New York Times, September 23 & Massachusetts Spy (Worcester), October 6

Convention of Believers in Spiritual Manifestations, in Worcester

These unsympathetic reports (or editorials—at least in the case of Henry Raymond’s rant in the New York Times), illustrate, if nothing else, the reason why spiritualists were convinced they had to begin publishing their own newspapers.—JB

The Spiritual Convention.

We are favored with a call to a Spiritual Convention, to be held at Worcester on the 29th inst.  It is quite doubtful whether we shall accept it, however, for we are troubled at present with the pressure of other engagments; and it is uncertain whether the edification we might receive among the rappers, would compensate for the sacrifice of temporal interests.  But the convention will meet none the less.  They will, doubtless, have a good time of it.  Mr. Adin Ballou, the hierophant of Hopedale, is to be there, full of the spirit, and bubbling to pour his ounce-vial of inspiration into the common stock; and there is to be the “Seer of Poughkeepsie,” Mr. Andrew Jackson Davis, who will read his “Vision of the Spiritual World in General Assembly,” and build up the faithful “friends of the coming Kingdom of God,” with a fasciculus of Atheistical revelations.  And when this brace of gospellers has talked its fill, then will there be divulged a plan of “organic and united action, for the more speedy and perfect results, which the New Dispensation promises to the world of men.”  All of which will be immensely gratifying, no doubt, to all such as hail a dispensation superseding that of the Messiah, in the uncouth niaiseries of the Rochester school.

But if we are unable to be at Worcester, either in the body or out of the body, on this capital occasion; we do heartily wish that some body of intelligent men, in whom the public can place confidence, would render themselves there, and give this business the benefit of their closest scrutiny.  The opportunity will be valuable.  The delusion, if such it be, is gathering a force, and an influence which theatens to affect society vitally.  Religion is appalled at the terrible heterodoxy of the thing.  It oversets all the foregoing conclusions of science, and plays Caliph Omer to a library of veteran ideas.  There is every thing that is pernicious in it.  And yet grave doctors, reverend clergymen, profound jurisconsults have confessed their conviction that the system, whatever its consequences may be is based on irrefragable truth; and to shut our eyes longer to the phenomenon, strikes us as simply a foolish piece of bigotry.  Let us have a commission—de lunatico inquirendo, if you pleaseto hold solemn inquest upon these Worcester eccentrics, to learn whether there be method in their madness.  Their case begins to look disagreeably plausible.  We, possibly, and not they, are the lunatics.  If the difficulty be soluble at all, this commission will be able to reduce it; and their verdict, with the names of responsible, unprejudiced men attached, will better enlighten the subject, than a host of the mountebank exhibitions, we have hitherto been amused withal.  Who will volunteer upon this commission?


On Wednesday, Sept. 29th, between 300 and 400 believers in the phenomena of spiritual communications, were assembled in Horticultural Hall, to take council together, in relation to the mysteries and manifestations of spiritualism.

Rev. Adin Ballou, of Hopedale, was appointed President.

The proceedings were commenced by the singing of Charles Mackay’s song, entitled “When the Might with the Right and the Truth shall be.”

A business Committee of five was nominated by the President; also, a finance committee of three.  The business committee retired, and Mr. Upham of East Boston, called upon John M. Spear, to say something of his experience.  Mr. Spear said he was averse to saying anything publicly upon the subject.  He preferred to breathe his experience into the ears of private friends.  He said, the power seems to come have come to him, of helping persons.  This power came to him unconsciously.  He will be sitting beside persons not knowing whether they are sick or not, when his hand will suddenly become like that of a corpse, and will move unconsciously towards the seat of the person’s disease, dispelling it instantly.  He was once sitting beside a clergyman, when his hand began to move towards that gentleman’s organ of ideality, and at last touched it.  The clergyman, much surprised, stated that he had been engaged in writing a biography, and that his ideality had been so actively employed, that a severe pain had struck through the head at that spot, which pain was dispelled instantly by Mr. Spear’s touch.

Mr. Spear said that spirits sent people to him that he had never known.  A lady was sent to him from Calais, Me., by her daughter, who was a medium.  The spirits had informed Mr. Spear that a clear state of the atmosphere was most favorable to the operations of his mysterious power.  The exercise of this power sometimes exhausted him very much.  Mr. S. used to visit prisons, and to take a great interest in the prisoners, but now the spirits impelled him to shun such places.  He was fond of drawing, but this desire the spirits had also destroyed.  He said he seemed to have the power of consecrating certain persons to peculiar works.  For instance, he had consecrated a lady in Danvers to good works, and a young man to the fine arts.  He had delivered lectures purporting to be from a spirit named John Murray.  These lectures flowed in unconscious streams of thought, through Mr. Spear’s system, and fell almost unconsciously from his lips.  They were addressed to all the earth.  They were on humanity, on a new order of architecture, and upon a new system of dietetics, &c.  Mr. Spear thought that some great advantage to the world might yet come from his laying on of hands if he were not over-worked, and was permitted time to develop the yet latent power.

