THE MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK
LONDON, MARCH 29, 1872.
MR. GERALD MASSEY ON SPIRITUALISM.
Most of us have friends who mean well, but have an
unfortunate way of allowing it. They damn us with faint praise,
without intending to do so! We may know their little peculiarities
and allow for them, but outsiders may not. All illustration of what
we mean occurs in the last number of the Spiritualist. Here
it is: "Mr. Gerald Massey will shortly give a series of four lectures at
St. George's Hall, on Spiritualism, in which he will answer the objections
recently advanced by Dr. Carpenter and others. Although he is not
the man to do battle with scientific weapons, he will bring to bear that
common sense of which Dr. Carpenter speaks so highly, and as he is a
lively and talented essayist, his lectures will doubtless be of
considerable interest. He is supported by a committee of some of the
leading friends of Spiritualism." No doubt the writer of this meant
well, but if he had been patronising a youthful writer for Punch he
would have been much nearer the mark. Mr. Massey has no doubt
written "lively" and" talented" essays, seeing that he was for many years
a contributor to the Quarterly Review, the Athenaeum,
North British Review, and various other periodicals, but his only
essay before the public is the one "Concerning Spiritualism." Our
contemporary does not seem to know that Mr. Massey has been heard of as a
poet here and there, now and again, all round the world. Sixteen
years before our contemporary was born, Mr. Massey was universally hailed
as a new and genuine poet when he published his" Babe Christabel, and
other Poems," of which five editions were called for in one year. As
a poet, and "the first of all who in our time have sprung from the
people," he was placed on the Civil List for a literary pension, by Lord
Palmerston, many years ago. For the benefit of our contemporary and
others, we will subjoin a few more facts, selected from a memoir of Mr.
Massey which was printed some time since. Twenty years ago he was
lecturing on Spiritualism amongst the Secularists, &c., at John Street and
the Hall of Science, City Road. He started and edited the Spirit
of Freedom in 1849; was engaged working on behalf of Co-operation with
the "Christian Socialists" in 1850-1-2; was London correspondent of the
New York Tribune in 1854-5; contributed a large number of sketches to
the "Men of the Time" (second edition, 1856); edited an Edinburgh paper in
1855; published "Craigcrook Castle" in 1856; "Havelock's March, and other
Poems," 1861; "Shakspeare's Sonnets and his Private Friends," 1866—a
labour of love and of three years' research, aided most potently by
spiritual revelation. "A Tale of Eternity, and other Poems," was
published in 1870. For ten years Mr. Massey reviewed for the
Athenaeum; during four or five for the Quarterly Review; and
for ten years he wrote for Good Words. He has been a lecturer
during some fourteen years—one of the highliest prized—and has delivered
more than five hundred lectures in the three kingdoms. Here are two or
three opinions of him as a lecturer:—
"Never have lectures given more delight and satisfaction than those of
Gerald Massey."—Newcastle Chronicle.
"They are full of beautiful gems exquisitely set."—Hertford Mercury.
"For two hours he kept the large audience—comprising the noblest minds in
Newcastle—entranced, as he grandly pleaded the Pre-Raphaelite cause. * * *
* At the close of the lecture, which was throughout a poem, the audience
broke up with praises of the poet-lecturer on their lips. Never was
lecturer more successful—Gateshead Observer.
"The Bishop of Derry (Dr. Alexander) expressed the peculiar satisfaction
he felt in being there to welcome to the good old city of Londonderry a
man of real genius, and a genuine poet. Mr. Massey was there to
discharge a duty for which, himself a poet of a high order, and a subtle
critic, he was eminently qualified."—Londonderry Paper.
"All who were there thoroughly enjoyed the hour and a half with a wit and
poet. The opening of his lecture was marked by such an incessant
play and sparkle of puns and other witticisms as to suggest that the
spirit of Hood was present in person. A lecture more humorous, more
pathetic, more exhaustive, more interesting or delightful, was perhaps
never delivered."—Gloucester Journal.
"There was all the humour—all the wit—all the pathos—written as it were in
Lamb's own style. None but a poet could have brought out the quiet
pathetic touches of Lamb's life as Mr. Massey brought them out.
There was all the light and all the shade of the charming picture."—Northern
As a poet, Mr. Massey began as the advocate of unpopular
opinions, for he was, and is, essentially the poet of the people—of the
poor. And yet he succeeded at once in conquering the recognition of
the rich man's press, as the following brief extracts will show:—
"Here is another poet, and one whose story and position as
a teacher and a preacher clothe him with unusual interest."—Athenæum.
"A man who has fought his way to the temple-gate of fame, sword in hand.
May his Summer day be fair as the spring dawn is bright!"—Times.
"There is a real glow about all Mr. Massey writes."—Edinburgh Review.
"Heartily do we congratulate the age that sees the advent of the poet of
'Babe Christabel.'"—Church and State Gazette.
"In whatever part of the field of literature we meet him, he deserves
recognition as u writer of earnestness and ability, who has achieved
success under circumstances which, in the case of the vast majority of
men, would have involved total failure."—Guardian.
