Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
A Lecture Delivered by Prof. Alfred R. Wallace
at Metropolitan Temple,
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: This lecture on spiritualism was both more financially lucrative than any other Wallace delivered over his long career, and reprinted more often than any other of his many works. The reproduction below is taken from the 1 September 1887 issue of The Harbinger of Light, a Melbourne (Australia) spiritualist newspaper. Original pagination from that source indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S398.htm
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:--The good people of San Francisco, at least that portion of them present in this large and intelligent assemblage, owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Albert Morton for securing the services of so eminent a lecturer as will address you to-night upon a subject of such vital importance to humanity. All honor to the man, say I, who has the courage to follow the truth wherever it may lead, and to assert his convictions thereof in the face of a skeptical and conservative world. The scientific thought of the present day is so materialistic in its tone and teachings, is really so little schooled in the occult laws and forces that dominate the material universe, that it needs an old-fashioned baptism of the Holy Ghost to bring it to a realising sense of its relation to the Infinite Spirit, and in harmony with the eternal fitness of things. I say that the scientific world is so skeptical upon these subjects that it affords many of us a great satisfaction to be able to note such noble exceptions as Professors Crookes, Varley, Zollner, Hellenbach, Flammarion, Hare, and last, but not least, the distinguished scientist, Prof. Alfred Russel Wallace, whom I now have the pleasure of introducing to you.
If the question should be finally decided in the negative, if all men without exception ever come to believe that there is no life beyond this life, if children were all brought up to believe that the only happiness they can ever enjoy will be upon earth, then it seems to me that the condition of man would be altogether hopeless, because there would cease to be any adequate motive for justice, for truth, for unselfishness, and no sufficient reason could be given to the poor man, to the bad man, or to the selfish man, why he should not systematically seek his own personal welfare at the cost of others.
The well-being of the race in the distant future, set before us by some philosophers, would not certainly influence the majority of men, more especially as the universal teaching of science is, that the entire race, with the world it inhabits, must sooner or later come to an end. "The greatest good to the greatest number," that noble idea of many philosophers, would never be admitted as a motive for action by those who are seeking their own personal welfare. The scoffing question, "What has posterity done for us?" which influences many men even now, would then be thought to justify universal self-seeking, utterly regardless of what might happen to those who come afterwards. Even now, notwithstanding the hereditary influences, the religious belief and religious training in which our characters have been moulded, selfishness is far too prevalent. When these influences cease altogether, when under total incredulity and with no influences whatever leading men to self-development as a means of permanent happiness, the inevitable result will be that might alone would constitute right, that the weakest would always and inevitably go to the wall, and that the unbridled passions of the strongest and most selfish men would dominate the world. Such a hell upon earth as would thus be brought about will happily never exist, because it would be founded upon a falsehood, and because there are causes now at work which forbid the disbelief in man's spiritual nature and his continued existence after death.
Let us, then, consider what is the nature of these causes and influences, and how it has happened that earnest scientific seekers after truth are so often the advocates of a disbelief which, if it became universal and if founded on truth, would be so disastrous to humanity.
Until the last century the bulk of civilised mankind implicitly accepted the belief in a future life and in the essential spiritual nature of man. Now the most advanced thinkers reject it as not founded on evidence, as incredible or even as impossible. A considerable portion of the more intelligent among working classes adopt their teachings. What is it that has brought this about?
The belief in a future life has been bound up with, and perhaps rested upon, the belief in the existence and occasional appearance on earth of spiritual beings, of the spirits of the dead, and of such popular phenomena as ghosts, visions, warnings, premonitions, etc. Beliefs of this nature prevailed almost universally up to about two centuries ago, when they came to a comparatively sudden end, and have since been treated by the educated in general as fables and superstitions, and this view has become so general and so ingrained that many people will not allow that the question is even open to discussion at all, even to admit the possibility of such phenomena as actual facts, but consider it the mark of ignorance and degrading superstition. This almost sudden revulsion of feeling (for it is mere feeling, not belief founded on knowledge and inquiry) may be, I think, clearly traced to the current action of two powerful causes: one of them the witchcraft mania of the middle ages, the other the rise of physical science.
