Massey: the Langham Place Lectures (1)

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LONDON, MARCH 29, 1872.



    Most of us have friends who mean well, but have an unfortunate way of allowing it.  They damn us with faint praise, without intending to do so!  We may know their little peculiarities and allow for them, but outsiders may not.  All illustration of what we mean occurs in the last number of the Spiritualist.  Here it is: "Mr. Gerald Massey will shortly give a series of four lectures at St. George's Hall, on Spiritualism, in which he will answer the objections recently advanced by Dr. Carpenter and others.  Although he is not the man to do battle with scientific weapons, he will bring to bear that common sense of which Dr. Carpenter speaks so highly, and as he is a lively and talented essayist, his lectures will doubtless be of considerable interest.  He is supported by a committee of some of the leading friends of Spiritualism."  No doubt the writer of this meant well, but if he had been patronising a youthful writer for Punch he would have been much nearer the mark.  Mr. Massey has no doubt written "lively" and" talented" essays, seeing that he was for many years a contributor to the Quarterly Review, the Athenaeum, North British Review, and various other periodicals, but his only essay before the public is the one "Concerning Spiritualism."  Our contemporary does not seem to know that Mr. Massey has been heard of as a poet here and there, now and again, all round the world.  Sixteen years before our contemporary was born, Mr. Massey was universally hailed as a new and genuine poet when he published his" Babe Christabel, and other Poems," of which five editions were called for in one year.  As a poet, and "the first of all who in our time have sprung from the people," he was placed on the Civil List for a literary pension, by Lord Palmerston, many years ago.  For the benefit of our contemporary and others, we will subjoin a few more facts, selected from a memoir of Mr. Massey which was printed some time since.  Twenty years ago he was lecturing on Spiritualism amongst the Secularists, &c., at John Street and the Hall of Science, City Road.  He started and edited the Spirit of Freedom in 1849; was engaged working on behalf of Co-operation with the "Christian Socialists" in 1850-1-2; was London correspondent of the New York Tribune in 1854-5; contributed a large number of sketches to the "Men of the Time" (second edition, 1856); edited an Edinburgh paper in 1855; published "Craigcrook Castle" in 1856; "Havelock's March, and other Poems," 1861; "Shakspeare's Sonnets and his Private Friends," 1866—a labour of love and of three years' research, aided most potently by spiritual revelation.  "A Tale of Eternity, and other Poems," was published in 1870.  For ten years Mr. Massey reviewed for the Athenaeum; during four or five for the Quarterly Review; and for ten years he wrote for Good Words.  He has been a lecturer during some fourteen years—one of the highliest prized—and has delivered more than five hundred lectures in the three kingdoms. Here are two or three opinions of him as a lecturer:—

"Never have lectures given more delight and satisfaction than those of Gerald Massey."—Newcastle Chronicle.

"They are full of beautiful gems exquisitely set."—Hertford Mercury.

"For two hours he kept the large audience—comprising the noblest minds in Newcastle—entranced, as he grandly pleaded the Pre-Raphaelite cause. * * * * At the close of the lecture, which was throughout a poem, the audience broke up with praises of the poet-lecturer on their lips.  Never was lecturer more successful—Gateshead Observer.

"The Bishop of Derry (Dr. Alexander) expressed the peculiar satisfaction he felt in being there to welcome to the good old city of Londonderry a man of real genius, and a genuine poet.  Mr. Massey was there to discharge a duty for which, himself a poet of a high order, and a subtle critic, he was eminently qualified."—Londonderry Paper.

"All who were there thoroughly enjoyed the hour and a half with a wit and poet.  The opening of his lecture was marked by such an incessant play and sparkle of puns and other witticisms as to suggest that the spirit of Hood was present in person.  A lecture more humorous, more pathetic, more exhaustive, more interesting or delightful, was perhaps never delivered."—Gloucester Journal.

"There was all the humour—all the wit—all the pathos—written as it were in Lamb's own style.  None but a poet could have brought out the quiet pathetic touches of Lamb's life as Mr. Massey brought them out.  There was all the light and all the shade of the charming picture."—Northern Whig.

    As a poet, Mr. Massey began as the advocate of unpopular opinions, for he was, and is, essentially the poet of the people—of the poor.  And yet he succeeded at once in conquering the recognition of the rich man's press, as the following brief extracts will show:—

"Here is another poet, and one whose story and position as a teacher and a preacher clothe him with unusual interest."—Athenæum.

"A man who has fought his way to the temple-gate of fame, sword in hand. May his Summer day be fair as the spring dawn is bright!"—Times.

"There is a real glow about all Mr. Massey writes."—Edinburgh Review.

"Heartily do we congratulate the age that sees the advent of the poet of 'Babe Christabel.'"—Church and State Gazette.

"In whatever part of the field of literature we meet him, he deserves recognition as u writer of earnestness and ability, who has achieved success under circumstances which, in the case of the vast majority of men, would have involved total failure."—Guardian.