Many years ago the London Review said: "The career of
Gerald Massey marks an era of progress in the history of his country.
It shows how the people are advancing, and prefigures their coming
possession of political power. Brave, honest, free-spoken Gerald
Massey! He has won his own independence, and his now recognised
title. From his mind emanates the flower of poetry, that is destined
to live and give forth sweet odours, over fresh and ever new, as long as
our English language is a living tongue in this world."
"It is in some respects unfortunate for Mr. Massey that,
where he is at his very best, his poems do not challenge criticism at all.
We receive them; rest in them; and occasional lines dwell with us with a
lingering tenderness that oftenest imposes reticence. Like some of
Uhland's they are charged with the Heimwch, the longing look-back,
or rather let us say the longing look-up, which supervenes on great and
crushing experiences. Their sensuous beauty is one thing, their
suggestion for the crushed soul is quite another thing, and it is
impossible their whole beauty should be seen save through the latter; and
then the human heart is scarce in a mood for speech, even to utter its
gratitude for words of cheer and helping."—Nonconformist.
We are privileged to quote a letter lately received by Mr.
Massey after one of his lectures into which he had skilfully inserted a
good deal of Spiritualism:—
"Nov. 27, 1871.
SIR,—I thank God that He has
permitted me to see your face in the flesh, and I hope that I may one day
have the privilege of clasping the hand that penned the "Wee White Rose."
Eight years ago we laid our darling firstborn in the grave, and many a
time, in the weary days that followed, your sweet words made music in our
lonely hearts, and my husband and I have cried together over them, and
loved you for writing them. Now he too has gone, and another precious
child since, and I have less left on earth than in heaven.
"I have no right to trouble you, but, I must thank you out of the
abundance of my heart for the sweet comfort that mingled with your words
to-night. I feel sure you will be glad to know that you made one desolate
heart to sing for joy—yet you taught no new doctrine, but just what Jesus
Christ Himself teaches in his word concerning those that "sleep in Him."
God bless you for the way in which you unfolded such a blessed truth! I
think I shall meet you in the "upper sanctuary," if I do not down here,
and I shall thank you again then. With loving and grateful thanks, I am,
my dear Sir, most sincerely yours."
Of his later works, we are pleased to know that Spiritualists
are making themselves more or less acquainted with them.
So that, on the whole, we do not think Mr. Massey deserves to
be made known in our ranks as a "lively essayist." He does not come
amongst us either to win his spurs or to have them hacked off. He is
no dilletante Spiritualist, but one who has lived face to face with the
phenomena in his own house during fifteen years. Our contemporary
suggests that Mr. Massey is not the man to answer Carpenter "with
scientific weapons." What are they? The Quarterly
Reviewer's weapons—those that cut deepest were malevolent
misrepresentations, falsifications of fact, and miserable decryings of men
who had done some work in the world. It will be a sufficient answer
to Dr. Carpenter for anyone who is manly and knows his subject, to be
manly and speak the truth. Spiritualism is so many years ahead of
Dr. Carpenter that he will never overtake it in this world. As for
the next, we trust his doom may not be to have to come back after death
and try to convince others of the truth which he denied in life, and move
his wordless lips in vain across the grave to a world that will not heed
him. He shot an arrow or two which happened to reach our "Psychic
Force" friends far in the rear of our movement. And it turned out
that the arrows were poisoned. This caused their outcry. But
for this circumstance, can any Spiritualist find any real argument in the
article to answer? Dr. Carpenter has not been nearer to Spiritualism
than Burns's poet "Willie" was to Pegasus. Of what avail would it be
to demonstrate to him that the universe is not to be measured by a
Carpenter's rule, or that it is far easier to get solid bodies passed
through walls and ceilings than a new idea through certain big-wigged
skulls? Let Dr. Carpenter go on objecting. He can't do better
for us, and will certainly do for himself. And let Mr. Massey give
us his facts; tell us the story of his particular personal experience; and
throw what light he can on the subject generally for the benefit of
MR. GERALD MASSEY'S LECTURES ON SPIRITUALISM.
In accordance with the promise given last week, we are now
enabled to present some particulars respecting the forthcoming course of
lectures by Mr. Massey, at St. George's Hall. The secretary, Mr. Daw,
has handed for publication the following list of names constituting the
COMMITTEE OF INVITATION:—
Rev. Sir William Dunbar, Bart.
Sir Charles Isham, Bart.
Cromwell F. Varley, Esq., F.R.S.
William Crookes, Esq., F.R.S.
George Harris, Esq., F.S.A., Vice-President Anthropological Institute,
Rev. S. E. Bengough, M.A.
H. D. Jencken, Esq., M.R.I., Barrister-at-Law.
Mrs. Makdougall Gregory.
N. F. Daw, Esq.
James Wason, Esq., Liverpool.
Andrew Leighton, Esq., Liverpool.
Nicholas Kilburn, Jun., Esq., Bishop Auckland.
William Tebb, Esq.
Benjamin Coleman, Esq.
A. C. Swinton, Esq.
Thomas Shorter, Esq.
