the rule of the next life, is, I like to think, that what a man desires, he must and shall have, be it good or be it evil; a very heaven of heavens for those who desire and work for the highest and best that is open to them; a very hell of hells for those to whom the opposite is the rule. No hypocrisies possible there, but only to know as we are known, the "simple life" with a vengeance.
Swedenborg was of course the first to convey this message to man, Swedenborg the complement of the New Testament; but Garth Wilkinson's expression of it is so much more beautiful, so much more human, so appealing to the homeliest and most exalted of our feelings and experiences, and so much more terrible because of the grandeur of his expression of it, that I find I re-read him far more than Swedenborg; the one seems comparatively remote, but the other gets round one's heart, a friend leading into full life.
It makes one all the more impatient with the official pulpit; for if our current preachers really believed that this daily life actually, and in too many cases, unalterably, makes the next life, not merely influences it, they could not preach so vaguely, perfunctorily, and unpractically as they habitually do. Men do not know, but they need in imperative earnest to be told, that every voluntary choice for good or evil here has an absolute and inevitable relative effect on the succeeding life.
If this is believed and acted upon, one's creed and doctrines and formulas of belief may be regarded as mostly a matter of temperament, of training, of environment; if they are of actual adult conviction they are still of no more importance than as they react on our daily life in motive and action. What alone matters is that we realize that each day, each hour, adds a quality to the future, determines its general character.
From no writer can be gained the overwhelming conviction of this so fully as from Garth Wilkinson; he gets it all from Swedenborg, but his setting forth of it becomes a more tangible reality, which shall be shirked or avoided only at the conscious peril of one's soul. He compels us to realize that Life is something more than a mere variety of experiences; they are but the notes, Life is the tune we make of them; a recognition of what is the governing, underlying, essential driving power, making the real man in us.
"The problem is of the greatness of good, and the greatness of evil, and their unalterable opposition; . . . the problem is immense, for revelation reveals good and reveals evil where they are not expected; they are the only substances of which it is the organon. It has revealed them from the beginning; and the Bible is nothing else than the divine light shining on them and at them. But this light has been so obscured, that its judgments on the acts of life, and on the thoughts and desires of every hour in every man, have been made to mean judgments of creeds, and to import salvation by creeds in an unknown future state. Hence good and evil have fallen out of churches and pursued their way in the kindness or cunning of the natural man. But through Swedenborg the cloud is lifted, and the divine light shines down again, this time with rational force, and with the sevenfoldness of the Divine Humanity, upon human character as its special mission.
"It is not the breakers of law only, the thieves and murderers and violaters, who are included in the meshes of the hells, but all the selfish lives together which act intelligently here without any breach of the law of the land. The foundation of things in the heart apportions the future in the spiritual life. And therefore, the mass of evil men and women to be dealt with is not proportionately represented in the criminal classes, or in those who sit in the pews of churches, but comprises all to whom voluntarily the divine order of heaven is impossible all those whose greeds and practices would break it up;
"The pains of hell are the pressures of evil against evil; selfishness restrained by surrounding selfishness. . . . No man is punished after death for the sins done on earth; but the pursuing vengeance of evil is, that it does over again what it has committed once, and runs into punishment by fresh excess."
The majestical beauty of these last sentences seems almost scriptural; so weighty and solemn in cadence as to compel its matter and meaning to be memorable.
It may be, indeed, too often is said, "Why should I bother myself about all this when I have neither knowledge of, belief in, nor desire for immortality? The theory which fully contents me gives annihilation as the end of this visible earthly life; and I have as yet had no sufficient evidence to disprove it."
In all the countless cases of suicide, how many can we think were driven to it in the desire or hope of killing the self? Indubitably the only desire and intention was to escape the intolerable conditions of life here - they might be better elsewhere, but they could not be worse.
Garth Wilkinson says of these: "If a man is a suicide in heart, his will to suicide is supreme; and this means that he is potently alive to killing a present state, but by no inclusion that he climbs behind his living free will and has any desire to kill himself. His free will feels its invulnerable life when he strikes his heart, and destroys the fleshly vesture of the day."
To ask for a tangible, physical experience as a basis of a belief in a next life is to ask an impossibility; the physical is the antithesis of the spiritual; the one cannot exist, as a mode of life, in the presence of the other. Utter, abject, unreasoning terror is the result of any approach to it; and the over-mastering horror that is common to all mankind in occult practices surely proves the existence of an invisible world, invisible to us, but very real to itself.
And, after all, if one obstinately says he will really know or not believe, what is there we do really know?
Knowledge is a purely relative term, it means much or little according to one's training, but it never means all.
