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sense; he is an enthusiast and a visionary, and in my opinion a very dangerous visionary, as I intend to shew before I have done. That he is a man of uncommon experiences is indisputable; that he has a wide and keen perception of the evils which have long been devouring society is also obvious; that he has given expression to many holy aspirations and sublime truths I willingly and thankfully acknowledge; and that portions of his writings have fed and nourished the devotional spirit in many of his readers I fully admit and am glad to believe.
During his first visit to this country, he, by his impassioned preachings, shook the Swedenborgian sect to its very foundation. This sect, calling itself the New Jerusalem Church- not knowing that the New Jerusalem, contradistinguished from the old or earthly and ceremonial Jerusalem, is the Christian Church in the souls of all who are Christian indeed, irrespective of name or creed, of class or country-was chained and imprisoned in English translations of Swedenborg's theological writings, without, generally speaking, understanding, or wishing to understand, the grand philosophical principles which underlie these writings, and by which alone they can always be correctly read; this sect, dwarfed and starved by the husks of verbiagesettled upon the lees of dry verbal statements—a creed-bound thing that was hard and unsympathetic-was startled by the freedom and range and heart and spirit of Harris's preaching, which was independent of any man's dicta, which was something more than the bare repetition of another man's words, and which made some of the best minds that listened to it feel that, whether all that he advanced were true or not, one thing was certain, viz., that the church of the living God was a something warmer, higher, freer, and more comprehensive than the sect which called itself the New Jerusalem Church. Harris disputed the accuracy of some of Swedenborg's statements, showed up the narrowness of the Swedenborgians, and taught the gospel doctrine of universal redemption. The blow which his vigorous preaching gave to this sect literally staggered it; and though it continues to serve a providential use in the publication of Swedenborg's works, it is not probable that it will ever recover from the shock which it then received, since, as enlightenment and religion increase, revealing and realising the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all mankin sectarianism of every description must necessarily dwindle a
But whilst Harris struck a fierce and telling blow at Swed borgian narrowness, and broke the fetters by which some of best of the Swedenborgians were bound, thus setting them f he attracted to himself a number of admirers, who, unf
nately, exaggerated his powers, and paid to his words and pretensions a kind of adoration which should never be paid to any human being. Some of these admirers became ardent Harrisites. Between the Harrisites and the Sweden borgians there were bitter feuds. Swedenborg was accused of wordiness; and the coldness and narrowness of the Swedenborgians were attributed to the cold and narrow spirit which was said to be found in the writings of their "author.” On the other side, the Harrisites were reproached as Spiritists; Harris was denounced as an egotist, and his writings were excluded from the catalogue of "New Church publications." The Swedenborgians were New Churchmen; of course the Harrisites were not. Harris and Swedenborg were two targets for the opposite parties to shoot at. Shooting in the blindness and bitterness of party spirit, no wonder they frequently missed their marks.
Such was the zeal for Harris on the part of his friends, that every new scrap from his pen was devoured with joyful avidity. When his Great Republic appeared, the Harrisites made such a noise about it, that I was induced to get it and read it in my Lancashire retreat. The following, as accurately as I remember, may express my unbiassed judgment on the book.
(a.) It contains many passages of surpassing beauty. Many high truths are given in exalted language. It reveals a vast and uncommon amount of spiritual experiences.
(6.) It shews a wonderful insight into the rascality which is abroad in the world.
(c.) It takes a false and exaggerated account of human evil. No human being is or can be so thoroughly and abominably wicked as the Jews are described to be, for at bottom all men are good—being sustained by a never-ceasing supply of the purest life from its Infinite and Eternal Fount. Evil is necessarily external and mortal.
(d.) There is a great deal of revolting sensualism in the book. Subjects of delicacy are treated in a manner at once unseemly and shocking.
(e.) Harris's ideas about internal respiration are utterly delusive. It is to be the grand means of human regeneration. Why, then, does not God give it to us? It is said the most ancient races had it, and that because men at length profaned it, and consequently fell, morally, intellectually, and physically, it was withdrawn. What proof have we, then, that men would not profane it again? How, then, with safety can it be pronounced an infallible saviour? Moreover, Harris declares it will be utter destruction to the wicked. What! Is the Lord, then, a destroyer? The Father of the human race, the Good Father whose tender mercies are over all His works, the Divine
Shepherd who goes after every lost sheep until He finds it-until He finds it safe within the heavenly fold,—is He to be thus libelled as the destroyer of His wayward children? Not without an emphatic protest against the libel, as one of the wildest superstitions that ever proceeded from a disordered brain. But, whether we are all conscious of it or not, we all must have this internal respiration, if our bodies, which breathe, be the exponents of our souls; and this internal respiration is nothing else than the continual reception on our part of that life from the Creator by which we are from day to day borne up and sustained in our being. Besides, neither salvation nor spiritual destruction ever comes independently of man, as would be the case if Harris's imaginings respecting the opening of the internal respiratories
were true. This is the old horrible Calvinistic doctrine in a new form-a doctrine which every rational intellect has only to examine in order to discard.
(f.) Harris describes the institutions of some distant sphere which he had visited, I think the sun, as the prototype of the regenerated institutions which are to be upon this poor earth, of course after our “respiratories” have been opened. But this also is a manifest delusion. Every people, having an individuality of its own, must have institutions possessing an individuality too. These institutions, then, cannot be duplicates of institutions either in the sun or out of the sun.
