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Society led the public to expect that an instructive and scientific investigation would take place with the presumed phenomena of agitated tables and the perigrinations of floating gentlemen and amputated hands. But all the public have yet heard has been stale stories of unvouched experiences, told by advocates who offered themselves in the character of witnesses. A stranger visiting a sitting of this Committee expected to find a few competent examiners receiving and sifting the depositions of independent testifiers, instead of which he found the court and the accused of the same party, and Spiritualists examining each other. It was expected that this Society would appoint a few persons, known, capable, and impartial, charged with the responsibility of conducting the investigation into the noisiest and most fruitless vagary, ever dignified with the name of a “cause." The Committee might have obtained from men of science, a statement of the conditions under which the validity of these eccentric, and evasive manifestations could be tested, and if they found that Spiritualists were justified in refusing to accept them, have framed others which the public might have reason to trust, and which might promise some fair and intelligible result; and procure the acceptance of these on the part of Spiritualists, and if this cannot be done, all consideration of Spiritualism should be suspended until it is.
When I was present on a former evening, at Dr. Edmunds', no single deponent gave, in any instance, proof of any consciousness of the significance of the statements he made, such as must have been forced upon him had there been reality at the bottom of his experience. Each person assumed to be the agent of a communication between an unknown world and this, and to have been in personal intercourse with the dead, and yet to have looked upon the newest wonder of our time, with a paralytic credulity and never to have been animated by the most infantine curiosity, nor made the slightest attempt to verify the reality of the strange, and, if true, stupendous manifestation. Another gentleman assumed that because he had ridiculed these manifestations, and had since believed them, there could be no further doubt about their truth, forgetful that a man may be sceptical frim silly prejudice, and a believer from silliness without prejudice. A still more fortunate and confiding witness, a gentleman of an authoritative title, and apparently of education, assured us that he had seen a full-bodied medium flatten and glide through a slightly open window into the outer air, and return again in the same condition, without making any attempt to examine him in his distended state, although he must bave been anatomically fore-shortened on an entirely new principle, and extended, like Mr. Disraeli's franchiselaterally."
What I heard myself, on the night referred to, is a sample of what one always hears. The question is what is the capacity of these witnesses to see what they say they see ?
Have they a passion for proof? Have they the courage, or ordinary clearness of brain, to use the common human tests to determine the quality of these appearances ? Until these witnesses show that they have done this, I think they have no credible case.
A communication, evidently from a meinber of this Society, appeared in the Queen newspaper, affecting to give a scientific account of these investigations in question, which actually repeats that tremendous spiritual complacency, that there are computed to be nine millions of believers in the United States. Were there ever at any time in the world, or has there been since the creation, nine millions of persons capable of believing intelligently in anything? What a Paradise of intellectuality must America be! Newton would scarcely command employment as a farm labourer there. When we consider how rare is the art seeing accurately unfamiliar things, we feel that were there nine Spirituali England who could satisfy the public that they possessed it, their cause impress somebody with a rational interest in it.
With respect to the true judgment and determination of unfamiliar a herent appearances, the eye is the greatest fool in the head, except the
Experience shows that no persons are more credulous in respect of of their own department, than mathematicians.* More persons than are are liable to this weakness. With respect to physical evidence of
* Mr. Holyoake was a teacher of mathematics.
of the dead, and the capacity to observe facts thereunto pertaining, this Committee ought to draw rules and examine all witnesses as to their special attainments and habits of mind, with a view to determine the value of their testimony. In the case of most Spiritualists whom I have known (I do not say all), they have been-while sincere and respectable-mooney-minded in these matters of created beings. This I take it is why they have put forward, in good faith, the wildest and most worthless statements, which in modern days have afflicted the world, and wasted its time and abused its attention..
The evidence which will satisfy me as to the truth of Spiritualism is very simple--let it give me, on demand, any information I care to know, and can rely upon, let it do things I want done. I care not how it comes by its power, and I will pay very satisfactory respect to it. But is it not effrontery to ask credence in a thing which does nothing? Ideas imported from the dead are of a lower type than the living mind has yet sunk to, and whose acts are but a new form of human futility. I ani ready to believe in a man as soon as I see that he believes in himself. The man of science, sure of his truth, gives me light, tells me his conditions, dares my judgment, and asks nothing of me but my attention, and if I follow his directions, the proof comes right in spite of any scepticism I may have. Science as a modest thing holds its peace until it reaches this point, and this is what Spiritualism ought to do.
