Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

could not have been introduced, with the necessary evidence, without altering the plan and much increasing the length of my article. If Spiritualism is a delusion—that is, if it is a product of known or unknown natural forces plus the minds of the assistants—then no new information of the kind referred to can possibly be derived from it. If, on the other hand, it is a reality —that is, if it proves that intelligent beings of another order of existence than our own can and do communicate with us (whether those beings are the spirits of deceased men or no)—this fact alone is of such vast and overwhelming importance, and involves such tremendous issues, scientific, philosophical, and religious, that the question whether these beings can and will improve our telegraphs or our steam-engines, is an altogether subordinate one. Since the question of what is called practical results, implies the truth and reality of the spiritual theory, it appears to me to be out of place to bring up that question while the primary question remains unsettled ; for I can no more imagine a rational man being influenced in his acceptance of Spiritualism by the probability of his getting out of it such practical results, than I can imagine an earnest enquirer after religious truth being influenced in his acceptance of Christianity by the probability of its ministers being able to affect the weather by their prayers. When once a man is satisfied of the reality of spiritual communi. cations, he will meet with abundant practical results. So long as he is not satisfied, such results, like all the other evidence, will be ignored or explained away.

III.

The Spectator, the Academy, and Pall Mall Gazette thought my paper in the Fortnightly Review worthy of more or less lengthy notice, but they have all declined to discuss the nature and bearing of the evidence I have adduced and referred to for the reality of the phenomena, while they take various objections to the moral and historical teachings deduced therefrom. Here I must decline to join issue with them. I hold that spiritualists alone are as yet competent to decide what theory best explains the facts, and what are the teachings which arise out of them, for the sufficient reason that they alone know these facts in their wide range and countless details. I could only sketch generally the nature of the phenomena, and was obliged to omit all the infinitude of characteristic mental details which constitute their chief value. My critics also express their views as to the contemptible and unsatisfactory nature of the phenomena and of the communications, even if true; but here again they are evidently too ignorant of what they criticise to be enabled to form an opinion. I felt it my duty to give some idea of the teachings which are satisfying to most spiritualists, whatever may have been their previous opinions. Whether those teachings are agreeable to sceptics or no, is of little importance; the facts of Spiritualism remain, and must be dealt with before the critics are in a position to give any opinion worth listening to as to the truth of the theory.

IV.

I here give a few extracts strikingly illustrative of our subject. In the following passage from Jamblichus on Divination, quoted in Maurice’s “Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy,” we find mention in a short space of a number of the most startling phenomena of modern Spiritualism :

“Often at the moment of inspiration, or when the afflatus has subsided, a fiery appearance is seen- the entering or departing power. Those who are skilled in this wisdom can tell by the character of this glory the rank of the divinity who has seized for the time the reins of the mystic's soul, and guides it as he will. Sometimes the body of the man is violently agitated, sometimes it is rigid and motionless. In some instances sweet music is heard, in others discordant and fearful sounds. The person of the subject has been known to dilate and tower to a superhuman height, in other cases it has been lifted into the air. Frequently not merely the ordinary exercise of reason, but sensation and animal life would appear to have been suspended; and the subject of the afflatus has not felt the application of fire, has been pierced with spits, cut with knives, and not been sensible to pain.

The next passage throws much light on what is so often a stumbling-block to sceptics—the action of suspicion, or too rigid inquiry in checking the manifestations. Dr. Frederick L. H. Willis, professor of Materia Medica in the New York Medical College, thus describes his experience with a musical medium (Spiritual Magazine, 1867, p. 209):

“One evening the medium went into the dark room alone, and took her seat at the piano. I was in the sitting-room adjoining (the door between was open), the light from which made every object in the circle-room distinctly visible. Scarcely had the medium struck the first note upon the piano, when the tambourine and the bells seemed to leap from the floor and join in unison. Carefully and noiselessly I stole into the room, and for several seconds it was my privilege to witness a rare and wonderful sight. I saw the bells and tambourine in motion. I saw the bells lifted as by invisible hands and chimed, each in its turn, accurately and beautifully with the piano. I saw the tambourine dexterously and scientifically manipulated with no mortal hand near it. But suddenly, by a slight turn of the head, the medium became aware of my presence; instantly, like the severing of the connection between a galvanic battery and its poles, everything ceased. Mark this; so long as my presence in the room was known only to the invisibles, so long the manifestations continued in perfection; the moment the medium became aware of it, everything stopped. A wave of mental emotion passed over her mind, which was in itself sufficient to stop the phenomena at once. The incident proved to my mind most clearly that, in most cases, it is the condition of the medium that renders it so difficult for spirits to perform these wonders in the light rather than any lack of power or disposition on their part.”