After a long desultory discussion upon charging an admission fee at the door, when the evening meeting convened, the Convention agreed to adjourn to ½ past one P.M.


At 2 o’clock, Rev. Adin Ballou took the chair and called the meeting to order.  Nearly 800 persons were present.

The Chairman suggested that mediums should tell their experiences.

J. M. Spear rose and said that he frequently had messages sent to him, sending him on missions, and telling him that he would lose nothing by it, that his expenses would be paid.  His experience bore out the truth of the spirits’ promises.  The spirits told him yesterday to come to Worcester and that his expenses would be paid.  He came and his expenses have been paid.

The Chairman of the business Committee presented a report and a series of resolutions.  The report was accepted and the resolutions were laid on the table, subject to special call and remark.

The resolution in favor of non-organization and proposing quarterly free State Conferences was adopted.

Mr. Hewitt of Boston said that a Harmonial Brotherhood had been formed in Hartford, Conn.  This Harmonial Brotherhood was formed upon the human body.  It was the intention of an agglomeration of facts to be developed in the future.  It was an association of heavenly ideas, heavenly intercourse and heavenly life.  He liked the idea of modelling society after the harmony of the human body.  Men might model society after any other harmony, such as the harmony of music, but it would be defective.  The harmony of the human body was the highest and noblest order of harmony.  It was the microcosm of all harmonies upon which society might be remodelled and rejuvenated.  We do not pretend to understand Mr. Hewitt’s rhetoric.

Mr. Bingham said the members of the Harmonial Brotherhood took their names from the members of the human body.  The President is called the brain, or censorium; and the inferior officers are called the ear, eye, and hands and feet generally.  It is expected that the officers will gravitate spontaneously into their legitimate places.  Whenever a person feels himself qualified to be the censorium, he will put himself into the position of being the brain, &c.

Alonzo Hill, of Ohio, opposed Harmonial Brotherhoods, as tending to sectarianism.

Mr. Swett said the primary and all absorbing object of this new movement was to elevate man; he had investigated the subject for more than a year, and had associated it with the highest moral elevation of the race.

Mr. W. W. Cook said that spirit manifestations tended to harmonize and elevate mankind.  Mr. Hill, of Ohio, combatted the electrical and mesmeric theories of spiritualism.

Mr. Davidson, a most spiritual looking seer, said to be from Scotland, read a spiritual communication in a very solemn, sepulchral tone.  He said he desired to say something on spirit communications, but so many of the discords of the present state of society had flowed into his system, that he did not feel himself equal to the subject.

The chairman read the prospectus of a new spiritualist paper to be started in Boston, to be called the “New Era; or Opening Heaven.”

The meeting adjourned to seven o’clock, while many remained waiting for spiritual manifestations.  A person whose name is Oscar D. Haven, began to make some manifestations with his hands, jesticulating, and waving a paper ball over his head.  At last he rose, and with his eyes shut, moved up and down, uttering an incoherent rhapsody of Scripture; compounded with the extemporaneous effusions that flowed from his manic lips.  When this exhibition ended, the meeting dispersed.


The Convention assembled on Thursday forenoon, Sept. 30, in the City Hall.  Nearly 500 persons were present.  The President took the chair.

Andrew Jackson Davis read what purported to be the description of certain visions he had seen, and also spiritual communications which he had lately received from the inhabitants of the “superior world.”  The communications, as read by Mr. Davis, were beautiful in diction, and were distinguished by a highly philosophical and poetical cast of thought.  The communications of the spiritual visitants of Mr. Davis, did not however, appear to be very original.  The dogmatical statements of the “angel,” in reference to the laws of gravitation, and other laws of physics and ethics, have long been indicated in the published speculations and theories of the syllogists, philosophers and penseurs.  Mr. Davis’s visions were declared with much force and purity of language, with great apparent earnestness, and certainly with a finished grace of manner.  Mr. Davis is probably 36 years old [actually, 26].  He is slightly and handsomely formed; his beard, mustache, and hair are long and black; his face is thin and pale, and his forehead is very intellectual in its configuration.  He wears gold spectacles and a ring.  He dresses with great taste and apparent care, and has his surtout buttoned across his breast.  He speaks with great deliberation and grammatical accuracy, and sometimes his language is most beautifully poetical and terse.

