The Church

from "By Centres Of Magnetism" from The Hidden Sides of Things by C.W. Leadbetter

WE all recognise to some extent that unusual surroundings may produce special effects; we speak of certain buildings or landscapes as gloomy and depressing; we understand that there is something saddening and repellent about a prison, something devotional about a church, and so on. Most people never trouble to think why this should be so, or if they do for a moment turn
their attention to the matter, they dismiss it as an instance of the association of ideas.

Notre Dame Cathedra, churchl exterior

Probably it is that, but it is also much more than that, and if we examine into its rationale we shall find that it operates in many cases where we have never suspected its influence, and that a knowledge of it may be of practical use in everyday life. A study of the finer forces of nature will show us not only that every living being is radiating a complex set of definite influences upon those
about him, but also that this is true to a lesser degree and in a simpler manner of inanimate objects. 

Reims Cathedral interior

Our Great Cathedrals

We know that wood and iron and stone have their own respective characteristic radiations, but the point to be emphasised just now is that they are all capable of absorbing human influence, and then pouring it out again. What is the origin of that feeling of devotion, of reverential awe, which so permeates some of our great cathedrals that even the most hardened Cook' s tourist cannot entirely escape it? It is due not only to the historical associations, not only to the remembrance of the fact that for centuries men have met here for praise and prayer, but far more to that fact itself, and to the conditions which it has produced in the substance of the fabric.

To understand this we must first of all remember the circumstances under which those buildings were erected. A modern brick church, run up by contract in the shortest possible time, has indeed but little sanctity about it; but in mediaeval days faith was greater, and the influence of the outer world less prominent. In very truth men prayed as they built our great cathedrals, and laid every stone as though it had been an offering upon an altar. When this was the spirit of the work, every such stone became a veritable talisman charged with the reverence and devotion of the builder, and capable of radiating those same waves of sensation upon others, so as to stir in them similar feelings. The crowds who came afterwards to worship at the shrine not only felt these radiations, but themselves strengthened them in turn by the reaction of their own feelings. 

Milan Cathedral

Still more is this true of the interior decorations of the church. Every touch of the brush in the colouring of a triptych, every stroke of the chisel in the sculpture of a statue, was a direct offering to God. Thus the completed work of art is surrounded by an atmosphere of reverence and love, and it distinctly sheds these qualities upon the worshippers. All of them, rich and poor alike, feel something of this effect, even though many of them may be too ignorant to receive the added stimulus which its artistic excellence gives to those who are able to appreciate it and to perceive all that it means. 

Notre Dame Cathedral Rose Window

The sunlight streaming through the splendid stained glass of those mediaeval windows brings with it a glory that is not all of the physical world, for the clever workmen who built up that marvellous mosaic did so for the love of God and the glory of His saints, and so each fragment of glass is a talisman also. Remembering always how the power conveyed into the statue or picture by the fervour of the original artist has been perpetually reinforced through the ages by the devotion of successive generations of worshippers, we come to understand the inner meaning of the great influence which undoubtedly does radiate from such objects as have been regarded as sacred for centuries. 

Such a devotional effect as is described in connection with a picture or a statue may be entirely apart from its value as a work of art. The bambino at the Ara Coeli at Rome is a supremely inartistic object, yet it has unquestionably considerable power in evoking devotional feeling among the masses that crowd to see it. If it were really a work of art, that fact would add but little to its influence over most of them, though of course it would in that case produce an additional and totally different effect upon another class of persons to whom now it does not in the least appeal. 

Salisbury Cathedral

From these considerations it is evident that these various ecclesiastical properties, such as statues, pictures and other decorations, have a real value in the effect which they produce upon the worshippers, and the fact that they thus have a distinct power, which so many people can feel, probably accounts for the intense hatred felt for them by the savage fanatics who miscalled themselves puritans. They realised that the power which stood behind the Church worked to a great extent through these objects as its channels, and though their loathing for all higher influences was considerably tempered by fear, they yet felt that if they could break up these centres of magnetism, that would to a certain extent cut off the connection. And so in their revolt against all that was good and beautiful they did all the harm that they could-- almost as much perhaps as those earlier so-called Christians who, through sheer ignorance, ground up the most lovely Grecian statues to furnish lime to build their wretched hovels. 

