The Question of Identity. - Consciousness and Memory. - Identity considered in Reference to Rewards and Punishments. - Conscience. - Conflicting Theories of Psychologists. - Education and Intuition. - Different Standards of Morality. - The Soul's Perception of the Eternal Principles of Right and Wrong. - The Instinct of Worship. - Its Abnormal Manifestations. - The Law of Suggestion. - Universality of the Sentiment of Worship. - Its Normal Manifestations. - Demonstrative of the Existence of a God of Love. - Old Arguments invalid. - Socrates and Paley. - Argument predicated on the Affectional Emotions. - Syllogistic Deductions. - The Divine Pedigree of Man.
IT has often been said that no proposition is worthy of belief that is not verified by phenomena. Whilst I do not commit myself to a maxim so broad in its terms, I have thus far religiously refrained from advancing an idea that is not so verified. In other words, the primary object of this book is to interpret phenomena, and not to advance new ideas, except those which are thrust upon me as necessary deductions from the terms of my hypothesis. Sincerely believing that the fundamental propositions of that hypothesis are true, I have not hesitated to follow them into whatever field they might lead, and to accept every legitimate conclusion. In pursuance of such deductions I have been led reluctantly to the conclusion that none of the phenomena commonly attributed to supermundane agencies afford tangible evidence of the continued existence of the soul after the death of the body. I have, however, been more than compensated by the discovery, in pursuance of the same hypothesis, that in the inherent powers and attributes-of the soul is to be found indubitable evidence of its immortality. This evidence is based on phenomena which have been, and may be, produced by experiment.
Many of these phenomena have been already pointed out, but others remain to be considered which have an important bearing upon the question under immediate consideration; namely, the immortality of the soul, and its relations to the Supreme Being.
There are still other attributes and powers of the soul which have been considered, from which further conclusions may be drawn which may assist us in forming correct conclusions regarding its status in a future life. The first of these attributes which I purpose briefly to discuss is that of memory, and its relations to the question of spirit identity.
The question as to whether the soul of man retains its identity after the death of the body, is second only in interest and importance to the question of immortality. There are many who hold that the soul is necessarily reabsorbed into the Divine essence, and finds its compensation for the ills of earthly life in becoming an integral part of God, and, as such, a participator in his power and glory. This presupposes a loss of identity, and to most minds would be considered equivalent to annihilation; by others it is regarded as the highest conception of eternal felicity. Thus far no one, as far as I am aware, has attempted to offer any scientific reasons for believing one way or the other. It seems to me that there is abundant evidence in phenomena observable in this life to demonstrate, as far as such a proposition is demonstrable, that the soul does retain its identity in a more pronounced degree, if possible, than we can retain it in this objective existence. In what does identity consist, or, more properly speaking, how is it retained ? The answer is, through our consciousness and memory. It is obvious that if either is lost, identity is lost. It is equally obvious that if both are retained, identity is retained.
Now, the phenomena alluded to which bear upon the question relate to the perfect memory of the subjective mind, or soul. This faculty of subjective memory is implanted in the human soul for some purpose. It certainly does not pertain to this life, for, as we have seen, it is only under abnormal conditions that the phenomenon is observable. It must, therefore, be a part of the Divine economy pertaining to the future existence of the soul. It has no use here, for objective recollection is all-sufficient for objective existence and purposes. The conclusion is irresistible that it is for the purpose, amongst other things, of enabling the soul to retain its identity. Its bearing upon the question of future rewards and punishments has already been commented upon; nevertheless, at the risk of repetition, a further remark will be ventured. It is obvious that if the soul did not retain a conscious memory of its earthly life, no adequate or just reward or punishment could be meted out to it. Even human justice would revolt against, and human laws would prevent, the infliction of the penalty for a capital crime, if it were clearly proved that the criminal had so far lost his mind as to have no recollection of the events of his past life, or, in other words, had lost conscious identity.
Besides, it must not be forgotten that the soul is the seat of the emotions, as well as the storehouse of memory. It is obvious that it is only through the emotions and the memory that rewards can be conferred, or punishments inflicted, upon the immaterial soul.
Another question which has been incidentally alluded to deserves a more extended notice, for the reason that it bears directly upon the question of future rewards and punishments, and is also illustrative of the general hypothesis under consideration; it is the question of conscience. Metaphysicians are divided in opinion on this question, one school holding that conscience is innate and instinctive, and the other that it is the result of experience and education. My hypothesis leads to the conclusion that each school is partly right and partly wrong. Granted that the eternal principles of right and wrong are a part of the fixed and immutable laws of God, it follows that the soul of man will, under favorable conditions, have a clear perception of those laws. Those conditions may or may not be present during the life of the body. They certainly will be present when the soul is freed from the clogs of the flesh, and is able to perceive all the fixed laws of nature. In the mean time, while it is an inhabitant of the body it is amenable to control by the power of objective suggestion, and hence is dependent upon the objective education of the individual for its standard of right and wrong. This standard may be high or low in any individual case.