Wednesday, 27 August 2014

MATERIALISM V. SPIRITUALISM

A SIX NIGHTS' DEBATE.

The third night's debate between Mr. Collins (Secularist) and Mr. Chainey (Spiritualist) relative to their respective phases of belief, took place in the Protestant Hall on Thursday-evening. Mr. Thomas Walker presided.          
Mr. Chainey said that that night it was his duty to affirm " That a higher degree of culture is attained for man's mental, moral, and physical nature through spiritualism than by secularism." He did not now use the word spiritualism in its limited sense of phenomena manifestation, but in its relation to man as a spiritual being. He claimed that many knew they were immortal just as they knew this life was mortal. All bodies had souls, but all souls were not immortal. The soul was only immortal when found in fauna, and was conscious of its own spirit. And this, is what the ancients meant when they wrote above their temples — Know thyself. All plants and animals had souls, but were not immortal. The law of evolution was without sense or meaning whatever, unless they connected it with the law of spirit involution. Every thing was on the upward roll ? Nothing had form in the visible world that lived not first in the invisible. They thought that the law of evolution was discovered by Darwin. It was not so. The law was known before the Pyramids were built. He knew he was inviting their ridicule, but let them laugh, he did not blush, remembering as he did that all the great truths had been mocked and jeered at by those who had not risen far enough in the scale of being to comprehend them. They were now living in an age when many were discontented with the mere life of sense, who showed thereby that they were capable of reaching a higher round on the ladder of being. Could secularism or the things of sense satisfy all man's nature ? They might possess millions, and be able to satisfy every physical desire, and yet feel that they were in the land of famine. They might rise to command and power— become a Napoleon, or an Alexander — and yet like the first die of a broken heart in exile, or like the other weep that there were no more worlds for them to conquer. Secularists considered that it would be paradise if they had every material enjoyment and every opportunity of enjoyment ; but he knew many who yet confessed that if these were the all of life, then life was not worth the living. When the spiritual ideal vanished the heavens became as brass above their heads, covering naught else but infinite silences and nothingness so far as they were concerned. Their very grandeur and immensity only bewildered them. With the spiritual ideal they were no longer appalled by the awful abyss of space and eternal time. A universe less than illimitable would seem to their royal nature a very prison-house. The intellect working on the material plane had done much in telegraphy to remove the barriers of distance between man and man, but the intellect working on the spiritual plane would teach soul how to speak to soul without the intervention of material agency. The study of life on the spiritual plane was teaching thousands to care and keep themselves in perfect health by the power of spirit, and the power of mind over matter. The world was full of dyspeptics and pessimists, and hypocondriacs, and failures, simply because so many lived from without instead of from within.  
Mr. Collins said he did not think his opponent treated them with that courtesy which they had a right to expect. He appeared purposely to avoid placing in his hand any argument, so that it now became almost impracticably impossible for him to reply at all. He had a right to ask his opponent for facts with which to contend. The question which he had to bring before them that night was not a question of secularism or religion— it was a question of secularism versus superstition. The superstitions of the ancients had been let go and had sunk into deserved oblivion. Would they then allow, the still greater superstition which had been placed before them during the last two or three evenings' debate usurp their place ? Ghosts, goblins, witches, and sprights had long since ceased to affright man, and spirits were not going to take their place. He had to affirm that secularism was the true, and therefore the best philosophy of life. What is secularism ? Colonel Ingersoll— a leading and typical secularist — had summed it up in this very terse phrase — One world at a time, and make the best of it. Every secularist affirmed that this life was the only life of which he could have any knowledge, therefore it behoved him to make the best possible use of it. So secularism was, not necessarily irreligious, but it was most certainly untheological. Here they had the distinction. Secularism rejected spiritualism because it was affirmed that such a belief was altogether unwarrantable by evidence. The spiritualist, in asserting that there were considerations beyond this life, should be prepared to support that assertion by proof positive. His opponent had positively admitted in his address on the previous evening of the debate that other creature's besides man had immortality ; then he was right in assuming that when they reached that state of immortality the spiritual mosquito would continue to bite the spiritual body, and the spiritual tapeworm continue to irritate the spiritual stomach. He would like to know if this was to be so ; and if so, he declared that Mr. Chainey had laid the most direful prospects before them in promising any such immortality. Mr. Chainey asked them to believe in immortality because a young lady had been able to decipher a letter which had been torn in pieces and placed inside a sealed envelope. He would ask Mr. Chainey to say how from this fact — assuming that it be true— he could reasonably draw the deduction that life was immortal. To him the process of reasoning seemed to be parallel with the case of a boy who had given the latitude and longitude of a vessel, and from that information was asked to tell the name of the captain. Making science their study, secularists learned how best to preserve their life, and how best to obtain those necessities which preserved life, and how best to order their physical constitution, as to obtain the greatest amount of happiness for themselves, and those around them. Those who must thoroughly live must live completely, and those who lived completely must live on scientific principles ; and they could only live on scientific principles by studying science. Now, had spiritualists any advantage over the secularists in this respect? For argument, he would admit the truth of everything that Mr. Chainey had laid down, and would still affirm, that secularism must be the best philosophy of life. If they were to understand how best to sustain this physical constitution they could only learn that by studying science. If a sound constitution was essential to happiness, then they could truly say that science, or scientific knowledge, was equally essential to happiness. But there was a higher place of life beside the ordering of this purely physical body. There was the higher plane of culture and refinement to which they were asked to believe only the spiritualists could ascend. Was he, because he was a materialist, to be debarred from revelling in the higher realms of the poet? Never ! He claimed to have as keen an appreciation of poetry as any spiritualist in the world— to revel in it — to enjoy it — and to be inspired by it. And of this no spiritualist could rob him. Because he was a materialist, was he to be blocked out from poetry, science, and art ? He could tell his opponent that he aspired to all these with the ardour he claimed for himself, and every sincere secularist did the same. Secularists assumed the position they did because they felt if they were to look to what was termed the spiritual side of life, they would only be bartering the reality of this life for the unreality of a next.

 Evening News 3 September 1886,

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