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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31

Spiritualism Defended

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Spiritualism Defended.

The following appeared in the 'Dunfermline Press,' on the 4th of July, 1868:—

"A correspondence, who found fault with our animadversions on 'Spiritualism,' as contained in an article, entitled 'Imposture and Credulity,' which appeared in the 'Press' of June 13th, sends us the following letter on the subject, from William Howitt, of London. As some of our readers will no doubt like to hear what so eminent a litterateur has to say on so keenly contested a subject, we make no apology for occupying so much valuable space with his communication. The letter, it will be observed, is addressed to our Alva correspondent, who is himself an enthusiast on the subject":—

Sir,—I am much obliged to you for a copy of the 'Dunfermline Saturday Press,' containing the 'letter of "A Working Man," and the Editor's remarks upon it. The "Working Man" is perfectly right, both in his facts and arguments. It is true that Spiritualism, since its revival in America about twenty years ago—for it is only a revival, having existed in every age and country before, and numbered intellects of all those ages and countries—has made more rapid, and at the same time steady progress, than any other cause hat ever—Christianity not excepted. In at short space of time it has attracted twenty millions of adherents. And by hat means? Not by violent and fanatic agitation; not by vehement preaching and partizan canvassing; but simply by a calm and sensible examination of its facts. The editor of the 'Dunfermline Press' says that a cause is not to be decided by numbers. True, but numbers and intellect and character combined must determine the value of any cause. And who are the men who have in every country embraced" Spiritualism? The rabble? The ignorant? The fanatic? By no means; but the most intelligent and able of all classes. When such is the case, surely it becomes the "majority of reflecting men"—to use the words of your editor—to reflect on these facts. Let numbers go for nothing; but when the numbers add also first-rate position, pre-eminent abilities, largest experience of men and their doings, weight of moral, religious, scientific, and political character,—then the man who does not look into what these declare to be truth, is not a reflecting, but a very foolish and prejudiced man. Now, it is very remarkable that, when we proceed to enumerate the leading men who have embraced Spiritualism, we begin also to enumerate the pre-eminent intellects and characters. In America, you justly say that the shrewd and honest Abraham Lincoln was a Spiritualist. He was a devoted one. So also page 2 were, and are, the hon. Robert Dale Owen and Judge Edmonds; so was Professor Hare; you are right in all these particulars. In fact, almost every man in the American Government is a Spiritualist. Garrison, whom the anti-Spiritualists were so lately and enthusiastically feting in England, for his zealous services in the extinction of negro slavery, is an avowed Spiritualist. Horace Greeley, the editor of 'The Tribune,' a man whose masterly political reasoning has done more than any other to direct the course of American politics, is a devoted Spiritualist. Long-fellow, the poet, now in England, and just treated with the highest honors by the University of Cambridge, and about to be feted by the whole literary world of England, is, and has long and openly been, a Spiritualist. But I might run over the majority of the great names of America. Turn to France. The shrewd Emperor, the illustrious Victor Hugo, the sage and able statesman Guizot, one of the most powerful champions of Christianity, are Spiritualists. So is Garibaldi in Italy. In England you might name a very long and distinguished list of men and women, of all classes, Spiritualists. If you had the authority, you might mention names which would startle not a little those who affect to sneer at Spiritualism. It is confidently said that a Spiritualist on the throne of these realms, as we do know that such do sit on those of the greatest nations in Europe. We know that members of some of the ducal houses of Scotland, and of the noble houses of Ireland and England, are Spiritualists. Are all these people likely to plunge their heads and their reputations into an unpopular cause, without first looking well into it? But then, say the opponents, the scientific don't affect it. They must greatly qualify this assertion, for many and eminent scientific men have had the sense and the courage to look into it, and have found it a great truth. The editor of the 'Dunfermline Press' remarks on your observations regarding Robert Chambers, that Chambers' Journal,' of the 13th May last, has a certain article not flattering to Spiritualism. True, but not the less is Robert Chambers an avowed Spiritualist, and boldly came forward on the Home and Lyon trial, to express his faith in Mr. Home. The editor might quote articles in the "Times,' the 'Standard,' the 'Star,' and the 'Daily Telegraph' against Spiritualism; yet it is a well known fact that or all these journals some of their, able writers are Spiritualists; but it is not al ways prudent for a man to say what he is. This is not an age in love with martyr-dom. But as to the scientific men: the editor is very ill informed when he says that Faraday "speedily stripped Spiritualism of its mystery." Nothing is better known throughout all London circles than that Faraday, on that occasion, made a gross blunder, and became the laughing stock of even scientific men for it. He attributed the turning of tables to involuntary muscular action in the persons who at seances, put their hands on them. But not only moved, but rose into the air, out of the reach of any hands. I, and thousands, have seen the do so often. Such things are more common than the rising of balloons? Nor was the moving of tattles the only phenomena Knocks were heard on floors, on wall, on ceilings, quite out of reach. Everyone who has seen the Davenports—and all Europe