T. Traill Taylor, Esq.
William White, Esq.
It also gives us pleasure to report that the invitation, thus
influentially presented, has been as cordially responded to by Mr. Massey,
who has forwarded to Mr. Daw the following list as the subjects of his
Sunday, May 12.
Facts of my own personal experience narrated and discussed, together with
various Theories of the Phenomena.
Sunday, May 19.
Concerning a Spiritual World in relation to the Natural World.
Sunday, May 26.
The Birth, Life, Character, and Teachings of Jesus Christ, delineated from
a fresh point of view.
Sunday, June 2.
Christianity and (what is called) " Spiritualism."
By another week the arrangements will have been perfected for
the issue of tickets and means for obtaining the necessary publicity, and
in promoting the success of this very desirable course, we have no doubt
every Spiritualist in or near London will actively and heartily do his
THE MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK
LONDON, MAY 17, 1872.
No. 111.—VOL. III.
GERALD MASSEY AT ST. GEORGE'S HALL.
On Sunday last, Mr. Massey gave the first of his course of
four lectures on Spiritualism in the above place. The hall was well
filled by an intelligent and appreciative audience, who, although the
lecture lasted for nearly two hours, manifested the utmost attention
throughout. It speaks highly in favour of the ability of a lecturer
when he can so hold his readers entranced, as it were, for two long hours
on a Sunday afternoon, listening to a prelection on that most tabooed of
all tabooed topics, "Spiritualism." But we need to make no
gratulatory remarks on Mr. Massey in introducing him to our readers as a
lecturer on Spiritualism; he has already made his name known and his works
admired in nearly all departments of literature, and, as he himself puts
it, has "established his sanity with the world by work done in other
departments," before coming out as an advocate of Spiritualism.
The subject of the discourse on Sunday was: "Facts of my own
Personal Experience narrated and discussed, with various theories of the
alleged Phenomena." The lecturer commenced by stating that he was no
visionary, and that he had no predisposition to superstition; he had from
an early age been obliged to earn his living, commencing with the
pitchfork and ending with the pen, and so from youth upwards had been
compelled to look hard facts in the face. His abnormal experience
came unsought, by the visitation of God, as it was called. He had
had no wish to "try the spirits;" they had tried him too much; but once
being assured of a fact, he dared stand by it before the world even in the
minority of one. It was popularly supposed that poets were born
liars; be that as it might, he had spent twenty years of his life trying
to tell the truth; but the world was so constituted that it was hard work
getting a living by telling the truth. He had come of a race no
individuals of which had ever been known to go mad; nor had he induced an
acquaintance with one kind of spirits by too free a familiarity with
another kind. He mentioned these things because they were looked
upon by many as the "natural causes of the supernatural." Like
Horatio, he began by doubting everything, and ended by doubting his very
doubts. He considered the fact of Shakspeare's describing Hamlet as
doubting the possibility of the continuation of existence, after having
confronted his father's ghost only the night before, as one of the poet's
profoundest insights, it was well known how hard it is to believe, even
though one came from the dead.
The lecturer went on to say that the only facts he should
make use of had come under his own notice, knowing, as he did, "how glory
grows out of the haze of distance." Some two-and-twenty years ago he
was invited to see a clairvoyante read without the use of her eyes.
He was asked to place his finger over her eyes so as to prevent her from
being able to see. He knew so little of what was expected of him
that be placed his fingers so wide apart that she could see between them.
This lady afterwards became his wife, and he found that this reading by
abnormal vision was a fact. He had never properly understood it
before. Since then, however, he had seen her read so hundreds of
times and convince hundreds of people. Many persons had been
prepared for the acceptance of Spiritualism by what they saw of her
clairvoyance. Not only did she read books in this manner, but the
human body itself appeared to be diaphanous to her. She had been
made use of in the hospitals to diagnose diseases and prescribe for them.
Her power was just the same whether her eyes were bandaged or not; in
fact, if the eyes of the flesh were open she could not read at all.
In elucidation of this wonderful faculty he adduced the following
instances. A young man once asked her if she could see the pain he
had. She said that he must have suffered a fracture of the rib, as
one bone was overlapping another. The young man replied that he had
suffered such a fracture, and that he had always feared the bones had not
been properly set. On another occasion an officer came with a
friend. He was dressed as a private gentleman. He had lost a
carpet bag, and wanted to know if it could be found by means of
clairvoyance. She described the bag and its contents, amongst other
things a brace of curious silver-mounted pistols of Indian workmanship,
then a something which she could not identify. Turning to the
officer, she uttered a scream. He wore an artificial arm; his own,
which be had lost in action, was in the bag, and that was what she had
described. Mr. Massey and the officer ,went to Liverpool in search
of the missing carpet bag, but they could not convince the police that
they had any clue or evidence to go by. One morning, on waking up,
at seven o'clock, she informed her husband that his mother was dead.
On being questioned as to how she knew, she said that she had seen the
black-edged letter put under the bedroom door. At eight o'clock Mr.
