Massey: the Langham Place Lectures (2)

Home Up Biography Poetry Prose Reviews News Reports Miscellanea Site Search Main Index


LONDON, MAY 24, 1872.

No. 112.—VOL. III.


    The subject of Mr. Massey's second lecture was: "Concerning a Spirit-World revealed to the Natural World by means of Objective Manifestations; with a New Theory of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil."  He commenced by saying that there were two theories of man's origin: one assumed that he was struck off perfect from the mint of creation, stamped with the image of God; the other, that he was developed from the animal kingdom, and is gradually approximating to the divine image.  He held that the spirit of man was as much a growth of nature as his physical form.  Man did not begin his career on this earth an angel ready made.  It took ages for him to arrive at the most rudimentary perceptions of morality.  Nor did this knowledge come from on high; it came by gradual unfoldment.  It was a reflection from man's inner perceptions.  Man could not be the image of God until that image was properly received.  Man was not formed in the image of God merely because he went on two legs instead of four.  The likeness had to be evolved in the spiritual life from within.  There was no such thing identifiable in the past as the image of God.  We could hardly imagine that such ideas were likely to spring up in the human mind, when we see how hard it is to keep them alive after all the revelations we have had.  Anthropologists and physiologists had done much by their researches towards bringing about a right estimate as to the origin of man.  They had raked together the dead bones of fact, which Spiritualism would now put together and endue with life.  It was generally supposed that the consciousness of a God had begun with the Hebrew race.  It was a well-known fact that polytheism had preceded monotheism; although Max Müller and other philologists of his school argued that man could not conceive of gods without first having the idea of one God; polytheism must therefore have been an outgrowth of theism, they concluded.  He, however, considered this an erroneous conclusion, it being evident that polytheism came first.  What idea had the peoples which preceded the Hebrews of a God?  These ideas did not belong to the world of nature, as distinguished from the spiritual.  They must have been evolved spiritually.  There were some peoples that had no idea of a God, others that had no idea of immortality.  There were languages which had no word for "God" or "soul."  Atheism was the night of the purely savage mind.  Such must have been the state of humanity in the prehistoric times—in the Stone Age.

    "How did the invisible make itself known to the cave-dwellers of the human mind?" continued Mr. Massey.  "By becoming visible to them," he answered.  The first notion of man's fate after death and of the existence of a spiritual world was received from visible phenomenal demonstration.  It was not excogitated, but the result of experience.  There were savages who did not believe because they had not seen, while others believed because they had seen.  Having had tangible evidence in the form of spiritual apparitions, they received their first notions of a spiritual state.  It was generally acknowledge that faith was the belief in things unseen.  The primal fact in connection with Jesus and his mission was, that he rose again and revealed himself in person.  He appeared to fulfil a promise, and to prove continuity of existence.  This was the foundation of fact the Christian faith rested on.  With all their spiritual manifestations and intercourse with another world, his disciples never seemed to grasp the idea of immortality before.  Jesus was truly the "first-born" of that people to reveal eternal life; and although he had authenticated his mission time after time by objective manifestations, he only established it by a belief in a physical resurrection.

    The lecturer here went into a clear and minute examination of the origin of spiritual manifestations showing that apparitions were, beyond doubt, the first form of the phenomena.  And so physical were these manifestations in many cases, that the seers of them took the spirits for real men, as, for instance, when the angels appeared to Abraham and to Lot.  This, he maintained, followed by the vision and the inward illumination, was the earliest form of spiritual manifestation.  It was very likely that the earliest apparitions were of a very low kind, and their continued appearance may have given rise to the various forms of belief in supernatural beings which are found amongst all peoples.  Fairies may have been the spirits of the Old World.  They were seen small of size, because they were small of soul.  Better spirits afterwards took their places; but the traditions of seers would naturally remain, doubtless giving rise to the still lingering fancies about sprites, gnomes, sylphs, brownies, &c.  As a curious instance of the gradual development of the idea of the dual nature of man and human immortality, Mr. Massey noticed the fact that amongst many primitive peoples the same word meant both "shadow'' and "spirit."

