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In Chicago USA 1906, Spiritualists gathered before a meeting then a seance sitting.

Spiritualism - Great Britain

Spiritualism was introduced from the United States to England within a few years of its emergence in New York. The transition from mesmerism into Spiritualism was effected in Britain under the impetus of visiting American mediums, the first being Maria B. Hayden, who arrived in 1852. Her way had been prepared by the publication the previous year of William Gregory’s book Animal Magnetism, which contains records of supernormal occurrences, and by the accounts published from time to time in the mesmerist journal Zoist.
Table turning soon became epidemic in Britain, and society invitations, it is said, were extended to five o’clock tea and table turning. An early controversy arose when prominent scientist Michael Faraday suggested that the table movements were caused by unconscious muscular action. Another theory suggested they resulted from ‘‘unconscious cerebration.’’
Hayden herself was treated with derision by the press and returned to the United States in 1853. Yet, besides acting as forerunner for the great Medium D. D. Home, she registered important conquests: Robert Owen, the veteran socialist; Robert Chambers, the publisher; and Agustus de Morgan, the famous mathematician. Sir Charles Isham and John Ashburner mostly owed their conversion to a belief in survival and communication with the dead to her limited powers. One Mrs. Roberts, a second American Medium, and later Pascal B. Randolph and J. R. M. Squire left comparatively slight impressions.
Without Home, Spiritualism in England would probably have made but little further headway. He was received in the highest society and was visited by famous people of the day. Some of them (including novelist William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Robert Bell, Bulwer Lytton, and Lord Brougham) were said to have been deeply impressed but kept quiet for fear of public ridicule. Some figured in press sensations when they vented their anger for having become associated with Spiritualism before the public (e.g., Sir David Brewster and Robert Browning). Others, including William Howitt; J. Garth Wilkinson; Lord Adare, the earl of Dunraven; the Master of Lindsay, Nassau Senior; Cromwell Varley; and Alfred Russel Wallace, braved the scorn of the public. Home first visited England in 1855 at age 23, having acted as a Medium for some four years. He made an impression before returning to America in 1856. During Home’s tour in 1855, London solicitor John Rymer and his wife, gathered friends at their home in the suburb of Ealing to experience the medium’s gifts. Famed poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a devotee of the spiritualism movement, and her husband, Robert Browning, who disdained spiritualism, managed to receive an invitation to this exclusive gathering. In 1859 Medium Thomas Lake Harris visited England. As early as 1854, the trance utterances of a medium named Annie were recorded by a Circle of Swedenborgians presided over by Elihu Rich. The first British professional Medium, Mary Marshall, began to offer seances, but less successfully than D. D. Home and his American colleagues. British Spiritualists, however, did not seek publicity, but practiced for the most part anonymously.
The phenomena at these seances resembled those in America - playing of instruments by unknown means, materialization of hands, table-turning, and so on, but on a less sensational scale. It was not so much these physical manifestations that inspired early British Spiritualists as it was automatic writing and automatic speaking. Although at first rare, it soon became a feature of seances.
In 1860 a new Spiritualist era commenced and the whole subject came into greater prominence. This enhanced attention was caused by an increase in the number of British Mediums and the emigration to Britain of many American mediums, including the stage performers the Davenport brothers, who did not claim to be Spiritualists but were hailed as such.
Kate Fox of the original Fox Sisters who caused the whole movement to rise, married and settled in England as Mrs. Jencken. It is said that her child became a writing Medium. Thomas Lake Harris, Emma Hardinge Britten, and Cora L. V. Richmond were remembered for inspirational addresses; Charles H. Foster for rather dubious pellet-reading and skinwriting phenomena (see dermography); the Davenport Brothers for noisy telekinetic demonstrations; Lottie Fowler for trance communications and predictions; and Henry Slade for slate-writing demonstrations.
British mediums were rather slow to arise. Mary Marshall was, for a long time, the only professional medium. In October 1867 the journal Human Nature knew of only one more, W. Wallace.
The number of private Mediums, however, was considerable. Mrs. Thomas Everitt was considered the most powerful.
Edward Childs was also credited with strong powers. William Howitt, William Wilkinson, and Mrs. Newton Crossland developed as automatists (see automatism). Agnes Nichols (later Agnes Guppy-Volckman) presented mysterious apport phenomena and the first materializations in England. The partners Frank Herne and Charles Williams produced impressive if suspect phenomena.
Frederick A. Hudson introduced spirit photography to London, and others followed in his footsteps. Marvelous things were reported to occur in the seances of Florence Cook, W. Stainton Moses, William Eglinton, Annie Eva Fay, F. W. Monck, Mary Showers, Arthur Colman, Elizabeth d’Esperance, C. E. Wood, Annie Fairlamb, Cecil Husk, and David Duguid.