    Many years ago the London Review said: "The career of Gerald Massey marks an era of progress in the history of his country.  It shows how the people are advancing, and prefigures their coming possession of political power.  Brave, honest, free-spoken Gerald Massey!  He has won his own independence, and his now recognised title.  From his mind emanates the flower of poetry, that is destined to live and give forth sweet odours, over fresh and ever new, as long as our English language is a living tongue in this world."

    "It is in some respects unfortunate for Mr. Massey that, where he is at his very best, his poems do not challenge criticism at all.  We receive them; rest in them; and occasional lines dwell with us with a lingering tenderness that oftenest imposes reticence.  Like some of Uhland's they are charged with the Heimwch, the longing look-back, or rather let us say the longing look-up, which supervenes on great and crushing experiences.  Their sensuous beauty is one thing, their suggestion for the crushed soul is quite another thing, and it is impossible their whole beauty should be seen save through the latter; and then the human heart is scarce in a mood for speech, even to utter its gratitude for words of cheer and helping."—Nonconformist.

    We are privileged to quote a letter lately received by Mr. Massey after one of his lectures into which he had skilfully inserted a good deal of Spiritualism:—

"Nov. 27, 1871.

Y DEAR SIR,—I thank God that He has permitted me to see your face in the flesh, and I hope that I may one day have the privilege of clasping the hand that penned the "Wee White Rose." Eight years ago we laid our darling firstborn in the grave, and many a time, in the weary days that followed, your sweet words made music in our lonely hearts, and my husband and I have cried together over them, and loved you for writing them. Now he too has gone, and another precious child since, and I have less left on earth than in heaven.

"I have no right to trouble you, but, I must thank you out of the abundance of my heart for the sweet comfort that mingled with your words to-night. I feel sure you will be glad to know that you made one desolate heart to sing for joy—yet you taught no new doctrine, but just what Jesus Christ Himself teaches in his word concerning those that "sleep in Him." God bless you for the way in which you unfolded such a blessed truth! I think I shall meet you in the "upper sanctuary," if I do not down here, and I shall thank you again then. With loving and grateful thanks, I am, my dear Sir, most sincerely yours."

    Of his later works, we are pleased to know that Spiritualists are making themselves more or less acquainted with them.

    So that, on the whole, we do not think Mr. Massey deserves to be made known in our ranks as a "lively essayist."  He does not come amongst us either to win his spurs or to have them hacked off.  He is no dilletante Spiritualist, but one who has lived face to face with the phenomena in his own house during fifteen years.  Our contemporary suggests that Mr. Massey is not the man to answer Carpenter "with scientific weapons."  What are they?  The Quarterly Reviewer's weapons—those that cut deepest were malevolent misrepresentations, falsifications of fact, and miserable decryings of men who had done some work in the world.  It will be a sufficient answer to Dr. Carpenter for anyone who is manly and knows his subject, to be manly and speak the truth.  Spiritualism is so many years ahead of Dr. Carpenter that he will never overtake it in this world.  As for the next, we trust his doom may not be to have to come back after death and try to convince others of the truth which he denied in life, and move his wordless lips in vain across the grave to a world that will not heed him.  He shot an arrow or two which happened to reach our "Psychic Force" friends far in the rear of our movement.  And it turned out that the arrows were poisoned.  This caused their outcry.  But for this circumstance, can any Spiritualist find any real argument in the article to answer?  Dr. Carpenter has not been nearer to Spiritualism than Burns's poet "Willie" was to Pegasus.  Of what avail would it be to demonstrate to him that the universe is not to be measured by a Carpenter's rule, or that it is far easier to get solid bodies passed through walls and ceilings than a new idea through certain big-wigged skulls?  Let Dr. Carpenter go on objecting.  He can't do better for us, and will certainly do for himself.  And let Mr. Massey give us his facts; tell us the story of his particular personal experience; and throw what light he can on the subject generally for the benefit of others.



    In accordance with the promise given last week, we are now enabled to present some particulars respecting the forthcoming course of lectures by Mr. Massey, at St. George's Hall.  The secretary, Mr. Daw, has handed for publication the following list of names constituting the


Rev. Sir William Dunbar, Bart.
Sir Charles Isham, Bart.
Cromwell F. Varley, Esq., F.R.S.
William Crookes, Esq., F.R.S.
George Harris, Esq., F.S.A., Vice-President Anthropological Institute, &c., &c.
Rev. S. E. Bengough, M.A.
H. D. Jencken, Esq., M.R.I., Barrister-at-Law.
Mrs. Makdougall Gregory.
Mrs. Berry.
Mrs. Hamilton.
N. F. Daw, Esq.
James Wason, Esq., Liverpool.
Andrew Leighton, Esq., Liverpool.
Nicholas Kilburn, Jun., Esq., Bishop Auckland.
William Tebb, Esq.
Benjamin Coleman, Esq.
A. C. Swinton, Esq.
Thomas Shorter, Esq.
T. Traill Taylor, Esq.
William White, Esq.

