Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spiritual News

Amongst the disgraceful mysteries brought to light by the trial of the wretched murderer Dove, none was more surprising to a large class of persons than the influence which Harrison the wizard exercised over his dupe. To those, however, who see much of the coarser forms of crime, there was nothing surprising in it. Monstrous follies and wild superstitions were never more rife amongst certain classes of the population than they are now. We are just beginning to teach a consider able number of people something about , reading, writing, ciphering, and a few other elementary branches of knowledge; but the most sanguine person cannot reasonably expect to see a time when any imposture, however gross and revolting, will fail to delude a considerable number of disciples. If any one doubts our assertion, we would recommend to his notice a paper which has been so fortunate as to prolong its existence to the end of its first volume—apparently a pretty thick one—under the title of the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph.  It contains a number of extraordinary communications from the spiritual world, and is published in weekly parts, on extremely bad paper and in very poor type, at the small price of one penny.

We have already called the attention of our readers to some peculiarly absurd manifestations of this disgusting folly, but the Spiritual Telegraph is a psychological curiosity. It is one of the most curious illustrations of the bad side of the character of ignorant Englishmen that we have ever seen. It is coarse, clumsy, very stupid, and characteristically stuffed with the crudest and most slovenly kind of theological speculation. It leaves upon the mind the impression of having been written by some one bred up as a Dissenting minister of the stricter and smaller kind, who had addled his brains with something meant for infidelity; and yet it is not ill-natured or ill-intentioned. With a great deal of fine writing, and not a little bad grammar, it blunders along, announcing, in a maundering, clumsy manner, the most barefaced nonsense that it was ever our misfortune to read—not parading it, or arguing in favour of it, but simply stating, it as something which the writer happens to know, and which it may perhaps be interesting to the rest of the world to hear. Stolid matter-of-fact narrative, heavy nonsense, and an utter absence of all imagination are the common characteristics of all that the spirits and their chroniclers have to say. The editorial articles are of precisely the same character. Take, for example, the following —“As a matter of cause and effect, spiritualism will be opposed by both priest and despot. Atheist and creedist ' refuse to acknowledge the claims of the spirits, and if Omnipotence were not at the wheel, we might despair of success.” The last statement does not surprise or stagger the writer at all. He happens to know that Omnipotence is at the wheel—says so, and leaves it. The contributions of which these gems are specimens, are followed by an account of “Crystal Seership"—one of the offshoots of spirit-rapping which “revolve in concentric circles around their central orb, and partake of the notice which it obtains.” . It appears that one “Mr. Brown has arisen at Nottingham,” and that “Mr. Hockley diffuses his light from Croydon.” Mr. Brown has taken up the crystal line of business; but the Spiritual Telegraph does not altogether approve of the spirits whom he has got hold of, though it quite believes in their existence. They are not quite sound, for example, about the early chapters of Genesis, though they are right enough about the Deluge; for, says the Spiritual Telegraph, “There has been various great deluges, the traditions of Noah and Deucalion indicate, and science also attests.” It will be interesting to Biblical critics to know that “the crystal spirits disown the plagues of Egypt and the temptation of Job;” and our prophetical students wil leased to hear that “Anti-Christ they state to be the King of the North.” Perhaps the most characteristic thing about them is that, like the Spiritual Telegraph, they object to capital punishments. We do not doubt it. There is a class of persons who are naturally sore on the subject of gibbets, and proverbially disinclined to talk about ropes. We should like to know their views on the law about rogues and vagabonds, and on the 9 Geo. II. c. 5, which provides that those individuals who pretend to exercise witchcraft shall go to prison for a year, and stand in the pillory into the bargain. Mr. Brown, who has arisen at Nottingham, had better take an opinion as to the construction of this Act before he “consecrates” any more crystals. Is there anything worse in the worship of Mumbo Jumbo than the disgusting mixture of blasphemy and absurdity involved in such a performance as this:--
‘As spirits are of two kinds—celestial or good, and aerial or evil—it is advised by Mr. Brown, in order to prevent the deceptions of the latter, that all crystals should be consecrated by a solemn invocation of God. This was the course he took himself. He set apart and purified an upper room for the purpose, spread a white cloth on the table in the midst, placed thereon the crystal, a vessel filled with perfumes, and a lighted lamp, fed with olive oil; and then prayed that he might be divested of all evil and worldly desires, and be fitted to stand in the presence of celestial beings. The next step was in another prayer, to invoke Almighty God to pour down his holy and heavenly influence upon the Crystal; and after this followed a form of invocation to the Archangel Michael that he would permit the guardian angel of such a one to appear, and when it another form of inquiry was addressed to it. Furthermore, he is particular that the Crystal-seer should bare his head and feet, and that on the table the crystal should be placed to the east, the lamp to the south, and the vessel of perfume to the north.’
The sight of a fellow “consecrating” the stoppers of his decanters is certainly one which makes us wish that a moderate dose of the stocks could be administered without prejudice to the great principle of toleration.

