Autobiography of a Shaker: Part Ii

IN the last number of the “ Atlantic Monthly,” I gave an outline of my autobiography in the external world; and then of my convincement — by means of the spiritual phenomena presented to and operating in me, as a worldly man, a materialist — that the Shaker order was the highest mediator between God and man.

But here I am again embarrassed, by my own realization of the unprepared state of many to appreciate the more interior religious exercises of soul involved in such a work of conversion. To it Jesus referred : “ Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they ” — not comprehending their intrinsic value — “ trample them under [the] feet ” of their understanding; “give not [lightly] that which is holy unto the dogs . . . . . lest they turn again and rend you ” for not giving them such kind of food — animal—as their appetites crave.

However, I am encouraged, in regard to others, by my own experience. I often used to think, in the early days ot my faith, when I saw the brethren and sisters exercised in the beautiful gifts of the Spirit, which worldly Christians hold to be impossible in modern times, “ How can I ever attain thereunto?” and, “If I can reach such a baptism, no other human being need doubt the possibility of doing so.”

After being rationally convinced, by the above-mentioned spiritualistic manifestations, that the claims of the order were founded upon the existence of a Supreme Being and a revelation of knowledge and power (unto salvation from wiltul sin, and from its very nature) coming down to mankind through intervening spheres and media, I was also blessed with a Christ Spirit baptism, by which I was interiorly convinced that I was a sinner before God ; and in that light I saw light and darkness, and perceived that many things held in high estimation by even the most zealous of worldly Christians were an abomination in the sight of that Christ Spirit.

I had now come to a day and work of judgment that I could comprehend; and I esteemed it as a sacred privilege to bring to the light of earthly witnesses all the deeds I had done in the body and soul, whether they were good, or whether they were evil. Then I began to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the character of the first Christian, Jesus.

And I saw, according to the record, — the Bible, — that Jesus went with all the Jews in Judæa, confessing their sins and transgressions against Moses, as the exponent of natural law for the earth-life. And John heard him, and was thereby convinced that Jesus had lived even nearer to the law than he himself had done; and said: “I have need [rather to confess unto thee, and] to be baptized of thee.”

After that Jesus was baptized by the descent of a Christ Spirit; and then occurred (for the sake of the multitude) the external spiritualistic appearance of a dove and a voice. This Spirit was the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the Christ.

As Jesus had done to John, so did Ann to Jane Wardley, — confessed her sins, and repented of them to the entire forsaking thereof. “ Whoso confessed and forsaketh them shall have mercy ” ; while those who sin, and continue to cover their sins, as is the practice of the Christians of Babylon, do not prosper in the work of overcoming sin ; they live and die in their sins; and therefore where Jesus is, in the spirit world, they can find no entrance until they have confessed their sins (which “follow after them”) to God’s acceptance. The simple Shakers prefer sending their sins "beforehand to judgment.”

As each particle of gold possesses every one of the chemical properties of all the gold upon or in the earth, so does each human being possess all the elements and properties of humanity in the aggregate. The same process that would separate the dross from one ounce of gold would also serve to separate the dross from all the gold in existence.

And when it is satisfactorily proved that one man was the author of the system of Christianity, and that one woman was the finisher of that system, that is, that Jesus laid (or is) the “ Corner-Stone,” and that Ann placed (or is) the Capstone of the Temple, and that each of them became a perfect “pattern,” or specimen of genuine Christianity, unadulterated, free from any Babylon mixture, from all extraneous worldly elements adverse or pertaining thereto, it cannot but be clearly seen why those two should sit as refiners of silver and purifiers of gold to the remainder of mankind; and why they, or their representatives, should watch carefully the crucible, — Shaker society, — to see that each man and woman coming into it continue in the fire until, like the silver or the gold, the faces of the refiners become perfectly reflected in them, — until the same character is formed, — and the same mind and spirit shall be in them that was in Jesus and in Ann, as the “first-born” brother and the “firstborn ” sister of the new creation.

From the moment of the interior conviction already referred to, my life has been “ hid with Christ,” among this people “in God”; and as an individual, I have been so absorbed into the community, that my personal history, “my policy,” has become identified with the history and principles of the order.

Moses of olden time hath in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day. And Jesus, for nearly two thousand years has had his heralds and ambassadors proclaiming his name, and preaching his male “ gospel to every creature.”

And now one “ like the Son of Man ” sits upon and points to some eighteen white clouds1 not much larger than a man’s hand, rising above the horizon in different parts of Atlantica. These have a “ future.”

Be it mine to speak the praises of the Mother Church ; and to introduce the readers of the New Atlantis to a “new thing in the earth,” — “a woman ” who has established a millennial community ; thus en-compass-ing the primordial spiritual object of “a man,” — Jesus.

