From "Spirit Teachings", Section 1:
You have spoken of adversaries. Who are they?
"The antagonistic spirits who range themselves against our mission; who strive to mar its progress by counterfeiting our influence and work, and by setting men and other spirits against us and it. These are spirits who have chosen the evil, have put aside promptings and influences of good, and have banded themselves under the leadership of intelligence still more evil to malign us and to hamper our work. Such are powerful for mischief, and their activity shows itself in evil passions, in imitating our work, and so gaining influence over the deluded, and most of all, in presenting to inquiring souls that which is mean and base, where we would tenderly lead to the noble and refined. They are the foes of God and man; enemies of goodness; ministers of evil. Against them we wage perpetual war."
It is very startling to hear of such a powerful organisation of evil. There are some, you know, who deny the existence of evil altogether, and teach that all is good though disguised.
"Alas! Alas! most sad is the abandonment of good and choice of evil. You wonder that so many evil spirits obstruct. Friend, it is even so, and it is not astonishing. As the soul lives in the earth-life, so does it go to spirit-life. Its tastes, its predilections, its habits, its antipathies, they are with it still. It is not changed save in the accident of being freed from the body. The soul that on earth has been low in taste and impure in habit does not change its nature by passing from the earth-sphere, any more than the soul that has been truthful, pure, and progressive becomes base and bad by death. Wonderful that you do not recognise this truth! You would not fancy a pure and upright soul degenerating after it has passed from your gaze. Yet you fable a purification of that which has become by habit impure and unholy, hating God and goodness, and choosing sensuality and sin. The one is no more possible than the other. The soul's character has been a daily, hourly growth. It has not been an overlaying of the soul with that which can be thrown off. Rather it has been a weaving into the nature of the spirit that which becomes part of itself, identified with its nature, inseparable from its character. It is no more possible that that character should be undone, save by the slow process of obliteration, than that the woven fabric should rudely cut and the threads remain intact. Nay more. The soul has cultivated habits that have become so engrained as to be essential parts of its individuality. The spirit that has yielded to the lusts of a sensual body becomes in the end their slave. It would not be happy in the midst of purity and refinement. It would sigh for its old haunts and habits. They are of its essence.
"So you see that the legions of the adversaries are simply the masses of unprogressed, undeveloped spirits, who have banded together from affinity against all that is pure and good. They can only progress by penitence, through the instruction of higher intelligences, and by gradual and laborious undoing of sin and sinful habit. There are many such, and they are the adversaries. The idea that there is no such thing as evil, no antagonism to good, no banded company of adversaries who resist progress and truth, and fight against dissemination of what advantages humanity, is an open device of the evil ones for your bewilderment."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 20:
"We need to explain fully on this point. You have heard of the antagonism between the adversaries and the divine work which is in process amongst you. There is a direct antagonism between them and us, between the work which is for man's development and instruction, and their efforts to retard and thwart it. It is the old battle between what you call the good and the evil--between the progressive and the retrogressive.
"Into the ranks of that opposing army gravitate spirits of all degrees of malignity, wickedness, cunning, and deceit: those who are actively spurred on by the hatred of light which an unenlightened spirit has, and those who are animated by sportiveness rather than by actual malice. It includes, in short, the undeveloped of every grade and class: spirits who are opposed, for infinitely varying reasons, to the organised attempt to lead men upward from darkness to light, with which we are associated, in company with hosts of others.
"It would appear that your inability to see the operations of these adversaries renders you unable to grasp their existence, or to appreciate the magnitude of their influence in your world. Not till your spiritual eyes are open will you really understand how great it is, and how present. To those ranks gravitate, of necessity, the earth- bound and unprogressed spirits to whom incarnation has brought no gain, and whose affections, centred on the earth, where all their treasure is, can find no scope in the pure spiritual joys of the spheres of spirit-life. Hovering over their old haunts, they live over again their wretched, polluted earth-lives, by influencing congenial spirits still in the body, and so gratifying their lusts and passions at second hand.
