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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 42

Spiritualism. Addressed to the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland

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Magna Est Veritas, et Prævalebit.

To the Reverend the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland—

May it Please Your Reverend Synod

I have taken the liberty of Dedicating this short pamphlet to you.

First,—Because some of your number are enquiring after the subject of Spiritualism, and have thought it expedient to give public lectures thereon, and write essays in a publication entitled The Evangelist.

Second,—Because as teachers of religion, it is part of your duty to carefully study all that relates to man's immortal part, and a future state of existence.

Third,—Because many of your number, in common with the leaders of other religious sects, are, I fear, lamentably ignorant of the whole subject. Hoping your Reverend Synod will look upon this Dedication with favour,

I subscribe myself, your most obedient servant,

A Spiritualist.

Dunedin, .

"All who have been seriously following up the subject [Spiritualism] and have been gradually coming into communication with their departed friends, have bit by bit, lost the fear of death. Many indeed look forward to it as to a promotion.—Varley.

"Before you condemn Spiritualism, or any other novelty, sit down five minutes, and ask yourself what you know about it? As yet, no man of standing has thoroughly examined the matter for the purpose of exposing it, but has been convinced of its truth."

"History offers no example of a religious belief which, in less than 22 years, has attracted such a large body of Disciples.

"The proportion of the sex among the followers of the faith may be stated as 70 per cent, of men, and 30 per cent, of women.

"The majority of Spiritualists consists not of ignorant, but of educated and intelligent persons. Everywhere it has spread from the higher to the lower ranks of society, and has never taken an opposite direction.

"Spiritualism is more readily adopted by Sceptics in religion, than by those possess[unclear: ing a]

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One of the questions agitating the minds of the thinkers of the clay is—What is Spiritualism? Is it a science? Or is it legerdemain? Is it animism? Or has it any affinity to electricity or to odie force? are ever and anon asked and answered, as was to be expected, in many ways. Spiritualists assert the existence of certain phenomena, and state theories for their appearance, while the non-or anti-spiritualists, are divided in their opinions. It may be well to shortly state what Spiritualism, as understood by Spiritualists, really is, and then examine some of the objections which have been urged against the spiritual theory.

The philosophy of Spiritualism may be summed up in the following assertions:—
  • First, That man is endowed with an immortal spirit.
  • Second, That after the death of the body this "spirit" finds itself in a new phase of existence.
  • Third, That in this state of existence, spirits manifest themselves to, and hold communications with, mankind, and thus demonstrate the reality of the immortality of the soul.
  • Fourth, That in spirit fife there is progression as infinite as knowledge.
  • To sum up, there is—First, Man's immortality. Second, Spirit communications. Third, Progression in spirit life.
The proof of these statements rests not on argument, nor on theory. The Spiritualists point to "facts," though declaring at the same time, that their "creed" can stand the most minute scrutiny, as being both logical and consistent. Some of the greatest men of the day are produced as witnesses to the following, among other facts namely:—(1) That matter, such as tables, chairs, &c., are moved by unseen influences. (2) That intelligent communications are received to answers put, without human agency, in a manner yet un-explained by any known laws. (3) That voices are heard which do not appertain to any one in the flesh, and that substances are seen, called spirits. The names of gentlemen of eminence who have identified themselves with Spiritualism are sufficient to prove that, whatever it may be, it demands investigation. When such men as Whately, Howitt, Lyndhurst, Dr. Elliotson, Dr. Asburner, Victor Hugo, Robert Chambers, Alfred Wallace, Gerald Massey, Professors De Morgan and Varley, Robert Buchanan, Tennyson, Garrison, Professor Hare, Denton, Mapes, and Judge Edmonds, besides many eminent Continental scientists, have said they are Spiritualists, it will not do to try and explain the phenomena, except on some rational basis. And when Spiritualists assert, that their creed is not new, that the wise in all ages have expressed their belief in, at all events, some of their tenets, that with Milton, many have stated that—

"Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep,"

Spiritualism assumes an importance which neither ridicule nor denunciation can get rid of. Moreover, the appeal is not to a system, or to a book however revered. It is to phenomena—to fact. Spiritualists do not say, "Believe. To all they say, "Come and see." "Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." Moreover, Spiritualism is not confined to a sect, nor to a race. Its creed is universal. In all nations, and among all religions it has its disciples. Believers in Spiritualism may differ in many respects, and hold various beliefs, but in the cardinal points of "Immortality," "Progression," and "Communication," they are united.