From the numerous cases referred to at pages 77 and 211, which have been investigated by the police authorities, I adduce the following taken from La Gazette des Tribunaux (the official organ of the French Police), of February 2, 1849, because in this case a friend of mine, a literary man, has verified the extract at the British Museum, and assures me that the translation is exact:

A fact most extraordinary, and which has been repeated every evening, every night, for the last three weeks, without the most active researches, the most extended and persevering surveillance, having been able to discover the cause, has thrown into commotion all the populous quarter of La Montagne-SainteGeneviève, the Sorbonne, and Place Saint-Michel. This is what has taken place, in accordance with the public clamorous demand, and a double inquiry, judicial and administrative, which has been going on many days, without throwing any light on the mystery.

“In the work of demolition going on to open a new street, which shall join the Sorbonne to the Pantheon and l'Ecole de Droit, in traversing the Rue de Grès up to the old church, they came to a wood and coal yard, with an inhabited house connected with it, of only one storey and an attic. This house, at some distance from the street, and separated from the houses in course of destruction by large excavations, has been assailed every evening, and through the whole night, by a hail of projectiles, which, from their bulk, and the violence with which they have been thrown, have done such destruction, that it has been laid open to the day, and the woodwork of the doors and windows, reduced to shivers, as if it had sustained a siege, aided by a catapult or grape-shot.

“Whence came these projectiles, which are paving stones, fragments of the demolished walls near, and ashlar stones entire, which from their weight, and the distance they are hurled, are clearly from no mortal hand ? This is just what, up to this moment, it has been impossible to discover. In vain has a surveillance been exercised, day and night, under the personal direction of the Commissary of Police, and able assistants. In vain has the head of the Service of Safety been continually on the spot. In vain have they let loose every night watchdogs in the adjoining enclosures. Nothing has been able to explain the phenomena, which, in its credulity, the people has attributed to mysterious means. The projectiles have continued to rain down with great noise on the house, launched forth at a great height above the heads of those who have placed themselves in observation on the roofs of the small surrounding houses, and, seeming to come from a great distance, reaching their aim, with a precision, as it were, mathematical, and without deviating from the parabolic evidently designed for them.

We shall not enter into the ample details of these facts, which will, without doubt, receive a speedy explanation; thanks to the solicitude which they have awakened. Nevertheless, we will remark that, in circumstances somewhat analogous, and which equally excited a certain sensation in Paris, where, for example, a rain of pieces of small money drew together the loungers of Paris every evening, in the Rue de Montesquieu, or when all the bells were rung in a house in the Rue de Malte, by an invisible hand, it was found impossible to make any discovery, to find any palpable cause for the phenomena. Let us hope that this time we shall'arrive at a result more precise.

My friend informs me, that he found a later short notice saying that “the phenomena remain inexplicable," and then the matter seems to have been no further noticed; so we may conclude that, as in the other cases referred to, “it was found impossible to make any discovery.”

The sneer of the writer at the people's "credulity,”in attributing the phenomena to “mysterious means,” is quite amusing, in face of the statement just made that they are clearly from no mortal hand," and the undoubted fact that they were “mysteries,” since it was found "impossible” to discover them in a month's close examination, by the police force of Paris. If we read the narrative carefully, giving due weight to all the facts that occurred and the completeness of the investigation into them, we shall be driven to the conclusion, that had any human beings with the

necessary machinery been engaged they must have been discovered. It is a case strictly analogous to that of Bealing's Bells (see p. 211) and others there referred to, and it by no means stands alone, for Mr. Howitt has published a remarkable collection of cases of “stone-throwing,” most of them strictly investigated at the time, without any human agents being in any case discovered.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »