Massey: the Langham Place Lectures (3)

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LONDON, MAY 31, 1872.

No. 113.—VOL. III.


   On Sunday afternoon Mr. Gerald Massey gave his third lecture, the subject of which was—"The Birth, Life, Miracles, and Character of Jesus Christ Reviewed from a Fresh Standpoint."  We went to St. George's Hall fully expecting to hear this subject discussed in a thoroughly rational and masterly manner, and we were most agreeably surprised to find our anticipations more than realised.  The discourse was a perfect chef d'œuvre of analysis, argumentation, and eloquence.  We have hardly any hope of being able to give our readers, in the small space we have at our disposal the faintest conception of the subject as treated by Mr. Massey: we will, however, present the main features of the lecture in as clear and concise a form as possible.

     The lecturer commenced by saying that in treating of the life and character of Jesus Christ from a fresh standpoint, he should take the record mainly as it stands, especially in the first three Gospels.  No human authority was, in his opinion, infallible, and there were discrepancies here.  John represented Christ as the Messiah, and yet the Synoptics represented the same John as asking Jesus if he was the Christ, or if they should seek another.  It was not his intention to discredit the narrative.  His view was no more that of Strauss than that of the Church of England.  He considered however, that the records had been tampered with.  The Gospel of John was not a narrative, but a plan of salvation.  It was necessary to go through the three Gospels to get at the history of Christ, and necessary not to be a Christian in order to appreciate the character of Jesus Christ.  Matthew traces his genealogy back to Abraham, through forty-two generations.  He would not do so if it were not to prove that Joseph was his father.  He promises the child the throne of his father, and it was as the descendant of the house of David that he claimed his Messiahship.  There had been a prophecy in Israel that a virgin should bear a child, and it became a beautiful thought amongst the Hebrew maidens that one of them should bear the Messiah.  It might be anyone whose virgin life was high enough to touch heaven.  But there were those who limited the possibility of virgin purity to the physical fact.  To them, therefore, it was necessary for Christ to be born without a father.  Such an interpretation would not make the fact supernatural; it would simply make it unnatural.  We must reject that interpretation.  The explanation given by Luke was far more natural and spiritual.  It announced that the Spirit overshadowed Mary for a spiritual result.  There must have been an incarnation of the essential principles of the parent mind, and the mother clothed it and was the medium for feeding it spiritually until the time for its physical birth.  There was a spiritual body as well as a natural body, and there was an umbilical cord of the soul that was never severed.  Every hour there must be a spiritual commingling.  God must have special means of forming his martyrs of humanity—his revelations to man.  Mary, Mr. Massey considered, may have been what we call a trance-medium, and that it might be possible in such a condition for a child to be so conceived as to be almost pure spirit, or what the Romanists called the Immaculate Conception.  He believed this to be the true explanation of the case.  The record showed that the parents endeavoured to secure the purest method and agency for this spiritual conception by placing it in virgin sanctity.

    The lecturer argued that it was impugning God's goodness to suppose that his communication with man commenced and ended here.  He was always incarnating himself in and giving his revelations to humanity.  In speaking of the physical theory of Christ's birth, he said that taking this view of the case the true redemption would have been for Christ to have had Children, and improved the race in that way.

    In introducing the subject of miracles, Mr. Massey said that it was one of the important questions of the age, and it was one on which Spiritualism was so strong.  With it was the solution of the problem.  The theologians could not reply to the scientific argument: they had vouched for far too much without knowing enough.  In Spiritualism we were supplied for the first time with a higher form of spectrum analysis.  It detected the facts of the past, and presented and correlated the distant and the near.  Hitherto all that was not understood was set down as miracle—as supernatural.  Everyday things had nothing to do with God.  He manifested himself in miracle.  The domain of the natural was looked upon as a kind of devils' playground.  This life of eternal miracle was thought but little of, because it was so continual.  This attempt to make the manifestation of God's presence to mankind as miraculous and supernatural was made most strenuously by men who had no means of distinguishing facts.  They did not deal in facts.  They did not know facts when presented to them face to face.  It was belief alone they sought to establish by miraculous means.  All strange and inexplicable things that have occurred in the past and present were human impossibilities or satanic agency.  Theologians had never yet demonstrated the means of divine operation as a vital fact, and the only position they were able to maintain was in trying to keep the rest of the world as ignorant as themselves.  They still threatened us with everlasting punishment if we did not believe.  And these men, had they been present when Jesus performed his miracles, would not have believed in them any more than they believe in the facts of to-day.  They were like the Jews of old, who said: " We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is."  What was a miracle?  A phenomenon occurring without apparent means.  What we recognised as spiritual manifestations had been identified as miracles.  In one sense there was no such thing as a miracle; in another sense all is miracle.  The lecturer said he believed that the spiritual world was always potentially present; when it became visibly so it was a miracle, though not when working invisibly.  He had formerly considered many of his experiences altogether exceptional; but when he came to know more about spiritual manifestations he found that his experiences were comparatively common, and the farther he went the less he saw of the miraculous.  He did not believe in the sun's standing still for several hours in order that the Israelites might finish off their enemies before dark.  He could not believe in the Creator having any volition in the affair; nor did he believe in any such divine interposition for such a purpose.  The old notion of a miracle made one thing as possible and likely to happen as another.  It was based upon the obsolete conception of a God that sat above and acted pretty much like any earthly autocrat.

