Helen Alex Dallas

Spiritualist and Honorary Associate of the Society for Psychical Research. Wrote "Objections to Spiritualism Answered" (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1909), "Death, the Gate of Life? A Discussion of Certain Communications Purporting to Come from Frederic W. H. Myers", "Human Survival and its Implications" (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1940), "Comrades on the Homeward Way" (London: W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., n.d.) "The Victory that Overcometh," "Mors Janua Vitae," and "Across the Barrier".

Is Spiritualism Dangerous?

 - H. A. Dallas -

          THIS IS one of the questions which confront many persons at the outset of their inquiries into this subject. “Is it not dangerous," they ask, “both physically and morally, to investigate Spiritualism experimentally?"

Certainly there are some dangers attendant on this investigation; all great developments have their accompanying risks. The development of psychic powers involves the exercise of new and untried faculties; and the evolution of new faculties, in the race or in the individual, is generally accompanied by a condition of nervous instability. Fresh developments are exciting and unsettling, and the individual, partly on account of inexperience and partly owing to the instability which accompanies growth, is liable to be controlled by, instead of controlling, these unknown forces. It is so in physical development, and it is also the case in psychical unfoldment. The consciousness of power to exercise faculties, and ignorance as to their true ends or how to use them wisely, is always a dangerous condition, and one liable to prove injurious. But if the danger signal is used too freely the result may be to paralyse action; and this also is injurious. Frequently persons do not scruple to produce spiritual timidity, although they would readily recognise that to stimulate physical timidity would be unworthy of their manhood. In physical matters we brand as cowardice the caution which would withhold a man from taking advantage of opportunities to gain fresh knowledge, or to explore new territory, and yet it is not always recognised that to act in a similar way with regard to things spiritual may be equally unworthy.

If Spiritualism involves an exercise of powers inherent in the race, if it offers opportunity for development, of it opens a door for exploration into new realms of existence, to relinquish these prospects from fear of the possible risks involved betrays unworthy timidity. That there are dangers I do not wish to deny; and it is not everyone who is justified in encountering these dangers, or is fitted to do so. Everyone is not called to open up fresh territory as an, explorer, either in physical regions or psychical. I am not maintaining that psychic investigations should be pursued by all, regardless of their physical, and mental, and moral qualifications - very far from it, but I wish to emphasise the fact that every fresh development serviceable to man has been accompanied by dangers peculiarly its own; so that special risks have to be met in connection with fresh experiences; and they should be met courageously.

The crisis of birth is dangerous; falling in love is dangerous; the experiences of motherhood are dangerous; and of the partaking of sacraments it is written in the Book of Common Prayer that "the danger is great, if we receive the same unworthily." To secure ourselves against possibility of incurring danger would mean to stunt growth. If we are instigated by right motives to undertake this investigation, our duty is to put aside fear; and, whilst recognising fully the possible risks, to meet them with discretion, and, above all, with that serious sense of the greatness of life, with that high purpose and prayerful spirit which will enable us to pass unscathed through danger or temptation.

Anyone who from physical or moral infirmity is unable to grip himself, whose mental balance is not sound, is not in a fit condition to undertake his own psychical development. An investigator in this region requires a large fund of healthy common-sense; and must be able to exercise full self-control and a sound judgment: otherwise he may damage, not himself only, but the cause which his investigations should promote. A normally healthy person who has a firm will and is self-controlled will, on the other hand, be likely to derive benefit himself, as well as to do good service in this work.

For work it is. Let no one suppose that his psychic gifts are bestowed mainly for his own pleasure. Their main end and object is not even to administer consolation to the bereaved - although that is one purpose that they may serve; the revelation of man's inherent capacities and the opening up of intercourse with another sphere of existence are destined to serve a larger purpose than this. In theological language that purpose would be called the "Glory of God," a term often little understood, but one which includes the development of the human race to the full measure of the divine capacities with which it has been begotten of God. That man may know all that he is destined to know, may reach up to the height of his perfect stature, and thus by the exercise of every latent faculty may gradually become in full realisation all that he is capable of being - this, and nothing less than this, is the purpose for which every individual of the race holds in, trust his various powers. To keep this purpose in view would be to obviate many "dangers."

The objection that "it is dangerous" might with plausibility have been brought as an argument against the admission of the Gentiles into participation in the fellowship of Jewish Christians. It is difficult for us now to do justice to the force of the reasoning which must have weighed with the Jewish Christians who were opposed to St. Paul's doctrine of liberty. When we remember that some of these new converts were citizens of Corinth, a city of such bad repute that "to Corinthianise" became a term denoting evil living; and when we note how the sins of the heathen were liable to reappear in the Christian community, we can hardly be surprised if some of the Jews, who had lived strictly according to the Mosaic law, regarded as "dangerous" this free admittance of Gentiles to intercourse and religious fellowship with those who had passed into the Christian Church through the severer moral training of Judaism. "Would not this intercourse prove dangerous to the young?" some Jewish parent may have anxiously asked, "Would not the Christian Church lose in purity and elevation of tone even if it gained in breadth and in numbers?" It must have seemed very doubtful wisdom to thus break down the barriers, and they might well have exclaimed; "Let the Gentiles become followers of Christ, but let them submit also to the discipline of the Mosaic law, which proved so good a schoolmaster to the Jew."