“ Turn again, O Virgin of Israel! turn again to these thy cities.” As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah, and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity. “And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities ” — communities — “thereof, together, husbandmen and they that go forth with flocks. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul ” : —

The Lord bless thee, O Habitation of Justice, and Mountain of Holiness!”

ANN LEE.

Ann Lee was born February 29, 1736, in Toad Lane (now Todd’s Street), Manchester, England. Her father, John Lee, was a blacksmith, and poor ; with him she resided until she left England for America. Her mother was esteemed a very pious woman. They had eight children, who were (as was then common for poor children) brought up to work, instead of being sent to school ; by which means Ann acquired a habit of industry, but could neither write nor read. During her childhood and youth she was employed in a cotton factory, and was afterwards a cutter of hatters’ fur; and then a cook in an infirmary. She was in every calling noted for her neatness, faithfulness, prudence, and economy.

Her complexion was fair ; she had blue eyes, and light chestnut hair. Her countenance was expressive, but grave, inspiring confidence and respect. Many called her beautiful.

She possessed a strong and healthy physical constitution, and remarkable powers of mind. At times, when under the operation of the Holy Spirit, her form and actions appeared divinely beautiful. The influence of her spirit was then beyond description, and she spoke as “one having authority.”

In childhood she exhibited a bright, sagacious, and active genius. She was not, like other children, addicted to play, but was serious and thoughtful. She was early the subject of religious impressions, and was often favored with heavenly visions.

As she grew in years, she felt an innate repugnance to the marriage state, and often expressed these feelings to her mother, desiring to be preserved therefrom ; notwithstanding which (through the importunities of her relatives), she was married to Abraham Stanley, a blacksmith. The convictions of her youth, however, often returned upon her with much force, and at length brought her into excessive tribulation of soul, in which she earnestly sought for deliverance from the bondage of sin, and gave herself no rest day or night, but spent whole nights in laboring and crying to God to open some way of salvation.

In the year 1758, the twenty-third of her age, she joined a society of people who, because of their indignation against sin in themselves, often shook, and (by the Spirit) were shaken, and hence by the rabble were designated Shakers. The society was under the lead of Jane and James Wardley, formerly of the Quaker order. The people of that society were blameless in their deportment, and were distinguished for the clearness of their testimony against sin, the strictness of their moral discipline, and the purity of their lives.

The light of this people led them to make an open confession of every sin they had committed, and to take up finally and forever the cross against everything they knew to be evil. This endowed them with great power over sin ; and here Ann found that protection she had so long desired, and which corresponded with her faith at that time. She was baptized into the same spirit, and, by degrees, attained to the full knowledge and experience of all the spiritual truths of the society.

Her statement is : “I felt such a sense of my sins, that I was willing to confess them before the whole world. I confessed my sins to my elders, one by one, and repented of them in the same manner. When my elders reproved me, I felt determined not to be reproved twice for the same thing, but to labor to overcome the evil for myself. Sometimes I went to bed and slept; but, in the morning, if I could not feel that sense of the work of God that I did before I slept, I would labor all night. This I did many nights, and in the daytime I put my hands to work, and my heart to God, and the refreshing operations thereof would release me, so that I felt able to go to my work again.

“ Many times, when I was about my work, I have felt my soul overwhelmed with sorrow. I used to work as long as I could keep it concealed, and then would go out of sight, lest any one should pity me with that pity which was not of God. In my travail and tribulation, my sufferings were so great, that my flesh consumed upon my bones, bloody sweat pressed through the pores of my skin, and I became as helpless as an infant. And when I was brought through, and born into the spiritual kingdom, I was like an infant just born into the natural world. They see colors and objects, but they know not what they see. It was so with me ; but, before I was twenty-four hours old, I saw, and I knew what I saw.”

Ann was wrought upon after this manner for the space of nine years. Yet she often had intervals of release, in which her bodily strength and vigor were sometimes miraculously renewed ; and her soul was filled with heavenly visions and Divine revelations. By these means, the way of God and the nature of his work gradually opened upon her mind with increasing light and understanding.

She spent much time in earnest and incessant cries to God to show her the foundation of man’s loss, what it was, and wherein it consisted, and how the way of salvation could be discovered and effectually opened to mankind in their present condition, and how the great work of redemption was to be accomplished.

The ultimate effect of the labor and suffering of soul that Ann passed through was to purify and fitly prepare her for becoming a temple in which the Christ Spirit, that had made the first appearing to Jesus, and constituted him Jesus Christ, could make a second appearing ; and through whom the God of heaven could set up a church, or “kingdom which should never be destroyed.”

While Ann, for bearing her testimony against “ fleshly lusts which war against the soul,” was imprisoned in Manchester, England, she saw Jesus Christ in open vision, who revealed to her the most astonishing views and Divine manifestations of truth, in which she had a perfect and clear sight of the “mystery of iniquity,” the root and foundation, of all human depravity.