Massey himself saw the letter containing the sad announcement put under
The lecturer here introduced a number of other remarkable
instances of the clairvoyant faculty as possessed by his wife, and
therefore coming under his own personal experience; but the facts of
clairvoyance are sufficiently well known and acknowledged amongst
Spiritualists to hardly need any corroborative evidence; although to the
world at large, to whom all abnormal or spiritual gifts are a delusion,
they are gigantic obstacles in the way of the so-called scientific
explanation of things.
He then entered into some details as to the unfortunate
malady of his wife, who through grief at the loss of a beloved child was
afflicted with mental derangement, so that at times her mind was quite
wavering. He felt certain that some forms of insanity are nothing
but diseased somnambulism, that in reality there is no such thing as
insanity of the soul; there was serenity and clearness in the depth of the
spirit-life, while all was chaotic in the troubled life of the brain.
In 1863 this mental ailment took a peculiar turn.
Hitherto he had been able to control it by Mesmerism. Now, however,
he could not get her mesmerised in order to console her. One Sunday
night the doctors insisted on her removal. He had held out against
this alternative for a long time, but now his resolution began to waver.
They had retired to bed, but she was still very violent. Suddenly he
heard a strange noise. It was like a scratching and scraping and
knocking on the footboard of the bed. At length the noise arrested
her attention. He at first thought it was she who was making the
noise with her foot against the hot-water bottle. She also thought
it was he. The sounds increasing, he procured a light and removed
the water bottle. The noise went on. It appeared as though a
rat were in the room gnawing at the foot of the bed. Then he thought
a dog was in the room, and was scratching on the boards. His wife
insisted that there was a dog in the room. He turned up the bed and
mattress, but without finding any explanation of the mystery. The
scratching and scraping, occasionally culminating in a rap, somewhat like
the brushing of a dog's tail against the footboard, still continued.
His wife screamed that she could not stand it. He bore it for some
twenty minutes. Once he wondered if it were possible that there
could be burglars in the room below, and that they were giving them the
benefit of an electric battery to distract their attention. But
there was no one there. At length he called the servant, without,
however, telling her the reason why. She sat down on one side of the
bed. She now passed through similar stages of wonderment to what
they had done. At first she seemed inclined to run away, but finding
that he could stand it, she fancied she could too, and so did not bolt as
she had intended. Next the mother of the servant went and sat on the
other side of the bed, so that there were now four of them in the room—Mr.
Massey and his wife sitting up in the bed, and the servant and her mother
on either side—and still the sounds on the footboard continued, if
anything, in a more energetic manner. He thought of spirits, but the
sounds were so grovelling and dog like that he was disgusted at the idea.
He made use of some expression adjuring the sounds to cease.
Whatever it was, however, it would not be gone. At last he called
out, "Is there a spirit here? If so, give three raps." There
were three distinct raps. "We looked at one another" continued the
lecturer, "and I dare say looked strange. I was not frightened, but
Communications having thus been opened, Mr. Massey put other
questions, and learned by raps that his wife's mother and his little
daughter were there. Then he asked, "Have you come on Jane's
account?" Three raps. "Can you do her good?" Three raps.
"To-night?" Three raps. The sounds continued, and the bed and
bedstead throbbed. Then his wife sat straight up in bed, her face
lighted up, and in an intense whisper she said, "Mother—Mary!" [Ed -
probably misreported; other accounts give 'Marian', Rosina's third
daughter, who died in 1855 at 11 months]
That night they held a long conversation with the spirits,
and he was told not to put his wife away on the morrow, though she would
be worse, but that she would be better on the following Sunday night; and,
true enough, on the said Sunday night she was nearly quite well. The
lecturer here very aptly remarked that there could not be much of
"epidemic delusion" about these experiences, seeing that they occurred
unexpectedly and to a solitary group of individuals.
Such, said the lecturer, was his first initiation into
spirit-rapping, although at first, he confessed, he could not make much of
it. He had never in subsequent experiences had anything so clear as
on that first night. It may be that the object was more important.
On other occasions answers had as often been wrong as right, and the
spirits seemed to glory in the fact. About this time a clergyman, a
friend, who said he was a writing medium, informed him that he had
invented a stool something like a planchette, only it was for reading,
instead of writing. He brought it, tied a pencil to its foot, and he
and the medium placed their bands on it, and the stool wrote, "Muller not
guilty; robbery, not murder," followed by a tolerably good facsimile of
Shakspeare's signature. This was repeated in total darkness.
Space will not permit us to go over the whole ground of these
wonderful revelations. Surprised by the above communication, which
purported to come from Briggs, who, it will be remembered, was the man for
whose murder Muller was subsequently executed, Mr. Massey examined into
the evidence against the culprit, and finding that there was no conclusive
testimony against him, he drew up a letter, which he considered the best
piece of logical reasoning he had ever performed, had eight copies made of
it, and sent them to the London papers. He never saw it in any of
the dailies, and therefore concluded that it had never been published.
This was before Muller's execution. After that cruel finale, the
spirit came and thanked Mr. Massey for "trying to save my poor neck."
