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Is There A Life After Death?

IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH?

by Marshall J. Gauvin,

"The Fundamentals of Freethought"

Copyright 1922 by Peter Eckler Publishing Co., New York

Since the birth of religion, in the primeval world the human mind has asked the question: Is there a life after death? Are the few brief years that span our course from the cradle to the tomb the full measure of life allowed us? or is the passage through the veil of death the entrance upon a life that will be immortal? The ages have come and gone; innumerable generations have been laid to rest in the welcoming dust; and still mankind repeat the words of Job: "If a man die shall he live again?" Religion has sought with painted promises to answer this question but its answers have not sufficed. Philosophy has uttered feeble words of hope but these have evoked no echo from the tomb. Through all the dying years the grave has been as silent as the sphinx. Man knows no more about another life to-day than the first savage mother knew when she pressed her trembling lips to the cold cheeks of her lifeless babe and marveled at the mystery of death--no more than the Egyptian slave knew when he wondered whether he would meet in another world the loved ones he had lost in this. A hundred centuries have like rivers flowed and lost their lapse in time's eternal sea, while sincere souls have searched for some stray gleam of assurance that life, at the summons of death, continues in another sphere; but the tired eyes of saints and sages have peered into darkness; the wings of hope have fanned a voiceless air; the veil hung in the background of the grave has not been lifted; no sign has come from the realm of the dead to tell us that beyond the sable border of this life we shall enjoy another.


If there is another life, why has man throughout the ages yearned in vain to know of it? What known truth has so eluded the human mind? Can it be that while search in all other matters is rewarded with knowledge, some freak of fate defies us to discover the secret that we shall live again? should we not perhaps take the hint that the fact that all the thought and effort of the ages to learn of another life has brought us no knowledge whatever of it is a strong presumption that the idea of a life beyond the grave is but an idle dream?


Certain it is that while the hope of another life has welled within the heart, a tremendous doubt as to its reality has ever lingered in the thoughtful mind. Growing with increasing knowledge, that doubt has come to be a potent factor in modern cultured thought. Since no glint of light has ever pierced the shroud of death, since nothing gives assurance that life survives the tomb, millions-among them the wisest and noblest of mankind--feel that death is what it appears to be, that nature is not deceiving us-that life stops at the grave. No thoughtful mind can long be satisfied with the belief that some wise design is withholding from us the fact that we are to live again. Nothing that we know or can imagine of nature could justify belief in such a curious caprice. Reason, in the end, will force us to conclude either that the facts of life when understood indicate with some degree of clearness that we shall live again, or that those facts make it extremely probable-probable to the point of justifying conviction--that the belief in another life is a fond delusion.


The question of immortality can not be settled for mankind in the partisan and prejudiced court of any church or creed. It must be settled in a court whose only interest is truth. Whether there is or is not another life must be determined--if determined at all--by science.


Science deals, not with fancies, but with facts. It does not create or change truth; it merely ascertains the truth that is. It strives to know actualities--the things that really are-and the conditions that must follow from existing facts.


Science interprets nature in terms of causes and effects. It knows of no effect -without a cause of no cause without an effect. It can not conceive, nor can it admit any break in this chain of sequences. An effect without an efficient cause would be a miracle; and to admit miracle is to deny law. The universe is governed by law.


Science deals with matter and force. It knows nothing of sprit. All the functions and activities of matter it understands as manifestations of force. The whole universe, so far as science apprehends it, is composed of these two factors--matter and force. The gleaming stars above our heads, the fertile earth beneath our feet, the mighty ocean's rolling waves, the multi-colored glory of the rainbow, all forms of living things from the tender violet's bloom to the, massive oak that defies the storm, from the lark that thrills the air with song to the smiling mother whose touch is love--all things that exist so far as science can conceive are combinations of these creative factors matter and force. A stone is matter: the cohesive power that holds its molecules together is force. The muscle is matter: its contraction is an employment of force. The stomach is a material arrangement: the process of digestion is performed by force. The brain is a delicate combination of matter: its function, thought, is a form of force.


Now matter and force can not exist apart. There can be no force unconnected with matter -no matter not associated with force. 'The existence of one necessitates the presence of the other. That one should exist alone is unthinkable.


All knowledge is accumulated by proceeding with inquiry from the known to the unknown. Accordingly, before we consider a future life, we must learn the nature of the present life, for if we are to live again that life must be in some way a continuation of the life we now enjoy.


It is scarcely necessary to say that science utterly denies the possibility of the resurrection of the body.


This organism we call our body, this material structure in which, with which, and by which we live, is but a transitory arrangement of substances, and will pass away. Our bodies are composed of precisely the same elements as enter into the composition of the earth, the water and the air. Each of us is but a shapely combination of innumerable millions of tiny cells of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sulphur and other elements. About seventy per cent of our weight is water. These cells of which we are composed are continually being destroyed and replaced by new ones. An army of new cells is, as it were, ever marching in the circulation of our blood to take the places of the cells that, like soldiers, have fallen in the battle of life, and to rebuild the tissues of our bodies to serve as fortifications to keep out the ever threatening invader--death.


