Yesterday I mentioned my astral wife, Abby's, contribution to my study. Today, I'd like to show you something she wrote. This piece is signed "P.," and was published posthumously by Mathew in 1842, the year after her death, presumably as a tribute, along with two other pieces around the same time. A heavily (but pointlessly) edited version is included in the memoirs of a young minister with the last name of Prince, but I think he is very unlikely as the original author. Mathew, and/or Mathew and Abby collaborating, together, several times used either a single "P.," or a double "P.P." Abby's maiden name was Poyen. Her work has shown up under "A.P.," "P.," and "A.R.P." (for Abby Rochemont Poyen). Meanwhile, the two other "P."-signed pieces close in date to this one, are extremely unlikely for a young minister-in-training, as he would have been when he wrote this. One is a story of revenge, which has a brother (seemingly, a lover) avenging his sister's murder, with his mother's approval. Mathew and Abby could certainly have written that story, together (Mathew, himself, wrote several on this theme)--but I can't imagine a student of divinity publishing it during his time in college, under his own last initial.* The third story is typical of Mathew's humorous sketch style, with elements which also reflect Abby's known stories, written as "A.P." So I am pretty confident in this attribution.
I had to fight some 15 false attributions where Mathew and Abby's work was concerned. It may have been the East Coast, but apparently it was the "Wild West" in the field of literature. Leave a particularly nice horse unattended when you went in, and it would be gone when you came out.
This piece is entitled, simply, "Scepticism." I have a thousand competing thoughts by way of introduction. There are, I would say, two ways of being--discernment, and faith. But as everything which the reverse-Midas-touch of Society's hand touches, subsequently withers, discernment has become cynicism; while faith has degenerated into belief in religious doctrines. These things swing, over the centuries, pendulum-fashion. As one is received afresh, from the higher mental spheres, it rejuvenates Society's outlook, and the other side of the dichotomy is abandoned and rejected. So, faith had degenerated into belief in doctrine, and skepticism, or "I won't believe until I see it for myself," blossomed. Superstition was eliminated--but then, skepticism itself began to degenerate into rootless cynicism.
The first thing to do is to separate faith entirely from doctrine. Faith is far deeper than that. The scientist must have faith in himself, that he knows his craft; he must have faith in his theories, that they have a reasonable hope of being correct; he must have faith enough to convince funding agencies to give him grants; and he must have faith in his methods.
I once worked for a prominent polymer scientist, as his secretary, to help pay my way through school. His camp believed that at the molecular level, polymers were pliable because the molecules were ordered, alternately, in structured and amorphous zones. The opposing camp believed that polymers were pliable because the molecules were structured in folded chains. This was back in the early 1980's. I saw a reference, briefly, which suggests that the opposing camp finally won out. But all this grant money, and all these papers, and all this equipment, and all these graduate students and post-doctoral students, and even myself as the secretary, were there because of faith.
If the higher manifests or reflects the lower; if "As above, so below," be true; then, faith is baby sight. Because in order to see deeply into reality; in order to see the higher spheres, of which our physical world is a reflection; one must develop a faculty of direct Gnosis. It begins as belief, deepens into faith, deepens further into intuition, and then becomes direct perception which is supra-intellectual. This is mysticism proper. Discernment, on the other hand, separates out the falsehood, being the negative method. This is nonsense, this is nonsense, that is nonsense, and after separating out the dross, we are left with the truth. Then, intuition can begin functioning, intellect can be transcended as the stepping-stone it always was, and you arrive at the same Gnosis.
Mathew practiced discernment; Abby practiced faith, which for her, presumably because of practice in her past lives, had already ripened, to some extent, into direct intuitive perception. Mathew's discernment was colored with cynicism when she first began tutoring him. She was 14, and he was 18. His mind was so strong, that she began questioning herself under the blast of his ridicule; but she eventually brought him around. This early period has him ridiculing phrenology, homeopathic medicine, astrology, dream interpretation, the idea that after death people fly to the planets and stars, Pythagoras' interpretation of transmigration, and other flaky ideas which were most vulnerable to his pen. Abby was shaken, being only 14; but the year after her death, at roughly the same time these "P."-signed pieces were being published (and in the same paper, the Portland "Transcript"), Mathew was writing a lengthy defense of Swedenborgianism, being evidently a member of that church. So Abby brought him around in many respects, and greatly strengthened his faith. (She also brought him around from advocating Colonization of American blacks, to immediate Abolition.)
Whatever one may say about skepticism, meaning, discernment, Abby says that cynicism (which she here calls, "scepticism"), results from a diseased condition of the heart, where the heart is taken as the deepest aspect of the mind.** If one's heart is not clogged, one can see the state of the collective heart simply by turning on the television and flipping through the commercial channels. Even PBS is now infected. This condition is getting worse, and worse, and worse. TV is nothing like it was when I was growing up--and not all the changes are positive or enlightening.