The witchcraft mania which prevailed through the whole of the middle ages grew in intensity and horror until it culminated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during which thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of persons, most of whom were perfectly innocent and many of them far wiser and better than their accusers, were tortured and massacred in the belief that they had held actual personal communication with Satan. The whole religious world was permeated with the belief in diabolism, so that any accusation was sufficient to cause a person once arrested as a witch or a wizard to be convicted. Innocent men, women, and children by thousands were murdered to satisfy the craving after the excitement of demoniacal revelations that then prevailed. Some who visited the sick and healed them were accused of effecting cures by satanic power and burned as witches.
The horror, the wickedness, the superstition and absurdity of many of these witchcraft persecutions naturally led to a reaction among intellectual and humane people. They saw that much of what they believed was certainly false; they too hastily concluded that there was no truth underlying, and it was at this very time that all these horrors were being perpetrated that the sun of modern science rose and shed its splendor over the world. Galileo, Copernicus, Harvey, and Bacon, Newton and others were then investigating the phenomena of the material universe, while Berkeley and Descartes were laying the foundation of a skeptical philosophy; men's thoughts were being led away from superstitious horrors to the contemplation of nature and of the human mind, and then witchcraft with the very groundwork of belief in the spiritual and future immortality of man became branded as unclean and superstitious.
Mr. Lecky, in his important work on "The History of Rationalism in Europe," says that this change of opinion was not founded on evidence and reason, but merely on feeling and impulse. He admits that the facts and arguments were alike in favor of the beholders of the reality of the phenomena of witchcraft. Such men as Glanvil, Dr. Henry More, and Robert Boyle, the [[p. 3530]] most illustrious scientific man of his age, with all the judges of England, including Lord Hale--men who had all of them either personally investigated the facts or carefully weighed the evidence--were met only with ridicule or with the weakest show of argument. When judges refused to convict and punish witches, the whole subject dropped out of the sight and knowledge of the intellectual world.
There is another very interesting and important reason why there was, or appeared to be, a sudden cessation of the witchcraft phenomena. Witches, in our opinion, are persons who are peculiarly gifted, and what we now call mediums, and who during at least three or four centuries were systematically persecuted and murdered. The result was that all having these peculiar gifts were exterminated out of the world, and the natural result was that the phenomena of which they were the cause, or mediums, ceased to exist, till a fresh crop as it were of these peculiarly gifted individuals had grown up.
Now since that time science and man's command over nature have advanced with giant stride, while philosophy has sounded the depths of the universe and has found no standing ground of the supernatural. Heat and light and electricity have been traced to the motions of the molecules of matter; even vital forces, the forces upon which depend the growth and motion of the organic world, have also been shown to be transformations of that energy which has been traced back to the molecular motion of matter. This dependence of life itself upon matter has produced in the existing generation of scientific men a frame of mind which finds no place in nature for spirit, and which believes that matter in motion, the very molecular matter which we see and feel and weigh and measure, comprises the whole universe, is the source of all the forces and all the manifestations of life that exist or that can possibly exist.
This skepticism is so widespread that it pervades the churches themselves. Bishop Colenso and Charles Voysey are but the extreme wings of a body of intelligent clergy who do not believe in miracles as a scientific fact.
Science has penetrated so far into the mysteries of nature without finding spirit that it cannot believe that spirit exists, whilst physiologists who have traced every manifestation of mind and brain work are unable to believe in the possibility of any mind without a corresponding material brain.
It is in the midst of this nineteenth century world of thought, a world which is either grossly materialistic or pantheistic or idealistic, that modern Spiritualism has fallen like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, emphatically demonstrating the action of mind without any material mind, and the exertion of force without any material body, and that by means of a vast amount of constantly recurring facts, which have forced themselves upon all classes--men of science, men of business, men of religion. It is in the most materialistic epoch of the earth's history, in the midst of a society which prides itself on discarding all superstition and basing its belief on the solid foundation of physical science, that this new and unwelcome visitor has intruded itself, and maintained a vigorous existence for more than thirty years; has made its way into every civilised country in the world, has an extensive literature, a large number of papers, and hundreds of organised societies, counts its converts by millions in all kinds of society--among the crowned heads and aristocracy, and those who occupy the highest ranks in science, literature, and philosophy, as well as among the masses--while in hosts of individual cases it has done what no religion has been able to do, convinced the skeptic and the agnostic and the hard-faced materialist of the reality of a spiritual world and of a future life.
