Spiritual Declaration of Independence by Andrew Jackson Davis
Andrew Jackson Davis (May 31, 1851)
Innumerable centuries have rolled away, and colossal empires have appeared upon the distant hills—have existed for a little season, and have fallen into ruin and decay. Monarchies and religions have come up in different portions of the earth—have exhibited great power and despotism—have glided away, like a dream of the night, making a dim and dark impression on the earth—have performed some part in the vast and mysterious drama of life, and have passed away into a higher sphere.
But the Past has vanished, and the stupendous Present is before us. Here we stand, upon the towering summit of the ages past, contemplating the world of matter and the world of mind. We stand upon a mighty eminence, with all the vast accumulation of ages, with all the experience and wisdom of the past, beneath, around, and within us.
By the powerful momentum which the revolution of ages and the development of ideas and principles have imparted to us, we have steadily and progressively advanced to a moral and intellectual position, from which we perceive it to be our personal right and mutual duty to present to the world the reasons why we occupy this position, and why, also, we are resolved to maintain it, as the only certain foundation of individual culture and humanitary progression.
We hold it to be a self-evident truth, that the principle of Reason is the greatest and highest endowment of the human mind; that it is the indwelling light and the power of understanding by which man is enabled to read the innumerable sentences and chapters contained in the everlasting volume of Nature! We hold Reason to be the divinely inherited treasure of the human soul, because it sees the indications, studies the principles, and progressively comprehends the countless and infinitely diversified manifestations, of the Universal God.
And we, likewise, hold it to be self-evident, that Nature is the only perfect and unalienable “Revelation” which the Deity has ever given, or ever will give, to mankind. By Nature, we apprehend the Material Universe, with its innumerable constellations of Suns, Planets, and Satellites; and the Spiritual Universe, with its innumerable spheres of loveliness, and with their multitudinous angelic and seraphic inhabitants. It embraces the stupendous Univercoelum! which comprehends the kingdoms beneath, the powers within, and the boundless firmaments above us. We believe Nature to be the universal exponent of God; and Reason to be the universal exponent of Nature; therefore, that Nature and Reason, combined, constitute the only true and reliable standard of judgment upon all subjects—whether social, political, philosophical or religious—which may come within the scope and investigations of the human mind.
Furthermore, we hold it to be the nature, and tendency, and divine prerogative of the human soul to explore, to investigate, to classify, and reduce to a practical application, every thought and principle, and science, and philosophy, and religion, which rests upon the everlasting foundations of the Universe; and likewise, that it is man’s nature and prerogative to candidly, freely, and fearlessly—with an eye, single to truth—examine all sciences, and discoveries, and mythologies, and theologies, and religions which have been, or may be, developed among men; and that if they do not accord with the immutable principles of Nature and Reason, it is his divine right and authority to openly expose, repudiate, and discard them.
We believe that there is nowhere, in the mighty empire of this material and spiritual universe, any absolute sin or evil! We believe that all evil is but the negation of good—all sin, the negation of righteousness—all error, the negation of truth—all discord but the negation of harmony—that is to say, what are conventionally or customarily termed sin and evil, among men, is but the misdirection or perversion of the attributes of the human soul, which are substantially good and intrinsically pure!
We believe that, in consequence of a law of sympathy and universal dependence by which all created things are inseparably united and connected together, the individual affects society, and that society moulds and shapes the individual. And we believe that all men have two important responsibilities resting upon them: 1st. The protection, welfare, and harmonization of the Individual. 2d. The protection, welfare, and harmonization of Society.
We believe it to be our highest interest and legitimate duty to discover, and decry, and remove every conceivable barrier and obstruction, which, in any manner whatsoever, may serve to derange, impede, or arrest the progressive development of peace on earth and good will to all men. We, therefore, hereby resolve to declare ourselves free and independent of all personal, social, education, and theological habits, customs, and restrictions which militate against, or prevent us from accomplishing, these grand and glorious ends of our creation and destiny.
Among some of the reasons why we are conscientiously impelled to make this open avowal of our sacred sentiments—this Declaration of Independence—are those which follow:
First: The present organization or structure of Society, although vastly better now than in any previous age of the world, nevertheless engenders personal and national animosities. It develops many and various antagonisms. It imposes restrictions upon the natural rights and enjoyments of life, and leaves us unprotected against the ills of disease and accident, by encouraging and supporting monopolies, which are monarchies, and by aiding and perpetuating Poverty, and consequent Crime, and consequent Misery.
