The Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, April 7-9.

Spiritualist Convention in Springfield, Massachusetts, including notes of a trance anti-slavery skit.

The Spiritual Convention.

A Convention of the believers in the Spiritual philosophy assembled at Hampden Hall, in this city, on Wednesday afternoon.  The hall was not far from half full, and we should judge that there were about 300 persons present who were believers.

The Convention was organized by the choice of Dr. H[enry] F[rancis] GARDNER of Springfield, as President; of twelve Vice-Presidents, among whom were Seth B. Bliss of Springfield, Adin Ballou, John M[urray] Spear, R[ussell] P[erkins] Ambler, Dr. [Reuben] Barron of Palmer, Mrs. [Semantha Beers] Mettler, the Spiritual clairvoyant, and Mrs. Cadwell of Springfield; and of three Secretaries—Messrs C. H. White, J[ohnson] R. Mettler and S[imon] C[rosby] Hewitt.

Previous to the organization of the Convention, and while this nominating Committees were out, a lady arose, and, facing the audience, with her eyes closed, and hands uplifted, said in a somewhat impressive manner:

     “You will see angels,
       You will see angels,
       You will see angels,
       Coming from the spirit world.”

This was followed by the repetition, in a rhythmical reiteration of the words, “We are all a band of brothers,” “We are united spirits,” &c., &c., “from the spirit world.”  This concluded with the query:

     “Will you be united spirits?
       Will you be united spirits?
       Will you be united spirits?
        In this lower world.”

Before taking her seat, she exhorted the assembly to unity in its deliberations.  Hymns, by very good voices, were also sung, in which we very “harmoniously” joined.

The exercises of the Convention were opened with prayer, by a gentleman whose name we did not catch, and then the President declared the Convention ready to receive communications and transact business.  Mr. John M. Spear rose, and said that he had received a communication from Benjamin Rush, in behalf of the Association of Beneficence [sic], a society recently organized in the spirit world, containing directions in regard to the conduct of the Convention, which he proceeded to read.  The principal directions were to the effect that all anxieties must be laid aside, that there must be patient waiting for developments, that there be no outward looking for eminent persons to address the Convention, that an arrangement be made for a general National Convention at a convenient season, in some hospitable place, and that a committee of Correspondence be chosen by the Convention to communicate with spiritualists in other States in regard to the National gathering.

Mr. [Selden J.] Finney of Cleveland, Ohio, a noted “speaking medium,” then rose, and stated that in the city of his residence there were 700 mediums in various stages of development, and 5,000 disciples.  He stated that as the churches there had opposed the movement, the spirits had taken hold, and made mediums in the churches.  Even the school children had spiritual circles.  In Cincinnati there were 1,200 mediums.  He then gave an instance of the spirits splitting a table all in pieces, in order to convince a company of skeptics.  He said that in Cleveland, while the churches were pining for spiritual life, there was growing up around them the church of universal brotherhood, endowed with spiritual life.  Thus much he said and more, of similar purport.

A long discussion then sprung up on a motion offered by Mr. [Rufus] Elmer of Springfield, that permission be given to persons entertaining views opposed to those of spiritualists, to make a statement of them.  There was an evident shrinking from controversy, on the part of the Convention, from the belief that it would do no good, and the matter was compromised, by Mr. Elmer accepting, instead, a resolution which, without stating the question in hand, admitted of a wide private construction, that was satisfactory.  Dr. [Josiah Andrews] Gridley of Southampton rose to discuss the subject, and wandered off into a fanciful flight (taking Balaam’s ass for his Pegasus) which, though it failed of a single allusion to the question before the Convention, was an amusing episode in proceedings that were otherwise respectable and in order.