Considerable acquaintance with the history and literature of this movement--in which I have myself taken part for twenty years--has failed to show me one single case in which any man who, after careful inquiry, has become convinced of the truth and reality of the spiritual phenomena, has afterwards discredited it or regarded it as a base imposture or delusion. And it must be remembered that as a rule all educated, and especially all scientific men, come to the investigation of this subject with a very strong prejudice against it, as being almost certainly based on credulity and fraud which they will easily detect and expose. This was the frame of mind with which the inquiry was begun by Prof. Hare, the first American chemist of his day; by Judge Edmonds, one of the most acute and truth-seeking of American lawyers; by the Hon. Robert Dale Owen, a most intellectual and philosophical materialist; by Mr. Crookes, one of the first chemists of the present age, and by scores of others that could be named. These men all devoted not a few hours or days or even weeks to a hasty examination of the subject, but many years of patient inquiry and experiment, and the result is in every case that the more thoroughly the subject was investigated, the more able and intelligent the inquiries, the more seriously do its foundation facts and main doctrine become established.
Its whole course and history, therefore, proclaimed it to be neither imposture nor delusion, nor the survival of the beliefs of savages, but a great and all important truth.
I will now briefly enumerate the varied phases of the phenomena of Spiritualism, and will then consider what is their bearing on the doctrine of a future life.
The phenomena may be broadly divided into two groups: physical and mental. The former, however, as well as the latter, almost always imply the action of mind in their production.
In the first division we have simple physical phenomena, and among which must be grouped an immense variety of effects, such as sounds of all kinds from the most delicate tick up to blows as loud and vibrating as those produced by a sledge hammer, and certainly not produced by human agency. Then we have the alteration of the weight of bodies, which has been often tested. I have frequently seen in the presence of the celebrated medium, Mr. Home, a large dining table weighed in a bright light, when there was no means of deception. This table changed its weight to the amount of thirty or forty pounds.
Then again we have the phenomena of articles of various kinds being moved without human agency, such as chairs, tables, and musical instruments. These are the most common and familiar phenomena to all those who have investigated the subject. Still more curious is the conveying of bodies to a distance; flowers and fruits are the most common of these, but also other bodies, such as letters and various small objects have been conveyed long distances--sometimes several miles.
Then again we have that curious phenomenon which is recorded more or less throughout history, the raising or levitation of human bodies into the air and sometimes conveying them a considerable distance. These have been repeated over and over again under various circumstances, and have even included living persons. I will in illustration of this mention one remarkable circumstance of the kind which I observed myself, because it happened to occur when there was no professing medium present. It was in a friend's house in London. An artist and his family held séances once a week; on one occasion the medium was not present, being ill, and one of the daughters, who had proved to be a medium, was in a remarkable manner moved about the room. On this occasion we put out the light as usual, the young lady sitting between her brother and a friend, who held her hands. The darkness in this case, you will see, was one of the conditions which render what happened still more difficult. After a little while the two persons who held her hands said, "She is gone." On that instant a light was struck and she was found lying at full length upon a broad mantel some feet away, with her clothes tucked around her so that she lay perfectly comfortable. This was a thing she could not have done under the circumstances in the dark.
More remarkable by far than these, because beyond all human power to produce, is the tying of knots on endless cords, the taking of coins out of sealed boxes, and the passage of solid rings over a body far too large for them to pass over by any natural means. All these [[p. 3531]] things happened in the broad daylight in the presence of Zollner and two of his colleagues. He has recorded them most accurately in a work which many of you know.
On other occasions a very curious thing happened, and that was the apparent passage visibly of matter through matter without disorganising or disrupting that matter. I have frequently myself seen, in good light, sticks and handkerchiefs pass through a curtain, yet an examination of the curtain immediately afterward did not show any change in it whatever.
This enables us to understand many of the other phenomena which are happening every day. This concludes a rough outline of what we may call the simpler of physical manifestations.
Then we have physical phenomena combined with mental phenomena, such as direct writing and drawing. This is now such a general phenomena that almost every one may have the opportunity of testing for themselves. It appears in an infinite variety of ways. Papers thrown upon the floor and taken up a few minutes afterwards are found to be written upon; papers inclosed in looked drawers are found to be written upon; spirit-writing comes upon the ceiling in inaccessible places. Then again is that which occurs in closed slates and often in the presence and under the hand of the person witnessing it. Often these communications are lengthy, and not infrequently contain matters of private interest to the persons who receive them. They often occur in languages which the medium does not understand; sometimes they occur in languages that no one present understands and which they have considerable difficulty in getting interpreted, but generally, I think, they are interpreted and found to be some definite language. A friend of mine in England obtained in his own family, without any other medium, writing in a language they did not understand, and which he had the greatest difficulty in having interpreted, until he found a missionary from the South Sea Islands, to whom it was familiar. It was correctly written, and no one in the house knew a single word of it.
