Imatges de pàgina



MONG the many "isms" that, in the

fall according to its own inherent truth and

A general fermentation of thought and consequent vitality, and its adaptiveness to

opinion, have risen to the surface, Spiritualism seems to some, in spite of its millions of representatives, the most repugnant. The two great powers that rule the civilized world, Science and Religion, unite in deriding it; there is no derogatory epithet they are not ready to bestow upon it, partly from a certain condemnation de parti pris, and partly from a sense of loyalty to a time-honoured piety and its stereotyped belief; and yet, despite its repeated exposés, the obnoxious thing grows in strength, spreads its doctrines in all parts of the globe, and gives to the world a new and already vast theological literature. Surely this fact alone ought to command to some extent the serious attention of the observer of the moral phenomena of the present day.

It is not the least surprising that a phenomenon that comes in such "a questionable shape," so en-dehors all propriety, all orthodox opinions of what should constitute spirit-life, should be so stigmatized and defamed.

In every great prophetic epoch of history, sacred and profane, we find the Herodprinciple endeavouring to crush the revolutionary idea born within its realm. Lowly independence, defying in its simplicity the arrogance of human wisdom, has ever been a thorn in the flesh of the learned world, and all redemptive movements have had to suffer the crucifixion that was to vitalize their cause. Spiritualism, however, in these better days, has had all the chances of growth any new movement could desire. The rebuffs it meets with occasionally are amply compensated for by generous acknowledgments and signal successes; and though in many quarters it still calls forth a smile of pity or contempt, it stands, nevertheless, a recognised power in the eyes of some of the ablest thinkers of our time. Its future is therefore in its own hands; it must stand or

the spiritual and moral growth of the individual and of society.

Among the strong testimonies in its favour, appears, in the October number of the Westminster Review, 1875, the following:

"Religions are not made, they grow; their progress is not from the enlightened to the vulgar, but from the vulgar to the enlightened. They are not mere products of the intellect, but manifest themselves as physical forces too. The religion of the future is in our midst already, working like potent yeast in the minds of the people. It is in our midst to-day with signs and wonders, uprising like a swollen tide, and scorning the barriers of Nature's laws. But however irresistible its effects, they are not declared on the surface. It comes, veiling its destined splendours beneath an exterior that invites contempt. Hidden from the prudent, its truths are revealed to babes. Once more the weak will confound the mighty.

"Spiritualism will establish, on what professes to be ground of positive evidence, the fading belief in a future life-not such a future as is dear to the reigning theology, but a future developed from the present-a continuation, under imposed conditions, of the scheme of things around us.

"From the unexampled power possessed by this new religious force of fusing with other creeds, it seems likely, in the end, to bring about a greater uniformity of belief than has ever yet been known."

Dean Stanley and the Rev. Mr. Haweis might be quoted to the same effect. On the scientific side, meanwhile, Messrs. Crookes and Wallace testify to the genuineness of spiritualistic phenomena. The former owes even his recent valuable discovery of the radiometer to his spiritualistic investigations. While endeavouring to secure evidence of the movement of inert matter

poised in a vacuum, in the presence of a medium, he detected mechanical movements due to the action of light, which led to the production of this little instrument, which not only demonstrates the conversion of light into mechanical motion,* but by the addition of electrical attachments, forms by far the most perfect photometer or light measurer which has hitherto been produced. In a recent lecture on the subject, the eminent physicist frankly acknowledges the source of his discovery, and is not ashamed to say at the conclusion that "all the results he had exhibited had been obtained in consequence of his examination of an anomaly (Spiritualism) contrary to all ordinary experience. Anomalies were of the utmost value to men of science; they were gateways leading to new researches, and to the establishment of reputations."

All this may prove nothing in favour of Spiritualism, but it certainly goes to show that the subject has excited sufficient interest to engage the attention of men whose scientific reputation is established and unquestioned.

There are, no doubt, many cases in which one or other of our senses may, for the time, testify only to deceive us ; but where several persons of recognised integrity of character, sound judgment, and a scientific, not mystic, turn of mind, have so familiarized themselves with the phenomenon as to be able to investigate it in all its bearings, and thus place themselves above the suspicion of having "their faculties suspended by awe," it seems that we are hardly justified in distrusting the evidence of sense in regard to it; for, as remarks a distinguished divine: "In some circumstances our senses may deceive us; but no faculty deceives us so little or so seldom; and when our senses do deceive us, even that error is not to be corrected without the help of our senses."+ That, despite the most minute and careful investigations of the subject by scientists of marked ability, the mystery remains still unsolved, is no reason that it is unsolvable. This circumstance goes rather against the

I'Mr. Crookes's conclusion has been questioned by some scientists who have repeated his experiments, on the ground that the motion in question may be due, not to light, but to radiant heat. The objection seems to us futile, radiant light and heat being identical in their physical basis.-ED. C. M.] "Tillotson's Works," Sermon xxvi.

investigator, who may not be using the right means to accomplish his object. We need to employ other means than Tyndall-analysis to penetrate 'the veil that hides spiritual truths. The application of science to spiritual things is like trying to discover the motive power of a complicated machinery through the Kantian philosophy, instead of using its legitimate instruments-hammers and screw-drivers. Nor are spiritual phenomena likely to be determined by electric batteries, or ropes and cages.