Beyond all, the immortality theory provides the best working hypothesis; for it may be true, and if it is, the belief will have been all to the good in the effect it will necessarily have had on the future life; conserving powers for enjoyment, those that would otherwise have been injured, perhaps destroyed. No one can seriously believe in a succeeding life to this without moulding his behaviour here with a view to that mysteriously interesting next life in its wonderful unknown conditions. And should the impossible prove possible, and annihilation be the end of man, still the refusal to believe it is a gain, not a loss, for it will have led us to achieve more love, and so secure a more abiding memory with our fellows. The annihilationist argues sometimes that if he is right, then it is only common sense to live wholly for this life, to get every fraction of pleasure and profit out of it;
Determinedly to live the most selfish life possible, is to court a hell hereafter, logically true, believe it or not as may be chosen; and that is best described in Garth Wilkinson's memorable words: "The pains of hell are the pressures of evil against evil; selfishness restrained by surrounding selfishness." Truly a formidable future to work for;
The familiar text sums it all up: "But what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" The answer can only be, nothing; for the world he thought he had gained fails him altogether in the article of death, and the impoverished, the bankrupt soul may go on to live and on hopeless terms.
Garth Wilkinson has an exceedingly beautiful passage in Human Science and Divine Revelation, on this immortality question and the theory that the physical is all: "The influence of the body upon the mind is often cited as a convincing argument that the mind is but a condition of the material organization. So also the decline of faculty in old age, and the obliteration of memory then, and when disease weakens the frame.
"But the body is indeed the medium and instrument which incarnates the mind, and through which the mind works. If you vitiate the instrument, the work is marred; but that only proves that the worker has his hand on it imperfectly; not that the instrument is the worker. If the flute is cracked and tuneless, the flute-player is limited by its imperfections; he may be discouraged if he can get no other flute, but his powers are independent of and above the present flute, and he has to bide for a better instrument. So a brain, once sound and sane, may fall into ruins, and the mind that played thoughts through it will produce but fragmentary and disordered touches of thought where clearness and coherence were once the rule; but the mind is all there, when the ruined cerebrum is either cured or discarded; and being itself the essential brain on which the other was but the mortal plating, its capacities are unaffected and will recur in a second life in higher forms."
This "I don't know" attitude also over-looks and ignores the facts of the experiences of others.
It may happen, it has happened, that a sudden experience will open a door hitherto unsuspected and into an undreamed-of world of cognition; but an experience that is too intensely intimate and personal to be shared or passed on; it is singly one's own, and yet is as valid and real as if it were an universal. Garth Wilkinson speaks thus on it: "The doctrine that death is the annihilation of the man, contradicts experience, and dares not face it. It is superfluous to say that the position is correlated with nothing, because it is of nothing, and is nothing. It asserts nothing as its end. More absurd than the glory theory, more superstitious than the grave theory, more false than the necessary progress of the species theory, it is, if held in heart and not in mere intellectual impotence, the crowning dogma of the fool."
These references to the "glory theory," etc., need further quotation in explanation.
"The blind faith that imperfect men and women from the world by laying hold of Christ can in dying be at once translated into 'glory,' corresponds to nothing wise or good; and common sense rejects it. Such a change in faculties would violate and destroy all faculty; and personal identity, including freedom, would melt away on the instant. There is no process in it, as there is in everything Divine; consequently, no truth, or reference of the past to the present and the future. It correlates with juggling, not with salvation. In the spiritual world, men are led on by stages, swift, or slow, according to their states, towards final conditions of good or evil; they are led by divine management to put off their apparent selves, and to come into their most real selves; and for every state a corresponding place is prepared; they are led by processes which strictly equate with their first education in this natural world, where the appearances of good are indispensable to command success in life; only that in the upper world this world's ideal is realized, and it is the realities of good which gain the prize.
"Besides the 'immediate glory' party, the church has in it another, which may be called the party of the immediate grave; implying virtually the sleep of the man till the (a) day of judgment and the resurrection then of the dust into the man. This, it is obvious, corresponds also to nothing. There is no knowledge in the grave, and nothing but morbid dogmatic fancy in such an idea of non-existent existence. The truth is, that the man rises by process immediately that his fleshly heart ceases to beat; he is indrawn into the other world by the Lord; his spiritual senses are unclothed of mortality, and are opened to perceive the universe then about him; just as his natural senses as a baby were opened at first to the natural world. This is experience, and here is continuity of being with only a difference of degree. . . . The judgment on men is not at the end of a sleep in the grave in this world, but being a judgment on the spirits and purposes of men, commences by processes as soon as death takes place.
"Allied by subject only, not opinion, to these two parties is another class of minds, who will have it that in both worlds there is a steady necessary progress of mankind towards divine ends; that the human race is always on the advance upwards and onwards. This is as contrary to experience as the glory theory; history is against it; for even if there was no fall at the first, as these people insist, the record of mankind is full of nothing but mighty falls since. Falls of great organic systems of minds; whole faculties swept away, and supplanted by others; falls of churches and empires; falls of individuals all around us in the battle of life. Therefore, this creed, of the necessary progress of the species, is correlated with no experience, and contradicted by all circumstance. When man insists on self, and on being left to himself, he falls, and having a free will, has a right to fall; he falls individually and collectively; when his collective fall is complete, the Lord intervenes;
This leads to a profoundly suggestive page on the dogmas of the atonement and the trinity. The Trinity is, of course, a true doctrine in itself, but not as a trinity of persons; man is a single person, but he is also a trinity in essentials; man has a body and he has a mind, there are two elements; but unless he puts these to use, he may as well not exist; the going forth of these into speech and action constitute the third element, the real man; the triune person is then complete.