    The lecturer now entered into an elaborate examination of the origin of forms of worship, tending to show that they were ever the result of objective experiences, not of metaphysical deductions.  The religious systems of all uncivilised peoples were based on the evidences of the senses.  The West Indian islanders had carved idols in the shape of spirits that had appeared to them in apparition.  Religion in the abstract, he continued, came from the seeing of spirits.  In Florida the natives worshipped evil spirits, because they considered they needed propitiating, while the good ones did not.  Thus primitive worship was a sheer grovelling fear.  It was a well-known fact that amongst the Sioux Indians the fear of spirits had deterred from murder.  Thus we obtained an insight into the might of propitiatory sacrifices,

But we must hurry over this portion of the lecture, as space will not permit us even to make mention of many very interesting points that were touched upon, as, for instance, the worship of ancestors amongst many savage tribes, the forms of divination used by others, and the gradual development of the idea of immortality—all of which should have been heard to be appreciated.  Such, said Mr. Massey, was the manner in which man had groped his way towards God.  One thus saw how some form of worship would originate.  Seers, standing, as it were, betwixt heaven and earth, would become sacred, and priesthoods would be established.  How natural it would be to found churches where spirits had manifested themselves, and so give them a house for their use.  Consider Peter's first exclamation on beholding the transfiguration of Christ: "Master, it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles."

    The lecturer said he knew of very few facts in modern Spiritualism which might not be traced in the past.  The spirit-voice was heard by Moses on the occasion of the manifestation of the burning bush.  It was in this way that Socrates apprehended the warning of his daemon: he heard the spirit speaking with the audible voice.  The fact of the spirit-voice speaking through a medium must be granted by those who believe that Balaam's ass spoke to his master.  Again, in the case of Belshazzar's feast, we had the direct spirit-writing.  The modern mediumistic circle was the earliest form of worship known.  From the Druidic circle, the round towers of Ireland, the magic circle of the necromancers, to the modern English "church," Scotch "kirk," German "kirche," French "cirque," and the term "domestic circle," all had their origin in the early spiritualistic practices.  Christ alluded to this primitive circle when he said: "When two or three gather together in my name, I will be with them."  He would not limit his meaning to the fact that objective signs were to be given, but it was known that these signs were given.  The Pentecostal service was the link between the two worlds.  The early church arose out of the manifestations, and the word "prophet" originally signified "medium."  Thus "the Lord"—the Israelites spoke of all spirits manifesting as "the Lord," or in similar terms—in speaking to Aaron and Miriam, said: "If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make myself known unto him in a vision."  The so-called "men of God," too, were mediums, occupying a similar position to those of the present day, that is, they were consulted on all manner of things, important or unimportant, and they likewise received pay for their services.  Thus Saul had only 7½d with him when he went to consult "the Lord," through Samuel, about his father's lost asses.

    After speaking of the ancient belief in a man's familiar spirit or genius, and instancing the scene with the soothsayer in "Antony and Cleopatra," the lecturer said the staff of Hermes was the wand of the magnetisers, but that, like many other facts of the same kind, had come to be looked upon as mere fable.  The Fijian still magnetised himself by looking at a whale's tooth.  There were many ways of producing the magnetic sleep or abnormal vision.  Fasting was one way, and one very much practised both in olden times and amongst savage tribes even at the present day.  The Egyptians and other ancient people knew of animal magnetism.  Tobacco and various drugs had even produced this condition.  While speaking of potions, the lecturer mentioned the case of Esdras, who was the greatest writing medium the world had seen, he having professed to have re-written the whole of the lost books of the law.  This immense work was done in a trance produced by a drink prepared by spirits, and it took him forty days and nights, assisted by five ready writers.