    It also gives us pleasure to report that the invitation, thus influentially presented, has been as cordially responded to by Mr. Massey, who has forwarded to Mr. Daw the following list as the subjects of his lectures:—

Sunday, May 12.

    Facts of my own personal experience narrated and discussed, together with various Theories of the Phenomena.

Sunday, May 19.

    Concerning a Spiritual World in relation to the Natural World.

Sunday, May 26.

    The Birth, Life, Character, and Teachings of Jesus Christ, delineated from a fresh point of view.

Sunday, June 2.

    Christianity and (what is called) " Spiritualism."

    By another week the arrangements will have been perfected for the issue of tickets and means for obtaining the necessary publicity, and in promoting the success of this very desirable course, we have no doubt every Spiritualist in or near London will actively and heartily do his part.



LONDON, MAY 17, 1872.

No. 111.—VOL. III.


    On Sunday last, Mr. Massey gave the first of his course of four lectures on Spiritualism in the above place.  The hall was well filled by an intelligent and appreciative audience, who, although the lecture lasted for nearly two hours, manifested the utmost attention throughout.  It speaks highly in favour of the ability of a lecturer when he can so hold his readers entranced, as it were, for two long hours on a Sunday afternoon, listening to a prelection on that most tabooed of all tabooed topics, "Spiritualism."  But we need to make no gratulatory remarks on Mr. Massey in introducing him to our readers as a lecturer on Spiritualism; he has already made his name known and his works admired in nearly all departments of literature, and, as he himself puts it, has "established his sanity with the world by work done in other departments," before coming out as an advocate of Spiritualism.

    The subject of the discourse on Sunday was: "Facts of my own Personal Experience narrated and discussed, with various theories of the alleged Phenomena."  The lecturer commenced by stating that he was no visionary, and that he had no predisposition to superstition; he had from an early age been obliged to earn his living, commencing with the pitchfork and ending with the pen, and so from youth upwards had been compelled to look hard facts in the face.  His abnormal experience came unsought, by the visitation of God, as it was called.  He had had no wish to "try the spirits;" they had tried him too much; but once being assured of a fact, he dared stand by it before the world even in the minority of one.  It was popularly supposed that poets were born liars; be that as it might, he had spent twenty years of his life trying to tell the truth; but the world was so constituted that it was hard work getting a living by telling the truth.  He had come of a race no individuals of which had ever been known to go mad; nor had he induced an acquaintance with one kind of spirits by too free a familiarity with another kind.  He mentioned these things because they were looked upon by many as the "natural causes of the supernatural."  Like Horatio, he began by doubting everything, and ended by doubting his very doubts.  He considered the fact of Shakspeare's describing Hamlet as doubting the possibility of the continuation of existence, after having confronted his father's ghost only the night before, as one of the poet's profoundest insights, it was well known how hard it is to believe, even though one came from the dead.

    The lecturer went on to say that the only facts he should make use of had come under his own notice, knowing, as he did, "how glory grows out of the haze of distance."  Some two-and-twenty years ago he was invited to see a clairvoyante read without the use of her eyes.  He was asked to place his finger over her eyes so as to prevent her from being able to see.  He knew so little of what was expected of him that be placed his fingers so wide apart that she could see between them.  This lady afterwards became his wife, and he found that this reading by abnormal vision was a fact.  He had never properly understood it before.  Since then, however, he had seen her read so hundreds of times and convince hundreds of people.  Many persons had been prepared for the acceptance of Spiritualism by what they saw of her clairvoyance.  Not only did she read books in this manner, but the human body itself appeared to be diaphanous to her.  She had been made use of in the hospitals to diagnose diseases and prescribe for them.  Her power was just the same whether her eyes were bandaged or not; in fact, if the eyes of the flesh were open she could not read at all.  In elucidation of this wonderful faculty he adduced the following instances.  A young man once asked her if she could see the pain he had.  She said that he must have suffered a fracture of the rib, as one bone was overlapping another.  The young man replied that he had suffered such a fracture, and that he had always feared the bones had not been properly set.  On another occasion an officer came with a friend.  He was dressed as a private gentleman.  He had lost a carpet bag, and wanted to know if it could be found by means of clairvoyance.  She described the bag and its contents, amongst other things a brace of curious silver-mounted pistols of Indian workmanship, then a something which she could not identify.  Turning to the officer, she uttered a scream.  He wore an artificial arm; his own, which be had lost in action, was in the bag, and that was what she had described.  Mr. Massey and the officer ,went to Liverpool in search of the missing carpet bag, but they could not convince the police that they had any clue or evidence to go by.  One morning, on waking up, at seven o'clock, she informed her husband that his mother was dead.  On being questioned as to how she knew, she said that she had seen the black-edged letter put under the bedroom door.  At eight o'clock Mr. Massey himself saw the letter containing the sad announcement put under the door.