In this continuous process of disintegration and renewal our bodies are, so to speak, dying and being reborn every moment of our lives.


In old age our tissues become less and less able to absorb and assimilate the renewing cells from our circulation, and when a certain stage of such incapacity has been reached, death ensues.


Made as we are of the common elements of earth, wasting sway and being rebuilt in every part with every breath we draw, uniting our bodies at last with the dust whence they came, nothing can be plainer than that our physical beings when returned to mother Nature will dissolve and mingle their elements with the earth and air forever. Yet more; the particles that now make up our fragile frames will, after we have vanished from the stage of time, reappear again and again in the manifold processes of nature. They will appear in vegetation, blossoming in the rose and swaying in the stately pine; they will dow in the currents of rivers, nestle on the bosoms of flowers in glistening dew, and be wafted in sun-kissed breezes over continents and seas; they will reappear in countless animal forms, and with the march of the ages they will serve to build up the tissues of succeeding generations of men.


In nature nothing is lost. The same materials are used over and over again. The iron that circulates in the blood of a simpleton to-day, may in the next generation nerve the arm of a hero, or enrich the thought of a philosopher.


Since nature makes the tree, the beast and the man of the same materials, never wasting an atom, but always using the old in the new, nothing is more certain than that we carry in our bodies the elements that have entered into the composition of many forests, of innumerable animals, and of countless generations of men. No man lives by himself alone even in the possession of his body. We have, in a sense, the bodies of our ancestors, and the flesh we now know as ours will clothe the bones of generations yet unborn. For these reasons science assures us that those who, like the pious readers of the Church of England's "Book of Common Prayer," declare their belief in "the resurrection of the body," hug to their breasts an absurd superstition.


The facts of nature render the resurrection of the body inconceivable and impossible.


But if the elements of the body are to mingle with the dust, float in the air, gurgle in streams, and enter into the composition of successive animal and plant forms, what part of us is it that is destined to live again? Seeing that the body must be left behind, that Nature dooms it to destruction, millions of believers in another life content themselves with the thought that the mind or soul will, without the body, continue its existence in another sphere. But is such an existence possible? Can the mind survive the death of the agent that produced it? In answer to this question the facts appear to be as conclusive as in the case of the resurrection of the body. Nothing is known of the mind except in connection with the brain. The study of the mind is in every case the study of the brain in action. The whole science of physiological psychology demonstrates that mind is neither more nor less than a brain function. Says Professor William Kingdon Clifford, in his "Lectures and Essays": "The laws connecting consciousness with changes in the brain are very definite and precise, and their necessary consequences are not to be evaded." "Surely," says Professor Huxley, in his essay on "Hume," "no one who is cognizant of the facts of the case, nowadays, doubts that the roots of psychology lie in the physiology of the nervous system. What we call the operations of the mind are functions of the brain, and the materials of consciousness are products of cerebral activity." "Mind," writes Dr. Maudsley, in "Responsibility in Mental Disease," "may be defined physiologically as a general term denoting the sum-total of those functions of the brain which are known as thought, feeling, and will. By disorder of the mind is meant disorder of those functions." Professor Romanes, in his book on "Monism," holds that mind is "nothing but matter in motion."


The dependence of the mind upon the brain is so certain, so perfect, so unvarying, as to make thought apart from brain rationally unthinkable. The quantity and quality of thought depend upon the quantity and quality of the brain, upon the development of its various parts, upon the number and depth of its convolutions. Man is the most intelligent of all creatures because of all living things he has the most highly developed brain substance.


With the exception of the elephant and.the whale, man surpasses the whole animal world in the absolute weight of his brain, while relatively man's brain is larger than that of any other creature. A certain quantity of brain is essential to the possession of normal intelligence.


The size of the brain is increased by intense mental activity. Anatomists experienced in dissecting human brains concur in the observation that the brains of serious students--philosophers, poets, scientists, statesmen, and scholars and thinkers generally are firmer in their consistency, more symmetrical in their development, and more generously supplied with deep convolutions than the brains of common workmen. The convolutions in the brain of Beethoven were found to be "twice as deep and numerous as usual."


Another proof that the brain is the organ of thought--that mind is a function of the brain--is found in the facts of physiology. As the great central office of the nervous system, with its cables of communication running to every part of the body, the brain receives through the sensory nerves a constant flow of impressions from the outer world, and flashes messages back over the motor wires with lightning speed. Hence the mind changes with the different impressions the brain receives, and at any given moment the whole body will reflect the state of mind that has arisen through the action of the brain.


