James John Garth Wilkinson an Introduction by Frederick Henry Evans

Excerpts from  James John Garth Wilkinson An Introduction by Frederick Henry Evans 1912 (1).

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,

Some letter of the After Life to spell:

And by and by my Soul return’d to me,

And answer’d “I myself am Heav’n and Hell.”

Fitzgerald’s Omar

James John Garth Wilkinson was a British orthodox doctor, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, who converted to homeopathy, graduated from the Hahnemann College in Philadelphia, and became a surgeon at the Hahnemann Hospital at 39 Bloomsbury Square and a member of the Hahnemann Medical Society.

James John Garth Wilkinson wrote some twenty five works, beginning in 1839 at the age of 27 with the first postumous edition of William Blake‘s Songs of Innocence and Experiencepublished anonymously, at James John Garth Wilkinson‘s own expense. (1 page 11)

Throughout his life, James John Garth Wilkinson was the principle translator of Emanuel Swedenborg‘s works from Latin into English, beginning in 1843 at the age 31 with the publication of The Animal Kingdom (Regnum Animale), he proceeded to translate and publish many principle works by Emanuel Swedenborg. One of his last publications was in 1892 at the age of 80 with The African and the true Christian religion, his magna charta: a study in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (2).

James John Garth Wilkinson exhibited extraordinary modesty, and a willingness to submerge the self, when he anonymously wrote the introduction to Augustus Clissold‘s translation of Emanuel Swedenborg‘s Economy of the Animal Kingdom, which he edited and completed in 1846 at the age of 34. (1 page 12) As a young man of 27, James John Garth Wilkinson wrote profoundly and with astonishing originality about deep philosophical subjects. (1 page 8)

James John Garth Wilkinson begins his commentary on William Blake‘s Songs of Innocence and Experience:

‘Since every human being, even during his sojourn in the material world, is the union of a spirit and a body…. (then) if the mind has unusual intuitions…. such intuitions must be regarded as spiritual facts or phenomena: and their source looked for in the ever present influences – divinely provided, or permitted, according as they are for good or for evil – of our own human predecessors, all now spiritual beings, who have gone before us into the land of Life.

‘On this ground, which involves the only practical belief of the immortality of the soul, and the only possibility of the Past influencing the Present, it would be unphilosophical, and even dangerous, to call our very dreams delusions.

‘It is still, indeed, right, that we ‘try all spirits’ at the judgment bar of a revelation enlightened reason; yet, be the verdict what it may, it can never retrospectively deny that spiritual existence, on whose qualities alone it is simply to adjudicate.’ (1 pages 12 – 13)

James John Garth Wilkinson comments on William Blake‘s Songs of Innocence and Experience:

‘ These works…. show the occasional sovereignty of the inner man over the fantasies which obsess the outer. Yet he, who professed as a doctrine that the visionary form of thought was higher than the natural one – for whom the common earth teemed with millions of otherwise invisible creatures: who naturalised the spiritual instead of spiritualising the natural…. prefer(ed) seeing truth under the loose garments of typical or even mythological representations, rather than in… Christianity.

‘And, accordingly, his imagination, self divorced from a reason which might have elevated and chastened it, and necessarily spurning the scientific daylight and material reason of the 19th century, found a home in the ruins of ancient and consummated Churches…. the artist yielded himself up more thoroughly than other men will do to those fantastic impulses which ar common to all mankind; and which saner people subjugate, but cannot exterminate.

‘In so yielding himself, the artist… was a loser, though it unquestionably gave him a certain power, as all unscrupulous passion must, of wildness and fierce vagary. This power is possessed in different degrees by every human being if he will but give local and free vent to the hell that is in him; and hence the madness, even of the meanest, is terrific….