Second: It does not reform the criminal and the morally deformed, by fraternal and hospitable treatment. It does not attract the gambler from his hades of vice, by kindness and principles of brotherly love and good will; nor the voluptuary from his pandemonium, by the positive sphere of Love and Wisdom; but it incarcerates and brutally disposes of the transgressor and the criminal, and repels the gambler and the licentious man with prejudicial words and unrighteous deportment.
Third: It contaminates our youth. It converts a joyful and confiding child into a sad and suspecting man; it transforms a fair and happy mind into a disproportioned and miserable one; and consequently causes and perpetuates unhappiness, misdirection, and error among men.
Fourth: It develops the evils known as prostitution, cupidity, envy, malice, duplicity, and hypocrisy; and makes subsistence and prosperity, and even life or existence itself, dependent upon and inseparably connected with, individual intrigue, deception, and knavery.
Fifth: It is based upon antagonistic and conflicting interests and professions; and thus deranges and perverts the natural or legitimate development of the enterprising and energizing faculties of the human mind; and causes these faculties to manifest themselves in strifes, contentions, wars, and in a cold, proscriptive, sordid selfishness.
Sixth: It keeps up a perpetual war between Labor and Capital. It sanctions a conflict between interest and duty. It causes a man to lacerate and deform his conscience—to smother the inward monitor—in order to augment his worldly interests and emoluments. This is true of all the trades and professions. On the other hand, the present structure of society compels a man to sacrifice his worldly interests—yea, his reputation, his profession, his friendships, his subsistence, and life even—in order to honestly obey the serene voice of Duty, which intuition constantly whispers in his inmost ear. They saying has become almost proverbial, that “an honest man cannot succeed in business.”
Seventh: It makes the lawyer’s interest consist in individual and social disturbances—in contentions, litigations, and lengthened or continuous disputes. His inward Deity—his innate love of truth, and justice, and harmony—may frequently prompt the lawyer to seriously pray for the utter banishment of all discords and disputes; yet, nevertheless, his interest and duty impels him to procrastinate and complicate individual disturbances in every possible and conceivable manner. This conflict between interest and duty we hold to be vitiating and demoralizing to mankind. We hold that that man is immorally situated whose duty tells him one thing and his interest another. And this is the work of present society.
Eighth: The present structure of society we likewise hold to be demoralizing and depraving, because it makes the physician’s interest to consist in the existence, prevalence, and multiplicity of human disease and physical suffering. His duty—his love of general health and happiness—may prompt him to earnestly desire the total extermination of all bodily infirmities and distress; but it cannot be denied that his pecuniary interest consists in the abundance of organic violations, and disease. And his interest, also, prompts him to strenuously oppose all medical reform, or the introduction of any principle which tends to banish disease and destroy his occupation.
Ninth: The present social arrangements make the clergyman’s interests to conflict also with his duty. It causes his interest to consist in the prevalence of ignorance, and in the existence of moral transgressions. It causes him to usurp the right to reason and decide upon religious subjects. It causes him to deny the privilege of free discussion to others. It prompts him to impose unrighteous restrictions upon our speech and actions. It vitiates his mind by assigning to him a false and unnatural position; and, then, he exerts upon us, and upon our children, a correspondingly false and unnatural influence.
Among the numerous reasons why we are moved to declare ourselves free and independent of the existing forms and institutions of Theology, are the following:
First: It assumes to be, or to possess within its organization and cardinal doctrines, the medium or totality of inspiration; and it arrogantly proclaims itself to be the supreme and sovereign authority. It arbitrarily determines upon what book, or what peculiar combination of books, we shall revere as the “Word of God;” and then denies to us the right of exercising the same amount of intellectual, moral, and religious liberty. It describes the circle in which we shall move, and think, and reason; and then authoritatively and dogmatically denies to us the moral or religious freedom to advance beyond it. It thus imposes what we conceive to be improper and demoralizing restrictions upon our thoughts and investigations—trammels the progressive development of our minds, and peremptorily denies to us the divine privilege of free discussion and a free expression of our inward sentiments.
Second: It unites with society in its unphilosophical and unbrotherly treatment of the criminal, and of the unfortunate victim of crime; and it (that is, popular Theology) sanctions the old barbarian or mosaic law of Capital Punishment.
Third: It emphatically justifies society in the perpetuation of personal and national animosities and antagonisms. It permits war, confiscation of property, and carnage; and it assists to promote successful military chieftains, without regard to other merit or demerit, to the responsible position of emperors and governors.
