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■who can find in the Transfiguration an authority for seeking to the spirits of the dead, and who sees in spirit-rapping an illustration of the words, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock,' is not likely to instil into the minds of his readers that reverence for Scripture which he evidently feels himself. But perhaps the most singular and the least trustworthy part of Mr. Howitt's book is that which treats of spiritualism and materialism in the Church of England. Ignoring all distinction between ordinary and extraordinary, invisible and visible, exercises of spiritual power, he treats the writers whom he criticises as if all 'spiritualism ' were of one kind, and must stand or fall as an indivisible whole. Divines who venture to doubt whether visible miracles have been continued in the Church up to modern times, or whether satanic agency is now manifested in sensible phenomena, are treated as unbelievers in all spiritual influence, good or evil; while, on the other hand, passages written in defence of the Scriptural miracles, or in recognition of those unseen spiritual influences which all Christians acknowledge, are pressed without scruple into the service of 'Spiritualism' in general, including ghost stories, table-turning, and spirit-rapping.*
But the great stronghold of Mr. Howitt's argument is America. All the great mediums of the present day have been Americans, or from America; and the various physical manifestations of spiritual agency have been far more powerfully exhibited in America than here. This is attributed partly to the fact that the Americans are conspicuously a more nervous and' excitable people than we are, and partly to the circumstance that 'our denser atmosphere, less electrical and magnetic in its character, and our different telluric conditions, are less favourable to the transmission of spiritual impressions.' The former supposition seems to suggest a subjective illusion rather than an objective apparition; and the latter seems better adapted to the theory of a material than of a spiritual impression. But if the American manifestations have an advantage over those of other countries in number and frequency, they can scarcely be said to exhibit a corresponding superiority as to quality. We are glad to pass as hastily as we can over the coarser and more profane examples which are to be found in the voluminous records of Transatlantic spiritualism—the lady who was brought to bed of a motive force, the doggrel verses purporting to emanate from the Saviour himself—compounds of the ludicrous and the horrible, in which
* We may instance his treatment of Douglas, Paley, and Bishop Marsh on the one side, and of Hooker, Tillotson, Sherlock, Ken, Penrose, and Le Bas on the other.
the the laugh due to their absurdity is checked by the shudder at their blasphemy.* We prefer to call attention to one or two instances of a higher kind, which, from their own character, compared with the respectability of the witnesses by whom they are attested, may be fairly or even favourably selected as crucial tests of their class. For profession, station, and character, it would be difficult to select three more unexceptionable witnesses than George T. Dexter, an American physician, John W. Edmonds, sometime Judge of the Supreme Court and of the Court of Appeals, and Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, late U. S. Senator and Governor of Wisconsin, the three gentlemen whose names appear as sponsors to two bulky volumes on 'Spiritualism,' the former of which, if its title-page may be trusted, had reached a tenth edition in 1854.
It seems that the American spirits, whether owing to the excitability of the Yankee nervous system, or to the electricity of the atmosphere, or to any other cause, have been peculiarly successful in the invention of means of communication with the nether world. In addition to the knocking alphabet, they have discovered the happy and more direct device of spirit-writing, by which the arm of the medium is acted upon from without, and compelled to write down whatever the presiding spirit dictates. In this manner were compiled the above two volumes of spiritual communications, written by the hand of Dr. Dexter, chiefly from the dictation of the ghosts of Bacon and 'Sweedenborg,' the latter name, whether at the request of the owner or not, being invariably spelt with two es.