Then another wonderful physical phenomenon is the writing in colors of various kinds which are not present to produce them. Drawings occur also in equally varied forms. Some of these are done in pencil, apparently, or in ink; some are done in colours; many have been done, to all appearance, in water colors, and taken up in a few seconds are found to be wet; others are done in oil colors. There are instances where the visitor has received a painting on a card from which he had first torn off a corner, showing that the picture was produced on the same card.
Then we come to another set of phenomena which may be termed musical phenomena. Musical instruments are played; sometimes locked and closed pianos are played. I have seen a musical box which has played and ceased playing at a person's request. One of the most remarkable phenomena, and which has been seen by tens of thousands of persons, was the playing upon an accordion held only in one hand, the keys being touched and played upon by invisible hands, producing most beautiful music.
Then we have chemical phenomena. These consist chiefly, first, protection from the effects of fire. Mr. D. D. Home--recently dead, and perhaps the most remarkable medium that ever lived--used to take out of the fire a brilliant red hot mass of coals, carry them about the room in his hands, and by his peculiar power could tell certain persons who were able to have them placed in their hands, and they would never feel them. On one occasion the well-known writer, Mr. S. C. Hall, had placed upon his head a great mass of burning coals which shone through his white hair, and was witnessed by a large party present, and his hair was not scorched and he felt no pain whatever.
Another of the curious phenomena is the production of luminous bodies apparently giving out a bright phosphorescent kind of light. These have been examined by Prof Crookes; he has had them placed in his hands, and he makes the declaration that modern chemistry is unable to account for them, and not able to produce anything like them.
Passing on from these we come to another set of phenomena still more marvellous called materialisation, or the production of temporal spiritual forms out of surrounding matter. The first produced were human hands which sometimes wrote visibly, could be touched and were tangible; then human faces were produced; then after a considerable time the entire human form was produced, and it has now become very common, as it was promised some ten or fifteen years ago; but we all doubted whether that could be the case; nevertheless, it is a well known circumstance thoroughly decided by all persons who have investigated this subject. Mr. Crookes examined this subject many years ago, and has published the results.
The examination was critical and carefully carried on for weeks together in his own house, in his own laboratory, with all his own methods. These figures were photographed, weighed, and measured; he did everything that a scientific man possibly could, and he has declared that absolutely and positively they are real existences--spiritual existences--because they are only temporary; they come and pass away again. These materialised bodies are now not unfrequently actually seen to form and then seen to dissolve again into a mist and finally totally disappear. We have, therefore, the most absolute and perfect proof that these things are realities.
Then we come to another set of phenomena which serves as the most perfect scientific test of the reality of these phenomena you can possibly have, that is the power of photographing these forms. If they were not real they could not be photographed; but we have photographs of those seen and of those that are not seen. These photographs have been taken not merely by professional photographers, but frequently taken at home in the private laboratories of amateurs who have studied the subject solely to arrive at the truth, who have no possibility of being deceived, and who have demonstrated that these photographs are realities.
Still further than photographs is another marvellous phenomena, and that is the production of casts of hands and feet and even faces of these temporarily formed spiritual beings. These cases were made in melted paraffine. Paraffine is melted in a large quantity of boiling water, and the hands have to be dipped in the melted paraffine, and then are taken out and are left floating in another vessel of cold water beside it. These moulds are found entire, so that the aperture at the wrist is much smaller than the hand. Certainly no human hand could come out of it. Feet have been produced in the same way, which must have been accomplished by some unseen power. In one case a gentleman in Washington obtained in this way a cast of two clasped hands complete to the wrists. That is an absolutely physical impossibility for any human being to do.
A nobleman in Paris a few years ago carried out a long series of experiments on this subject. After hands and feet had been moulded, casts of faces and figures were obtained, male and female, of Greek type. The medium was a very ordinary person, as I know him personally. These casts are to be seen in London, and are exceedingly beautiful; and, moreover, were recognised at once by this gentleman and by an American gentleman, with whom I conversed about it, as forms they had seen produced by materialisation, and at their request, the casts were produced.
