The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.3
|The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.3/1.2.2||The Spiritual Delusion/1.2.3/1.2.4|
3. In its claim of higher spirituality for rejuvenated polytheism.
It has already been sufficiently shown that the only conception of the spiritual beings possessed by spiritists is that of “etherealized” material beings. God is a “Germ,” indifferently termed he or it. Prayer is regarded as a vain attempt to change the purposes of an imaginary deity; destitute themselves of the faintest rudiments of spiritual perception, they can view it in no other light than that of offering advice or entreating material benefits. Spiritual truth is never attained through outward observances, and those who are truly spiritual never attempt to make these the means to that end. Spiritual truth is perceived from within, and true souls have lived in all ages who have been able to obtain glimpses of the higher life and its eternal realities. Not to allude to any whose names have become tiresome to spiritists rejoicing in the light of a New Dispensation, we will quote from Buddha, as one that obtained a few such glimpses even in his day, long before the tide of progression had reached the high-water mark indicated by modern spirital literature and “ inspirational” lecturers.
The future state—Nirvana—is thus described by Buddha:
“The wind cannot be squeezed in the hand, nor can its color be told; yet the wind is. Even so Nirvana is, but its properties cannot be told.”
“Nirvana, like space, is causeless, does not live nor die, and has no locality.”
“Nirvana is not, except to the being who attains it.”
“Nirvana is real, all else is phenomenal.”
In that remote day this was regarded as very fair spiritual philosophy; but the waves of “progression” have borne us very far from it, to reach, in modern spiritism, “the spiritual philosophy of the nineteenth century,” with its Demosthenes orators and Benjamin Franklin editors! Phenomenal spiritists are as deaf to the significance of these words of Buddha as they are to the spirit of the scientific thought of the age in which they live, move, and have at least a physical being. No “mysticism” will meet the requirements of their ardent souls. Their inner natures revolt from the “dry husks” of the past, and crave demonstrative evidence and a present intimate knowledge of the beautiful fields and fruitful orchards that lie on the other side of the “pearl-strand shore.”
Although a distinguished itinerant orator has protested against the supposition that “spirits” are more than “men and women with their jackets off,” still the greater body of spiritists do regard them in a far higher sense. They are supposed to inform us of approaching personal calamities; therefore, if true, we must accord them the power of reading the future by other means than by those afforded by the study of the past. Death is foreseen, and the exact moment of departure revealed to the interested individual: though death be the result of accident, the prescient mind of the “spirit” beholds it as plainly as we do the past. Their power over physical laws—a power, as we have seen, incapable of being reduced to a scientific knowledge of its extent or controlling laws—raises them higher than mere jacketless men and women, unless the chemistry of death effects some marvelous transformation in us; and this is not admitted by spiritists.
“Congresses of spirits,” says J. M. Peebles (alias The Spiritual Pilgrim), “conceived the plan of laying the corner-stone of this late spiritual movement. . . The propelling powers were spirits, angels, heavenly hosts, and God himself.” “Congresses,” “World-builders,” neuter “Germs;” are not these the indications of polytheistic thought rather than of spiritual philosophy? In fact, the spiritists themselves glory in the points of resemblance between their system and ancient polytheism. “The Spiritual Pilgrim” wrote his “Seers of the Ages” to maintain this resemblance. A recent writer in the Banner of Light (of Nov. 9, 1812) makes the following declaration:
“Is phenomenal spiritualism a reality? In Hindostan, Egypt, and Greece, several thousand years ago, phenomenal spiritualism bore a striking resemblance to that of the present day. The statues and images representing what are termed the heathen gods and goddesses were in reality statues erected to the memory of their great men who had departed from the earth-sphere. They were made instrumental for obtaining spirit-manifestations, by the aid of mediums (priestesses), as at present. But we have no space to devote to this department, and hasten,” etc., etc.
Willing to be made “instrumental” in imparting intelligence to our spiritist friends, a few instances of these ancient manifestations are here described for their benefit. Tacitus gives a description of the celebrated oracle at the fountain of Colophon, from which we extract the following: “There is not a woman here, as at Delphi, but a priest is elected from certain families, and mostly from Miletus, who is informed only of the name and number of those who come to consult the Oracle. He then retires into the cavern, and, drinking of the secret fountain, though ignorant generally of letters and poetry, he delivers responses, in verse, to whatever mental questions any one has in his mind.”—Annal., lib. ii. Here we observe several “striking resemblances,” not only in the “manifestations,” but in the character of the medium as well.