From the time of the appearing of Christ to Ann, in prison (1770), she was received by the people as a mother in spiritual things, and was thenceforth by them called Mother Ann.

The exercises in their religious meetings were singing and dancing, shaking, turning, and shouting, speaking with new tongues, and prophesying, with all those various gifts of the Holy Spirit known in the primitive Church. These gifts progressively increased, until the time of the full organization and establishment of the Shaker church in America in 1792.

On the 19th of May, 1774, Mother Ann, with eight of her followers, embarked in the ship Mariah for New York, where they arrived on the 6th of August following. They proceeded to Albany, and thence to Watervliet, which was at that time a wilderness and called Niskeuna, where they remained very secluded for about three years and a half.

Mother Ann, having finished her work on earth, departed this life, at Watervliet, on the 8th day of September, 1784, aged forty-eight years and six months.

Thus it is an interesting fact, that Ann Lee, the ostensible founder of the Shaker system of Religious Socialism, was an uneducated woman, that is, according to the popular idea of education. But was she, therefore, uneducated, unlearned ? Neither Confucius, nor Zoroaster, nor Plato, nor Homer, nor even the Prophets of Israel, would pass an examination in a sophomore class at college. Of Jesus it was asked, “ How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ? ” And it is certain that Ann, in her normal state, could neither write nor read. Yet Shakerism only is successful Communism ; and (so far as I am aware) is the only religious system that teaches science by Divine Revelation ; and it also teaches that all true science leads directly thereto, as in the case of Swedenborg,—one of the most learnedly scientific men of his time,—by whom it evolved Spiritualism. He was contemporary with Ann, who said he was her John the Baptist. He, not the Fox girls, was the angel of modern Spiritualism, which is the last and highest of the sciences, inasmuch as it teaches the geography of the spirit world; resting, as does all science, upon facts,—supernatural phenomena. It is the very science that Materialists should learn. It (as well as astronomy, chemistry, agriculture, (&c.) has always been an element of Shakerism. There may be Spiritualism without religion ; but there can be no religion without Spiritualism, which is as a bayou flowing out from the great River of Divine Revelation, in Shakerism, to the sea, — world.

It was by spiritual manifestations (as I have stated in Part I.) that I, in 1830, was converted to Shakerism. In 1837 to 1844, there was an influx from the spirit world, “confirming the faith of many disciples” who had lived among believers for years, and extending throughout all the eighteen societies, making media by the dozen, whose various exercises, not to be suppressed even in their public meetings, rendered it imperatively necessary to close them all to the world during a period of seven years, in consequence of the then unprepared state of the world, to which the whole of the manifestations, and the meetings too, would have been as unadulterated “foolishness,” or as inexplicable mysteries.

The spirits then declared, again and again, that, when they had done their work amongst the inhabitants of Zion, they would do a work in the world, of such magnitude, that not a palace nor a hamlet, upon earth should remain unvisited by them.

After their mission amongst us was finished, we supposed that the manifestations would immediately begin in the outside world ; but we were much disappointed; for we had to wait four years before the work began, as it finally did, at Rochester, New York. But the rapidity of its course throughout the nations of the earth (as also the social standing and intellectual importance of the converts), has far exceeded the predictions.

In Revelation (xviii.) it is said, an angel came “down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.” That is Spiritualism, and Swedenborg was the type of it, just as Jesus was the type of Christianity, in his day, and as Ann Lee was the type of Christianity in its second advent upon the earth.

It is a fact, patent to all observers, that what the religious world designated by the vague and (in many respects) unmeaning epithet of opprobrium, Infidelity, had made itself respectable and respected in such men as Hume, Volney, Voltaire, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and the whole host of writers of the French Encyclopædia,—got up for the express purpose of overthrowing Christianity; for the signature with which Voltaire was in the habit of closing his articles for the press was “ Crush the wretch! ” meaning Jesus Christ; these were the “horns” that grew out of the beast, and that “hated the whore,” — the “whore of Babylon,” the Catholic Church, —and tormented her with their fiery missiles of truth, ending in the French Revolution, the abolition of the Sabbath, and of all Church establishments and services, and the deification of Reason, personified in a young female, who was paraded through the streets of Paris; thus undesignedly foreshadowing the coming Woman.

The “second beast” (which was the “image” of the first) “had two horns like a lamb,” — Luther and Calvin,— but “ he spoke as a dragon, exercising all the persecuting power of the first beast” (unto whom he gave his power), as see Henry VIII., its head, who destroyed two of his six wives, and died a monster of depravity, after putting to death, by burning and hanging, for their “heresies,” hundreds of his subjects.

