Second Lecture.—Levitation; Spirit Writing; Spirit Diagnosing and Healing of Diseases.
Before I enter on the subject of the present lecture, I will refer to some letters in the public Press regarding the former one. It is not difficult to perceive in the letter signed "Perplexity and Darkness," appearing in the Daily Times, that the purpose the writer had in view was to lead his readers into perplexity and darkness on the subject which it is my purpose to make plain. He avows his agreement with me in attributing the phenomena or Spiritism to influences proceeding from the individuals who assemble to question the spirits rather than from external sources. So far, it might be thought there was no occasion for his writing at all unless to inform the public, who might be interested to know, that he agreed with the views which I set forth. But for some purpose he wishes to present himself as an antagonist, and as one of a dubious sort. He roars like a lion, but stalks forth in the skin of the ass. Now I could respect an honest, even although he were a stout antagonist, who appeared in his own character, boldly challenging combat on his own footing, which, in this case, is evidently that of an opponent of the truths set forth in the Scriptures, but this intellectual hippogriff only excites contempt. My purpose is to deal with Spiritists, and the alleged phenomena on which they rest their system, and to show that these, in so far as they appear supernatural, are unsupported by solid facts; but the conduct of this double-faced adversary resembles that of the convict who tried the other day to escape from gaol by throwing pepper in the eyes of his keeper. He, however, was caught, and returned to his cell, and so long as my opponent wears the prison garb of Spiritism, I must deal with him on his Spiritualistic merits, until, by footing it for a sufficient time on the treadmill of this dark and dreary ghost house, he satisfies himself that the noise and dust with which he is surrounded are not indications of progress on the highway of intelligence and religion, but merely the illusions and impostures to which renegades from true religion have by their own folly been subjected. Another newspaper correspondent asks, "what force or law there is in nature which anybody knows of, that will account for the appearance of materialised spirits or ghosts?" I answer it is fully explained by the well-known law of the reciprocal influence of trickery and credulity. The difficulty mentioned, regarding a piece—which could not be matched in London—cut out of a ghost's garment, is one which probably diapers can explain. It may have been
an ordinary fabric so manipulated that it could not be recognised, or, possibly, something unusual, such as a piece of asbestos—a substance of mineral origin, which is fibrous and incombustible, and has been manfactured into a soft flexible cloth, formerly used as a shroud for dead bodies, and which has also done service, I believe, in assisting conjurers and impostors in passing unscathed through the midst of scorching flames. As to the appearance of such materialised forms in lighted rooms, this has only occurred when the parties concerned were well assured of the self-restraint and good behaviour of their dupes, and under circumstances in which it was easy to carry out their trick. To most individuals the materiality of the garments of the ghosts, and the solidity of their arms, fingers, and hair, as recorded, would afford the strongest presumption that they were ghosts in ordinary human bodies. If the precaution were taken to seize them suddenly, and hold them with a firm grip—which Owen, like an honest simpleton would not venture to do—it would certainly not require a surgeon's skill to assure even the most credulous that these ghosts' bodies and limbs were made of the normal constituents of bone and muscle. With respect to the assumed anxiety of this correspondent regarding the fate of the miraculous deeds recorded in the Scriptures if Spiritistic miracles he held as not established by sufficient evidence, I would remark that the miracles of Scripture are in no danger of falling through the want of sufficient evidence, and do not need the spurious help of Spiritistic tricks to buttress them. The sentiment of the ancient Trojan, "I fear the Greeks and those bringing gifts," expresses my feeling with regard to the Spiritistic wise men who would bring gifts to the Saviour. The harmless looking wooden horse which Spiritistic Greeks delight to bring into every city, contains within it such a horde of enemies to the Christian faith that their assumed desire to add to the evidence of Christianity can only meet with ridicule and contempt. Another critic has appeared—Mr E. C. Dunn, now styling himself M.D. He stated in a recent letter that he did not possess the degree usually indicated by these initials. I presume, therefore, he must simply mean by M.D. after his name, "making himself doctor." It appears that my method of dealing with the subject does not meet with his approval. He objects to personalities, and has a wholesome horror of ridicule. Now, Solomon, who must be admitted as an authority on this point, has laid down two directions. One is "Answer a fool according to his folly;" and the other, "Answer not a fool according to his folly." As I understand these, there is no real contradiction between them, but simply an indication that some cases require the one mode, and some the other. In this case it seemed to me the most appropriate course to adopt was the former. Mr Dunn may not like it; but my soul shall not spare for his crying He read the 23rd Chapter of Matthew, as illustrating Christ's method of plain speaking, and that is an example which he will no doubt be pleased that I should follow. I should do him the justice to remark that he correctly enough described my sentiments regarding Spiritualism, when he stated, in his own vernacular, that it was all humbug. He might just have added, "and something worse." He said that my first effort in logic was an assertion that facts were not facts. Anyone might readily see that the application of such a statement was to alleged Spiritistic facts, and, with regard to them, I have already shown in part, and to-night will show still further, that these, when scrutinised, are not facts, but "like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a reck behind." My critic admitted that the medium for producing raps was electricity, but said that this did not explain the intelligence displayed in the raps. It was made, I think, sufficiently clear that the intelligence proceeded from the voluntary and intelligent persons from whom the electricity proceeded, and by whose will it was controlled. The statement that information received through raps was not previously possessed by any person present, I showed was not correct in the cases which I had time to examine, and presented as test cases by Owen. All the information received in them was just what was previously lodged in the minds of those asking the questions. Mr Dunn, relative to my explanation that the alleged ghost appearances were due to hallucination and optical illusion, said this must also apply to the visions reorded in the Bible. My critic, however, overlooks a most important difference. In the Bible we have to deal with a record Divinely attested, the validity of which neither avowed infidels nor Spiritists have been able to destroy. In Mr Owen's book, on the contrary, we have to deal with silly stories, supported by evidence which, though often making a great show, is found to be, when examined, utterly deficient in those points where there was room and opportunity for illusion or imposture. Let Spiritists prove their own position. Bible miracles do not need their help. He brings forward a charge against me of misrepresenting the report of the Dialectical Society; and says that I read, not from the report of the Committee, but from the report of a Sub-Committee. Now that is a most unfounded and unwarrantable assertion, for which there is no possible excuse, if he meant or wished to speak the truth. I have here the report of the Committee as published in the Spiritual Magazine of November, 1871, and the conclusions which the Committee arrived at from their own investigations are given there word for word as I gave them in my lecture, and as they were reported in the Daily limes of the following day. What will Mr Dunn say to that? If he has a spark of honour and honesty in him, he will take the first public opportunity of acknowledging his falsehood and retracting his aspersions. Moreover, I charge him with misleading his audience in regard to the evidence appended to that report. This evidence consisted of statements made to the Committee, some orally and some in writing, by witnesses. Some of these were members of the Committee, but others were not. Moreover, they state what they individually had seen or heard or otherwise experienced, but the Committee does not vouch for the accuracy or truth of everything which they say, because the Committee had not witnessed them. The whole amount for which the Committee stands responsible—vouching for the correctness of their personal experience—is simply what is expressed in the six conclusions which I stated in my former lecture. It would be expecting too much, however, from this adventurer when his craft is in danger, that he should hesitate about using such weapons to support his pretensions. He further misrepresents my statement when he says that I declared that the Dialecti-
cal Society proved that the phenomena of table rapping and such like were performed by the agency of electricity. For this misrepresentation, also, there is no possible justification, if he is able to understand a plain statement in print, or has the honesty to present it as he reads it. My statement on this point, as given in my lecture, and as reported in the Times, is word for word as follows:—"When a number of people were seated for a considerable time in a close room, it was very natural and very probable that electricity should become so accumulated and intensified as lo present a sufficient reason for the phenomena declared to have been witnessed by the Dialectical Society." That is my opinion, and it is simply given as mine, and neither in that nor in any part of the lecture did I say that the Dialectical Society had proved electricity to be the cause. I further stated that the evidence of the Dialectical Society—that is, of course, what is guaranteed or vouched for by the Society or its Committee—does not advance one step beyond declaring that the information conveyed in the answers was known to the persons present, but sometimes only to one of them. I have referred to this matter at greater length than it intrinsically merits, but do so simply to show how great is either the obtuseness or the recklessness of this individual, and how little weight can be attached to the charges which, for want of arguments, he hurls blindly against his opponents. With reference to an observation I made, he asks: Would martyrdom make a cause more true? never asserted that it would, but that it would afford an Indication that the convictions of those who made such sacrifices were real and strong. Now, with regard to Mr Dunn's convictions of the truth of certain statements, made relative to him by his teacher, Mr J. M. Heebies, and which he has not, so far as I am aware, denied, I would suggest a method by which he might easily convince multitudes in this city, whom he appeal's so anxious to convert to his views. Whether by following it he would make himself a martyr he should know best, but if his Spiritistic pretensions are true, he should have no fear in making the trial, and if he did so, we should then know that he himself, at least, believed in the claims set up for him. Mr J. M. Peebles, in a lecture in Melbourne, entitled, "Spiritualism Defined and Defended," stated, "I have seen Dr E. C. Dunn and other mediums float in the air by spirit power." Here is an opportunity then for this individual demonstrating both his own convictions of the reality of this Spirit power, and bringing conviction to the multitudes of this city. Let Mr Dunn float through the air in daylight from the end of the Stuart street jetty to the old jetty. This will do more to convince the world of Spirit power than all empty talk. If he says that he can only float, but not fly, let him take the help which a clown once used who gathered a great crowd to see him float in a tub in Leith Harbour: let him harness a team of geese, and attach himself to them, and if he can perform this journey, then he may ask us to believe in his levitation. Apparent floating in prepared rooms, and with concealed apparatus, is merely a conjurer's trick, which is frequently shown; and that Mr E. C. Dunn has often performed that, I should not be surprised to learn. But until he gives us a fair test of his powers, he need not suppose that the public will be duped by either his own or his teacher's assertions. With regard to diagnosing: diseases on the surface of the body, it does not at all tend to excite our faith in his power; when, after receiving a challenge which he had; himself provoked, to test his skill in a very fair and simple manner, he draws back, and refuses to examine subjects, as he says, for the gratification of idle curiosity. But surely the vital importance of the new and beautiful faith of which he sets himself up as an apostle, is something more than, a matter of idle curiosity. It Is presented as a faith to live by, and as a faith to support men in the solemn hour of death. If this man then can give convincing demonstrations of its reality by any of those wonderful performances to which he openly lays claim, or which are claimed for him by his teacher—if he can establish his pretensions by spirit diagnosing, or floating in the air by spirit power—or holding his hand in burning kerosene lamp, as was asserted by his teacher in Melbourne; and if, while all eyes are upon him eager to see these wonders and believe the new faith, he still refuses even to attempt such things, there is but one epithet which can be applied to him by every intelligent observer, and all his gasconading and foolish pretensions and foul abuse will only serve to open the eyes of his dupes to his real character. The phenomena which come before us to-night for examination, are, first, those performances to which the name of levitation lias been applied. It is worthy of note that the Spiritists seem to repudiate Shakespeare's sentiment, What's in a name?" To explain what is meant by this fine sounding term, it means riding through the air (either with or without a broomstick), and, I should add, not merely through the air, but through roofs and brick walls without leaving a hole. One of the best marked cases I have met with is the celebrated one of Mrs Guppy, who lived in Highbury Park, in the north of London. From the account in the Spiritual Magazine of July, 1871, it appears that a seance was held on the 3rd of June, in the rooms of two professional mediums, as usual, in the dark. Aconversation was heard between a male and a female spirit that frequently appeared in these rooms, discussing whether they could bring Mrs Guppy, who was an unusually portly lady. One of the company urged them to try, to which they consented. Three minutes thereafter, Mrs Guppy dropped on the centre of the table. A light was struck, and she was recognised by the company, standing on the table round which they sat, trembling all over, and in a somewhat stupified frame of mind. She held a pen in which the ink was still wet, and an account-book in her hand, but did not speak. Three of the company immediately went to see if the door was shut, and found it locked. The company was therefore persuaded that by no natural means could she have come in. Mrs Guppy said the last tiling she remembered before finding herself on the table was being in her own room entering accounts in her book. She complained that she was not in visiting costume, having taken off her shoes before the fire. Just as she stated this a pair of shoes dropped from the roof upon the floor. Afterwards, in the dark, four flower-pots with flowers, which belonged to Mrs Guppy, were placed on the table, the room of course being all the time closed. Still later in the same evening, while sitting in the dark, some one cried for a light. Four of the company saw Mr Herne, one of the profes-
sional mediums, falling back into his chair, and bundles of clothing belonging to Mrs Guppy and her husband, and a Miss Neyland, who lived with them, on the table. Herne declared he had just seen Miss Neyland, who had pushed the clothes into his arms. The lamp was again put out, and on being lighted, Mr Williams, the other professional medium, was missing from the room. He was found in the next room, lying in an insensible state on some clothes belonging to Mrs Guppy. He said he had been at Mrs Guppy's house and saw Miss Neyland, who was sitting at a table, and who seemed to be praying. A number of those present went in cabs the same evening along with Mrs Guppy to her house, and ascertained that s e had been at home some time during the evening, that Miss Neyland who had been in the room with her had fallen asleep, and on awakening had observed that she was gone. This account, which I have slightly abridged, was signed by the company present, and therefore we must presume that what they relate as facts that happened under their own observations really took place. But even if we admit all these facts, we do not reach the inference which they draw, and wish others to draw, from them—that Mrs Guppy had been transported a distance of about three miles through the air, and through the roofs and walls of the dwelling of Messrs Heine and Williams. Nor yet are we necessitated to believe that Mr Herne made the double journey in the same way to Highbury and back, carrying a bundle of clothing. Nor are we constrained by the evidence to believe that his accomplice, Williams, performed the same wonderful feat. When Miss Neyland was asked by the party who went home with "Mrs Guppy if Messrs Herne and Williams had been there, she replied no; and it appeared she had been asleep most of the time that Mrs Guppy was absent. A clue to the real explanation is presented in the following circumstance, observed during the seance: Once, when a light was struck, Mr Herne was seen by four persons with his feet above the level of the edge of the table, his arms extended towards the ceiling, and his whole body falling with the velocity almost of a flash of light into his chair. He was moving in a curve from near the top of the folding doors." The most devoted Spiritist will, I think, have little difficulty in admitting that this was simply a ease of palpable and clumsy imposture. The discovery of one of the so-called mediums (Herne) falling down swiftly into his chair from the top of the table on which he had been standing while the light was out, evidently receiving articles through a trap door in the roof of the apartment, at once explains how the whole of the articles mentioned found their way into the room. As for Mrs Guppy, those familiar with the pages of the Spiritual Magazine—that pitiable record of human imbecility and imposture—are well aware of the unflinching credulity both of her and her husband, as their house appears from the numerous accounts of such transactions to have been a favourite place for performing every kind of silly practical joking. Mrs Guppy, there can be little doubt, had been conveyed from her house to the dwelling of the tricksters Heme and Williams by one of the usual terrestial conveyances called cabs, and had been made, willingly or unwillingly—perhaps with the assistance of some powerful narcotic—the victim of this clumsy trick, and had been passed through the trapdoor already referral down upon the table, where the group of wondering table-rappers were sitting in the dark in readiness to testify to her arrival. The transference of Williams from the room in which the séance was held to the next room was effected, there could be little doubt, through a concealed door. The whole occurrence simply presents the results of a set of impostors practising on their dupes. While Spiritists may concede this, I will no-doubt be referred to the much-talked-of case of Home's levitation, described by Lord Lindsay, and which must be admitted to have been very extraordinary, if true. A very slight examination of the narrative, however, excites the gravest suspicion of its correctness. By this I do not mean to insinuate that Lord Lindsay consciously misrepresented anything which he stated, but on the face of it the evidence offered is singularly incomplete, if not self-contradictory. Like many of Mr Owen's narratives, given, no doubt, in perfect honesty, so unbounded is the faith displayed in the honesty and power of the mediums, who have to be tested in regard to these very qualities, that precautions against imposture and illusion have not been taken on these points on which precaution was most necessary. Lord Lindsay describes Home's levitation as if it were a most ordinary occurrence, and with as little care to satisfy the suspicions of his readers as if he believed they had all as much faith in Home as he had. This narrative also appears in the Spiritual Magazine of August, 1871, as follows:—"I may mention that on the occasion I was sitting with Mr Home and Lord Adare and a cousin of his. During the sitting, Mr. Home went into a trance, and in that state was carried out of the window, in the room next to where we were, and was brought in at our window. The distance between the windows was about 7 ft. 6 in., and there was not the slightest foothold below them, nor was there more than a 12-inch projection to each window, which served as a ledge to put flowers on. We heard the window in the next room lifted up, and almost immediately after we saw Home floating in the air outside our window. The moon was shining full into the room; my back was to the light, and I saw the shadow on the wall of the window sill and Home's feet about 6 in. above it. He remained in this position for a few seconds, then raised the window and glided into the room, feet foremost, and sat down. Lord Adare than went into the next room to look at the window from which he had been, carried. It was opened about is in., and he expressed his wonder how Mr Homo had been taken through so narrow an aperture. Home said (still in trance) "I will show you," and then with his back to the window he leaned back and was shot out of the aperture, head first, with the body rigid, and then returned quite quietly. The window is about 70 feet from the ground. I very much doubt whether any skilful tightrope dancer would like to attempt a feat of this description, where the only means of crossing would be by a perilous leap or being borne across in such a manner as I have described, placing the question of light aside."
Now it must occur to every one who reflects on this narrative, that we should require to know a great deal more about the circumstances than is here given, before we can believe that Home levitated from the one window to the other. The account is given in the most slipshod and un-
satisfactory manner. Home went into a trance, while in the room along with other three persons. We next hear of his passing through the window of the next room. We have no evidence regarding the mode by which he went from the one to the other; nor yet how he went from the one window to the other. Whether he had any rope to swing himself by, or any plank to walk upon; or whether there was any opportunity of his using any other ordinary means of transit—there is no evidence to show. We have only the fact that he went in some way from the room in which he was sitting, along with three others, and that some time after wards he came in by the window. Even regarding his mode of opening the window nothing is said, because nothing was seen. Lord Lindsay was sitting with his back towards it. It will surely require stronger evidence than this to make us believe the inference which this credulous nobleman presents. His cousin, Lord A dare, who went to the window of the next room and observed it open 18 inches, was greatly puzzled to understand how a man could pass through such a narrow aperture; but bow he could float from one window to the other, a space of 7 feet, and that situated 70 feet above the ground, appears have caused no difficulty to his comprehensive mind. Until we obtain better evidence, I think we shall not be chargeable with unfairness if we place this in the same category with the adventures of the illustrious Baron Munchausen. The other performances of the medium Home, in shortening his own body to about five feet and lengthening it again to seven feet, may be safely relegated to those who are content to draw their facts from their imaginations. I may be reminded by some that the new psychic force
, discovered to be so fully developed in this individual by Mr. Crooks, F.R.S., has been found to change the weight of bodies. It was long ago ascertained, by careful experiment, that electricity produced a very slight difference, both in the volume and in the weight of bodies; but so minute as only to be regarded or measured by the scientific chemist. Crooks's experiments on Home brought out considerably greater results. These have not however, been accepted by
most scientific men as at all reliable. This, however, is, for our present purpose, a matter of little importance. Even the greatest results which Crooks professes to have obtained in the lessening of the weight of bodies, would not, by any means, account for the continuous floating of the human body high in the open air. The elevating of the tables in rooms where a number of persons are present affords different conditions to the continuous floating of the human body high in the open air; and until satisfactory evidence has been discovered of the reality of the alleged phenomena of human levitation, we shall leave our floating mediums to the company of their respected ancestors, the witches of the broomstick. I pass now to seek out and follow up the trail of ghosts of a more intellectual character than those who delight in gymnastics. It is said that ghosts of this description take possession of the heads and hands of their friends, and cause them to write communications conveying information which they did not know, and often expressing sentiments of a more exalted and refined description than they could of their unaided genius have attained to; always, however, be it remarked, observing a beautiful conformity to the peculiar notions regarding spelling and grammar which the earthly medium may happen to entertain. Their intellectual efforts are directed to subjects as various as those which engage the thoughts of ordinary mortals. A book of their communications might fitly serve the title given to an ancient treatise "concerning all things and a few other matters." Besides the commonplace style of epistle you may have poetry ranging over all the gamut of human sentiment, "from grave to gay, from lively to severe;" you may have musical compositions when the mediums have capacity for this work, and orations and treatises such as those wonderful productions of Mr James Smith which so much excited the admiration of the citizens a few months ago. With a deeper meaning than our literary judges were able at the time to discern, he told the public that he was not the author of them, but that only his hand had written them. The spirit of some departed author had inspired him, and it now appears as a sure confirmation that the same spirit had written down and published during his earthly lifetime in books which are in the Melbourne library the very same wonderful revelations. In short all kinds of literary effort may be expected from the ghosts, with the solitary exception of a gospel sermon. A devoted educational reformer imagined he had gained a great point, when he raised the cry and sought to make it a reality, "The schoolmaster is abroad but this seems antiquated and worthless compared with the advent of the literary ghosts. With the trifling drawback of their carelessness in such matters as spelling—holding, I suppose, the views of a distinguished nobleman, that people have a right to spell their own words in their own way—the royal road to knowledge, long sought in vain, has at last been found. To give an illustration of its striking character and intrinsic value, I cannot do better than present you with the account which Mr Owen has given of a ghostly communication written by a lady's hand before his eyes, which was the means of converting him to that new and beautiful faith which he so appropriately adorns. In a small party in Naples, a lady enquired of Mr Owen if he had seen spirit-writing. He replied in the negative. Another lady expressed her disbelief of the reality of such a thing, and a trial was agreed upon. Several sat down with paper and; pencil, waiting for the ghost to move them. A question was asked by one lady, "Who gave me these pins?" and another wrote down as an answer, "The one that gives you a maid and a cook." This answer was correct. A friend in Florence who had given the pins, had also sent to her a ladies' maid and a cook. This produced great astonishment, particularly to the lady who had asked the question. Mr Owen's philosophic mind could not rest without probing it to the bottom. He accordingly ascertained by enquiry next day from her, that she had never spoken to any one outside her family circle, about the servants, whence they came or who sent them, nor yet about who sent the pins. Moreover, she stated that she had only lately made the acquaintance of the lady who had written the reply so correctly. He did not consider it necessary to push his enquiries further, by asking the lady who wrote the answer
, about the extent of her
acquaintance with the affairs of the owner of the pins; as the whole matter of both pins and servants seems to have been known in the household, and the two ladies were acquainted, it is most probable that some of the children, or of
the servants connected with both families, were also acquainted with each other. The circumstances, both of the pins and the servants, would thus most, likely be communicated and in this way reach the ears of the lady who wrote the reply. To my mind this appears far more reasonable and probable than fathering the answer upon a ghost. It may be said this is a mere supposition. I answer Mr Owen's explanation is a mere supposition too, and mine I hold is by far the more likely. It must be remembered too, that the burden of proving a ghost's presence, lies on those who assert it to be there. Mr Owen professes to bring proof of his presence, and his proof in this, as in all cases, falls short of the mark. I may now notice a ease which Mr Owen describes at great length, and evidently puts forward as a most convincing demonstration of the reality of spirit communication by means of writing; he entitles the chapter "How a French King's favourite musician manifested himself," M. N. G. Bach, a musical composer 67 years of age, who lived in Paris, received from his son a musical instrument called a spinnet of a very antique description, on 4th May, 1865. He was delighted with it, and spent most of the day in admiring it, trying its tone, and inspecting its mechanism. On a bar of wood which supported the sounding board he thought he could distinguish writing—namely some Latin words with the date, April, 1564. This ancient date on it, of course, greatly increased the old gentleman's interest in it. During the night after such excitement, as was not unnatural, he had a vivid dream about it. A young man in the ancient costume of the French Court appeared to him and said this spinnet belonged to me. I often played on it to amuse my master King Henry. The King composed an air which he used to sing, and I accompanied him." Further, the visitor added "I will play it to you," which he did. The old man awoke in tears, touched by the pathos of the song. He lighted a taper and found it was 2 o'clock. Next morning he found a paper at his bedside with some French words written on it, and below it the music and words of a song. This was the very song which he had heard sung and played in his dream. Now Mr Owen asks, "Who had done it?" Had it been himself? This latter supposition was so natural, that it might have been expected, Mr Owen would have searched into it before rejecting it in favour of a ghostly explainer. But he summarily dismisses it by saying, "He was no somnambulist, he had never that he knew
walked or written in his sleep. Is that then a sufficient ground for rejecting this most natural and sufficient explanation? Somnambulism where it occurs must have a beginning some time, and the fact that this old gentleman was not aware of his being a somnambulist is no guarantee that he was not. It is brought out in the narrative that if this was the first occasion, it was not the last. Such cases of somnambulism are so frequent, that it is surprising any man of intelligence should seek for any ghost to account for this writing and composing during sleep. Mr Owen however points out a greater wonder, which he regards as proof positive of the reality of a ghost. Some people enlightened M. Bach about Spiritism and Spirit-writing. Accordingly, three or four weeks after his dream, M. Bach, feeling a headache and nervous trembling of the arm, the idea struck him that perhaps some spirit wished to write through him and explain the mystery about the spinet
. He sat down with paper and pencil, then lost consciousness, and in that state he wrote that the spinet
contained a piece of parchment written by King Henry and nailed on the inside of the case, and beneath was written a copy of the parchment. Signed, Baldazzarini. The spinet
was accordingly sent for from the museum, where it had meanwhile been deposited. Auxious search was made by father and son, and a parchment was found in it as described, with an inscription closely resembling what was written down by M. Bach, in his state of unconsciousness, or, as I would call it, somnambulism. No doubt he had examined the instrument and seen the first parchment nailed inside, and read the inscription on it, during his first somnambulistic: attack. It is quite evident, too, that he now wrote down in this second somnambulistic attack what he had seen during his former somnambulism, but had forgotten during the interval. This is very much like what is well known as double-consciousness. The recurrence of the same train of ideas as he formerly had, and the recalling vividly what he had formerly seen, is quite according to the ordinary experience of such cases. The most remarkable thing about the case is the simplicity of Owen, who imagines he has discovered a ghost. He goes into a long and laborious investigation, presents full evidence of the statements he has given, and then argues about the explanation. He laboriously strives to demolish the supposition of imposture in the case, for which I think there was not the slightest ground, but regarding the most natural and simple explanation that it was a case of somnambulism, he has nothing to object except that the old man did not know previously that he was subject to this affection. A slightacquaintance with well-authenticated cases of somnambulism, will afford a sufficient explanation of many things as wonderful as this. Dr Abercrombie supplies a host of them. I may mention one, as it is somewhat remarkable for the kind of accomplishment manifested in this state, and may perhaps afford a clue to some of the spirit music with which Spiritists are occasionally entranced. A girl 7 years of age slept in an apartment next one frequently occupied by an itinerant fiddler. He was a skilful musician, and spent a part of the night performing fine pieces. The girl, however, merely regarded his music as a disagreeable noise. After 6 months' residence here she fell ill and removed elsewhere. After recovery she acted as servant, and during the night there was heard in the house where she was the most beautiful music, which could not be accounted for. At length, it was found to proceed from her lips, and resembled the sweetest tones of a small violin. On further observation it was found that after being about two hours in bed she became restless, then uttered sounds like tuning a violin, and then dashed off into elaborate pieces of music. After a year or two she imitated the sound of a piano, which she heard in the house where she now lived. A year after she began to talk as if instructing a pupil on a vast variety of topics, and with great ability. She has been known to conjugate Latin verbs, and speak several sentences in French—though ignorant of these languages when in her waking state. This case shews clearly how powerfully the faculties may be excited in this condition, and especially how memory may give back even impressions which had been apparently forgotten as soon as they had been heard. It affords ample grounds for explaining M. Bach's remembrance of the parchment and what was on
it while ill the same peculiar state. The most usual form in which Spirit writing is practised by
mediums is that which attracted public attention in London about the year 1858, when a well-known medium called Foster held séances, charging a guinea for admission, which the nobility in great numbers attended. He requested visitors to write down any names they chose, each on a separate piece of paper, which was rolled up as a pellet and placed on a salver. Foster then requested any one of the company to point out one which he wished to be read by spirit power. Very speedily Foster produced on a piece of paper the name contained in the pellet pointed out and that written in a style bearing a close resemblance. Multitudes believed in this man as a real medium between the inhabitants of the earth and of the spirit-world. The Times of London declared it was little short of miraculous. An honest conjuror, however, who was practising his calling in the Colisseum, denounced Foster as an impostor, and challenged him to do what he pretended in his presence without the trick being detected. Of course Foster did not comply, and the conjuror contented himself with exposing his false claims. He first performed the trick; then explained how it was done. He shewed that when he took up the salver and pointed to the pellet, the name on which he was asked to write by spirit power, it was the easiest thing for an expert conjuror to take up the pellet between his fingers and drop another in its place before the eves of the spectators without detection. Having it concealed in his hand, it was easy enough to read it while the attention of the audience was directed by conversation. Then, with an appearance of great mental agitation, he wrote, as he pretended, under the guidance of the spirits, a far simile
of the name which he had surreptitiously read on the pellet. This will indicate sufficiently the principle on which the whole practice of those impostors called test-mediums is carried on. Of course there are many variations in the particular modes adopted for drawing off the attention from the art of trickery, but sleight of hand is the main explanation of the whole. I have little doubt, too, that some advance a little further, and from careful study of the countenance and manner of persons while writing down a number of names, one of which they wish the medium to pick out, hazard a guess about it, and in most case may be correct. The whole appearance of the mode of proceeding can leave little doubt that it is a piece of trickery. The information which the medium professes to give is simply elicited from what the inquirer has written down in his presence, or from the medium's knowledge of those who come to consult him. None of Owen's cases, although he professes to have scrutinised them, and presents full evidence on points about which there is no room for doubt, can disabuse the mind of trickery and sleight of hand as the real explanation. He never entertains the suspicion himself, and takes no means, therefore, to put it to the test. Let us glance at a case which he gives as most convincing. He visited Foster, the best test medium, he says, he ever knew, and intimated he wished the name of a spirit from whom he had lately received d a communication. Foster told him he saw the spirit of a lady with a basket of flowers—all violets. Owen was at once excited. He indicated this was the party he wanted, and asked the name. Foster told him to write down seven christian names, which he did. Foster then took the list, glanced over it, then tore off the names separately, and rolled them up into small pellets, which he threw down among a number of blank and written pellets which were lying on the table. Foster told him to take them up and hold them in his hand under the table. He then said: "The spirits desire to have your hat under the table." Foster accordingly put it there. Then he said: "Spirit, when you have selected the pellet, will you let us know by rapping?" In a minute the raps sounded. Conversation by raps followed as to who should take up the hat and receive the pellet. A young lady with Mr Owen was requested to do so. Before she opened it, Foster said: "Let me try first if I can get the same name written under the table." He held paper and pencil for a little under the table, and handed the paper to Owen. Of course the name in the pellet and the paper was the same, and in a minute after he shewed it marked on his arm. Now most plainly all this is mere conjuring or sleight of hand. We have no means of judging of the extent of Foster's previous knowledge of Owen. Probably he knew much more than Owen thought of. Besides Owen had some conversation with Foster in what he calls "a general way" about the purpose of his visit, and most probably Foster elicited more than Owen dreamt of. In watching Owen write down the names, Foster must (if he did not previously know it) have made his guess as to which it was. Foster himself separated the names, and made them up in pellets, so that he, could easily secrete between his fingers the one he had fixed on and drop another in its place. He then dropped the pellet into the hat as he put it below the table. To guard against Owen's detecting the exchange Foster made, in regard to the pellet, by examining the pellets left in his hand, Foster took care to have them mixed up with a number which were lying on the table, and of which Mr Owen did not know the number nor yet the names in them. The writing on paper below the table and on the arm was easily enough accomplished during the many movements which were made during the performance to divert attention. Although this is one of the commonest conjuring tricks, and one therefore which might most readily be suspected, the possibility of it never seems to enter Mr Owen's mind, and of course he takes no precautions against it. I would have no hesitation in defying any test medium whatever, to do what they profess to do, and what Mr R. D. Owen believes, in his simplicity, they do, under anything like reliable test conditions. Every pretension to such supernatural power or knowledge, set up in the name of Spiritism or clairvoyance, has been found, when put to the test in anything like a scientific way, to be mere imposture, performed with varying success, according to the natural cleverness and acquired audacity of the performer. To show you what is the tendency of this whole system, as it appears to any calm and impartial mind after close and careful scrutiny, I may quote a sentence from the judgment delivered by the Vice—Chancellor in the Court of Chancery, in the famous suit which was raised by Mrs Lyon against Home, the well known medium, in the year 1867. Mrs Lyon had been induced to adopt Home as her son, and had given him £30,000 as a free gift, and £30,000 more in reversion. When her eyes were
opened to her folly, she instituted this suit to set aside these gifts, on the ground that they had been obtained by undue influence. Evidence on both sides was adduced to a very full extent. The whole matter was impartially and judicially investigated, and the conclusion of the Vice-Chancellor's judgment—which judgment, of course, was founded on the evidence—was as follows:—"That the system" (namely, Spiritism) "as presented by the evidence, is mischievous nonsense, well calculated on the one hand to delude the vain, the weak, the foolish, and the superstitious; and on the other to assist the projects of the needy, and of the adventurer; and lastly, that beyond all doubt there is plain law enough and plain sense enough to forbid and prevent the retention of acquisitions such as these by any 'medium,' whether with or without a strange gift, and that this should he so is of public concern; and (to use the words of Lord Hardwicke) of the highest public utility." I quote from the official Law Journal Reports for November, 1868, which is admitted in every court of law. I would only remark here that probably the Vice-Chancellor's principle is one which might admit of easy application to many other dupes as well as Mrs Lyon, and the well-known charge of raising money under false pretences might, I think, fairly and legally be established against any of the travelling quacks and impostors, both Spiritists and others, who fatten upon the credulity of the public. I promised in my advertisement to refer to the pretensions in regard to spirit diagnosing and the healing of diseases, and I shall now do so. The healing of diseases, in all ages has been a favourite sphere of operation for all kinds of impostors. It combines every conceivable advantage for their carrying on their swindling without the means of ready detection. The imagination and credulity of men are probably under no circumstances excited more easily than when they are affected with disease. Often the slighter the disease is, the more is the imagination excited, and the readier will they believe in anyone who sets up great pretensions. As to the nature of the disease by which the person is affected, he himself is usually the least qualified to judge. He may suffer from the most trifling and temporary ailment, and magnify it to the most alarming dimensions. He may be affected with some most serious organic disease, as of the head, the heart, or the lungs, and refuse to believe that there is anything more serious than some slight temporary disorder. Further, in any case, whether slight or serious, when there is recovery the greatest misconception is apt to prevail regarding the method and means by which it has been effected. Keeping these facts in view, which are familiar to all medical men, and probably well enough known by persons of ordinary intelligence, it is not surprising that the domain of the healing art should have always presented a favourite sphere for impostors in which to exercise their gifts. Besides, as there are sick persons in every country, and more or less at all times as they are always eager to obtain the help of the skilful, or those whom they believe to be skilful, and are as ready, as far as they are able, and often beyond their ability, to pay for it, I have no hope of seeing, in this age at least, a cessation of impostors who pretend under various names to cure diseases. The spread of this latest delusion, Spiritism, which has called into activity impostors of every name, and has lent its shield for their protection, has, as might have been expected, sent forth a host of Spiritistic healers. These for the most part hail from America. But they have appeared also, like Spiritism, in other countries as well. The exploits of the Zouave at Paris, and of La Regina, dal Cin of Venetia, a successful bonesetter; of Dr Newton, of America; and last and least of Mr E. C. Dunn—all fail to show anything like real cures performed by Spirit power. The existence of disease in all those cases which are professed to be cured is a matter of doubt, no reliable evidence being given. The tact of persons lying in bed and being unable to walk is no sufficient evidence of any organic disease. The extent to which diseases of every kind are simulated by that peculiar state of the nervous system called hysteria is well-known to all medical men, and affords results which the ordinary public would be astonished to learn. On this subject I quote the following from an authority which I think will not be disputed. Sir James Syme, the world-renowned Professor of Surgery in Edinburgh, says:—"Young women—particularly those of the higher ranks—are apt to suffer from painful sensations in the joints, which closely simulate the symptoms of articular disease connected with alteration of structure, and consequently are apt to lead to treatment no less unnecessary than, injurious." Then, after describing the proper treatment to follow, and the marks of diagnosis, he says, "The uneasy feelings, though frequently remaining months or years, generally commence and disappear suddenly—whence empiricism is afforded a good field which has been diligently cultivated." Another surgeon describes the success of Sir Benjamin Brodie in dealing with such cases. Being well aware of their being under the influence of the imagination and will of the patient, he has often commanded his patient to rise and walk, and possessing the authority of a great name, his unflinching order has been obeyed, though at first with reluctance and protestations on the part of the patient that the thing was impossible. The result has been that the patient has at once been able to walk. Cases of this class are only a small part of the multitude of diseases which owe their continuance mainly to the imagination or the nervous condition of the patient; and when a powerful stimulus is brought to bear on such excited individuals the effect appears to ordinary beholders almost miraculous. No class of practitioners are probably more likely to exercise a powerful influence on such individuals than persons who set up great pretensions to heal by spirit powor, or by any unusual influences. Whether they call themselves clairvoyant, or magnetic healers, the source of their power is simply the force of their audacious pretensions acting on sensitive and nervous patients. Although the pretence of healing by spirit or ghost power is comparatively recent, healing claims have been set up in all countries and from the earliest ages. On Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions there are indications of mesmeric manipulation. In India and China artificial somnambulism is believed to have been practised from early times; and among the Greeks and Romans appear traces of similar methods of healing. In modern times Mesmer acquired the greatest fame for his exposition and practice of these peculiar methods of healing,
called by various names—mesmerism, animal magnetism, electro-biology, somnambulic treatment, and now spirit-healing. He was born about the year 1734, and is said by some to have been a native of Switzerland. Like the great mass of his followers who have attained anything like notoriety in the world on account of their healing pretensions, he was a scheming impostor. A commission was appointed by the Empress Maria Theresa to investigate a cure alleged to have been wrought by him on a blind girl in Vienna. A large assemblage of 800 persons, comprising medical men, met for the purpose of testing the reality of the girl's vision. She was found able to distinguish bright colours, but when it was observed that Mesmer made signs to her, and he was ordered to withdraw—which he was very unwilling to do, however—she could no longer distinguish colours at all. Mesmer thereupon received an imperial order to leave the city within 24 hours. What a pitv such a law was not in force in Dunedin! In Paris, to which he afterwards removed, M. Campan being seized with some pulmonary affection. Mesmer was called in. To insure a speedy and perfect cure, Mesmer ordered one of three things to be done—either that a young woman of brown complexion, a black man, or an empty bottle should be placed at the left side of M. Campan. "Sir," said Madame Campan, "if the choice be a matter of indifference, pray bring the empty bottle." The treatment did no good, and taking advantage of the absence of Madame Campan he had recourse to the old system of bleeding and blistering, and M. Campan recovered. He asked for a certificate from M. Campan that the cure had been effected by magnetism alone, and received it. Madame Campan, however, was more honest. When she learned it, she reported it to their Majesties, who had previously been interested in Mesmer, and they determined to have nothing more to do with him. In France, the subject of animal magnetism—known under various names-has almost over since his time attracted great attention, and has been made the subject of investigation by several of the scientific societies. The subject has, however, always been liable to exaggerations and misrepresentations. The Magnetic Society of Paris, which broke up in 1820, had for its Secretary a nobleman called the Baron d'Henin, and speaking of the caution necessary to be used in receiving the accounts of the results of animal magnetism—he says "I have read or run over almost all the books which treat of magnetism; I have lived among magnetisers; I have seen them magnetise; and I have magnetised with them; I have restrained my incredulity, the better to allow them to reason, and more frequently to speak nonsense, and to push their pretensions to the uttermost. I have often heard the very facts, which have occurred before my eyes, related in such a way that I could scarcely recognise them, so much were they disfigured by the enthusiasm and exaggeration of those who had been witnesses of them, or who had themselves produced them." These remarks apply in their full force to the marvellous narrations of spiritistic cures. It is only cases that have been submitted to fair examination by competent skilled witnesses on which reliance can be placed. In February, 1837, the Academy of Medicine of Paris received an offer from M. Berna, a physician, and believer in the virtues of animal magnetism, offering to submit certain somnambulists to a commission for examination; but all the pretensions made by them were found to be groundless. One somnambulist it was alleged would lose the power of motion in any limb on the mere mental order of her magnetiser. On trial, the following results were found—"When M. Berna mentally paralysed her right arm only
she declared that both the right leg and right arm
were paralysed. He next mentally paralysed her left leg
, but she affirmed that she could move that leg very well, but not at all the left arm
. Another, professing to read without the assistance of the eyes, completely failed. She would not acknowledge her deceit, however, but persisted in making guesses, which of course exposed her pretensions. A prize of 3000 francs, which had been offered in 1825 to any one who could read without the assistance of light, of the eyes, and of touch, called forth none to attempt the task. The conditions were accordingly relaxed—the use of light and of the fingers being allowed. A girl was brought forward as able to do what was asked, but the father could not agree with the commissioners regarding the mode of bandaging the eyes. A veil was proposed by the commissioners, but the father declared the cheeks must be uncovered. They desired the book to be placed on a level with her eyes; he insisted it must be on the level with her knee, and if a finger were placed on the lower edge of the bandage the father declared she would fall into convulsions. It was clearly shewn that the only mode of reading was by the eyes, while the bandage was slightly lifted by the eyebrows. In 1839 the same prize, which had never been gained, was offered to any one who should prove himself able to read with a sheet of linen or paper interposed (6 in. from his eyes, between his eyes and the book. But the ability to do this very simple act of clairvoyance has never been shewn." A book was published by Sir John Forbes, M.D., in which he stated the results of his testing the powers of various professed clairvoyants who had gained considerable notoriety. Among them was a lady who professed, like Mr Dunn, to diagnose diseases. A patient was submitted who was in perfect health, with the exception of having varicose veins. Although the attention of the clairvoyant was directed to the surface of the body for the seat of the disease, she failed to discover it, and announced a variety of diseases, such as weakness of stomach, palpitations, &c
. Another lady who came from Germany to London in 1845 to examine and prescribe, and who, like most of such impostors, made very heavy charges for her pretended skill, three guineas at her own house, and six guineas at the patient's, was tested by Sir John Forbes, who was invited for this purpose by the lady's brother. He himself became the patient and she declared that he laboured under two diseases, a statement which he himself knew to be utterly without foundation. Her anatomy, too, was as much at fault as her power of diagnosis; it was merely an embodiment of prevalent vulgar notions on the subject. It is quite unnecessary to mention the account he gives of his exposing the pretentions of another professed clairvoyant, who pretended to be able to read names on a card enclosed in a card case; nor yet of another who recited full particulars of a shipwreck, which, proved to be true, but of which Sir John Forbes satisfied himself she had obtained full knowledge in the ordinary way. One and all of such pre-
tenders, when fairly tested, have been found to be mere impostors. Those who set up similar claims, but refuse to submit to any fair test, need not be surprised when the public refers them to the same category. Cures, I am prepared to admit, may sometimes be performed by such pretenders. They are well suited to impress powerfully the imaginations of hysterical or hypochondriacal patients, whose disease is mainly due to their own fancy. Not merely are diseases of the joints simulated by hysteria—according to Sir B. Brodie, four-fifths of the alleged diseases of the joints among the higher class in London being of this description—but diseases of almost every kind are simulated by it, and are usually cured suddenly. Nor is this nervous condition restricted to females exclusively; some examples of similar affections occur among men. All such cases offer a rich harvest for spiritualistic healers. Further, as people do not always, remain ill, but sometimes get better even without any help, and may when in their recovering state apply to some magnetic or spiritualistic healer, the cure. I am prepared to allow, may, notwithstanding the healer's trance, go on to completion. In this way, too, he may draw forth certificates of gratitude, and expressions of wonderment at his marvellous power. There is a natural tendency of the system to throw off disease and return to health, aided, in some cases materially, by a strong belief and expectation of cure, and if persons recovering from disease have consulted a spiritual healer they will naturally ascribe the cure to his power. The record of one of the last trials for witchcraft in Scotland presents a sufficient explanation of the belief which some may entertain in the healing virtues of Spiritism. The same belief was cherished with equal reason in the efficacy of charms which were worn on the body. A poor woman was charged with witchcraft, in as much as she lent out to her neighbours for a small consideration a charm said to be efficacious in curing sore eyes. The prisoner admitted the charge, but justified her conduct, as she had received benefit from it in her own child, and it would be equally good for her neighbour's. She was about to be condemned, when the judge explained to the jury that he knew more about this case than had been put before them. When a young man he had stopped a night at this woman's alehouse, and seeing her troubled about her child's eyes, offered her a charm to cure the child instead of paying his bill. From the evidence presented it had been efficacious; but to prove that the woman had acted in perfect sincerity, and that the charm had been originated by himself, he said that if the ball of worsted which constituted the charm was unwound, a piece of parchment with certain words on it would be found. This was accordingly done, the parchment found as he stated, and on it written these words—
The Devil scratch out both thine eyes,
And spit into the holes likewise.
Equally efficacious I am prepared to admit, and not one whit more so, maybe the healing power of the ghosts. It has been said by Owen and some others that Spiritism may be a good cure for in sanity, and I would not wonder if, on homoeopathic principles, that statement would prove correct. It would then, however, be a serious question whether the cure were not worse than the disease. Looking at this system of delusion and imposture as a whole, its intellectual imbecilities, its moral results, and its religious negations (which form its real attraction for the sinful and blinded heart of humanity), I say, far rather welcome the bold and defiant front of open infidelity, the dreamy speculations and heartless sentiment of Pantheism, or the coarse and confident dogmas of scientific materialism. These possess at least the merit of honesty; and however repulsive and unsatisfactory they may be to the human heart, that cries, from the depth of its sin and sorrow, Who will show us any good? they do not delude their votaries with the mockery of professed adherence to the Bible. But this heterogeneous compound of silly superstition and crafty imposture, called Spiritualism, is an insult to the human understanding, a degradation to the moral nature, and a destructive snare to the soul.
Printed at the "Daily Times" Office, Princes Street, Dunedin.