    The lecturer here introduced a number of other remarkable instances of the clairvoyant faculty as possessed by his wife, and therefore coming under his own personal experience; but the facts of clairvoyance are sufficiently well known and acknowledged amongst Spiritualists to hardly need any corroborative evidence; although to the world at large, to whom all abnormal or spiritual gifts are a delusion, they are gigantic obstacles in the way of the so-called scientific explanation of things.

    He then entered into some details as to the unfortunate malady of his wife, who through grief at the loss of a beloved child was afflicted with mental derangement, so that at times her mind was quite wavering.  He felt certain that some forms of insanity are nothing but diseased somnambulism, that in reality there is no such thing as insanity of the soul; there was serenity and clearness in the depth of the spirit-life, while all was chaotic in the troubled life of the brain.

    In 1863 this mental ailment took a peculiar turn.  Hitherto he had been able to control it by Mesmerism.  Now, however, he could not get her mesmerised in order to console her.  One Sunday night the doctors insisted on her removal.  He had held out against this alternative for a long time, but now his resolution began to waver.  They had retired to bed, but she was still very violent.  Suddenly he heard a strange noise.  It was like a scratching and scraping and knocking on the footboard of the bed.  At length the noise arrested her attention.  He at first thought it was she who was making the noise with her foot against the hot-water bottle.  She also thought it was he.  The sounds increasing, he procured a light and removed the water bottle.  The noise went on.  It appeared as though a rat were in the room gnawing at the foot of the bed.  Then he thought a dog was in the room, and was scratching on the boards.  His wife insisted that there was a dog in the room.  He turned up the bed and mattress, but without finding any explanation of the mystery.  The scratching and scraping, occasionally culminating in a rap, somewhat like the brushing of a dog's tail against the footboard, still continued.  His wife screamed that she could not stand it.  He bore it for some twenty minutes.  Once he wondered if it were possible that there could be burglars in the room below, and that they were giving them the benefit of an electric battery to distract their attention.  But there was no one there.  At length he called the servant, without, however, telling her the reason why.  She sat down on one side of the bed.  She now passed through similar stages of wonderment to what they had done.  At first she seemed inclined to run away, but finding that he could stand it, she fancied she could too, and so did not bolt as she had intended.  Next the mother of the servant went and sat on the other side of the bed, so that there were now four of them in the room—Mr. Massey and his wife sitting up in the bed, and the servant and her mother on either side—and still the sounds on the footboard continued, if anything, in a more energetic manner.  He thought of spirits, but the sounds were so grovelling and dog like that he was disgusted at the idea.  He made use of some expression adjuring the sounds to cease.  Whatever it was, however, it would not be gone.  At last he called out, "Is there a spirit here?  If so, give three raps."  There were three distinct raps.  "We looked at one another" continued the lecturer, "and I dare say looked strange.  I was not frightened, but felt white."

    Communications having thus been opened, Mr. Massey put other questions, and learned by raps that his wife's mother and his little daughter were there.  Then he asked, "Have you come on Jane's account?"  Three raps.  "Can you do her good?"  Three raps.  "To-night?"  Three raps.  The sounds continued, and the bed and bedstead throbbed.  Then his wife sat straight up in bed, her face lighted up, and in an intense whisper she said, "Mother—Mary!" [Ed - probably misreported; other accounts give 'Marian', Rosina's third daughter, who died in 1855 at 11 months]

    That night they held a long conversation with the spirits, and he was told not to put his wife away on the morrow, though she would be worse, but that she would be better on the following Sunday night; and, true enough, on the said Sunday night she was nearly quite well.  The lecturer here very aptly remarked that there could not be much of "epidemic delusion" about these experiences, seeing that they occurred unexpectedly and to a solitary group of individuals.

    Such, said the lecturer, was his first initiation into spirit-rapping, although at first, he confessed, he could not make much of it.  He had never in subsequent experiences had anything so clear as on that first night.  It may be that the object was more important.  On other occasions answers had as often been wrong as right, and the spirits seemed to glory in the fact.  About this time a clergyman, a friend, who said he was a writing medium, informed him that he had invented a stool something like a planchette, only it was for reading, instead of writing.  He brought it, tied a pencil to its foot, and he and the medium placed their bands on it, and the stool wrote, "Muller not guilty; robbery, not murder," followed by a tolerably good facsimile of Shakspeare's signature.  This was repeated in total darkness.

    Space will not permit us to go over the whole ground of these wonderful revelations.  Surprised by the above communication, which purported to come from Briggs, who, it will be remembered, was the man for whose murder Muller was subsequently executed, Mr. Massey examined into the evidence against the culprit, and finding that there was no conclusive testimony against him, he drew up a letter, which he considered the best piece of logical reasoning he had ever performed, had eight copies made of it, and sent them to the London papers.  He never saw it in any of the dailies, and therefore concluded that it had never been published.  This was before Muller's execution.  After that cruel finale, the spirit came and thanked Mr. Massey for "trying to save my poor neck."  Some months later he learned, through a lady who was interested in Muller, that his letter had appeared in the Daily News.