Those same “horns” (powers), growing out of the “image of the beast,”— Protestantism, — produced the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and their compeers of the same class,—Deists, Materialists, Universalists, Unitarians, Free-Thinkers, Infidels,—framed the declaration of rights, or first principles of a civil government, and formed a Constitution, which was but a compromise, for the time being, between right and expediency ; but which contained within itself the power of amendment,—of growth towards those first principles. And, if it did not abolish slavery, it did abolish “the beast" of Church and State ; for it separated the Church from the civil government. It was “the earth opening its mouth to swallow up the flood” of religious persecution ; thus helping the woman, Ann Lee, to found an order, or church, which could not exist even in England, much less in any other nation ; for hitherto, under the reign of the “ beast, and the image of the beast,” the civil government had been the sword of the Church, by which to punish infidels and heretics. Yet these antagonistic “ horns ” grew out of the “beast.” Now a thing is supported by what it grows out of, and of which it is a component part; therefore, it is added, “ they ate her flesh,”—were part and parcel of Babylon.

The angel of Spiritualism has “great power ” to act upon material things, by rapping, and moving tables, chairs, bells, musical instruments, &c.; thus “confounding the wisdom of the wise” and scientific Materialists, and converting them to a belief in God, a spirit world, the progressive nature and immortality of the human soul, and its sequences, — in short, doing with such men as Robert Owen and Robert Dale Owen — types of a class — what all the churches in England had, for half a century, labored in vain to do. These men made ten converts from the churches, while the churches were trying to make one from the ranks of the infidels. They were “ lightened with the glory ” of the angel of Spiritualism, and were enlightened and quickened by it, too, into more life than the “dead bodies ” of the churches were possessed of.

Nor was this all, or the worst of it. For the Christians, who said, “ We will go and do the will of God,” — do right to humanity, — did not do right; but they, as their opponents said, “pointed to the heavens, and thither directed the attention of their hearers, while they took possession of the earth from under their feet ” ; and then, for the firsttime, in England, were built poor-houses and taverns, for the needy and travellers ; instead (as was the case under the Catholic rule) of religious institutions, where the poor should be fed and cared for, and the wandering traveller lodged;2 while the infidels, who denied the existence of the Christians’ Triune God, or said, “ We will not do his bidding,” did do good to humanity, and sought to establish communities, as at New Lanark and New Harmony, and a hundred other places, to restore (unwittingly) the Christian institution of “all things common,” some of them spending their whole lives and immense fortunes to do what it was the first duty of a Christian priesthood to accomplish, — fulfil the prophecy, and make provision for every man to “sit under his own vine and fig-tree,” upon his own land, thus realizing one of the beatitudes of Jesus, by causing the meek to “inherit the earth.”

I had often heard of the “plan of salvation” ; but to me it seemed a poor plan, as it had been arranged. For its elementary doctrines were, a Trinity of male Gods creating man, who sins ; the birth, by a woman, of one of the Trinity;,his final death, as an atonement for man’s sins ; then the reanimation of his body to life, and the transmutation of his physical into a spiritual body ; and then, finally, the ultimate reanimation of all the bodies of the human race, to undergo a like transformation. Then a similar change in the earth itself, on an external day of judgment, &c., &c. ; after all this, each and every person passing into a perfect heaven of the most consummate purity and holiness, or being plunged into a burning hell of veritable fire and brimstone, there to remain for ever and ever ; the event to depend upon what they had or had not done during the short term of their earth-life.

These doctrines I was taught when a child, and I supposed that I believed them. But the truth of the matter is, to such an extent are man and woman and child “the creatures of circumstances” (as Owen would put it), that a large proportion of them are not accountable tor their condition, physical, moral, or religious. Therefore it would be decidedly wrong to send them to any worse hell than their own state constitutes. And what sort of a heaven would it be, that could admit such persons within its precincts ?

The theology of Christendom had degenerated into the mere doctrines of devils, of unreasoning authority; for Babylon “ is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” The deification of Reason was but the swing of the pendulum to the other extreme. The Church was at war with science,—with astronomy, and was not willing that the earth should turn upon its own axis; with geology, limiting all its records to six thousand years ; with chemistry, in contravention of the maxim, that “from nothing comes nothing, and that not anything can be annihilated,” claiming that all things were made out of nothing ; with physiology, by teaching that destructive plagues (as cholera, small-pox, &c.) came of Divine appointment, and were to be stayed only by church rites ; with agriculture, by praying for good crops, without first enforcing, as an indispensable requisite, drainage, subsoiling, fertilizing, and diligent attention to the laws of God in Nature.

In fine Babylon, in her war upon Nature, upon science, upon human reason, has been worsted; and now she is like a whale with a thrasher on its back, and a sword-fish under its belly ; for she has Shakerism with its Divine revelations assailing her from above, and Spiritualism, embodying all the sciences, working upon her from below.

