Text: Thomas H. Chivers to Edgar Allan Poe — August 6, 1844


Oaky Grove, Ga., Aug. 6th, 1844.

My Dear Friend, — I have just received your beautiful, friendly, abstruse, and transcendental letter of July the 10th, in answer to mine of June the 15th, and I am truly delighted with its contents. I should like very much to see your article entitled “Mesmeric Revelation.” Will you be so. good as to forward the Number of the “Columbian Magazine “ on to me containing it? If you will, I will do ten times as much for you.

You say that you disagree with me in what I say of “man’s advance towards perfection.” You also say that “each individual Man is the rudiment of a future material (not spiritual) being. “ I do not mean that the foregone Ages were the rudiment of the Present and the Future in regard to creation; but only in regard to knowledge. I contend that each individual Man is not only the rudiment of a future material, but spiritual,being. His future material and spiritual being is the consummation of the perfection of the rudimental material and spiritual being of the Past and Present. The rudimental Man is perennial in the immortality of the soul, which carries along with it the idea of progression. The body of Man is to be glorified with a celestial glory. This will be done when his name is changed into that of Angel.

Knowledge is progressive. The foregone Ages were to the Present what the First Adam was to the Second — prophetic of what was to be. As the evening of the creation was before the morning, so is the night of ignorance, in every man’s mind, before the Day of Knowledge. Thus, the Egyptians were under darkness, while the children of Israel dwelt in the fulness of the light of Goshen. The Law is called the Time of Shadows, while the Time of the Gospel is called the Day of Salvation. That is the reason why the Messiah was called the Sun of Righteousness, because the Doctrine which he taught was invested with a transcendent brightness when compared with the dimly burning light of the Moon of the night of the Old Law. The night of the Jewish ceremonial was dissolved by the advent of the Sun of Righteousness. That is the reason why St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, said, “The night is far spent, the Day is at hand.” At the time that he was writing, it was what may be called the twilight time of the truth. When he was rapt into the intellectual vision of the high noon of the glory of God, then he beheld the dawning of that Day which was to come. The dead body of the Priesthood was let down into the grave of oblivion, when the radiant, truth-illumined body of the Son of Mary came to humanize mankind.

As it was through the glorified Shekinah that the presence of Jehovah was made perfectly manifest to the Jews; so is it through the perfected body of man that his soul is made perfectly manifest. A perfect body is the only mediator of the soul. It is the body which connects the sould with the external world. It is the Shekinah of the soul.

True wisdom is the perfect revelation of the right relations subsisting between the soul of Man and the external world. This revelation is the immortality of Man speaking out of the temple of his meditorial body. A correct knowledge of the right relations subsisting between him and the external world, is the perfection of his nature. Happiness is the sequence of this antecedent knowledge. Without this perfection, there can be no happiness. This is the consummation of the truth of that sublime eulogy which was pronounced upon him by the hallowed lips of David when he said tat he was created “a little lower than the Angels, and crowned with glory and honour.”

You say that “there is no such thing as spirituality.” What will you do with the Nephesh, Roadkh Elolium, Pneuma,and Psycheof the Sacred Oracles?St. John says that “God is a spirit.”He is called the “Father of Spirits.”St. Paul says that Man is the “offspring of God.” He is the third image of his Father. Job says, “There is a spirit in Man,” &c. — “All things,” you say, “are material; yet the matter of God has all the qualities which we attribute to the spirit.” Then the matter of God is spirit. We must either attribute to spirit properties which it does not possess, or “God is a spirit” — as the substance of anything cannot be less than the qualities of which it is composed. If you mean by matter what I .mean by spirit, then your matter is my spirit, and God is material; but if you mean by matter no more than what is usually meant by it, then, my spirit is notyour matter, and “God is a spirit.”All the alchemy of your refined genius cannot transmute “unparticled matter “ into my idea of spirit. Our first idea of matter carries along with it not only a pas&e,but a reductitiousnature. As long as this is the case, we can never conceive it capable of thought.

You say that the “agitation of this unparticled matter is the thought of God, which creates.” Do you make use of the word “agitation”in the same sense that Aristotle did of the word “Actus.?”“Agitation “ is not thought, any more than motion is. Our idea of motion is too simple in its nature to be expressed in any other way than through itself-that is, motion.The same may be said of thought. Now here are two simple ideas, the difference between which is as essential as it is eternal. Therefore, motion is no more thought, than the communication of it. It consequently follows that the “agitation of the unparticled matter” cannot be “the thought of God, which creates.” Your doctrine of “agitation “ is something like the hylopathian, or Anaximandrian; and your “unparticled matter” like the Democritic, without [illegible] “atomic composition,” transcendentalized. You are not a corpusculous, but an “unparticled” materialist. You are precisely the opposite of what Plato makes Socrates. He was a pure spiritualist.

Thought is a spontaneity of the soul, subject, in a great measure, to volition. Des Cartes believed that the essence of the soul consisted in actual cognitation. But this is impossible, as the operation of thinking is nothing but an attribute of the soul.

Creation is silence: destruction noise. From the inaudible thoughts of God were the stars born. Thunder is the voice of Nature hushing her own self to repose. It is that voice by which she wishes to sing herself into silence of the Deity. Silence is bliss. Thought is silence. Therefore, thought is bliss. It is the sapphire silence of the soul. Paraclesus says that silence is the language of spirits. — This is my answer to your “agitation.” —

I do not believe that the souls of men, at death, “go every where,” but into Sheol. This is an immemorial tradition. This is the soul’s rest. It is the “pure earth” of Plato. This, Gortius, as well as Dr. Whitby, has remarked, when referring to that remarkably familiar saying of the Chaldeans, “Seek Paradise, the glorious country of the soul;” and also their familiar saying to a dying person; “Let his sould be in Paradise.” There is also another expression of theirs which Dr. Gregory mentions from Theophilact; “Paradise is the region of the soul’s rest.”

This shows that when a Man dies his sould does not go “every where,” but to Sheol, to wait for the resurrection of his body. This is the place where Christ promised to meet the thief on the cross. He did so, while his body lay in the grave. When a man dies, we speak of his death in the usual, but not in the actual, way. There is a dissolution of the union of his soul and body, which union constitutes his person while in this life; but his personality is something very far above this. The soul of Man is to his body what he Divinity was to the Son of God. Death is the analysis of his synthetic being. The “metamorphosis,” as your beautifully term it, is not a “painful” one. What appears to be pain is only the effort of organic life to carry on his accustomed functions. The soul then casts off the wornout garments of mortality to put on the golden garments of the Angels.

You individualize Man by incorporating the “unparticled “ in the “particled matter.” But this is making his individuality depend only upon a peculiar mannerof being; whereas I make his personality exist in his selfconscious soul, which shows that his soul may exist in Sheol, after its separation from the body.

Write upon the receipt of this, and tell me all about the literature of the day. Do not fail to send me the Magazine, containing your “Mesmeric Revelation.” I intend to get all your writings. Write soon.

Yours most sincerely,
Thos. H. Chivers

E. A. Poe, Esqr.



In printing this letter in 1902, Harrison omitted paragraphs 3-5 and 8-11 of the original letter. A footnote states that the excised material is “seven paragraphs of transcendental opinions” (p. 186). This missing text has been restored here.


[S:0 - MS, 18xx] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Misc - Letters - T. H. Chivers to Poe (RCL492)