    The lecturer said his antithesis was not natural and supernatural, but physical and spiritual.  In subjective spiritual communications the one blended in the other imperceptibly.  In the physical phenomena they lapped over into visibility.  He believed the same conditions in the natural world would ensure the same results.  The whole of the phenomena of miracles were within the range of laws that are extant.  He admitted the law of volition, whose limits he could not define.  It was this will which differentiated those facts from all others.  Spiritual beings did not blindly act in accordance with laws.  They were responsible ministers.  It was difficult to draw the line of limitation between the things of the spiritual world and the natural.  Jesus Christ had no idea that miracle meant law-breaking.  He could not recognise our natural boundaries.  He had the faith which meets the other world halfway.  He always admitted the natural laws of the case in this exalted sphere of spiritual action; spiritual operation and influx were limited by natural means.  In one place he did "no mighty works because of their unbelief," showing that in the highest range of action he worked according to spiritual laws.  Had he wrought miracles in violation of law, then was the time for him to do so.  But doubt was a spiritual hindrance.  It was impossible to make harmony if all the notes of an instrument were discordant.  The spiritual world would whisper a wonderful tune if we would but get in accordance with it.

    The so-called miracles of Christ were not outside of law.  On another occasion, when the disciples were unable to cast a spirit out, they said to Jesus, after he had wrought the cure, "Why could we not cast it out?"  His reply was, "Because of your unbelief;" and added, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."  Jesus here recognised degrees of spiritual power, which depended not only on moral but physical conditions.  The theological mind is unable to touch bottom with reference to the spiritual facts of Christ's life—at least, the Protestant mind.  Jesus was the greatest Spiritualist that had lived, and the Christian was the greatest enemy of Spiritualism.  The present interpreters of the miracles had yet to learn the A B C of their subject before they could expect to make any headway.  They did not believe in similar things nowadays; they could not, therefore, believe in the evidence of two or three witnesses of events in the past.  Their sole evidence of the truth of miracles was an unquestioning belief that they were true.  Spiritualism placed the question on a scientific basis.

    The lecturer now passed on to the question of Christ's Messiahship.  His miraculous power was considered the proof of his being the Saviour.  He did not discredit the credentials, but he could not understand God having one son, who came in disguise to save us all—the legitimate children of the Devil.  Besides, Apollonius of Tyana was credited with even greater miracles than Christ, so that it was impossible to make this the ground of his Messiahship.  Miracles or spiritual manifestations being made the credentials of the Christ, we at once placed him on the same footing as the wonder-workers of the past and the mediums of the present.  He said his disciples should do greater works than he did.  We could not prove the divinity of Christ by works which are common to the Spiritualism of the past and present.  He did not base his claims on his miracles.  He charged people more than once to tell no man what they had seen.

    With reference to Jesus being considered "the holy one," Mr. Massey said that it was an ancient custom in Egypt for the firstborn to be holy; all first fruits were consecrated to the divinity.  This was therefore the relic of an Egyptian custom, only super-naturalised.  Hence it was a dogma of the church that only one child had been born holy, as if childhood was not all holy.  Again, Christ's temptations were symbols of the pains experienced previous to the natural man's growth into spiritual life.  Temptations were the growing pains of the soul.  In viewing that forty days' temptation of the Devil we saw the human in the drama.  There we perceived the special sense in which Christ came to save the world.  He came to save the world from demon-worship.  This worship had become so extended that the world was obsessed and possessed by evil spirits.  Not only did they make their influence felt by whispering in the ear by dreams in the night; the air was thick and swarming with evil presences.  So daring and objective had these demoniac manifestations become, that foul spirits went about in broad day with men, women, and children.  It was to this condition of things that St. Paul referred when he said: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  We could not, therefore, overvalue the coming of Christ at that time.  He came to wrestle with the souls of men, and to save them from the powers of darkness.  He wished to prepare the souls of men for a larger influx of the divine.  He desired to draw humanity nearer to God—to cast out the Devil and let in the Divinity.  He came to substitute for the mysteries of the God of Egypt, the mysteries of the God of Heaven.  It was to rescue belief and hallow all spiritual intercourse to God, so that good spirits might enter the divine sanctuary of mankind.

    The resurrection of Christ from the dead had been called the most stupendous miracle, as if he were the only one who had risen from the dead.  Christ did not bring immortality to humanity.  He came to couch the eyes of the blind grovellers in the flesh.  He came to quicken and increase the spiritual faculty in man into living sight until it should pass the environments of sense.  He came to quicken the pulse of immortality latent in humanity.  But it was not for him to create immortal life in man, since it was already in man.