This concludes an outline of the chief and most remarkable physical phenomena.
Now we come to mental phenomena. These mental phenomena are more interesting to Spiritualists, but generally the less interesting and less convincing to the outside public who are skeptical. They consist first of what is termed automatic--that is, writing done by the hands of persons against their will or without their will; done involuntarily--the matter that is written is not known to them. Sometimes they think it very silly, and would not write anything so foolish; at other times it is clever, and beyond their power to produce. We have every kind of writing produced in this way; much of it gives good advice, sometimes information on matters of importance which the person does not know. In one [[p. 3532]] case a friend of mine, and a very eminent physician and physiologist in England, acquired this peculiar power and made a special study of it for many years. He commenced it merely as a curious physiological study; it has become a constant habit with him now, and is of great service to him in his business, frequently warning him that as a physician he would be called to a certain patient at a certain time, which is invariably correct.
Then another set of phenomena is termed clairvoyance and clairaudience; the seeing of spirits and the hearing of spirits. Persons who have this power are able to describe what they see and describe the words they hear in such a manner that the friends of these spiritual persons are able to easily recognise them. Sometimes these persons are able to give information of what is going on at a distance.
Then another of these curious mental phenomena is trance speaking. There are mediums now in all parts of the world who have this wonderful faculty. It begins generally almost or quite involuntarily. The person goes into a trance, and then begins to speak without knowing it. After a time they gradually get to know they are speaking, but do not themselves voluntarily speak on the subjects that they are discussing. Many of these are, at first, ignorant persons, utterly without the knowledge and power to speak on the subjects they do speak on.
One of these English trance speakers, Mr. J. J. Morse, is now in this city, and many of you no doubt will hear him. I saw him in London many years ago when he was first developed. At that time Sergeant Cox, a great literary man, said: "I have put to him the most difficult questions in psychology, and received answers always full of wisdom in choice and elegant language, yet a quarter of an hour afterwards he was unable to answer the simplest query, and was even at a loss for language to express a commonplace idea."
There is another interesting little test in connection with this medium, which I think I was the means of bringing forth myself. His spirit-guide (whom I believe is so still) gave a Chinese name at the time, and claimed to be a Chinese philosopher; he gave the name of Tien Sien Ti. At that time, I believe, nobody knew what this meant. I happened to have a friend who had been an interpreter to the government in China, and one day I asked him, without mentioning anything else, what this name meant. He answered: "Why, that means heavenly spirit guide." I think that is a wonderful test.
Then again we have a remarkable power connected with this trance speaking, which many mediums have, the power of impersonation, or it may almost be called transfiguration. The medium seems taken possession of by another person, and acts the character so perfectly in voice and manner, and sometimes even in change of countenance, that he or she resembles the person who wishes to manifest themselves, and is recognised by their friends. This resembles, when the agency is powerful and sometimes disagreeable, almost exactly what was called in olden time demoniacal possession. Sometimes persons in this state are able to hold conversations with persons who speak a language of which they have no knowledge themselves. We have the most positive evidence of this that can possibly be obtained, in the case of Judge Edmonds, whom I have mentioned. His own daughter, a young lady who had an ordinary school education, frequently spoke and held conversation in many European languages, and some Indian, which her father declares she had no knowledge of whatever in her natural state.
I may mention that Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker, a sister of the late Henry Ward Beecher, is one of these remarkable personating mediums. She has the power of going into a trance, and during that time her countenance and figure change apparently so as to resemble those who speak through her.
Then we come to another singular power--we can hardly say whether physical or mental. It is the power of healing. There are various forms of this power. The medium is able to see and describe the whole internal anatomy, see the disease, tell exactly where it is, and what it is, and prescribe the remedy. In other cases the medium is able to effect a cure by touches of the hand.
Now here we have a series of twelve distinct classes of phenomena--twelve great roots of phenomena, each of which includes an enormous variety of separate phenomena, often varying from each other. These occur with mediums who are of all ages and conditions, educated and ignorant, young girls and boys as well as grown women and men. In every one of these classes the phenomena have been submitted to the most critical examination by thousands of clever and skeptical persons for the last thirty years, and in every one of these classes of phenomena have been as thoroughly demonstrated as any of the great facts of physical science. In view of the numerous eminent men who have investigated this matter and given us their decision, we may entirely throw aside the idea that imposture, only in a slight measure, has produced these various phenomena.