"The 'three persons' in the Godhead are perturbation to the unity of nature.
And again: "The poor estate of the theist, reverently believing there is a God, and hoping and aspiring to think out something of Him from nature and the mind. . . .
". . . The aspiration of theism to a creed of God is impossible to adjoin to a scientific hypothesis of the world for that such a fabric as the visible formal universe should be created by a benign God, which the supposition is, and that a conscious mind, male and female, with large religious faculties, should be, so far as we have experience, the crown of it, and that He, the All-possible, should have left Himself unmanifested, a prey to imagination and conjecture, when yet shape and form for every other thing are His representative creatures; His easiest manifestoes, is an anomaly to the human heart and intellect. It declares that the rest of things can be definitely known, but that the exact God or fashioner is a guess; that He who has a divine heart cannot show a divine face."
One would think that this nobly beautiful and inspiring passage must have been familiar to Robert Browning, for the following quotation from his poem, "An Epistle of Karshish the Physician," is an almost perfect poetic parallel:
"The very God! think Ahib: dost thou think?
So, the All-great, were the All-loving, too-
So, through the thunder comes a human voice,
Saying, 'O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in Myself!
Thou hast no power, nor may'st conceive of Mine,
But love I gave thee, with Myself to love,
And thou must love Me who have died for thee!'"
For further confirming of this, and in the most striking fashion possible, I must here quote one of the most penetrating and inspiringly beautiful passages in Henry James's works. It occurs in Christianity, the Logic of Creation (pp. 213-15), a book I cannot too strongly recommend my readers to make their own.
"Christianity eternally explodes the naturalistic conception of Deity as a being essentially disproportionate to man and therefore inaccessible to human intelligence, by identifying Him with, conventionally, the meanest and humblest of men, with a man who was so genuinely humble and insignificant as actually to feel no personality apart from the interests of universal truth and justice, who had not spirit enough to be angry at the grossest of personal insults, or to resent the cruellest of personal wrongs;
"I find no trace of any man in history being subject to the temptations that beset this truest of men. I find no trace of any other man who felt himself called upon by the tenderest human love to loath and disavow the proud and yearning bosom that bore him. I find no other man in history whose profound reverence for infinite goodness and truth drove him to renounce the religion of his fathers simply because that religion contemplated as its issue his own supreme aggrandizement; and whose profound love to man drove him to renounce every obligation of patriotism simply because these obligations were plainly coincident with the supremest and subtlest inspirations of his own self-love. No doubt many a man has renounced his traditional creed because it associated him with the obloquy and contempt of his nation, or stood in the way of his personal ambition; and so no doubt many a man has abjured his country because it disclaimed his title and ability to rule.
"What a mere obscenity every great name in history confesses itself besides this spotless Judaean youth, who in the thickest night of time-unhelped by priest or ruler, by friend or neighbour, by father or mother, by brother or sister, helped in fact, if one may so consider it, only by the dim expectant sympathy of that hungry rabble of harlots and outcasts, who furnished His inglorious retinue, and still further drew upon Him the ferocious scorn of all that was devout and honourable and powerful in His nation-
For my part, I am free to declare that I find the conception of any Divinity superior to this radiant human form inexpressibly treasonable to my own manhood. . . . I shall always cherish the most hearty and cheerful atheism towards every deity but Him, who has illustrated my own nature with such resplendent power as to make me feel that man henceforth is the only name of honour. . . . In short, I worship the God-man, that peerless and perfect soul whose unswerving innocence and sweetness gathered up the infinite forces of Deity as wheat is gathered up in a sheaf, and for ever linked them with the natural life of man. . . ."
This is surely the most triumphant attestation of a man's belief that is possible; and how good it is to remember that such a mind and writer found full kinship while on earth with Garth Wilkinson;
Garth Wilkinson says somewhere, "Heaven and Hell are only other names for Good and Evil." I have often wished we could expunge that dread word hell from our vocabulary. It connotes so wholly an arbitrary condition, a spatial allotting in man's destiny; whereas Heaven and Hell are states, not places; hell is but a generic name for the more or less unhappy societies man will drift into if he will not work for a right to be in the happy and useful societies that heaven consists of.
"The pursuing vengeance of evil is, that it does over again what it has committed once, and runs into punishment by fresh excess. . . . Short of crime, evil has its own freedom; when crime is committed in hell, as on earth, the criminal is reduced and punished. . . . Stripped of its delusions, the estate is lean and barren, like the interior mind of wickedness here on earth. . . .
And again: "For all practical purposes, we are going into a harder and sterner world than this has been; in the past, evil has been hard, and good has been soft; in the battle between the two these conditions will be reversed, and while love and charity will have a new tenderness to their own children, their great executive functions will be carried forward by edges of truth which will search, judge and prevail."