These modes of investigation can at best only serve to establish the honesty or dishonesty of a medium. The communication itself, to be free from suspicion, must, after all, bring its own truth with it. Whatever, therefore, this unknown force, attested by such authorities as the above, may yet be called, it is at present an undeniable force; and if, as Coleridge says, "there are errors which no wise man will treat with rudeness while there is a probability that they may be the refraction of some great truths as yet below the horizon," were it not better, instead of deriding it, to hold on to it, and, "wait in patience for the explanation of the rest ?" There is no telling what, in these absurd dark séances, may not yet come to light.

It is, however, chiefly the phenomenal side of Spiritualism that shocks conservative religious thought. It is certainly next to an insult to impose upon a devout and rational mind the absurd idea that Divine truths can be revealed to the human race through "prancing and gyrating tables." But to the philosophic mind nothing should be absurd. The question is not whether it is dignified in a spirit to use pieces of furniture to communicate with his brother spirit in the flesh, but whether it is a fact; and if so, our preconceived notions of spirituality will have to give way to it. That "the existence of a disembodied spirit must be supersensual, and that it is impossible for anything supersensual to produce sensible evidence," is undeniable; but it does not follow therefrom that a disembodied spirit cannot, by some means to us as yet unknown, project, under certain conditions and by the power of will, an image, consisting, it may be, of those very "films of matter that evade the touch, and are visible to the material eye, and auThe spiritualist dible to the human ear.” does not believe that the shadow he sees,

or the rap he hears, is the spirit proper; he allows it to be a mask, an as yet unexplained force exercised upon the air and surrounding objects by means of electric currents or magnetic influences. Intelligent experiments have shown that this communicating force claims to be of spiritual agency; and so long as nothing has yet proved the contrary, it is not altogether unreasonable to credit it as far as it goes.

Much of the absurdity attached to the phenomena vanishes when we examine the belief upon which they are based. The spiritualist believes that "the visible and invisible" worlds are as intimately related as the spirits and bodies of men. The latter is conceived to be the animating soul of the former, from whose vital centre emanate all the mysterious forces displayed in the outward creation. By the law of their relation, their elements commingle, and by the force of mutual attraction their respective inhabitants associate together. All men, and indeed all gradations of form and life in the natural world, are influenced by super-terrestrial causes, and hence all life, as revealed in organic forms, depends on a perpetual influx of vital principles from sources invisible, spiritual, and divine.* The student of the Swedenborgian doctrine will find that the tenets of Spiritualism are, in the main, the same as those of the Swedish seer. Spiritualists believe in one God, Divine Love and Wisdom, omniscient, self-existent, the Primal Cause from which all things proceed according to Divine order. They generally regard Christ as a natural, spiritual, and divine man, and the Saviour of all those who allowed themselves to be guided by His teachings and His example. They do not believe that the sinful soul is susceptible of a sudden conversion, and experiences a radical change through death. It is what it is, what its earth-life has made it, strong or feeble in good-evil being in their eyes but a negation—and they believe that it is the degree of the soul's assimilation with the divine spirit that will determine its heavenly bliss. In regard to the Bible, they conceive it to be so far the word of God as the Spirit that giveth life can communicate through the imperfect medium of human language; that the divine influx reaches us through imperfect channels; through Moses

* "Rational Spiritualism," by S. B. Brittan.

in the form of law, through Jeremiah in awful warnings, through David in holy Psalms, through the Apostles in practical spiritual truths; but more or less beclouded by the medium and his time, leaving it to the advanced spirituality of successive generations to read the text more and more comprehensively. It is evident that, if a belief which imposes upon the human race the necessity to lead a true life if it would reap happiness hereafter, could become an experimental conviction, it would prove an immense moral lever in the world.

We believe the inspired apostle who declared that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit," and the able expounder* of this text, who says "that if God's existence be not thrilling in every fibre of our heart, if the immortal be not already in us as the proof of the Resurrection, the law of Duty be not stamped upon our soul as an Eternal Truth, unquestionable, a thing that must be obeyed, quite separately from all considerations of punishment or impunity, science will never reveal these." No; science will not, but love will. Early Christianity held in reserve for its Thomases, signs and wonders; and if in those primitive days the man of weak spiritual apprehension was helped by these outward means, why may not the modern sceptic? Science has demonstrated away from under his feet all ground for a hope in immortality, and leaves him floundering in a sea of probabilities, unmanageable problems, and despairing negations. The Christ-principle is swallowed up in a deluge of scientific claims and literary religion. Before this apotheosis of annihilation, which the vanity of science glories in, what refuge is there against moral lawlessness? Whom will the materialist ever persuade that it is noble to work unselfishly for one's race? What human soul can take an interest in a race that has no future? and what is that race good for?