Some months later he learned, through a lady who was interested in Muller,
that his letter had appeared in the Daily News.
To turn to the subject of Shakspeare; Mr. Massey had just
written an article on Shakspeare's Sonnets for the Quarterly.
Here was what purported to be a spirit who ought to know something about
this vexed question. He thought, "If this is true, now is my time."
He put his questions accordingly, and was astounded at the intelligent
replies he received. His wife knew nothing whatever about the
question at issue, and had even not been able to help him in the least in
his researches by her clairvoyant power. He had rejected the 138th
sonnet, which came into print when Shakspeare was in his thirty-fifth
year, and Herbert in his nineteenth. It purported to be "On Age in
Love." Now, a man of thirty-five did not personify age in love.
The answer he got to this difficulty was: "Carefully compare the two
copies of the sonnets, and you will find that a line has been suppressed;
it is ironical."
On comparing the two versions (sonnet 138 and the sonnet in
the "Passionate Pilgrim)" he found that the ninth line had been
suppressed, and the entire sonnet was ironical with reference to the
lady's age, and would naturally mean quite the contrary to what it says.
"There was evidence," said Mr. Massey, "as direct as I am
giving to you. Of course, I could only make use of what I was able
to correlate and find evidence for. The other day I printed a
supplement to my work on Shakspeare's Sonnets, in which I dared to use the
information I had received years before."
There must have been some person present who knew things that
were not in his mind and could not have been in the medium's, unless there
be a universal consciousness from whence we are able to draw supplies of
knowledge. The lecturer here also remarked on the peculiar and
varied types of individuals communicating. He considered that
Shakspeare himself did not represent character more accurately than was
done through this medium. Each spirit was distinctly characterised.
In 1866 his experience took another form. He had
removed into a house which had been presented to him to live in rent free
[Ed. — Ward's Hurst Farm, near
Tring]; but the noises in it were so fearful that their servant, a
Scotchwoman, said she could not sleep in the night. The noises
seemed as if made by the ring of the kitchen range being continually
thrown down. She knew of the power he possessed through his wife,
and asked him to use it to fathom this mystery. He rather fought
against it, as he did not want to be turned out of his house by evil
spirits. Ultimately he had the room doors left open, and he was
awakened by a sound like the falling of a key. At length he
questioned the spirits, and learned that there was an unhappy spirit
connected with the place. There had been a child murdered there, and
it seems that the murderer in going to bury the remains of the little
innocent one had dropped his key in the dark, and night after night, in
rehearsing the fearful drama as a penance, he had to go through the
performance of losing and searching for his key, which accounted for the
noises heard. Mr. Massey had subsequently found sticking out of a
crack in the earth a couple of bones, which to him appeared to bear a
strong resemblance to the bones of a child. He said nothing about
this circumstance to his wife, but hid them away in the cleft of a tree.
Until this time he had known nothing of the spirit thus
manifesting. Now, however, the spirit of the supposed murderer
frequently came and communicated, often swearing in a most blasphemous
manner. The lecturer here gave a number of illustrations of these
manifestations, in which the supposed murderer communicated many of the
details of his crime. But we may inform our readers that the story
of this fearful drama will be found in Mr. Massey's poem, "A
Tale of Eternity," of which it forms the plot and groundwork; and we
may add that to anyone wishing to read a tale of dramatic interest, vivid
and weird description, pathos, and an insight that seems to dissolve the
veil that divides the seen from the unseen, we can highly recommend this
latest work of the poet. With this terrible expiator of his crimes
done in the flesh Mr. Massey made a compact, agreeing to pray for him if
he would promise not to frighten his children, which promise was given and
faithfully kept. One time when searching the cellars he found an old
rusty key. He thought to himself that it must be B.'s key, and,
wishing to test the affair, he put it into a particular place called B.'s
cellar. The next time the medium was entranced, she said:—"B. thinks
he has found his key." On leaving the medium the spirit was in the
habit of frightening her, to avoid which Mr. Massey was instructed to
throw a handkerchief over her face at the moment when he relinquished
Another curious experience was connected with the death of
Mrs. Massey, who died of heart disease. She turned on her, side and
passed quietly away; meanwhile her husband, who was by her side, not
perceiving any change, continued talking to her. Subsequently, on
his first sitting with Mr. Home, his wife informed him through the latter
that, on the night of her decease, she kept on talking with him, but he
did not answer, thus showing, he remarked, that the change is so gradual
and imperceptible at first that we are hardly aware of it—that there is,
in fact, no death. It is like, to use his simile, the spinning top
when we say it sleeps; the soul seems to have attained the perfect motion.
The lecturer here made the remark that it was not his wish to
tell a wonderful story. He would sooner set their brains at work
inside the skull than make their hair stand on end outside. With
reference to the spirit-lights, Mr. Massey considered that they were
composed of the emanations from our bodies, with which also the spirits
clothed themselves when they wished to render themselves visible. He
had himself had glimpses of the glory seen round the heads of mediums in
the past. He had seen halos about the heads of persons, and lights
proceeding from the feet of some individuals walking in the dark.