    To turn to the subject of Shakspeare; Mr. Massey had just written an article on Shakspeare's Sonnets for the Quarterly.  Here was what purported to be a spirit who ought to know something about this vexed question.  He thought, "If this is true, now is my time."  He put his questions accordingly, and was astounded at the intelligent replies he received.  His wife knew nothing whatever about the question at issue, and had even not been able to help him in the least in his researches by her clairvoyant power.  He had rejected the 138th sonnet, which came into print when Shakspeare was in his thirty-fifth year, and Herbert in his nineteenth.  It purported to be "On Age in Love."  Now, a man of thirty-five did not personify age in love.  The answer he got to this difficulty was: "Carefully compare the two copies of the sonnets, and you will find that a line has been suppressed; it is ironical."

    On comparing the two versions (sonnet 138 and the sonnet in the "Passionate Pilgrim)" he found that the ninth line had been suppressed, and the entire sonnet was ironical with reference to the lady's age, and would naturally mean quite the contrary to what it says.

    "There was evidence," said Mr. Massey, "as direct as I am giving to you.  Of course, I could only make use of what I was able to correlate and find evidence for.  The other day I printed a supplement to my work on Shakspeare's Sonnets, in which I dared to use the information I had received years before."

    There must have been some person present who knew things that were not in his mind and could not have been in the medium's, unless there be a universal consciousness from whence we are able to draw supplies of knowledge.  The lecturer here also remarked on the peculiar and varied types of individuals communicating.  He considered that Shakspeare himself did not represent character more accurately than was done through this medium.  Each spirit was distinctly characterised.

    In 1866 his experience took another form.  He had removed into a house which had been presented to him to live in rent free [Ed. — Ward's Hurst Farm, near Tring]; but the noises in it were so fearful that their servant, a Scotchwoman, said she could not sleep in the night.   The noises seemed as if made by the ring of the kitchen range being continually thrown down.  She knew of the power he possessed through his wife, and asked him to use it to fathom this mystery.  He rather fought against it, as he did not want to be turned out of his house by evil spirits.  Ultimately he had the room doors left open, and he was awakened by a sound like the falling of a key.  At length he questioned the spirits, and learned that there was an unhappy spirit connected with the place.  There had been a child murdered there, and it seems that the murderer in going to bury the remains of the little innocent one had dropped his key in the dark, and night after night, in rehearsing the fearful drama as a penance, he had to go through the performance of losing and searching for his key, which accounted for the noises heard.  Mr. Massey had subsequently found sticking out of a crack in the earth a couple of bones, which to him appeared to bear a strong resemblance to the bones of a child.  He said nothing about this circumstance to his wife, but hid them away in the cleft of a tree.

    Until this time he had known nothing of the spirit thus manifesting.  Now, however, the spirit of the supposed murderer frequently came and communicated, often swearing in a most blasphemous manner.  The lecturer here gave a number of illustrations of these manifestations, in which the supposed murderer communicated many of the details of his crime.  But we may inform our readers that the story of this fearful drama will be found in Mr. Massey's poem, "A Tale of Eternity," of which it forms the plot and groundwork; and we may add that to anyone wishing to read a tale of dramatic interest, vivid and weird description, pathos, and an insight that seems to dissolve the veil that divides the seen from the unseen, we can highly recommend this latest work of the poet.  With this terrible expiator of his crimes done in the flesh Mr. Massey made a compact, agreeing to pray for him if he would promise not to frighten his children, which promise was given and faithfully kept.  One time when searching the cellars he found an old rusty key.  He thought to himself that it must be B.'s key, and, wishing to test the affair, he put it into a particular place called B.'s cellar.  The next time the medium was entranced, she said:—"B. thinks he has found his key."  On leaving the medium the spirit was in the habit of frightening her, to avoid which Mr. Massey was instructed to throw a handkerchief over her face at the moment when he relinquished control.

    Another curious experience was connected with the death of Mrs. Massey, who died of heart disease.  She turned on her, side and passed quietly away; meanwhile her husband, who was by her side, not perceiving any change, continued talking to her.  Subsequently, on his first sitting with Mr. Home, his wife informed him through the latter that, on the night of her decease, she kept on talking with him, but he did not answer, thus showing, he remarked, that the change is so gradual and imperceptible at first that we are hardly aware of it—that there is, in fact, no death.  It is like, to use his simile, the spinning top when we say it sleeps; the soul seems to have attained the perfect motion.

    The lecturer here made the remark that it was not his wish to tell a wonderful story.  He would sooner set their brains at work inside the skull than make their hair stand on end outside.  With reference to the spirit-lights, Mr. Massey considered that they were composed of the emanations from our bodies, with which also the spirits clothed themselves when they wished to render themselves visible.  He had himself had glimpses of the glory seen round the heads of mediums in the past.  He had seen halos about the heads of persons, and lights proceeding from the feet of some individuals walking in the dark.  Some remarks followed on the relationship between matter and spirit, which we have no space to reproduce.  Suffice it to say that he considered this world was continually being fed from the spiritual state, that bread and beef could not produce mind, and that, indeed, we do not "live by bread alone."

