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"Meanwhile what are we to do? To inquire, to criticise, to discover, but also to live,--to live this life here and now: aided thereto, it may be, by a laboriously acquired certainty that it is only an interlude to a more splendid drama."
Sir Oliver Lodge, F. R. S.,
"Every institution connected with social, moral and religious life must be profoundly affected, whether for good or ill, by such an assurance as may be given by psychical research of a future life, the doubt about which has turned the aspirations of modern civilization from the moral to the economic ideal."
Prof. J. H. Hyslop,
How The Symposium Came to be Written.
"Your brother is dead!"
Such was the midnight message I received a little over a year ago. It was the first time Death had struck so near to me since the days of my childhood —the first time I had had occasion to marshal up such hazy and chaotic reasons as I possessed for the conviction and consolation that—“It is well-he is gone—I also shall follow soon or late, and we shall meet again.” They seemed insufficient and trivial in the presence of the great fact that he lay there dead.
And then, the minister in the lonely little church, himself almost a stranger in the community where he worked, and altogether a stranger to the relatives of the deceased, knew not what to say. So he preached a sermon that might, at least, give some hope to infidel, agnostic or Christian. He advanced, in his simple way, from scientific analogy and philosophy, such reasons for a belief in life after death as he thought might appeal to those who could not accept, nor even cared to accept, though in the presence of Death, the doctrine and faith of religion.
Personally, my belief in a life after death was more or less fixed, a permanent conviction, shadowed at times perhaps with puzzling questions and negative thought, but strong and vigorous, nevertheless, and seeking always the sunlight of truth.
Endeavoring to console one even nearer to my brother than myself, I realized how unprepared, how barren is the average mind in the face of this seemingly great catastrophe. In the absence of absolute demonstration, at hand and ready at all times, the reasons, principles and inferences for this belief cannot be too numerous; for they must contend with the evidence of the world of sense, a world to which the greater part of mankind for the most part confines its activities.
Hence this book-this Symposium.
Some time after returning to my home in Chicago, and in accordance with a plan to bring into a concise whole the strongest and best reasons advanced by science, philosophy and common sense as substantial evidence of a future life, I addressed the following letter to a number of eminent men in America, England, France, Germany, Italy and Russia :
The Author of this letter, inspired by the untimely decease of a dear friend, and in contemplation of the numerous philosophical and logical theories leading to a belief in the continued existence of the soul, or personal identity
after death, begs of you the great favor of a letter, setting out as briefly, or at such length as may be convenient, what you consider to be the strongest reason, or argument, advanced by science or philosophy, or by common sense, in favor of an affirmative answer to this mighty question; or preferably, a statement of your own deductions thereon.
It is our desire to obtain from thinkers and educators of the world, an expression - a twentieth century bulletin, on this subject.
Our request will impress you doubtless as an unusual one, but none the less will you see the force of it, and its possibilities. Who can measure the impetus such a compilation may have upon the inquiring human mind?
May I not have your co-operation in this matter?
Thanking you now in advance for the courtesy of a reply, I am
Wellington Ave., Chicago, U. S.A.
From the answers to this letter and from references I have received in connection with it from various correspondents, some of them the most eminent of our day, and some, like the author, unknown to the world of scientific thought and research, I have put together this book. There are some repetitions of thought in it, naturally, but they will be found where most essential, that is, on the strongest points. I have taken the liberty to introduce in different places throughout the matter, in parentheses, definitions of some of the technical scientific terms, that the ordinary reader may without difficulty comprehend the thought.
Most persons, whether Christian, Jew or Gentile, reading here the reasons and deductions given by those whose thought make up this symposium, will, it is my belief, close the book with satisfaction, and with the conviction of knowledge, rather than faith, or, if you prefer, as well as faith, that there is a LIFE AFTER DEATH.
ROBERT J. THOMPSON.
Chicago, Oct. 15, 1902.