Therefore, with much propriety, did the next angel, who followed the angel of Spiritualism, and witnessed its effects, announce to a thankful and rejoicing universe, “ Babylon is fallen, is fallen.” As a “great millstone cast into the sea, thus with violence shall that great city Babylon,” the adulterous mixture of Church and State, right and wrong, peace and war, humility and pride, monastic celibacy and sacramental marriage, Hebraism and Mahometanism, Christianity and Heathenism, all commingled together in Christendom, be destroyed, and dissolved by the “fervent heat” generated by Divine revelation and human reason co-operating ; yea, she “shall be utterly burned with fire,” and consumed by the flame of scientific and revealed truth ; “ for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her,” and mighty are the Church of God, and the earthly civil government of America, which will execute the judgment (to be finally passed upon every nation, kingdom, and state upon earth) by the spread of republican principles and the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ and Mother Ann. Thus will celibacy in the Shaker order operate as a substitute for poverty, famine, disease, and war, in governing the unreasoning, unlimited principle of human reproduction.

Then there will be formed and established a legitimate union of the true Christian Church with a true civil government, each in its order, like soul and body. And then “out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” — the Church of Christ’s Second Appearing; and the nations shall “not learn war any more ” ; but, instead thereof, the people shall learn (and practise) agriculture, horticulture, manufacturing, and just commerce.

I understand that Mr. Emerson, in a recent lecture in Boston, made some statements relative to communities, the causes of their failure, &c. Robert Owen published his view of the causes of failure at New Harmony, as follows : “ There was not disinterested industry; there was not mutual confidence ; there was not practical experience; there was not unison of action, because there was not unanimity of counsel. These were the points of difference and dissension, the rock upon which the social bark struck and was wrecked.”

I will state my view, and will endeavor to elucidate and defend it. A permanently successful community must necessarily be the external body of a true Christian Church of Christ’s Second Appearing.

An angel said to Esdras : “For in the place where the Highest beginneth to shew his city, there can no man’s building be able to stand.” Perhaps all professing Christians will agree, that the time when the Lord God began to show his power the most directly in organizing and building them into a “city,” was on the day of Pentecost, when he gathered together the people of one nation, — the Jews, — and, from among them, individuals of one and the same class, namely, spiritualists (religionists), who in that place formed a community. In it, the males and females were separated ; thus laying the foundation of the two monastic orders of the Christian Church. These (male and female) were the “two witnesses, within the Church, for the original order of the Jewish primitive Christian Church ; and the line of the “ heretics ” (male and female), ending in the Quakers, produced the “two witnesses,” outside of the national church, for the principles of that church, — celibacy, community, revelation, spiritualism, non-resistance, simplicity of dress and language, and health. For all these “heretical” witnesses held to one or more of these principles, and built their organization (which could not possibly “ stand ”) thereupon.

But suppose I present a succinct consecutive view of the “ plan of salvation,” as seen from a Shaker standpoint. I the more readily do this, because I know that most theologians will agree with Dr. Adam Clarke and Dr. Cumming, that “the only key with which to unlock the mysteries of godliness,—of prophecy and vision, and of the ‘revelation,’—is the actual occurrence of the central event, the second appearance of Christ.” And I have great satisfaction in being able to state that this important and transcendently glorious event has already taken place ; and that, too, at the time (1792 or 1793) assigned by Dr. Camming as being the end of the twelve hundred and sixty years, — the “ reign of the beast ” ; the period of time during which the “ woman ” who “ fled into the wilderness ” remained there ; and the period during which the “two witnesses” prophesied ; all ending in the year 1792, when the “ sanctuary ” or church was to be “cleansed, and an end made of sin.” In that very year the Shaker Church was founded. At that time believers were gathered into community order by Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright (called Father Joseph and Mother Lucy), as Mother Ann, previous to her decease, had said would be the case.

Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright were among the first of those in America who received faith in the religious principles of Shakerism. Upon them the leadership and government of the people (Shakers) devolved. Under their administration, the principles in regard to property and order in general were fully carried out, and a community of goods was established.

They gradually gathered the people from their scattered condition into families. Orders, rules, and regulations, in temporal and spiritual things, were framed. Elders and deacons of both sexes were appointed, and set in their proper order; and a covenant was written and entered into, for the mutual understanding and protection of the members.

Joseph Meacham was a Baptist preacher in New Lebanon, and a prominent leader in the religious revival out of which the society of Mount Lebanon originated. He was born in Enfield, Connecticut, February 22, 1742, of one of the best families. He was a philosopher, intuitional and revelational, and was “learned in all the learning of the Egyptians.” That he was a man of great executive ability is proved by his success in organizing and establishing the Shaker community system. He died August 16, 1796.

Lucy Wright, who stood with him in that work, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She was of one of the most wealthy and influential families in the town, and was a beautiful woman physically, and of most extraordinary intellectual and moral endowments. She succeeded Father Joseph as the head of the Society, and was designated Mother Lucy. She died February 7, 1821.