We will now pass on to consider what are the great striking characteristics of these phenomena. Looked at as a whole what do they teach? In the first place, they seem to me to have the striking characteristics of natural phenomena as opposed to artificial phenomena; they have the character of general uniformity of type coupled with variety of detail. In every country of the world, whether in America or Europe or Australia, whether in England or France or Spain or Russia, we find the phenomena of the same general type, while the individual differences among them show that they are not servilely copied one from the other. Whether the mediums are men or women, boys or girls, or even in some cases infants, whether educated or ignorant, whether even they are civilised or savage, we find the same general phenomena occurring in the very same degree of perfection.
We conclude, then, that the phenomena are natural phenomena; that they were produced under the action of the general laws which determine the inter-relations of the spiritual and material worlds, and are thus in accord with the established order of nature.
In the next place--and this is perhaps the most important characteristic of these phenomena--they are from beginning to end essentially human. They come to us with human actions, with human ideas; they make use of human speech, of writing and drawing; they manifest wit and logic, humor and pathos, that we can all appreciate and enjoy; the communications vary in character as those of human beings; some rank with the lowest, some with the very highest, but all are essentially human. When the spirits speak audibly, the voice is a human voice; when they appear visible, the hands and the faces are absolutely human; when we can touch the forms and examine them closely we find them human in character, not those of any other kind of being. The photographs are always the photographs of our fellow creatures; never those of demons or angels and animals. When hands, feet or faces are produced in paraffine moulds they are all in minutest details those of men and women, though not those of the medium. All of these various phenomena are of this human character. There are not two groups or two classes, one of which is human and the other sub-human, but all are alike.
In the face of this overwhelming mass of evidence, what are we to think of the sense or the logic of those who tell us we are all deceived, and almost all these communications and these phenomena come from what they call elemental spirits, or rather low spirits who have never been human? Evidence for this belief I can find none whatever that is not of the most flimsy description. It might be illustrated by our receiving a letter from Central Africa written in good English writing, on American or European paper, written with a steel pen, good chemical ink, and simply because it was signed Satan or Elemental, we should jump to the conclusion that all that region was inhabited by devils or elemental spirits.
Passing now from the general view of the essentially human character of spirit manifestations, we find a mass of evidence of identity of the spirits who communicate with us, of actual men and women who have lived upon the earth.
[[p. 3533]] First, we have a general proof of this in the fact of the special languages used in these communications. Any country where English, French, German, or any other language is spoken, the bulk of the communications are in those languages respectively. The Indian spirits who so often in this, their native country, act as the controls of mediums, usually speak in broken English, or some mixture of Indian. Written communications come in many languages, usually intelligible to the recipient, but sometimes, as I have said, not so, and given as tests of spirit power, but always they are some known human languages. To suppose that any lower class of beings should have developed all the forms of human civilised speech seems grossly absurd.
Coming to the special points of the identity of spirits with deceased human beings, the evidence is abundant. I will mention a case or two illustrative of this point, taken from my own personal experience, or from the experience of personal friends from whom I have had them direct.
One of the most interesting demonstrations of personal identity was given to me by a gentleman in Washington--perhaps he may be known to some of you--Mr. Bland, a well-known friend of the Indians. He had frequent sittings with a lady medium who was not professional, not paid, but a personal friend of his own. Through this lady medium he obtained frequent communications from his own mother. He knew nothing of spirit photographs, but on one occasion his mother, through this medium, told him that if he would go to a photographer in Cincinnati (I think in Cincinnati he was then living) that she would try and appear upon the plate with him. No photographer's name was mentioned--merely a photographer. He asked the medium if she would go with him. They went out together and went into the first photograph gallery they came to, and asked to have a sitting. They both sat down together and the photographer took the picture of the two, and when he developed the picture said there was something wrong about it because there were three faces instead of two. They said they knew it and it was all right, and to Mr. Bland's astonishment there was the third face, but it was not the face of his mother. This is very important from what follows. He went home and inquired how it was that the face of somebody else came upon the plate. The spirit of his mother then told him that this was a friend who had gone with her who was more experienced in this than she was and had tried the experiment first, but if he would go a second time she would then appear herself. They did so, and on the second occasion the portrait of his mother appeared. Then a friend suggested, to avoid all possibility of doubt of the photographer having got hold of a picture of his mother, that he ask her to appear again upon the plate with some slight change in her dress, which would serve to show it was not a trick of any kind. They went the third time. On this occasion there was another picture, very much like the first, but with this slight difference that she wore a different brooch. These three pictures he showed to me, and I had the account of them from his own mouth. Assuming that he has told the truth, I see hardly any possibility of arriving at any other conclusion than that there was a real communication between himself and his deceased mother.