Fourth: It sanctions the monarchical despotism of monopolies. It smiles, with silent approbation, upon the conflict between Labor and Capital. It permits the present unjust remuneration of the toiling millions. It permits them to live from day to day without the least guarantee of a home in case of pecuniary adversity or ill health; and, more than all, it openly and emphatically sanctions the dark and fear sin of human slavery!
Fifth: It deforms and enslaves, but it does not reform and emancipate the human mind, from the confinements and mournful influences of Sectarianism. Its influence is not positive and reformatory, but it is merely negatively restraining. It opposes almost every measure or movement which originates with the people. It engenders melancholy and erroneous conceptions of the nature and destiny of man. It keeps up a perpetual warfare between the head and the heart. It encourages a gladiatorial struggle against liberty of speech and freedom of action. It even opposes temperance reformation, unless it originates in the Church; and uniformly exerts its multiform influences, to restrain the progress of social and prison reforms upon identical grounds.
Sixth: It conveys discord into our families. It arrays husbands against wives, and wives against husbands. It produces many private alienations of affection and friendship. It causes the heads of many families to separate and go to different and antagonistic sectarian sanctuaries on the Sabbath; and it develops sad and unwholesome dissensions among friends—between members of society, and disturbs the equilibrium of nations!
Seventh: It generates cupidity and hypocrisy, by teaching our children to regard certain doctrines as truths, which (because these doctrines are not true) cannot be felt; but which, nevertheless, are frequently manifested with all the show of confidence in their validity. This leads directly to practical dissimulation and deceit. Many persons are in the constant practice of exhibiting piety, who, at the same time, do not (because they cannot) feel such piety to be sacred truth; and this apparently willful hypocrisy on the part of some individuals, leads directly to the theological assumption—an assumption which has retarded human progress for ages—that the heart of man is desperately wicked and depraved by nature.
Eighth: It instills dark and unwholesome thoughts into the minds of our children. It teaches them to believe in the most soul-revolting doctrines. They are educated to consider themselves as “totally depraved”—and as being under the “curse” of the living God. It teaches them to regard themselves as evil, and “sinners” by nature; and as incapable of being good and heaven-worthy, independent of the Bible and the Church. They are taught to believe in a “God of Love,” who, at the same time, encourages hate; and in a “God of Heaven,” who, at the same time, permits the everlasting duration of Hell! Thus our youth become contaminated by the existing methods of religious education; and, when they advance in years, and become men and women, they become either bigots and sectarians, or skeptics and misanthropes. A sadness and gloom are consequently thrown over our minds; and we deprive ourselves and our children of a large proportion of that enjoyment and progressive happiness which are the inalienable rights of man!
Ninth: It seeks to array its conservative and authoritative influence against scientific inventions and improvements. It asserts this whole world of human beings to be under an Adamic curse or condemnation. It has most dogmatically pronounced, and still continues to assert it, that all the sorrows, and perplexities, and vicissitudes, and trial, and discords, and diseases, and all the afflictions of this mundane state, are expressly sent by the living God to punish man for his alleged manifold transgressions! And it has openly opposed every medical reform, every social improvement, every benevolent design, upon the fabulous ground that such mortal attempts were wicked, and would prove unavailing, because they were in opposition to the “will” and punishment of God. And it trammels the progress and advancement of mankind, by teaching our children and our communities to believe the erroneous and baneful doctrine, that no improvement or reformation can be permanently accomplished, except through the so-called “divine” instrumentalities and multifarious restrictions and principles of the established Church.
Tenth: It perpetuates social, political, and professional conflicts, by itself manifesting that internal sectarianism and aristocratic intolerance which are the invariable symptoms and inevitable concomitants of ignorance and pernicious error! It presents to the world numerous examples of jealousy and clerical ambition which subserve the purpose of sanctioning and confirming, and rendering fashionable, the war of the trades and professions which surrounds us in society, and by which we are more or less injuriously affected.
Eleventh: It unqualifiedly professes to not bring “peace, but a sword”!
Twelfth: It discourages and emphatically condemns natural or physical enjoyments. It strives to awaken in our minds what we consider to be imaginary compunctions of conscience. It imposes what we conceive to be unnecessary and deforming “trials” upon us; and causes us to “crucify” ourselves and “bear crosses,” that are w holly unnatural and wrong. We therefore feel that it has defrauded us, and the generations that are gone, of two-thirds of the real happiness and mental consolations which we solemnly believe to be ours, according to the laws of the human constitution and the universal Providence of God! Yes, it deprives us, and seeks to deprive our children, of proper amusements—it disapproves of singing those joy-giving songs, and of dancing those easy and graceful waltzes, which are manifestly natural and useful for man.