Let us continue our quotations. Herodotus relates the following: “Then was performed a great miracle. For Mus, as is related by the Thebans, having visited various oracles, came to the temple of Apollo Ptoi. There followed him three men publicly selected by the Thebans for the purpose of recording the responses which might be given. But on arriving at the temple they were astonished to hear the priestess answer in some foreign language, instead of speaking Greek, so that they had nothing to do. Whereupon Mus, taking from them their tablets, wrote down the responses of the Oracle; and, having made the record, he departed.”—Urania. Considering that this was nearly twenty-five hundred years before the present “progressed” age, we must admit it was a very creditable “manifestation,” and, were it not contrary to the idea of “progression,” we might be led to regard it as more demonstrative than modern Flashes of Light.
As reincarnation is taught by modern “spirits,” we may fancy that in the following extract from the geographer Strabo we have some information concerning the medium Home in his former state of existence: “Under Mount Soracte is the town of Feronia, which is also the name of the goddess of the place, who is held in great honor there. There is also a grove of Feronia, in which are performed sacred rites of a very wonderful kind. For those possessed by this daemon walk with naked feet over burning coals and hot ashes, without suffering any injurious effects from the fire.” Lib. v.
“Spirit-forms” were also plainly discernible in that unprogressed age, and were made the subject of “scientific investigation.” Porphyry gave evidence of possessing a critical spirit when he asked, “What is the indication of a god, or angel, or archangel, or demon, or a certain archon, or a soul, being present? For to speak boastingly, and to exhibit a phantasm of a certain quality, is common to gods and demons, and to all the more excellent genera.” But the spirital philosophers were equal to the emergency; and the following scientific description and analysis of the manifestations was offered by Iamblichus,—a most competent authority and careful “investigator:”
“The phantasms, or luminous appearances, of the gods are uniform; those of demons are various; . . . those of souls are all various. And the phasmata indeed of the gods will be seen shining with a salutary light; those of archangels will be terrible; those of angels more mild; those of demons will be dreadful; those of heroes are milder than those of demons; those of archons produce astonishment; and those of souls are similar to the heroic phasmata. The phasmata of the gods are entirely immutable according to magnitude, form, and figure; those of archangels fall short in sameness; those of demons are at different times seen in a different form, and appear at one time great and at another time small, yet are still recognized to be the phasmata of demons; and those of souls imitate in no small degree! the demoniacal mutations. ... In the forms of the gods which are seen by the eyes, the most clear spectacles of truth are perceived; the images of demons are obscure; . . . and the images of souls appear to be of a shadowy form. Again, the fire of the gods appears to be entirely stable; that of archangels is tranquil; but that of angels is stably moved. The fire of demons is unstable; but that of heroes is, for the most part, rapidly moved. The fire of those archons that are of the first rank is tranquil, but of those that are of the last order is tumultuous; and the tire of souls is transmuted in a multitude of motions.”
Here we have the testimony of one who has both used ills eyes and mental faculties to some purpose, and has systematized the phenomena and orders of spirital beings, so that we may recognize each at once and determine the nature of the “influence.” Here, also, we observe a more thorough acquaintance with the spirital world; for in ancient times communications from, and apparitions of, gods and demons, archangels and angels, heroes and archons, and, last in the scale, souls, were common events. Our modern “investigators” have only as yet recognized three classes, “spirits, angels, and heavenly hosts,” and remain in entire ignorance of the superior powers known to the ancients, that manifested with their own particular “luminous appearance,” as described above by Iamblichus. Let us continue our reference to this authority in things spirital, and observe the great benefit derived from understanding the characteristics of the spirital forms, and the danger of neglecting such a scientific classification of facts:
“That, however, which is the greatest thing is this,—that he who draws down a certain divinity sees a spirit descending and entering into some one, recognizes its magnitude and quality; and from this spectacle, the greatest truth and power of the god, and especially the order he possesses, as likewise about what particulars he is adapted to speak the truth, what the power is which he imparts, and what he is able to effect, become known to the scientific.”