Man is not a duality -- mentally and physically he is one. Under the stimulus of good news his eyes sparkle, his whole being thrills with joy; in fear he turns pale; in shame he blushes; in anger the enlivened blood suffuses his cheeks with its red glow. The sight of one in pain, or even an unpleasant thought, will make him swoon. Swayed by a violent emotion, he will vomit. Sudden grief will whiten his hair. If the blood courses too swiftly through his brain, his thought will gallop in confusion: if too slowly, he will become unconscious. A little alcohol will banish his reason, loosen his tongue, suspend his sense of shame and arouse his passions. Loss of sleep will dull his thought. Too much thought will waste his flesh. The expectation of some delicious morsel will cause a rapid secretion of saliva in his mouth. If he eats too much he will dream when he is asleep. If he eats too little he will have visions when he is awake. When the body is fatigued the mind flags, but when the body and the brain have been refreshed with sleep, the mind returns with buoyant clearness to its tasks. So it is that our physical condition depends largely upon the mind, while the mind in turn reflects the physical condition.


Not only is thought created by molecular movements in the brain, but the different faculties are born within and confined, to different parts of the brain. The brain, like the body, has its division of labor. Experimental study of the brains of lower animals, and observations on brain lesions in the human subject, have proved that each department of mind is presided over by its own area of brain substance. Thus with one portion of the brain we see, with another we hear, with another we taste, with another we are conscious of touch, while the office of another is to preside over the sense of smell. When we move the eyes or the lips, the arms or the legs, we do so with the permission of the motor areas of the brain that control these parts of our bodies. Breathing, sneezing, coughing, the secretion of saliva, and swallowing, are controlled by their respective brain centers. The intellectual and perceptive faculties are located in the cerebrum--the frontal lobes. The emotions are born in the parietal lobes. Each part of the brain attends to its particular function, and the sum total of these functions is what we call the mind, or the soul.


Moreover, anatomy proves that this mind of soul can be destroyed piece by piece by destroying the brain section by section. Flourens, the French physiologist saw the faculties of animals on which he experimented, fade away one by one as he removed successive portions of their brains. He carried this process of mind destruction so far in fowls, that the creatures, with the thinking portions of their brains entirely removed, and their minds completely gone, still lived, though in a perfectly stupid condition. Utterly unconscious, as void of mind as stones, unresponsive to stimulus of any kind, these creatures, kept alive by artificial feeding, nevertheless lived for months--some of them for years--and not only lived, but increased in weight. Similar experiments have been performed on some of the higher animals, and in every instance a portion of the mind has died with the destruction of the portion of the brain to which that faculty belonged. Now the human mind, like the animal mind, can be destroyed piecemeal. A man becomes blind if the sight center of his brain is injured by hemorrhage. He becomes deaf if the hearing center is destroyed. Similar lesions will banish his other senses. Lesion of the speech center destroys the power to express one's self in words. In the deaf and dumb, an injury to this part of the brain is followed by the loss of power to express ideas in the sign language. Paralysis of the brain annihilates intelligence.


What stronger proof could be required that the mind is mortal, that it dies with the brain, than to see it disappear, one faculty after another, before the advance of the surgeon's knife, or ruinous injury, or disease, until the last vestige of intelligence vanishes forever from the ruined brain?


But drowning men, as a proverb has it, will grasp at straws. So it is not surprising that some philosophers, loath to give up a cherished doctrine, should advocate strange and irrational theories with endeavor to at least make it appear possible that the soul will continue to live after the body has returned its elements to the dust. One of these man was the late William James, the eminent Professor of psychology at Harvard University. Professor James' theory was not new, and perhaps he advanced it as a piece of pure speculation rather than as a rooted conviction. As a scientific thinker, Professor James well knew that the mind is a function of the brain, and he fully acknowledged the fact as a sound demonstration of science. But having granted this, he went on to suppose, in his lecture on "Human Immortality," that perhaps the mind does not originate in the brain, that perhaps it comes to us from some unseen world, that having entered a man's head it uses his brain as its organ of expression while here, and that on the death of the brain, it wings its flight to its original home.


This idea of the external origin of mind, of mind as a distinct principle, is the last surviving relic of the Greek notion of indwelling entities which found its leading exponent in Plato. According to Plato, organic and inorganic things derive their peculiar character from their respective entities: a man thinks, a dog obeys his master, a tree grows, a statue has form, because each is possessed of an immaterial idea--a soul. For many centuries, this notion of entities in all things was popular in Christian teaching. But the advent of science has so far banished the superstition from the world that to-day all things but the human mind are acknowledged to act in accordance with their own inherent forces. The human mind alone is still believed by some to be an immaterial entity -- an independent thing--a visiting principle from some other world domiciled within the brain.


This is to suppose that there is somewhere in the universe a great reservoir of mind, and that at the birth of every babe a portion of this mind comes to earth and enters the baby's head. But how could this realm of mind, which must be a form of force, exist apart from matter? Such an existence is inconceivable.