(9.) This book reveals the fact that Harris is a despot, whether he has fully acknowledged it to himself or not. He laughs at all modern reformers. He will have it that the great mass of men have not and cannot have time and ability to think for themselves ; rare and elect minds must do the thinking for them; all these inferior ones must accept the Word of God at the hands of their illuminated guides; these guides will in time be dotted over the face of the earth, and will attract and group around them large bodies of men, who will receive the law at their mouth and execute their high behests, without a doubt, without a question, without hesitating for a single day! Then the earth is to be redeemed and regenerated by a few autocrats and vast multitudes of obedient slaves! This is what we are destined to come to through the gift of internal respiration !
This despotic spirit in Harris is the worst and most dangerou element in the man. Many who have read his books have no detected it, but there it is, coiled up and almost hidden like a craft snake. Much that he has written may amuse, without doin any mischief. The monstrous demon that he describes as havin stolen into the garden of Eden and there tempted Adam an Eve; the stoppage of the earth in its rotations when it is to struck with a devouring comet, whirled out of its orbit, purifi
by fire, and afterwards brought back into its position to serve as the hallowed habitation of redeemed men ; the instantaneous suffocation of all devildom; the re-creation of every suffocated devil into a pure human being; fairies and aromal men,-all these, and a good deal besides of a similarly eccentric character, may serve to amuse some minds, and cannot do very much harní to such as are childish enough to believe them. But the lurking despotism is a mischievous power to all who are either proximately or remotely brought under its sway. I know. of excellent persons, longing for a heavenly life upon earth, and taking Harris to be the purest personal embodiment of the Christian spirit; I know such persons who had read many of Harris's works, who had made his personal acquaintance, and who had not had the faintest suspicion that he had or could have a passion for ruling despotically or popishly over the souls and bodies of his fellow-men; I know persons of this description who broke up their house in England and went with their little children to Lake Erie to join Harris's community, thinking they were going to join the wisest and happiest society in this world, where they would have the best chance of being prepared for the world to come; but no sooner had they got fairly within the precincts of this new community, called “ The Brotherhood of the New Life," than they found they were required to resign into Mr. Harris's hands their own personal responsibility; they were not to think for themselves and express opinions of their own; Harris was to stand between them and their God; he was to interpret to them what was the will of God, and they were to be automata under his directions. These good people had too much soundness of character to allow themselves to be thus deluded and practised upon by a fanatic and a despot, though they required all this hard experience to open
eyes to Harris's true character. They might have seen what he was if they had read his books with discrimination and sober judgment; but this they had evidently not done; neither could anyone who was able to estimate Harris at his true value have disenchanted them; they had to go all the way to America before the scales could drop from their eyes.
There are still persons living in this Harrisian colony, hugging their chains, and willing to hug them; I say living, but this is hardly a proper word, for they cannot truly live and grow whilst their individualty is crushed down into an artificial uniformity. Their faculties are in prison, and they must burst open the doors of their prison before they can freely live and develope and rise up to the manhood and womanhood which is their rightful inheritance. As God has given to every man distinctive faculties, every man is bound to cultivate these upon him
faculties according to his light, which would not have been given to him if he had not been intended to follow it. If God had not intended every man to use his own reason and obey his own conscience, He certainly would not have wasted either reason or conscience; but having these gifts, it is clearly man's duty to employ them, taking the Lord for his God, never allowing any man upon earth, or any angel in heaven, to come between his God and his soul. No human being should ever yield himself up to spirit dictation, as Harris himself did at one time, whereby he could not fail to weaken his intellect and deprave his conscience; neither should any man take any other man as an infallible authority, whereby he would necessarily reduce himself to the condition of an irrational imitator. Spiritualism has done good, and I believe is destined to do more good. It has opened to sceptical minds the existence of the inner world - the second life. It has also helped to disperse, to some extent, the dreadful fictions of an angry God and an endless hell, together with all the enfeebling superstitions of priestcraft and sectcraft, among which I may instance tripersonalism, salvation by substitution instead of obedience, a bodiless soul and an almost omnipotent devil, ascription to the Lord of one day in the week, one book, one kind of house in a parish, viz. the church, one world, viz. heaven, one species of occupation, viz. praying and preaching, &c., &c. ; whilst all other occupations, all other worlds, especially this world, all other houses, books, and days are stigmatised as not the Lord's. Against these and many kindred dogmas, Spiritualism has erected tremendous batteries which cannot fail to pulverise and annihilate them. Moreover, many high practical truths will doubtless reach the earth through the instrumentality of the Spiritual worlds. But, then, we should be
very careful not to admit anything as truth unless it commend itself completely to our heart and reason. I would use books, men, angels &c., as helps ; none of them would I accept as my ruler; I would judge them all for myself impartially and strictly; I would take nothing on trust; I would doubt where I saw ground for doubt; I would condemn where I saw reason to condemn; I would freely disprove whatever I was able to disprove; and I would accept only what I saw to be worthy of acceptation. Thus I keep clear of Harrisism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritism, &c., though assimilating what I find to be good from any of these sources; and if my words should lead any other to siinilar independence and freedom, what I have here written will not have been written in vain. 3, Richmond Terrace,
WM. HUME-ROTHERY. Middleton, Manchester,
December 3rd, 1868.