It was, perhaps, under the influence of some such reasoning as this that St. Peter separated himself from intimate fellowship with the Gentiles, when "certain Jews" came to Antioch from St. James. But St. Paul "withstood him to the face," and we are now reaping the benefit of the battle he so bravely fought for Christian liberty.

The dangers which this enlargement of intercourse would involve had to be encountered, for the barriers between Jew and Gentile were broken down by God, and St. Paul saw this clearly, and knew that any attempt to raise them would be a futile resistance to the evolving purpose of the Eternal. The position has its parallel for those who believe that intercourse between the inhabitants of the Seen and the Unseen spheres between the inhabitants of the Seen and the Unseen spheres of life is now becoming more widely possible; these dare not resist the evolutionary purpose of God through any fear of consequences.

Enlargement of the sphere of intercourse necessarily involves moral risks. It was the recognition of this which drove the hermits into the deserts: they sought to avoid both the responsibilities and risks of possible contamination which must be met in the society of their fellow-men. The attraction of the monastic life has lain largely in the protection that it has afforded against the manifold temptations involved in extended intercourse. The child leaving home for school life; the man entering on a professional career; the traveller and the colonist, all have to face risks, physical and moral, consequent on widening their range of intercourse, and when a man begins to use his psychic faculties, and to push his intercourse with his fellow beings across the border into the Unseen, it does not necessarily follow that he will be ennobled thereby. He enlarges his sphere of fellowship, and in doing so he increases his possibilities for good or for evil. The wider experience may prove to be a source of enrichment mentally and morally, or it may prove to be the reverse; for in that unseen region there exist spirits in all stages of development, as there do here. It is possible to get into communication with the elevated, the refined, the pure, and it is possible also to open up communication with the commonplace, the ignorant, and the immoral.

But as, in this world, a pure and loving soul may mix with the impure and the frivolous, and, without personal contamination, become to them a salutary influence, so anyone who seeks to communicate across the border, whilst he desires the highest, should not on that account refuse sympathy to some unhappy soul who may desire to speak with him. To parley with such as these from curiosity may be very dangerous, but if we wish to influence them for good and help them up to higher life, we need not be alarmed if some unhappy soul comes into communication with us. It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not every upright person that is fitted to do rescue work. Intercourse with those who are obviously on a low level should be very warily engaged in, and only by taking prayerful counsel with the Spiritual Guide who speaks within the soul to each individuality: "This is the way walk ye in it." Two principles should rule our intercourse, love and strength. Without love, and without strength also, the soul is never safe in any society, whether that society be incarnate or discarnate.

If the effect of Spiritualism is not to level up, it will level down. It is "set for the fall and rising of many." It may raise, it has raised, but if it is not used as a stepping-stone by which to rise to a higher level, it will prove a “stone of stumbling."

If a man or woman who exercises a lowering influence, and who is foolish and frivolous in social relations, attempts to open up intercourse with the spirit world, what result can be expected? Those who are likely to respond will be those who are in the same moral condition. This extension of intercourse can hardly be otherwise than worthless, and it may be positively degrading.

Sometimes a salutary warning from Beyond will be given, and wholesome truth will be spoken even under these circumstances, but it is not likely to be heeded by the recipient.

Those, however, who, with serious purpose, enter into communication with discarnate spirits, may find that all intercourse gains a deeper significance for them, since it may help them to realise that all intercourse is spirit intercourse; that the men and women we meet at entertainments or in business are as truly spirits now as those who have passed through death; that if it is a serious thing to talk with, and be influenced by, and to influence, the "Dead," it is not less serious a matter to be influenced by, and to exert this influence upon, those still in the flesh. "We are spirits clad in veils." Life is an earnest thing now: for now is in eternity. It does not require any artificial sanctity to make spirit intercourse a great and a noble responsibility. Christ came to reveal the sacredness of what we call common life; Spiritualism enforces this truth, teaching us that nothing is of itself "common or unclean," that "every bush is afire with God"; that if we would be worthy of the great gift of life, here or hereafter, we must ourselves cease to be commonplace. Blindness to reality, and a low estimate of the relations of life, this it is that causes spirit intercourse to be dangerous, whether that intercourse extend into the Unseen or is limited to the Seen.

Source: Objections to Spiritualism Answered (London: London Spiritualist Alliance, 1909).


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