Mr. Goldwin Smith, in his article on "The Immortality of the Soul," whilst admitting that the clergy are cornered by the men of science, says that "apart from

*Frederick Robertson.

+ CANADIAN MONTHLY, May, 1876, p. 408.

Revelation there is enough to make a man reflect seriously before he finally determines to act on the belief that there is no hereafter." We ask what is it, if it is not the very thing the spiritualistic theory rests on, that profound wisdom as revealed in the simple confidence of the little girl of Wordsworth's "We are Seven," which puts to naught all the accumulated logic of the present day. But whilst this intuition is strong in some, it is weak in others who crave a more objective evidence. Grant that this objective evidence is encumbered with rubbish many a pearl has been picked out from a rubbish heap. The miner in search of gold must handle much sand and mud before he finds the coveted metal. The spiritualist puts up with much that is worthless to obtain the least indication of the reality of the Beyond. The husks he is accused of feeding on are to him, in themselves, an indication of the generous grain; and, even were they empty, being hungry he considers it wiser to partake of what he can get, than to fast at the risk of total


But surely there must be something in

that frank laugh that goes up at our expense from spiritualistic quarters:

"As though they held the corn and left us only chaff,

From garners crammed and closed, and we indeed are clever,

If we get grain as good by thrashing straw for


But to conclude. The signs of the times are of too portentous a significance to allow the least to be passed by unobserved. Spiritualism, with all its gipsy appearance, may for once read us a true prophecy. Its philosophy and curious phenomena point indubitably to the ultimate absorption of science in religion

in a physical religion, full of realities, such as Swedenborg has so scientifically set forth in his spiritual states, and which, recognising the spirituality of matter, the impossibility of spirit divorced from matter, will, through the (as yet) mysteries of electricity and magnetism, reveal in the end, to the riper mind of the future man, the hidden bonds that unite the apparently perishable to the obviously imperishable.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]




LTHOUGH my name is Arachne, I | am only a spider. Do not be disappointed at this, kind reader, for heathen mythology declares that I was once what I

am not now.

In years gone by I was a fair young virgin in the Province of Lydia. My father's name was Idmon, and our home, the perfection of happiness and peace, was at Colophon. He was celebrated as a dyer of purple, and I seemed to have inherited his ingenuity, perseverance, and skill. The maidens of Lydia delighted in all manner of household work, but I had the honour of being the inventor of spinning and weaving. Others soon copied from me, and a spirit of rivalry sprung up amongst the fair ones of Lydia. However, I soon surpassed them all, and felt happy, joyous and free, as the virgin queen of the maidenly art.

Unfortunately my success made me haughty and disdainful, as is too often the case with favoured maidens. In my pride I became presumptuous. O, if I had only been contented with my unrivalled success, and had not listened to the sweet rippling tongue of ambition! But I was infatuated, and did not know what the wise man had written: "A man's pride shall bring him low." To the astonishment and terror of all my companions, and, in fact, of the whole country-side, I sent a challenge to the great Minerva Athena, goddess of the fine arts, to compete with me at my favourite employment. They tried every means to dissuade me from my rash intention, but I was deaf to every entreaty. Even when the goddess accepted the invitation I did not fear her presence, nor did I for a moment imagine any evil results.

When the time came I felt nerved for the occasion, although the odds seemed to be all against me. We had each our distaff and loom, and I took for my pattern the amours of the gods. After we had woven till the shades of evening were gathering around us, it was pronounced that I was the

[ocr errors]

victor, the champion spinner and weaver of creation. I felt my bosom heave with pride when I heard these welcome words, and I stood disdainfully watching the angry countenance of the defeated Minerva. Alas, that I should have so completely forgotten myself, and the might of her who had just opposed me! I have no doubt that it was my sinful conduct then, more than the fact of victory, that proved the forerunner of impending ruin. It is one thing to excel in skill, and another to surpass in power. I was champion of the one, but she was mistress of the other. My sun had risen steadily with my ripening maidenhood, until on that day it had stood at its zenith, but, now it was soon to set for ever. Minerva was the goddess of war, and wisdom also, and she soon displayed her shrewdness, as well as the refinement of her cruelty. She had been planning as she sat on the ground, exhausted, beside her broken distaff and shattered loom, whilst I had been exulting as I stood, fanned by the evening breeze, and drinking in the plaudits of an admiring multitude. At last she arose and stood before me. Her black eyes glittered and her lips quivered with half-suppressed emotions of malice and rage, as she suddenly seized hold of my faultless pattern and tore it into a thousand shreds. Then striding up to where I stood, she took a part of my loom and with one stroke felled me to the earth. As my senses were leaving me, I heard the shouts of the multitude, and not knowing whether they were cheers or jeers, I fancied that their approbation of me had turned into loathing and contempt.

When I returned to consciousness I found that I was alone, and that the shades of evening had faded out into the gloom of a starless night. O, how miserable I felt ! Struck by the great Minerva, and now the goddess of gods against me! Pride and ambition had been my counsellors, and like Ahithophel of old, when most needed, their suggestions were weighed in the balance

« AnteriorContinua »