But what is the Shaker church ? and what relation does it bear to the present and the future, and to the history of religious ideas, as they have descended with the tide of time from the beginning, and especially as they stand recorded in the Bible? Is it a normal or an abnormal institution ? I claim that it is the fruit of the tree of humanity, ripened under the laws of progressive development operating ever since the world began.

SERPENT.

The medium of temptation to the first human pair was their physical, sensuous nature, — “the serpent” seducing them by the mere desire of pleasure, in the exercise of their creative powers, to ignore and do despite to the law of use, which is, “Whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do,” let it be, not for the pleasurable sensations attending, but for the “ honor and glory of God,”—use, as in the originating of an immortal soul. For simple generation in and of itself, as originally instituted, was as innocent as eating and drinking. God and nature made man upright; but he has sought the lusts of generation (the flesh), the lusts of eating and drinking, and finally added the lusts of the mind,—the intellectual faculties ; so that, in the days of Jesus, “the serpent,” which began in Eden by crawling upon the earth on his belly, had become a winged serpent or dragon, causing mankind to wax worse and worse, and was the symbol of Paganism in the aggregate.

In the third epoch, this dragon became a fiery, flying dragon, or serpent: the fall into self-hood had involved the spiritual faculties in humanity, so that the people, thinking to do God and humanity service, could perpetrate murder by torture.

FOUR DISPENSATIONS.

The same idea, of progress by successive stages, is often used by the various Prophets, under different symbols : Ezekiel saw four issues of water from beneath the threshold of the temple : first, to the ankles ; second, to the knees ; third, to the loins ; the fourth was an impassable river,— the time when the Spirit should be poured out upon all flesh ; the old having dreams, the young visions of spiritual things ; the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth, as the waters do the land under the sea.

These four epochs are again represented to John, the beloved disciple, by four beasts : a lion, a calf, a beast with a face like a man, and a flying eagle. These symbols portray the progress of man, from the lowest to the highest condition of natural humanity; while the four outflowings of water represent the influxes from the Christ sphere, or seventh heaven, passing down through the six inferior generative heavens, and portray the progress of man from the lowest to the highest condition of spiritual humanity.

The Lion Epoch, from Adam to Abraham, is the wild animal phase of human progress, — when man lived by hunting, clothed himself in skins, and practised war as an exciting amusement, like the American Indians. During this dispensation, the earth was filled with violence ; might made right. In those times there were giants; and the mammoths and mastodons were to them as the horse and ox and elephant are to us.

The Calf Epoch, from Abraham to Jesus, is the second stage of progress, wherein food and clothing obtain, as under Moses, Confucius, Zoroaster, Romulus, the Pharaohs and their contemporaries. In this epoch, the arts and sciences are cultivated; mechanics, mathematics, architecture, — it is the temple era; pyramids are built, and great walls, like those of China ; and massive works, that remain for ages, — bridges, arches, and roads.

In Israel, while in the wilderness, the Lord called Bezaleel, and “ filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship ”; to the erection and embellishment of buildings, and the making of tools, &c. ; all culminating (in the days of Solomon) in the glorious kingdom of Israel, and the world-renowned and splendid temple, which was dedicated to, and sanctified by, the God of Israel, as a house of prayer for all nations ; which temple is said to have been composed of all known earthly substances, as indicating that the good and true in all people will be incorporated into the final temple of God, — the Church of Jesus Christ and Mother Ann.

The same laws were in operation in all contemporary nations, producing similar results : a Saviour, a Bible, statutory laws, a temple, as of Jupiter, and Diana, and Apollo, in which the deities of the several nations were often manifested as really as in Israel’s temple. But the God of Israel, though a God of marriage, and war, and slavery, was God of these gods and Lord of their lords; because Israel was the model and typical nation, — progressive, — having prophecies and promises (a reflection from the Christ sphere, which was the true pattern shown on the Mount of things to come), up to the manifestation of John the Baptist, the harbinger ot their Messiah, — Jesus; and to the appearing to him of the Christ Spirit, who, as his God and Guardian Angel, suddenly came to his prepared temple, — the man Jesus.

This system of spiritual theology is not confined to this little earth, but is equally applicable to the inhabitants of all the material worlds within the universe of nature, whether fallen or unfallen ; the Christ, or Resurrection Order, — the seventh heaven, — being the only Mediator, or intervening sphere, between souls in all worlds and the Esse of Life, or final First Cause, the Eternal Father and Mother, — God.