Purity of heart is dismissed as judgmentalism. But judgmentalism, itself, is a distorted, watered-down take on the ideal of purity. Nevermind religion, nevermind the ego hiding behind the judgmental prude pretending to express the righteous indignation of a prophet (his version is a gratuitous knock-off)--purity of heart has a value in its own right. And we have lost sight of that ideal. Note this principle--no sooner does something become watered down by Society, becoming a mockery of itself, than it can be conveniently dismissed. This is the principle of "straw man," where you seemingly defeat your opponent's point by first misrepresenting it, and then easily knocking down that misrepresentation.
I am not saying that I agree with Abby 100%, today (and keep in mind that she died at age 24, so her thinking undoubtedly would have matured beyond this point, had she lived). That the Bible is not one homogeneous work of uniformly equal value and trustworthiness, is not addressed by her (though she might have agreed, privately); nor is the validity of other paths and sources of wisdom brought in (something I know she embraced), other than by way of example with the Greek and Roman gods. But she has exceptionally keen insight into precisely those points where we have gone astray. Again, where she speaks of scepticism, she means cynicism; and where she speaks of faith, she means it in the deeper sense, of intuitive knowing, not simply the belief or rejection of fossilized doctrines. Faith is knowing before you can see. We couldn't get through a single day without it, even in the mundane sense. But it is necessary if we would find our way in life; and it is absolutely indispensible, if we would find out the truth. Society, today, has become like a pile of branches severed from the tree of Truth--the source of all relative truths--withering and confused.
Abby is also correct that for the ignorant masses, the fear of (i.e., respect for) a Higher Power and higher laws is absolutely necessary to keep them in line. Abby understood reincarnation before Mathew (myself) accepted it;*** she knew that if people truly accepted that there was 100% accountability in life, they would act quite differently. In my opinion, it was precisely the removal of reincarnation from public understanding, replacing it with the theological bastard child of eternal heaven vs. eternal hell, which has caused people to throw off the entire yoke. The mistaken doctrine of eternal hell was so toxic, that Western society finally threw the baby out with the bathwater and declared itself free from ignorant superstition. Abby would have known this all too well, privately--but one dared not speak openly of such things at that time.
Here, Abby is telling us what we have lost. She was speaking in the late 1830's when this trend was just beginning, and she was warning Society of what was to come.
S C E P T I C I S M .
Truth gains access to the mind in various ways and different forms; but it always presents itself as being the reality of things. It is that conviction which takes hold upon the mind that things are really what they appear to be. The sources of this conviction are the senses, intuition, consciousness, reason, and testimony. These are the constitutional grounds of all certainty and reality. Aside from them there is no possibility of knowledge. The state of mind attendant upon the exercise of the senses and the various faculties of the mind, is belief. Belief, though always the same in nature, may vary according to the amount of evidence offered, from slight presumption to absolute or moral certainty. In some minds these grounds of belief do not afford conviction--the evidence does not satisfy them. Hence doubts arise--doubts as to the reality of matter, the existence of mind and a Supreme Being--doubts in relation to the authenticity of the Bible and the great truths of Religion.--Such minds breathe an atmosphere of Scepticism. They violate the primary laws of our nature. They break away from the great balancing principles of truth--and their thoughts, under the influence of passion, are driven about, like dust in the whirlwind, until reason is bereft of its power and lies prostrate. Upon such minds argument is lost--evidence vain--truth, though written with sun-beams, thick darkness.
Scepticism does not usually come from the Intellect--it does not originate in the Understanding; it emanates from the Heart--from depraved affections and vicious habits. It is the mist and vapor, that rise up from the stagnant region of the disordered affections, and gather in thick clouds and settle down upon the Understanding. And it pervades not only the low vale of inferior minds, but shrouds with impenetrable darkness the loftiest summits of Intellect.
Under the forms of Heresy, Infidelity, and Atheism, Scepticism assumes a different aspect. It takes away the fear of God--cuts off accountability, and shuts out eternity from the soul--puts out the hopes of immortality--consigns man to the grave of oblivion and locks up his existence in a perpetual and eternal sleep. It unspiritualizes the soul, and lets down upon it a deluge of materialism. It sweeps away every vestige of civil government, permitting men to run reckless and without law. It extinguishes the light that beams from the Bible--dries up the fountain of the social affections, and pollutes with its poison the cup of domestic bliss.--It completely unsystematizes the whole course of things, and introduces confusion and universal chaos.
