Do you remember the modest epitaph that Robert Louise Stevenson composed for himself? “Here lies one who meant well, tried a little and failed much.” I expect that those words would suit both you and me.
There comes to my mind an old story of an American whose store caught fire and in a few hours was completely gutted – burnt out! In the morning the passers-by, as they stopped to look at the smoking ruins saw a notice pinned up to a part of the wall that was still standing. ‘Every thing lost except hope; business will be resumed as usual tomorrow’. I have remembered this story quite often because there seems to me to be a deep and essential truth within it about life. So often that which keeps us going is hope; if we lose that we come to a complete standstill.
I know that evil seems to dominate in the world; I know that goodness is often crushed and trampled underfoot. I know that some of the best people are having a difficult time of it and I recognise the callousness, the ruthlessness of this present age. Its arrogance and presumption in pushing brutally to its own end; the indifference to the suffering of the masses. But a new day will dawn. Sooner or later the world and all the lusts of it shall pass away but courage, faithfulness patience humility cheerfulness friendliness – these will survive. Every hope, that is a good and worthy hope, shall come true if only we cherish it and do not get tired of waiting. It may not come true today but after today comes tomorrow. There is, and always will be a tomorrow and tomorrow is in our hands. We are the sowers. Unfortunately the harvest will not necessarily be for us but rather for those who follow us.
In time, all must learn that, at base, this world is a spiritual world in which the hammer of the spirit must meet with the resistance of the anvil of matter in order that its normal destiny may be forged. Therefore we are always confronted with difficulties of one sort or another intended to make demands upon our latent capacities, stirring them into action. The easy life begets little strength, travelling on the level grows no muscle but, when we face up to an emergency or pit our strength against the high hills, we may have our pains, but we are growing. Although nature always seems to be opposing us in one direction or another, she is not unkindly nor is the universe hostile.
Spiritualism inevitably leads us to appreciate the relationship between spirit and matter; to the spiritual outlook as opposed to the purely material. It centres our attention upon the realms of causes rather than that of effects.
In today’s world, we are confronted with mass poverty and unemployment in the face of conditions we know should render available to every human being a reasonable, a decent, a high standard of quality of life. We are now told that we must be prepared to accept a more or less permanent standing army of unemployed, of greater or lesser magnitude. The fact of unemployment has become so common that we seem almost to have accepted it as inevitable!
In so many parts of the world men, women and children are dying in their thousands through the horrors of war, starvation, the lack of medicines and medical care; when will it end?
Is it not time we Spiritualists gave our message to the world that the most important thing in this world are human beings! We must put into perspective the worth of human life. No interests of any kind, vested or otherwise, should be taken into consideration until human life is considered at its true value and our activities are co-ordinated and regulated so as to ensure that our brothers and sisters shall have the fullest and free opportunity of living as one of God’s children.
That I think is the message that Spiritualism has to give to the world but are we doing it? Are we taking an active part in the various movements with which we are surrounded and with which we all sympathise to some extent?
I want to stress upon you that Spiritualism is a religion and that we should always keep to the front of our edicts just what a religious organisation should be! I fear that we may be tempted to follow the path which has been the downfall of all the great organised religions.
As one looks around at the position of orthodox Christianity in the various countries of the world today as compared with fifty years ago, no one can deny that it has had a tremendous set back. One wonders how long the leaders and officials of the Church of England will content themselves discussing their matters of belief while the people drift away from them. We must take warning from this and remember that the organisation must take second place to the work which it has got to do. If the organisation takes precedence over the work, then it becomes a hindrance to the success of that work. It then follows that the organisation will have to alter. I intend shortly to recommend several changes in our organisation that I feel will help us to go forward more effectively than at present. We must always have a vision, a plan and a goal to reach.
Our history resounds with the illustrious names of our gallant pioneers whose sacrifices, faith wisdom and knowledge inspired the army of workers of yester-years. It is through their tremendous efforts, along with ours, that our organisation as a religious body has established itself in all parts of Great Britain.