‘…. In the domain of terror he has entered, the characteristic of his genius is fearful reality. He embodies no Bryronism – none of the sentimentalities of civilised vice, but delights to draw evil things and evil beings in their naked and final state. We have the impression that we are looking down into the hells of the ancient people….. Their human forms are gigantic petrifications, from which the fires of lust and intense selfish passion have long dissipated what was animal and vital, leaving stony limbs and countenances expressive of despair and stupid cruelty. (1 pages 14-16)

James John Garth Wilkinson compared William Blake‘s ‘tremendous and most dreadful pictures’ with an illustration of Emanuel Swedenborg‘s Doctrine of Vastation (3), offering a theory of ‘obsession’ behind William Blake‘s ‘monstrous ideas’ – which Frederick Henry Evans compares to the ‘aeons of hell, of vice, behind’ Aubrey Beardsley‘s ‘curiously ages old whoredoms so many of his subjects revelled in, vivid living realities of sin and vice that only the irresistible obsession of some foul old spirit can account for’ (1 page 18).

James John Garth Wilkinson explains:

‘Vastations … are the gradual destruction of men as spiritual organisms, down to the level which the evil has successfully evaded, and to which the freewill has been voluntarily, by acts of life, extinguished. All the great loves of the heart when thus completely denatured and perverted, become subjects of vastation; they are killed down and de out. They are under the ‘second death’, and malignant spiritual diseases and insanities occupy their places…. they are turned into hatreds and opposite to the first nature given…. the man that is left is still a freewill; he chooses to be what he is…. he cannot change because he will not, because with constant will he kills the faculty of change.’ (1 page 17-18)

James John Garth Wilkinson continues:

‘…. Blake transcended self and escaped from the isolation which Self involves; and… his expanding affections embraced universal man… they give us glimpses of all that is holiest in the childhood of the world and the individual…. (and) are ripe with the seeds of a second infancy, which is the Kingdom of Heaven….

‘If this volume gives one impulse to the new spiritualism which is now dawning on the world; if it leads one reader to think that all reality for him, in the long run, lies out of the limits of space and time, and that the spirits, and not bodies, and still less garments, are men, it will have done its work in its little day, and we shall be abundantly satisfied with having undertaken to perpetuate it, for a few years, by the present republication’. (1 pages 19 – 20)

Frederick Henry Evans compares and contrasts James John Garth Wilkinson with Henry James SeniorJames John Garth Wilkinson is a ‘master of English’, who has a ‘style almost unique in English literature’ with ‘gravity that.. affects one like great music’, yet without ‘assumed importance’ and is ‘never in the least preachy or sermonising’, but which is ‘so manifestly spontaneous, honest and easy’, it is the ‘heartfelt speaking of one deeply earnest man to another’. Henry James Senior, on the other hand is ‘the very opposite’ (1 pages 20 – 21)

Frederick Henry Evans compares and contrasts James John Garth Wilkinson‘s style with the ‘customary barrenness’ expected of ‘the professed student of philosophy’ as ‘he does not offer a system of the normal fashion, with its quaint jargon and terminology, its strange unreal idiom that seems so alien from all that is actual and vital, and yet on matters that affects man’s deepest nature.’ (1 pages 22 – 23)

Frederick Henry Evans declares that his ‘only hope’ of a new audience for James John Garth Wilkinson is to offer up some quotations that are ‘so stimulating’ that ‘something of the extreme value and present day importance of his teaching…. will come home to them…’ (1 page 23)

Frederick Henry Evans explains that James John Garth Wilkinson describes how ‘man punishes himself by making his virtues or his misdeeds to so become part and parcel of himself, that they will infallibly make the character of his continuing life a heaven or hell, by rule of simple consequence.’ (1 page 24)

Frederick Henry Evans continues:

‘What child’s play it seems for any form of religion to offer to adults eternal slaps for earthly naughtiness and eternal jam for earthly virtues, and all to be inexorably settled by the stroke of physical death, all the evil being easily avoided and the good easily earned by the simple formula of death bed repentance with an automatic future avoidance of sin – what is there in this that equates with real life?’ (1 page 24) ‘No hypocrisies possible there…’ (1 page 25)

Frederick Henry Evans explains that Emanuel Swedenborg was of course, the very first person to convey this message to man, although James John Garth Wilkinson‘s expression of it ‘is so much more beautiful, so much more human, so appealing to the homeliest and most exalted of our feelings and experiences, and so much more terrible because of the graduer of his expression of it….’