Thirteenth: It dogmatically asserts Nature, and Reason, and Conscience even, to be subordinate to ecclesiastical authority. It inculcates the baneful doctrine that our very heart-impulses are naturally sinful and opposed to the “will of God.” Here again it creates a false issue between the heart and the head; and thus it has been the sole cause of impelling many minds into sad and hopeless insanity. It sheds a melancholy, dismal gloom over our families, our homes, and the nations of the civilized world. It renders this life a dark, and toilsome, and uncertain gift of God; and, with its clouds of ignorance and superstition, it darkens our thoughts and anticipations of the other life. When our friends resign their material forms to the grave, then this Theology fills our hearts with sadness, and our minds with distressing doubts, concerning their future welfare and eternal happiness. And thus it spreads gloom, and disconsolation, and suicidal melancholy, and insane despair and mental misery, where joy, and cheerfulness, and righteousness, and gratitude, and peace, and happiness should and might exist in abundance.
Fourteenth: And we are moved to declare ourselves free and independent of the existing Theology in all parts and portions of the earth, more particularly and especially, because it endeavors to retard and prevent the march of social improvement and humanitary progression—because it seeks to vilify and anathematize us—to denounce us—to wound our reputations—to prejudice the multitude against us—to encourage mobs and riots (by inspiring their children with the spirit of sectarianism and intolerance)—to injure us in our commercial or business relations—to array our families against us by misrepresenting our characters and sentiments to our associates and offspring—to calumniate us in our daily walk and conversation—and, more than all the rest, it strives to prevent the free investigation, the general adoption, and the universal expansion of our Harmonial Philosophy, which we do most sacredly believe to be the sublimest incarnation of the essential principles of Christianity, and the spacious vestibule to the temple of Eternal Truth.
We believe that the destiny of all men is Immortality, endless Happiness, and eternal Progression!
We believe—in accordance with the interior and material constitution of the human species—that there is a general mission for each individual to accomplish.
1st. To properly beget and perpetuate his kind.
2d. To justly respect and honor, and wisely direct and cultivate the heavenly germ—the spiritual principle—which is deposited in the soul.
3d. To live here with special reference to individual and social happiness, and with an ultimate reference to another and a higher life!
We believe (with the glorified Solon) that it is only the good who die happily; for the troublesome or troubled spirit is sometimes not quiet until after it has been, for a considerable length of time, removed from the earth; and until it has experienced the subduing, the chastening, and disciplining influences, which universally pervade the spiritual habitations of all spirits, angels and seraphs.
We, therefore, declare it to be “our highest duty” to become enlightened concerning ourselves; and concerning the powers and spheres of the human mind; to the end that we may grow in personal harmony—give to human society a healthy constitution—and thus gratify our homocentrical desire—“our continual prayer” for social Peace and universal Unity!
And it is our happiness to believe (with James Victor Wilson,) that the chief employment of our departed friends, the dwellers of the Spirit-land, is the transmission of thoughts, truths, and pure affections, from circle to circle, and from sphere to sphere; and that true happiness and true progression consist, both here and hereafter, in receiving and imparting; in unfolding the elements of our being and assisting others to unfold; in seeking the Great Divinity and imparting to the world the results of our investigations.
And we, moreover, freely declare it to be our sacred conviction, which we base upon the past historical experience of humanity and upon our highest intuitions and reason, that all true religion and all true inspiration are natural to the human soul.
We believe that heaven is harmony, and that no man can secure his condition merely by doing penance at the virgin’s shrine; nor by being prayed for or prayer; nor by building Churches and hiring Gospel preached; nor by believing, or trying to believe any system of religion. On the contrary, we do declare it to be our deepest conviction that Heaven is attainable only through self-development and self-harmonization. And we believe, that popular Theology, and popular Education, and popular Society, are insufficient to supply the human spirit with its proper nourishments and encouragements to an easy, natural progression toward truth and perfection! We believe that Theology is inadequate to the reconstruction of Society; and that modern systems of Education (which are saturated with this Theology) are inadequate to a proper education and cultivation of the spirit.
We declare ourselves free and independent of these systems, we repeat, because they restrain us in our investigations, and set up many and various barriers to our development; and we declare ourselves free of them, also, because they do not cover our wants, nor respond to the imperative necessities of our outer and inner being! We feel that we have mentally and morally out-grown them—out-grown their virtue, their principles, and their means and methods of individual and social reformation.
