RECORD: S118.6. Wallace, A. R. 1866. The scientific aspect of the supernatural, VI. English Leader 2 (9): 139-140

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker and John van Wyhe. RN1

NOTE: See the further parts here.


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THE SCIENTIFIC ASPECT OF THE SUPERNATURAL.

VI.—EVIDENCE OF LITERARY AND PROFESSIONAL MEN TO THE FACTS OF MODERN SPIRITUALISM.

T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE was educated at Oxford, and is the well-known author of numerous works of high excellence in the departments of travels, fiction, biography, and history. In 1855 he wrote a letter to Mr. Rymer, of Ealing, which was published in the Morning Advertiser, and is reproduced in "Incidents of my Life," 2nd ed., p. 252, in which he shows the inaccuracy and unfairness of Sir David Brewster's account of phenomena occurring in the presence of both, at Mr. Rymer's house, and concludes with these words: "I should not, my dear sir, do all that duty, I think, requires of me, in this case, were I to conclude without stating very solemnly, that after very many opportunities of witnessing and investigating the phenomena caused by, or happening to Mr. Home, I am wholly convinced, that be what may their origin, and cause, and nature, they are not produced by any fraud, machinery, juggling, illusion, or trickery, on his part." Again, in a letter to the Athenæum, eight years later (dated Florence, March 21, 1863) he says, "I have been present at very many 'sittings' of Mr. Home in England, many in my own house in Florence, some in the house of a friend in Florence. . . . My testimony then is this: I have seen and felt physical facts, wholly and utterly inexplicable, as I believe, by any known and generally received physical laws. I unhesitatingly reject the theory which considers such facts to be produced by means familiar to the best professors of legerdemain."

An opinion so positive as this, from a man of such eminence, who during eight years has had repeated opportunities of witnessing, examining and reflecting on the phenomena, must surely be held as of far more value than the opposite opinion, so frequently put forward by those who have either not witnessed them at all, or only on one or two occasions.

JAMES M. GULLY, M.D., author of "Neuropathy and Nervousness," "Simple Treatment of Disease," "The Water Cure in Chronic Diseases." Of the last work the Athenæum said: "Dr. Gully's book is evidently written by a well-educated medical man. This work is by far the most scientific that we have seen on Hydropathy." Dr. Gully was one of the persons present at the celebrated séance described in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860, under the title "Stranger than Fiction," and he wrote a letter to the Morning Star newspaper, confirming the entire truthfulness of that article. He says: "I can state with the greatest positiveness that the record made in the article 'Stranger than Fiction' is in every particular correct; that the phenomena therein related actually took place in the evening meeting; and moreover, that no trick, machinery, sleight-of-hand, or other artistic contrivance, produced what we heard and beheld. I am quite as convinced of this last as I am of the facts themselves." He then goes on to show the absurdity of all suggested explanations of such phenomena as Mr. Home's floating across the room, which he both saw and felt, and the playing of the accordion in several persons' hands, often three yards distance from Mr. Home. But the most important fact is, that Dr. Gully is now one of Mr. Home's most esteemed friends. He receives Mr. Home frequently in his house, and has had ample opportunities of testing the phenomena in private, and of certainly detecting the gigantic and complicated system of deception, if it be such. To most minds this will be stronger proof of the reality of the phenomena, than any facts observed at a single séance, or than any unsupported assertion that the thing is impossible.

WILLIAM HOWITT, the well-known author of "Rural Life in England," a variety of historical works exhibiting great research, many excellent works of fiction, and recently a "History of Discovery in Australia," has had extensive opportunities of investigating the phenomena, and can hardly be supposed to be incapable of judging of such palpable facts as these: "Mrs. Howitt had a sprig of geranium handed to her by an invisible hand, which we have planted and it is growing; so that it is no delusion, no fairy money turned into dross or leaves. I saw a spirit hand as distinctly as I ever saw my own. I touched one several times, once when it was handing me a flower." . . . "A few evenings afterwards a lady desiring that the 'Last Rose of Summer' might be played by a spirit on the accordion, the wish was complied with, but in so wretched a style that the company begged that it might be discontinued. This was done, but soon after, evidently by another spirit, the accordion was carried and suspended over the lady's head, and there without any visible support or action on the instrument, the air was played through most admirably, in the view and hearing of all."—Letter from William Howitt to Mr. Barkas, of Newcastle, reprinted in Home's "Incidents of my Life," 2nd. ed., p. 137.