Again, if only sufficient mind for a babe enters the child's head, how does it happen that as the child grows his mind develops, so that when he becomes a man he is possessed of a man's mind? Does enough mind to do for a man come down when the child is born? and does it enter the growing child's head a little at a time while the rest waits outside? Or does the great reservoir of mentality, from its lofty height, pour a steady stream of mind into the child's head, slowly at first, and then faster, during all the years of mental growth from babyhood to manhood?


There is another objection to this curious and fantastic supposition. If mind is not born within the brain, but comes to the brain full-fledged from another world, and merely uses the brain as a vehicle of expression while here, how shall we explain the many different qualities of mind? and how shall we account for the changes that take place in minds during their residence in the brains of men? Is the genius given a mind whose majesty glories in the wealth of its creative powers? Is one man given a mind that overflows with love and goodness? another a mind that revels in cruelty? another a mind that continues normal for many years and then becomes insane?


Is there somewhere a sea, of mind from which superstition, degeneracy, imbecility, criminality, genius and normal intelligence emanate? and does the fact that a man is superstitious, or a degenerate, or an imbecile, or a criminal, or a genius, or normal in his thoughts and deeds, depend upon the kind of mind that has come from that mental ocean to sojourn in his brain?


If the mind is not created by the brain, why does its quantity and quality depend upon the quantity and quality of the brain? Why is normal intelligence never found in brains below a certain weight? Why does injury to the brain destroy forever the associated mental faculties? or make a thief of one who formerly was honest? or a cruel man of one who erstwhile was kind? Why does disease of the brain disintegrate intelligence and make the mind insane?


If the mind is not a function of the brain, why should it be in all respects subject to the vicissitudes of the body? Why should it grow old and feeble with the age and decay of its imprisoning brain? Do we not see that in old age the sight fails, the hearing becomes dull, memory fumbles and forgets, ideas limp in half-completed form, while the whole intellectual fire that flamed full and high in life's long-gone prime burns low with lapsing vigor in growing nearness to the feeble embers of the worn-out brain? Before the end of life, in such instances, the mind gradually dies, and when death comes it closes the career of a mere remnant of mentality.


And if the mind, the soul, comes to the brain from some other sphere, is it not strange that it should remember nothing of its origin, that it should be without conception of its previous existence, and that it should grope and guess in doubt and darkness as to its future.


Those who believe that consciousness is not a property of the brain, argue that the mind and the brain sustain the same relation to one another than the musician sustains to his instrument. But the mind and the brain keep pace in growth. Does the violin grow with the violinist? The mind sleeps with the tired brain. Does the violin tire and sleep with the player? In sleep the mind dreams. Does the violin play discordant tunes when the performer is unconscious? The player may be in New York, when his violin is in San Francisco. Can the mind thus completely separate itself from the brain? With disease of the brain the mind becomes insane. Does the violinist lose his reason when his instrument breaks a string, and can the artist retain his musical ability forever after the instrument has been destroyed? Does not the existence of the violinist as such necessitate the existence of the violin? Surely this analogy, pretty though it be, fails to account for consciousness, or to shed any light on its continuance in the absence of the brain.


Is it reasonable to suppose that while every other organ of the body is alive with its own motion, and performs its inherent function, the brain, the most marvelously complex organ of all, would be a dead mass in the cavern of the skull unless played upon by some extraneous intelligence? The infinite absurdity of such a supposition is clearly portrayed in the story of man's origin.


Man is a child of evolution. His body and his brain have been built up through the gradual accumulation of countless improvements during millions of ages. Psychical and physical evolution have moved in unison, and man owes his soul no less than his body to the innumerable animal forms at every stage of life's advance through which his ancestors arose. Standing at the head of the long procession of life, related to the animals below him in every bone and sinew of his being, his thought differs from the thought of other creatures, in degree only, not in kind. Man's soul, the sum, total of his faculties, emerged with him from the animal world, and is as natural in all respects as his physical frame. Now let those who say that this soul is a divine spark that will live forever essay to answer the question: At what period in the evolutionary process was this soul implanted! in our ancestors? Was it born in the primal substance in which life first arose? Was it implanted when life's highest form was a worm, a fish, an amphibian? Was it conferred upon the first mammal or upon the highest ape? Was it pressed into the fierce, low skull, of primitive man? Or has man been blessed with this gift of immortality at some late stage in his advance towards civilization?


In the old days when it was believed that man was a special creation, that a creating God, in the role of a potter, having molded his form in clay, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, it was easily believed that his soul was destined to enjoy immortality. But knowing; as we do to-day that the life on this planet is one, that the highest form is the outgrowth of the lowest, that the kinship is universal from monad to man, it is impossible to tell where the line should be drawn between the human and the non-human -- for none can say where or when, as life unfolded, the human was born from the beast and, accordingly, it has become more difficult than it was of yore to believe in the immortality of the soul.