    It was well known that the Soma juice was made use of in the rites of the Hindoos, though it was hardly known what it was.  There were few persons living who were masters of the ancient mysteries, and the ritual was fast dying out.  Six thousand years ago this Soma-juice was used to produce the divine intoxication.  The tree which produced this divine juice was supposed to be the religious fig-tree.  In the second Rig Veda there was reference made to this tree.  Birds sat on it, eating the fruit.  But this tree, which bore the fruit used in the Soma sacrifices to produce intoxication and the somnambulic sleep, was lost.  The Hindoos imagined all creation originated in this fig-tree.  Bearing fruit that had the power to induce somnambulism, it was considered to place man on a par with the gods.  Its branches were looked upon as the meeting place of gods and men, and the Soma drink became the drink of immortality.  The Egyptians also had their sacred fig-tree—the sycamore fig-tree—and they frequently pictured the souls of the deceased as birds perching on its branches.  The Athenians had their religious fig-tree; it was planted all along the sacred road between Athens and Eleusis, and the Soma of the Hindoos, suggested the lecturer, became the Nepenthe of the Greeks.  Turning to Zoroaster, we met with two trees, one named the "white fig," and the other the "painlesstree."  Both these, it was thought, were the same as the one the Hindoos believed the world to be made from.  Now the fruit of this tree was supposed to give immortality to whomsoever drank of its juice; the other produced a narcotic which destroyed pain.  Here again we found a fig-tree which produced the sleep-giving fruit, the fruit of immortality.  We had the same two trees planted in the garden of Eden—tree tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They were doubtless the same as the tree of life and the painless tree of Zoroaster, which were fig-trees, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil was doubtless a fig-tree also.  How it ever came to be called an apple-tree the lecturer could not imagine.  The effect of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge was to make the partaker thereof wise.  "The wise," in the Zendavesta, meant the spirits, and from time immemorial seers had been called "wise men" and "wise women."  In the Zendavesta we had the fact with reference to the trees, in Genesis the mere allegory of the fact.

    Passing to Mr. Massey's deductions from these facts, he said his summing up of the whole matter was that Moses, like Zoroaster, wished to put an end to the dark worship of spirits, which had become a fearful abomination, in favour of the God of life and light, the idea of whom was then dawning on the world.  He accordingly worked out that system of theology which has played so important a part in the world's history; and to make the whole of more effect, he introduced the famous myth of the fig-tree, whose mortal taste, in the words of Milton, "brought death into the world, and all our woe, with loss of Eden."  "And so much," said the lecturer, "for the famous forbidden fruit tree, the shadow of which has darkened and dwarfed the souls of men for thousands of years; so much for the dread curse of humanity, the 'fall,' which was the cause of our natural depravity—the 'original sin;' and penalty of everlasting pain inherited by us all through the transgression of Adam.  With the doctrine of the 'fall' down goes the doctrine of the 'atonement,' as vulgarly understood; for it was out of the wood of that much-misrepresented fig-tree that they cut the Calvinistic Cross of Christ."

    We have had to give the merest synopsis of Mr. Massey's full and minute line of argument, as space would not permit us to do more.  In speaking of the later Spiritualism of the Jews, the lecturer said they made the common mistake to believe that all spiritual manifestations must be divine.  Moses, however, had reason to know better; he recognised what we know at the present time—that when the sight was open abnormally, it was so for the evil as well as the good.  Diseased conditions were the natural playground for spirits.  We must bear in mind that spirit-communion did not depend on moral purity.  The most immoral persons might be mediums, in which cases immoral spirits would be co-workers.  This was why the witchcraft and black magic of the middle ages were prohibited.  It was necessary to remember that it was the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The law that like attracts like governs in the other world as well as here.  Fleshly purposes would ensure fleshly results.  There were spirits who administered to fleshly devices; they could derive more pleasure from such than we could.  Indeed, we could have but a faint idea of what spirits were capable.  Papal bulls were not made against certain kinds of spirit-intercourse for nothing, nor was the idea of a personal devil founded on nothing.  Think of a personal motive on the other side—of a spirit having a vested interest in all your ill-doing!

    Moses looked upon the old religions as devil-worship, and not without warrant, thought Mr. Massey.  Hideous customs, horrible rites, underlie those old scriptural allusions.  The "broth of abomination" meant the eating of infants.  Such abominations were demanded by their oracles; there were spirits who delighted in the sight of blood.  This was the belief of the early Christian Fathers, and the sight of blood had been such a temptation to many that it could not be explained in any other way.  To Moses these things were facts, and he tried to rid the world of such iniquities; he made a parable which had been misunderstood ever since; he tried to lead the Israelites out of Egypt by many ways; he made a strenuous effort to get at the One God.  The lecturer did not believe that, when on Mount Sinai, Moses really conversed with the Almighty, as is generally believed.  It was the common custom amongst the Hebrews to consider spirit-influences as coming direct from God.  In this connection we give the following passage on