In all these splendid mediaeval buildings the sentiment of devotion absolutely and literally exudes from the walls, because for centuries devotional thought-forms have been created in them by successive generations. In strong contrast to this is the atmosphere of criticism and disputation which may be felt by any sensitive person in the meeting-houses of some of the sects. In many a conventicle in Scotland and in Holland this feeling stands out with
startling prominence, so as to give the impression that the great majority of the so-called worshippers have had no thought of worship or devotion at all, but only of the most sanctimonious self-righteousness, and of burning anxiety to discover some doctrinal flaw in the wearisome sermon of their unfortunate minister. 

Temples

Abydos Temple, Egypt

I have been taking Christian fanes as an example, because they are those which are most familiar to me-- which will also be most familiar to the majority of my readers; also perhaps because Christianity is the religion which has made a special point of devotion, and has, more than any other, arranged for the simultaneous expression of it in special buildings erected for that purpose. Among Hindus the Vaishnavite has a devotion quite as profound as that of any Christian, though unfortunately it is often tainted by expectation of favours to be given in return. But the Hindu has no idea of anything like  combined worship. Though on great festivals enormous crowds attend the temples, each person makes his little prayer or goes through his little ceremony for himself, and so he misses the enormous additional effect which is produced by simultaneous action. 

Incan Temple of the Three Windows

Regarded solely from the point of view of charging the walls of the temple with devotional influence, this plan differs from the other in a way that we may perhaps understand by taking a physical illustration of a number of sailors pulling at a rope. We know that, when that is being done, a sort of chant is generally used in order to ensure that the men shall apply their strength at exactly the same moment; and in that way a much more effective pull is produced than would be achieved if each man put out exactly the same strength, but applied it just when he felt that he could, and without any relation to the work of the others. 

Ancient Borobudur Temple, Jogjarkata, Indonesia

Nevertheless as the years roll by there comes to be a strong feeling in a Vaishnavite temple-- as strong perhaps as that of the Christians, though quite different in kind. Different again in quite another way is the impression produced in the great temples dedicated to Shiva. In such a shrine as that at Madura, for example, an exceedingly powerful influence radiates from the holy of holies. It is surrounded by a strong feeling of reverential awe, almost of fear,
and this so deeply tinges the devotion of the crowds who come to worship that the very aura of the place is changed by it. 

Temple of the Sun

Completely different again is the impression which surrounds a Buddhist temple. Of fear we have there absolutely no trace whatever. We have perhaps less of direct devotion, for to a large extent devotion is replaced by gratitude.
The prominent radiation is always one of joyfulness and love-- an utter absence of anything dark or stern.

Another complete contrast is represented by the Muhammadan mosque; devotion of a sort is present there also, but it is distinctly a militant devotion, and the particular impression that it gives one is that of a fiery determination. One feels that this population' s comprehension of their creed may be limited, but there is no question whatever as to their dogged determination to hold by it. 

The Jewish synagogue again is like none of the others, but has a feeling which is quite distinct, and curiously dual-- exceptionally materialistic on one side, and on the other full of a strong, pathetic longing for the return of vanished glories. 

Church Sites And Relics

A partial recognition of another facet of the facts which we have been mentioning accounts for the choice of the site of many religious edifices. A church or a temple is frequently erected to commemorate the life and death of some saint, and in the first instance such a fane is built upon a spot which has some special connection with him. It may be the place where he died, the spot where he was born, or where some important event of his life occurred.

