Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Dec/1894) - Spiritualism and Science

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.

SPIRITUALISM AND SCIENCE.

(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

“Let there be light;” at once light streamed through space,
Across the dark abyss; the mighty vault
From chaos sprang to view, and the dim void
Knew night and day.
By grand gradations then
Creation’s top was reached in God-like man,
The soul, the lord of earth, who, with his spouse.
Lacked nought to gratify his designed life.
With power to choose, with high free-will bestowed,
Enough did surfeit, till at last desire
O’erstepped the prescribed limit and the fault
Obscured pure light by shade. Then Nemesis
Attended and confusion took the place
Of peace; dark death with myriad wings beat by
And wafted misery from pole to pole,
Centring all sin within the soul and seared
It by unending pangs. From birth to death
No moment was secure, the darkened brow,
The hesitating step, the fading light
Of life, the windows of the soul were smeared,
The senses drooped, withered by constant fear,
Until the gross had all but swallowed up
The good.
Another light from the Great Cause
Descended to the strifeful, peaceless world;
Pure, calm, and clear, yet still the choice to take
Or leave, receive or cast aside, remained;
And man in freedom of his mystic will
By still refusing light to shade obscured
It from his inmost sight and thus remained
A victim to his whims, quite rudderless;
Tossed on the deep and dark abyss of change;
Wafted by storms, or, helplessly in calms,
A prey to his own thoughts and subtlety;
Grasping the shadow when the substance was
With love waiting to bless him.

Well, what about Spiritualism? Ah! much can be said about that and what is generally looked upon as supernatural. The subject is full of possibilities, probabilities, and improbabilites. The belief in benevolent and malevolent spirits belongs to all countries, and appears to be as old as the world. I have had spiritualistic experience that would have converted a less hardened and persistent disbeliever than I. Had I been anything in the medium, clairvoyant, or the spirit-slate-writing line I might have moved furniture without a lurry, seen spirits and conversed with them at home or abroad, or written to them or been written to by them from their various abodes below, above, or all around. If their languages had been too dead for me I could have had interpreters by the score. I could have had the past explained to me, the present made more weirdly interesting, while the future would have been made as plain as ABC. Still, Spiritualism is an awe-inspiring, fascinating, flesh-creeping study, and there is no wonder that the sensitive and lonely are sometimes so frightened by its supersubtlety that their reason is all but dethroned by sentiment and impressionableness. Of course the subject is full of mystery, as most subjects are. The universe is a mystery, the world is a mystery, all nature is full of the mysterious, while nothing is more mysterious than life itself, unless it be death. In fact, the more one knows of any art or science the more does one’s prospect broaden, the more do the mysteries deepen, and the more does the finite lose itself in the unfathomable infinite. Few have had more or better opportunities of being converted to Spiritualism than I, and though I have submitted myself to all kinds of tests, and attended many Spiritualistic meetings, my mind or inner self seemed almost involuntarily to repel it all by refusing to accept manifestations unquestioningly as to their source, their intent, their value when exposed to the light of reason, or their explicit bearing on futurity. To me the microscope reveals more in the light than Spiritualism ever did in the dark, to the unaided eye the sun can display more marvels in a moment than the actions and half-hidden trickiness of mediums and Spiritualists generally can for all time, in their sombre rooms, aided by appliances of cunning or otherwise. To me life, visible at all times, and ready for inspection at all seasons, presents ten thousand marvels, which in the aggregate are capable of indefinite multiplation, while in detail they bewilder the imagination, and make conception stand in awe. When the sun disappears, and the heavens are illumined by the moon, more food for thought is momentarily provided than clairvoyants, in their vague and mystic language, can ever suggest. When the clouds take wings, and the vault is bespangled with the eyes of night, which scintillate from every point, the mind and the soul are more entranced by the grandeur, the hidden and the plain, the magnificence of everything, the vastness of it all, and the mighty possibilities presented to the learned and the illiterate at a glance, than can be obtained from all the seances held since man let his imagination befool his reason, and play pranks with the truths of science and of settled and provable laws. The manifestations of the laws of nature are produced at all times, undeviatingly, and leave the observant mind refreshed and completely satisfied; fully showing that perception and reason are the keys to the mysteries of life, and the guides to show the trend and the ultimate of the unexplained and necessarily unexplainable connection between man’s inner self and the Source of all things.