"The poor wreck whose lusts have survived the death of that body in which and for which alone he lived, have survived the means of direct bodily gratification, finds his resource in seizing on an impressionable medium, and goading him on to sin, so that he may get such poor enjoyment as alone remains for him. The debauched drunkard, who sank his body in disease, and soddened his spirit with the poisoned draughts of liquid fire, now haunts the dens where his pleasure used to be, and goads on the wretches whom it finds it possible to influence. He leers with spite as he drives one more soul to a lower state of misery, and gloats as he draws his own foul gratification, though it spread broadcast ruin and woe among innocent women and their babes, and foster in the midst of your centres of knowledge and refinement a sink of infamy and disgrace. These things go on all around you, and attract your notice scarce at all. Where the denunciations that should ring from end to end of your world while such plague-spots linger--nay, flourish and abound amongst you? Why is no voice uplifted? Why? but that the dark influence of those baleful spirits avails to blind your eyes and to paralyse the voice of truth within you. Not in the gin-den alone, but far round it as from a centre, the malign influence radiates, and the vice perpetuates itself. The sot, dead--as you falsely think--is a sot in spirit still, and his influence perpetuates his vice among congenial spirits yet on earth.
"The murderer, again, whom your blindness has cut off from the trammels of the body, and let loose in fury on your earth, is not idle. With all his envenomed passions stirred within him, mad with wrath and sense of wrong--for his sin is frequently the result of your civilisation, and he is what you have made him--he goes forth to wreak his vengeance on those who have wronged him. He incites to rage and destruction of life. He is the prolific inciter of crime, and perpetuates the circumstances of which he was the victim. When will you learn that crimes for which you daily, hourly, visit rude vengeance are but the necessary product of those mixed conditions of life which obtain in your crowded centres of life? Why lop off an ugly branch here and there when the root is rotten? Why punish the wretch because he is what you made him? Nay, if you be but selfish, why let loose on you a wrathful avenger to your own hurt? Ah! friend, you must pass through many cycles of progress before you learn that your criminal code is founded on fallacy, and works to mischief and perpetuation of the abuses it is intended to prevent.
"These and such as these, coming from your world such as you have made them, are, of necessity, enemies of progress, purity, and peace; adversaries of ours, and leaders in the attack on the work in which we share. What else can they be? Can that spirit whose earth-life has been one long scene of debauchery and degradation become of a sudden pure and good? Can the sensualist be changed into one who lives for purity, or the degraded animal into a progressive and aspiring spirit? You know it cannot be. They are, in company with hosts of others, the foes of man and spirit so far as their desire is to thwart progress and keep down truth. Count on them as a perpetual source of antagonism, and if you cannot realise to the full their influence for evil, do not ignore their power, or invite their attacks by exposing yourself to them.
"We will leave no word of warning unuttered, for the danger is all the more real that it is so secret and so far-reaching. To their efforts operating on congenial spirits in your world you must refer much of crime and misery that exists among you: war with its attendant horrors which yet disgrace and defile your world, and blots your boasted civilisation and refinement. To them attribute the fostering of the crimes that befoul your great cities, that spread a mantle of corruption over them, and make them homes of iniquity and dwelling- places of shame....
"These are some of the adversaries of whom we have told you aforetime. They are massed in force, ever ready to thwart, and vex, and injure us. Their ranks are being perpetually swelled by spirits debased and degraded by human ignorance....."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 1:
Have they a Chief--a Devil?
"Chiefs many who govern; but not such a Devil as theologians have feigned. Spirits, good and bad alike, are subject to the rule of commanding Intelligences."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 12:
"Cease to be perplexed by thoughts of an imagined Devil. For the honest, pure and truthful soul there is no Devil or Prince of Evil such as theology has feigned.