Ethiopian Church carved from a single piece of rock

The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem and that of the Crucifixion at Jerusalem are instances of this, as is also the great Stupa at Buddhagaya  where the Lord Gautama attained His Buddhahood, or the temple of the ` Bishanpad' where it is supposed that Vishnu left His foot-mark. All such shrines are erected not so much from an historical sense which wishes to indicate for the benefit of posterity the exact spot where an important event happened, as with the idea that that spot is especially blessed, especially charged with a magnetism which will remain through the ages, and will radiate upon and benefit those who bring themselves within the radius of its influence. Nor is this universal idea without adequate foundation.

Inca Temple of the Sun

The spot at which the Lord BUDDHA gained the step which gives Him that
august title is charged with a magnetism which causes it to glow forth like a sun for anyone who has clairvoyant vision. It is calculated to produce the strongest possible magnetic effect on anyone who is naturally sensitive to such influence, or who deliberately makes himself temporarily sensitive to such influence by putting himself in an attitude of heartfelt devotion. 

In a recent article on Buddhagaya in The Lotus Journal Alcyone wrote:

When I sat quietly under the tree for awhile with Mrs. Besant, I was able to see the Lord BUDDHA, as He had looked when He sat there. Indeed, the record of His meditation is still so strong that it needs only a little clairvoyance to see Him even now. I had the advantage of having met Him in that life in 588 B.C., and become one of His followers, so that it was easier for me to see Him again in this present life. But I think almost anyone who is a little sensitive would see Him at Buddhagaya by staying quite quiet for a little time because the air is full of His influence, and even now there are always great Devas bathing in the magnetism, and guarding the place. 

Other churches, temples or dagobas are sanctified by the possession of relics of some Great One, and here again the connection of ideas is obvious. It is customary for those who are ignorant of these matters to ridicule the idea of paying reverence to the fragment of bone which once belonged to a saint; but though reverence paid to the bone may be out of place, the influence radiating from that bone may nevertheless be quite a real thing, and well worthy of serious attention. That the trade in relics has led, all the world over, to fraud on the one hand and blind credulity on the other, is not a thing to be disputed; but that by no means alters the fact that a genuine relic may be a valuable thing. Whatever has been part of the physical body of a Great One, or even of the garments which have clothed that physical body, is impregnated with his personal magnetism. That means that it is charged with the powerful waves of thought and feeling which used to issue from him, just as an electrical battery may be charged. 

Such force as it possesses is intensified and perpetuated by the thought-waves poured upon it as the years roll by, by the faith and devotion of the crowds who visit the shrine. This when the relic is genuine; but most relics are not genuine. Even then, though they have no initial strength of their own, they acquire much influence as time goes on, so that even a false relic is by no means without effect. Therefore anyone putting himself into a receptive attitude, and coming into the immediate neighbourhood of a relic, will receive into himself its strong vibrations, and soon will be more or less attuned to them. Since those vibrations are unquestionably better and stronger than any which he is likely to generate on his own account, this is a good thing for him. For the time being it lifts him on to a higher level, it opens a higher world to him; and though the effect is only temporary, this cannot but be good for him-- an event which will leave him, for the rest of his life, slightly better than if it had not occurred. 

This is the rationale of pilgrimages, and they are quite often really effective. In addition to whatever may have been the original magnetism contributed by the holy man or relic, as soon as the place of pilgrimage is established and numbers of people begin to visit it, another factor comes into play, of which we have already spoken in the case of churches and temples. The place begins to be charged with the devotional feeling of all these hosts of visitors, and what they leave behind reacts upon their successors. Thus the influence of one of these holy places usually does not decrease as time passes, for if the original force tends slightly to diminish, on the other hand it is constantly fed by new accessions of devotion. Indeed, the only case in which the power ever fades is that of a neglected shrine-- as, for example, when a country is conquered by people of another religion, to whom the older shrines are as nothing. Even then the influence, if it has been originally sufficiently strong, persists almost without diminution for many centuries, and for this reason even ruins have often a powerful force connected with them. 