The Brahmans and the Buddhists believe that the souls of men, according to their merit, are reincarnated into beasts more or less degraded, or into men of different stations from paupers to kings, or into divinities. But this doctrine of transmigration, which accords souls subject to elevation and degradation to animals and men, sheds no light on the origin and nature of the soul. And, if it be true as Buddhists believe, that Sakyamuni, before he became Buddha, underwent five hundred and fifty births, in which he was a fish, a frog, a hermit, an elephant, a slave, an ape, a king, we need not wonder that the Buddhists long for annihilation. There can be little consolation in the belief that one's soul may, in the next generation, dwell in the body of a lizard. The prospect of eternal nothingness would be vastly better than this.


One of the few men of science who in recent years have given their assent to the belief in a future life is Sir Oliver Lodge. While scouting as a superstition the idea of the resurrection of the body, Sir Oliver yet clings to the immortality of the soul. In his book "Science and Immortality," he defines the soul as being "that controlling and guiding principle which is responsible for our personal expression, and for the construction of the body under the restrictions of physical conditions and ancestry;" and he allows that this principle "seems identical with the principle of life." Unfortunately, this definition includes too much. It includes all animals and plants as well as human beings. For if the principle of life that fashioned men in accordance with heredity and environment is to live forever, then the principle that shaped the poison ivy, or the beast of the jungle, under the action of the same laws, must be immortal for the same reason. Seeing that this objection can be urged against his position, that according to his doctrine it can be held "that all living things must possess some rudiment of soul," Sir Oliver avows: "Well, for myself, I do not see how to draw a hard-and-fast distinction between one form of life and another." Accordingly, the eminent scientist appears to be perfectly willing to share the joys of immortality with the souls of beasts. Imagine the ecstasy of eternal existence with the ghosts of all the beasts that have moved across earth's swarming stage since life appeared upon this globe - all the curious, weird and monstrous creatures that have inhabited the ocean, earth and air - things armed with fangs and claws to rend their living prey, from lizards to vultures, from the vanished monsters of prehistoric times whose tremendous skeletons now excite wonder in museums, to the poison serpents that crush their hapless victims in slimy coils. For such heaven doubtless few will yearn.


Sir Oliver Lodge has great confidence in telepathy, visions, dreams, clairvoyance, materializations, and other supposed spirit phenomena as means by which it may be proved that life continues after death. The great physicist is indeed an ardent devotee of Spiritualism, the extravagant claims of which he accepts with unquestioning delight. But telepathy--the transference of thought from one mind to another without the assistance of the senses - has never in a single instance been proved. Every scientific attempt to demonstrate it has failed. But if the reality of telepathy were established beyond question, it would merely extend our knowledge of the powers of the brain; it would not, it could not, prove the continuance of consciousness after the dissolution of the body. Dreams are wanderings of the mind among the images of memory when the curtain of consciousness is not drawn quite down in perfect sleep. Visions are day dreams --hallucinations - pictures from the walls of memory projected into the empty air. Dreams and visions, with their freakish and fallacious forms, are born within the brain and are impotent to prove that we shall live after we are dead. As to clairvoyance, it is sufficient to say that Spiritualist mediums have told the world nothing that was not or could not have been known to some living person.


Sir Oliver Lodge offers as evidence of a future life the materialization of spirits-ghosts from the spirit world that appear at the beck of mediums in the darkness of Spiritualist séances. But here facts give us pause. First, these materialized spirits--like all other ghosts-always appear clothed -a fact by which a ghost might easily be mistaken for a live person. Secondly, Maskelyne, the English conjurer, could produce as healthy-looking materializations as any ever produced by mediums. And thirdly, wherever intrepid and critical spectators have been able to seize the materialized form, they have confirmed their suspicion that the ghost and the medium were one and the same person.


In "Raymond," Sir Oliver Lodge gives the world alleged communications from the spirit of his son Raymond, who was killed in the war in 1915. According to these messages, which come from Mrs. Leonard, the medium, who says her "guide" in the spirit world is an Indian girl named Feda, the spirits have bodies and organs as in the flesh -- arms and legs, eyes, ears, tongue and teeth! These spirits wear clothes--Raymond's suit is made of decayed worsted. His house is made of bricks, and there is granite in that spirit land. There are laboratories there, where all sorts of things are manufactured, including cigars which the spirits smoke! "Some want meat, and some strong drink," says Raymond. "They call for whiskey sodas. Don't think I'm stretching it when I tell you that they manufacture even that." And this place where there is smoking, eating, and the bibbing of "whiskey sodas" where people clothed in worsted live in brick houses, is the land of discarnate spirits! And Sir Oliver Lodge, the man of science, having outgrown the dogmas of Christianity, kneels in the temple of the superstition of Spiritualism and gives such lying drivel the countenance of his honored name.