The " Face-of-a-ManEpoch, from Jesus to Ann Lee, is the third stage of the onward movement of humanity. There is the “beast,” or animal, as a basis, as heretofore ; but now we have, on the surface of society, Christianity in name. Whole nations of Pagans are, under Constantine and his successors, converted by the sword ; the people are baptized by force; their temples are turned into churches, and their priests into a Christian priesthood; their statues of gods and goddesses are converted into the likenesses of the various Apostles and saints ; and, for images of the Virgin Mary, the statues of Venus afford an ample supply.3

Thus do we find, in Christendom, a mixture of Hebraism, Paganism, and Mahometanism, with just enough of Christianity to gild it over. As Mr. Dixon puts it: “ The truth is, we English and Americans have hardly yet embraced Christianity as a scheme of life. We find our religion at church ; and when we have sung our psalms, and breathed our prayers, we go back into the streets to be governed, for another week, by our Pagan laws, derived from the Roman Pandects, or from the code of Justinian.” “ Foremost,” says the same writer, “among the seekers after light, are the Shaker brethren at Mount Lebanon, in the State of New York.”

In a Mahometan country, Mr. Dixon asserts, the Koran is a law-book ; but not so the Bible in Christendom. For the equalization of land by Moses, and the perfecting of the process of reproduction, this third epoch has substituted the monastic orders, with common property and celibacy for the few ; and, for the clergy and the many, Pagan monopoly.

Hence the late Archbishop Hughes, when on a visit to Mount Lebanon, after investigating the Shaker system in the most searching manner, remarked : “The principles of your order have always been held by the Catholic Church. Celibacy is enjoined upon the clergy; common property is a monastic rule, as is also non-resistance. But your order is higher than ours, in that, what we require of a small number of our most advanced members in the Church, you expect and exact of all, from the greatest to the least.”

The Flying-Eagle Epoch is a compound and complex dispensation, embracing a perfected spiritual government, and a perfected civil government in the natural order; embodying all the elements of Divine revelation in nature, relating to reproduction, nutrition, clothing, architecture, agriculture,—all science applied to human happiness on the earth-plane, — republicanism ; the eagle being the ensign of true godly republicanism, as was the dragon of Paganism ; while the eagle, with wings superadded, the flying eagle, is the Resurrection Church, — Shakerism, — rising above the earthly order of a mere civil government (however just and orderly), into the pure and holy sphere of abstract Christianity.

These four living creatures are the four dispensations, the complete history of humanity in the external order, from the beginning of time to the end of the human race, — natural humanity, — moving towards the millennial state, wherein there will be a spiritual order, the soul, and a natural order, the body of mankind ; a civil government (having a balance of power, being composed equally of men and women ; that is, the Senate being the female branch of the government, as the House will be the male branch ; and the President, as at present, the executive) enforcing, as the most important of all its functions, a strict observance of the natural law of generation, intercourse for offspring only; and as a logical sequence, “ wars and fightings” will “cease to the ends of the earth.”

Then the higher law of celibacy, from a ground of progress, will continually go from Zion, the spiritual order, to regulate the populative principle, the Word of the Lord, through the President, as the executive of the Republic, enforcing the moral law in its entirety; and there will be no more sickness, or premature death by fœticide and infanticide, or the social evil, or riches, or poverty, or over-population ; for one order “ will sing the song of Moses, the servant of God,” and the other will “sing the song of the Lamb,” — Jesus.

These two lines of progress existed in each individual of the race, from the beginning, and were marked in the race itself by the two sons of Adam, —Cain and Abel, and their descendants. Cain was begotten under the law of lust; Abel, under the true natural law.

The Pagan nations came of Cain, and descended in Pharaoh, — Egypt,— passing through Ishmael, the brother of Isaac, to his posterity, and on to Tiberius Cæsar, — Rome,— who slew his righteous brother, Jesus, as Cain did Abel ; then, continuing through Judas, the antithesis of Jesus, to his posterity, culminated in the Pope, Luther, Calvin, Mahomet,— the whole Antichristian world, — Babylon.

THE FOUR ISSUES OF WATER.

The first outflowing of the waters was only to the ankles, beginning with Abel; thus showing that Divine revelation to man from the Christ heavens was only a small beginning and weak; existing rather as a spirit of prophecy ; operating practically to cause the righteous to observe the laws of nature in nutrition, to sustain the individual; and in propagation, to continue the race.

The second outflowing of the waters was to the knees, — from Abraham to Jesus. Here the revelation from the Resurrection order began more distinctly to show its true character and design, by types and shadows of future things ; putting restraints upon the appetite respecting what to eat, and when and how to propagate ; attaching penalties to sin either by fornication, or by disorderly, unnatural, and untimely sexual intercourse of married persons ; and exacting the offering up of children to the Lord, to be brought up in the temple as Nazarites,—celibates; and requiring the mark of circumcision upon all males, as a prophetic sign that the Christ Spirit would ultimately lead the true descendants of Abel and Isaac to cut themselves off from the order and work of generation by becoming circumcised in thought and imagination.

For in the third dispensation, propagation was a work which belonged exclusively to the true descendants of Cain and Ishmael, and not to the "seed of the woman,” who were to “bruise the serpent’s head” — the lust of generation — by “slaying” the innocent “lamb” of nature, generation itself; thus effectually cutting themselves off “from the foundation of the world.” In this manner they became “ lambs of God,” who are continually “ taking away the sins of the world”; “Saviours upon Mount Zion,” to destroy the work of Esau, — natural generation.

