Chapter IV: The Resurrection and Its Body
Let me introduce an explanation I am bound to make by saying how grateful I am for the considerate treatment my former message received at the hands of my reviewers. I was advocate for a cause which has hitherto suffered most by the indiscretion of its friends and the fraudulent practices of its professed adherents. The ill-advised seekers after curiosity and gain have profaned the sacred associations of the tomb without regard to decency or feeling, have arrogantly assumed the right to tear the veil in twain and make the spirit-life an addition to drawing-room amusements. Such desecrations rightly merit the treatment accorded by the Press, which should always stand as one of the great bulwarks of defence in the sacred cause of reason, law and order.
I naturally anticipated that the title-page of my book would attract that onslaught of adverse criticism which, until recently, the Press has directed against the subject generally. The treatment I received not only surprised, but also assured me that the ears of our reviewers are open to listen with candid consideration to subjects lying far apart from ordinary tracks, if only such questions can be presented with some respect to logical consistency. Still, to say that I ran the gauntlet unscathed and unopposed would be untrue. To be able to boast of an absence of objection would be most serious misfortune, but to acknowledge the moderate terms in which the objection was expressed is an entirely different matter, and it is to the main point thus raised that I wish now to direct my attention briefly.
Some few of my friends, not only reviewers, but among my correspondents also, take exception to what they call my materialistic descriptions of the life and surroundings of Paradise. More than one earnestly beg of me to remember what Paul says of the general resurrection: “The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The particular point urged upon me is the inspired declaration of Heaven being ‘in the air’, or ‘in the clouds’, which at once renders buildings, trees and other material objects an impossibility.
Now, I reply to this with the frank admission that my statements were made not as a Biblical commentator, nor as a dogmatic theologian, but rather from personal observation and experience. I never was a Bible scholar, and ‘orthodoxy’ was a word I always looked upon as possessing the attributes of a literary chameleon, therefore, as I have more than once pointed out, I avoided it. I may hence be excused if my justification is not formulated exactly upon the lines of the schoolmen.
So far as I understand the plain meaning of words, this quotation from Paul is entirely out of place in the connection in which my friends use it here. Paul does not assert that Heaven is either in the air or clouds, but rather that “the Lord will descend from Heaven” into the air to meet His saints, and if this is so it is impossible to draw any inference from this passage as to what Paul’s idea of Heaven was. Further, even though I am wrong according to the theologians in making this comment, Paul’s inspiration when writing the passage appears to be the reverse of infallible, because he says “we that are alive and remain” at the time of the descent, as if he were under the impression that the second coming would take place in his own lifetime. Of course my idea may be all wrong from an orthodox standpoint, so I shall not press it further.
I knew all through my message that I was not wording it upon generally accepted lines, but at the same time I was not altogether unscriptural, and without further controversy let me reply to this charge of gross material conception of the after-life by a scriptural Portrayal of the Heavenly Jerusalem, with which I am quite willing to consider the objection answered:
“And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God.
“Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
“And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
“On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
“And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
“And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
“And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
“And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
“And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
“The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
“And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
“And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Nor is the heavenly Jerusalem to be scripturally understood as the only city to be found in the home of the redeemed, if Christ is to be taken as any authority on the point, since in the parable of the ten pieces of money Luke records Him as rewarding faithful individual service with rulership over five and even ten cities; and if this is so, how great must the number of cities be to make such a liberal reward possible!
So much for the orthodox objection.
While dealing with criticisms I would here like to notice one advanced, not against myself, but against the whole subject of intercommunion, in the words of a scientist whose studies entitle him to be heard. “The most formidable obstacle to the admission of the spiritualist’s hypothesis is in the messages which tend to represent the other world, in which, it appears, matter is not perceived, and space and time are unknown, as being all the same a servile copy of this, or a sketch of it. . . . I know of no message in which the communicator has been frank enough to say, ‘Of course you may suppose that the form I have here is not the same as I had in your world.’ Or again, ‘The idea of form differs totally in our world and in yours; I cannot make you understand what that idea is here, so it is of no use to question me.’ Unfortunately neither communicators nor controls speak thus; they all say, or allow it to be supposed, that the human form is the same in both worlds.”
“Mrs. Piper and the Society for Psychical Research,” by M. Sage. London: R. Brimley Johnson, 1903 (pp. 17–34).