‘ It makes one all the more impatient with the official pulpit; for if our current preachers really believed that this daily life actually .. unalterably, makes the next life, not merely influences it…. Men .. need in imperative earnest to be told, that every voluntary choice for good or evil here has an absolute and inevitable relative effect on the succeeding life. What we prefer here we shall prefer there, and the preferring, the choosing, lies wholly with ourselves.’ (1 page 26 – 27)

James John Garth Wilkinson explains:

‘The problem is of the greatness of good, and the greatness of evil, and their unalterable opposition;…. the problem is immense, for revelation reveals good and reveals evil where they are not expected….’ this ‘light has been so obscured’ due to the ‘judgements of creeds…. Hence good and evil have fallen out of churches and pursued their way in the kindness or cunning of the natural man.’ (1 page 28)

Emanuel Swedenborg lifts this cloud so:

‘the divine light shines down again, this time with rational force… And the consequence is that the motives of men, left out hitherto… ‘ is seen once again, and the multitude of churches step back to reveal a ‘smaller band of criminals and blasphemers’ such that ‘….the divine net which fishes for men, catches the whole race now on earth for separation and partition.’ (1 pages 28 – 29)

Frederick Henry Evans asks why should we bother with such ideas of immortality when we are fully content with the annihilation we expect at the end of this earthly life? ‘…. and I have as yet had no sufficient evidence to disprove it.’ Frederick Henry Evans proposes Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck‘s theory that ‘It is as contrary to the nature of our reason and probably of all imaginative reason, to conceive nothingness as to conceive limits to infinity.’ (1 pages 30 – 31)

James John Garth Wilkinson counters this nihilism with ‘If a man is a suicide in his heart…. he is potently alive to killing a present state…. His free will will feel its invulnerable life when he strikes his heart and destroys the fleshly vesture of the day.’ (1 page 32)

Frederick Henry Evans ponders the impossibility of tangible proof in this debate, and points out the ‘utter, abject, unreasoning terror’ of the physical towards the spiritual or invisible world because ‘… in the partial presence of it, the reason will mote likely be unseated and mania ensue. This makes the relative danger of all spiritualistic seances, and the absolute danger of occult practices.’ (1 pages 32 – 33)

James John Garth Wilkinson comments:

‘…. that the sceptic often believes more with his backbone, his “creeps’, than with his mind; no flesh is immune from this horror of the invisible, whatever strength of mind and reason may be brought to bear, the flesh knows better and will have none of it.’ (1 page 33)

Frederick Henry Evans argues that knowledge is a purely relative term. The scientist’s smile slips when the solid iron bar in his hands is in reality in a constant state of motion in which not one of its particles even touches the other. How can anyone know for sure? This the immortality theory, which may be true, does allow one to hedge one’s bets and behave, a sort of insurance policy.

If  the annihilation theory is true, then we have improved the lot of this life for ourselves and for others and spread a lot of goodness and love around to our abiding memory. Surely this is a sort of heaven?

And if the annihilationist insists on a purely self seeking pleasure oriented view, they should reflect that such selfishness implies essential solitariness, the coercion of others, and a determined disregard for the rights and feelings of others. Therefore, one literally creates a hell on earth for themselves and for others, thus proving the theories of both Emanuel Swedenborg and James John Garth Wilkinson, albeit only on this material plane.  ‘Truly a formidable future to work for; societies of selfish people, whose only end is to prey on each other, restrained only by punishments .. the hardest of hard lives on earth is surely preferable to that.’ Surely this is a sort of hell? (1 pages 34 – 36)

James John Garth Wilkinson explains simply:

‘Heaven and Hell are only other names for good and evil.’ (1 page 52) ‘The punishments of the spiritual world are of two effects, reformatory, where reformation is possible, and vastative, devastating, where it is not. The first consists of temptations, trials, victories; long and great sufferings under severe circumstances from which escape is not given;… revelations of hell within and despairs; falling and rising states; and through all the voluntary detachment of the man from the evils of his life and nature; until the divine charity and wisdom of the Lord with the man’s free will unimpaired dare admit him purged and purified into heaven…

‘In the evil it is dire punishment, no arbitrary sentence of God, but organic necessity of association.’  ‘The impetus of his past life and the force of acquired character will drive him on to repeat the deeds done in the body, to continue his life; and he must be n=made aware and ware of this, and act on it, if he would escape from his own hell.’ (1 page 59 – 60)

‘The belief that the wicked will actually die out, evil having thus no true existence, is humanely meant, but after all, it is a terrible, a kind of divine suicide. For it forgets the true ground of immortality, which is free will, and can give little reason for a man’s enduring life that does not apply to animals. The reason of hell is the immortality of hell; that reason is that men freely will hell. No man is there without intensely willing it. He does not wish limitation, and pain, but he does will and delight in evil, and that always means that he can come out of hell but will not.’ (1 page 61 – 62)

‘There is not a paragraph in Swedenborg’s works that has any other end or object than to make men and women more personally responsible for their actions here, and thus wise more capable of receiving happiness hereafter.’ .. ‘And those theologies which obscure this revelation, and teach that human seeds do not grow into human trees, but are miraculously brought into something ese after ages of sleep in another way, leave human nature as they find it, but with a bias deepened to self and the world.’ (1 pages 63 – 64)

‘The human race is practically and really One Man… each individual man is separately conscious, and is sufficiently alone to be himself, but in that very soleness he is also conscious that he is part of a greater Manship, and that without being in it he would perish…. At death every member of it enters a corresponding spiritual world… He is still part of the One Man, but on new conditions; he is a member of some one of the vast societies of the spiritual world…. This Soul Region is the World of Spirits, and the ways in it, like the Life Ways of this world, lead up to Heaven, or lead down to Hell.’

‘Out of their vast societies, our lives forming our characters, perpetually, momentaneously, select and invite their own similar spirits with whom they associate us. This is an association most swift and inevitable, for in the Spiritual World similarity of Love and liking is presence, which cannot be contravened. You cannot love the same evil without having its infernal crew for your intimate bosom companions and lords; you cannot love any heavenly good without those who love it in heaven being close to you and uniting with your affection.’ (1 pages 71 – 73)

‘The am of all spiritual life is to descend into bodily life…’ (1 page 77)

‘To suppose that they (the denizens of the spiritual world)…. are nothing, because we do not see them, is tantamount to denying their existence and granting death as their end all. No Church does this. But what no Church has been strong to do, until now (James John Garth Wilkinson is here referring to the New Church of Emanuel Swedenborg), is to discern that spiritual existence…. as a cause…. In a word, the connection of the spiritual world with the natural is, on the grand scale… they care for us with a good and with an evil care, and fain have us for heaven or have us for hell.’ (1 pages 78 – 79)

‘You are to take nothing for granted; only to keep your mind open to the Good and the True, and the Useful. You need quash no criticism, provided, on this ground of openness it proceeds from the dupitative affirmation not from the dubitative negative bias of the heart.’ (1 page 80)

Frederick Henry Evans explains that in spirit, punishment for sin is the continual repetition if such sins with ‘less chance of change’, which is why spirits desire the embodiment of the natural world, where we can reacquire the ‘power to change’. (1 page 82) Emanuel Swedenborg expounds in terrible detail the consequences of sin in his Spiritual Diary, though if we follow his Golden Rule, the mainspring of a beautiful life, we can avoid this:

‘…. and selfishness (that) inevitably leads to essential loneliness; and as man is essentially an ‘alone’ being, who is driven to seek company to realise himself fully and objectively, it is of course fatal to any real happiness to cultivate that which intensifies loneliness, the terror of that in the spiritual world must be great indeed, but what is it but the necessary consequence of the selfish, the self seeking life?’ (1 page 83)

Frederick Henry Evans continues:

‘The actively unselfish life is also the chief enemy to that deadliest of vices, what Swedenborg calls the Lust of Power; the desire to control, to dominate others; the delight of being in, and of exercising authority; of imposing one’s will on others, regardless altogether of their independent rights or desires. Half the cruelties of this life are due to this Lust of Power, and dreadful indeed must its consequences be when it lands its victim in Societies composed only of such devotees, each preying on the other with instant punishment when successful.’ (1 page 84)

James John Garth Wilkinson concludes with a proclamation of the extreme value of the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg:

‘Such a New Church penetrates to the last facts about us. It shows that every man is going to Heaven, or to Hell, in every act, thought and intention, every day of his life.’ … ‘That Christ has redeemed him ie: vanquished the enemies of his free will, so that his will is his own forever. That by this stupendous thing Man is his own destiny.’ … ‘ … Heaven is separate, and ever separating itself, from Hell.’ …  ‘…. what a change could be wrought in society; how this unlovely life, full of lovely possibilities as it is, might be transfigured; how the children, the coming generation of workers, might be cared for.’ (1 pages 86 – 87)

Frederick Henry Evans concludes:

‘When one thinks of the poetry, the romance, the love, hidden in us, denied any real fruition here in this hard, fixed, ununderstanding world; when one gets from some others the aching glimpses that Well’s (Herbert George Wells) magically fine story The Door in the Wall gives; when one looks at an evening sky and has that poignant sense of home sickness that so realizes for us that otherwhere, the dire unreality of this and the sheer home reality of that – is it any wonder that one turns with dismay from the man who talks of no immortality, of no future life, being possible or even probable; and so retreats into one’s self and one’s own dear knowledge of it, and takes up again with a sigh the dull bearing of the writing till the due time comes, whispering to oneself, with Hamlet, “the readiness is all”. (1 page 87 – 88)

References:

  1. Frederick Henry EvansJames John Garth Wilkinson An Introduction. Originally printed in The Homeopathic World volume 47, No. 553 on 1st January 1912, pages 7-12; No. 553 on 1st February 1912, pages 70-86; No. 555 on 1st March 1912, pages 116-128, and reprinted in 1936 in book form published by Turnbull and Spears Edinburgh by Garth Wilkinson’s youngest daughter Mary James Claughton Mathews (1847-1944) (Mrs. Frank Claughton Mathews). This memoire was introduced in The Homeopathic World Volume 540 on 1st September 1911, pages 418-426 by an article entitled A Review of James John Garth Wilkinson by Frederick H Evans. See also Swedenborg Archive S4/204 from the library of Frederick Henry Evans. See also Anon, The Cambridge University Calendar, (Cambridge University Press, 1974). Page 388. Frank Claughton Mathews (?1842-1923) was an art collector. Mary James set up the Frank Claughton Mathews Scholarship in Mathematics at Cambridge University under her will in 1944, and she bequeathed many of his paintings to the Tate Gallery. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_H._Evans. Frederick Henry Evans (1853-1943) ‘… was a noted British photographer, primarily of architectural subjects. He is best known for his images of English and French cathedrals. Evans began his career as a bookseller, but retired from that to become a full-time photographer in 1898, when he adopted the platinotype technique for his photography…’
  2. Dedicated to Edward Wilmot Blyden (Rev. C C Hoffman, leader of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church of  the USA in Liberiawas reputedly a brother in law of James John Garth Wilkinson – see James L. Sims, George L. Seymour, Benjamin J. K. Anderson, African-American Exploration in West Africa: Four Nineteenth-Century Diaries, (Indiana University Press, 2003). Page 27).
  3. Doctrine of Vastation: ‘the purification of someone or something by the destruction of evil qualities or elements; spiritual purgation

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