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WRONG ACTION OF MIND, AND ITS RESULTS IN A FUTURE STATE.by@catharinebeecher

WRONG ACTION OF MIND, AND ITS RESULTS IN A FUTURE STATE.

by Catharine Esther Beecher October 24th, 2023
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We are now to inquire as to the results of the wrong action of mind in a future state, so far as reason and experience can furnish data for any anticipations. The following are the principles of mind from which we reason on this subject. It appears that its constitution is such that the repetition of one particular mode of securing happiness induces a habit; and that the longer a habit continues, the more powerful is its force. An early habit of selfishness is always formed in the human mind, and the penalties following from self-indulgence and selfishness are not sufficient to prevent the continued increase of this habit. Though men, from the very beginning of existence, feel that they are happier in obeying the dictates of conscience, and that increase of guilt is increase of sorrow, yet this does not save them, in numberless cases, from increasing evil habits. It is also established by experience that, when a strong habit is formed, the mere decisions of the will are not sufficient for an immediate remedy. In this life, it requires a period of long and painful efforts of the will to rectify an established habit. Every human being is conscious how difficult it is to force the mental and bodily faculties to obey its decisions when contrary {234}to the stream of a long-indulged habit. There are few who have not either experienced or witnessed the anguish of spirit that has followed the violations of solemn resolutions, those firmest decisions of the will, in the contest between habit and conscience. Another principle of mind is this, that when selfishness and crime have been long indulged, the natural constitution of mind seems changed, so that inflicting evil on others is sought as an enjoyment. In illustration of this, it is related of Antiochus Epiphanes that, in his wars with the Jews, after all opposition had ceased, and all danger and cause of fear was removed, he destroyed thousands for the mere pleasure of seeing them butchered. An anecdote is related of him, too horrible to record in all its particulars, where he sat and feasted his eyes on the sufferings of a mother and her seven sons, when the parent was doomed to witness the infliction of the most excruciating and protracted tortures on each of her seven children, and then was tortured to death herself.
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Common Sense Applied to Religion; Or, The Bible and the People by Catharine Esther Beecher, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. WRONG ACTION OF MIND, AND ITS RESULTS IN A FUTURE STATE.

CHAPTER XXVII. WRONG ACTION OF MIND, AND ITS RESULTS IN A FUTURE STATE.

We are now to inquire as to the results of the wrong action of mind in a future state, so far as reason and experience can furnish data for any anticipations.


The following are the principles of mind from which we reason on this subject. It appears that its constitution is such that the repetition of one particular mode of securing happiness induces a habit; and that the longer a habit continues, the more powerful is its force. An early habit of selfishness is always formed in the human mind, and the penalties following from self-indulgence and selfishness are not sufficient to prevent the continued increase of this habit. Though men, from the very beginning of existence, feel that they are happier in obeying the dictates of conscience, and that increase of guilt is increase of sorrow, yet this does not save them, in numberless cases, from increasing evil habits.


It is also established by experience that, when a strong habit is formed, the mere decisions of the will are not sufficient for an immediate remedy. In this life, it requires a period of long and painful efforts of the will to rectify an established habit. Every human being is conscious how difficult it is to force the mental and bodily faculties to obey its decisions when contrary to the stream of a long-indulged habit. There are few who have not either experienced or witnessed the anguish of spirit that has followed the violations of solemn resolutions, those firmest decisions of the will, in the contest between habit and conscience.


Another principle of mind is this, that when selfishness and crime have been long indulged, the natural constitution of mind seems changed, so that inflicting evil on others is sought as an enjoyment. In illustration of this, it is related of Antiochus Epiphanes that, in his wars with the Jews, after all opposition had ceased, and all danger and cause of fear was removed, he destroyed thousands for the mere pleasure of seeing them butchered. An anecdote is related of him, too horrible to record in all its particulars, where he sat and feasted his eyes on the sufferings of a mother and her seven sons, when the parent was doomed to witness the infliction of the most excruciating and protracted tortures on each of her seven children, and then was tortured to death herself.