Spirital science has yet much to accomplish to even regain what was known two thousand years ago, it would seem, when the above particulars could be determined at sight. Our “progression” must have been in a backward direction, as we may partly glean from the following, taken from the same scientific work, “On Mysteries:” “For when a certain error happens in the theurgic art, and not such autopic or self-visible images are seen as ought to occur, but others instead of these, then inferior powers assume the form of the more venerable orders, and pretend to be those whose forms they assume; and hence arrogant words are uttered by them, and such as exceed the authority they possess. . . . Much falsehood is derived from the perversion which it is necessary the priests should learn from the whole order of the phasmata, by the proper observation of which they are able to confute and reject the fictitious pretexts of those inferior powers, as by no means pertaining to true and good spirits.”
Where now is the shade of Iamblichus? If Demosthenes can again thrill the hearts of men with his eloquence, and St. John hold sweet converse with “the Spiritual Pilgrim,”—if Joshua and Samuel have their latest word for sale at the Banner of Light counter, and Plato responds to Dr. Dresser in New York,—why can we not have the pleasure of hearing from Iamblichus again, and be kept from the danger of being misled by deceiving “inferior powers,” from whom the -very “elect” are not secure? Is it that this ancient sage is so thoroughly disgusted with the present management of the “theurgic art” that he will have none of it? or has he become reincarnated in human form, perhaps in the Jovian world? It is sad to think we have so deteriorated from the ancient standard, as is evidenced by the declaration of our seer that “it is an unwarrantable thing to look for perfect wisdom, or for instruction much above the mental development of the medium”!
Lucian informs us that the statue of Apollo in Syria, when neglected, would sweat and come forth into the room; and once in his presence, when borne by the priests, “he left them below upon the ground, while he himself was borne aloft and alone in the air.” Iamblichus informs us that “to be borne along sublimely in the air” was one of the ordinary indications of inspiration in his day.
One more reference to ancient spiritism, and we will resume our study of its modern counterpart. Philostratus, in his life of Apollonius Tyanensis (book iii., c. 15, n), relates this striking physical manifestation:
“‘I have seen,’’ said Apollonius, ‘ the Brahmins of India dwelling on the earth and not on the earth, living fortified without fortifications, possessing nothing and yet everything.’ This he spoke somewhat enigmatically; but Damis says they sleep upon the ground, but that the earth furnishes them with a grassy couch of whatever plants they desire. That he himself had seen them, elevated two cubits above the surface of the earth, walk in the air! not for the purpose of display [these were the ancient mediums, remember], which was quite foreign to the character of the men, but because whatever they did, elevated, in common with the sun, above the earth, would be more acceptable to the Deity. . . Having bathed, they formed a choral circle, having Iarchus for their coryphaeus, and, striking the earth with their divining-rods, it rose up,—no otherwise than does the sea under the power of the wind,—and caused them to ascend into the air!”
Did space permit, we should see all the phenomena recorded in ancient writers, and, unfortunately for the theory of “progression,” far exceeding the records in our spirital papers. Mediums were then encircled with a luminous halo, and “spirit-forms” were each accompanied by a peculiar spirital spectrum, enabling us to immediately recognize their social standing and character for veracity. Voices were heard speaking from statues, musical manifestations abounded, and trumpets were then, as now, receptacles of spiritual truth. Suspension in the air, not only of mediums, but of statues and other inert bodies, was of common occurrence. All the various phases of the trance were well known, and spirital beings manifested without the aid of a medium, producing spirital writing and singing. Answering mental questions, and speaking in foreign tongues, were “tests” to many an anxious “investigator;” and, to carry out the “striking resemblances,” many of the learned of that age regarded the revelations in the same light as their successors in this. Cicero said, “Some of them are the merest fiction, some, inconsiderate babble, never of any authority with a man of even moderate capacity.” This conclusion bears a “striking resemblance” to that of Professor Huxley, who says, “But supposing the phenomena to be genuine, they do not interest me. If anybody would endow me with the faculty of listening to the chatter of old women and curates in the nearest cathedral town, I should decline the privilege, having better things to do. And if the folks in the spiritual world do not talk more wisely and sensibly than their friends report them to do, I put them in the same category.. The only good I can see in a demonstration of the truth of ‘spiritualism’ is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to twaddle by a medium hired at a guinea a séance!”