In answer to the question Spiritualists are always putting—"What evidence will satisfy you as proof of the supernatural," I reply, in the words of Douglas Jerrold, who, when a man said he did not know original wit when he heard it, answered, “ Try me.” So I say to the Spiritualist, "Show me the supernatural, and the evidence will soon settle itself." They shew me a hand without an arm -a footless stocking without a leg, and say, " Behold the supernatural !" On the other night a poor gentleman brought what purported to be one of these melancholy productions in a shirt-collar box. They catch a spirit poet who writes rheumatic drivel, and they exclaim, "The Spirit of Byron.” Why, Byron, as poor Fergus O'Connor used to say, would kick his grandmother if she made such verses. Then they say something ails the spirit--the conditions are not quite right. Everybody else sees that the spirit is a fool-that's what's the matter with him. And this comes about because the Spiritualists are such Scripturalists. The medium createth the spirit in his own image. "Yea, in the image of himself createth he him." There is nothing supernatural herein-is there? Far be it from me to suggest that the medium is not wise. It is merely that the conditions are not quite the thing that lead to the result. I keep this fact ever before me. This also I do say, that the older and wiser the medium or believer is, the more modest bis speech and pretensions are. Still I know of no spirit phenomena —from Mr. Home, flattened in spiritual rollers, to the muffin-bell of the Davenport Brothers-entitled to be called by the high name of supernatural. They do not come up to the natural, and are off of a very low type of that.
I neither say nor assume that Spiritualists are impostors. I do not care if they are, provided they amuse me or instruct me. I am aware there are things in this world not dreamt of in my philosophy-nor anybody else's--but I do not intend to add myself to those who believe in them before they are discovered. My complaint is that Spiritualists afford no adequate facilities for doing it. I went to the Davenport séances. It was impossible to look at those remnants of men,
and imagine that God had selected them as the doorkeepers of a new world. There never were two more unlikely philosophers than Mr. Fay and Dr. Ferguson. They forbade all inquirers to move their hands or use their eyes-they shut them up like fools in the dark, and beat their heads with tambourines, and called that philosophical investigation into God-sent truths from the great Kingdom of decency and light; and it is suggested to us that our sisters or mothers, whom we have lost in sorrow, and whom we hope are living in the blessed peace of Heaven, are engaged in this silly or offensive pastime, and this is the latest new religion, which is to regenerate the world.
I own I am unfriendly to the entire theory that the people of the other world can get through some lately constructed tunnel into this. The good are better where we hope they are, and it is our interest that the bad should remain where they ought to be. "When I remember what ruffians have happily left this world,
I pray that whoever have charge of them will give them no ticket-of-leave to present themselves here again.
Judging from the suspicious tricks which those who have been brought here have played, I conclude that the Spiritualists are in communication with a sorry lot; and I trust that the Committee appointed by the Society will do what it can to lay down rules for their identity, and to bring them under the operation of our new Habitual Criminals' Bill. But as they are mostly more silly than vicious, perhaps we need in this case an Habitual Simpletons' Bill.
In the weary days when sadness intervenes in vicissitudes of pain, there are they who long for some second outside life ; some footfall on the boundary of another world which may be the herald of new interest. If such sounds there be, let us hear it, let us verify it, let us interchange, if we can, the golden syllables of certitude, or catch glimpses of untried existence. If these things can be, let philosophy speak; if not, let us recall the conditions of the existence we have accepted, and seek consolation in manliness, in fortitude, and consistent submission in thoughts of mercy which may occupy us, and in service which may benefit others, but let us not beguile ourselves with the juggleries of a spiritual alphabet, or seek consolation like a new order of fools in the idiotic revelations of table-legs."'*
Here is a tissue of the most audacious, reckless, illogical, and untruthful statements made in a tone of vulgar levity, that I have ever yet heard fall from the lips of an opponent of Spiritualism.
Such a mode of dealing with a serious subject, which is now the accepted belief of hundreds of his immediate acquaintances and former followers (as Mr. Holyoake very well knows) is my justification for saying that he has made shipwreck of whatever character he may have had as a reasoner and conscientious, though God-denying man. It is not necessary to meet Mr. Holyoake's statements with any detailed arguments; the least informed reader of this magazine could refute, from his own knowledge and experience, almost every word Mr. Holyoake has uttered. But it may be worth while to ask of those who still believe in his doctrines, and may perchance applaud his mode of dealing
with Spiritualism,--and from a few remarks made by Dr. Charles Drysdale, who presided at the debate, I will put the question to him,t
* Mr. Holyoake was severely handled in the debate which followed the reading of his paper. Mr. Alfred Wallace reminded him that he confessedly knew scarcely anything of the subject he had been lecturing them upon, and yet he was bold and inconsistent enough to publicly ridicule Spiritualism and the Committee's proceedings, without taking the trouble to ascertain the nature of the evidence they had obtained and the conclusion they had arrived at.
Mr. Gerald Massey, Mr. John Jones, Mr. Bergheim, Mr. Robert Harper, (a former believer in Mr. Holyoake's doctrines), and Mr. Tietkens followed on the same side, the latter quoting some pertinent passages from a letter addressed by Mr. William Wilkinson to Professor Tyndall.