Another clear and striking test case was given me by a friend in Washington, a gentleman of the United States army. He has been studying Spiritualism for nearly thirty years. He has had frequent communications from a daughter who died many years ago. On one occasion there came to him in the real visible form a beautiful young lady that he did not know, but who gave her name as Nellie Morrison, and she said she was a friend of his daughter. The next day his daughter came and he asked her who Nellie Morrison was, and she told her father that she was a friend of hers; that she was the daughter of a certain officer, said what his rank was, and all about him, and that he died in Philadelphia. He then made inquiries and ascertained that there was such an officer by that particular name, and that he died at the time alleged. Then he thought he should like more information, so the next time one of these spirits came he asked for further information. He was told that this young lady died also in Philadelphia, where she died, what was her age, and gave the address of her mother-in-law with whom she had lived several years previously. My friend went to Philadelphia, first of all called at the place where she was said to have died, found it perfectly correct; then called upon the mother-in-law, and found that correct.
Then on another occasion this figure appeared again, and she was remarkable for having most beautiful golden hair, and he asked whether he might have a piece of this hair cut off. He cut off some of this hair, and kept it, has it still, and showed it to me. He went again to call upon the mother-in-law and simply showed this hair--very remarkable in color. The moment she saw it she said, "Why, that is Nelly's hair."
There was still one more test on another occasion. When his daughter appeared to him, his daughter spoke of this young lady as Ella. He asked if her real name was Ella, and she answered that they used to call her Ella. He therefore wrote to the mother-in-law to ask whether her daughter-in-law's name was called Ella, and found it was correct.
But what makes this series of tests most marvellous and most wonderful, they were all obtained, not from one medium but from different mediums, at different times, and in three cities. There is an accumulation of tests one upon the other, that it seems to me impossible to explain or to get rid of in any other way than that of genuine spirit manifestation.
As a personal case is better than any second-hand, I will also give you one which happened to myself in America, though not so marvellous as those I have just stated. I had a brother with whom I spent seven years of my early life. He died more than forty years ago. This brother before I was with him had a friend in London whose name was William Martin; my brother's name was William Wallace. I did not know his friend's name was William, because he always spoke of him as Martin; I knew nothing more. But my brother has been dead forty-four years, and I may say that the name of Martin has never occurred to my mind, probably at all during the last twenty years. The other day when I was in Washington attending some séances there, where people receive messages on paper, I received, to my great astonishment, a message to this effect: "I am William Martin; I write for my old friend William Wallace to tell you that he will on another occasion, when he can, communicate with you." I am perfectly certain that only one person in America knew my brother's name or knew of the relation between my brother and Martin, and that was my brother here in California. I am perfectly certain that no person in the East could possibly have known either one name or the other. Therefore it seems to me this was a most remarkable proof of identity.
A volume could be filled of similar and even far more startling facts, proving the personal identity.
Yet there are many people who have had only the smallest glimpse of the subject who say, "O yes, the facts may all be true, but these things are certainly not produced by spirits of dead men, for that is absurd." I ask, "Why absurd?" I have never received any rational answer whatever. I have never been able to find out why it is absurd.
I will now briefly call your attention to a few of the historical and moral teachings of Spiritualism, supposing it to be true. It seems to me to be no small thing that the Spiritualist is able to accept as history much that the scientist is obliged to reject as imposture or delusion. The Spiritualist can look upon the great Grecian philosopher, Socrates, as a sane man, and his demon as an intelligent spiritual being or guardian angel. The non-Spiritualist is obliged to believe that one of the noblest and purest and wisest of men was not only subject all his life to a mental delusion, but was so weak or foolish or very superstitious during his whole life as not to discover that it was a delusion; they are obliged to hold that this noble man, this subtle reasoner who was looked up to, loved, and admired by the great men who were his pupils and disciples, was imposed upon by his own fancies, and during a long life never discovered they were fancies. It is a great relief not to have to think thus of Socrates.
