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that “we can know God only as we know ourselves ;"* that is, “it is only through some general analogy of the human with the Divine nature that we come to even an approximate conception of the Deity. “It is the knowledge which we have of ourselves, as spiritual beings, which suggests the idea of God, who is a Spirit.”+ But this conception the soul gives as one of the first results of the analysis of its own existence, properties, and powers. Hence the idea of a supernatural being or power is developed in all minds; and theology—the doctrine of God—is almost the first form of all literature.
Beyond this partly intuitive and partly inferential conviction by which the soul is inspired with a belief in the existence of something above the sphere of itself and of the world of matter, Imagination is at play in the sphere of the invisible, peopling that with spiritual existences and powers, and clothing with a supernatural character those natural phenomena which reason cannot explain. Thus in the ruder ages of the world, and in the primitive stage of any people, the wind, the forest, the stream, the thunder, the stars, and all unusual phenomena become voices of invisible spirits to the soul of man. As the child loves to personify inanimate objects—as a doll or a toyso the mind of the race, in its infancy, affected by external appearances; conversing mainly with the outward world, many of whose phenomena are mysteries; “mistaking physical effects for independent or voluntary powers;" supposing that everything in nature must possess some principle of life like that in man; “ ascribes every unusual appearance or agency to a distinct being or power operating directly or immediately in that event.”+ Hence the general belief of the ancients in demons, in good and evil spirits encompassing the earth, producing events beyond the power of man, influencing the minds of men, and guiding their destinies for good or evil, holding direct intercourse with men, and officiating as messengers between men and the gods—in a word, directing and controlling all the unexplainable events and forces in nature.
+ McCosh, Intuitions, p. 435. See this illustrated in Eschenburg's Manual of Classical Literature, (Fiske,) p. 84, seq.
But this belief, though more prominent in the infancy of a people than in an advanced stage of intellectual culture, is by no means confined to ignorant minds. Socrates believed that his genius, or demon—a supernatural being having him in special charge-prescribed for him his lot, whether pleasant or adverse, and told him what to do and what not to do.
Germanicus, as Tacitus narrates, was bewitched by means of images and billets on the wall, into the idea that he was doomed to die, and under that fatal impression expired in agony. Even the exhumed remains of human bodies seemed to haunt his chamber with presages of a doomed soul.* Thus a general, distinguished alike for his valor on the field and his calm and equable temper in private affairs, was vanquished by the images of his own fancy. Lord Bacon shared in superstitious fantasies which his philosophy could not explain.
This power of the Imagination to vivify the belief in supernatural agency, is seen also in the phenomena of dreams. Mr. Owen regards these as of so much importance to his argnment for ultra-mundane interference, that he occupies nearly a hundred pages of his book with the mere narration of remarkable dreams, from which he does not even attempt to draw a philosophical conclusion. He implies, however, that the Biblical doctrine that "in the visions of the night men occasionally receive more than is taught them throughout all the waking vigilance of the day,” is verified by the experience of modern dreams. Nothing is more common in that experience than incongruous combinations of material forms and substances; and also the sensation of being uplifted, as it were, from the body, and of performing acts such as flying, which are impossible in the flesh. Indeed, in sleep the mind seems often to come into direct contact with the spirits of the absent or the departed. Virgil's “two gates of sleep" still open in our dreams—“true visions” flying heavenward, while the “infernal gods” send false dreams into the soul, through “a shining portal of ivory."* The Egyptians regarded dreams with a religious reverence, as communications from the gods. Even Bishop Taylor refers some dreams to demons, good or bad. And every one has felt at times a strange power over his nervous system, proceeding from his last night's dream, or has marked some coincidence as its fulfillment.
* Tac. Annals, ii, 69, 70.
“ This trow I, and say for me,
That dremes significance be
Of the same class are mysterious mental suggestions or forebodings, and sudden coincidences of events with our thoughts, our wishes or our fears; as when while thinking of an absent friend one suddenly meets him; or while unaccountably troubled on his behalf receives news of some catastrophe to him. These occurrences, so frequent in our experience, give to the imagination a wide sphere of activity in the spirit world, and foster in many a belief in a supernatural agency concerning the minutest affairs of life.