Here the fact of the spectators not receiving bad music for good, because they believed it to proceed from a superhuman source, is decidedly in favour of their coolness and judgment; and the fact was one which the senses of ordinary mortals are quite capable of verifying.

The HON. COLONEL WILBRAHAM sent the following letter to Mr. Home. I extract it from the Spiritual Magazine:—

"46, Brook Street, April 14th, 1863.

    "My dear Mr. Home,—I have much pleasure in stating that I have attended several séances, in your presence, at the houses of two of my intimate friends and at my own, when I have witnessed phenomena similar to some of those described in your book, which I feel certain could not have been produced by any trick or collusion whatever. The rooms in which they occurred were always perfectly lighted; and it was impossible for me to disbelieve the evidence of my own senses.—Believe me, yours very truly, E. B. WILBRAHAM."

S. C. HALL, F.S.A., Barrister-at-Law, Editor of the Art Journal, and well known in literary, artistic, and philanthropic circles, has written the following letter to the Editor of the Spiritual Magazine, 1863, p. 336—

"Sir,—I follow the example of Colonel Wilbraham, and desire to record my belief in the statements put forth by Mr. D. D. Home ('Incidents of my Life'). I have myself seen nearly all the marvels he relates; some in his presence, some with other mediums, and some when there was no medium aid (when Mrs. Hall and I sat alone). Not long ago, I must have confessed to disbelief in all miracles; I have seen so many that my faith as a Christian is now not merely outward profession, but entire and solemn conviction. For this incalculable good I am indebted to 'Spiritualism;' and it is my bounden duty to induce knowledge of its power to teach and to make happy. That duty may, for the present, be limited to a declaration of confidence in Mr. Home.—Yours, &c., S. C. HALL."

NASSAU WILLIAM SENIOR, late Master in Chancery, and twice Professor of Political Economy in the University of Oxford, was one, whom it will astonish many persons to hear, had become convinced of the truth and reality of what they in their superior knowledge suppose to be a gross delusion. The following statement is made in the Spiritual

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Magazine, 1864, p. 336, which can be, no doubt, authoritatively denied if correct:—"We have only to add, as a further tribute to the attainments and honours of Mr. Senior, that he was by long inquiry and experience, a firm believer in Spiritual power and manifestations. Mr. Home was his frequent guest, and Mr. Senior made no secret of his belief among his friends. He it was, who recommended the publication of Mr. Home's recent work by Messrs. Longmans, and he authorised the publication, under initials, of one of the striking incidents there given, which happened to a near and dear member of his family."

The REV. WILLIAM KERR, M.A., Incumbent of Tipton, in his recent work on "Future Punishment, Immortality, and Modern Spiritualism," thus gives his testimony to the facts:—

"The writer of these pages has, for a length of time, bestowed great attention upon the subject, and is in a position to affirm with all confidence, from his own experience and repeated trials, that the alleged phenomena of Spiritualism are, for by far the most part, the products neither of imposture nor delusion. They are true, and that to the fullest extent. The marvels which he himself has witnessed, in the private retirement of his own home, with only a few select friends, and without having even so much as ever seen a public medium, are in many respects fully equal to any of the startling narratives that have appeared in print."

THACKERAY, though a cool-headed man of the world and a close student of human nature, could not resist the evidence of his senses in this matter. Mr. Weld, in his "Last Winter in Rome," p. 180, states, that at a dinner shortly after the appearance in the Cornhill Magazine of the article entitled "Stranger than Fiction," Mr. Thackeray was reproached with having permitted such a paper to appear. After quietly hearing all that could be said on the subject, Thackeray replied, "It is all very well for you, who have probably never seen any spiritual manifestations, to talk as you do; but had you seen what I have witnessed, you would hold a different opinion." He then proceeded to inform Mr. Weld, and the company, that, when in New York, at a dinner party, he saw the large and heavy dinner table, covered with decanters, glasses, and a complete dessert, rise fully two feet from the ground, the modus operandi being, as he alleged, spiritual force. No possible jugglery, he declared, was or could have been employed on the occasion; and he felt so convinced that the motive force was supernatural, that he then and there gave in his adhesion to the truth of Spiritualism, and consequently accepted the article on Mr. Home's séance.