When Mr. Davis sat down, Mr. Hewitt read a communication, purporting to be immediately from John Hancock, in his own name, and in the names of Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Roger Sherman.  It was a most inferior performance, intellectually considered, and seemed to us to be rather extravagant in the statement of facts.  It contained the prophecy that “J. M. Spear was to become the wonder of the world.”  It declared the “tippings and rappings” to be communications from the spirits of departed friends.  It abounded in indefinite prophecies concerning the period of the proximate redemption of the world; and the coming of the reign of peace and love.

Mr. Davidson protested against the idea that John Hancock could have used the word “melico,” as implied by its use in the communication first read.

A lady on the platform rose, apparently surcharged with some electrical force, and spoke for some time in a very passionate but very unconnected manner about her spiritual experience, since she was twelve years old.

When she sat down, Mr. Davidson rose and said, that he had just received a communication from the spirit of John Hancock, stating that the word melico was not used by him in the message just read, in the old theological sense.  It partook of the elements of the spirit of the medium, and was not absolutely used by the spirit of John Hancock.

A lady read a long communication addressed to the convention, from a spirit in Ohio.  It abounded in exhortations to repent and seek the kingdom of heaven.

A member of the Shaker community then rose and partially explained the relation which his society sustained to the new spiritual philosophy.  The Shakers, he said, had been cognizant of these phenomena of tippings &c., for many years past.

The Convention adjourned at noon to meet at 1 o’clock, P. M.


The President called the Convention to order at two o’clock.

The name of William B. Smith, of Boston, was added to the Central Committee.

A young woman, whom Mr. Bingham described as an uneducated Irish girl, a recently developed medium, rose, and with her eyes shut, head bent, and apparently asleep, spoke with a strong burr, foreign accent, and slow utterance, about mediums.

At the same time, a young man who seemed violently shaken with epilepsy, waved his hands on high, and rolled his head.  He then seized the hand of a man who sat beside him, and made motions indicating a desire to write.

Mr. Bingham hoped the mediums would control themselves until after the Convention was dissolved.

A member rose, much excited, and opposed this advice.

A large man, on the platform, cried out—“Obey God rather than man.”

The Irish girl again rose, and cried—“Let us not attempt to control the mediums to our will.”

“Amen!” cried the large man, with the light blue coat, on the platform.

A medium with a black beard, and closed eyes, jumped up, clapped his hands, spun round like a top, and then stood for some time with his arms extended, like a Brahmin devotee.  Slowly, one of his hands fell, while the other was directed towards the Irish girl, who stood mumbling and muttering.  The finger which pointed towards the “Irish girl,” trembled like an electrical conductor.

The Shaker then came forward, and continued his exposition of Shaker principles, which was interrupted in the forenoon.  He declared the institution of marriage to be the basis of selfishness, and the cause of the world’s discord, and carnal mindedness.

He said that marriage was designed to perpetuate the human species; and thus to sustain families, which were the sources of utter selfishness.  “My wife,” “my son,” “my daughter,” “my property,” were all expressions indicating moral corruption, selfishness, and evil, which can never be removed until marriage ceases, and families become abolished.

Mr. Heywood, of Hopedale, said the object of the spiritual philosophy was to elevate and harmonize the human race.  He discussed the practical advantages of Spiritualism, in a very solemn and very fluent style of oratory.  He denounced the unpractical character of the church.  He said the doctrine of the church, “To love God and love our neighbors,” was good.  The angels insisted on nothing more beautiful than this, but the church did not practice as she preached.  He enforced the duty of the church to act out the precepts of Christ, which she has preached but has not practised.  The heavenly messengers from the internal spheres, came to spiritualists, and told them to encourage each other to works of love: The genius, of spiritualism, he said, is the genius of human redemption and reform.  It was the genius of a divine, harmonial philosophy.

The “Irish girl” from High Rock, now rose, with her eyes closed, and her thick lips hanging down, and struck vigorously on the back of a seat.  She then commenced an address, urging obedience to the will of our eternal Father.  She pronounced our language badly, and spoke in a most incoherent ungrammatical style.  “Devalopt” and “oundevalopt,” “spurrit,” and “eternal Father,” were the only words we could distinguish, and they constituted nine-tenths of the verbiage composing her incoherent harangue.  When she sat down, the voices of those on the platform burst out into the anthem of “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”  A member rose, and said the words of the mediums were the spontaneous gospel.  It was the spirits of heaven speaking to men.

Rev. Adin Ballou rose, and said it had been announced that he should address the Convention; but as he wished always to address his fellow-men in calmness and reason, and as a strange excitement seemed to prevail without reason, and without object, he declined to say anything at this time.

At the urgent request of the Convention, Mr. Ballou re-considered his determination, and delivered an address in reprehension of fanaticism and irrationality; and in favor of a patient waiting for, and searching after truth.  He hoped that “spiritualism” would assume a higher order of development, and that it would tend to the welfare of man.

After some desultory talk, the Convention adjourned sine die.


[ Ephemera Home] [ Spiritualist Listings]