It is recorded of Mustapha, one of the Turkish sultans, that by honorable capitulations he gained the person of a brave Venetian commander called Bragadino, who was defending his country from the cruelty of invaders. After having promised him honorable protection, he ordered him, bound hand and foot, to behold the massacre of his soldiers, then caused his person to be cut and mutilated in the most horrible manner, and then taunted him as a worshiper of Christ, who could not save his servants. When recovered of his wounds, he obliged him to carry loaded buckets of earth before the army, and kiss the ground whenever he passed his barbarous tormentor. He then had him hung in a cage, to be tormented by his own soldiers, who were chained as galley-slaves, that they might be agonized by the indignities and sufferings of their venerated commander. After the most protracted sufferings and indignities in the public place, at the sound of music he was flayed alive.


The history of some of the Roman emperors, even of some who, in early childhood and youth, were gentle, amiable, and kind, presents the same horrible picture. Nero set fire to Rome, and dressed the Christians in garments of flaming pitch, to run about his garden for his amusement. Tiberius tormented his subjects, and murdered them in cruel pangs, to gratify his love of suffering, while Caligula butchered his people for amusement with his own hand.


The mind turns with horror from such revolting scenes, and asks if it is possible human nature now can be so perverted and debased. But this is the humiliating record of some of the amusements, even of our own countrymen, that have occurred in some parts of this refined and Christian nation. "Many of the interludes are filled up with a boxing match, which becomes memorable by feats of gouging. When two boxers are wearied with fighting and bruising each other, they come to close quarters, each endeavoring to twist his forefinger into the earlocks of his antagonist. When they are thus fast clenched, the thumbs are extended, and both the eyes are turned out of their sockets. The victor is hailed with shouts of applause from the sporting throng, while his poor antagonist, thus blinded for life, is laughed at for his misfortune."


One very striking fact bearing on this subject has been established by experience, and that is, that extreme suffering, either mental or bodily, tends to awaken the desire to inflict evil upon other minds. This is probably one mode of accounting for the increased cruelty of the Roman emperors. As the powers of enjoyment diminished by abuse, and the horrors of guilt harassed their spirits, this dreadful desire to torment others was awakened.


There are many undisputed facts to establish the principle that extreme suffering is the cause of terrible malignity. The following is from a statement of Mr. Byron, who was shipwrecked on the coast of South America: "So terrible was the scene of foaming breakers, that one of the bravest men could not help expressing his dismay, saying it was too shocking to bear. In this dreadful situation malignant passions began to appear. The crew grew extremely riotous, and fell to beating every thing in their way, and broke open chests and cabins for plunder that could be of no use. So earnest were they in this wantonness of theft, that in the morning a strangled corpse was found of one who had contested the spoil."


A still more terrible picture is given in an account of the loss of the Medusa frigate on the coast of Africa. In the midst of dreadful suffering from cold, danger, and famine, it is recorded that "a spirit of sedition arose and manifested itself by furious shouts. The soldiers and sailors began to cut the ropes, and declared their intention of murdering the officers. About midnight, they rushed on the officers like desperate men, each having a knife or sabre, and such was their fury that they tore their clothes and their flesh with their teeth. The next morning the raft was strewed with dead bodies. The succeeding night was passed in similar horrors, and the morning sun saw twelve more lifeless bodies. The next night of suffering was attended with a horrid massacre, and thus it continued till only fifteen remained of the whole one hundred and fifty!"


Another principle of mind having a bearing on this subject is the fact that those qualities of mind which are the causes of enjoyment in others around may be viewed with only pain and dislike by a selfish person. Thus intellectual superiority, in itself considered, is a delightful object of contemplation; but if it becomes the means of degradation or of contemptuous comparison to a selfish mind, it is viewed with unmingled pain. Benevolence and truth are objects of delightful contemplation to all minds when disconnected with obligations or painful comparisons, but if they are viewed as causes of evil to a selfish mind, it will view them with unmingled dislike and hatred.


Now we find that there are two classes of minds in this world: those who are more or less benevolent, and find their happiness in living to promote the general interests of their fellow-beings, and those who are selfish, and are living to promote their own enjoyment irrespective of the general happiness.