Even 'Crystal Seership' yields in absurdity to the “Monthly Record,” which preserves the “communications obtained by the tipping process." It appears that, “after the circle had been sat for some time,” the spirit of Robert Burns entered and gave some good advice about the formation of a “sacred circle—one for purely spiritual purposes.” As a specimen of the free and easy way in which the “tipping process” enables spirits in the flesh to converse with those who are disembodied, we give the following Specimen. The spirits abbreviate their spelling, probably because “tipping” is a tedious affair:--
‘It was then asked how they should proceed to elect the proper parties to compose such a circle.
Answer. “Let those who are satisfied of our presence with you volunteer. Never mind how few you have for a begining: by the time you have got one or two trance mediums, and some writing mediums, and have begun to receive instruction from such intelligences as I could name, you will have no lack of numbers.”
Some person inquired if Burns could inform them who he expected to be able to entrance.
Answer. It will not be me that will entrance the mediums.’
After some more talk, certain other spirits began "tipping.” They observed that they were “grateful to our friend Burns for his services in helping to bring about such a state of mind amongst you. He has been influenced by the best of motives, and though fond of a joke, yet his object on all occasions was to instruct you, in what was conducive to your present and eternal good.”

The spirits having recommended that the proceedings should Commence by reading a lesson from the Bible, “one of the circle inquired if the spirits who were communicating would oblige us, by giving their names"—which polite request produced in due time the following curious list:—
Wesley, Channing, Luther, Volney, Priestley, Whitfield, Cicero, Swedenborg, Mahomet, Combe, and many of the Apostles and Prophets of old, besides others of whom you have not heard.

The 13th-chapter of the 1st of Corinthians was read on the occasion...We hope that particular attention was paid to the verses, “Whether there be tongues, they shall cease,” and “when I became a man, I put away childish things.” On another occasion, after the 8th of Romans had been made the subject of a similar profanation, “a quantity of letters was tipped out, but no distinct words could be formed of them.” From what Burns said in explanation of them, it seemed that they were to represent the confused or inharmonious state of the circle. It was also tipped out that Robert Burns had been “trying to entrance two of the mediums”—we suppose to the tune of “We're a noddin’.” The life of a “tipping” spirit has its hardships. Andrew Combe, we are sorry to say, can testify to it, though his grammar is the worse for wear. “This,” he says, “can only be done by me being able to make myself better understood.” and we have great difficulty in doing this by the present process [i.e., tipping out their communications by single letters]. You may easily satisfy yourselves of this,” says the much-enduring Combe, “by trying to tip out a few of your own thoughts.” But in process of time, and after a good d: of practice, he means “to try to impress one of the mediums, and tip through the other;” but this “will require more seriousness than I can easily impress upon your mind.”  His zeal in the cause is, however, inextinguishable: for a month after the above communication, we find a long article on the physical evidences of Spirit, Presence, and Power, signed – ANDREW COMBE, DUGALD STEWART, ROBERT BURNS, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

That too many cooks spoil the broth, is the only conceivable explanation of the circumstance that Franklin should ever have put his name to such an unbaptized beadroll of jargon as this--