    Their inspiration, Mr. Massey contended, was by no means so free from evil interference or so unmixed with error as has been believed.  It was as natural in the early times for the lowest forms of one's own spirit-manifestation to be attributed to the immediate presence and agency of Deity, as it may be in our day for the loftiest to be set down to the Devil.  "I venture to doubt whether the Hebrews had any more certitude in the matter than we have to-day.  Then, as now, the tree must be judged by its fruits, good or evil.  I do not think they had so much, as they had not the same openness to the Spirit of Truth; had not our means of judging betwixt truth and error; had not that revelation in Christ—the illuminated image of immortal love—which we have to judge the spirit-messengers by.  Their "Thus saith the Lord" might often have been announced as "This saith the Devil," because the thing said was devilish.  "God spake these words."  Well, that depends on whether the words are like God.  It could not be our God, nor a true messenger of his, that ordered the wanton slaughter of men, women, and children as if they were not creatures of God's making.  It could not be our God that held the sun still in his hand like a stopped watch until the Israelites should glut themselves with slaughter, and reel back drunken with human gore.  This was a mistake of theirs.  Their fervour may have been divine, but it must have been devilishly fed.  The later writer of the "Acts" calls that an angel of the Lord—simply a spirit—who appeared in the burning bush, and who spake to Moses in Mount Sinai, and gave them living oracles in the wilderness.  Moses himself calls it God.  In his account of the burning bush, the angel of God and the Deity are mixed in one.  The difficulty of identification in the case of good or bad spirits must have been great.  Why should the lying spirit that foretold falsely in the mouths of Ahab's four hundred prophets have been limited to that single deception?  Ezekiel assures us that these prophets had often misled them with lies, and foretold vain things; proclaimed visions when they had seen nothing; divined falsely, and raised their "Thus saith the Lord," when He had not spoken to them.  If half-a-dozen pretended angels of the Lord were to come to any Spiritualist of the present day and tell him to get up and sharpen his knife and slay his child as a sacrifice pleasing to God, I doubt if he would believe them.  He might wonder whether the good angel that was to prevent it might arrive in time.  The Hebrew mediums often misinterpreted their messages; the character of God was frequently misinterpreted in consequence, and the Christian world has been misled ever since, because it ignorantly assumed that there was an infallible inspiration, and anything opposed to it must come from the Devil.  It has endeavoured to discredit and ignore all other revelation on purpose to set this up as the only divine, in utter ignorance that as regards the modes of manifestation all other revelation of God amongst all peoples was based on the same natural facts.

    They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and all drink the same spiritual drink, as did the Hebrew mediums.  God's light is hidden under all that shines, and there has never been known such a thing as infallible mortal mediumship.  We can trace progress all through it, from the most shadowy representation of the spiritual world made to the savage mind up to the revelation made in Christ, who came to inaugurate the reign of the Holy Spirit in place of devil, or demon, of the past.

    The same book that chronicles the turning of water into wine by Jesus Christ also credits the Egyptian magi with turning water into blood.  And they were Persian magi—that is, spiritual mediums —who had their intimation of the Star that had risen on earth by the star which shone for them in heaven.  They knew, as we say, as if by magic, of the coming of Christ, and started on their way, nothing doubting, with their presents.  And when they had found him, they were warned in a dream by God not to return the way they came, lest they should fall into the hands of Herod.

    Mr. Massey brought his lecture to a close with the following well-merited allusion to the manner in which Spiritualism is treated by the conservators of public opinion:—

    Scientific Philistinism and Cockney impudence, having climbed nearly to the summit of the nineteenth century, will turn round and assure you that the whole phenomena called Spiritualism are an illusion of the sense and a delusion of the soul.  All that ever was seen has been glamour, and all that ever was heard is hallucination.  The veil of visible things has never been lifted, never grown diaphanous with spiritual light, and the forms and figures of things to come have never been shadowed forth from the other side.  It is all a phantasmagoria projected on the curtain by the magic lantern of a diseased subjectivity, flickering reflections of fever, and dancing images of delirium thrown on it from the morbid brains of those who stand on this side.  Mr. Tyler has carefully collected a vast amount of illustration of primitive Spiritualism for the purpose of showing that there is nothing spiritual in it—that one half the phenomena comes from an over-full stomach, the other half from an over-empty stomach.  That "other world " is but a mirage seen by the wanderers in the wilderness of this.  "Pat," said a passer-by, "what are the bells ringing so for to-day?" "Bells ringing?" says Pat—"divil a bit; it's only a singing I've got in me ears; that is all!"  It's only a singing we've got in our ears, a glamour in our eyes.  Spiritualism is the world-wide hysteria epidemical in all times and among all peoples.  As to the seers and visionists, not only did they not see any other world when they shut their eyes on this—not only were they pitiable poor blind beggars whom all scientific men ought to rush at and "give them two black eyes for being blind," but they are charged with shamming their blindness.  First, it is impossible to believe in them, because they were so blind; and next, we are not to credit them because they were such impostors as to sham their blindness.