The phenomana which all acknowledge, have been already stated; and as, when the objections are considered, they will be more fully referred to, it will now be necessary to state how these facts are met. There is no unanimity in the objectors' camp. There is one class who deny the phenomena, another who partially admit it; while some are even to be found who admit the facts to the full, and offer various theories in page 3 explanation. Those who emphatically deny the existence of the most usual phenomena, such as table rapping, knocking, writing, music, instrumental playing, and inspirational speaking, will not be convinced by argument. They will admit nothing except that which is tangible to their senses. They must "feel the nail prints" and convince themselves by touch. To such it is useless to treat of the subject before they have experienced the phenomena. To tell them that there are thousands of facts that can only be proved by the testimony of others, is of no avail. "Let us see," is their retort. They imagine that the many learned men who have examined the subject, have not their penetration; some "mesmeric sleep" must have blunted their senses. Let these clever people appear, and spiritualism will be exposed and "found out." Those savans have an opportunity of proving their sincerity in their own ability.—Signor Damiani, an Italian of distinction, has recently published the following offers:—

"I challenge you, or either of you, [George Henry Lewes and Professor Tyndall] or any of the public, who, like you, disbelieve in the genuine character of spiritualistic phenomena, to deposit in the hands of any well known London banker, whom you or they may name, the sum of five hundred guineas, and I pledge myself, to immediately deposit in the same bank a like amount—the ownership of such sum of one thousand guineas, to depend upon my proving by evidence sufficient to establish any fact in history, or in a criminal or civil court of justice—

"First—That intelligent communications and answers to questions put, proceed from dead and inert matter, in a manner inexplicable by any generally recognised law of nature.

"Secondly—That dead and inert matter does move without the aid of any mechanical, or known chemical agency, and in defiance of all the admitted laws of gravitation.

"Thirdly—That voices appertaining to no one in the flesh are heard to speak, and hold rational converse with men.

"A jury of twenty-four gentlemen, twelve to be chosen by each party, (such jury to consist exclusively of members of the learned professions and literary men), to decide whether or not, the facts contained in the above propositions are conclusively proved per testes, i. e., by witnesses of established character. A majority of the twenty-four to decide. If the verdict be, that these facts have not been established, the thousand guineas are to belong to the party accepting this challenge; if the verdict be, that these facts are established, the thousand guineas to be mine.

"Secondly—Immediately upon the above wager being decided either way, I offer a like challenge of five hundred guineas, (to be met on the other side as above)—the ownership of this second sum of one thousand guineas to depend upon the establishment of the facts contained in the propositions already given, by experiments conducted in the actual presence of the twenty-four gentlemen who have decided the previous wager; the verdict of the majority to decide in this case likewise. In either case, the seances are to be conducted in any public or private building, which the jury may select, and which may be available for the purpose. The result of these challenges (if accepted and decided) to be advertised by the victorious party at the expense of the defeated party in all the London daily papers." Here is an opportunity for those who talk of "jugglery," "chicanery," and "humbug," distinguishing themselves! Moreover, there are many mediums now, to whom they can go, and test the matter for themselves, and perhaps this is the proper mode of investigation.

There is, however, another class of objectors who do not use argument, but rest their main stay on ridicule. To them it is a subject of inextinguishable laughter. They, as a class, have always flourished in the world. There has never been a discovery, never an invention, but what these extraordinary wise people were there to ridicule. As Galvani has said, to may the Spiritualist page break repeat—"I am attacked by two very opposite (?) sects, the scientists and the know-nothings. Both laugh at me, calling me 'the frogs' dancing-master.' Yet I know I have discovered one of the greatest forces in nature." But "ridicule" never yet proved a theorem or solved a problem. Laughter is the last resource of small minds, and used when a subject is stated to them that they cannot comprehend. What better than to exercise the risible faculties, when their minds get bewildered—what an air of self-importance it gives?—Every quack knows the potency of ridicule, but when it is the mainstay of the anti-spiritualists, most educated people will be inclined to question its power and influence. Besides these two classes, there is yet another who make vast assertions. A pamphlet recently published in Melbourne by a Mr Turner, is a sample of the "logic" of this class. Mr Turner makes the following four statements:—"(1) That the belief in such a power is not warranted by the results. (2) That the nature of the testimony on which it relies for support is eminently unsatisfactory. (3) That its teachings are vague, contradictory, often mercenary, and inextricably confounded with fraud and chicane. (4) That its acceptance as an article of belief can only be accomplished by an entire surrender of our reasoning and enquiring faculties, and a practical denial of those fundamental cosmic laws, on which alone true science can rest." Now, would it be believed, that Mr Turner begins to prove his case by denying the existence of nine-tenths of the phenomena which he pretends to explain? His explanations to get rid of the facts are, "stupefaction caused by a phase of hypnotism!" and "It has been justly said, that the very disposition to look for something out of the ordinary course of nature, makes one incapable for the time of distinguishing what actually happens, from what is expected to happen." So that Mr Turner, who has never witnessed any of the higher phenomena, while admitting the lower, has to talk of "stupefaction" and "hypnotism," and to explain the lower, uses animal magnetism, mesmerism, od force, "or, whatever we call these mysterious phenomena which have been almost reduced to a science by Reichenbach, &c." In fact, anything sooner than admit the spirit theory. As for Mr Turner's fourth ground, that Spiritualism is against cosmic laws—this means that Mr Turner understands all the cosmic laws, and is as valuable an argument as has been urged against these very mysterious (!) forces he hesitates how to designate. There is nothing new but what the would-be scientific men, meet by saying, "But if this were true, a great many of our theories would be upset, and sooner than allow that, why not state it is against the fundamental cosmic laws on which alone true science can rest. It is the old story of the Paduan professor of philosophy and Galileo. Look through the telescope—of course, not. It is against cosmic laws, and would be a surrender of "our reasoning and enquiring faculties."