"Evil comes not nigh him; the adversaries flee from his presence, and the powers of evil are powerless before him. He is guarded around by angel guards, ministered to by bright spirits, who watch over him and direct his footsteps. For him there waits a career of progressive increase in knowledge, and in all that elevates and ennobles the intelligence. He need fear no Devil, unless he creates one for himself. His affinity for good draws around him influences for good. He is fenced around by guardians; nor can he, save by voluntary surrender, fall a final victim to the foe. His is no exemption from temptation, from the snares of the destroyer, or from the atmosphere which during his probation time he must breathe. The clouds of sorrow and anguish of soul may gather round him, and his spirit may be saddened with the burden of sin--weighed down with consciousness of surrounding misery and guilt, but no fabled Devil can gain dominion over him, or prevail to drag down his soul to hell. All the sadness of spirit, the acquaintance with grief, the intermingling with guilt, is part of the experience, in virtue of which his soul shall rise hereafter. The guardians are training and fitting it by those means to progress, and jealously protect it from the dominion of the foe."
From "More Spirit Teachings", Part 3:
On the devil theory, S. M. writes:
"Theology framed for itself long ago a devil which has been a convenient lay-figure ever since. I do not see why such a devil as Calvanists, Puritans, and narrow school of Evangelicals believe in should not account, on the most comprehensive principles, for the whole mystery of evil. He is practically an omnipotent god of evil, powerful for evil as the Supreme for good, restrained by no laws, trammelled by no compunction from within . . . a merciless, sleepless, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god of evil. No power can exclude him from man's most secret life, for he is lord of all man's passions. No power can fetter him until a mysterious, far-off day, when he is at last to be disposed of for ever.
"Our heart sickens at the notion that this personage is loose in the world, malignantly trying to delude confiding folks. If this be so, then we are indeed accursed. But we take heart of grace, and boldly strip the mask from this gruesome fiend. He has been a steady growth. Oriental love of imagery and personification crystallised him first into shape. He was furbished up, dressed and rendered hideous, by the morbid fancies of mediaeval monks, whose minds, from a long, unnatural course of fasting and maceration and loneliness, had become warped. The creation was then taken in hand by such poets as Dante and Milton, further embellishments and adorned by poetic fancy, until he has come forth the convenient fetish of popular theology such as we hear of now in the full-flavoured fire and brimstone theology of the Calvinist.
"When the theory is taken to pieces and examined it simply evaporates, and the Devil merges into one of the undeveloped spirits who abound, both in and out of the flesh. And this is probably the truth. In the world to come, as in this, the evil and good are mingled; change of condition works no magic change of nature. 'He that is holy is holy still, and he that is filthy is filthy still.' Evil men become in their turn evil spirits, and act accordingly.
"Far be it from me to deny that undeveloped spirits may
and do cause vast mischief, both in the flesh and out of it. But we are now
fighting against the notion of an arch-fiend of evil, such as mediaevalism has
pictured and modern Christianity has adopted. While there are devils many in
the sense of undeveloped spirits in the body and out of it, there is no such
arch-devil as theology has evolved for itself."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 12:
"It is only they who, by fondness for evil, by a lack of spiritual and excess of corporeal development, attract to themselves the congenial spirits of the undeveloped who have left the body, but have not forgotten its desires. These alone risk incursion of evil. These by proclivity attract evil, and it dwells with them at their invitation. They attract the lower spirits who hover nearest earth, and who are but too ready to rush in and mar our plans, and ruin our work for souls. These are they of whom you speak when you say in haste, that the result of Spiritualism is not for good. You err, friend. Blame not us that the lower spirits manifest for those who bid them welcome. Blame man's insensate folly, which will choose the low and grovelling rather than the pure and elevated. Blame his foolish laws, which daily hurry into a life for which they are unprepared, thousands of spirits, hampered and dragged down by a life of folly and sin, which has been fostered by custom and fashion. Blame the ginshops, and the madhouses, and the prisons, and the encouraged lusts and fiendish selfishness of man. This is it which damns legions of spirits--not, as ye fancy, in a sea of material fire, but in the flames of perpetuated lust, condemned to burn itself out in hopeless longing till the purged soul rises through the fire and surmounts its dead passions. Yes, blame these and kindred causes, if there be around undeveloped intelligences who shock you by their deception, and annoy you by frivolity and falsehood."