But for those who essentially love, that is prefer, to work for God, none of these educative hardships of experience will appal, or hinder, or frighten into relinquishing the struggle. So long as there is no farcical society as here, with its hypocrisies, its castes, its absurd and unfair money basis, its unrelatedness to real progress by its pitiful lack of opportunities to those who most need them, its multitudinous temptations arising solely from unfair conditions, which, though not answering to a real love of evil in the man, are not resisted because of the pressure of the unjust conditions-
We can hope for this future for all those who have kept their religious sense; but what percentage is there of the great average that can be said to own any vital religious sense? (55) To attack the idea of a religious sense to the majority of the people we pass in the streets is patently absurd; if they exhibit any sign of being alive to it on a Sunday it has no further, no continuous hold on them, and they live happily without any reference to it. But if it cannot be possible that they are absolutely devoid of it, why has it so completely ceased to have any practical evidence, and why has the need for worship in all classes so largely ceased? It must be that the Churches and their ministers have lost hold, by their manifest unrelatedness to daily life, their unreality, the impossibility of making their doctrines real and valid in practice.
The fact that its professional exponents wear a uniform, a special dress, marks them as men apart; whereas there must be no professionalism in goodness, in religious life or occupation. If the garb means only that they are teachers, then let it be the universal uniform of all teachers; to profess goodness, or be set apart for it, takes the common humanity out of men, the religious sense and exercise must be common, not special.
The current feeling towards any religious expression is that it is in instinctive antagonism to the business and workaday life; its sentimentalities, as they are really considered, are so alien as to be impossible of serious or practical thought from Monday to Saturday.
But the practical religious sense, a living for and in communion with the invisible, must be made to invade, to permeate the business life, impossible though it seems while competition and a money-caste is the foundation of the social fabric. Religion is not business and business is certainly not religion; a pair of innocents like Dickens' Cheeryble Brothers would be bankrupt in a month of today, when cut-throat competition is the rule, and we all live on instead of for each other.
Therefore do I welcome so intensely this profoundly searching and most noble yet simple teaching which Garth Wilkinson gives us from Swedenborg. A very workaday gospel to fill the real need of all men, and more especially the average, the common man, who makes up the great bulk of humanity, and of whom it is almost a sacrilege to expect any reverent sense of a vital religious belief or cognizance, but who may be made to know of the existence of the invisible world and his connection with it.
The average man can then go on at need and will to gain a philosophical understanding, a theological reason why; to get an insight into the real mission and work of the Divine-man, Jesus Christ, to realize the eternal import of the Divine-Natural Humanity.
It is probable that many will call this mere morality; not a saving faith; just what is indeed possible to any mere heathen, but anyhow it is a good beginning for any heathen, English or foreign. And no essential choosing of and delight in Good for the sake of happiness in Good, can be other than a preparation for heaven, which is the home of Good. To be in heaven we must be of heaven, there is no other way, pace whatever creeds or formulas or faiths may be insisted on as vitally necessary. It is certainly better than a professed faith minus any application of it to the daily doings, for it is essentially related to ends, what Swedenborg calls the Divine Doctrine of Uses.
And, if accepted on the mere ground of expediency, a making the best of both worlds as a safest policy, that merely implies that the man has no interior use in or love for it, and it is an hypocrisy that will shrivel away and reveal the nakedly mean soul in that searching life where, as Garth Wilkinson most wonderfully has it, "all thoughts and affections are sensibly communicated on the atmospheres, so that each is in constant blazon to his fellows, and their hearts to each other are visible acts of gesture."
The absurd talk of an angry God also ceases when we thus realize that the only anger that can arise is in ourselves at ourselves, over unhappy but just consequences. If a man does badly here from a faulty environment or a poisoned heredity, that is not conscious determinate sin, and is remediable in further light when freed from the physical determining taints that predisposed, almost forced him into sin here.
Garth Wilkinson says: "The punishments of the spiritual world are of two effects, reformatory, where reformation is possible, and vastative, devastating, where it is not. The first consists of temptations, trials, victories; long and great sufferings under severe circumstances from which escape is not given; . . . revelations of hell within and despairs; falling and rising states; and through all the voluntary detachment of the man from the evils of his life and nature; until the divine charity and wisdom of the Lord with the man's free will unimpaired dare admit him purged and purified into Heaven. . . .
It may seem a terrible sort of future life to be born to; but the punishment really connotes an enforced education, which is lastingly painful only for those who prefer evil to good. No one of us is free from sin, all have faults, unacknowledged mostly, but demanding reparation and abandonment; it is surely but cowardly to call these enforced experiences (to thus prove ourselves) a punishment really only comes when sin is persisted in against all warning, and it has to be kept in bounds.
On Free Will in this connection I will again quote Garth Wilkinson: "The belief that the wicked actually die out, evil having thus no true existence, is humanely meant, but after all, it is terrible, a kind of divine suicide. For it forgets the true ground of immortality, which is free will, and can give little reason for a man's enduring life that does not apply to animals. The reason of hell is the
immortality of hell; that reason is that men freely will hell.