The death of a friend sometimes clothes these impressions of the supernatural with a living presence and power. When a loved one has passed into the invisible, the heart's affections torn out by the roots, like the tendrils of plants that live on air, shoot forth eagerly upon every side, that they may imbibe some exhalation from that spirit world, and fasten themselves again upon the now impalpable object of earthly love. In such a frame the mind becomes in a measure lost to the material world around it, and absorbed in that spiritual world to which its dearest hopes and affections have been transferred. Tennyson, in his matchless lament for his lost friend, gives utterance to the cherished thought of grief, that the lost one is still nigh.
* Eneid, vi, 895.
No visual shade of some one lost,
Thus that belief in the supernatural which is common to mankind, becomes intensified through the influence of imagination, of visions, and of grief, until in certain phases of experience or emotion the mind is prepared to look upon everything outside the pale of present knowledge as a manifestation from the spirit world. Priestcraft and jugglery, taking advantage of this tendency, have in all ages found credulous adherents and unconscious victims. In particular, this tendency to a belief in the supernatural has been turned to account by the priests of idolatry, in impressing the vulgar with their own sanctity as the confidants of the gods. The Egyptians were accustomed when any part of the body was afflicted with disease, "to invoke the demon to whom it was supposed to belong, in order to obtain a cure. In cases of greater moment oracles were consulted.” An old papyrus found in Egypt mentions divination through a boy who acted as a medium, and who practised his art by means of “a bow), a lamp and a pit," as do the modern magicians of the country. It also contains recipes for obtaining good fortune, for discor. ering theft, and for causing misfortunes to an enemy. It is supposed also by some that the ancient Egyptians had a knowledge of animal magnetism, and used this in their magic.*
With the ancient Orientals, the magician and the soothsayer were regular attendants at court. The Israelites were forbidden to tolerate "one that used divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer." To pervert the belief of mankind in the supernatural into an agency of superstition, falsehood, and idolatry, was an “abomination to the Lord." Yet this offense has been repeated in almost every age of the Christian era.
Christ himself predicted that pretenders to his naine and power would “show great signs and wonders, and, if possible, deceive the very elect.” Paul describes the apostate Anti-Christ as coming with “signs and lying wonders." Passing over the legendary miracles of the early Christian centuries, we trace the rise and growth of the Papal delusions and the Mohammedan imposture; we find the most civilized nations of antiquity conducting wars and other enterprises according to omens in the heavens or voices from the gods through the augurs; we find in the Middle Ages astrology deciding the fortunes of individuals and of empires; we find our Saxon ancestors in England holding communication with the invisible world through witches and mysterious symbols; we find the clergy using supposed supernatural agents as a means of intimidating and governing the laity; and in Puritan New England we find, according to Cotton Mather, examples of “witch” agency that surpass even the marvels of modern Spiritualism. It is evident, therefore, that a belief in the Supernatural is one of the strongest influences affecting human thought and action. Perverted as this has been to subserve the vagaries of Fanaticism and the terrors of Superstition, it becomes of the highest importance to the philosopher and the divine to restore this faith to its normal action to mark the boundary between a rational belief in the Supernatural and that fanciful or superstitious interpretation of mere natural causes and effects which has made religion itself the minister of fear or of lust.
* Wilkinson and Lane.
We cannot set aside the phenomena of modern Spiritualism by ignoring its alleged facts, or by denying the possibility of a supernatural event. The absolute disbelief of the Supernatural is contrary to man's nature. Goethe describes himself as “ destitute of faith, yet terrified at skepticism.” “Skepticism,” says Mazzini, “is the suicide of the soul.” Man must believe or his soul dies. The invisible world surrounds us as an atmosphere, and the soul can no more exist in perpetual unbelief than the body can exist in a perpetual vacuum. To shut up the sonl within its inaterial confines, giving no vent to imagination and faith, compelling its heaven-kiudled fires to feed upon grosser objects of sense, is like shutting up the body in a cabin without a flue, to warm it with the