 

Organizational Efforts
Because British mediums were slow to arise, Spiritualism as a movement was delayed until comparatively late. The Charing Cross Spirit Circle was the first experimental organization. In July 1857 it was superseded by the London Spiritualistic Union, a year later renamed the London Spiritualist Union, and in 1865 the Association of Progressive Spiritualists in Great Britain was formed. The Spiritual Athenaeum of 1866 was a temporary institution, established mainly to offer D. D. Home a paid position. The first really representative body, the British National Association of Spiritualists, was not born until 1873.
In 1882 it was renamed the Central Association of Spiritualists and in 1884 the London Spiritualist Alliance. The tardiness in organization was also manifested in the field of Spiritualist periodicals. The Spirit World, published by W. R. Hayden during his wife’s visit in May 1853, was issued only once. Robert Owen’s The New Existence of Man Upon the Earth, published in 1854, was spiritual but not Spiritualist. In April 1855 the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph was established by D. W. Weatherhead in Keighley, the chief provincial center of British Spiritualism. In 1857 it was renamed the British Spiritual Telegraph but was discontinued the next year.
Toward the end of 1860 The Spiritual Magazine was founded by William Wilkinson and became the leading organ. It ran until 1875. Thomas Shorter and William Wilkinson were the editors for the greater part of its existence, and William Howitt was the chief contributor.
The Spiritual Times ran from 1864 to 1866. In 1867 James Burns founded Human Nature, a monthly that ran until 1877, and in 1869 he brought out a weekly, The Medium, which absorbed the provincial Daybreak, founded in 1867, and was continued under the title The Medium and Daybreak until 1895.In 1869 W. H. Harrison’s paper The Spiritualist Newspaper entered the field. Under the later abbreviated title The Spiritualist, held its own until 1881. The Christian Spiritualist began its month-long run in 1871. The Pioneer of Progress lasted for ten months, appearing weekly from January 1874. In 1878 Spiritual Notes was founded and ran until 1881, the year in which Light appeared.
Light is the oldest British Spiritualist journal. It was founded by Dawson Rogers and W. Stainton Moses. Later editors included E. W. Wallis and David Gow. It was the official organ of the London Spiritualist Alliance but is now published quarterly by the College of Psychic Studies, London.
The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research and the society’s Journal had their inception in 1882. The Two Worlds began publication in 1888 at Manchester. It is now the secondoldest Spiritualist journal in Britain. (Address: Headquarters Publishing Co., 5 Alexandria Rd., West Ealing, London W13 ONP.)
Emma Hardinge Britten’s Unseen Universe ran from 1892 to 1893; W. T. Stead’s Borderland ran from 1893 to 1897; and, J. J. Morse’s The Spiritual Review was published from 1900 to 1902. The Spiritual Quarterly Magazine was started by the Two Worlds Publishing Company in October 1902. An English edition of the Annales des Sciences Psychiques was published between 1905 and 1910 under the title Annals of Psychic Science.
In addition to Light and Two Worlds, the most important of surviving Spiritualist journals is Psychic News, founded by Maurice Barbanell in 1932 and now published at 2 Tavistock Chambers, Bloomsbury Way, London, WCIA ILY.

 

The Rise of Psychical Research
Although Spiritualism arose in the United States, the effort to investigate it started in England. There was plenty to investigate. Mrs. De Morgan, Lord Adare, and Alfred Russel Wallace published the first important books. In 1869 the London Dialectical Society delegated a committee to investigate. After its favorable report, which brought the testimonies of many important people before the public, Sir William Crookes stepped to the fore and announced an investigation. His findings, which were published in 1871, and later in 1874, simply stupefied the contemporary savants.
E. W. Cox founded the Psychological Society of Great Britain in 1875; the British National Association of Spiritualists appointed a research committee in 1878; and the year 1882 witnessed a historic event, the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
The development of Spiritualism in Britain has been closely associated with the work of the SPR; but it has often been an uneasy relationship. Indeed, many early Spiritualists claimed that the society’s initials really meant ‘‘Suppression of Psychical Research.’’ From time to time the skepticism of some members of the SPR has seemed hostile. Still, the society has had a wide range of membership and is not tied to a sponsor’s opinion on the genuineness of claimed phenomena.
The SPR was formed in 1882 to investigate psychic phenomena in a scientific and impartial spirit, free from the bias of preconceived ideas. The first president was Henry Sidgwick, and the council numbered among its members Edmund Gurney, Frank Podmore, F. W. H. Myers, William F. Barrett, Stainton Moses, Morell Theobald, George Wild, and Dawson Rogers, the latter four individuals being Spiritualists. However, avowedly Spiritualist membership in the society gradually declined over time.
Other notable presidents of the society were Balfour Stewart, A. J. Balfour, William James, Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, several of these being among original members of the society.
The initial scope of the SPR was defined by the areas of investigation mandated to six committees: (1) thought transference; (2) hypnotism; (3) Reichenbach phenomena; (4) apparitions; (5) physical (Spiritualist) phenomena; and (6) the historyand existing literature on the subject. The scope of the society was further enlarged in later years when a committee headed by Richard Hodgson conducted an inquiry into the claimed phenomena of Theosophy.
To find alternative explanations for Spiritualist phenomena, members explored psychological theories and studied automatism, hallucinations, and thought transference. Some members were also instrumental in detecting a great deal of fraud in connection with mediumistic performances, particularly in the field of slate writing. Many individuals had declared slate writing to be such a simple and straightforward phenomenon that fraud was impossible.
But S. T. Davey, a member of the SPR, attended séances by the well-known medium William Eglinton and considered them fraudulent. He began to study the rationale for slate writing and emulated Eglinton’s phenomena by conjuring methods.
He then gave a number of pseudo seances, which Richard Hodgson carefully recorded. Davey’s techniques were so successful that none of the sitters could detect the fraud, even though they had been assured in advance that it was simply a conjuring trick--indeed some Spiritualist sitters refused to believe that the performances were fraudulent. After that, slate writing declined in Spiritualist Circles and, like the phenomenon of spirit photography, was largely discredited.
Excellent work was done by the society in collecting evidence relating to apparitions of the dead and the living, reported in the monumental Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, by F. W. H. Myers (2 vols., 1903) and Phantasms of the Living, by Myers, Frank Podmore, and Edmund Gurney (2 vols., 1886).
A statistical inquiry on a large scale was undertaken by a committee of the SPR in 1889, and some seventeen thousand cases of apparitions were collected. The main objective in taking such a census was to obtain evidence for the workings of telepathy in apparitions; to make such evidence of scientific value, the utmost care was taken to ensure the impartiality and responsible character of all who took part in the inquiry. From the results it was concluded that the number of apparitions coinciding with a death or other crisis greatly exceeded the number that could be ascribed to chance alone.
There was much to encourage belief in some ‘‘supernormal’’ agency, especially in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The two mediums whose manifestations led many in Britain, the United States, and Europe to conclude that the spirits of the dead were involved in their phenomena were the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino and the American Leonora Piper.
In 1885 William James of Harvard began a study of Piper, and he was joined a few years later by Richard Hodgson, who had moved to the United States to be the secretary of the American branch of the SPR. Of all the trance Mediums, Piper offered the best evidence for Spirit agency. The skeptical Hodgson himself declared his belief that the Spirits of the dead spoke through the lips of the Medium, and among others who held that fraud would not account for the revelations given by Piper in the trance state were James, Sir Oliver Lodge, F. W. H. Myers, and James H. Hyslop. Frank Podmore, while not admitting any supernormal agency, suggested that telepathy, probably aided by skillful observations
and carefully conducted inquiries concerning the affairs of prospective sitters, might help to explain the matter. Eleanor Sidgwick also suggested that Piper probably received telepathic communications from the Spirits of the dead and reproduced them in her automatic speaking and writing.
The other medium, Eusapia Palladino, after attracting considerable attention from Cesare Lombroso, Charles Richet, Camille Flammarion, and others on the Continent, went to Britain in 1895. Several British scientists, including Lodge and Myers, had already witnessed her powers on the Continent, at Richet’s invitation. Lodge, at least, said he was satisfied that no known agency was responsible for the remarkable manifesta-tions of Palladino. The British sittings were held at Cambridge, and because it was proved conclusively that the Medium made use of fraud, the majority of the investigators ascribed her ‘‘manifestations’’ entirely to that. Later, in 1898, more séances were held at Paris, and they were so successful that Richet, Myers, and Lodge once more declared themselves satisfied of the genuineness of the phenomena.
Perhaps the most convincing evidence for the working of some paranormal agency, however, was to be found in the famous cross correspondence experiments conducted in the early twentieth century. F. W. H. Myers had suggested before he died that if a spirit control were to give the same message to two or more mediums, it would go far to establish the independent existence of such control.
On the deaths of Sidgwick (in August 1900) and F. W. H. Myers (in January 1901) it was thought that if mediums were controlled by their Spirits some agreement might be looked for in the scripts. The first correspondences were found in scripts of Rosina Thompson and a Miss Rawson, the former in London, the latter in the south of France. The Sidgwick control allegedly appeared for the first time to these ladies on the same day, January 11, 1901.
On May 8, 1901, the Myers control appeared in the scripts of both Thompson and Margaret Verrall, and later in those of Piper and others. So remarkable were the correspondences obtained in some cases where seemingly there could not possibly have been collusion between the mediums, that it is difficult to believe that some discarnate intelligence was not responsible for at least some of the scripts.
Toward the end of 1916 a great sensation was caused with the publication by Sir Oliver Lodge of a memoir about his son, Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, who was killed near Ypres in September, 1915, during World War I. The book, titled Raymond, or Life and Death, is divided into three parts, the first of which contains a history of the brief life of the subject. The second part details numerous records of sittings, both in the company of mediums and at the table, by Sir Oliver Lodge and members of his family. It was claimed that considerable evidence of the personal survival of his son were obtained in these sittings. The third part of the book deals with the scientific material relating to life after death, which is reviewed and summarized in a spirit of great fairness, although a natural bias toward belief in immortality is obvious.
Notwithstanding much useful work by the SPR on the phenomena of Spiritualism, there was frequent antagonism from Spiritualists during the first half-century or so of the society’s existence. The pioneer Spiritualist W. T. Stead fulminated against it, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, after several disputes, resigned his membership as a public protest shortly before his death in 1930. Controversies over the phenomena of Margery (American medium Mina Crandon) also reached across the Atlantic to involve the society in London.
Meanwhile, many independent research organizations had been formed. In 1920 the British College of Psychic Science was founded by prominent Spiritualists Hewat McKenzie and his wife Barbara. It was a source for information, advice, and guidance for consultation of reputable mediums and the investigation of psychical phenomena. The McKenzies assisted in the development of the psychic faculties of the Medium Eileen J. Garrett, who was to become world-famous. Garrett was invited to the United States by the American Society for Psychical Research in 1931 and took part in parapsychological investigations with William McDougall and J. B. Rhine. In 1951 she founded the Parapsychology Foundation in New York. Meanwhile the British College of Psychic Science performed useful work for a number of years, finally closing in 1947. Similar work was carried on by the College of Psychic Science, London (not to be confused with the former organization), founded in 1955, which grew from the London Spiritualist Alliance, which in turn was an outgrowth of the British National Association of Spiritualists, founded in 1896.In 1970 the College of Psychic Science was renamed the College of Psychic Studies. It publishes the long-established journal Light and maintains an excellent library, organizes lectures, and conducts other activities associated with Spiritualism and psychical research.
The National Laboratory of Psychical Research was founded by Harry Price in 1925 as an independent research body and conducted investigations with such mediums as Rudi Schneider, Eleonore Zugun, Stella C., and Helen Duncan. In 1936 the laboratory, with its library collected by Price, passed to the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation. Although laboratory work ceased, the library remains at the University of London.
Ever since the famous experiments of Sir William Crookes with the Mediums Daniel Dunglas Home and Florence Cook beginning in 1871, Spiritualists had hoped that science would validate the phenomena of Spiritualism. The overall trend of psychical research tended to be skeptical and sometimes hostile, however, particularly as careful investigation disclosed mediumistic frauds. The different viewpoints of researchers and Spiritualists were largely irreconcilable, because Spiritualists operated within a framework of religious belief and researchers from a largely agnostic stance.
Some interesting Spiritualist organizations did not survive the passage of time. Julia’s Bureau, associated with W. T. Stead, was absorbed by the W. T. Stead Borderland Library in 1914 but closed in 1936. Other ephemeral groups included the Jewish Society for Psychical Research; the Society for the Study of Supernormal Pictures; the Link Association of Home Circles; and, the Survival League.


Spiritualism Today

The British Spiritualist movement as a whole continues to flourish. The exposure of famous Mediums in the past as fraudulent or partially fraudulent proved largely irrelevant to the less-publicized activities of nonprofessional Mediums in home Circles and churches. The larger Spiritualist organizations are now careful to apply the strictest scrutiny to Mediums and to regulate their activities through professional organizations.
Any unsatisfactory conduct is firmly controlled, frauds exposed, and only the highest standards of integrity permitted. As a result, British Spiritualist mediums and public demonstrators of evidence for survival are the most famous in the world. Such personalities as Doris Stokes became international figures on television and radio programs as well as in public demonstrations but remained dedicated to the Spiritualist cause and did not become rich. There are now more than four hundred Spiritualist churches in Britain.
Many of the Spiritualist organizations founded in the nineteenth century have continued into modern times, and new organizations have also grown up. The Marylebone Spiritualist Association, founded in 1872, became the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, and is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world. It is located at 33 Belgrave Sq., London.
The British Spiritualist Lyceum Union, founded in 1890, was amalgamated with the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) in 1948. The SNU had been founded in 1891. It is now located at Britten House, Stanstead Hall, Stanstead, Essex, CM24 8UD.
White Eagle Lodge grew from the mediumship of Grace Cooke. It was founded in 1936 and includes a publishing trust.
It has branches in Edinburgh, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Worthing, and Reading, as well as in New Jersey. Headquarters address: New Lands, Rake, Liss, Hampshire, GU33 7HY.
The Greater World Christian Spiritualist League was founded in 1921 around the mediumship of Winifred Moyes.
It has more than 140 local branches throughout Britain, as well as in a dozen foreign countries. Headquarters address: 3 Landsdowne Rd., Holland Park, London, W11. Associated with the Spiritualist movement are healers, represented by talented individuals and organizations. One of the most famous was Harry Edwards, who died in 1976. He claimed the assistance of spirit helpers and established a healing clinic, which is now carried on by Joan and Ray Branch, whom he had designated as his successors. Edwards had published several books on healing and the magazine The Spiritual Healer, which continues publication. The address of the Harry Edwards Spiritual Healing Sanctuary is Burrows Lea, Shere, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9QG. The National Federation of Spiritual Healers is located at Shortacres, Churchill, Loughton, Essex. There is also a World Healing Crusade at 476 Lytham Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, and a Churches’ Council for Health and Healing at 8--10 Denman St., London, W1.

 


Spiritualism and the Established Churches

Throughout the history of Spiritualism in Britain the established churches have been largely antagonistic. In 1881 Canon Basil Wilberforce was the partisan of Spiritualism before the Church Congress. The reception was hostile and denunciatory. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was three times petitioned, by the Reverend W. A. Reid, to investigate psychic phenomena. On the first occasion, a committee was appointed, which reported that psychic phenomena did occur.
Subsequent appeals, however, resulted in no fresh investigation. Books have been published by Catholics insisting that Spiritualism is the work of evil spirits. In the period of postwar permissiveness, active opposition declined, and still today there are occasional fulminations from dogmatic clergymen that Spiritualism is the work of the Devil. The obsession with themes of possession and exorcism during the occult boom of the 1950s and 1960s confused many people.
In 1953 a group of interested clergymen led by Reginald M. Lester founded the Churches’ Fellowship of Psychical and Spiritual Studies, which investigates paranormal healing, psychic phenomena, and mysticism in a sympathetic manner and publishes the Quarterly Review. Address: The Rural Workshop, South Rd., North Somercotes, Nr. Louth, Lincs., U.K. LN11 7PT.
One of the greatest obstacles to Spiritualism was the cruel, archaic legislation under which mediums were persecuted. Mediums found themselves accused under the witchcraft laws of 1735 for ‘‘pretending to communicate with spirits.’’ Throughout the interwar years mediums were frequently brought into court under provisions of both the Witchcraft Act of 1735 and the Vagrancy Act of 1824. Disguised policewomen, posing as bereaved parents, would approach a medium, begging for some consolatory message. A small sum of money would be offered as a ‘‘love offering,’’ and if this was accepted the Medium was prosecuted and often fined or imprisoned for up to three months. This punitive legislation was finally repealed in 1951 and replaced with the new Fraudulent Mediums Act, which, although not wholly satisfactory to the Spiritualist community, implicitly acknowledged that there might be genuine mediumship.
The matter was by no means settled at the turn of the twenty-first century. The Spiritualists’ National Union recently warned its churches about the possibility of prosecutions under
the Vagrancy Act of 1824, which was only partially amended. The act has recently halted plans for a large commercial enterprise to combine fortune-telling with computer technology. This has revived fears that Mediums are still not adequately protected by law. Research organizations that continue to thrive were the Religious Experience Research Centre, at Manchester College, Osford; the Brain and Perception Laboratory, at the medical school of the University of Bristol; the International Institute for the Study of Death, UK Branch, Hampnett, Northelach;the Parapsychical Laboratory, Downton, Wilshire; and, the Society for Psychical Research, London.

 

Sources:
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991. Edmunds, Simeon. Spiritualism: A Critical Survey. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1966. Hall, Trevor H. The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes. London: Gerald Duckworth, 1962. Reprint, New York: Garrett/Helix, 1963. Medhurst, R. G., comp. Crookes and the Spirit World: A Collection of Writings by or Concerning the Work of Sir William Crookes. New York: Taplinger, 1972. Roberts, Estelle. Forty Years a Medium. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1959. Rev. ed. Fifty Years a Medium. London: Corgi, 1969. Stemman, Roy. One Hundred Years of Spiritualism: The Story of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, 1872--1912. London: SAGB, 1972. Spirits and Spirit Worlds. London: Aldus Books, 1975. Stokes, Doris, and Linda Dearsley. Voices In My Ear: The Autobiography of a Medium. London: Futura, 1980. Time-Life Books. Spirit Summonings, Mysteries of the Unknown Series. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1996.

 

From There is no death

CHAPTER XX11

SPIRITUALISM IN AMERICA

I. Mrs. M. A. Williams

I went to America on a professional engagement in October, 1884. Some months beforehand a very liberal offer had been made me by the Spiritualists of Great Britain to write my experiences for the English press, but I declined to do so until I could add my American notes to them. I had corresponded (as I have shown) with the Banner of Light in New York; and what I had heard of Spiritualism in America had made me curious to witness it. But I was determined to test it on a strictly private plan. I said to myself--- I have seen and heard pretty nearly all there is to be seen and heard on the subject in England, but, with one or two exceptions, I have never sat at any seance where I was not known. Now I am going to visit a strange country where, in a matter like Spiritualism, I

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can conceal my identity, so as to afford the media no clue to my surroundings or the names of my deceased friends. I sailed for America quite determined to pursue a strictly secret investigation, and with that end in view I never mentioned the subject to anyone.

I had a few days holiday in New York before proceeding to Boston, where my work opened, and I stayed at one of the largest hotels in the city. I landed on Sunday morning, and on Monday evening I resolved to make my first venture. Had I been a visitor in London, I should have had to search out the right sort of people, and make a dozen inquiries before I heard where the media were hiding themselves from dread of the law; but they order such things better on the other side of the Atlantic. People are allowed to hold their private opinions and their private religion there without being swooped down upon and clapped into prison for rogues and vagabonds. Whatever the views of the majority may be, upon this subject or any other (and Heaven knows I would have each man strong enough to cling to his opinion, and brave enough to acknowledge it before the world), I think it is a discredit to a civilized country to allow old laws, that were made when we were little better than savages, to remain in force at the present day. We are far too much over-ridden by a paternal Government, which has grown so blind and senile that it swallows camels while it is straining after a gnat.

There was no obstacle to my wish, however, in New York. I had but to glance down the advertisement columns of the newspapers to learn where the media lived, and on what days they held their public seances. It so happened that Mrs. M. A. Williams was the only one who held open house on Monday evenings for Materialization; and thither I determined to go. There is no such privacy as in a large hotel, where no one has the opportunity to see what his neighbour is doing. As soon, therefore, as my dinner was concluded, I put on a dark cloak, hat and veil, and walking out into the open, got into one of the

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cars that ran past the street where Mrs. Williams resided. Arrived at the house, I knocked at the door, and was about to inquire if there was to be any seance there that evening, when the attendant saved me the trouble by saying, Upstairs, if you please, madam, and nothing more passed between us. When I had mounted the stairs, I found myself in a large room the floor of which was covered with a thick carpet, nailed all round the wainscotting. On one side were some thirty or forty cane-bottomed chairs, and directly facing them was the cabinet. This consisted of four uprights nailed over the carpet, with iron rods connecting them at the top. There was no roof to it, but curtains of a dark maroon colour were usually drawn around, but when I entered, they were flung back over the iron rods, so as to disclose the interior. There was a stuffed armchair for the use of the medium, and in front of the cabinet a narrow table with papers and pencils on it, the use of which I did not at first discover. At the third side of the room was a harmonium, so placed that the performer sat with his back both to the cabinet and the sitters. A large gas lamp, almost like a limelight, made in a square form like a lantern, was fixed against the wall, so as to throw the light upon the cabinet, but it was fitted with a sliding shade of red silk, with which it could be darkened if necessary. I was early, and only a few visitors were occupying the chairs. I asked a lady if I might sit where I chose, and on her answering Yes'', I took the chair in the front row, exactly opposite the cabinet, not forgetting that I was there in the cause of Spiritualism as well as for my own interests. The seats filled rapidly and there must have been thirty-five or forty people present, when Mrs. Williams entered the room, and nodding to those she knew, went into the cabinet. Mrs. Williams is a stout woman of middle age, with dark hair and eyes, and a fresh complexion. She was dressed in a tight-fitting gown of pale blue, with a good deal of lace about the neck and sleeves. She was accompanied by a gentleman, and I then discovered

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Mrs. Williams' conductor opened the proceedings with a very neat little speech. He said, I see several strange faces here this evening, and I am very pleased to see them, and I hope they may derive both pleasure and profit from our meeting. We have only one rule for the conduct of our seances, that you shall behave like ladies and gentlemen. You may not credit all you see, but remember this is our religion, and the religion of many present, and as you would behave yourselves reverently and decorously, if you were in a church of another persuasion to your own, so I beg of you to behave yourselves here. And if any spirits should come for you whom you do not immediately recognize, don't wound them by denying their identity. They may have been longing for this moment to meet you again, and doing their very utmost to assume once more the likeness they wore on earth; yet some fail. Don't make their failure harder to bear by roughly repudiating all knowledge of them. The strangers who are present tonight may mistake the reason of this little table being placed in front of the cabinet, and think it is intended to keep them from too close an inspection of the spirits. No such thing! On the contrary, all will be invited in turn to come up and recognize their friends. But we make it a rule at these seances that no materialized spirit, who is strong enough to come beyond that table, shall be permitted to return to the cabinet. They must dematerialize in sight of the sitters, that no possible

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The accompanist then played Footsteps of Angels, the audience sung it with a will, and the curtains having been drawn round Mrs. Williams, the shade was drawn across the gaslight, and the seance began.

I don't think it could have been more than a minute or two before we heard a voice whispering, Father, and three girls, dressed in white clinging garments, appeared at the opening in the curtains. An old man with white hair left his seat and walked up to the cabinet, when they all three came out at once and hung about his neck and kissed him, and whispered to him. I almost forgot where I was. They looked so perfectly human, so joyous and girl-like, somewhere between seventeen and twenty, and they all spoke at once, so like what girls on earth would do, that it was most mystifying. The old man came back to his seat, wiping his eyes. Are those your daughters, sir? asked one of the sitters. Yes! my three girls, he replied. I lost them all before ten years old, but you see I've got them back again here.

Several other forms appeared after this one, a little child of about three years old, who fluttered in and out of the cabinet like a butterfly, and ran laughing away from the sitters who tried to catch her. Some of the meetings that took place for the first time were very affecting. One young man of about seventeen or eighteen, who was called up to see his mother's spirit, sobbed so bitterly, it broke my heart to hear him. There was not the least doubt if he recognized her or not. He was so overcome, he hardly raised his eyes for the rest of the evening. One lady brought her spirit-son up to me, that I might see how perfectly he had materialized. She spoke of it as proudly as she might have done if he had passed some difficult examination. The young man was dressed in a suit of

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evening clothes, and he shook hands with me at his mother's bidding, with the firm grasp of a mortal. Naturally, I had seen too much in England for all this to surprise me. Still I had never assisted at a seance where everything appeared to be so strangely human--- so little mystical, except indeed the rule of dematerializing before the sitters, which I had only seen Katie King do before. But here, each form, after having been warned by the conductor that its time was up, sunk down right through the carpet as though it were the most ordinary mode of egression. Some, and more especially the men, did not advance beyond the curtains; then their friends were invited to go up and speak to them, and several went inside the cabinet. There were necessarily a good many forms, familiar to the rest, of whom I knew nothing; one was an old minister under whom they had all sat, another a gentleman who had been a constant attendant at Mrs. Williams' seances.

Once the conductor spoke to me. I am not aware of your name, he said (and I thought, No! my friend, and, you won't be aware of it just yet either!), but a spirit here wishes you would come up to the cabinet. I advanced, expecting to see some friend, and there stood a Catholic priest with his hand extended in blessing. I knelt down and he gave me the usual benediction and then closed the curtains. Did you know the spirit? the conductor asked me. I shook my head; and he continued, He was Father Hayes, a well known priest in this city. I suppose you are a Catholic? I told him Yes, and went back to my seat. The conductor addressed me again. I think Father Hayes must have come to pave the way for some of your friends, he said. Here is a spirit who says she has come for a lady named 'Florence,' who has just crossed the sea. Do you answer to the description? I was about to say Yes, when the curtains parted again and my daughter Florence ran across the room and fell into my arms. Mother! she exclaimed'

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 I said I would come with you and look after you--- didn't I.

I looked at her. She was exactly the same in appearance as when she had come to me in England---the same luxuriant brown hair and features and figure, as I had seen under the different mediumships of Florence Cook, Arthur Colman, Charles Williams and William Eglinton; the same form which in England had been declared to be half a dozen different media dressed up to represent my daughter, stood before me there in New York, thousands of miles across the sea, and by the power of a person who did not even know who I was. If I had not been convinced before, how could I have helped being convinced then?

Florence appeared as delighted as I was, and kept on kissing me and talking of what had happened to me on board ship coming over, and was evidently quite au fait of all my proceedings. Presently she said, There's another friend of yours here, Mother! We came over together. I'll go and fetch him. She was going back to the cabinet when the conductor stopped her. You must not return this way, please. Any other you like, and she immediately made a kind of court curtsey and went down through the carpet. I was standing where Florence had left me, wondering what would happen next, when she came up again a few feet off from me, head first, and smiling as if she had discovered a new game. She was allowed to enter the cabinet this time, but a moment afterwards she popped her head out again, and said, Here's your friend, Mother! and by her side was standing William Eglinton's control, Joey, clad in his white suit, with a white cap drawn over his head. Florence and I have come over to make new lines for you here, he said; at least, I've come over to put her in the way of doing it, but I can't stay long, you know, because I have to go back to Willy"

I really didn't care if he stayed long or not. I seemed to have procured the last proof I needed of the truth of the doctrine

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I had held so long, that there is no such thing as Death, as we understand it in this world. Here were the two spiritual beings (for believing in the identity of whom I had called myself a credulous fool fifty times over, only to believe in them more deeply still) in propria persona, in New York, claiming me in a land of strangers, who had not yet found out who I was. I was more deeply affected than I had ever been under such circumstances before, and more deeply thankful. Florence made great friends with our American cousins even on her first appearance. Mrs. Williams' conductor told me he thought he had never heard anything more beautiful than the idea of the spirit-child crossing the ocean to guard its mother in a strange country, and particularly, as he could feel by her influence, what a pure and beautiful spirit she was. When I told him she had left this world at ten days old, he said that accounted for it, but he could see there was nothing earthly about her.

I was delighted with this seance, and hoped to sit with Mrs. Williams many times more, but fate decreed that I should leave New York sooner than I had anticipated. The perfect freedom with which it was conducted charmed me, and the spirits seemed so familiar with the sitters. There was no Sweet Spirit, hear my prayer business about it. No fear of being detained or handled among the spirits, and no awe, only intense tenderness on the part of their relations. It was to this cause I chiefly attributed the large number of materializations I witnessed---forty having taken place that evening. They spoke far more distinctly and audibly too than those I had seen in England, but I believe the dry atmosphere of the United States is far more favourable to the process of materialization. I perceived another difference. Although the female spirits were mostly clad in white, they wore dresses and not simply drapery, whilst the men were invariably attired in the clothes (or semblances of the clothes) they would have worn had they been still on earth. I left Mrs. Williams' rooms, determined

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to see as much as I possibly could of mediumship, whilst I was in the United States.

 

 

 

From There is no Death

CHAPTER XXVIII

WHAT GOOD DOES IT DO?

My friends have so often asked me this question, that I think, before I close this book, I am justified in answering it, at all events, as far as I myself am concerned. How often have I sat, surrounded by an interested audience, who knew me too well to think me either a lunatic or a liar; and after I have told them some of the most marvelous and thrilling of my experiences, they have assailed me with these questions, But what is it? And what good does it do? What is it? There, my friends, I confess you stagger me! I can no more tell you what it is than I can tell you what you are or what I am. We know that, like Topsy, we grew. We know that, given certain conditions and favourable accessories, a child comes into this world, and a seed sprouts through the dark earth and becomes a flower; but though we know the cause and see the effect, the greatest man of science, or the greatest botanist, cannot tell you how the child is made, nor how the plant grows. Neither can I (or any one) tell you what the power is that enables a spirit to make itself apparent. I

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can only say that it can do so, and refer you to the Creator of you and me and the entire universe. The commonest things the earth produces are all miracles, from the growing of a mustard seed to the expansion of a human brain. What is more wonderful than the hatching of an egg . You see it done every day. It has become so common that you regard it as an event of no consequence. You know the exact number of days the bird must sit to produce a live chicken with all its functions ready for nature's use, but you see nothing wonderful in it. All birds can do the same, and you would not waste your time in speculating on the wondrous effect of heat upon a liquid substance which turns to bone and blood and flesh and feathers.

If you were as familiar with the reappearance of those who have gone before as you are with chickens, you would see nothing supernatural in their manifesting themselves to you, and nothing more miraculous than in the birth of a child or the hatching of an egg. Why should it be? Who has fixed the abode of the spirit after death? Who can say where it dwells, or that it is not permitted to return to this world, perhaps to live in it altogether? Still, however the Almighty sends them, the fact remains that they come, and that thousands can testify to the fact. As to the theory advanced by some people that they are devils, sent to lure us to our destruction, that is an insult to the wisdom or mercy of an Omnipotent Creator. They cannot come except by His permission, just as He sends children to some people and witholds them from others. And the conversation of most of those that I have talked with is all on the side of religion, prayer, and selfsacrifice. My friends, at all events, have never denied the existence of a God or a Saviour. They have, on the contrary (and especially Florence), been very quick to rebuke me for anything I may have done that was wrong, for neglect of prayer and church-going, for speaking evil of my neighbours, or any other fault. They have continually inculcated the

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doctrine that religion consists in unselfish love to our fellow creatures, and in devotion to God. I do not deny that there are frivolous and occasionally wicked spirits about us. Is it to be wondered at? For one spirit that leaves this world calculated to do good to his fellow creatures, a hundred leave it who will do him harm. That is really the reason that the Church discourages Spiritualism. She does not disbelieve in it. She knows it to be true; but she also knows it to be dangerous. Since like attracts like, the numbers of thoughtless spirits who still dwell on earth would naturally attract the numbers of thoughtless spirits who have left it, and their influence is best dispensed with. Talk of devils. I have known many more devils in the flesh than out of it, and could name a number of acquaintances who, when once passed out of this world, I should steadfastly refuse to have any communication with. I have no doubt myself whatever as to what it is, or that I have seen my dear friends and children as I knew them upon earth. But how they come or where they go, I must wait until I join them to ascertain, even if I shall do it then.

The second question, however, I can more easily deal with, What good is it? The only wonder to me is that people who are not stone-blind to what is going on in this world can put such a question. What good is it to have one's faith in Immortality and another life confirmed in an age of freethought, scepticism and utter callousness? When I look around me and see the young men nowadays---ay, and the young women too---who believe in no hereafter, who lie down and die, like the dumb animals who cannot be made to understand the love of the dear God who created them although they feel it, I cannot think of anything calculated to do them more good than the return of a father or a mother or a friend, who could convince them by ocular demonstration that there is a future life and happiness and misery, according to the one we have led here below.

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Oh, but, I seem to hear some readers exclaim, we do believe in all that you say. We have been taught so from our youth up, and the Bible points to it in every line. You may think you believe it, my friends, and in a theoretical way you may; but you do not realize it, and the whole of your lives proves it. Death, instead of being the blessed portal to the Life Elysian, the gate of which may swing open for you any day, and admit you to eternal and unfading happiness, is a far-off misty phantom, whose approach you dread, and the sight of which in others you run away from. The majority of people avoid the very mention of death. They would not look at a corpse for anything; the sight of a coffin or a funeral or a graveyard fills them with horror; the idea of it for themselves makes them turn pale with fright. Is this belief in the existence of a tender Father and a blessed home waiting to receive them on the other side? Even professed Christians experience what they term a natural horror at the thought of death! I have known persons of fixed religious principles who had passed their lives (apparently) in prayer, and expressed their firm belief in Heaven waiting for them, fight against death with all their mortal energies, and try their utmost to baffle the disease that was sent to carry them to everlasting happiness. Is this logical? It is tantamount in my idea to the pauper in the workhouse who knows that directly the gate is open to let him through, he will pass from skilly, oakum, and solitary confinement to the King's Palace to enjoy youth, health, and prosperity evermore; and who, when he sees the gates beginning to unclose, puts his back and all his neighbours' backs against them to keep them shut as long as possible.

Death should not be a horror to any one; and if we knew more about it, it would cease to be so. It is the mystery that appalls us. We see our friends die, and no word or sign comes back to tell us there is no death, so we picture them to ourselves mouldering in the damp earth till we nearly go mad with grief and dismay. Some people think me heartless because

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I never go near the graves of those whom I love best. Why should I? I might with more reason go and sit beside a pile of their cast-off garments. I could see them, and they would actually retain more of their identity and influence than the corpse which I could not see. I mourn their loss just the same, but I mourn it as I should do if they had settled for life in a far distant land, from which I could only enjoy occasional glimpses of their happiness.

And I may say emphatically that the greatest good Spiritualism does is to remove the fear of one's own death. One can never be quite certain of the changes that circumstances may bring about, nor do I like to boast overmuch. Disease and weakness may destroy the nerve I flatter myself on possessing; but I think I may say that as matters stand at present I have no fear of death whatever, and the only trouble I can foresee in passing through it will be to witness the distress of my friends. But when I remember all those who have gathered on the other side, and whom I firmly believe will be present to help me in my passage there, I can feel nothing but a great curiosity to pierce the mysteries as yet unrevealed to me, and a great longing for the time to come when I shall join those whom I loved so much on earth. Not to be happy at once by any manner of means. I am too sinful a mortal for that, but to work out my salvation in the way God sees best for me, to make my own Heaven or hell according as I have loved and succoured my fellow creatures here below. Yet however much I may be destined to suffer, never without hope and assistance from those whom I have loved, and never without feeling that through the goodness of God each struggle or reparation brings me near to the fruition of eternal happiness. This is my belief, this is the good that the certain knowledge that we can never die has done for me, and the worst I wish for anybody is that they may share it with me.

 

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