Fallen Colossus of Ramesses in the Courtyard of the Ramesseum, Thebes, West_Egypt

The Egyptian religion, for example, has been practised little since the Christian era, yet no sensitive person can stand amidst the ruins of one of its temples without being powerfully affected by the stream of its thought. In this particular instance force comes into play; the Egyptian architecture was of a definite type, intentionally so erected for the purpose of producing a definite impression upon its worshippers, and perhaps no architecture has ever fulfilled its purpose more effectively. 

The shattered fragments which remain still produce that effect to no inconsiderable degree, even upon members of an alien race altogether out of touch with the type of the old Egyptian civilisation. For the student of comparative religion who happens to be sensitive, there can be no more interesting experience than this-- to bathe in the magnetism of the older religions of the world, to feel their influence as their devotees felt it thousands
of years ago, to compare the sensations of Thebes or Luxor with those of the Parthenon or of the beautiful Greek temples of Girgenti, or those of Stonehenge with the vast ruins of Yucatan. 

Underwater huge megalithic, Lemuria 

Church Ruins

The religious life of the old world can best be sensed in this way through the agency of its temples; but it is equally possible in the same way to come into touch with the daily life of those vanished nations, by standing among the ruins of their palaces and their homes. This needs perhaps a keener
clairvoyant sense than the other. The force which permeates the temple is powerful because it is to a considerable extent one-pointed-- because all through the centuries people have come to it with one leading idea of prayer or devotion, and so the impression made has been comparatively powerful. In their homes, on the other hand, they have lived out their lives with all kinds of different ideas and warring interests, so that the impressions often cancel one another. 


Nevertheless there emerges, as years roll on, a sort of least common multiple of all their feelings, which is characteristic of them as a race, and this can be sensed by one who has the art of entirely suppressing those personal feelings of his own, which are so far nearer and more vivid to him, and listening earnestly to catch the faint echo of the life of those times so long ago. Such study often enables one to take a juster view of history; manners and customs which startle and horrify us, because they are so remote from our own, can in this way be contemplated from the point of view of those to whom they were familiar; and in seeing them thus, one often realises for the first time how entirely we have misconceived those men of the past. 

Some of us may remember how, in our childhood, ignorant though well-meaning relations endeavoured to excite our sympathy by stories of Christian martyrs who were thrown to the lions in the Colosseum at Rome, or reprobated with horror the callous brutality which could assemble thousands to enjoy the combats between gladiators. I am not prepared to defend the tastes and amusements of the ancient Roman citizen, yet I think that any sensitive person who will go to the Colosseum at Rome and (if he can for the moment escape from the tourist) sit down there quietly, and let his consciousness drift backwards in time until he can sense the real feeling of those enormous, wildly-excited audiences, will find that he has done them a gross injustice.  

First, he will realise that the throwing of Christians to the lions because of their religious belief is a pious falsehood of the unprincipled early Christians. He will find that the government of Rome was in religious matters distinctly more tolerant than most European governments at the present day; that no person was ever executed or persecuted on account of any religious opinion whatever, and that those so-called Christians who were put to death suffered not in the least because of their alleged religion, but because of conspiracy against the State, or of crimes which we should all join in reprobating. 

He will find that the government allowed and even encouraged gladiatorial combats, but he will also find that only three classes of people took part in them. First, condemned criminals-- men whose lives had been forfeited to the law of the time-- were utilised to provide a spectacle for the people, a degrading spectacle certainly, but not in any way more so than many which receive popular approval at the present day. The malefactor was killed in the arena, fighting either against another malefactor or a wild beast; but he preferred to die fighting rather than at the hands of the law, and there was always just a possibility that if he fought well he might thereby contrive to earn the applause of the fickle population; and so save his life. 

The second class consisted of such prisoners of war as it was the fashion of the time to put to death; but in this case also these were people whose death
was already decided upon, and this particular form of death utilised them for a
certain form of popular entertainment, and also gave them a chance of saving their lives, at which they eagerly grasped. The third class were the professional gladiators, men like the prize-fighters of the present day, men who took up this horrible line of life for the sake of the popularity which it brought-- accepting it with their eyes fully open to its danger. 

I am not for a moment suggesting that the gladiatorial show was a form of entertainment which could possibly be tolerated by a really enlightened people; but if we are to apply the same standard now, we shall have to admit that no enlightened nations have yet come into existence, for it was no worse than the mediaeval tournaments, than the cock-fighting and bear-baiting of a century ago, or than the bull-fight or prize-fight of the present day. Nor is there anything to choose between the brutality of its supporters and that of the
people who go in vast crowds to see how many rats a dog can kill in a minute, or that of the noble sportsmen who (without the excuse of anything in the nature of a fair fight) go out to slaughter hundreds of inoffensive partridges. 

We are beginning to set a somewhat higher value on human life than they did in the days of ancient Rome; but even so I would point out that that change does not mark a difference between the ancient Roman race and its reincarnation in the English people, for our own race was equally callous about wholesale slaughter up to a century ago. The difference is not between
us and the Romans, but between us and our very recent ancestors; for the crowds which in the days of our fathers went and jested at a public execution can hardly be said to have advanced much since the time when they crowded the benches of the Colosseum. 

It is true that the Roman Emperors attended those exhibitions, as the English Kings used to encourage the tournament, and as the Kings of Spain even now patronise the bull-fight; but in order to understand the varied motives which led them to do this we must make a thorough study of the politics of the time-- a matter which is quite outside the scope of this book. Here it must suffice to say that the Roman citizens were a body of men in a very curious political position, and that the authorities considered it necessary to provide them with constant entertainments in order to keep them in a good humour. Therefore they hit upon this method of utilising what they regarded as the necessary and customary execution of criminals and rebels, in order to provide for the proletariat a kind of entertainment which it enjoyed. A very brutal proletariat, you will say. One must certainly admit that they were not highly advanced, but at least they were far better than those much later specimens who took active part in the unspeakable horrors of the French Revolution, for these last felt an active delight in blood and cruelty, which were only unnoticed concomitants of the enjoyment in the case of the Roman. 

Anyone who, standing in the Colosseum, as I have said, will really allow him-self to feel the true spirit of those crowds of long ago, will understand that what appealed to them as the excitement of the contest and the skill exhibited in it. Their brutality consisted not in the fact that they enjoyed bloodshed and suffering, but that in the excitement of watching the struggle they were able to ignore it-- which after all is very much what we do when we eagerly follow in the columns of our newspapers the news from the seat of war in the present day. Level for level, case for case, we of the fifth sub-race have made a slight advance from the condition of the fourth sub-race of two thousand years ago; but that advance is much slighter than our self-satisfaction has persuaded us. 

Every country has its ruins, and in all alike the study of the older life is an interesting study. A good idea of the wonderfully varied activities and interests of the mediaeval monastic life in England may be obtained by visiting that queen of ruins, Fountains Abbey, just as by visiting the stones of Carnac (not in Egypt but in Morbihan) one may watch the midsummer rejoicings round the tantad or sacred fire of the ancient Bretons. 

There is perhaps less necessity to study the ruins of India, [Really?!-ALWH] since daily life there has remained so unchanged throughout the ages that no clairvoyant faculty is required to picture it as it was thousands of years ago. None of the actual buildings of India go back to any period of appreciable difference, and in most cases the relics of the golden age of India under the great Atlantean monarchies are already deeply buried. If we turn to mediaeval times, the effect of environment and religion on practically the same people is curiously illustrated by the difference in feeling between any ancient city of the north of India and the ruins of Anuradhapura in Ceylon. 

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