However deficient in a clear apprehension of the “theurgic art “ our modern spiritists may be, some of them seem determined not to be outdone in the matter of marvelous relations. Take the following illustrations as a few out of many to be met with in spirital literature, and undoubtedly quite as authentic as any related of Apollonius. In the English edition of the biography of the Davenport brothers, by a Mr. Nichols, we may read the following “well-attested manifestation:”
“The strange event which took place is variously vouched for; but I have preferred to take the facts from the lips of Mr. Ira Davenport, the elder of the two brothers. He says he was walking one evening in the streets of Buffalo, with his brother William, this being the winter of 1853-4, and the boys in their twelfth and fourteenth years.
“Here Ira’s recollection ceases. The next thing he knew was that he found himself and his brother in a snowbank in a field, with no tracks near him, near his grandfather’s house, at Mayville, Chautauqua County, New York, sixty miles from Buffalo. On waking up William, who had not returned to consciousness, they made their way to their grandfather’s house, where they were received with surprise and their story heard with astonishment. Their father was immediately informed by telegraph of their safety and whereabouts; and he, good obstinate man, set himself to find out how they got to Mayville. On inquiry, he found that no railway-train could have taken them, after the hour they left home, more than a portion of the distance, and the conductors on the road knew the boys, and had not seen them. ‘John’ declared through the trumpet, after their return home, that he had transported them.”
If it were not for the express declaration made by “John” that he had caused this wonderful flight, we should be tempted to believe that the “spirit” Was no other than the lamented Peter Schlemihl, quondam possessor of the celebrated seven-league boots, concerning which we have read in more youthful days in an equally veracious history. In the American edition of the above work the foregoing narrative appears in a somewhat different form: being nearer home, and with, perhaps, the entirely unnecessary precaution of not “spreading it on too thick,” we find that one of the brothers was transported across the Niagara River into a snow-bank on the Canada side. Reducing the number one-half, and the miles from sixty to two or three, would of course make the story seem less miraculous and more credible.
The writer has read descriptions of hundreds of manifestations, and witnessed scores, but for demonstrative purposes the following is yielded the palm, and commended to all inquiring minds anxious for spirital evidence. Nichols is again our authority:
“The room was not darkened, only obscured to a pleasant twilight. After several of the usual phenomena were exhibited, the two boys were raised from their chairs, carried across the room, and held up, with their heads downwards, before a window. ‘We distinctly saw,’ says an eye-witness, ‘two gigantic hands attached to about three-fifths of a monstrous arm, and those hands grasped the ankles of the two boys, and thus held the lads, heels up and heads downwards, before the window, now raising, now lowering them, till their heads bade fair to make acquaintance with the carpet on the floor!’ This curious but assuredly not dignified exhibition was several times repeated, and was plainly seen by every person present. Among these persons was an eminent physician. Dr. Blanchard, then of Buffalo, now of Chicago, Illinois, who was sitting on a chair by the side of Elizabeth Davenport; and all present saw an immense arm, attached to no apparent body, growing as it were out of space, glide along near the floor till it reached Dr. Blanchard’s chair, when the hand grasped the lower back-round of Elizabeth’s chair, raised it from the floor with the child upon it, balanced it, and then raised it to the ceiling. The chair and the child remained in the air, without contact with any person or thing, for a space of time estimated to be a minute, and then descended gradually to the place it first occupied.”
This demonstrative proof of immortality is deemed worthy of preservation in the American edition, where it may be seen with a full-page illustration of the brothers held in the arm, thus rendering assurance doubly sure. As this two-handed arm could not possibly have been one belonging to a jacketless man or woman, we may safely conjecture it must have been the personal property of one of Professor Lyon’s “world-builders” who had graciously consented to aid the manifestations with his superior powers. We cannot, however, regard it as so much of a condescension, after all, for in thousands of “circles” the expenditure of a small amount of fractional currency may secure us the ineffable happiness of having our limbs pinched by Benjamin Franklin, in his moments of editorial relaxation, while George Washington tips the table!
Daniel Dunglas Home, whose aerial flights and spirital elongations have made his name familiar with all, manifested his mediumistic powers at an early age, if we may credit his biography. We there find the following:
“On the 26th April, Old Style, or 8th May, according to our style, at seven in the evening, and as the snow was fast falling, our little boy was born in the townhouse, situate on the Gagarines Quay, in St. Petersburg, where we were still staying. A few hours after his .birth, his mother, the nurse, and I heard for several hours the warbling of a bird, as if singing over him. Also, that night, and for two or three nights afterwards, a bright starlike light, which was clearly visible from the partial darkness of the room, in which there was only a night-lamp burning, appeared several times directly over its head, where it remained for some moments, and then slowly moved in the direction of the door, where it disappeared. This was also seen by each of us at the same time. The light was more condensed than those which have been so often seen in my presence upon previous and subsequent occasions: it was brighter and more distinctly globular.”