Also, if determinism (that shallow refuge in escape from the problems of life, insoluble by any other than the Swedenborg message) were a true theory, and no man is responsible for his thoughts and actions, and liable for their necessary consequences-how is remorse to be explained, the remorse that impels a man to public confession to gain quietude of mind; the remorse that is something more than lip-sorrow; a real sense of personal guilt of interior origin? No man ever really accuses any other than himself of his sins, be they peccadilloes or inhering vices; to himself, he owns them, "the purposed ways of the lifetime," and accepts their responsibility. Environment and circumstance limit and condition our choices; but in the actual deciding between these (however limited or extensive) choices, man has a very real free will, personal and peculiar to himself;
Garth Wilkinson says on this point "There is not a paragraph in Swedenborg's works that has any other end or object than to make men and women more personally responsible for their actions here, and thus-wise more capable of receiving happiness hereafter. . . . The loves, which are the lives, of men are continuous, and their apparent death is their instant resurrection, and they go to their own fathers, that is to say, to the great affectional societies with which they were in correspondence by acts of life here; the conscience of everyday is the metaphysic that is needed, and the knowledge of the affections of the heart is the tutor of life. The revelation, from heaven and from hell, of what the affections lead to, and of what they are, is thus of prime moment in the conduct of a man. And those theologies which obscure this revelation, and teach that human seeds do not grow into human trees, but are miraculously brought into something else after ages of sleep in another way, leave human nature as they find it, but with, a bias deepened to self and the world."
This very practical gospel seems also to simplify the difficult question of how to talk religion to young children. Let them understand that explanations will come later; all they now have to realize is that they are born to live for ever; that death only means the wearing-out of this body; that this earthly flesh body will be succeeded by one of a finer sort suited to the finer and more beautiful life we shall live after we leave the earth; that they now have a flesh body, a muscle body, a nerve body, a bone body, all one in the other, and finest of all they have a spirit body, so fine as to be invisible now, but which will be as real in the next life as the flesh body is real now. That the Lord Jesus is God the Creator made visible; who came long ago to the earth to make known to us the best way to live, and that if they want to live with Him in heaven, with all the happy people, they must be good and happy here;
Garth Wilkinson beautifully says: "Children can now be taught whatever is needful of life and death. . . . They can know that life is definitely continued, and that in every duty and lesson they are being prepared not only for an earthly but also for a heavenly home; the child can learn that if he dies young he will grow up under angelic tutorship in the spiritual world . . . that children who die grow up to an immortal youth, as old good men die and grow back to the same maturity; that heaven is unfading youth, because true love and life are in the freshness of the Lord's eternal morning. . . . Education on these principles is totally different . . . to where the knowledge is vague and the grave blocks the way, and dims the sight of the little enquirer."
Garth Wilkinson has a very wonderful chapter on "Prayer and Miracle" in his Human Science and Divine Revelation:-
"It is thought today that if there be a God, He is unalterable, that He changes His face for no solicitation, that consequently all events take their natural course, and that prayer is a nullity as an appeal to the Divine nature. They say it may alter the praying man, but by no means the Being prayed to. Certainly it does alter him who prays, and often supremely, changing despair into hope, confusion into steady light, timidity into confidence, cowardice into courage, hatred into love, and the genius of compromise into the spirit of martyrdom. In short, it makes men of those who were not men, it changes ignoble conditions into the highest figures and occasions which the world has seen. . . . The inspiration of the successful prayer state is that it is not a success of the art of the selfhood, not a pious fraud of ego practised upon ego, but a divine gate between the Lord and man opened by human prayer. . . . There is no experience to contradict this; no professor praying as a dodge has ever bettered his case or proved his point though it is on record that scoffing has been overmastered by prayer, and an altered mind come to the man on his knees.
It is supremely interesting to remember here that finely spiritual saying George Meredith has in his Feveral: "Who rises from prayer a better man his prayer is answered." All this implies, of course, real prayer, true self-surrender in the utterance, in the appeal, in the communion; one needs not to kneel to accomplish it, a mere ejaculation, a momentary expression, can be as full of meaning as the longest prayer; and if it savour at all of the perfunctory, it is a dead thing and void; saying prayers is not necessarily praying.
On this necessary unalterability of God Garth Wilkinson has these further thoughts: "On the side which He turns to man, called love and mercy, He alters His face to every condition of His creature. He would be no Lord if He did not Govern, no supremely wise Lord unless He governed according to the momentaneous state of His subjects. . . . Every perpetuated law is an everlasting alteration according to the circumstances of the case. The sum of instantaneous alterations is the law in process. . . . How shall He not divinely change to meet every want of His creatures? He could not be infinite, eternal, and unchangeable unless He dealt in detail ineffable with every contingency and every course of mankind and the world; unless He played upon every moment of every mind with the stops of His fingers."
This is followed by an application of it to the legislator as ruler; though it would surely puzzle us to find an historical or contemporary parallel to it; being indeed the ideal:
"Love means this, and mercy means it, and wisdom means it, and truth means it. And these are the divine things which must be thought of, or God is not thought of."