The third outflowing of the waters was to the loins. Now the waters — Christ elements — had become deep enough to enable many men and women to swim free from the earthly, animal work of physical reproduction ; thus dividing the spiritual posterity of Jesus into two parts, as was divided the natural posterity of Adam in the instances of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau ; distinguishing those who (by means of having the sexes separated in monasteries and nunneries) lived a celibate life, as did Jesus, the twelve Apostles, and all of the Pentecostal Jewish Christian Church, from those who had been heathens, — Gentiles, — the posterity of Cain, Ishmael, Esau, and Judas, who, under the combined influences of Hebraism and Christianity, continued the order of marriage.

The early Christians held that no Pagan could become a Christian, without first becoming a Jew, and keeping intact the law of Moses.

In this third epoch,—the first appearing of Christ, — the waters reached only to the seat of the generative life, — “the loins.” One of the most perfect of the prophets of the past said (lamentingly), “ My loins are filled with a loathsome disease,”—lust. Of him even Peter affirmed, “ David is not ascended into the [resurrection] heavens.”

And another, speaking of the saints of the ankles-and-knees dispensation, declared, “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises made from time to time by the Christ Spirit that followed them,” and once in a long time found a prophet through whom to portray a true Christian, and project hopes of future glory.

Their souls were in paradise, the Jewish heaven, into which Jesus (and the thief) entered immediately after passing out of the body, and preached to them as he had done to their posterity in Jerusalem ; and thousands of these faithful souls believed, and went with Jesus, as his witnesses, on his mission to the antediluvians, whence he “descended into [their] hell.” There Jesus and his disciples preached to those who, when upon earth, had been giants in wickedness, whose every thought and imagination had been only for sensual indulgence in eating and drinking, and in marrying and giving in marriage ; and who mocked Noah, while he, being spiritually instructed, was constructing a large ship in which to save a seed of all living creatures upon earth, to contain them and their food during a period of forty days. And “ for this cause was the Gospel preached to them, that they might be judged ” in the same way and manner, by the truth preached, as were those who were still in the body and upon the earth, in Jerusalem.

After this Jesus appeared (in spirit) to one of his friends, and informed her that he had not yet ascended to his own proper resurrection heaven.

THE IMPASSABLE RIVER.

Now there is to be no more walking upon the earth, and at the same time wading in the water. The time of the Gentile Christians is “ fulfilled,” in which “ if they married they did no sin,” but they should “ have trouble in the flesh.”

Now there is required a full sacrifice of the Adamic man and woman, an “ end of the world,” which with the lusts and elements thereof shall be “ melted ” by the operation of the “fervent heat ” of truth, and “ pass away.” Old things are to be done away, and all things are to become new ; a perpetual sabbath of worship ; a continual “ feast of tabernacles ” ; a never-ending campmeeting; a last supper or sacrament, where the guests no more separate to go and eat at the table of isolation, after having eaten as brethren and sisters “ in common ” at the Lord’s table ; a baptism in the river of life,” cleansing the soul from the “uncleannesses” of a generative nature, and “ from the corruptions that are in the world through lust.”

For as, “in the days of Noah, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came and killed them all, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man,” the second direct appearing of the Christ Spirit upon the earth. For whereas the flood arrested and cut them off from all those practices, by physical death, the operation of truth by this manifestation of the Christ Spirit more effectually arrests mankind by the death of the generative life itself; thus bringing the world to an end therein. “Ye are they upon whom the ends of the world are come” — the end of marriage, selfish property, oaths, war, sickness, unbelief in Spiritualism and Divine revelation.

  1. That is, eighteen societies of Believers, as follows, viz. : —
  2. Mount Lebanon, two and a half miles from Lebanon Springs, twenty-five miles southeast of Albany, Columbia Co., N. Y. Address F. W. Evans.
  3. Watervliet, seven miles northeast of Albany.
  4. Groveland, Livingston Co., N. Y.
  5. Hancock, Berkshire Co., Mass.
  6. Tyringham, same county and State.
  7. Enfield, Hartford Co., Conn.
  8. Harvard, Worcester Co., Mass.
  9. Shirley, Middlesex Co., Mass.
  10. Canterbury, Merrimack Co., N. H.
  11. Enfield, Grafton Co., N. H.
  12. Alfred, York Co., Maine.
  13. New Gloucester, Cumberland Co., Maine.
  14. Union Village, Warren Co., Ohio.
  15. Watervliet, Montgomery Co., Ohio.
  16. White Water, Hamilton Co., Ohio.
  17. North Union, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio.
  18. Pleasant Hill, Mercer Co., Ky.
  19. South Union, Logan Co., Ky.
  20. Cobbett.
  21. Mosheim.