The papers of Macon, Ga., during the month of October, 1872, gave long accounts of certain strange occurrences said to have taken place at a house not far from that city, on the Macon and Brunswick Railroad. Though “supernatural manifestations” have been more or less frequent for the past twenty years, it is only lately that the phenomena have become so violent. As this account is so recent, and so characteristic of modern polytheism, a report of it, not from a spiritistic source, may not be unwelcome. A reporter of the Telegraph and Messenger (Macon, Ga.) visited the scene of these phenomena, and from his account the extracts below are taken:
“Mr. Surrency’s house is a two-story frame house, plastered and weather-boarded. Mr. Surrency, on returning home Thursday, the 10th instant [October, 1872], was astonished to observe the glass goblets begin to tumble off the slab, and the crockery to roll from the table and, falling on the floor, break into atoms. Books, brickbats, pieces of wood, smoothing-irons, biscuits, potatoes, tin pans, buckets, pitchers, and numerous other articles flew about the house promiscuously, without any visible cause. They seemed to spring up involuntarily, and often were never seen to move until they were shattered at the feet or against the wall.
“Late in the afternoon, while all the inmates of the house were at their supper, a noise was heard in an adjoining room. A gentleman was promptly at the door, the windows were all secured, and it was impossible for any one to escape without being observed. Presently a book fell in the passage, which only a few moments previous was certainly seen in the bookcase.
“On Monday the manifestations were again renewed in a more wonderful and frightful manner. While a company of ladies and gentlemen were seated in one of the rooms of the house, a hog suddenly appeared in the middle of the floor, and, without the slightest manifestation of fear, executed a few manoeuvres and evolutions, when it quickly retreated to an adjoining room, where, in full view of the company, it suddenly vanished, like a ghostly apparition.”
An apology may be deemed necessary for presenting the above; but such recitals as these compose the great bulk of “accredited manifestations,” and are greedily swallowed by spiritists as “tests” of spiritual communion! If all that is absurd or contemptible in the subject were omitted, there could be no examination of spiritism. Let us again refer to the reporter’s account, to see an accurate description of “investigation” after the spirital methods:
“An old sea-captain, who has been an eye-witness to the phenomena and demonstrations incident to a sailor’s life and several voyages around the world, came to the place determined to solve the mystery. He watched with fixed attention for some time a smoothing-iron, which heretofore, by its supernatural exploits, seemed to be ring-master of the game. Becoming exhausted and thirsty, he longed for a bottle of the ‘cratur,’ which he understood was in the other room, when instantaneously the bottle fell on the floor at his side. He partook of the liquor, but the bottle disappeared as mysteriously as it came!” Truly a “new dispensation” is upon us if these tales find believing readers, even though it be one of a questionable sort.
The “spheres” are not always painted in the most gorgeous hues; for we find that many of their denizens are of an evil and repulsive character. Lying spirits return and are accredited with all the communications proving untrue. As sufficient space has been devoted to the power of the demi-gods and their modern Olympus, a few words on the abode of the “inferior powers,” as old Iamblichus termed them, may not be out of place. Our modern polytheism has also its sombre abode, where dwell the “unprogressed” spirits, as they are termed in the “Whatever is, is right” theory; and this abode, we are informed, is the second sphere,—the one nearest to us; for we inhabit the first sphere, or “physical plane.”
In all of the “spheres” we have seen material objects abounding, as on our “plane.” Even in the highest “sphere,” we are told by the spirital Swedenborg, “the land is subdivided into communities or neighborhoods, and in them the land, is also again laid out in parcels for each to till for the benefit of all.” If the reward of spiritual growth consist in raising spirital cabbages or etherealized potatoes for our neighbors, we may well wonder what is the penalty of living an “unprogressed” life on this “plane.”