I have details enough on this subject that would fill pages, while the experience of others of my acquaintance would fill volumes. Some will tell me of materialisations that frequently take place in the dim light of the seance, and with the necessary assistance of cabinets, screens, and cunning devices. Great care is taken to show that no confederates are assisting. Doors are sealed and walls and floors are examined to put doubters at ease about traps, duplicates, and sliding panels. A horse-shoe circle will then be formed before a cabinet, and the medium will pass behind a curtain, when any number of manifestations will be witnessed forthwith. Voices as different from the medium’s as possible will speak and answer or anticipate questions as readily as they are asked or thought of. Spirits in white costumes, generally beautiful, will dimly display themselves, various languages will be spoken, professedly unknown to the medium, and various nationalities, dressed accordingly, of varying statures, will be seen moving about the room. On certain conditions you are permitted to examine their tresses, stroke their faces, and personally question them. A spirit in white will show itself and immediately be supplanted by the medium in trance, when she, in her dark costume, will give a test to those who may feel doubtful on some points. The mediums’ expressions are generally couched in language so generalised that it can be construed to apply to most things. Their voices die away as if they were disappearing through the floor, while others attract attention by dropping from the ceiling. You are permitted to pull the beards of some of the male visitant spirits, and then may watch them sink away through the floor before the eyes of all, their last words being uttered as their heads touch the ground. Any number of spirits seem to be materialised in front of the cabinet, beginning with a luminous spot on the floor and then hiding behind some drapery or disappearing as they came. All ages and sizes are represented in order to show that they are not transfigurations of the medium, but independent materialisations. Then, when the lights are turned on, great care is taken to show that there have been no confederates, by pointing to the seals on the doors immediately the seance is over. Others will tell me of slate-writing manifestations during seances, a doctor generally being the writer. Slates are produced, a small Faber pencil is placed between them, hands are joined over a deal table, and then after a few moments’ silence spirits are ready to communicate, the venerable Wesley generally being anxious to tell the world that he is not far away. Many nameless spirits, some of them beautifully dressed, will put in an appearance to the Spiritualists present, especially the clairvoyants. The usual tapping communications being explained, the writing commences, and unmistakable scratchings are heard. This is done in the full light of day, generally with the slates resting on the shoulders of some gentleman in the room. Of course conversation is kept up, the medium meanwhile being busily preparing for other manifestations. The doubts of the public are discussed, and even the shams that have been perpetrated in the name of Spiritualism referred to. Sometimes several spirits will seem to be writing at the same time, and their differing caligraphy is generalised in such terms that it will suit almost any question or line of thought. The writing is sometimes good, but frequently execrable, the sprawling outlines being scarcely decipherable even to the best manuscript reader. While all are intent on these manifestations a heavy piece of furniture will be lifted, a chair upset, raps heard, taps felt on the knees and legs beneath the table, and a general commotion caused. A trance-medium will then begin to jabber, stare wildly or vacantly, throw his arms about frantically, and then close his eyes and declare that he cannot open them, and while in that state assert that he still sees Wesley and many other spirits in the room, all anxious to tell mankind that the mind or soul can never die. After this, slates are made to move about beneath the table from person to person by unseen means, or apparently without the medium’s aid, and when the manifestations are not very successful the sitters are told, by way of diversion, to put one of their hands beneath the table to experience the cold current there, being informed that such coolness is caused by spirit influence. There will then be mystery upon mystery to those who fix their sole attention upon each manifestation, and especially to those who are easily influenced by what they consider supernatural, and awe and fear will be awakened within them to an alarming extent.

I have walked through the streets of Huddersfield with Spiritualists, who, on all matters where the test is certain and provable, are truth speakers, who have told me that spirits were walking with us, motioning to us, and even tenderly embracing us. Some of the spirits were good, others bad. Some were bent on guarding and leading us rightly, others on tempting and ensnaring us with the wrong. They said they could see them distinctly, and when asked why I could not the reply was that I doubted their existence, and was, consequently, not in sympathy with Spiritualism, but if I fully believed it I should then be able to see into the spirit world as well as they. Others have told me they have had slate messages from their dead relatives, addressing them in the most tender terms, and have even let me see the slates and messages which they guarded most carefully. Some have told me how they have been led from their bedrooms into the cellars and in the darkness there seen their deceased loved ones, and had had explained to them many of the mysteries of the past and the future. One man once told me, in company with others, that on one occasion he was chased all over his room by a washing machine, and no matter where he went it pursued him, until at last it fell on the floor and shattered itself into fragments. This was said in all seriousness, and, hardened as I am, I fully believed he thought he was telling me the truth. He even asked me if I disbelieved him, and when I told him I disbelieved the circumstances he seemed disappointed. When I have gone to spiritualistic meetings what always struck me as remarkable was the glibeness, yea, even the eloquence of the speakers, as they, with closed eyes, expounded Spiritualism, or made known their visions. They would describe the appearance of the spirits that were stood or sat beside me in the room, say how they were dressed, describe their features, and point out whether they were good or bad. They would attempt to describe the attendant spirits of people present, and would do it in such general terms that impressionable minds could identify their dead wives, children, and relatives generally. If closely questioned by non-spiritualists as to the spirits of their dead, they would make some of the most strange statements, such as would be made by one who was describing something he did not see rather than make no reply. This sometimes occurs in reply to members of their own flock, many of whom are pale and weakly, and have peculiar and indescribable eyes, which, though often luminous, are at times filmy, and will gaze at you as though they were looking through you without recognising you. Towards the close of their discourses, and when their failures become more pronounced, they will excuse themselves by saying that they feel the influence is leaving them, and their trance-state departing, until at last they open their eyes and are as other people. Still, their discourses are often very good, many of the mediums being eloquent, indeed, could one hear them without knowing they were trance-mediums, it would be difficult to say to which dissenting body they belonged, while their hymns are pure and highly spiritual, and though at times they make some terrible statements about the interpretation of Scripture, they seem fully at peace within themselves and satisfied that they are in the right. Only the other day an agreeable, and certainly fairly intelligent man, averred repeatedly to me that his wife, whom he had buried the previous week, had visited him and lovingly kissed him in broad light. He was quite satisfied that she came in a real or materialised form, and that she actually reciprocated his embraces, and then vanished without uttering a word, her features showing perfect rest and peace. I questioned him most closely, but could not shake hi3 statements. He admitted I had asked him questions about Spiritualism that had never been asked him before, and although I frequently shattered the logic of his conclusions, he repeatedly asserted that as a Spiritualist he intended to live and die. I give these as samples of many others, the individuals referred to generally being intelligent men, successful in business, and skilled in their various vocations.

(To be continued.)