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The Open Vision: a study of psychic phenomena

Originally Published: 1920

New York. Thomas Y. Crowell Company Publishers.

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Chapter I. The New Awakening

Chapter II. Psychical Experience

Chapter III. Psychical Research

Chapter IV. Methods of Communication

Chapter V. The Awakening of Psychical Power

Chapter VI. Spiritual Speech

Chapter VII. Recent Literature

Chapter VIII. The Seven purposes

Chapter IX. Principles of Interpretation

Chapter X. The Human Spirit

Chapter XI. Difficulties and Objections

Chapter XII. Personal Experiences

Chapter XIII. Direct Impressions

Chapter XIV. Inner Perception

Chapter XV. How To Know Inner Guidance

Chapter XVI. A Doctrinal Objection

Chapter XVII. To A Mother

Chapter XVIII. The Future Life, 1

Chapter XX. The Future Life, 2

Chapter XXI. The Inward Light

Chapter XXII. Positive Values


Interest in psychical phenomena has travelled very far since the days of the first crude mani- festations which led to modern spiritism. The era of mere manifestations gave place to that of books purporting to tell us about the spirit- world and the wisdom of life on the other plane, and that in turn led to the day of psychical re- search with its long and patient investigations. The great war brought us to another period. There was not only greater desire than ever to gain new light if possible on the nature of death and the life beyond, but from the soldiers themselves on the battlefield there came evidences of psychical visions and guidances. To meet the new interest, books of many types have been issued, so that psychical experience has become one of the great subjects of the day in the world of books. So many messages and teachings have apparently come over the great border that none of us has time to read them all. What next? If we assume that the whole subject has passed out of its preliminary stage and that we have assured results at last, what use can we make of these results? Granting the survival of identity, accepting spirit-return as established and spiritual communion as a fact of real experience, what significance has all this for the individual, for those who may not themselves have indulged in direct experiments or had personal evidences of spirit-return? Has a body of principles been given us such that we may now adopt them and endeavor to live by them, or are the various teachings in such conflict that few of us can tell what to believe? Should a person have faith in communications from the other world, is the believing attitude right, or ought we to continue sceptical? It would be claiming too much to undertake to decide any of these matters for the general public. But plainly we need to take the next step, and those of us who have in a measure seen our way through to conclusions and convictions should help others still in a questioning attitude. We may not be able to persuade any one to adopt our view, yet we may greatly assist the investigator and those who are heart -hungry by telling how we came to believe in the reality of certain psychical experiences while rejecting others. Indeed we may hold that our own experiences were given us that we might share their meanings and values with those whose interests are similar. And even if we should reject all mere phenomena as doubtful there would still be the question of the proper development of our own powers, sometimes called "psychical."

It is in this tentative yet on the whole hopeful spirit that this book has been written. The point of view advocated departs somewhat widely from that of psychical research on the one hand, and that of the average believer in messages from the spirit-world on the other. Personal experience and study have led me to believe in many matters as perfectly normal and the information acquired wholly natural, in contrast with the point of view which tells us so much about the abnormal and the supernormal. I have never been an investi- gator in the usual sense, have not consulted me- diums, have stood apart when others sought to arouse my interest, and have for the most part concerned myself with other matters. My train- ing has been in philosophy and I have applied the sceptical tests of the student who is deter- mined not to be misled. All the more significant, it seems to me, are the results to which experience has led me. For granting that there is at the present time unusual openness to the life beyond and concerted effort on the other side to bring certain teachings to us on this plane, one should be far more impressed by what has come spon- taneously than by any quest on our own part. There ought to be a way to show us what is real and a means of making clear what is true. The point of view of this book is that when all the evidence that can be gained through investigation or reading has come before the mind of today, it still remains for the individual to learn what is real and what is true for him. We are not likely to be genuinely convinced one way or the other until we too have had evidence. Strictly speaking, nothing is proved until it has been directly established for you and for me. We must either have experience or come into possession of principles such that we can tell what is true, what false. If we could be so fortunate as to follow direct guidance all the way along we might be spared the long process of research. For there surely is divine wisdom in the matter. Each of us is led along a certain pathway and there is guidance for the path. If the time has come for penetrating more deeply into psychical reality, there is a sure way to find that reality. The eager quest of hundreds and thousands whose loved ones have left this world during the war has apparently made it possible to break down many barriers. Unexpectedly the intense experience of life at the front has led to the opening of the inner vision on the part of soldiers. Some of these have gone from our midst and they seem to be looking back. We on our part have been led to be more responsive. We have only to follow these leadings to the end in order to come in sight of clear principles. in general.