Some remarks followed on the relationship between matter and spirit, which
we have no space to reproduce. Suffice it to say that he considered
this world was continually being fed from the spiritual state, that bread
and beef could not produce mind, and that, indeed, we do not "live by
The latter part of the lecture was taken up with a
consideration of the theories and arguments of Mr. Serjeant
Cox and Dr. Carpenter, a few passages from
which we give in extenso:—
If psychic force be soul force, then psychical children have
larger souls or more potent soul forces then psychical men, whereas
non-psychical people, twenty-nine out of thirty, ought to have no souls at
all, and we have arrived at that period of creation when the soul is just
coming into being, with Serjeant Cox as obstetrist. Naturally,
enough it would be born in the child! But, again, he argues that it
is not a spiritual force, because it proceeds from the human organism.
If so, he cannot include the spiritual in the human organism, so that the
manifestations may not be at fault in demonstrating their origin as
spiritual; only the Serjeant's previous conclusions, or present
dubiousness on the subject of the spirit's existence. Given a
non-belief in the spiritual absolutely, what amount of evidence will it
take to prove its existence relatively? And if there be nothing
spiritual in it, what then does Serjeant Cox mean by calling it Psychic
Force? At page 37, first edition of his pamphlet, he informs us that
the psychic is an unconscious agent—one who can neither command nor
control the force of which he is the medium. It operates not only
independently of his will, but does not even demand his attention.
At page 44 he states that the force is controlled and directed by the
intelligence of the medium—that is, by psychical consciousness acting
unconsciously. The psychic does not know this, but Serjeant Cox
does. In like manner the two German philosophers may not have been
so far out. They sat watching the shower out of a window, in
presence of a stranger; one said, nodding towards the falling rain,
"Perhaps that is I making it rain;" "Or I," replied the other. The
stranger sat and stared at the two singular aquarian specimens. At
page 51 the Serjeant naively asks of his readers, "By what process is it
that the unconscious action of the brain, asserted by Dr. Carpenter, who
found out long ago how it was done, directs the psychic force to
intelligent purposes?" Ay, there's the rub! If Serjeant Cox
had asked that question of himself or his phenomena earlier, it might
possibly have prevented his putting forth a theory that will be laughed at
by men of science, and must be repudiated by Spiritualists.
When his psychical phenomena have been connected with
"unconscious cerebration," and both harnessed on to
Dr. Richardson's nerve atmosphere, we shall then be better able to
show that the cause of all is spiritual. Not that we suppose there
is an unknown force, more powerful in the child than the man, proceeding
solely from the spirit or body of a psychic, capable of lifting a heavy
table and knocking down a woman without the psychic's will, but that the
spirit of the medium may be en rapport with vast and conscious
spiritual forces which can make of it a centre of force for the purpose of
effecting that which is performed. With them resides the
intelligence to apprehend and the will that responds. Serjeant Cox
supposes the psychic to be a centre to certain magnetic forces of the
living bodies present. So it may be. But there is the
obverse—that is, the spiritual—side to such fact. There would be no
magnetic emanations of the body if it were not the seat of spiritual
being. The origin of force is not in the human body. We
do not originate the force we manifest. Everywhere and always there
is that Beyond from which force is derived.
And we suppose the medium, by reason of the spiritual body
acting more or less abnormally, to be the centre of operations for
spiritual intelligences. Hence the force, as Serjeant Cox admits, is
more like an influence, and the motions are unlike any known to matter.
It is an influence from a power that is invisible—a will that is not
embodied for us until the moment and in the act of manifesting the
responding intelligence. Serjeant Cox says the conditions of the
phenomena are wholly inconsistent with the spiritual theory. He does
not point out one. He only assumes that if spirits be the cause,
then no conditions that affect the psychic ought to hinder their operating
at any time. But if spirits could act independently of mediumistic
conditions, they would not need a medium, which we say is a sine quâ
non [Ed. - essential, crucial, or indispensable ingredient without
which something would be impossible] of these manifestations.
Clearly, then, the conditions are the mediumship! On these the
spiritual operators have to depend for certain manifestations. The
phenomena demand an intelligent, conscious agency, which the Spiritualist
theory supplies and the psychic theory cannot! The Spiritualists
proclaim a force as old as humanity; they correlate their facts with the
manifestations made in all times, amongst all peoples, and they account
for them on a theory that has been extant for ages. Serjeant Cox
proclaims a new force in Nature which cannot be correlated with any known
force, mental or physical, by affinity or analogy, and one that is more
powerful in a child than in a man!
I have only just glanced at Serjeant Cox's second edition,
but I find that at p. 47 he says the Spiritualist theory "explains all the
phenomena of Spiritualism"—I quote his own words; while at p. 60 he says,
"All the ascertained conditions are inconsistent with the Spiritualist
theory that these are the doings of the disembodied spirits of the dead."
Again I quote his own words. Which of the two convey his meaning I
do not know.
