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before him empty. The windows being closed, we supposed the water had been thrown upon the floor, and we arose to see where it was. We could discover no trace of it. About two minutes had elapsed, when the same glass, which was standing empty before him, was seen without any visible cause gradually to approach the edge of the table, and to disappear beneath it. I do not believe that above two seconds could have elapsed before it again appeared with tho brandy-andwater in it, apparently not less in quantity than when first brought in, though the quality had certainly undergone some chemical change, as it hod now lost much of its brown colour. By tho raps, a warning was given to all of us against such indulgence.'—pp. 170, 171.
Instead of the 'warning,' we would suggest that, on the homoeopathic principle of similia similibus, the spirits are themselves fond of spirits; that they drank the brand v-and-water, and substituted a milder liquor in the glass. A German spirit is mentioned by Mr. Howitt as having drunk a glass of beer; why should not a French spirit drink brandy-and-water ? * At any rate we have seen far more wonderful effects produced from a conjuror's bottle.
We will conclude our extracts by a specimen of spiritual logic, which may be entitled 'Signs and tokens to know a grandfather by.' The reasoning is hardly so conclusive as Sir Andrew Aguecheek's,—' I knew 'twas I; for many do call me fool':—
'A strong hand came, stated to be that of my grandfather. I asked, "How am I to know that this is my grandfather '?" Tho hand moved from my forehead to my temple, over my eyebrow nud eye, and then passed down over my face, the fingers patting me in the most gentle manner possible. At another time, at my request, hands patted my forehead with such force that the smmd could be heard, I am confident, in any port of the room.'—p. 52.
We have made these copious extracts from Mr. Home's book, in order to justify our assertion that it contains some stories which almost refute themselves from their exceeding silliness and want of purpose. We do not deny that the book contains also better things than these; but the better and the worse are so linked together as to form a continuous chain; and no chain, as a whole, can be stronger than its weakest link. That such phenomena, or something like them, may have occurred, or seemed to occur, we have no right to deny in the face of respectable testimony; but when we are told that they occurred by means of spiritual agency, we are disposed to comment after the manner
* 'What was strangest of all, they saw a jug of beer raise itself, pour beer into a glass, and the beer drunk off.'—Ilovsitt, vol. i. p. 64. We should like to have seen the process of visible beer entering into an invisible stomach.
of of Pieter Snoye in the ballad of ' Roprecht the Robber,' when the said Roprecht's body had disappeared from the gallows :—
'You may well think we laughed in our sleeve
If the spirits of the departed can interfere in earthly things, on such occasions and in such modes as these, assuredly there is no occasion, however trivial, and no mode, however ludicrous, in which they may not be supposed capable of interfering. If the laws of material nature can be tampered with in the manner here described, assuredly we have no security for their permanence in any of the ordinary affairs of life. No chemist performing a delicate experiment can be sure that some tricksy spirit may not alter the proportions of his ingredients and vitiate the entire result. No cook, preparing some chef-d'oeuvre of his art, is safe from the danger of unseen hands substituting salt for sugar, or asafcetida for spice. No plain man can buy groceries by weight without the danger of some roguish defunct tradesman aiding the frauds of his successor by ' gravitating ' the figs and raisins or 'levitating' the weights. All this, no doubt, seems very absurd; but we submit that it is not a whit too absurd to be true, if Mr. Home's spiritual manifestations are to be taken as samples of the truth.
In addition to the ludicrous nature of many of these manifestations, there is something painful and revolting to the moral feelings in the idea of a seance for the purpose of holding communication with the spirits of the dead. There are times, no doubt, in the life of most, if not of all of us, when we have ardently longed for such a communication if it were possible; when, in the sense of irreparable bereavement, we have felt that to surrender years of intercourse with the living were a light price to pay for one hour of converse with the dead. But in proportion to the intensity of this longing, is the feeling also of its sacredness and delicacy, as a thing for solitude and privacy, to be kept jealously apart from prying eyes and tattling tongues. The more we love and revere the memory of those we have lost, the more we shrink from the thought of calling up the beloved presence by the arts and devices of necromancy, seeking 'unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter ;' the more are we revolted by the thought of making an exhibition of our heart's
treasure treasure to an assembly of spectators, met together to gratify a prurient curiosity or to gather materials for a scientific theory. 'The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.'
To show that we are not singular in this feeling, we will venture to quote an expressive passage to the same effect from a work which, under an unattractive title and a dry subject, conceals many vigorous and genial outbreaks of eloquence and fancy. Speaking of clairvoyance and spirit-rapping, Professor Ferrier exclaims:—
'These, however, are not to be set down—at least so it is to be hoped—among the normal and catholic superstitions incident to humanity. They are much worse than the worst form of the doctrine of materiality. These aberrations betoken a perverse and prurient play of the abnormal fancy—groping for the very holy of holies in kennels running with the most senseless and God-abandoned abominations. Our natural superstitions are bad enough; but thus to make a systematic business of fatuity, imposture, and profanity, and to imagine, all the while, that we are touching on the precincts of God's spiritual kingdom, is unspeakably shocking. Ye who make shattered nerves and depraved sensations the interpreters of truth, the keys which shall unlock the gates of Heaven, and open the secrets of futurity,—ye who inaugurate disease as the prophet of all wisdom, thus making sin, death, and the devil the lords paramount of creation,—have ye bethought yourselves of the backward and downward course which ye are running into the pit of the bestial and the abhorred? Oh, ye miserable mystics! when will ye know that all God's truths and all man's blessings lie in the broad health, in the trodden ways, and in the laughing sunshine of the universe, and that all intellect, all genius, is merely the power of seeing wonders in common things ? '*
But we are told by the advocates of spirit-rapping that these manifestations have been vouchsafed to us for a great religious purpose, necessary at this time—to confute the doctrines of materialism, and to give sensible proofs of the immortality of the soul. 'Already,' says the author" of the Introduction to Mr. Home's Life, 'Spiritualism, conducted as it usually is, has had a prodigious effect throughout America, and partly in the Old World also, in redeeming multitudes from hardened atheism and materialism, proving to them, by the positive demonstration which their cast of mind requires, that there is another world— that there is a non-material form of humanity—and that many miraculous things, which they have hitherto scoffed at, are true.' To the same effect Mr. Howitt says,' As materialism has made a great advance, this grand old Proteus of Truth has assumed a
* Ferrier's 'Institutes of Metaphysic," pp. 224-5.