To such a degree is the literature of Spiritualism blasted with banalities, so stupid, inane and false are the messages attributed to the great geniuses dead, so unattractive is the picture it presents of the spirit world, that with reference to the question the great Huxley was constrained to say: "The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of Spiritualism is to furnish an additional argument against suicide."


No communication from an alleged discarnate spirit has ever been received under circumstances which guaranteed its genuineness. Every scientific test made to establish the existence of spirits has yielded disappointing results. Mr. F. W. H. Myers, an enthusiast of Psychical Research, left a letter sealed in several envelopes with his bankers, hoping to reveal its contents from the spirit world through a medium. But when Mrs. Verrall, in 1905, fourteen years after the letter was written, received through automatic writing what she believed to be the contents of the letter coming from the spirit of Mr. Myers, the two messages, compared at a special meeting of the Society of Psychical Research, were found to be totally dissimilar. Then too, it must be remembered that slate writing, spirit photography, table tilting, and all the mechanical "phenomena" of the séance, can be produced by various kinds of trickery; that it is as easy to get a "spirit message" from a living person as from a dead one--provided the medium thinks the person dead; and that nearly all the famous mediums, from the Fox sisters to Eusapia Palladino, have been exposed as frauds. One is not surprised, therefore, at Sir Oliver Lodge's confession that "by the mass of scientific men the whole subject is at present ignored, because it seems an elusive and disappointing inquiry."


But is there not at least, something strange in Spiritualism? Suppose there is. There is something strange in hypnotism. And Dr. J. Milne Bramwell, the master hypnotist, is convinced that what Spiritualists regard as the manifestation of spiritual beings, is due to the action of the subconscious mind of the medium, which becomes active in the trance. Mr. Frank Podmore, the expert psychical researcher, agreed with this view.


Notwithstanding his supposition that mind might be a foreign entity in the brain, Professor William James, in his posthumous volume of "Memories and Studies," declared that after twenty-five years of Psychical Research, he was still "no 'further' than at the beginning" as to the question whether the soul survives bodily death. Professor James quotes Professor Sidgwick; as saying that after twenty-five years of psychical investigation he was still "in the same identical state of doubt and balance that he started with." These are eloquent admissions. In his book "The Belief in Personal Immortality" Mr. E. S. P. Haynes observes that "Psychical Research has, so far, done nothing but extend the region of experimental psychology." The scientific study of the mind has, as yet, discovered no evidence of a future life.


In "The Bankruptcy of Religion" Mr. Joseph McCabe, after pointing out that modern philosophy arose in the endeavor to establish on the ground of reason the existence and attributes of God and the immortality of the soul, draws attention to the significant fact that discussion of these questions has now passed out of the literature of philosophy; "You might," says Mr. McCabe, ''attend the lectures on philosophy for a whole year at any great modern university--at Oxford or Cambridge, at Columbia or Harvard, at Paris or Berlin--and --you would hear no more about God and the soul than you would hear in the lectures on physiology." The verdict of philosophy is that neither the existence of God nor the immortality of the soul can be determined by the intellect.


Professor James N. Leuba, in "The Belief in God and Immortality," shows statistically from replies to a questionnaire addressed by him to American scientists, historians, sociologists and psychologists, that those who either do not believe in or doubt immortality number among the physical scientists 49.3%; among the biologists 63%; among the historians 48.5%; among the greater professors of sociology 72.9%; and among the psychologists 80.2%. It is significant too, that the more eminent the men in any of these departments of study, the greater is the proportion of unbelievers among them.


We are frequently told that the desire for a future life is universal and that this desire must prove its reality. But the truth is that the belief in immortality is far from being universal. It is not found among the Veddahs of Ceylon, some native Australian races, and other primitive peoples. It is not found in Buddhism, the religion of one-third of the human race--the Buddhists long for Nirvana--the cessation of existence. It is absent alike from the ancient religion of China and from Confucianism. And millions in the western world neither believe in nor desire it.


But suppose the desire for immortality were universal. That certainly would not prove its truth. History teems with unsatisfied desire. As John Stuart Mill observed, the desire for food is no indication that we shall have an everlasting supply of it.


The desire for immortality is strongest in youth. In youth, when daring thought is at the zenith of its power, when the sun of ambition illumines the hope of things to be achieved, when life's contests are made joyous by the glamour of success, a high sense of our importance courses swiftly through the veins; we are egotistic; we feel the restless urge of life and wish it to continue. But in old age when the strength to strive is gone, when the mind regrets the vanished power of its golden years, when life's prizes and applause pass the trembling palm to rest in steady hands, when the weary traveler with doddering step nears the foot of the downward hill, his tired eyes no longer yearn to see; and as the shadows of night fall athwart the lessening rays of life's departing sun, the old man is content to lay his burden down in sleep.