Let me not be misunderstood. I am discussing Serjeant
Cox's explanations, not making fun of Mr. Crooke's
experiments. They are real and right enough; and Spiritualists owe
him a debt of gratitude for the patience he bas shown in pursuing them,
and his pluck in announcing the results. He has our sympathy under
the foul play and malevolent or stupid misrepresentations from which he
has suffered, although our alliance would be of no service to him in the
That which our psychic-force friends have taken in hand will
assuredly bear them off their feet, if they stick to it. Our
psychic-force friends do but touch physically the veriest fringe of the
phenomena. They have but made a study of one ripple registered on
the sand by the great ocean that is out of sight. I fancy Mr.
Crookes has seen a thousand-fold more than he can scientifically
demonstrate to others. If the force be spiritual, as we contend, it
follows that physical science can only deal with that registered record in
the sand of the ripple passed away.
I tremble lest some unfortunate psychic should be brought
before Serjeant Cox, charged with killing a woman by throwing a table at
her. He may plead irresponsibility—say he had no intention to do it,
no control over the force, but that psychic force is the real criminal,
instigated by Dr. Carpenter's "unconscious cerebration," aided and abetted
by Dr. Richardson's "nerve-atmosphere." The plea would be perfect;
the argument unanswerable, according to the Serjeant's overruling.
How could he commit the man, when he has so committed himself?
Passing on to a review of Dr. Carpenter's statements and
assumptions, the lecturer said:—
Dr. Carpenter repents a story of a gentleman who had been
thinking of writing the life of Young, the author of "Night Thoughts."
He was sitting with his sister-in-law, who was a medium, when Young
announced himself as present.
"Are you Young, the poet?" "Yes." "The author of the 'Night Thoughts?"'
"Yes." "If you are, repeat a line of his poetry." And the table
spelt out, according to the system of telegraphy which had been agreed
upon, this line:—
"Man is not formed to question, but adore."
He said, "Is this in the 'Night Thoughts?"' "No." "Where is it?" "J
O B." He could not tell what this meant. He went home, bought a copy
of Young's works, and found that in the volume containing Youngs's poems
there was a poetical commentary on Job which ended with that line.
He was extremely puzzled at this; but two or three weeks afterwards he
found he had a copy of Young's works in his own library, and was satisfied
from marks in it that he had read that poem before. I have no doubt
whatever that that line had remained in his mind—that is, in the lower
stratum of it.
Well, supposing it did, what then? Does "unconscious
cerebration" include tables as well as brains? Is it possible to
have our own latent ideas unconsciously cerebrated for us through other
people's brains and tables, on the way back to their natural owners who
fumble within for them in vain; but receive them from without? You
see, I hope, what the theory implies that the questioner's unconscious
knowledge caused the unconscious cerebration of the medium's brain, i.e.,
his own unconsciousness unconsciously produced the consciousness of the
fact unknown to him and to her, and the gentleman's memory acted through
the medium's brain two or three weeks before it could make use of his own,
and so the medium unconsciously rapped out the right words. When
Daniel not only interpreted but recalled the dream which the king had
forgotten, how little he knew of the process whereby it was accomplished!
He, simple man, thought it was revealed to him in vision, he being merely
the medium he never dreamed, I suppose, that the king's absent
consciousness came to him and made him a present of the secret hidden away
from the king himself, and so he returned the lost article to the king's
memory. The starting-point for this theory also is the assumption
that the mind must one way or another engrave every line we ever read deep
enough for others to remember when we forget. And the author of this
asserts that these communications represent nothing more than the ordinary
workings of the minds and bodies of the mediums under conditions well
understood by physiologists and psychologists. I must not call the
writer a liar, though he does assume that we are all liars. But an
article is an indefinite thing! And I assert that the article in the
Quarterly Review was a lie from the beginning to end—a lie 52 pages
long—and a lie was printed on every page. It was called
"Spiritualism and its Recent Converts," when the very men who were meant
to be injured had publicly, and in the pamphlet reviewed, guarded all
readers against considering them as converts to Spiritualism.
Serjeant Cox and Dr. Carpenter remind me of the two Wise Men of the East.
They were very wise, but also happened to be blind. So blind blind
were they that they could not see they were blind. They insisted on
judging all things by the sense of touch alone, and would set up their
opinion against that of anyone who could see, and preferred it too.
One day they had wondered into a wood where they had never been before,
and after knocking about for some time trying to span the girth of the
trees, they stumbled on an elephant, or vice versâ. Now, they
had not only not seen such a thing, but they had never handled one
before—or behind. The elephant was very large, and they were very
small, of stature. So small were they that they could hardly span
one of the elephant's legs without both joining hands and so getting round
it. And the elephant was so tall, that when one of them knelt on the
other's back and felt his way upward he could not reach the elephant's
body; he found it was all leg so far. But by going in and out they
discovered it was not all one leg. They had counted as many as four,
and were going on counting, when the beast, no doubt being tickled, began
to walk off with them. This motion, of course, multiplied the legs
to an unaccountable extent, for as they tried to get out of the way the
legs kept catching them, and in and out they tumbled till there seemed to
be a living, moving forest of legs. At last they got clear of it and
sat down to cogitate. Now there was a blind man of old who, with his
first glimmerings of restored sight, saw men as trees walking. So it
can be no marvel if one of these blind men with no glimmer saw an elephant
as a wood walking. To him the trees were living, moving, and for the
rest of his life be continued to assert that he had been in a walking
wood. The other concluded the whole thing to be imposture, which he
had practised on himself by means of "unconscious cerebration!"