In the next place, Spiritualism allows us to believe that the oracles of antiquity were not, from beginning to end, impostures, and that the most intellectual and acute people that ever lived upon the globe were not all deceived. We are told by the historian Plutarch that the prophecies of certain oracles never proved false or incorrect. Would such positive statements be made by such a writer if these oracles were all guesses or imposture? The recorded experiences and demonstrated facts of Modern Spiritualism alone enable us to understand these more ancient recorded facts.
Then again, both the Old and the New Testament are full of Spiritualism, and Spiritualism alone can reconcile the Bible with an intelligent belief. The hand that wrote on the wall at Belshazzar's feast, and the three men unhurt in the fiery furnace, are to Spiritualists actual facts which they need not explain away. St. Paul's statements in regard to Spiritual gifts are to them perfectly intelligible. When Christ cast out evil spirits we can believe that he really did so. We can believe that he turned water into wine, and that the bread and fishes were renewed so that five thousand were fed, as extreme manifestations of power which is still daily at work among us.
Then again, the miracles imputed to the saints come into the same category. We can understand that the great and good St. Bernard performed wonders in broad daylight before thousands of spectators, and which are recorded by eye witnesses. He himself was much troubled by them, wondering why it was such a great gift was bestowed upon him, and feared lest it should make him less humble.
Then again, witchcraft is intelligible to the Spiritualist. Many of the characteristics and phenomena of witchcraft he has witnessed. He is able to separate the facts from the absurd inferences of the people who viewed it with superstition and regarded it as diabolism, which false interpretation resulted in all the horrors of the witchcraft times.
Spiritualism demonstrates the existence of forms of matter and modes of being which are unacceptable from the standpoint of mere physical science. It shows us that mind may exist without brain, and disconnected from any material body that we can detect, and it destroys the presumption against our continued existence after the physical body is disorganised or destroyed.
It further demonstrates, by direct evidence as conclusive as the nature of the case admits, that the so-called dead are still alive--that our friends are often with us, though unseen, and give direct proof of a future life, which so many crave, but for want of which so many live and die in anxious doubt. How valuable the certainty to be gained from spiritual communications, removing all questionings as to a future existence. A clergyman, a friend of mine, who had witnessed the spiritual phenomena, and who before was in a state of the greatest depression caused by the death of his son, said to me; "I am now full of confidence and cheerfulness; I am now a changed man." This is the effect of Modern Spiritualism on a man who had before that rested his belief in Christianity. And this is the best answer to those who ask, "What is the use of it?" Yet many still ask this question, still seek for what they term some practical good, some effect on their material being.
Let us consider for a moment what would be the answer of a missionary who was asked by a Zulu or a Chinaman, "What good will Christianity do me? Will it make me live longer? Will it cure me when sick? Will it save my crops from blight? Will it give me good luck in gambling? Will it make me able to conquer my enemies?" Would not the missionary have to reply that it would do none of these things? And yet many who ask this question believe in and pride themselves on their Christianity and civilisation again and again ask the very things of Spiritualism, as if these were the only result which, in their opinion, would make it worth having. To such I can only say that I pity their ideas of spiritual truth.
The essential teaching of Spiritualism is that we are all of us in every act and thought helping to build up a mental and spiritual nature which will be far more complete after the death of the body than it is now; just as this mental fabric is well or ill built, so will our progress and happiness be aided or retarded; just in proportion as we have developed our higher mental or moral nature, or starved it by misuse or undue prominence or physical or sensual enjoyment, shall we be well or ill fitted for the larger life. Spiritualism also teaches that every one will suffer the natural and inevitable consequences of a well or an ill spent life; and the believer receives certain knowledge of these facts regarding a future state.
Even the existence of evil, that problem of the ages, may be dimly apprehended by Spiritualists as a necessary means of spirit development. The struggle against material difficulties develops the qualities of patience and perseverance and courage, and undoubtedly the fruits of the ages, mercy, unselfishness, and charity could not possibly be exercised and trained except in a world where wrong and oppression, misery and pain and crime, called them into action. Thus even evil may be necessary to work out good. An imperfect world of sin and suffering may be the best and perhaps the only school for developing the highest phase of the personified spiritual existence.
I have now, my friends, to the best of my ability, given you an outline of the facts and teachings of the philosophy of Spiritualism. If I shall have induced even one or two of you to inquire for yourselves earnestly and persistently into this momentous question, I shall be fully rewarded. I now wish you farewell.