Now this supposed weighty objection is in reality no more valid than the one offered by my own critics of the religious school. It is based upon erroneous data, and arises altogether from a misconception of the relationship of the two conditions. I am not surprised at this, since the relative position of science on the earth side can never rise higher than that of a moderately advanced class in an elementary school when compared with the knowledge available to similar inquirers on the spirit side. In a remarkably interesting work recently published, New Conceptions in Science, by Carl Snyder, the author having reviewed the scientific achievements of the past, turns his thoughts to what lies before, and says –
“Beyond all that the eye may see, that ear may hear, that hands may feel, outside of taste or smell, outside of any native sense, there lies an unseen, unfelt universe, whose fringe we are just beginning to touch” (pp. 42–43).
Into this unseen the scientists who have put off the flesh have entered, with all their old faculties strengthened and accelerated, and many of them are willing, even anxious, to return and co-operate with fellowlabourers, in leading to yet undreamed-of successes.
“Then why do they not do it?” cry a hundred voices. “Let them come, and when they identify themselves we will no longer be faithless, but believing.”
I will tell you why they do not come; why the intercommunion has hitherto been so very unsatisfactory; why those who are so fully able to astonish the world have not, so far done so. It is for the very same reason that Archimedes and his co-workers of Alexandria did not attain to the successes of modern science – they lacked the necessary instruments. Give to the scientific spirits, who have ascended the region of the physically unseen and unheard, suitable instruments through which to transmit their studies, and the question of intercommunion will soon be universally settled, and earth be richer for the partnership so established. Even with the present unsatisfactory and often doubtful means much good and useful work has been accomplished, and mighty barriers of opposition have been cleared away. But let earth once truly recognize the possibilities that are rapidly coming forward, then a more glorious era will speedily dawn for a long oppressed and mentally imprisoned humanity.
That the present condition of communication leaves much to be desired I know; but not a little of the difficulty arises from the idea that we on the unseen side are, or ought to be, perfect. This is not only a mistake but an injustice, and the sooner it is recognized the better. Surely the time has come when by common consent a definite attempt should be made to understand the difficulties which exist on both sides, and a deliberate effort be put forth to overcome them by supplying the best possible material available for the purpose. With a little patience, consideration, and a recognition of the possibility that all the brains and intellect are not to be found upon the earth side, a scientifically serviceable communion could readily be established, to the immense advantage of the lower life.
Death does not abrogate the law of sequence, but evolution proceeds still, through the higher human, towards the divine. The soul experiences no disconnecting process, takes no sudden leap, crosses no dividing line; it simply discovers a liberation from certain irksome limitations and takes wing. It loses nothing of value, but assimilates additional powers which supplement rather than displace those already possessed. Thus it is not less, but greater than before, having taken another step in the evolutionary ascent. The limitations and annoying barriers in the path of the progress of active minds have, to a large extent, been removed, and every energy is quickened for the conquest of the gloriously attractive future.
No, the old law is not broken, it rather operates with more inexorable justice than otherwise in every higher phase of the soul’s advancing condition. The character of the grub still predetermines the nature of the butterfly, and classification proceeds upon well recognized and indisputable lines. Death has no more power to work miracles than the naturalist, and the what-will-be is invariably the sequence of what-hasbeen. The only duty assigned to death is to receive and disrobe all corners of flesh and blood, then pass the individual otherwise untouched. In its unclothed condition the soul crosses the immortal border, where it affinitively attracts and assumes a garb corresponding to its real degree of spirituality, which clothing bears the colour – verdict of the law of God denoting a righteous judgement upon its holiness or otherwise. Against this decision there is no appeal, and the only murmur one hears at the result is that of surprised wonder that the judgement has taken so many extenuating circumstances into consideration.
But some man will say, “How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”
Since the first declaration of the resurrection as a natural phenomenon, no question has been of such perennial interest as this. It is the very life germ of religion, for if Christ be not risen then is all preaching vain, and faith is also vain. Yet in spite of this all important truth, in no part of its assumed authority has theology so utterly failed to grasp the plain spiritual significance of an event or doctrine as here. ‘Of the earth, earthy,’ in all its interpretations, the priestly cult has here blindly stumbled into a morass of contradictory entanglements from which all hope of escape appears to be impossible. It has lost sight of the glorious consummation of the work of Christ in the fogs which rise from and hover over the scene of its own confusion, while the hungry multitude it professes to feed receive stones for bread, and wander about in a state of spiritual starvation.