Dr. Dexter, or the “spirits” through him, informs us that “every soul that is out of keeping with divine order must remain in the license of a perverse will, forever vile, until restored by the regenerating influences of progression upward and onward forever.” These “spirits” are necessarily in the lowest abodes,-—their “unprogressed” condition rendering them more subject to the laws of gravity; the weight of remorse causing them to gravitate to their appropriate plane, and this, as Judge Edmonds informs us, “embraces not only this earth, but many worlds.” Here we find that the moral darkness resulting from being “out of keeping with divine order” is manifested in the black color of the bodies of all on this “plane.” Consequently, we may regard a mulatto “spirit” as one already advanced on the highway of progression, and indeed “a man and a brother”! Small chance, however, has he for entering the “spiral paths” of progression, if we may credit Judge Edmonds’s friends, as reported in “Spiritualism.” Notwithstanding “the soul is a cosmopolite amid the eternity of worlds,” yet it is led “by the force and direction of its affinities to select the associates with which it will daily mingle, and the neighborhood in which it will reside.” Being controlled by “affinities” and “force of circumstances,” these “spirits” lack, in the first place, the disposition, and, secondly, the “force of circumstances” presents some difficulty, for their “sphere” is an immense plain, as level as a Western prairie, with the exception of one high and rugged mountain in its centre, up whose sides winds the ascending path of progression. On this sterile plain farming leaves them but little time either for philosophical reflections on the state of their souls or ten-hour conventions for the relief of their bodies; for “they toil for sustenance, and, as their land is sandy, and no sunlight, there must be great labor to enable the earth [‘sphere’] to bring forth enough to sustain them.” (Ibid., p. 222.)
This disposition for “higher life” is an essential prerequisite for climbing the central mountain, to obtain egress through the trap-door that opens to the sphere above. Evil passions and wicked propensities, or, in the new vernacular, an “unprogressed” condition, increase their specific gravity, and present a physical obstacle to mountain rambles; but a “sincere, dignified, elevated, soaring, self-sacrificing agony” of remorse and contrition has very much the same effect upon them as the introduction of hydrogen gas into a balloon, under the influence of which their spiral ascent grows easier each moment until the summit is reached, and with one elastic bound they spurn the sandy soil beneath them, and shoot upwards through the “opening” to “higher life,” where they abide until a fresh inflation is possible, and then again to newer and brighter worlds, still upward! This is “progression.”
Nor need we confine our attention to Judge Edmonds’s work to find these crude polytheistic conceptions of the future life; for the illustrious band that control Mrs. Conant indorse many of these views. In the Banner of Light, of July 6, 1872, we find the “controlling spirit,” Father Fitzjames, answering a question as to his first emotions on entering spirit-life. The reverend father gives a gloomy picture of his introduction to spirital scenes. He had yielded to temptation while “in the form,” and became a drunkard. Let us listen to his experience: “When I entered the spirit-World, I found myself in a condition of unhappiness, and I was dissatisfied with my surroundings. . . . I wandered on for months. . . . I longed to soar away from my own darkness.
“Ques. (From the audience.)—I would inquire whether the darkness spoken of was merely mental, or was it objective darkness complementary to a mental condition? or whether it was anything similar to a lack of vision here?
“Ans.—It is a mental condition, and yet it affects objective things. I saw beautiful scenes, and met beautiful people, and they were all hideous to me. . . . The spiritual sun shone brightly, but I did not appreciate it any more than I did the sun of this life, which used to often shine brightly when I was drunk.”
The following criticism on “life in the spheres,” from some unknown pen, is so pertinent that I gladly quote it here:
“To illustrate the extreme sublimation to which constant attrition and metamorphosis have at length drawn out the physical man (in the seventh sphere), we are exultingly told that many of the higher spirits have no need to eat oftener than once a week! Taking that as the basis of a calculation, we may easily discover the precise ratio of their fineness to the texture of our own mortality. Once a week to three times a day! That would make one bricklayer of Gotham equal, in a fair fight, to about twenty-one spherical farmers of the very highest capacity!”
Need more be said to show the parallel existing between ancient polytheism and modern spiritism,—not only similar in philosophy and phenomena, but accounting for errors by similar methods? Read the following extracts from the ancient believers, and see how closely they tally with the reasoning of our modern pagans:
“There are some who suppose that there is a certain obedient genus of demons, which is naturally fraudulent, omniform, and various, and which assumes the appearance of gods, and good demons, and the souls of the deceased, and that through these everything which appears to be either good or evil is effected.” (Porphyry to the Egyptian Anebo.)