    The latter part of the lecture was taken up with a consideration of the theories and arguments of Mr. Serjeant Cox and Dr. Carpenter, a few passages from which we give in extenso:—

    If psychic force be soul force, then psychical children have larger souls or more potent soul forces then psychical men, whereas non-psychical people, twenty-nine out of thirty, ought to have no souls at all, and we have arrived at that period of creation when the soul is just coming into being, with Serjeant Cox as obstetrist.  Naturally, enough it would be born in the child!  But, again, he argues that it is not a spiritual force, because it proceeds from the human organism.  If so, he cannot include the spiritual in the human organism, so that the manifestations may not be at fault in demonstrating their origin as spiritual; only the Serjeant's previous conclusions, or present dubiousness on the subject of the spirit's existence.  Given a non-belief in the spiritual absolutely, what amount of evidence will it take to prove its existence relatively?  And if there be nothing spiritual in it, what then does Serjeant Cox mean by calling it Psychic Force?  At page 37, first edition of his pamphlet, he informs us that the psychic is an unconscious agent—one who can neither command nor control the force of which he is the medium.  It operates not only independently of his will, but does not even demand his attention.  At page 44 he states that the force is controlled and directed by the intelligence of the medium—that is, by psychical consciousness acting unconsciously.  The psychic does not know this, but Serjeant Cox does.  In like manner the two German philosophers may not have been so far out.  They sat watching the shower out of a window, in presence of a stranger; one said, nodding towards the falling rain, "Perhaps that is I making it rain;" "Or I," replied the other.  The stranger sat and stared at the two singular aquarian specimens.  At page 51 the Serjeant naively asks of his readers, "By what process is it that the unconscious action of the brain, asserted by Dr. Carpenter, who found out long ago how it was done, directs the psychic force to intelligent purposes?"  Ay, there's the rub!  If Serjeant Cox had asked that question of himself or his phenomena earlier, it might possibly have prevented his putting forth a theory that will be laughed at by men of science, and must be repudiated by Spiritualists.

    When his psychical phenomena have been connected with "unconscious cerebration," and both harnessed on to Dr. Richardson's nerve atmosphere, we shall then be better able to show that the cause of all is spiritual.  Not that we suppose there is an unknown force, more powerful in the child than the man, proceeding solely from the spirit or body of a psychic, capable of lifting a heavy table and knocking down a woman without the psychic's will, but that the spirit of the medium may be en rapport with vast and conscious spiritual forces which can make of it a centre of force for the purpose of effecting that which is performed.  With them resides the intelligence to apprehend and the will that responds.  Serjeant Cox supposes the psychic to be a centre to certain magnetic forces of the living bodies present.  So it may be.  But there is the obverse—that is, the spiritual—side to such fact.  There would be no magnetic emanations of the body if it were not the seat of spiritual being.  The origin of force is not in the human body.   We do not originate the force we manifest.  Everywhere and always there is that Beyond from which force is derived.

    And we suppose the medium, by reason of the spiritual body acting more or less abnormally, to be the centre of operations for spiritual intelligences.  Hence the force, as Serjeant Cox admits, is more like an influence, and the motions are unlike any known to matter.  It is an influence from a power that is invisible—a will that is not embodied for us until the moment and in the act of manifesting the responding intelligence.  Serjeant Cox says the conditions of the phenomena are wholly inconsistent with the spiritual theory.  He does not point out one.  He only assumes that if spirits be the cause, then no conditions that affect the psychic ought to hinder their operating at any time.  But if spirits could act independently of mediumistic conditions, they would not need a medium, which we say is a sine quâ non [Ed. - essential, crucial, or indispensable ingredient without which something would be impossible] of these manifestations.  Clearly, then, the conditions are the mediumship!  On these the spiritual operators have to depend for certain manifestations.  The phenomena demand an intelligent, conscious agency, which the Spiritualist theory supplies and the psychic theory cannot!  The Spiritualists proclaim a force as old as humanity; they correlate their facts with the manifestations made in all times, amongst all peoples, and they account for them on a theory that has been extant for ages.  Serjeant Cox proclaims a new force in Nature which cannot be correlated with any known force, mental or physical, by affinity or analogy, and one that is more powerful in a child than in a man!

    I have only just glanced at Serjeant Cox's second edition, but I find that at p. 47 he says the Spiritualist theory "explains all the phenomena of Spiritualism"—I quote his own words; while at p. 60 he says, "All the ascertained conditions are inconsistent with the Spiritualist theory that these are the doings of the disembodied spirits of the dead."  Again I quote his own words.  Which of the two convey his meaning I do not know.