‘When we visit your dwelling, and when, for instance, you form a circle of harmonious persons round a suitable table—a circle of persons who can succeed to mediumize the table, the walls of the room, or any other object within the sphere of their influence—we are in such circumstances able to mediumize such harmonious persons, and often the inanimate objects charged, or saturated with their vital forces; and through these mediumized electrical conductors we are able to vibrate, move, attract, control, and direct those tangible objects as well as kindred spirits. The material constituents which compose men's physical bodies are alike. But there are in an in-harmonious circle of mentally-discordant persons elements of spirit repulsion—of volcanic explosion . . . . . When a number of harmonious persons are reverently sitting in a circle, formed for the purpose of receiving and examining the teaching of spirits, an equilibrium of their electrical vital force is established; and then some one of their number is found out and selected whose nervous system is more easily charged with and controlled by our influence and power. Perceiving what part of his nature is thus most harmonious with our own, we stand near him, and place ourselves in direct contact or connexion with that part.’

Elsewhere we find a profession of faith. A spirit came and showed a map of the other world. We owe our readers an apology for extracting part of what follows, but it is well to know the revolting and blasphemous character which this kind of folly and knavery assumes—a folly which certainly comes very near, if it does not actually fall within, the limit at which it would become the proper object of legal punishment as an offence against common decency and good manners:--
‘All things being duly prepared, the officiating spirit would begin his work in a very rapid and off-hand manner, as though the idea to be presented on the map was a visible and quite familiar reality to him. On the left side of the paper, and quite at the top, were drawn, in yellow paint, a circular form, like unto the sun, intended to represent God. A little to the right of this a smaller circle was drawn, like unto the moon, and intended to represent Christ. These two figures were connected together by a yellow line drawn from one to the other, intending to show that Christ, as the moon of heaven, received his light from God, the Sun of heaven. . . . .
Down at the very bottom of the paper, on the left side, is a representation of three hells, or lower spheres, rising one above the other—the lower onebeing the residence of devils and the vilest of characters. At some distance above the uppermost hell, or third sphere, commences the intermediate spheres, rising immediately one above the other, and numbered respectively fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. These are abodes of those spirits who are not bad enough for hell, or good enough for heaven. These answer to the Purgatory of the Romish Church. The numeral gradations of the spheres, of course are residences of those spirits whose states correspond thereto.’
Some of the spiritual visions and the explanations of them are wonderful enough. A medium had the distinguished honour of seeing a great many drains, streams, pools, and rivers. They are interpreted to him as follows:–
‘Since thou art anxious to know more respecting the meaning of those ditches and drains, I must inform thee that a ditch is to teach thee that men sometimes receive their knowledges from pulpit and platform orators. The drains are illustrative of those who receive theirs from reading scientific books. There are others that seem to derive their knowledge from deep study, which are represented by those supplied from internal springs, which are not always visible to the naked eye.’
If the medium would turn his attention to the very dirtiest puddle in the whole spiritual chart, he would have a lively representation of those who “receive their knowledge” from the tipping process.