has now seen them—knows that instruments fly about visibly in the air, quite beyond touch of hands. In the seances, in London, attended by men and women of the highest intelligence and tact, flowers, fruit, birds even came through locked doors and barred shutter; spirit hands are felt; spirit voices are heard, music is played on instruments that no hand can touch, drawings, writings and sing in own are done by no visible persons.' And who witness all these things from day to day ? Scientific men, eminent lawyers, and literary men. It was the knowledge page 3 of these things which made Faraday see what a fool a wise man may make of himself; and which made him take care not to commit himself a second time. But people you say, continue to remark—"If scientific men would but examine these things." In the first place, I have always asserted that scientific men are not the men to decide such questions. They have their prejudices and their theories, which disqualify them. They have no instruments to lay hold of spirits; they mock at all their retorts, their chemical and electrical batteries, and their chemical tests. In all ages the learned have been the opponents of new ideas. They poisoned Socrates, they crucified Christ, they declared him and St Paul mad. When Newton promulgated the doctrine of specific gravity, they jeered at it; and his biographer says, that at the time of his death not forty persons out of England believed in it. When Solomon De Caus, in France, discovered the power of steam they shut him up in the Bicetre as a madman. Columbus was declared a madman by the learned men of Spain, for asserting that there was a great continent westward. When Franklin sent the account of the densification of lightning with electricity to the Royal Society of Londan, it refused to print it; and it was not till Dr Fother-gill published the paper that it reached the community at large. In his turn, Franklin treated Messer as an impostor; and, in fact, we might run over a whole volume of proofs of the total unfitness of scientific men as a class, to judge of new facts and ideas. And yet numbers of scientific men have embraced Spiritualism. Dr Hare, mentioned by you was a great electrician, rated by the Americans little, if any inferior to Faraday. He did exactly what people now want scientific men to do. He thought Spiritualism a humbug, and went regularly into an; enquiry to oppose it. But it did as it has done in every case that I have heard of, where scientific men have gone candidly and fairly into the examination, after two years of testing and proving, it convinced him of its truth. Dr Elliotson, a very scientific man, and for years violently opposed to Spiritualism, so soon as lie was willing to enquire, became convinced, and blesses God for the knowledge of it. De Ashburner, his fellow editor of the 'Zoist,' has also long been an avowed Spiritualist. Mr. Alfred Wallace, a scientific man, and excellent naturalist who was on the Amazon with Mr. Bates, has published his conviction of its truth. Sir Charles Weather stone, some time ago, on seeing some remarkable phenomena in his own house, declared them real. And just now, on the Home and Lyon trial, the public have seen Mr. Varley a man of first-rate science, the electrician to the Electric and International anti the Atlantic Telegraph Companies, come forward and make affidavit of his having investigated the facts of Spiritualism and found them real. Now, after such cases, why this continual cry out for examination by scientific men? Scientific men of the first stamp have examined and reported that it is a great act. Scientific men by the hundred and the thousand have done it, and yet the crowd go on crying for a scientific man. Why? Simply because it is much easier to open their mouths and bleat as sheep do in a flock, than exert their minds and their senses. It is time that all this folly had an end. There are now more Spiritualists than would populate Scotland seven times over at its present scale of population, and surely the testimony of such a multitude, including statesmen, philosophers, historians, and scientific men too, is as absolutely decisive as any mortal matter can be. And pray, my good friend, don't trouble yourself that your neighbors call you mad. You are mad in most excellent company. All the great men of all ages who have introduced or accepted new ideas were mad in the eyes of their contemporaries. As I have said, Socrates and Christ and St. Paul were mad; De Cans was mad; Thomas Gray, who first advocated Rail- page 4 ways, was declared by the 'Edinburgh Review,' mad as a March hare. 'They are the illustrious tribe of madmen by whom the world is propelled, widened as by Columbus, and enlightened as by Bacon, Newton, Des Cartes, and the rest of them who were all declared mad in their turn. And don't be anxious about Spiritualism. From the first moment of its appearance to this, it has moved on totally unconcerned and unharmed, amidst every species of opposition; misrepresentation, lying, and obstruction, and yet has daily and hourly grown, and spread, and strengthened, as it no such evil influences were assailing it. Like the ocean it has rolled its billows over the slimy creatures at its bottom, and dashed its majestic waves over proud man who dared to tread within its limits; and whence comes this? Obviously from the hand which is behind it—the hand of the Great Ruler of the Universe. For my part, having long perceived this great I have ceased to care what people say do against Spiritualism; to care who lives or does not believe; who comes in or stays out; certain that it is as much part of God's economy of the Universe the light of the sun, and will therefore on and do its work without our efforts oppose or advance it.

Yours faithfully,

Wm. Howitt.

P.S.—I do not enter into the Home an Lyon question; whatever may be the re merits of the case, Mr. Home, as you say is but one small atom in the great system of Spiritualism. Its truth in no degree depends on the individuals who profess any more than does christianity on it individual professors.

Printed at the "Bruce Herald" Office, Tokomairiro.