    Let me not be misunderstood.  I am discussing Serjeant Cox's explanations, not making fun of Mr. Crooke's experiments.  They are real and right enough; and Spiritualists owe him a debt of gratitude for the patience he bas shown in pursuing them, and his pluck in announcing the results.  He has our sympathy under the foul play and malevolent or stupid misrepresentations from which he has suffered, although our alliance would be of no service to him in the scientific world.

    That which our psychic-force friends have taken in hand will assuredly bear them off their feet, if they stick to it.  Our psychic-force friends do but touch physically the veriest fringe of the phenomena.  They have but made a study of one ripple registered on the sand by the great ocean that is out of sight.  I fancy Mr. Crookes has seen a thousand-fold more than he can scientifically demonstrate to others.  If the force be spiritual, as we contend, it follows that physical science can only deal with that registered record in the sand of the ripple passed away.

    I tremble lest some unfortunate psychic should be brought before Serjeant Cox, charged with killing a woman by throwing a table at her.  He may plead irresponsibility—say he had no intention to do it, no control over the force, but that psychic force is the real criminal, instigated by Dr. Carpenter's "unconscious cerebration," aided and abetted by Dr. Richardson's "nerve-atmosphere."  The plea would be perfect; the argument unanswerable, according to the Serjeant's overruling.  How could he commit the man, when he has so committed himself?

    Passing on to a review of Dr. Carpenter's statements and assumptions, the lecturer said:—

Dr. Carpenter repents a story of a gentleman who had been thinking of writing the life of Young, the author of "Night Thoughts."  He was sitting with his sister-in-law, who was a medium, when Young announced himself as present.

"Are you Young, the poet?" "Yes." "The author of the 'Night Thoughts?"' "Yes." "If you are, repeat a line of his poetry."  And the table spelt out, according to the system of telegraphy which had been agreed upon, this line:—

"Man is not formed to question, but adore."

He said, "Is this in the 'Night Thoughts?"' "No." "Where is it?"  "J O B."  He could not tell what this meant. He went home, bought a copy of Young's works, and found that in the volume containing Youngs's poems there was a poetical commentary on Job which ended with that line.  He was extremely puzzled at this; but two or three weeks afterwards he found he had a copy of Young's works in his own library, and was satisfied from marks in it that he had read that poem before.  I have no doubt whatever that that line had remained in his mind—that is, in the lower stratum of it.

    Well, supposing it did, what then?  Does "unconscious cerebration" include tables as well as brains?  Is it possible to have our own latent ideas unconsciously cerebrated for us through other people's brains and tables, on the way back to their natural owners who fumble within for them in vain; but receive them from without?  You see, I hope, what the theory implies that the questioner's unconscious knowledge caused the unconscious cerebration of the medium's brain, i.e., his own unconsciousness unconsciously produced the consciousness of the fact unknown to him and to her, and the gentleman's memory acted through the medium's brain two or three weeks before it could make use of his own, and so the medium unconsciously rapped out the right words.  When Daniel not only interpreted but recalled the dream which the king had forgotten, how little he knew of the process whereby it was accomplished!  He, simple man, thought it was revealed to him in vision, he being merely the medium he never dreamed, I suppose, that the king's absent consciousness came to him and made him a present of the secret hidden away from the king himself, and so he returned the lost article to the king's memory.  The starting-point for this theory also is the assumption that the mind must one way or another engrave every line we ever read deep enough for others to remember when we forget.  And the author of this asserts that these communications represent nothing more than the ordinary workings of the minds and bodies of the mediums under conditions well understood by physiologists and psychologists.  I must not call the writer a liar, though he does assume that we are all liars.  But an article is an indefinite thing!  And I assert that the article in the Quarterly Review was a lie from the beginning to end—a lie 52 pages long—and a lie was printed on every page.  It was called "Spiritualism and its Recent Converts," when the very men who were meant to be injured had publicly, and in the pamphlet reviewed, guarded all readers against considering them as converts to Spiritualism.  Serjeant Cox and Dr. Carpenter remind me of the two Wise Men of the East.  They were very wise, but also happened to be blind.  So blind blind were they that they could not see they were blind.  They insisted on judging all things by the sense of touch alone, and would set up their opinion against that of anyone who could see, and preferred it too.  One day they had wondered into a wood where they had never been before, and after knocking about for some time trying to span the girth of the trees, they stumbled on an elephant, or vice versâ.  Now, they had not only not seen such a thing, but they had never handled one before—or behind.  The elephant was very large, and they were very small, of stature.  So small were they that they could hardly span one of the elephant's legs without both joining hands and so getting round it.  And the elephant was so tall, that when one of them knelt on the other's back and felt his way upward he could not reach the elephant's body; he found it was all leg so far.  But by going in and out they discovered it was not all one leg.  They had counted as many as four, and were going on counting, when the beast, no doubt being tickled, began to walk off with them.  This motion, of course, multiplied the legs to an unaccountable extent, for as they tried to get out of the way the legs kept catching them, and in and out they tumbled till there seemed to be a living, moving forest of legs.  At last they got clear of it and sat down to cogitate.  Now there was a blind man of old who, with his first glimmerings of restored sight, saw men as trees walking.  So it can be no marvel if one of these blind men with no glimmer saw an elephant as a wood walking.  To him the trees were living, moving, and for the rest of his life be continued to assert that he had been in a walking wood.  The other concluded the whole thing to be imposture, which he had practised on himself by means of "unconscious cerebration!"  Subjective woodenness, he explained, had become an objective wood!  It was a well-known phenomenon—quite common to the learned, caused by unconscious ideo-motor power.  "Add a letter," says the other pundit, "and make it idiot-motor power; that will suit it to a "T.'"  "Don't you halloo," says the first, "till you're out of the 'wood."'  When the mesmeric phenomena were announced in England, even the power of thought-reading was denied, in common with other facts which were ignored and derided.  Now it is admitted to explain away the other facts of Spiritualism; but it is too late. Our scientific opponents,