Meanwhile there is every reason why you and I should grow into the open vision, should long without undue yearning, and listen without giv- ing ear too intently. The point of view of this book is neither ortho- dox nor scientific, as these terms are usually un- derstood. It is simply human. Those of us who have been with people who are yearning and with soldiers over seas have grown quite natu- rally into this attitude. We had a splendid chance "over there" to know and more intimately to appreciate human nature in many of its most genuinely attractive phases. There one came nearer the hearts and minds of men in whom the childhood of the world was in considerable degree preserved unspoiled. One seemed to realize from such relationships with the frank-hearted men of the trenches what life might have been on this earth if civilization could have kept the first-hand realities of the human spirit. One saw what Bergson meant when he graphically de- scribed the nature and function of the intellect, and then told us that creative evolution might have proceeded differently, might have fostered intuition. This vision of man's spiritual possi- bilities gave one a desire to re-interpret life, to go back in thought to the childhood of the race, to recover the lost gifts and possessions of the inner life.

In our life at the front many of us found that the traditions which hamper and the creeds which keep men apart were set aside. One associated with the Roman Catholic on the same friendly- terms as with Protestant or Jew. One saw that the simple-minded peasant had kept untainted some of the beliefs and values of Christianity which modern criticism has refined away into "pale negations." One asked if it were not pos- sible to look back of the Protestant Reformation, back of all the churches, and in a way back of the Bible itself, to see how men first came to believe in the soul, in heaven, in a higher wisdom. The undertaking would be difficult, for each of us comes forward with a word of warning in behalf of some out-worn creed. A dispassionate study of human nature from the point of view of inner spiritual experience is indeed difficult. Yet this book has been written with the hope that just such studies are possible, that many of us care so little for organizations, or for any- thing that doctrinaires may say or scientific critics may invent, that there is reason to press forward to learn for ourselves what is true, what is real. While then many of us returned from the other war-countries unsettled, unable to take up our occupations in the same old way, we bore within our spirits something very definite and promising. There actually is a new dispensation in process. The war was part of it. The pres- ent class struggle is another. The interest in psychical phenomena is a third. The remarkable unity attained by the Allies during 1918 was a forerunner of the spirit of cooperation that is to come. We have a right to believe that there is such cooperation between the other life and this as the world has never seen before. Those of us who are ready can play a part. By so doing we shall put ourselves in line with the constructive forces. By so doing we may pass far beyond the stage of mere questioning and mere investigation into that of actual assimilation and actual use. And why on the whole should we not be free to acquire a philosophy of the relationship of the two worlds? Why not take seriously the teaching that man is a spirit already in the spiritual world in his inmost nature, while at the same time active in this world's affairs? Why should we forever make concessions to materialism and to orthodoxy? Why not be free spirits in quest of truth? This book is addressed at any rate to those who are eager for personal evidences because they have lost friends during the war, and to those who are free to follow wherever the spirit of truth may lead in these days of unrest. Its point of view is unclassified. Its teaching is eclectic, not in any sense sectarian. It appeals to the reader to think and believe for himself, and to cultivate his own powers. This seems like individualism, but it is the call of the new age. It seems like undue emphasis on the inner life, but we have been putting the wrong stress on outward things. Well may we conclude to press through to the deeper meanings of the new dispensation, the age of the recovery of the open vision and the realities which it discloses.

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