The late CHANCELLOR, LORD LYNDHURST, was another eminent convert to Spiritualism. In the Spiritual Magazine, 1863, p. 519, it is said, "He was a careful and scrutinising observer of all facts which came under his notice, and had no predilections or prejudices against any, and during the repeated interviews which he has had with Mr. Home, he was entirely satisfied of the nearness of the spiritual world, and of the power of spirits to communicate with those still in the flesh. As to the truth of the mere physical phenomena, he had no difficulty in acknowledging them to the fullest extent; neither did he, like many, make any secret of his conviction, as his friends can testify."

ARCHBISHOP WHATELY was a Spiritualist. Mr. Fitzpatrick in his "Memoirs of Whately" tells us, that the Archbishop had been long a believer in Mesmerism, and latterly in clairvoyance and Spiritualism. "He went from one extreme to another, until he avowed an implicit belief in clairvoyance, induced a lady who possessed it to become an inmate of his house, and some of the last acts of his life were excited attempts at table-turning, and enthusiastic elicitations of spirit-rapping." This converted into plain language means, that the Archbishop examined into the facts before deciding against their possibility; and having satisfied himself by personal experiment of their reality, saw their immense importance, and pursued the investigation with ardour.

DR. ELLIOTSON, who for many years was one of the most determined opponents of Spiritualism, has at length given way to the irresistible logic of facts. Mr. Coleman thus writes in the Spiritual Magazine, 1864, p. 216:—"'I am,' Dr. Elliotson said to me, and it is with his sanction that I make the announcement, 'now quite satisfied of the reality of the phenomena. I am not yet prepared to admit that they are produced by the agency of spirits. I do not deny this, as I am unable to satisfactorily account for what I have seen on any other hypothesis. The explanations which have been made to account for the phenomena do not satisfy me, but I desire to reserve my opinion on that point at present. I am free, however, to say, that I regret the opportunity was not afforded me at an earlier period. What I have seen lately has made a deep impression on my mind, and the recognition of the reality of these manifestations, from whatever cause, is tending to revolutionise my thoughts and feelings on almost every subject.'"

CAPTAIN BURTON, of Mecca and Salt Lake City, is not a man to be taken in by a "gross deception," yet note what he says about the Davenport Brothers, who are supposed to have been so often exposed. In a letter to Dr. Ferguson, and published by him, Captain Burton states, that he has seen these manifestations under the most favourable circumstances, in private houses, when the spectators were all sceptics, the doors bolted, and the ropes, tape, and musical instruments provided by themselves. He goes on to say: "Mr. W. Fay's coat was removed while he was securely fastened hand and foot, and a lucifer match was struck at the same instant, showing us the two gentlemen fast bound, and the coat in the air on its way to the other side of the room. Under precisely similar circumstances, another gentleman's coat was placed upon him." And he concludes thus: "I have spent a great part of my life in Oriental lands, and have seen there many magicians. Lately I have been permitted to see and be present at the performances of Messrs. Anderson and Tolmaque. The latter showed, as they profess, clever conjuring, but they do not even attempt what the Messrs. Davenport and Fay succeed in doing. Finally, I have read and listened to every explanation of the Davenport 'tricks' hitherto placed before the English public, and believe me, if anything would make me take that tremendous leap 'from matter to spirit,' it is the utter and complete unreason of the reasons by which the manifestations are explained."

PROFESSOR CHALLIS, the Plumierian Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge, is almost the only person who, as far I know, has stated his belief in some of these phenomena solely from the weight of testimony in favour of them. In a letter to the Clerical Journal of June, (?) 1863, he says:—

"But although I have no grounds, from personal observation, for giving credit to the asserted spontaneous movements of tables, I have been unable to resist the large amount of testimony to such facts, which has come from many independent sources, and from a vast number of witnesses. England, France, Germany, the United States of America, with most of the other nations of Christendom, contributed simultaneously their quota of evidence. . . . In short, the testimony has been so abundant and consentaneous, that either the facts must be admitted to be such as are reported, or the possibility of certifying facts by human testimony must be given up."


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