In his closing remarks Mr. Holyoake's bearing was so subdued that he appeared as if he had just realised the absurd position in which he bad placed himself before the Dialecticians, upon whom his misjudged warnings could have no influence, since they had for the most part during his absence from their councils been convinced that his doctrines were untenable in the face of the facts, and had gone over to the enemy.
+ In the course of the debate which followed the reading of Mr. Holyoake's paper, Dr. Edmunds took occasion to complain of the unsatisfactory nature of the evidence which had been submitted, especially of Mrs. Marshall's exhibition
whether if Spiritualism, which teaches that there is a loving God, a ministry of angels and a future state of progression, were offered to him on the one hand, and the gloomy souldestroying belief of the atheist on the other—which would he wish to choose ?
The melancholy confession of one who was one of the body of Secularists, made in a letter he addressed to me not long ago, is a practical answer to this question; and if anything could move the heart and mind of such a man as Mr. Holyoake, this should make a lasting impression on him, and induce him to pause in his career; especially as it comes from one who was up to a recent period his first-lieutenant, and who had aided him with his
purse and ready pen in disseminating his pernicious doctrines; but who has now, happily for himself and the young family who look up to him for precept and example, dissevered himself from Mr. Holyoake and the secularist party, though still entertaining great respect for the man. Whether this feeling will remain after he has read Mr. Holyoake's address to the Dialecticians, I know not.
Prior to the receipt of the letter from which I make the following extract I had had several discussions with the writer, and I closed the last in a somewhat abrupt and petulant manner by saying—“The fact is, you do not want to believe, and it would be a waste of time to discuss the subject further.” His letter which followed touched me deeply, and I readily consented to do as he wished, that is, to take his own method of examining and testing the phenomena which might be presented at the séance I forthwith arranged for him. The result was the best proof of his candid state of mind; his conviction of an occult force being engaged in the manifestations, unaided by machinery or trickery, was established; and I believe that that 'séance struck the death-blow to his materialistic philosophy. Here is the extract, and I earnestly ask Mr. Holyoake to ponder the confession.
“I think you will, perhaps, gain a clearer view of my wishes
at his house, which, however, he did not, as I told bim, describe in very accurate terms. Ile said nothing of other very remarkable phenomena which he has himself witnessed through a medium whose good faith he of all men could not doubt, nor of the still more extraordinary facts witnessed as he had been told by two of the leading members of his Committee-Serjeant Cox and Mr. Jeffery; and on the whole his remarks were feeble in the extreme, but, nevertheless, they were strong enough to satisfy Dr. Drysdale, who before quitting the chair, said —"That he wished it to be understood he was no believer in Spiritualism-that he had not investigated it, and after what Dr. Edmunds had said he should never think it worth bis while to waste time in doing so," a very important announcement truly, and very encouraging to Mr. Holyoake. It will, no doubt, be duly recorded in the Society's proceedings and serve as a standing rebuke to the foolishness of other
and ideas in regard to what are called spiritual phenomena, if I endeavour to put them in writing, than you would do from less connected expression in conversation. As to your notion that I am determined to disbelieve, it would be, pardon me, an expression you have used, as ridiculous as you think the idea of trickery in the séances, if you had the slightest glimpse of my state of mind. I have a horror of death, as annihilation, so intense and profound, that were I to dwell upon it long and realise it fully, it would endanger either my reason or my life; and no earthly gain would be half so great to me, as the conviction that death is not annihilation.”*
It is the light of Spiritualism which relieves the desolation of such a mind and supplies the cravings of the heart. It is Spiritualism which will reconcile science and theology, and it is Spiritualism under God's providence which is destined to annihilate the last remnant of materialism, and ultimately, let us hope, to subdue the obdurate heart of such a man as George Jacob Holyoake.
The possibility of an event like this will, no doubt, be received by some with a smile of incredulity ; but we know that such conversions are not uncommon, as evidenced in the cases of the late Robert Owen and Dr. Elliotson, of London, and Professors Hare and Mapes, and Mr. Robert Dale Owen, of America.
It may be asked has Mr. Holyoake shown that he ever believed in God and immortality? Yes, he has : he was even so earnest as to become a Sunday-school teacher and a contributor to religious periodicals, and one of his poems gives us reason to believe that had Spiritualism dawned upon his mind before it rebelled against the irreconcilable teachings of the churches, he would, in all probability have been one of its most earnest champions. This probability is supported by a beautiful poem written by him some thirty years ago entitled
THE REIGN OF TIME.
Time can all things devour;
Betray the Spoiler's power;
* I am not permitted to publish the name of the writer, but, if Mr. Holyoake doubts that these words came from the heart and pen of one who was, till lately an active coadjutor of his, I will give it to him.