It is for us now to justify their sacrifices and the growing change in public opinion. We must maintain the highest possible standard of our platforms. We must give no grounds for the suggestions occasionally made that we are encouraging undesirable practices in the name of religion. We must see that our services are conducted as religious services with dignity so that we can welcome into our midst those who, dissatisfied with orthodox teachings and looking for extended truths, who are interested in this question of survival, come to us to get new light, knowledge and evidence.
It is our duty to provide that evidence. Spiritualist centres should also provide not simply mediums but suitable conditions under which such evidence can be obtained. The time has come for us to look again at our organisation. I believe that Spiritualist churches are- or should be- colleges of education where those attending may be instructed in the art of living according to natural and spiritual laws. If they are less than this, then they are not truly a Spiritualist church, a live church.
A live church should not only give to the people the real ‘bread of life’ whereby the spiritual life of man is truly nurtured but should take an active interest in the so called ‘secular’ things thus showing the relationship which exists between man’s everyday actions and those larger, loftier concepts which spring from his deeper consciousness. In a word; religions must be practical.
Spiritualism must not only supply our souls with the nourishment they require, it must also solve the question which learned men and women everywhere are seeking to answer. It must take part in the material affairs of life and see that the bodies are fed as well as the souls. We must universally embrace all of mankind and fill all with that divine love and fervour which stimulate men to acts of righteousness. Spiritualism must weald the twin sceptre of love and wisdom and be able to give strength to the work; light to those who sit in darkness and shelter to the storm tossed soul. We must get rid of the disgrace of the inhuman ‘cardboard box’ life!
It must follow therefore, that Spiritualism is a floodlight making clear what was hitherto unknown. A flood of light revealing the path of truth, justice and peace just at a time when the world, animal and bird, tree and plant life are slowly dying through man’s selfishness, greed and ignorance; when man is beginning to need it most as he stumbles along this road without a purpose, without spiritual leadership. Such revelations have happened before when the conflict between good and bad, the old and the new have reached a crisis.
It is surely the mission of Spiritualism to save the world from the abyss of materialism, selfishness and corruption to which all nations are proceeding and lead them to a New Age, a Spiritual Age. Before this can happen, we must return to a conception of spiritual values, to a spiritual and holistic way of life, to a spiritual and religious outlook. Spiritualism has not only a mighty mission to fulfil but Spiritualists have a great responsibility upon their shoulders.
We must remember that Spiritualists are the custodians of the new era of tomorrow, when service will replace selfishness. The Kingdom of Heaven, the New Jerusalem does not come of its own accord. It can only be earned for the children of tomorrow by the efforts of the labourers of today.
The aim of Spiritualism has been stated by the advanced spirit guides as being a movement destined to unite all the religions of the world. One day, within its ranks, the Christian, the Jew, The Hindu, the Buddhist, the Mohammedan, in fact people from every creed and race will worship together under the broad banner of inspiration from a larger life.
Let us have our own platforms by all means if only to prove survival to someone else but let us also try to improve this world of ours lest we find that with our responsibilities we are worse off than those who do not have the advantage of our knowledge.
I have had it proved to me that whenever, however blunderingly, I try to do something which helps humanity I am aided – nay, spurred on – by beneficent entities who can see further than I can see and who know more than I can know. I have within me, as have all people, a particle of the great Creative Spirit which is the source, the present and the end of all life. As I see it, it has no existence outside the creatures through whom it expresses itself on this and, I assume, on other planets.
I see, as you all can see, unfolding before me God’s purpose and plan. I look back upon history and see how we have advanced and, when I do so, I notice that the torch-bearers, who belong to all races and all creeds, seem to be forced forward by some power greater than themselves.
How much does Spiritualism mean to you? Different people will ask that question in different ways. Is Spiritualism the biggest thing in your life? Without it, would your life have any meaning, any colour and hope? Is it the master motive of all your seeing, all your doing? Can you imagine going on without it?
Work on then Spiritualists in spite of scorn, heartbreak and denunciation. Our movement is a divine and a worldwide mission. The day is not far distant when those who have contemptuously neglected much less slandered and reviled this great light of Spiritualism shining in the darkness will be found to have been fighting against the living God.
On your epitaph let it be written, ‘Here lies one who against tremendous odds went forward, proved the continuity of life after so called death, and never gave an inch’