The following specimens are interesting as showing the English style of the golden-mouthed Chancellor in his spiritual state of existence. The reader will be able to judge how far, according to his own statement, he has 'progressed' since he left the earth:—
'If you feel that the teachings of the spirits are beautiful, and if the views which they have presented to your mental eye elicit emotions of joy, how much more will you realise the ecstatic pleasure in store for you when death shall have opened the glorious realities of spiritlife 1 Eye hath not beheld, human heart hath not conceived, the truths that death will unfold. Oh! when the last pulse is fluttering, when tho heart's throb is almost past, when gasping and struggling in tho pangs of expiring mortality, then, then will your spirit-eye behold tho gates of immortality opening before you, and your soul catch a glimpse of the gorgoous beauties of death. . . . Eloquent? Who
* Some account of these will be found in an article in the 'Westminster Review' for January, 1858.
would would not bo so when he is trying to illustrate the joy, the unspeakable emotions that fill every sentiment of his spirit? Sweedenborg tells you that any step taken in advance on earth produces a corresponding accordance in the spirit-world; and our congenialities aro so intimate, that an elevated expression, an idea uttered in harmony with the realities of our existence here, meets with a response in our souls, and produces emotions simulating your own. . . . Thus it was, while listening to your reading, that my internal was excited by the emotions of your minds; for know that when there is accordance between two minds on earth, it increases the electric affinities and makes easier the power to communicate. Thus, I say, it was that my internal was prompted by your minds, and I felt myself compelled to give utterance to the sentiments I have expressed. I beg you to understand that my nature has somewhat progressed * sinco I have left the earth. I am not that dull matter-of-fact spirit as I was when a man on earth; but I feel that each day unfolds some new attribute of my soul, some higher power to feel, to comprehend, what I so much desire to know, and that I can realise moro clearly the high and important duties I have to perform,' &c. &c.
It needs not to be a medium, or a man of science, or a conjurer, to apply the test furnished by this passage:
'Qui Bavium non odit, amet tua carmina, Marvi.'
If any man, woman, or child who has read three pages of Bacon's writings can believe that the great Chancellor, in the flesh or out of the flesh, could give utterance to the above pompous platitudes, such a person is worthy to believe all the extravagances and absurdities recorded in the ample library of American spiritualism. On another occasion Bacon takes leave of the company with the truly Yankee valediction, '1 guess we will all go home; and so, good night' The communication which was closed in this characteristic manner, contained the following eloquent and logical denunciation of the opponents of spiritualism. The comparison of truth to a mist, and error to the sun, may at least claim the merit of a novel use of a hackneyed image :—
'Let the dog bark, the cat mew, or the ass slavishly toil for mere
* We have somewhere seen the use of the verb to progress censured as an Americanism. The criticism is not quite accurate; witness Shakspeare,— 'Let me wipe off this honourable dew That silverly doth progress on thy cheeks.' We strongly suspect, however, that if the Yankee Bacon had dictated his posthumous communication aloud, the word would have been pronounced with a nasal accent and au emphasis Od the final s) liable. The next sentence, 'Tarn not that dull matter-of-fact spirit as I was,' is at any rate a conclusive proof how far Ilacon has 'progressed' in his mastery of English.
animal animal existence; still nature will assert its just claims, whether in man or brute. And to him who, without evidence of either right or wrong, can denounce that as untrue which he has not investigated, you may justly attribute the true prerogatives of his nature. He will bark dog-like to the compulsion of his brute-like organisation; and he will toil like the ass, to perpetuate the slavery of opinions to which he is bound by error and prejudice. It is not worth while to contest the truth of spirit-revelation with those who do not believe. Truth is like the misty vapour encircling the mountain's top. The sun of error, of superstition, of priestly teachings may, in its full blaze, dissipate the cloud, but its cloudy substance is disseminated through the 'whole atmosphere, and descends in grateful showers to replenish and fructify the thirsty earth.'
In the Appendix to this volume, among other stuff of the same kind, is a communication from the spirit of John C. Calhoun, who writes, not through a medium, but with his own hand, the words • I'm with you still.' Governor Tallmadge's comment on this short sentence, first on the I'm, and then on the whole, is worthy to rank with Mr. Puff's explanation of Lord Burleigh's shake of the head :—
* Wo have not only the most unequivocal testimony to tho handwriting itself, but, lest any skeptic should suggest the possibility of an imitation or a counterfeit, this abbreviation, peculiar to himself, and known only to his most intimate friends, and which no imitator or counterfeiter could know, is introduced by way of putting such a suggestion to flight for ever!