There are, however, other objections offered, and theories attempted to be made out by scientific men; some say: (1) Spiritualism is od force, &c. (2) Animism. (3) The development of an intelligence by emanation from our bodies who without our knowing anything about it, form themselves into a distinct personality that raps, writes, and carries on general conversation, makes witty and moral observations—but thinks profoundly.

(1) Spiritualism cannot be od force. Od force has no intelligence. It at best is simply matter; it has no life, has no knowledge; and wanting these, the phenomena are inexplicable on such a theory. It is somewhat strange, that Reichenbach and Dr. Ashburner who have done so much to acquaint the public with the existence of "odyle," should have confessed themselves Spiritualists. Neither can electricity aid the anti-spiritualists. The most noted electrician in Britain is an avowed Spiritualist. How can electricity act? It must he set in motion. If a telegraphic communication is received, it is not caused by electricity, the electric fluid is only the medium, there must be the operator. But neither electricity, nor od force, nor any of these "mysterious (?) forces" can explain one tithe of the occurrences at the seances. A musical instrument played by unseen operators, or ponderous bodies moved [unclear: to perform]

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(2.) Then there is animism, or mind acting on mind. While granting that the action of "mind on mind," is but imperfectly understood, and that there exists a kind of brain telegraphy, that our savans are, as yet, totally ignorant of; yet this brain theory cannot account for one hundredth part of the phenomena nightly witnessed at spiritual seances. This theory at once fails if a communication is received, in answer to a mental question, of a nature which the questioner did not understand. To be of any avail in accounting for Spiritualism, it must be shown that the answer given to the verbal question, was known to the questioner. There are thousands of instances on record, in which the questioner was totally ignorant of the answer received. To take an example from Owen's "Footfalls": The wife of Captain Wheatcroft, residing in Cambridge, dreamed she saw her husband, (then in India.) She immediately awoke, and looking up, she perceived the same figure standing by her bedside. He appeared in his uniform, &c. She did not sleep that night. . . . . . In due course, a telegram arrived, stating that Capt. Wheatcroft had been killed before Lucknow, on the 15th November. A certificate was obtained from the War Office to the same effect. Mr. Wilkinson being informed of the incident visited a friend, whose wife has all her life had perceptions of apparitions. He related to them the vision, when Mrs. N. suddenly said, "That must be the very person I saw on the evening we were talking of India." In answer to Mr. Wilkinson's questions, she stated, she learned he had been killed in India, about nine o'clock in the evening by a wound in the breast. She did not recollect the date, but on enquiry she remembered she had paid a tradesman's bill on the same evening, and on bringing it to Mr Wilkinson for inspection, the receipt bore date the 14th November. Three months afterwards a letter was received from a friend of Capt. Wheatcroft's, Capt. G. C. wherein it was stated that the Captain had been killed on the 14th, not on the 15th, and that Sir Colin Campbell's despatches were so far incorrect. The War Office corrected the mistake, and a new certificate was issued. Now this incident is of itself sufficient to show, that animism cannot explain the phenomena. The "unreason" of this explanation is only on a par with others which anti-spiritualists are in the habit of adducing.

