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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 3

 

HOW are we conscious of continued identity, if, as it is believed, our whole frame - every organ of the brain among the rest, is incessantly undergoing waste and renewal?

 

Answer

 

BECAUSE we do not depend upon the organism only, for the recognition of our identity. Because our indentity is of the spirit and not of the atoms, in which, as a mould, it simply grows, and becomes a temporary and transitory inhabitant of the world of matter. You may as well enquire how we are conscious of our identity, or that of each otherís destitute of the garments of infancy or the habits of clothing in which we have once appeared. As years roll on our garments wax old and decay. Our garment of mortality is no more permanent; but year by year, nay, even hour by hour,


 

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is changing, passing, and waxing older and stranger to its former condition than even the work of our hands, the garments we wear, or any of the forms we originate. But does the garment of flesh any more than the fabrics we externally wear constitute the real man? It is one of the strongest evidences of the changeless, deathless, immortal nature of the spirit, that identity is never touched by the laws that affect matter. We gather up images from the first moment the tablet of memory, which we call the brain, is able to receive impressions. These images are overlaid on each other, as on a daguerreotype plate; they are perpetually being renewed, and perpetually being added to, but they are never, never destroyed. In the hour when the spirit is passing from earth, in the day when the snows of many winters whiten the hair of age, when the stronger images of manhood have become dimmed by time, and the spirit has gradually withdrawn itself from the form, and is completing the circle of existence, which unites the second childhood with the first, - then it is that the reverberating echoes of time come charged to the ear with the tones of earliest childhood, - then it is discovered that nothing is wanting, nothing lost. All the first impressions which the immature brain of the child received, or its infantile memory could treasure up, are reproduced, and with these come shadowy forms which year after year has impressed upon the canvas of human life, until at last the whole picture is filled up with the complete panorama of all the spiritís earthly experiences. In the moment of violent death, when the spirit is all eye, all ear, all perception, and outward forms are passing away, the soul suddenly begins to realise the actuality of spiritual existence, and finds in the vast and yet minute records of its entire past life, suddenly reproduced in the moment of deathís spiritual transfiguration, that not a grain of spirit is lost, not an atom is wanting - all is there in its perfect integrity. THE SPIRIT EVER GROWS, BUT NEVER CHANGES. Therefore it is, that the preservation of spiritual identity, the memory which stretches away into the past, and the prophetic power which already anticipates by nameless monitions the unwritten future, and connects the spirit with the two infinities between which it is standing - therefore it is, I say, that this very fact of self-consciousness and identity is evidence conclusive of the immortality of the soul. Chemists declare that there is nothing in nature annihilated, that whilst all things are the subject of change, and whilst every atom of matter is passing through perpetual successions of transformation, still not one is ever lost. How then can you make these theories correspondent with the bare shadow of the possibility of annihilating that self-consciousness which is one of the most inevitable functions of the soul? If you take away the fact of self-consciousness, or distrust the power of identifying others, and retaining any and every faculty which appertains to the spirit in earth-life, if you attempt to quench one of the soulís functions, you pretend to have found out the fact of that which your whole system of material philosophy denies, even for atoms, namely, annihilation. Your own theories concerning the impossibility of annihilating aught that is, are witnesses, I repeat, of the soulís consciousness, - its deathless nature, and eternal recognition of identities. Remove your question from the realm of matter to that of spirit, and you will never ask it; for spirit is its own witness of its own identity, and changes never.

 

Question 4  February 5th, 1866