If, then, we reason from the known laws of mind and from past experience, we must suppose that the habits of mind which are existing in this life will continue to increase, and if the mind is immortal, a time must come when one class will become perfectly benevolent and the other perfectly selfish. A community of perfectly benevolent beings, it has been shown, would, from the very nature and constitution of mind, be a perfectly happy community. Every source of enjoyment of which mind is capable would be secured by every individual.


It can be seen, also, that there must, in the nature of the case, be an entire separation between two such opposite classes; for it is as painful for minds suffering from conscious guilt, shame, and malignity, to look upon purity, benevolence, and happiness, as it is for the virtuous to associate with the selfish, the debased, and the abandoned. This separation, therefore, would be a voluntary one on both sides, even did we suppose no interference of Deity. But if the Creator continues his present constitution of things, we may infer that his power would be exerted to prevent the intrusion of malignity into a perfect and well-ordered community; for he has so constituted things here, that those who are incorrigible pests to society are confined from interfering with its interests.


From the laws of mind, then, and from past experience as to the tendencies of things, we can establish the position that, at some future period, if the mind of man is immortal, the human race will be permanently divided into two classes, the perfectly selfish and the perfectly benevolent.


Should it be objected to this conclusion that when the mind passes into another world more effectual motives may be brought to operate, it may be replied that it is not the office of reason to meet suppositions of possibilities, but to show what the probabilities are by deductions from principles already known. A thousand possibilities may be asserted, such as the annihilation of mind or the alteration of its powers, but these are mere suppositions, and have nothing to do with the conclusions of reason.


If mind is immortal and continues its present nature, habits will continue to strengthen; and in regard to motives, we know already that the fear of evil consequences will not save from continuance in crime. How often has a man who has yielded to habits of guilt been seen writhing in the agonies of remorse, longing to free himself from the terrible evils he has drawn around him, acknowledging the misery of his course and his ability to return to virtue, and yet, with bitter anguish, yielding to the force of inveterate habits and despairing of any remedy.


We know, also, that it is a principle established by long experience, that punishment does not tend to soften and reform. Where is the hardened culprit that was ever brought to repentance and reformation by lashes or the infliction of degradation? Such means serve only to harden and brutify. Experience forbids the hope that punishment will ever restore a selfish and guilty mind to virtue and peace.


Reason and experience, then, both lead to the conclusion that the two classes of minds into which mankind are here divided will, on leaving this world, eventually become two permanently distinct communities—one perfectly selfish, and the other perfectly benevolent.


What, then, would reason and experience teach us as to the probable situation of a community of minds constituted like those of the human race, who, in the progress of future ages, shall establish habits of perfect selfishness and crime?


In regard to the Creator, what may we suppose will be the feelings of such minds? If he is a benevolent, pure, and perfectly happy being, and his power is exerted to confine them from inflicting evil on the good, he will be the object of unmingled and tormenting envy, hatred, and spite; for when a selfish mind beholds a being with characteristics which exhibit its own vileness in painful contrast, and using his power to oppose its desires, what might in other circumstances give pleasure will only be cause of pain. If they behold, also, the purity and happiness of that community of benevolent beings from which they will be withdrawn, the same baleful passions will be awakened in view of their excellence and enjoyment.


There is no suffering of the mind more dreaded and avoided than that of shame. It is probable a guilty creature never writhes under keener burnings of spirit than when all his course of meanness, baseness, ingratitude, and guilt is unveiled in the presence of dignified virtue, honor, and purity, and the withering glance of pity, contempt, and abhorrence is encountered. This feeling must be experienced, to its full extent, by every member of such a wretched community. Each must feel himself an object of loathing and contempt to every pure and benevolent mind, as well as to all those who are equally debased.


Another cause of suffering is ungratified desire. In this world, perfect misery and full happiness is seldom contrasted. But in such circumstances, if we suppose that the happiness of blessed minds will be known, the keenest pangs of ungratified desire must torment. Every mind will know what is the pure delight of yielded and reciprocated affection, of sympathy in the happiness of others, of the sweet peace of conscious rectitude, and of the delightful consciousness of conferring bliss on others, while the ceaseless cravings of hopeless desire will agonize the spirit.