They say another life is necessary to right the wrongs of this. But why should we suppose that the power that gave us this life will treat us better in another? What warrant have we for supposing that the victims of injustice here, would fare better there? Justice and injustice are but human terms. Nature seems unconscious of their meaning; and there is no reason for believing that the ills endured in this world will be atoned for in another.


And is it not pertinent to ask: If immortality be true, how old shall we be in that endless life? Will the babe that died in its mother's arms be a helpless babe forever? Will those who passed the bourne of time palsied with old age be eternally decrepit? Or will all enjoy life at its glowing noon? And what shall be our condition there? Since we can not take our present bodies, shall we have other bodies? If yes, will those bodies be exactly like these? Then, will those born deaf and dumb endure these handicaps forever? Will the idiotic be denied the light of reason while the aeons of time roll away? But if we are not to have bodies, are we to suppose that we shall see without eyes, hear without ears, feel without fingers, and converse without organs of speech?


And what shall we do to while away the time? Shall we just lounge around forever? Would not endless existence without work drive us mad with ennui?


If all the human beings that ever lived are to be immortal may we not have difficulty in finding our friends? And are we sure that we shall know them?


In a lecture on "Immortality" delivered at Harvard University in 1906, Professor Wilhelm Ostwald declared that the possibility of remembrance after death seems to be out of the question. But if there is no remembrance, personality will be gone, and immortality without personality would not be immortality at all. Impersonal immortality would be the immortality of a clod. If memory perishes all is lost. But how shall we remember with our nervous system gone? Yet nerves and brain can not endure.


Where is this land in which we shall live again? Certainly it is not in this world. Then is it on some other planet in our solar group? Or is it in some ethereal region in the interstellar space millions of light years distant from our globe? Truly, the most amazing thing about another life is our stark ignorance of it.


Christians believe that immortality is vouched for by the Bible. Let us see. The belief was not a part of the religion of the ancient Jews, and the Old Testament denies it. In Job, chapter seven, verse nine, we read: "As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more." Ecclesiastes, after saying in the third chapter that "a man has no preeminence above a beast," that "all go unto one place,'' that "all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again,'' says in chapter nine: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten."


"But my belief is based on the New Testament, on the promises of Christ," says the Christian. But nobody knows who made the supposed promises of Christ, and, at any rate, they have not been kept. In Matthew 24:34, in Mark 13:30, and in Luke 21:32, Christ, after describing his second coming "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," is made to say: "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." But that generation did pass, and three score more have followed it, and Christ -- if he ever came -- and this is a matter of increasing doubt -- has not returned to bless his followers with another life. It remains written, of course, that "In my Father's house are many mansions;" but the telescope, sweeping the heavens for billions of miles, past myriads of constellations, has failed to discover the Father's mansioned home.


It is of interest to note that according to Christianity, our immortal life does not begin at death, but at some indefinite time thereafter. There is to be a resurrection of the dead, followed by a general judgment, before immortality begins. But the Bible does not say, and no one can tell, when the resurrection is to be. In the meantime the dead are dead--their souls are as unconscious as their dust. Now fancy the men and women of all the vanished ages, since death first stilled, the human heart, being resurrected and judged, sometime, perhaps, in the next thousand million years! Think of the joy we should feel in the contemplation that after we have been dead perhaps a million ages, we shall be made to live again! Truly, this is a forlorn hope. Christianity to all intents and purposes offers us not certain immortality but gilded annihilation. Another life is of interest only as the continuation of this. If extinction is to overtake us at the tomb that death may as well be eternal.


There is another thing to be considered. While Christianity promises everlasting joy to the few who believe its creed, it prophesies eternal pain for nearly all the world. It predicts that while the saved strum harps in selfish glee throughout the endless flight of years, the moans of millions, damned will rise forever from the holocaust designed by a vengeful God's undying hate. These are the Christians destinies -- this, according to Christianity, is to be the life eternal in heaven and in hell. But such an immortality, far from being a blessing, would be a measureless curse. Infinitely better is annihilation for all than that one person should suffer eternal pain. The Christian heaven is a selfish dream; and hell is but the hollow threat of pious fiends. The Bible knows nothing of a life to come!


The truth is that the doctrine of immortality owes nothing to Christianity. Thousands of years before Christ was born, before a line of the Bible was written, countless millions of men and women lived and died hoping for another life. It was from the Persians -- from the worshippers of Zoroaster - that the Jews derived the doctrine of immortality. The hope of another life is not a Christian dogma but a pagan dream. And if the dream be true, if when we die here we enter into life in some other sphere, the fact has nothing to do with any religion. It can not be affected by belief or disbelief. It is a fact in nature -- like the growth of vegetation, or the light of the stars - an attribute of the cosmic order. It exists for everyone. It is our fate. Eternal and unchangeable is the destiny that awaits us all.