shape shape expressly adapted to stop its way. As materialism has tinctured all philosophy, spiritualism has spoken out more plainly in resistance of it.' A noble purpose, assuredly, if the means were but adequate to the end. But what sort of an immaterialism do these rapping seances exhibit, and what kind of an immortality is it which they promise us? What an elevating and cheering prospect is held out to the immortal soul on its release from its earthly tabernacle 1 To lift tables, knock against wainscots, pinch people's knees and pull their dresses under the table, daub pictures, play tricks with brandy-and-water, tear up obnoxious magazines, steal pocket-handkerchiefs, rap people's heads with guitars, and such like! We shall all of us learn to play on the accordion, sometimes in a 'wretched style,' to the great annoyance of the company and of other spirits who play 'most admirably' (see p. 191); and such of us as in this life were 'powerful muscular men,' will enjoy a similar prerogative of lifting heavy 'masses of timber'—a sort of muscular immortality, by way of pendant to the muscular Christianity now so much in vogue (see p. 177). As for the evidence of a 'nonmaterial form of humanity,' the writer seems not to be aware that a wreath of smoke or a vibrating atmosphere is as material as a prize-ox or a stone-wall; that, in short, whatever can be seen, heard, smelt, touched, or tasted, by the bodily senses (rappings and spirit-hands included), is itself bodily, in common with the organs of sense which perceive it. If we are not justified by these considerations in doubting the Christianity of Mr. Home's spirits, we may at least, on his own showing, set them down as 'Christians unattached,' since they appear to have faithfully adhered to him through his several phases of belief, first as a member of the Kirk of Scotland, then as a Wesleyan, then as a Congregationalist, then as a catechumen in Swedenborgianism, and finally as a Roman Catholic; though, on his conversion to the last-mentioned faith, he was assured by his confessor that, as he was now a member of the Catholic Church, his power would not return to him.*
In addition to these general presumptions, which may be urged, not, perhaps, against the phenomena themselves, but against the 'spiritual' hypothesis adopted to account for them, there are also, as it appears to us, some suspicious circumstances in the particular manner in which the phenomena are manifested. These we shall proceed to mention, as circumstances which, if
* We are told that Mr. Home's last conversion has given great scandal to some of the Protestant organs of spiritualism in the press, who, however, console themselves with the thought that he may, perhaps, be destined to convert the Pope to a belief in rapping.
they they do not warrant the imputation of imposture, at least suggest the need of extreme caution before we receive the accounts in the form in which they are offered to us.
In the first place, the very circumstance of these phenomena taking place at an appointed meeting or seance (the latter has now become a naturalised word in this special signification) is in itself suspicious. People go to these meetings with their expectations raised, and their imaginations excited; they come prepared to see, and desiring to see, something wonderful; and the tone of their minds is thus attuned beforehand into harmony with the marvels that are expected. The influence of imagination, thus excited, on the nervous system, and even on the organs of sense, is a well-known and acknowledged cause, explaining many instances of false or perverted perception. The expectation which made a veteran chemist, on first handling a piece of potassium, apparently feel that it was heavy; the instance mentioned by Sir Henry Holland, of sensations of heat, weight, &c, produced by the mere shoio of the application of a slip of paper to the limb ;* the influence of suggestion and pre-conceived ideas in relation to mesmeric phenomena, as noticed by Dr. Carpenter;! the cures effected by Dr. Haygarth's painted tractors, and a hundred other instances, may be cited to show the effect (now, indeed, generally admitted) of expectation, on persons of excitable temperament, in bringing about the phenomena expected. We do not adduce this fact as a sufficient explanation of Mr. Home's exhibitions; but we mention it as suggesting a caution that phenomena taking place at a seance should be received with more suspicion than those which present themselves without any such preparation.
In the second place, the article of furniture almost invariably employed in these manifestations is of a character liable to be suspected. A table, as compared with most other pieces of furniture, has a greater amount of leverage in proportion to its weight; it has, moreover, a large vacant space under its broad surface, which leaves room for the application of the power; and it furnishes, through ils usual companion the table-cloth, an easy means of concealment. We do not say that these facilities are actually put in requisition by professors of the rapping art; but a writer in ' Once a Week' has published an ingenious description, with pictorial illustrations, showing the use that might be made of such means; and it would be well that our accredited mediums, like Caesar's wife, should be not only above guilt, but also above suspicion. Surely it is in their own power to clear
• 'Chapters on Mental Physiology,' p. 25.
t 'Human Physiology,' 4th edition, pp. 860, 861.