The implications of evidence for science and religion.
Frances Banks sums up the findings of her research, in “Frontiers of Revelation” published towards the end of her long life of enquiry, first as a nun and teacher, then as a prison reformer and finally as a psychical investigator, and she surveys the implications these findings have for the future of the Christian religion. Being a Protestant, she looks at this from the viewpoint of the Church of England – the Anglican or Episcopal Church. I have taken the final chapter, “Revolution or Reformation” and expanded her findings from psychic research and the realities of Modern Spiritualism and Spiritism to include all religions and philosophies to be found in the world today, since with the Internet and other advances in global communication, we are instantly in touch with all belief systems and cultures. There is an urgent need for us to understand each other’s viewpoints, and realise that we have much in common.
Firstly, here are a few more quotations taken from answers to her questionnaire on religious and psychic experiences, similar to those gathered by Alister Hardy at the same time in the 1950s and 1960s, and those found in earlier publications going back to the beginning of the 20th Century, from psychiatrist Richard Bucke [Cosmic Consciousness 1901 ], William James [Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902], Dr. E. Hall, and P.D. Ouspensky. Before modern times, Frances Banks refers us to Swedenborg, and earlier still, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita; the Granth Sahib; the Old and New Testaments; the Koran; the Buddhist Sutras; Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Plotinus; and the saints and mystics of all religions. We might include our poets: John Donne, Vaughan, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Walt Whitman ("Leaves of Grass") and Edward Carpenter ("Love's Vision" and "So Thin a Veil") to name a few.
“I am sure that the clergy must give up expecting everyone to come to God through the visible Church (by which they mean their own brand of religion) – and scolding them is they do not and cannot. I know for a fact that hundreds of good, sincere people would love some sort of service to attend which seemed to them worthily to transmit true religion: but what there is only come between them and God [him or it, the supreme intelligence] - and so they have to stay away, and express their religion otherwise.” A lay church worker and personal` friend.
The fourth section of the questionnaire dealt with nine aspects of spiritual awareness. “Briefly, the nine categories were as follows: a) An inner experience of light; b) Release from self-consciousness, that is, loss of identity, expansion of awareness; c) Release from past burdens, sin, remorse, etc; d) Sense of oneness with the whole creation; e) Impression of beauty; f) Feelings of love, joy, peace; g) Loss of sense of time (Eternal Now); h) Unshakable certainty of reality of this experience; i) An urge to express it and communicate it to others. [There is the same urge also in wanting to communicate an urgent message received from spirit – to the person intended. I have experienced this, as do most mediums, if not all. The message must get through. I have experienced all of these inner aspects during and after an NDE as a child 66 years ago, and I would add one more category – j) annoyance, to say the least, in having to return here to this reality! Richard R.]
In discussion whether emotions get in the way of religious experience and mediumistic abilities, Frances quotes Baron von Hugel’s division of religion (in “The Mystical Element in Religion) into three aspects: 1) Formal, external practice and observance with formulae and creeds [and rituals]. 2) Intellectual: philosophical and theological [and scientific] study, on a rational basis. 3) The intuitive [and psychic] experiential approach – which he seemed also equate with the emotional. This was his tripartite counterpart to the conative, cognitive and affective psychological aspect, [the High, Middle and Lower
Selves of Huna philosophy, the inner Parent, Adult and Child in Eric Berne’s and other pop psychology, or Freud’s Superconscious, Ego and unconscious Id.] Whatever way we define ourselves, Frances insists that “these three selves of ours should work in perfect alignment, the Low (in Huna terms) supplying the High self with the vital energy which it will relay to the conscious (Middle) self for effective operation.” We can get out of balance, and “to be bogged down in emotional sensations is spiritual suicide and can be cuase of grave perversion. This is to cast no slur upon the genuine tears of a deep repentance, nor upon the cathartic value of this relief from tension. But it is to question the public use of the emotional preachments of our evangelical forbears [and the hypnotic addresses of our modern TV evangelists and healers].
Frances quotes Dr. Cyril Garbett from a chapter in “In an Age of Revolution” published in 1952. “Sometimes there seems at first no possibility of reconciling the historic faith with a new philosophical theory or scientific discovery, but even here great patience must be shown lest unintentionally what comes from God [or spirit] is rejected. Ultimately the enquirer may have to choose between Christian faith and contemporary thought, and often he may have to wait in patience and suspense while the search for reconciliation continues. But, however great the dangers be, the Church of England is emphatically on the side of free enquiry, and gives no support to those who in the mistaken interests of religion would suppress freedom of thought…The test of the truth of the tradition is that it can bear the light. If his thought leads him plainly and finally outside the Christian Creed, of course he must cease to hold the office of a Church teacher. Freedom for thinking has no connection with freedom to violate one’s engagements. He must no doubt take the risk of such an event. Anyway, the Church must sanction free enquiry, praying earnestly for its scholars that their faith fail not. If such freedom is refused inside the Church, it will assert itself outside; and that way lies revolution or schism.”
A Bishop is quoted as saying “The Church has no official theory about the origin of life or the conditions of life after death, or the final destiny of the solar system. Christians have no more evidence than other people.” This ignorance is corroborated by a lady from Australia who had recently arrived “in the hope of finding new light upon her own first-hand religious and psychic experiences, having read of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. But her local vicar had never heard of it and for some time she sought in vain for advice. Although herself a descendant of seven generations of clergy, she could only declare: ‘The clergy seem afraid that someone is going to prove that what they believe is true after all!’
The aim of the spiritual life, says Frances is service in and for the Kingdom of God, however you define that, “through the relaying of the love, power and wisdom – so often accompanied by ecstasy, and perhaps especially in the earlier stages – on to the plane of human living. This highest joy will not be reached through hedonism [the pursuit of pleasure] in howsoever refined a form. Yet, since God is Love, each Divine impression, whether directly or indirectly through prayer, meditation or contemplation, must inevitably raise the whole Body through the individual response.”
With regard to God, or the origin of life, in whatever way that is defined, described, named and identified by our religion, when we pray and make contact with the other side, it is unlikely that we get in touch with the great man himself, in anthropomorphic terms, or with the Absolute, the supreme intelligence. We may be in touch with what we call angels, or devas, or entities, or the spirits of our ancestors or our own parents, friends and colleagues, or perhaps a son or daughter. How can that be evil or breaking spiritual or church law? Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s co-creator of the Theory of Evolution, and yet a Spiritualist, perhaps sums up the situation best: “At the conclusion of his long volume on “The World of Life” Wallace found infinite variety as the law of the universe. Instead of evidence for a solitary, infinite and eternal Being as the one and only direct agent in every detail of the universe, Wallace believed he found not only God, but a whole hierarchy of beings with infinite grades of power, of knowledge, of wisdom, and everywhere the influence of higher beings upon lower. He found ‘the universe requires the co-ordinated agency of myriads of intelligences’ and that ‘man is destined to a permanent, progressive existence in a world of spirit.’ He was convinced not only of the fact of telepathy but ‘that the phenomena of spiritualism are proved quite as well as any facts are proved in other sciences’…..He did not think that such cases (such as of answered prayer as in the case of George Muller’s faith orphanages [see my article in the Health and Healing series for reference to him R.R.] ) could be accounted for by chance. Wallace thought he could best account for them not by a solitary God who sat, as it were, at the great exchange of the universe, but by the law of telepathy and the co-operation of spiritual beings in a vast unseen Kingdom of God.” Sherwood Eddy in “You Will Survive Death.” Wallace's "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism" (1874 - 1896) is back in print through Kessinger Publishing [www.kessinger.net]
Frances Banks writes “Whether, therefore, we think in terms of extra-sensory perception and the powers latent in man, which transcend our space-time limitations even while we remain in physical bodies, or whether we turn our attention to the activities of discarnate spirits who have attained freedom from 'the body of this death': bot roads lead inevitably to the postulation of invisible intermediary Beings. This outcome must be fearlessly faced.
"It ought not to present any problem to Catholics - [nor to members of other religions], who frequently invoke the help and witness of archangels, angels, saints, sages, apostles, martyrs, virgins, prophets..and 'All the Compnay of Heaven'. But it may come hardly to the sincere sort of Protestant exemplified by one who kept reiterating to me recently 'I don't like the idea of anyone coming between me and the Saviour.' I was myself much helped once by a friend who said he could understand the Divine delegation (instead of talking to the Old Man Himself) by reference to the 'On Her Majesty's Service' printed on the envelpe: he did not suppose that Her Majesty hd signed, sealed and posted the letter herself, [not even if it was to congratulate him on his hundredth birthday] - but it represented the writ of her realm, which could operate hierarchically down to the office boy. Thus, it might even be thought blasphemous for an adult to approach the Deity about, for example, a lost fountain-pen, when perhaps the services of an elemental [or even a deceased family member] would suffice for the finding of it. Indeed, one might even hesitate to trouble St. Anthony unless, indeed, he be envisaged as in charge of a vast astral 'lost property\ department, with myrmidons at every level! No doubt, however, a case could be made out for making even the humblest and most mundane request through 'Headquarters' [or Head Office] - the Divine Gound of All.
To be continued, with Frances Banks communicating from the other side.. My comments and additions in square brackets R.R.
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