Let us remember, too, that even if we could prove that there is a life after death, that fact would not establish the truth of immortality. For it might be that old age and death wait upon life in that world as in this; the average life might be no longer there than here; and that second death might close the story of each life forever.


There is a question more. Is immortality desirable? Can we look forward with pleasure to an endless life of which we have no conception?

This life is blessed with the assurance that death will terminate its woes. But what if eternal life should prove unsatisfactory? What if, at last, weary of existence, we should long to die? Then joy would turn to ashes---endless life would resolve itself into an endless curse. The thought is dreadful!


But the facts of nature seem to prove that we shall not live again. "We are forced to this definite conclusion" says Haeckel, in "The Riddle of the Universe," "The belief in the immortality of the human soul is a dogma which is in hopeless contradiction with the most solid empirical truths of modern science," Professor Proctor, the astronomer, wrote: "Herbert Spencer shows abundantly the nothingness of the evidence on which the common belief in a future life has been based.'' Professor Tyndall put the whole argument in a line: "Divorced from matter, where is life to be found?" Nor are scientists and philosophers alone in recognizing the fact that the laws of nature seem to deny the possibility of a future life. The Reverend Minot J. Savage said: "Have we any proof of immortality? . . . I cannot think we have anything which may be called evidence concerning an immortal life. Immortality is not susceptible of proof." The Reverend R. Heber Newton declared: "We know nothing of life that is disembodied. . .We know nothing of mind apart from matter. . . I have no confidence in any faith which is not capable of a scientific basis."


The belief in immortality has been fearfully expensive to mankind. For many ages it made humanity the slaves of priests. Lured by the glamour of heaven, millions have neglected the concerns of this life for the fancied interests of another. Recoiling from the withering threat of hell, millions have spent their days in superstitious fear. The religious persecutions that have drenched the face of earth with tears and blood, the religious wars with their ruin and desolation, the sectarian hate and strife that have embittered human relations, have been born of the belief that this life is but a prelude to another. With the passing of the belief in immortality, freedom grows, knowledge increases, sects merge into humanity, and everywhere, as the mind of man enlarges, the world's moral tone improves.


Is there a life after death? There does not appear to be. The clods fall on the coffin and we leave our dead in the tomb. Their flesh is decomposed; their bones disintegrate and disappear. A few years pass, and nature has fully reabsorbed the forms we knew and loved. Yesterday they lived; to-day we are here; tomorrow others will hold the stage. Nature moves from birth to death, and life and death appear to round the circle of existence.


Why should we live forever? Why should nature have selected us to share the banquet of everlasting existence? What have we done to deserve immortality? Why should we desire it? No other forms in nature are permanent: Why should we regard ourselves as destined to enjoy eternal life? All other things perish: Why should we endure? The globe on which we live will become a cold and crusted rock and all things on its bosom will die; the moon will fall back to the frigid breast of mother earth; the sun will lose his stores of heat and wheel in space a lifeless orb; the night and the day will be equally dark; the light of the stars will be extinguished one by one. Millions of ages will roll like mighty billows surging in time's boundless sea, and with the lapse of illimitable aeons, the face of the universe will be changed. Suns and worlds, cold and dead, colliding with other decrepit spheres, will be shattered to the primal fire-mist and give birth to solar systems, which, through myriads of ages of evolution will become brilliant suns and fruitful worlds. New moons will take their places in the heavens. Day and night will be born again. Animals and plants, called to life by Nature's laws of growth, will again fill the worlds. Other millions of ages will pass away, and when time's cycle is again complete, darkness and death will again ensue; the corridors of space will again resound with the crashing of extinct orbs, giving birth to nebulae and presaging once more the rhythmic coming of suns and planets clothed with luxurious vegetation and crowned with animal life in all its forms. So the work of Nature -- the eternal builder, the everlasting destroyer--will go on forever. Form taking shape in the formless life arising from the dust; death everywhere overtaking life; and in the end chaos with the potential power and the promise of the new order.


And where shall we be while this awful drama of Nature's endless change is being enacted on a stage as wide as the infinite vast, in a time that is eternal? When our bodies and brains have been melted to vapor a thousand times over in the crash and heat of colliding suns, shall our poor, naked, and unprotected souls still be occupying some icy region among the waxing and falling stars and gazing still with unsatisfied eyes upon the infinite wonder of the changing scene? While the Universe is everywhere dying, shall we live on forever? Forever! Who would choose to live for that infinite time? Eternity! Do we know what this awful word must mean? To live for eternity! The collective intelligence of all the worlds can not conceive in millionth part the meaning of that appalling thought. Immortal life ! The mind reels and falls beneath the weight of the crushing contemplation. Immortality ! The thought repels the weary soul that longs to be at rest in the undisturbed sleep of the tranquil grave.

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