"Like the hindmost chariot wheels are curst
 Still to be near, but never to be first!"



Judge ("Serjeant-at-Law") E. W. Cox (1809-79) was was an ardent Spiritualist and well-known psychical investigator. He assisted Sir William Crookes (see below) in his first experiments with the medium Daniel Dunglas Home, from which arose Cox's suggestion of a "psychic force." He published a booklet 'Spiritualism Scientifically Examined with Proofs of the Existence of a Psychic Force' in 1872, and an elaborate work in 1874 under the title 'What Am I? A Popular Introduction to Mental Physiology and Psychology.' In 1875 he established, and was the president of, the Psychological Society of Great Britain, but his collapsed on his death and was dissolved in 1879. Some of its members were among those who, in 1882, founded the Society for Psychical Research.
William Benjamin Carpenter
(1813–1885) explained hypnotism and spiritualist experiences in terms of 'unconscious cerebration' or 'ideo-motor' action making familiar the role of unconscious activity in ordinary life. He concluded that 'thought' operates largely outside awareness and that unconscious prejudices can be stronger than conscious thought, making them more dangerous because they occur outside of the conscious until attention is drawn to them. "Our feelings towards persons and objects may undergo most important changes, without our being in the least degree aware, until we have our attention directed to our own mental state, of the alteration which has taken place in them." He systematically expounded this work in 'The Principles of Mental Physiology' (1874). Carpenter's religious concerns ran through all his commitments. During the 1860s and 1870s he was a notable contributor to debates about science and religion.
Dr. Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson (1828-1896) was a much honoured 19th century English physician,  best-known for his research into anaesthetics and for his involvement in public health and the sanitary movement. He was knighted in June 1893.  The speculation of the existence of the 'nerve atmosphere' referred to by Serjeant Cox was expounded by Richardson, in the Medical Times, on May 6, 1871.  Inquirers into spiritualism discovered that the human organism is in some mysterious way bound up with the séance room phenomena. A force was observed beyond the periphery of the body, with no physical contact.  As Cox put it "I noticed that the force was exhibited in tremulous pulsations, and not in the form of steady, continuous pressure, the indicator rising and falling incessantly throughout the experiment. The fact seems to me of great significance as tending to conform the opinion that assigns its source to the nerve organization, and it goes far to establish Dr. Richardson's important discovery of a nerve atmosphere of various intensity enveloping the human structure..."
Sir William Crookes (1832-1919),  English chemist, physicist and scientific journalist, elected FRS in 1863, knighted in 1897 and in 1910 appointed to the Order of Merit. The most controversial aspect of Crookes's career was his investigation of mediums. In 1870 Crookes began to study the preternatural phenomena associated with Spiritualism, conducting his experiments on strict scientific grounds. He described the conditions he imposed on the mediums - including Kate Fox, Florence Cook, and Daniel Dunglas Home - in each experiment thus: "It must be at my own house, and my own selection of friends and spectators, under my own conditions, and I may do whatever I like as regards apparatus." The phenomena he witnessed included movement of bodies at a distance, rappings, changes in the weights of bodies, levitation, appearance of luminous objects, appearance of phantom figures, appearance of writing without human agency, and circumstances which "point to the agency of an outside intelligence." Crookes' concluded that these phenomena could not be explained as conjuring, and he was not alone in this view. Scientists who came to believe in Spiritualism included Alfred Russel Wallace, Oliver Joseph Lodge, Lord Rayleigh, and William James, but most men of science remained convinced that Spiritualism was a fraud. Crookes' final report so outraged the scientific establishment "that there was talk of depriving him of his Fellowship of the Royal Society". He didn't discuss his views publicly until 1898, when he felt his position secure, and the records from then until his death show that Crookes had become a Spiritualist. There can be no doubt of Crookes's sincerity or that he staked his very considerable scientific reputation on the validity of the extraordinary phenomena he described. He genuinely believed that a scientific investigation of psychic phenomena held out the promise of data and theories that were unseen and unknown in contemporary natural philosophy.


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