In its application to civil government the effects of Scepticism are more clearly seen. The fear of a Supreme Being lies at the very foundation of every successful form of human government. It is the corner stone in the temple of Liberty--one of the pillars upon which it rests. Strike out from the minds of men the belief in the existence of this Overruling Power, and there is no possibility of sustaining civil authority. No republican form of government can exist for a day, where this belief has been blotted out. The history of ancient republics affords clear evidence of this truth. The founders and rulers of Greece and Rome, in order to the establishment and permanency of their civil institutions, found it necessary to introduce a system of religious belief. And whether they believed in this system themselves or not they understood its importance. They knew what were the elements of the human mind, that it was impossible to restrain the lawlessness and perverseness of men without an appeal to a higher than human power and human punishment. They knew that the fear of the gods was necessary to strengthen the sinews--to temper and harden the iron-hand of civil law, before it could be stretched forth and laid upon the turbulent passions and boiling wrath of man.--And it was under the influence of this belief that Greece and Rome were able to raise themselves to a proud eminence above the level of the surrounding nations--to plant the Academic groves--to build their temples--erect their altars--and burn their incense to liberty. Nor did their glory depart and their splendor become extinguished, until the philosophy of Epicurus began to diffuse itself through the public mind. It was not till Epicurian Atheism had sapped the foundation of virtue and morality, that they experienced a political earthquake, that sunk them in a grave of despotism.
And in a modern nation of theorists where "Vice prevailed, and impious men bore sway," the effects of scepticism have been more clearly exhibited. That great nation of sceptics, in their solemn assembly, deliberately voted God out of the world and out of existence. And when they sent forth the proclamation that there was no God, and that death was an eternal sleep, the tocsin of Infidelity rang with loud peals of joy through the whole realm of France; and the people shouted with exultation, as they hailed the ushering in of an Atheistical jubilee. But the relieving of human conduct from the inspection of an Omniscient eye was attended with fearful results. The effects were terrific. It was like the uncapping of the volcano--the waking up of its silent thunders--the kindling to a flame its smothered embers--and letting a broad and fiery sheet of desolation roll up and settle down upon the lava.
But scepticism not only removes the fear of a Supreme Being, but it seeks openly and avowedly for the destruction of human government. It doubts the validity of civil authority, calling it usurpation and tyranny, taking off the restraints that civil law throws around men, obliterating the distinction between right and wrong, and giving free and unbounded scope to the desires and passions. It would destroy the system of private property--annihilate that great principle of attraction, which binds together the family circle and human society. It would herd men together, and send them forth, day by day, into one common field, to feed on the dried husks and withered shrubbery of Nature. It would quench the kindling of maternal affection--remove helpless infancy away from parental love, and commit it to the cold embrace of a selected few, whose care it should be to watch over and and protect it; but whose hearts, bereft of all affection and cold as icebergs, would chill and seal up its warm existence with the frosts of death.
Scepticism removes every barrier and embankment that conscience and religion have thrown up to check and restrain the passions; and it permits them to rush with headlong impetuosity down upon the delicate and complicated machinery of human society. It cuts the last strand in that cable by which our hopes and safety are moored, and sends us forth upon the broad ocean of uncertainty and doubt, to be tossed and driven about by the tempests and whirlwinds of passion.
Scepticism destroys the proper influence of truth upon the mind, and in its nature is opposed to all truth. It would efface every vestige of it from the universe. But truth will remain the same venerable fabric, which has stood for ages, splendid and immutable, which time could not crumble--nor persecutions shake--nor revolutions change:--and majestic Appenine, the earth rocking at its feet and the heavens roaring round its head, firmly balanced on the base of its eternity--the relic of what was--the solemn and sublime memento of what must be. P.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*It is also a blatant mis-match with his other writing, which is what one might call extravagantly and self-consciously Biblical-sounding. Note also, as regards the author's take on the French revolution, that Abby's father was a marquis, with family ties to the crown, and siblings named after French royalty (including Marie Antoinette, who, as an adult, went by "Annette"). Abby was very progressive in her thinking, but probably continued to feel sympathy with the aristocracy. My hunch is that she felt that many of them were fallen nobility; but that the principle of nobility, itself, was valid. She would certainly have been against the violent overthrow of the government, and the bloodbath which ensued there.
**My Guru, Meher Baba, gave a beautiful clarification of this point when asked to explain Jesus's statement that "only the pure in heart can see God."
***If this is a collaboration between Mathew and Abby, as the "P." signature would suggest (given that the other two with this signture showed clear signs of being so), then this would be another reason Abby was constrained from either questioning the uniform trustworthiness of the Bible as a historical document, or from alluding to reincarnation. From others of his works, it appears that Mathew would not have been amenable, during this period of his life, to either of these ideas. The poignancy of this piece is that Abby probably wrote it initially in response to Mathew's own skepticism; here, after her death, he is presenting it to the public, in tribute.
Music opening this page: "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees, from the album, "More of the Monkees"