(3.) The last theory offered by scientific men which will at present be noticed, is one which does not require much argument to dispose of. It is nothing more nor less, than an attempt to make out that "emanations" from a certain number of living persons, become created into a distinct personality, endowed with human powers. The very fact that a "personality" must be created for such seance, and that when the "emanations" cease, this newly created "individuality" must cease also, proves that some people will go any length to explain away Spiritualism sooner than admit its theory. When however, it is remembered that the same "spirit" is present at different seances, and shows that it possesses "a memory," and relates incidents known only to a few, and not to those present, the absurdity of this last explanation becomes more plain. So much for the "explanations" offered by those who term themselves scientific men.

There are yet two objections urged against Spiritualism. (1.) That it is unscriptural, and from the Evil One. (2.) Granting that it is all that it pretends to be, What good is it? or the cui bono argument? It is unwise to use this argument of being contrary to the Bible, nay, when it is remembered how this same objection has been brought forward against almost all new discoveries of God's laws, it is dangerous. There was hardly ever a discovery, or a reformation, but what was contrary to Scripture, or instigated by, what is termed, the Devil. Astronomy, chemistry, magnetism, all had to meet these objections; and even Christ's teaching was of Beelzebub. But Spiritualists are not afraid to meet those who urge such arguments. They assert that in all religions are to be found facts witnessing the truth of their creed, and that the Bible is a vast record of Spiritual manifestations. They point to the page break darkness being necessary at some of the seances, it may be stated that darkness is necessary for the production or manifestation of many forces in nature, and inquirers are referred to the numerous books (upwards of 400 vols) published by J. Burns, Southampton-row, Holborn, London, W.C., and others for full explanation. Spiritualists are at present placed in no enviable position. As Mons. Pierart has said, "As for us, we are poor fools, ridiculous creatures, imbeciles, and that because we have the candour to avow that we examined, studied, experimented, felt, handled, and have determined the evidences of facts, whilst you have seen nothing, know nothing, and who, notwithstanding deny hardily, are sages, people of sense, oracles perfectly infallible." This is, no doubt, the cause of the number of Nicodemeans to be found in the Spiritualists' ranks.

That in New Zealand—in every province—there are vast numbers of Spiritualists, is well known, but as yet there is no sufficient organisation. It is hoped, however, the time is not far distant, when the example of other places will be emulated, and progressive lyceums, &c., be founded. With a spiritual creed of "One God, one belief in immortality, and one common destiny, in the great To Come," there is not much fear of progress.

That there will be "buffetings," "ridicule," and "nonsensical reasoning," to endure, is well known, but as A. J. Davis has said, "The commandments of truth are high and imperious; and her true disciples never hesitate to follow whithersoever she leads. Any theory, hypothesis, sect, creed, or institution that fears investigation, openly manifests its own error." And therefore notwithstanding the cries that will be raised of "Our craft is in danger," and

Great is Diana of the Ephesians," the words of M. Pierart may be quoted:—"To you, Spiritualists, will belong the glory to have been the first to clear this great consolatory way, to have prepared a new era. Have faith, then, combine your efforts, associate your intelligence—your exertions—propagate the Truth. It is given to you to prove the existence of the benefits which flow from the Divine inspiration, and which are diffused through all nature, till we learn to understand and to avail ourselves of them."


A friend, who has looked over the proof, suggests that some mention should be made of the wonderful cures effected by Spiritual Mediums by the laying on of hands, etc. Space will not allow a lengthened notice; it may, however, be stated that the Zouave, M. Jacob, at Paris, and Dr. J. R. Newton, of Bloomer House, Buffalo, New York, U. S., and the Rev. Mr Young, Church of England clergyman, of Wiltshire, are three noted healing mediums, and that at their command the paralytic walk—the blind see—the deaf hear, and diseases of long standing are removed. In the "Banner of Light" for October 21, 1869, names of persons, well known in America, are given, who have been cured by Dr. Newton, and if there were any quackery in the cures, the 4000 journals in America would surely have exposed it. Hundreds visit healing mediums, and many cures as wonderful as those performed by Christ and His Apostles, are effected, thus evidencing that the miracles performed by Christ were not myths, nor confined to one age.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Synod, who has just retired, stated in his sermon, that Spiritualism, or rather as he termed it "a new infidelity," had made astonishing progress throughout the civilised world, and seemed destined to spread still further. Apparently he imagines the vitality of the orthodox faith has received a rude shock which the clergy will need at once to see to. So impressed indeed are some of the clergy with this idea, that the opening address of the newly-elected moderator, was a jeremiade over the non-success of the Church. It is well to sec that some, at all events, of the clergy are a live to the "Signs of the Times." Might it not be suggested that Spiritualism, considering the manner in which it has been received—its success being without parallel—is destined to be a "Faith" to the multitudes who are crying after some help to get rid of the cold materialism which stares them in the face? [unclear: His people]