As needful a lesson as any to be gained from these eloquent pages of Garth Wilkinson, is the enforcement of the Swedenborg message of the omnipresence of the Spiritual World around us, continually influencing us. Mankind is not alone in this realm; man is not the sole denizen of these atmospheres; for they are peopled by countless hosts of our predecessors. The nearest are those who have failed to make progress owing to the overwhelming attraction of, and their contentment with, the old earth-life. Those who insist on finding their entire enjoyment in what the earth-life grossly provides, not living in the spiritual side of this life's activities, must, when they enter the next life, find themselves semi-bankrupt, they have left behind all they found life in. They tied up their affections so wholly here that they find it almost impossible to escape when dead to it, and their intensest delight is to get back into it through the yielding personality of some one of us here who is akin to them. This largely accounts for the easy puerilities so prevalent in spiritualistic seances;
As Garth Wilkinson has it: "Spiritist informations tell us nothing. They are only continua of the earthly senses, which are nowhere continuous with the spiritual or heavenly. They are brainless for the upper realm."
One of Garth Wilkinson's most wonderful passages is where he pictures Man in this after life: "The human race is practically and really One Man. . . . Each individual man is separately conscious, and is sufficiently alone to be himself, but in that very soleness he is also conscious that he is part of a greater Manship, and that without being in it he would perish. . . . At death every member of it enters a corresponding spiritual world; and carries along with him, so to speak, his own spiritual world. He is still part of the One Man, but on new conditions; he is a member of some one of the vast societies of the spiritual world. . . .
And on Space and Time Garth Wilkinson is equally noble in utterance: "God makes Space, which is just as finite as my writing-desk. I cannot see the ends and sides of space by my senses, for they are immersed in space, and wherever they travel they see space.
May not this inescapable surrounding of spirit influences, malign and beneficent, form a sort of explanation of genius and inspiration? A genius is one who is abnormally sensitive and open to influx has a finer receptivity. Man makes nothing of himself; we say we "make" this or that; or so-and-so creates such and such a part; but we only form, give body and appearance to what already exists latently, or is given us from other-where. God alone creates, really makes; for He not only creates the form and appearance, but provides the stuff, the material also.
Garth Wilkinson says again: "It is the aim of these pages throughout to bring the spiritual world into the arena, and to show it as a constant father-force operant upon earth, on the evil side wherever any corruption exists and supplies it with a womb."
Like unto like, it is the willingness to evil that attracts the evil suggesting spirit. Nothing grows without its proper soil, and the fruitful soil for sin is our willingness to it, a gladness in it, instead of an instant repulsion.
"Good and evil, which are merely other names for Heaven and Hell, are known to the religious mind to be the most potent factors in man's higher destiny. We derive all good, in will, thought, and action, from God; and all evil from the Devil and Satan, which are the names of the Collective Human Hells." And again: "The aim of all spiritual life is to descend into bodily life; the aim of the life of the over-brooding heavens, is to enter man by his free soul and spirit, and to fill him with good affections and true thoughts; all his pure life comes to his organism thus. The aim of the life of the hells, and of the evil congregations of persons not yet fixed but between us and the hells-the World of spirits first entered by man at death-is, by ceaseless endeavour, and sensual pressure, to possess the bodies of men and the upper faculties thereby; to cancel free will and to dominate the natural life. Those aims we receive and further so long as we are of sound mind, on one side, or the other. . . ."
The more one broods over this aspect of life and its meaning, the more practically and perfectly it equates with all experience; but if any still deny or doubt, Garth Wilkinson has these words for them: "To suppose that they (the denizens of the spiritual world), of like creation and familiar face with ourselves, are nothing, because we do not see them, is tantamount to denying their existence and granting death as their end- all.
Many have objected to these teachings as giving too strenuous a plan of life; the laissez-faire, even the laisser-aller is the easier aspect; and after all who is Garth Wilkinson, or who is Swedenborg that they should have such positive pronouncements? But to think in such fashion is to shut up all doors of new knowledge, to close in one's horizon, to limit one's outlook.
Garth Wilkinson says of it: "You are to take nothing for granted; only to keep your mind open to the Good, and the True, and the Useful. You need quash no criticism, provided, on this ground of openness it proceeds from the dubitative affirmative not from the dubitative negative bias of the heart."
Surely the finest ideal is to have a constant sense of judging, of criticizing, ourselves; instinctively feeling of each act, thought, or speech that one feels is deliberate, individual, or even impulsive-how shall I look back on that, will it bear remembering, or do I wish it could be forgotten here and now?
It has been objected also; "but does it matter much, if I shall eventually come out all right, though through far more stringent experience and trial, to which indeed I am quite willing to agree as the price of greater indulgence here?" "Why should I deny myself any experience, however selfish or sinful, if with an eventual repentance and abandonment its serious consequences can be done away with?"