'This sentence,' continues the ' Critic,' 'is perfectly characteristic of Calhoun. It contains his terseness of style and his condensation of thought. It is a text from which volumes might be written. It proves—
'1. The immortality of the soul;
'2. The power of spirits to revisit the earth;
'3. Their ability to communicate with relatives and friends.
* 4. The identity of the spirit to all eternity.
How one's soul expands with these sublime conceptions! How resistless is this testimony of their truth 1 How surprising that men can doubt, when this flood of living light is poured upon them by spirits who, in the language of Webster, "revel in the glory of tho eternal light of God!"'
The logic which concludes that a writer using the abbreviation 'I'm' must be Mr. Calhoun or his ghost, is on a par with that of the gentleman who discovered his grandfather by the infallible token of a hand passing down his face. We are not told what sort of a hand Mr. Calhoun wrote; but if it was not more legible than those of some other spirits, of which facsimiles are given in
the the same volume, it would be difficult to decide whether he used the abbreviated form or not.*
In contrast to these great men, we are favoured by Judge Edmonds with the following communication, spelt through rappings, from an illiterate spirit, who tells us that his name was John Jones, and that he 'leived anywhere .where they
* The same Governor Tallmadge has -written an introduction and appendix to another 'spiritual' book, called ' The Healing of the Nations.' Of the book itself, a farrago partly of commonplace and partly of nonsense, expressed in the bombastic language in which American eloquence delights, the following samples will probably be thought quite sufficient:—'When presumptuous man useth his individuality to try and substantiate the existence of a being which would re-create chaos by its very existence, it were far better that he Bad never been born than to thus live in vain.' . . . 'Flesh-pots, or dead bodies in their stench, though they are outwardly useful unto creation—for there is nothing wasted—do not appear half so lovely, or are not half so acceptable, as the living, burning light -within.' Yet of this book Mr. Tallmadge says, 'Many literary and scientific gentlemen have examined the original volume, and pronounce portions of it beyond human conception. The style is simple and faultless, and adapted to every capacity. The most astute critic cannot strike out a word in a single sentence, and substitute another which he can truly say will improve it in style or sentiment.' In his own portion, Mr. Tallmadge gives us, among other things, a communication from Shakspeare, and another from the Evangelist St. John! The former, of which he says that 'no spirit, in or out of the body, except the spirit of Shakspeare, could have written it,' contains the following among other directions to a player, in which the reader no doubt will recognise the author of Hamlet:—
'To act requireth two things—a brain and an eye; the scene will do almost all the rest.
'The eye calleth up and holdeth [the italic marks are the spirit's own] the magic spell, which in the audience centers.
'The brain the gestures makes—the stand, the position; and grace doth take therefrom its own existence.
'Thou may'st stand majestically, thou may'st even speak well, and in every action proclaim the will and sentiment of that which thou art imitating; but death is there, if the eye's fierce light doth not illuminate the hating passion.
'The eye, the eye; without it man were blind, and play could ne'er be acting.'
Shakspeare, like Bacon, has 'somewhat progressed since he left the earth.'
The following is something more than absurd, and raises other feelings besides those caused by its absurdity. It was communicated, 'letter by letter, through the tippings of the table':—
'Lo an assembly of wise men from the East and from the West, and the North and the South, lawyers and doctors, judges and governors, and divines, are met to try the spirits. Beloved, ye do well. Ye are instructed from the Great Book of Books, even the Book of God, thus to proceed. Beloved, if all spirits were evil, or if all spirits were good, this trial would be useless. By their fruits ye shall know them. Beloved, can the leopard change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin? When the spirit leaves the earthly form for a spiritual, the spirit is the same, but in a new temple. My little children, ye have the privilege to make that new mansion an abode of happiness or misery, &c.
'john The Beloved.'
This is only paralleled by the almanac-maker who figured in a recent trial as having exhibited in a crystal ball 'Titania as she appeared in a chariot, and St. Luke as he appeared on several occasions,' and both speaking English. If St. John, why not St. Luke? If Shakspeare, why not one of Shakspeare's creations?