From "More Spirit Teachings", Part 2:
"To the purest may come assault from the adversaries, which their guardians will enable them to repel. Saving this, the law is absolutely without exception. Like attracts like."
"Does it not always do so?"
"Usually, but not invariably. Evil attracts evil. A curious, vain, frivolous
or bad man will draw round him frivolous or undeveloped spirits; but it is at
times not true equally of the pure and good. They may be subject to attack from
the undeveloped, either as part of their training, or from the machinations
of the adversaries."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 3:
".... To spirit-eye there is no more fearful sight than those dens of wickedness and impurity where the evil men gather to steep their senses in oblivion, to excite the lustful and sensual passions of their debased bodies, to consort with the degraded and the impure, and to offer themselves the ready prey of the basest and worst spirits who hover around and find their gratification in living over again their bodily lives. These are dens of basest, most hideous degradation; a blot of your civilisation, a disgrace to your intelligence."
What do you mean by living over again their base lives?
"These earth-bound spirits retain much of their earthly passion and propensity. The cravings of the body are not extinct, though the power to gratify them is withdrawn. The drunkard retains his old thirst, but exaggerated; aggravated by the impossibility of slacking it. It burns within him, the unquenched desire, and urges him to frequent the haunts of his old vices, and to drive wretches like himself to further degradation. In them he lives again his old life, and drinks in satisfaction, grim and devilish, from the excesses, which he causes them to commit. And so his vice perpetuates itself, and swells the crop of sin and sorrow. The besotted wretch, goaded on by agencies he cannot see, sinks deeper and deeper into the mire. His innocent wife and babe starve and weep in silent agony, and near them hovers, and over them broods, the guardian angel who has no power to reach the sodden wretch who mars their lives and breaks their hearts.
"This we shadow forth to you when we tell you that the earthbound spirit lives again its life of excess of those whom it is enabled to drive to ruin. The remedy is slow, for such vices perpetuate themselves. It can only be found in the moral and material elevation of the race; in the gradual growth of purer and truer knowledge; in advanced education, in its widest and truest sense."
This would prevent obsession such as you picture?
"Yes, in the end; and nothing else will, so long as you keep up the supply at the rate you now do."
From "Spirit Teachings", Part 29:
[March 15, 1874.--We had received many warnings as to the danger of deception by personating spirits, and the warning had gained force by a particular case occurring in our experience, though outside of our circle, in which such an attempt had been made. Many very striking messages were given on the subject, of which the only one sufficiently public in interest is the following:--]
"We have been particular in our statements, because we are anxious to reiterate the warnings we have frequently given, as to the danger of attack by deceptive and personating spirits, whom you know as The Undeveloped. Of late, too, we have told you that trouble and perplexity were at hand through this cause, and we gave you special warning lest you should fall prey to their attacks. We have ascertained that the spirit who falsely pretended to be working with us is a personating spirit, whose aim is to injure and retard our work....
"As objective spiritual manifestations become more and more frequent, and as the inconsiderate craving for them increases, so will it come to pass that powerful instruments will be developed through whom our adversaries may be enabled to produce their frivolous or tricky manifestations, so as to discredit the true spiritual work. This is one of the special forms of opposition, and the most dangerous: for in proportion to the undeveloped character of the spirit will be its power over gross matter, its cunning, and, in some cases, its malignity. Powerful agencies are even now at work, as we are assured, who will seize every opportunity of developing mediums through whom phenomena the most startling may be produced, so as to convince the inquirers of supernatural power so called. This done, the rest is easy. By degrees trick and fraud are allowed to creep in, the moral teachings are allowed to appear in their true light, doubt is insinuated, and the uncertainty and suspicion which have become the fixed attitude of the mind regarding phenomena which at first seemed so surely spiritual, gradually extend to all manifestations and teachings.
"No more sure means of discrediting the teaching of those who are sent to instruct, and not merely to astonish or amuse, was ever devised by cunning. For men say: We have tried, we have tested for ourselves, and we have found it out. Either it is connected with fraud, or it teaches base and immoral doctrines, or is full of falsehood; in short, it is diabolical. It is no use to appeal to such, and tell them that they must discern between the true and the false, for their shaken faith will not allow of this. They have proved what they trusted to be false, and the whole edifice of their belief lies in ruins around them. The foundation is not secure, and will not support the building.
"We say again that no more diabolical device for paralysing our work was ever planned. We solemnly warn you of it. See to it that you act upon our warning...."
(Here follows a warning not to encourage the manifestation of "violent physical power" at seances. To read it, and other similar warnings, see "On Phenomena" in "On Mediumship".)
[I remarked that I had no doubt that all that was said was true, and I added that I had difficulty in understanding why some law and order did not obtain on the spiritual side, so as to curb those unruly spirits. They seemed to do what they pleased, and to be under no governance. Also I expressed my wonder at their false statements. I could not see why a spirit should take pleasure in personation.]
"You err in supposing there is no law and order with us. It is that the neglect of conditions on your part frustrates orderly effort. You must learn to fence your circles round with proper conditions, and then you will eliminate half the trickery and contradiction. The time will not come when all that you call evil will be wiped out; for this is a matter of spiritual training, and we have no power to save you from the process, which is for your progressive development. It is necessary that you pass through it. You have much to learn, and this practical experience is one of the ways of learning.
"As to personation you will learn more hereafter. For the present, we tell you that there are spirits who delight in such personation, and who have the power, under certain conditions, of carrying out elaborate deception. Such take names which they see to be desired, and would reply equally to any name given them. They may usually be excluded by careful attention to conditions, and by the efforts of a strong guardian who is able to protect the circle. Those who sit frequently and in open circles, where no care is taken of the spiritual conditions, and who have no powerful spirit friends to protect them, are in danger of incursion from these. In most circles, as far as we know, every facility is given for the intervention of tricky spirits. The phenomena are sought after in a spirit of mere curiosity. Personal friends are greedily summoned, and no pains taken to ascertain whether the spirit answering be indeed a friend or a deceiver. Foolish queries are addressed, and foolish replies eagerly swallowed. What wonder that such are the sport of the undeveloped!
How is one to know that this personation does not extend to all? And that what in Spiritualism appears good and coherent, will not in the end prove to be only a clever trick? If such powers are behind, who is safe?
"We can but give you the answer you have had before. We have proved to you our good faith, our truth, our external individuality. We have given you proof upon proof. We have shown our moral consciousness by consistent truthfulness in all things--by the presence of a tone in our teachings to you, which you must estimate for yourself. When complete they shall stand forth to all as pure and good. Even now you admit them to be elevated and good in tendency. Your knowledge of us, of our work, and of our aims must lead you to judgment such as you would frame of a fellow-man under similar circumstances."
Yes. This personating spirit, by speaking of whom I commenced, would upset one's faith very soon, if it had got access.
"It might have been so; we cannot tell how far we could have counteracted the effort; but we do not wish to run the risk. For contradictory statements would surely have been made, personation carried on, and in the end the scanty faith you have would have sustained a rude shock. This is a real danger to you; for the introduction of false and contradictory statements would do more to foster a suspicious feeling in your mind than anything. In the end it would undermine us and drive us away."
Really the subject seems to be a most dangerous one to meddle with.
