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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 2

 

MANY of the phenomena and communications which we are accustomed to attribute to spirits of departed persons have been explained by some on the principles of mind reading, of mesmerism, of clairvoyance, etc. Will you give us your explanation of this, and to what extent, if any, such phenomena may be thus accounted for?

 

Answer

 

THOSE who claim that all communications which impress their minds without a visible or material origin proceed from disembodied spirits alone, forget that themselves are spirits, and that whatever attributes “the spirits” possess, whatever powers they can exercise, are measurably possessed by themselves. They forget, moreover, that the ever-ascending spirit is constantly obeying an invisible magnetism, namely - the action of the grand magnet of creation which I call God. I BELIEVE IN GOD; I believe that the Great Spirit is related to me as a father to a child. Though I see Him not, I know that He is, and that He is a magnet ever calling us up to Him. Even in the deepest darkness of crime and ignorance He speaks in the voice of conscience to his erring children, and therefore I feel, though I cannot always interpret in human speech, His constant attraction upward and onward. I know, moreover, that I hold a relation and am kindred to all things in nature, whether in matter or form, below myself. I know that the earthly magnetism of the lower kingdoms are also attracting me downwards. Between the two magnetisms, the supreme good and the antagonistic, my spirit strives and fights life’s battle, in conquest or defeat. In this strife, and the daily external cares which belong to a material existence, in the difficulty of looking through the windows of the soul upon the world without, my spirit often seems wiser than I knew of. It has in part the gift of clairvoyance,


 

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sometimes the power of soul-reading, and it can often receive monitions and impressions though it knows not from whence. It is partly prophetic, and constantly sympathetic with distant things and persons; and it is in these mystic attributes of our own spirits that we do not always know how to disentangle the identity of our own soul’s aspirations, powers and possibilities from the action which suddenly breaks upon us in the revelation of modern Spiritualism. The presence of a spirit-world has become to the uninstructed a great solvent in which they suppose that all occult powers of the soul are resolved and overshadowed; and they determine that whatsoever they cannot comprehend, or seems occult and strange, must be the action of disembodied spirits. We are apt, therefore, to attribute in some cases too much to a spiritual source, in others too little. The spirit world is as the soul of this world, and bears to it precisely the same relation; so there is a perpetual action and reaction going on between the two worlds which produce influences of whose source and action we are often unconscious. Suppose some man of crime is bent upon the commission of a deed of murder and waits for the cover of darkness to commit his act of blood. Ere the shadow of the night is fully fallen he lies down beneath some sheltering hedge to wait until the pall of darkness is thrown around his guilty way. As thus concealed, he crouches in obscurity, the sound of a young child’s voice is heard singing a Sabbath hymn. Perhaps it is the strain of an old familiar prayer, which many years ago he learned at his mother’s knee, ere guilt fell across his path life a gulf between the innocence of youth and the age of crime. Behold that gulf at this moment as he listens bridged over by that young child’s voice. The memories evoked by those tones and words convert the man grown hoar with crime into a little child again. The past returns, and with a retrospect fraught with every deed he has done, and the many fearful steps he has trod, are all presented in panoramic view before him. With the fearful contrast of the happy past, and the miserable present, comes the deep resolve to arise and “go to his Father.” The prodigal retraces then his steps and quits that spot a pilgrim on the road to Heaven. Earth never knows the cause of change, but angels do, and know that the child was the murderer’s ministering angel; he who made the hymn, the very hand that set it in published form afloat, the mother who taught the little one to chant it, all these, and every circumstance of time that brought that child within the reach of the ear of guilt were footprints of ministering goodness. And yet these agencies of redemption were all unknown to the man of crime, and to human reason unpremeditated; and yet it is ever so, and as we pass along the city street, in all our walks of every day and night, an angel’s wing sweeps by us, we hear it rustle in the air, we scent the perfume of its fragrant presence as of flowers from Paradise, perhaps we hear the music of its tread; we know not what it is that has filled us with good thoughts, we only realise that some inward monition has spoken and that we are better for its presence.

 

Even so is the spirit-world related to the natural. It is a world of unceasing influence, of unseen ministering spirits. We cannot define how far the soul’s own supernal powers exceed the laws of matter, nor yet tell you wherein, by phenomenal acts alone, the spirit-world is exercising influence upon you. Neither can I refer you to the Scriptural test rendered by the apostle charging you to try the spirits only through the accepted belief of the writer; a belief that involves no question of good or evil, and simply applies to the mind’s acceptance of a sectarian dogma. But we would charge you to try the spirits by the teachings they enunciate, and see if they agree with your highest sense of right, and echo the still small voice of God in your heart, speaking through the tones of conscience. Try the spirits through such teachings as Christ’s,


 

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and if they be of God they will acknowledge that God speaks to man through every good and beautiful and holy word and thing that exists or has a being. Try them by reason, intelligence, and by the test facts of identity; try them by all those means which dictate to judgment in the daily affairs and common routine of life. You have your chemical tests, you have your standards of truth in morals, arts, and sciences. Even in astronomy itself, acting in apparently the largest, grandest, and most unattainable sphere in which the human intellect can range, you can find tests of truth so accurate the man has gauged the heavens and measured the depths of infinity, and even be gazing on the blank expanse of millions of miles from the last sphere of his observation, he can determine the existence of undiscovered planets. If in this infinite largeness science has grappled with the mightiest problems of matter, cannot you apply reason, judgment, and the ordinary tests of truth as known to men, to the simple and daily routine of intelligent communion between yourselves and the spirit? You desire to know if father, brother, sister, or mother speaks with you. Seek for their identity through proofs known to such spirits as those you ask for - weigh carefully corroborative testimony - bring to bear the judgment and reason that you suffer to guide and direct you in other events of life. If God grants you the glorious privilege of communion with a higher world than yours, it is not to make you subjects to that higher world, but to raise you to it by the exercise of your own highest faculties. “Know ye not that ye shall judge the angels?” Therefore, I repeat, your question admits of no distinct definition, but I throw it back upon your reason to answer for yourselves, and if in the search for truth the ordinary modes of practice must be pursued, and you should stumble and fall, and often mistake your aim, grope in the dark, and sometimes fail in ascending to the topmost round of the ladder, where you can behold as in a vista all problems laid out that you seek to comprehend - if in this effort you fail to succeed at last, what then? Why you have tested your strength, you have tried the muscles, thews, and sinews of your soul and intellect; and in the strife gained more than you even sought. The grandest lessons that man has ever learned have ever been gained by his failures. And we must not hope to except this mode of teaching from the communion called Spiritualism, whose highest truths can only be discovered through patient effort, candid investigation, many failures, but ultimate success.

 

Question 3  January 15th, 1866