In the concluding number of the first volume, we are favoured with a series of sermons by spirits. They are all announced in the most business-like manner. Thus:
Spirit—Richard Hudson, Hipperholme.
Text—“The heavens declare the glory of God.”
SECOND COMMUNICATION.—Spirit – Edwin Laycoek, Cleckheaton, left this sphere 108 years since, aged 37.—Then follows a hymn; by Edwin Laycock, showing, amongst other things, that “truth” rhymes with “whole.”
Spirit Robert Davidson preaches on “Think not that I come to send peace on earth.” Spirit Davidson spells irresistible with an a. Spirit Joseph Brown, of Slithwaite, also contributes a hymn. The most wonderful revelation in the Spiritual Telegraph refers to the Czar Nicholas. As a specimen, perhaps unique in its kind, we give it entire.
5th of April, 1855.
“When the angels first brought the Czar Nicholas into the spiritual world,” said Annie, “he could not breathe, and they had to lay him gently on his back, and remain beside him for two days. After that time he began to move a little, and asked for water. The angels brought him water; but he rejected it, and threw it over the angels who offered him it. He wanted natural water, but not being able to receive the correspondence, “Truth, he refused it, and so withdrew himself from the angels. He then sank down into a dark and dirty place, but some good spirits came to his assistance, and brought him a mixture to drink, very muddy-looking, but which being accommodated to his state, he was enabled to swallow. This revived him, and the : spirits then conveyed him to a house, and showed him every attention. The Emperor imagines that he must have lost his crown from political events, and that he has taken refuge with these good people, to whom he promises great rewards when he regains his throne, which he tells them ge is sure to do. He moreover assures them that soon there will be only one King over all the world, and that he is to be that King or Emperor; not that he desires, he adds, this pre-eminence himself, but that it is his destiny. His state is notwithstanding capable of regeneration,” said the Seeress, “because he wished to do what he thought was right, and his own cause he fancied a just one. The Czar is on the left side of the World of Spirits.”
10th of May, 1855.
On inquiring of our Seeress to-day if she had heard since of the Czar, whilst in the trance, she said, “Yes; your friend (the General) tells me that he was last seen in an iron cage; he had become so domineering, the good spirits could not manage him. They have given him a sofa, chair and table, with pen, ink and paper, and he is to be kept there until he signs a “treaty of peace.” Sometimes the Emperor appears to be more conformable, and agrees to sign the conditions, and at other times he will not; then he pretends he will sign it, but inwardly determines to make it void when he chooses.
But with this thought in his mind (according to the order of SPIRITUAL laws) he cannot make the pen write. Still he tries to make them believe that he has signed it, and hands it gravely over to the good spirits, who smile, and quietly give the Czar his document back again, saying that nothing has been written. But he is not unhappy: in fact, he had begun to make a little progress before this state, and even to learn a few truths, and a beautiful palace had been lent him to live in; but he soon wanted all the parks and gardens around, and the other palaces in sight as well; and his Majesty became so angry and domineering, when told that he could not have the property of others, and be allowed to have all his own way, that the spirits were obliged to confine him in an iron cage: he does not see the bars; it appears to him as a small room which he chooses to occupy. The Czar even says that he would rather remain there than be annoyed with the spirits wanting to talk to him every time he goes out. He walks up and down with quite a and air, for he is mercifully not permitted yet to see his real state, but lives in a kind of fantasy of his own greatness.  He can, however, be regenerated, and if truths are presented to him mildly, he will gradually receive them.”— Spiritual Herald.
The whole paper is a characteristic one. The back page is occupied by two advertisements, one of which informs us, in large capitals, that moral and spiritual sciences are discriminated, and that the Bible is dissolved, and its value defined in Divine illumination, just communicated from the spirit spheres, Part I., price 6d. The other tells us, probably with equal truth, that John Harrison and Son are unequalled printers of advertisements for tea-dealers, grocers, druggists, drapers, mill-owners, &c.

Every state of society has its characteristic evils, and as every class in society has its superstitions, it is perhaps extravagant to hope that, under any circumstances, the body politic will be free from them; but we do not think that any form of superstition is so revolting as that which is shown by the existence of such papers as the Spiritual Telegraph. It may be that the picturesque character of the old belief in witches, ghosts, and fairies was only the effect of their comparative antiquity, and that in fact they were vulgar and silly enough: but such traditions implied, at any rate, some imagination, and some reverence. The most disgusting part of the spirit-rapping absurdity is that the ghosts are neither more nor less than a stupid edition of the ghost-seers – beings whose utterances would be altogether unreadable were it not that they occasionally assume a form contrasting rather grotesquely with the origin assigned to them. We are inclined to think that the most offensive thing about them is their philanthropy and piety. The Spiritual Telegraph is full of denunciations of '' “extortion,” “expediency,” “priestcraft,” &c. &c., and it is, we must say, one of a series of provocations which tempts us to join in the lamentations of Carlyle over “an age of impostors, cutpurses, swindlers, double-goers, enthusiasts, ambiguous persons, quacks simple, quacks compound, crack; brained or with deceit prepense, quacks and quackeries of all colours and kinds . . . . as if Bedlam had broken loose; or as if, rather, in that spiritual twelfth hour of the night, the Everlasting Pit had opened itself, and from its still blacker bosom had issued Madness and all manner of shapeless misbirths to masquerade and chatter there.”

Saturday Review, Sept 13, 1856.

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