In another place he says,—
“By the contrary kind of demons all prestigious effects are produced. They constantly cause apparitions and spectral appearances, skillful by deceptions which excite amazement to impose upon men. It is their very nature to lie; because they wish to be considered gods.” (Porphyry apud Eusebium.)
“Evil spirits, after a fantastic and fallacious method, simulate the presence of gods and good demons (spirits), and therefore command their worshipers to be just, in order that they themselves may seem to be good like the gods. Since, however, they are by nature evil, they willingly induce evil when invoked to do so, and prompt us to evil. These are they who in the delivery of oracles [messages] lie and deceive.” (Iamblichus.)
The following, we might almost venture to say, must have been “inspirational:”
“But an intellectual perception, above all things, separates whatever is contrary to the true purity of the phantastic spirit; for it attenuates this spirit in an occult and ineffable manner, and extends it to divinity. And when it becomes adapted to this exalted energy, it draws, by a certain affinity of nature, a divine spirit into conjunction with the soul: as, on the contrary, when it is so contracted and diminished by condensation that it cannot fill the ventricles of the brain, which are the seats assigned to it by providence, then, nature not enduring a vacuum, an evil spirit is insinuated in the place of one divine.” (Synesius.)
“These impure spirits . . . gravitate downwards, and seduce from the true God towards matter, render life turbid, and sleep unquiet: gliding secretly into the bodies of men, they simulate diseases, terrify the mind and distort the limbs.” (Minutius Eelix.)
“The regions of the air are filled with spirits, who are demons and heroes; that from them come all kinds of divination, omens, etc.; that all kinds of divination are to be held in honor.” (Pythagoras.)
Compare the last quotation with the following inspirational gem from the “spirit” Theodore Parker:
“Ques.—How does a fine normal speaker, such as Henry Ward Beecher, differ from a medium under what we term inspirational control?
“Ans.—The difference is simply in degree; for all fine speakers are inspirational speakers. They cannot be fine speakers unless they are open to the truths that exist in life; and therefore they are inspirational mediums.” B. of L., Nov. 16, 1872.
“O Achilles, the many assert that you are dead, but I do not coincide with that opinion, neither does Pythagoras my master. If we are right, show us your shadow. For allow me to say that my eyes might be of much service to you, could you use them as witnesses of your being alive.” (Apollonius Tyanensis.)
“* * * holding conversation with the shades and spirits of the deceased.” (Pliny.)
In the editorial columns of the Banner of Light (of Nov. 16, 1872) is an allusion to a suicide-cell in a prison, in which several persons have hanged themselves. There is nothing so very remarkable about this in itself, for similar narratives may be met with in almost every work on mental philosophy; but spirital science has solved the mystery. A young girl who had attempted suicide in this cell was restored to life, and said that “a little white woman” had appeared to her in the night, and “persuaded her” to hang herself. “To test the matter, a stranger—a man—who had applied for a night’s lodging was put into the cell, with a full knowledge of its character. At a certain hour he was visited by the same little white woman, who tried to persuade him to do the deed she had led others to do before him. He was in due time relieved of his painful suspense, and told his story, though he was not previously apprised of the visit of the little woman. It appears that some time ago such a woman did hang herself in that cell, and she revisits it regularly to gratify her propensity as often as the temperament or condition of the occupant allows her.”
In this case the cell is the medium, it will be observed, for the exercise of her evil “propensity.” I shall make no comment on this, but, together with the analogous quotations from more ancient writers, lay them before the reader to show the identity of thought between the two classes of spiritists.
If spirituality, or its modern equivalent, “sublimation,” is acquired only as we recede from the earth to higher “spheres,” we may fairly question whether the acquaintance is desirable of those in the “spheres” nearest the earth, whether the black and tawny “spirits” that have not as yet progressed by the exhilarating agony of remorse out of the “sphere” adjacent to us are, after all, the safest guides to enlighten us on spiritual duties! The spiritist will accept the quotations above as confirmatory of the truth of his position, but the thoughtful reader will hesitate to accredit a theory on such questionable credentials.
Throughout the whole jargon of words constituting the so-called “spiritual philosophy of the nineteenth century,” we find in the “accredited manifestations” and descriptions of the “spheres” only a weak and contemptible rejuvenation of the polytheism of ruder ages.