Subjective woodenness, he explained, had become an objective wood!
It was a well-known phenomenon—quite common to the learned, caused by
unconscious ideo-motor power. "Add a letter," says the other pundit,
"and make it idiot-motor power; that will suit it to a "T.'" "Don't
you halloo," says the first, "till you're out of the 'wood."' When
the mesmeric phenomena were announced in England, even the power of
thought-reading was denied, in common with other facts which were ignored
and derided. Now it is admitted to explain away the other facts of
Spiritualism; but it is too late. Our scientific opponents,
"Like the hindmost chariot wheels are curst
Still to be near, but never to be first!"
Judge ("Serjeant-at-Law") E. W. Cox (1809-79) was
was an ardent Spiritualist and well-known psychical investigator. He
assisted Sir William Crookes (see below) in his first experiments with the
medium Daniel Dunglas Home, from which arose Cox's suggestion of a "psychic force."
He published a booklet 'Spiritualism
Scientifically Examined with Proofs of the Existence of a Psychic Force'
in 1872, and an elaborate work in 1874 under the title 'What Am I? A
Popular Introduction to Mental Physiology and Psychology.' In 1875 he
established, and was the president of, the Psychological Society of Great
Britain, but his collapsed on his death and was dissolved in 1879. Some of
its members were among those who, in 1882, founded the Society for
William Benjamin Carpenter
(1813–1885) explained hypnotism and spiritualist experiences in terms of
'unconscious cerebration' or 'ideo-motor' action making familiar the role
of unconscious activity in ordinary life. He concluded that 'thought'
operates largely outside awareness and that unconscious prejudices can be
stronger than conscious thought, making them more dangerous because they
occur outside of the conscious until attention is drawn to them. "Our
feelings towards persons and objects may undergo most important changes,
without our being in the least degree aware, until we have our attention
directed to our own mental state, of the alteration which has taken place
in them." He systematically expounded this work in
'The Principles of Mental Physiology' (1874). Carpenter's religious
concerns ran through all his commitments. During the 1860s and 1870s he
was a notable contributor to debates about science and religion.
Dr. Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson
(1828-1896) was a much honoured 19th century English physician,
best-known for his research into anaesthetics and for his involvement in
public health and the sanitary movement. He was knighted in June 1893.
The speculation of the existence of the 'nerve atmosphere' referred to by
Serjeant Cox was expounded by Richardson, in the Medical Times, on May 6,
1871. Inquirers into spiritualism discovered that the human organism
is in some mysterious way bound up with the séance room phenomena. A force
was observed beyond the periphery of the body, with no physical contact.
As Cox put it "I noticed that the force was exhibited in tremulous
pulsations, and not in the form of steady, continuous pressure, the
indicator rising and falling incessantly throughout the experiment. The
fact seems to me of great significance as tending to conform the opinion
that assigns its source to the nerve organization, and it goes far to
establish Dr. Richardson's important discovery of a nerve atmosphere of
various intensity enveloping the human structure..."
Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), English chemist, physicist
and scientific journalist, elected FRS in 1863, knighted in 1897 and in
1910 appointed to the Order of Merit. The most controversial aspect of
Crookes's career was his investigation of mediums. In 1870 Crookes began
to study the preternatural phenomena associated with Spiritualism,
conducting his experiments on strict scientific grounds. He described the
conditions he imposed on the mediums - including Kate Fox, Florence Cook,
and Daniel Dunglas Home - in each experiment thus: "It must be at my own
house, and my own selection of friends and spectators, under my own
conditions, and I may do whatever I like as regards apparatus." The
phenomena he witnessed included movement of bodies at a distance, rappings,
changes in the weights of bodies, levitation, appearance of luminous
objects, appearance of phantom figures, appearance of writing without
human agency, and circumstances which "point to the agency of an outside
intelligence." Crookes' concluded that these phenomena could not be
explained as conjuring, and he was not alone in this view. Scientists who
came to believe in Spiritualism included Alfred Russel Wallace, Oliver
Joseph Lodge, Lord Rayleigh, and William James, but most men of science
remained convinced that Spiritualism was a fraud. Crookes' final report so
outraged the scientific establishment "that there was talk of depriving
him of his Fellowship of the Royal Society". He didn't discuss his views
publicly until 1898, when he felt his position secure, and the records
from then until his death show that Crookes had become a Spiritualist.
There can be no doubt of Crookes's sincerity or that he staked his very
considerable scientific reputation on the validity of the extraordinary
phenomena he described. He genuinely believed that a scientific
investigation of psychic phenomena held out the promise of data and
theories that were unseen and unknown in contemporary natural philosophy.