And we furthermore declare ourselves independent of these systems of superstition and error, because they circumscribe the sphere of our researches; and because they create a false issue, and perpetuate a conflict, between physical philosophies, and sciences, and what they term religion; while we believe all truth, whether scientific or religious, to be equally divine, harmonious, and eternal!
We believe that Social or Political sciences comprehend:
1. Marriage; 2. Language; 3. Amusements; 4. Temperance; 5. Education; 6. Government.
We believe that Material or Physical sciences comprehend:
1. Agriculture; 2. Commerce; 3. Chemistry; 4. Anatomy; 5. Physiology; 6 Mechanism.
We believe that Psychological or Spiritual sciences comprehend:
1. Poetry; 2. Music; 3. Painting; 4. Astronomy; 5. Philosophy; 6. Religion.
We believe all these sciences to be in strict harmony, one with another, and that our happiness consists in their proper and universal application to individual wants, and social improvement.
We are not merely opposed to the prevailing systems of ignorance, superstition and wrong; we are not merely disciples to the science of Human Magnetism, and to its sublime and spiritual phenomena; we are not merely anti-slavery, anti-capital punishment, and prison reformers; we are not merely social, philosophical, and religious reformers; but we openly avow ourselves henceforth to be the germinal constituents of a HARMONIAL BROTHERHOOD.
We are ready, and willing, and expect to hear it said of us and to us, that we are “Infidels,” and “Mystics,” and “Fanatics,” and “Conspirators,” and “Blasphemers,” and “Imposters,” and “Workers of Iniquity” even—so long as these odious terms and epithets will subserve the purpose to remind us of our free and independent principles; and to arouse us to the sacred and holy consciousness, that we are determined foes of Ignorance, Error, Injustice and tyrannical Institutions.
And we hereby declare that we will oppose and remove what we conceive to be social, political, or religious injustice and error, when and where and just so far as (according to our highest reason and intuitions,) we apprehend such opposition and removal beneficial to the individual and universal conditions and rights of mankind.
We hold it to be self-evident, that all books, creeds and institutions contain more or less truth and useful instruction; nevertheless we solemnly declare it to be our intuitional conviction, that all books, creeds and institutions are inferior and subordinate to the divine power within the human mind—the Reason Principle—without which all thoughts and truths were the merest fancies, and the sublime Universe an empty shade!
And furthermore—until we feel and comprehend greater truths—we hereby declare that—
Our Book is Nature;
Our Master is Reason;
Our Law is Love to Man;
Our Religion is Justice;
Our Light is Truth;
Our Structure is Association;
Our Path is Progression;
Our Works are Development;
Our Heaven is Harmony;
Our God is the Universal Father!
And we feel moved to fraternally suggest to those minds, everywhere, who are morally, intellectually, and constitutionally endowed with powers and blessings superior to the great mass of mankind about them—the propriety of immediately organizing themselves into a true Harmonial Brotherhood—declaring yourselves free and independent of all those habits, forms, creeds, restrictions, and ceremonies in modern Society, Theology, and Education—without regard to sect or nation—which tend, in any manner whatsoever, to arrest, prevent, or derange the progressive happiness of mankind, or to retard their progress toward Universal Unity and Perfection. For we believe that such an organization is necessary in order to learn what is useful, what is Justice, and what is Power; and Beauty, Aspiration, and Harmony, will then be familiarly learned from the fields of universal nature and humanity. To understand what harmony is, we must ourselves become harmonious. A harmonious individual is a Revelation of the Divine Mind; for every human spirit is a finite embodiment of the elements of the Infinite God.
We conclude our Declaration of Independence, by affirming—what we do most religiously believe—that all men to be heaven-worthy must aspire to heaven; to be perfect; they must aspire to perfection. But this no man can perfectly do of himself; because man necessarily depends upon the favorableness of progenitary bias; upon the propitiousness of outer conditions; and upon the harmoniousness of social circumstances, for his opportunity and ability to practice such aspiration! And yet, harmony must begin with the Individual; it will thence spread over our families and communities; then it will flow and ramify through the innumerable veins and arteries of the distant sects and nations; then the Whole will represent the Individual! the Individual the Whole; and God will be all in all!!!
In presenting to the wide world, and endorsing this, our Declaration of Independence—our principles of free discussion and universal progression—we do not pledge ourselves to adhere to an infallible and proscriptive creed; but we simply make a personal acknowledgement and a mutual confession of sentiments and principles, which, (be it every where known) we are resolved henceforth to revere, love, and maintain—until we discover and comprehend truths still higher and better, and more worthy of our sacred esteem and confidence.