"The abuse of everything is bad; the use, good and commendable. To those who in frivolous frame of mind place themselves in communion with the spheres; to those who force themselves from low motives in that which is to them only a curious thing; to the vain in their own conceit, the triflers, the untruthful, the worldly, the sensual, the base, the flippant, there is doubtless danger. We never advise any of unbalanced mind to meddle with the mysteries of mediumship. It is direful risk to them. Those only who are protected and guarded round, who act from no inner motive, but in obedience to the impulse of the guardians, who are wise and powerful to protect, should meddle, and they carefully and with earnest prayer. We deprecate always any unlicensed meddling. Nor can any safely mingle with the spirit-world, and so introduce one more disturbing element into his earth-life, except he be of even mind and steady temper. Any unhinged mind, spasmodic temperament, fitful, purposeless character, becomes the prey of the undeveloped. Doubtless it is perilous for such to meddle, more especially if their interest be only in the marvellous, to gratify an idle curiosity, or to solace their own vanity. The higher messages of the Supreme are not audible to such. Would that they who can hear them would forsake the trifling of the lower spirits, and, leaving the inferior planes, press on to the purer atmosphere of the higher spheres of knowledge."
But all this is caviare to the world. They think far more of a good thump on the head, or of a floating chair, than of all your information, which, by-the-by, is hard enough to get.
"True, we know it only too well. The present phase of our work is one that must be passed through. The physical accompanies, but is no real part of our work. It must, as we say, precede the real development for which we wait. It will go on all around you with increasing development; and while we warn you against the dangers which accompany it, we do not disguise the necessity for it in the present material state of your knowledge. While we deplore, we acknowledge the necessity. We have more to add to what has been said, but not now. For the present, cease."
From "Spirit Teachings", Section 29:
"We have told you of the operations of the adversaries, and of the danger to be apprehended from them. But other there are who, without being malignant foes, are nevertheless a cause of trouble to us. Many of those who are withdrawn from earth are not, as you know, very progressive, nor, on the contrary, very undeveloped. The majority of those who pass from the body are neither very evil nor very good in spirit. Such, indeed, as are so far progressive as to gravitate rapidly through the spheres nearest the earth, do not return unless called to a special mission. The earth-bound we have already told you of.
"It remains to speak of the agency of a class of spirits who, from mischievous design, or from pure sportive fun, or from love of mystification, frequent circles, counterfeit manifestations, assume names, and give erroneous or misleading information. Such are not evil, but unbalanced spirits who lack even balance, and who delight in plaguing mediums and circles: in giving exaggerated tone to communications, in introducing false elements, or in personating friends, and reading in the thought the answer which they give to a query. The work of such is that which causes you to say that spiritual manifestations are frequently foolish or silly. This is due to the efforts of these spirits, who, from fun or mischief, counterfeit our work, and play on the feelings of those who trust them. These are they who personate relatives whose presence is desired, and answer to their names. These are they who make true identification of friends in mixed circles impossible. Most of the stories current of such return of friends are due to the work of these spirits. These are they who infuse the comic or foolish element into communications. They have no true moral consciousness, and will pray readily, if asked, or will do anything for frolic or mischief. They have no aspiration beyond the present: no desire to injure, but only to amuse themselves.
"These are they who allure to wrong paths, and suggest wrong desires and thoughts. They secretly influence mediums much, and prevent noble aspirations. They view with impatience noble and elevated aims, and suggest the material. They act as bars and clogs. They are greatly concerned with physical manifestations. They are usually shrewd and clever at such work, and they delight in presenting bewildering phenomena for the purpose of disturbing the mind. They victimise mediums in divers ways, and find a pleasure in the bewilderment of mind which they cause. Obsession and possession, and the various forms of spiritual annoyance, proceed very frequently from such. They are able to psychologise a mind over which they have gained influence....These, again, are spirits who befool inquirers who have asked for personal information. They return plausible answers, and bewilder the deluded inquirers, or if a personal friend have once appeared, and given a good test, his or her place on the next occasion may be filled by one of these spirits, who takes the name and replies to queries, giving vague and unsatisfactory replies, or telling false stories. It is always well to put the personal element as far from you as possible, lest you open the way to deceit."
These spirit- teachings are claimed to have been either written
or spoken through the English medium, Rev. Stainton Moses (1839-1892), by a
band of 49 spirits led by their chief, "Imperator".