Another cause of suffering is found in the loss of enjoyment. In such a degraded and selfish community, all ties of country, kindred, friendship, and love must cease. Yet all will know what were the endearments of home, the mild soothings of maternal love, the ties of fraternal sympathy, and all the trust and tenderness of friendship and love. What vanished blessing of earth would not rise up, with all the sweetness and freshness that agonizing memory can bring, to aggravate the loss of all!


But the mind is so made that, however wicked itself, guilt and selfishness in others is hated and despised. Such a company, then, might be described as those who were "hateful and hating one another." It has been shown that both suffering and selfishness awaken the desire to torment others. This, then, will be the detested purpose of every malignant mind. Every action that could irritate, mortify, and enrage, would be deliberately practiced, while disappointed hopes, and blasted desires, and agonizing misery would alone awaken the smile of horrible delight. And if we suppose such minds in a future state reclothed in a body, with all the present susceptibilities of suffering, and surrounded by material elements that may be ministers of hate, what mind can conceive the terror and chaos of a world where every one is actuated by a desire to torment?


Suppose these beings had arrived at only such a degree of selfishness as has been witnessed in this world; such, for example, as Genghis Khan, who caused unoffending prisoners to be pounded to death with bricks in a mortar; or Nero, who dressed the harmless Christians in flaming pitch for his amusement; or Antiochus Epiphanes and Mustapha, who spent their time in devising and executing the most excruciating tortures on those who could do them no injury. What malignity and baleful passions would actuate such minds, when themselves tormented by others around, bereft of all hope, and with nothing to interest them but plans of torment and revenge! What refined systems of cruelty would be devised in such a world! what terrific combinations of the elements to terrify and distress! If such objects as "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and the worm that never dies," could be found, no Almighty hand would need to interfere, while the "smoke of their torment" would arise from flames of their own kindling.


To fearful sufferings thus inflicted would be added the pangs of agitating fear; for where all around were plotting misery, what relief, by day or by night, from its withering terrors? Then surely "fear would come upon them like desolation, and destruction as a whirlwind."


Another cause of suffering is inactivity of body and mind. It has been seen that the desire of good is what gives activity to the intellectual and moral powers. In such a world, no good could be hoped or sought, but the gratification of inflicting ill. And even a malignant mind must often weary in this pursuit, and sink under all the weight and misery of that awful death of the soul, when, in torpid inactivity, it has nothing to love, nothing to hope, nothing to desire!


Another cause of misery is the consciousness of guilt; and such, even in this life, have been the agonies of remorse, that tearing the hair, bruising the body, and even gnawing the flesh have been resorted to as a temporary relief from its pangs. What, then, would be its agonizing throes in bosoms that live but to torment and to destroy all good to themselves and to other minds?


In this life, where we can allow the mind to be engrossed by other pursuits, and where we can thus form a habit of suppressing and avoiding emotions of guilt, the conscience may be seared. But it could not be thus when all engaging and cheerful pursuits were ended forever. Then the mind would view its folly, and shame, and guilt in all their length and breadth, and find no escape from the soul-harrowing gaze.


To these miseries must be added despair—the loss of all hope. Here hope comes to all; but, in such a community, that fearful susceptibility of the soul—that terrific power of habit—would bind in chains which would be felt to be stronger than brass and heavier than iron. If the spirit is conscious that its powers are immortal, with this consciousness would come the despairing certainty of increasing and never-ending woe!


This terrifying and heart-rending picture, it must be remembered, is the deduction of reason, and who can point out its fallacy? Is not habit appalling in its power, and ofttimes, even in this life, inveterate in its hold? Are not habits increased by perpetual repetition? Is not the mind of man immortal? Do not the tendencies of this life indicate a period when a total separation of selfish and benevolent minds will be their own voluntary choice? If all the comforts, gentle endearments, and the enlivening hopes of this life; if all the restraints of self-interest, family, country, and laws; if in Christian lands the offers of heaven, and the fearful predictions of eternal woe; if the mercy and pardon, and all the love and pity of our Creator and Redeemer, neither by fear, nor by gratitude, nor by love, can turn a selfish mind, what hope of its recovery when it goes a stranger into a world of spirits, to sojourn in that society which, according to its moral habits, it must voluntarily seek? And if there exists a community of such selfish beings, can language portray, with any adequacy, the appalling results that must necessarily ensue?



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