    The phenomena is real for as to-day, therefore it is real for us in the past; and it is altogether useless to wriggle and try to make a distinction between what they call sacred and profane history.  The facts are one.  They stand together, or together fall.  The whole phenomena rest on the same basis of absolute fact, and are not open to be made a question of relative belief by those who recognise no facts to go upon, and therefore refuse to believe; or those who, having no belief, altogether deny the facts; or those whose professed belief is for the first time tested in the presence of facts.

    Did you ever read by the light of a glow-worm laid on the page of a book?  I have so read in the dark, and next morning by the grey light of open day found my little lamp had gone out; there was no glow whatever—it was nothing more than a little grey worm. My reading must surely be hallucination, the merest illusion of the night, in the face of this common daylight fact to which every person could testify—that the thing could not shine by day.

    Spiritualism is that luminous worm which has shone with its tiny lamp divinely lit through all the darkness of the past.  I have read some curious pages to-day by the light or it.  Nevertheless, the physical seer will take it up in the broad, open day of science, and show you that it has no lamp—it does not shine; therefore it never did shine, and all stories told of its luminosity are lies.  For all that, it is a glow-worm still, and goes on shining under its own conditions.  Moreover, it begins to shine by day, and lives on with an enlarging light by which we can for the first time see to read many mysteries of the past, decipher the inscriptions written on old torture-rooms and prison-cells and graves of those who were before their time, and make out the features of primitive facts which have been almost effaced or overgrown with fable.  It is at once the oldest and the
newest spiritual light in the world.



(Friedrich) Max Müller, (1823–1900), Sanskritist and philologist. Born at Dessauin Germany, he became a naturalized British citizen in 1855. Following studies in Berlin and Paris, Müller moved to London in 1846 and to Oxford in 1848. He became a member of Christ Church College in 1851, when he gave his first series of lectures on comparative philology, and remained connected with the University for the rest of his life.  Müller was suspicious of Darwin's work on human evolution, and attacked his view of the development of human faculties. He analysed mythologies as rationalisations of natural phenomena, primitive beginnings that we might denominate "protoscience" within a cultural evolution. His pioneering work in the fields of Vedic studies, comparative philology, comparative mythology, and comparative religion, became obsolete within his life owing to the rapid advance of knowledge in these fields. His work in comparative mythology and comparative religion was largely based on philological identifications which were later demonstrated to be untenable, and his philological methodology was replaced by the nascent science of anthropology. Nevertheless, he remains a notable pioneering researcher in these fields.
The Rig Veda — a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns counted among the four Hindu religious texts known as the Vedas.  Likely composed around 1500–1300 BC, it the oldest texts of any Indo-Iranian language, one of the world's oldest religious texts, and the oldest of a religious tradition with unbroken continuity.
Zarathushtra, usually known in English as Zoroaster, was an ancient Persian prophet,  famous in classical antiquity as the founder of the religion of the Magi.  The teachings of Zoroaster are presented in seventeen liturgical, texts, or "hymns", the yasna which is divided into groups called Gāthās, its fundamental precepts being Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds).  Generally accepted as a historical figure, efforts to date Zoroaster range between the 18th and the 6th centuries BC, but around 1000 BC is generally accepted making Zoroaster a candidate as the founder of the earliest religion based on revealed scripture.
Zendavesta a collection of the sacred texts of the Zoroastrian religion (see Zoroaster above).


[Home] [Up] [Biography] [Poetry] [Prose] [Reviews] [News Reports] [Miscellanea] [Site Search] [Main Index]