Sad, sad would it be for humanity had not God foreseen this calamity. But it was foreseen. Did not Christ foreshadow it in His parable of the wicked husbandmen? and is not the very mission in which I am now taking part the realization of His forecast?
“What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.”
Several of my correspondents ask me for information upon the resurrection and the spiritual body. I can here only suggest the line along which the whole subject will presently be treated, but the argument would require a whole volume to do it justice, and therefore I can only suggestively touch it in this place. Again, I have already freely acknowledged that I am not an expert in biblical controversy, from which side the subject must necessarily commence its treatment, therefore I am quite content to leave its full discussion to abler hands, confining myself more closely to the personal experiences I set out to recount.
First, then, the resurrection is a purely natural and always present phenomenon, not a miracle to be looked for in the future. This I assert on the scriptural authority of Christ (John v. 24-27):
“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.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
“For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;
“And hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of man.”
Christ here bases upon a given condition not only an immediate resurrection, but an absolute escape from death:
“Verily verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death” (John viii. 5 1).
Both these sayings Jesus also confirmed to Martha (John xi. 23-26).
“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
“Jesus said unto her, 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.
“Believest thou this?”
I shall add nothing to these quotations, but leave the record to speak for itself as to what the plain teaching of the Christ is as to the time of the resurrection.
The only possible point in dispute here will be as to the interpretation Christ put upon the word ‘death.’ In the connection in which the word is now used He always preferred to say ‘sleep’ – ‘She is not dead, but sleepeth.’ ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’
We pass now to the second question. “With what body do they come?”
I have already paraphrased Paul’s idea of being unclothed to be clothed upon, from my own experience, and this describes with eloquent brevity the whole process men call death. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom’ across the mythical Jordan, but the physical vestments are cast aside that the robes of the spiritual may be assumed in passing from the lower to the higher class-room. ‘It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural and there is a spiritual body.’ Let me repeat what I have said above: in the transition the soul retains every power and faculty save those pertaining to flesh and blood, which have to be cast aside; then as it assumes the spiritual body it also becomes invested with equivalent attributes. It is therefore not less but greater than it was before. How much more it becomes is determined entirely by its likeness or unlikeness to the Christ, Who is the sole standard by which all are judged, while the resurrection body of Jesus is the authorized type and pattern of our own.
This post-mortem body demands and will repay a little careful attention, since it abounds with suggestive lessons for our instruction. Much has been lost and gained since Jesus expired on Calvary and His reappearance at the tomb in Joseph’s garden. He no longer says ‘Of Myself I can do nothing,’ but rather ‘All power is given unto Me in Heaven and earth.’ He is the same man proving His identity by many infallible tests, but it is not the same body. The familiar figure of the days of His ministry has altogether disappeared. ‘It was sown in weakness, it is raised in power.’ But what power! It is not only a new body – it is a whole series of bodies, never wearing the same aspect on two successive occasions, and playing like a will-o-the-wisp across the borderland of the seen and the unseen. Mary, who knew Him so well, mistook Him for the gardener, until He breathed her name; after this ‘He appeared in another form’ to two of His disciples on the way to Emmaus; nor did they recognize Him until He brake the bread, then He vanished from sight. Again He stands in the midst of His followers while the doors are shut I but, Thomas being absent and incredulous, the Lord returns later, wearing yet another form, that the doubter may handle him and find the marks his faith demands. He is no phantom spirit, but a substantial spiritual body, able to build a fire on the shore while waiting for the coming boat, and eat the bread and fish of the morning meal, yet it rises into the air at His ascension and is finally lost in the clouds.
Am I unscriptural in this brief resumé? Where? So far as my knowledge and reason can guide me I have set forth the simple teachings and facts concerning the resurrection of the Son of God, in which, apart from the confirmation of my own experience, I find the fullest warranty for all I have claimed in my own intercourse. ‘The works that I do, ye shall do also,’ was His assurance to the Twelve, and through them to all who should come after them. Standing on the further side of the tomb, He bade His friends to follow Him, and that this should be done and the fact continually demonstrated is absolutely necessary to witness to the world that all who come to the Christ receive the gift of everlasting life, and death cannot come near to them.
The claim, then, that I make of an open tomb and an uninterrupted intercourse between the true Church, Militant and Triumphant, is simply the declaration of our common Christian heritage, and the gospel we have to expound is that of ‘Life – eternal life!’