The punishment of sin seems largely avoidable here on earth; a moral burn is not so great a deterrent from repetition as a physical burn is. But in the spiritual world the punishment, the effect of re-committed sins, is as real and visible and instant as the physical results of playing with fire are here. And a cardinal feature, therefore, of that entrancingly free life is that sin and evil is, as virtue is, at last licit and free; the ever condemning feature of sin here is its illicit character, its inborn necessity for hiding; great shall be the day when for us the reign of the illicit shall be over, hypocrisy an impossibility.
Though too terrible for general reading, there are, for those who can bear them, dreadful details of the consequences of sin given in Swedenborg's volumes of his Spiritual Diary; they are wholly human and reasonable and logical; but absolutely uninventable by any man.
And prosaic and commonplace though it may be considered, too cheap, easy, and obvious to have any stress laid upon it, the mainspring of a beautiful life is still the Golden Rule really lived. No abiding selfishness flourishes in its presence, for it is a seeking of the good of others, the Love of the Neighbour; and selfishness inevitably leads to essential loneliness; and as man is essentially an "alone" being, who is driven to seek company to realize himself fully and objectively, it is of course fatal to any real happiness to cultivate that which intensifies loneliness; the terror of that in the spiritual world must be great indeed, but what is it but the necessary consequence of the selfish, the self-seeking life?
The actively unselfish life is also the chief enemy to that deadliest of vices, what Swedenborg calls the Lust of Power;
When an active belief in a spiritual world of this national and logical order is constant with us, how it increases the vividness of daily life here, how palpitatingly real it makes everything that concerns us; what a looking forward it gives! With what eagerness, almost (though mixed with involuntary turptitude and shrinking) does one await the adventure of adventures! Death is, indeed, the one privilege no one can rob us of, the Gate leading us into the Unknown but only life really worth living; progress and realization at our own will; and, oh, but it does seem due for some of us!
Garth Wilkinson has this noble passage on this point of view: "The natural body throughout life is impregnate by creation with a spiritual body, which is the man himself, the autocracy of his character which he is forming day by day in the womb of all his intentions, thoughts, and transactions in the natural world. Here and now this character, this quale, is enveloped and partly concealed in a body of death, in a sand of matter, space, and time. When this body has served its use, or when by disease or accident it ceases to correspond to that use, and carries it out no longer, the living (spirit) body is drawn away from the merely animated body, and the man, woman, or child is said to die.
But what dies? Death does not die, life does not die. The two are separated. The relationships of earth pass away in their present shape; you no longer see the face of them sensuously. Yet as the whole man lives, nothing dies. The body never lived except inductively, and by correspondence with the soul.
He further says we need "a new Church, not born of the corrupt human will, but by truths of Use assailing it and compelling it to a new departure. Any Church which stops in the controversial regions of the human mind, whose human centre is not Charity and its mind not Rationality, that is to say, which is not a perfect Revelation from Heaven, of Truth with the New Commands of Love in it, cannot come down into the huge practical affairs which now press for solution. Such a New Church penetrates to the last facts about us. It shows that every man is going to Heaven, or to Hell, in every act, thought, and intention, every day of his life. That Christ has redeemed him, i.e. vanquished the enemies of his free will, so that his will is his own for ever. That by this stupendous thing Man is his own destiny.
"Such a Church commands life, and handiwork, and the inner thoughts of the heart; and is separate from, and ever separating itself from, the natural selfhood and the hereditary streams of family, matter, space, and time; as Heaven is separate, and ever separating itself, from Hell."
If our current churches, all too busy though they are, in their own narrow limitations, their creed-bound idlenesses, could but embody this New Church, not to become a new sect, but to give a new teaching and influence, what a change might be wrought in society; how this unlovely life, full of lovely possibilities as it is, might be transfigured; how the children, the coming generation of workers, might be cared for.
When one thinks of the poetry, the romance, the love, hidden in us, denied any real fruition here in this hard, fixed, ununderstanding world; when one gets from some others the aching glimpses that Wells's magically fine story The Door in the Wall gives;
POSITIVE COMTE has thought that religion and its theology are a childhood which the world has now outgrown. These things are indeed a childhood, but a permanent childhood, large-eyed and immortal. They belong to that childhood which the Lord put in the centre of His Disciples, when He told them, by the person of a little child, that they must receive the kingdom of God in that form of innocence and purity, or they could not have part in it. Nature, in all that is good in her, is a necessary part of such kingdom, although it is only the footstool to the throne: the footstool, however, can only be read as a part of the throne.
All the ages and histories of man are with him still, either in present effects or direct survivals. The grand survival for him is his childhood: this is called in the Word the Remnant or Remains. Providence is the Treasurer of these. In every mind that has had a real childhood, and which is, not spiritually destroyed, these remains are stored away by the All-Father, and are brought out in regenerating men in the deeps of their circumstances, or in the profounder trials of life. They are the early receptions of the knowledge of good and evil from mothers and fathers, impressed on a memory like no other memory: for the world, the flesh, and the devil are as yet unmixed with it. They are the infantine seed of conscience, and can never be abolished excepting by deliberate depravity chosen as the way of life. The "survival of the fittest" fits them well.