    His mission was to awaken humanity to a sense of their immortal welfare—to lead the soul out of the Egyptian darkness in which it was groping, to a knowledge of the only true God, of love to man, and of the conscious communion of good spirits.  But this had been totally misrepresented, and Christ had been made to come to take away the sting of death—become natural to man through the fall.  Up to the time of Jesus the Hebrew had never included the idea of immortality in his theology.  But the spiritual world broke through in spite of their unbelief.  Moses left future life out of his account.  The Sadducees openly denied the resurrection.  And David, apparently unconscious of a spiritual hereafter, put the sword of his revenge, whetted, as it were, upon his very tombstone, into the hands of his son.

    In Jesus Christ this idea of eternal life was first brought to light.  His consciousness of the fact was so sure that he communicated it to others.  He revealed it to those who had not possessed a knowledge of it.  Death to Paul was so fearful that he shrank from the Jewish conception of it, and embraced Christianity.  Jesus set the spiritual so high above the natural world, and lived its life so fully while in this sphere, that he was but half conscious of the affairs of this life.

    The lecturer here examined the question of Christ's divinity.  He argued that it was in his humanity that lay his value to us.  If he were God, he was beyond our reach as an example.  But as a divine man he manifested to us the infinite capacity of improvement within us.  "How could we be like him," asked Mr. Massey,—"if he were divine and we were not?"  But if he were human as we are human, we should take courage from our great exemplar.  If we were not human as we are, we never could love him and he us as we do; and his sorrow in life and sufferings in death would constitute the sorriest farce ever played on this earth.  The ordinary idea of God in the orthodox mind was nothing better than that of pagans; but he failed to distinguish any sign of Christ's having been the conscious agent of such an idea.  It seemed as if the divine likeness had been lost, and humanity had set up an image to worship for God.  The theologian actually thought to exalt Christ into a God by damning humanity and digging a gulf between the two worlds.  It was a blasphemy against humanity.  Christ never sanctioned such a notion.  This divine lover of little children, who, the nearer he was drawn to the other world, was drawn the more passionately to this—he who was the friend of the outcast and sinner—he was too divine, too human for that.  His idea of God was as the purest crystallisation of light to that of the orthodox.  It was the spiritual of Christ's revelations that had never been explained.

    Mr. Massey here endeavoured to prove that Jesus himself never claimed the position which Christianity would force upon him.  Christ never hinted, he maintained, at his being of miraculous birth.  John only made him say that before Abraham he was.  And he said to his disciples: "You do not speak; it is the Father that dwells in you that speaketh."  He lived a deeper life, but its sources were in the present, not in a far distant past.  He revealed the future to us—that spiritual life which under and overlies this natural one; but his spiritual life was so real that the two seemed to blend in spiritual unition.  He was so spiritually possessed that the divine seemed to shine through him.  He lived at that spiritual altitude where God seemed to become the sole consciousness of existence.  The human was absorbed in the divine.  In this sense his saying, "Before Abraham was I am," was true.  He did not mean that he was discreted from God before Abraham was.  It way on the ground of our common descent from God rather than from Adam that Christ laid the foundation of our common brotherhood.  He replied to the man who came to ask how he might attain eternal life: "Why callest thou me good?  There is none good but one, that is God."  He assumed no superiority for himself.  He called all men to accept the kingdom of God solely on the ground of their common brotherhood.  That cry of utter desolation on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" was eminently human.  That clove right down to the human heart of the matter.  That hour of suffering was sharp enough to make the body sweat blood.  How continual had been the divine presence with him through life!  This made the hour of death all the more terrible.  It was like the cry of a man who was going blind.  Yet we were asked to believe that God withdrew himself out of reach.  Jesus was the first to discredit such an idea.  He was the first to assert that he was not the source of light, but only the medium of its transmission.  But it was the same light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  His revelation grew with him as he advanced in years, and the divine purpose was only made known to him piecemeal.  Nor did he die with the idea of becoming the central figure of Christianity.

    The lecturer said he could not look upon Jesus Christ as a mediator between an angry God and this world.  He considered him the highest medium that had appeared on this earth; he was the greatest Spiritualist that had lived—he meant of the modern sort.  How sensitive Jesus was might be inferred from the fact that he felt even the hem of his garment being touched.

    Mr. Massey here said he had no doubt that Jesus was a student of Eastern mysteries; and that he was on his travels for that purpose during the years he is missed out of the narrative.  Pythagoras took twenty years to master these mysteries.  The lecturer supposed that Jesus referred to the ancient Hindoo mysteries when he called his disciples "initiates," also that the spiritual baptism has some reference to magnetism, which was known to the Egyptians and Assyrians

    But we must hurry to a conclusion, though with deep regret that our space is limited, for we feel that in spite of all we have given we have still been obliged to omit the best portions of the lecture.  We can only express the hope that Mr. Massey will be induced to give to the world the result of his study and research, so that all may read and examine for themselves that of which we are able to give but the merest glimpse.


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