And every new state and epoch of Man, where he begins with good resolves, is in a larger and less quiet stream owning up to this fountainhead, and is to be named as childhood from it: it is a revival welling out of these precious Remains, and heeded as such; which brings us again to the truth that religion, with its intimate heart-knowledges, does indeed belong to childhood, and that only in the nursery and consummation of the Home above will its full childhood be reached at last.
We can be boy and girl again
In that metempsychosis.
Extract from Garth Wilkinson's fine preface to his book, Greater Origins and Issues of Life and Death.
His daughter adds these lines as a motto of his life:
'Tis Religion that can give
Sweetest comfort while we live,
'Tis Religion must supply
Surest comfort when we die.
A brief notice which appeared recently in the obituary column of the Whig announced the death of James John Garth Wilkinson. To the majority of readers the announcement will convey little, for at the great age of eighty-seven years Dr Wilkinson had outlived his generation and his fame, which at one time was considerable.
The son of James John Wilkinson, Judge of the County Palatine of Durham, he adopted the profession of medicine, and practised as a homoeopathic physician for many years in London. But it is as a philosopher and man of letters that his name will go down to posterity. An ardent admirer of Swedenborg, he devoted the best energies of his long life to the translation of his works, and the advocacy of his philosophical and theological principles. It is especially as the translator and exponent of Swedenborg's scientific and philosophical works that the world is indebted to him. Fifty-six years ago he published an English translation of the Peplum Animale in two volumes, and in 1845 and 1846 he edited the Rev. Augustus Clissold's translation of the OEconomia Regori Animalis, adding a most valuable introduction of his own. He also edited Latin editions of other works and prepared some smaller translations. It was these works that called forth such unmeasured praise from Emerson. In
Representative Men the latter wrote:
"Swedenborg wrote his scientific works in the ten years from 1734 to 1744, and they remained from that time neglected; and now, after their century is complete, he has at last found a pupil in Dr Wilkinson, a philosophic critic, with a coequal vigour of understanding and imagination comparable only to Lord Bacon's, who has produced his master's buried books to the day, and transferred them, with every advantage, from their forgotten Latin into English to go round the world in our commercial and conquering tongue. This startling reappearance of Swedenborg after a hundred years in his pupil is not the least remarkable fact in his history.
An interesting letter of Dr Wilkinson's was published a few years ago, in which he referred to his relations with Thomas Carlyle. "When I read Sartor Resartus and The French Revolution," he wrote, "as they appeared, I was so much incited by them that I wrote a long letter to him (Carlyle), with a copy of Swedenborg's Last judgment, begging him to read that work. The result was a beautiful letter to me, in which he said, among other things, that some friend had sent him Sampson Reed's Growth of the Mind, and that, hearing that the author was a Swedenborgian, he (Carlyle) found that he 'did not know Swedenborg, and ought to be willing to know him.'
"When my tiny sketch of him (Swedenborg) came out he (Carlyle) read it, and gratified my wife by telling her that it was a 'star-bespangled book.'"
Another intimate friend of Dr Wilkinson's at this time was Henry James, sen., who himself was a disciple of Swedenborg.
Though acquainted with his works for many years, it was only quite recently that the present writer was privileged to have any personal intercourse with Dr Wilkinson.
Two days ago there died a veteran English writer and remarkable man, Dr James Garth Wilkinson, head of the Swedenborgians. I remember hearing Dante Gabriel Rossetti speak (it must be fifteen or twenty years ago) of Garth Wilkinson as one of the few who wrote a noble and beautiful prose style. To many Dr Wilkinson was only a leading spirit in Swedenborgianism; to a larger number he was a famous physician; to the literary world he was a remarkable, forcible, and profoundly eloquent writer. There are a few (and Rossetti was among them) who above all else esteemed his strange and Blake-like (some say almost Blake-like in their "mystical madness") volume, Impressions of the Spirit.
WILKINSON, J. J. G.
The Human Body and its Connection with
The Ministry of Health, etc. 1854
Human Science and Divine Revelation 1876
The Greater Origins and Issues of Life
and Death 1885
Swedenborg; a Biographical Sketch 1886
The Soul is Form and Doth the Body Make 1890
(A Commentary on Part 5 of "The Divine
Love and Wisdom," by Swedenborg)
Swedenborg Among the Doctors 1895
JAMES, HENRY (senior)
Moralism and Christianity, or Man's Ex-
perience and Destiny 1850
Lectures and Miscellanies 1852
The Nature of Evil 1855
The Church of Christ not an Ecclesiasticism 1856
Christianity the Logic of Creation 1857
Substance and Shadow: or, Morality and
Religion in their Relation to Life: an
Essay on the Physics of Creation 1863
The Secret of Swedenborg; being an
Elucidation of his doctrine of the Divine
Natural Humanity 1869
Society the Redeemed Form of Man, and the
Earnest of God's Omnipotence in
Human Nature 1879
The Literary Remains of the late Henry
James; with an Introduction by William