And then the communications proceeded.  Mr. Whittaker of Troy said that there was an unpoetical writing medium in that city, who had, under the spiritual influence, written 140 pages (foolscap) of very fine poetry.  But decidedly the most interesting communication of the afternoon was that made by a gentleman who gave his name as “Gibson Smith of Vermont.”  He remarked that it was the first time he had ever had the privilege of attending a Convention of spiritualists, though he had met angels in Convention frequently.  He had been in the ministry twenty years, and had probably been an advocate of the spiritual philosophy longer than any person present.  He came from the town of Shaftsbury, where he thought some things had been witnessed of a more wonderful character than in most other places.  Some ten years ago, he had a promise that he should see the angels.  The promise was fulfilled about six months since.  He had been endowed with the faculty of seeing the internal organs of the body—of seeing disease, and, simultaneously, its remedy.  He did it all in his normal state.  His brother Denio, who sat next to him, had received a similar power.

Mr. Smith was then called upon to give an account of some of the wonderful things he had seen.  He proceeded to state that he had had a view of the planets, and of their inhabitants.  The people who inhabit the planet Mercury have few, or no religious ideas.  They are extremely low in the scale of development.  In Venus, there is confusion worse confounded.  [This accounts for her malign influence over the sons of men.]  In Mars, the condition of the people was vastly different.  Though not at the acme of development, they are more developed than the inhabitants of the earth.  In Jupiter and Saturn, they are still more developed and spiritual.  If the audience could be transported to, and set down in, Saturn, they would suppose they were in heaven.  Herschel [i.e., Uranus] is thinly settled, and all the planets beyond that are depopulated.  This is the consequence of the cold weather there, and their distance from the Solar center.  All this was delivered in a plain and sober style, as if the gentleman were talking of a familiar and every day matter.

Various cases of manifestations and visions were subsequently narrated which we have not space to notice.  Mr. Elmer, in contravention of the statement in the Republican that no manifestations had occurred out of the atmosphere of the human brain, brought forward the alleged fact that writing had been done by spirits, when no medium was in the room, or even in the house.

Dr. Gridley made himself miserable over the fact that a communication of his to the Republican, some time since, was not inserted.  We have no distinct recollection of what the communication was, but if it had the degree of coherence that characterizes the gentleman’s oral performances, there was a decided reason for not publishing it, independent of any that he saw fit gratuitously to prefer.

The evening session was occupied, through a very long length, by an address by Mr. Finney of Ohio, a smart man, with fine natural powers of oratory, excellent wind, and a very high development of infidelity.  His theme was the emancipation of the human race from the slavery of error, and, in its discussion, he endeavored to illustrate and enforce the great law of human progress, and to kick over the bible, the priests, and the church.  We cannot undertake to give an outline of his address, which, in some points, was sufficiently ingenious, and in some points sufficiently sound, but which, in its general tendency, was subversive of all those principles which have formed the basis of human progress thus far, at least, and which are broader and deeper than have yet, save in one instance, found exemplification in human life.  When mankind have become as good as Christianity can make them, we will call on Mr. Finney for more light.

The proceedings of the day were characterized by much decorum and sobriety.  The Convention will hold three sessions to-day, commencing at 9 o’clock this morning, at half past one in the afternoon, and at 7 in the evening.

April 9, 1853

The Spiritualists in Convention at Springfield—Second and Last Day.

On Thursday, the Convention re-assembled at an early morning hour, and, at the three several sessions of the day, the attendance was very largely increased.  In the afternoon and evening, particularly, the Hall was full.  The exercises of the day did not vary materially in their character from those of the day preceding, save in an instance of “spiritual manifestations” which occurred at the close of the afternoon session.

These manifestations were of a dramatic character, and were intended to illustrate, as we were given to understand, the fact that there are spirits, in the world of spirits, who are not aware that they are there, so low are they in the scale of being, and that the more developed spirits have a work to do in educating and elevating them.  It was a queer medley of nonsense, speculation, and religion, and, altogether, not calculated to advance the cause of spiritualism among the unbelievers.

The principal speakers of the day were Henry C[larke] Wright and Andrew Jackson Davis.  The former was the most effective, though, perhaps, not the most brilliant speaker of the occasion.  Mr. Finney of Ohio spoke again in the evening, following Mr. Davis.  Our opinion of the human intellect engaged in the Convention is, that there was much there above mediocrity; of the “spirit wisdom,” as manifested in the dramatic performances, that it was small—very small potatoes—very few in the hill, and scattered very widely over the ground.

Upon entering the hall in the morning, we found Dr. Gridley reading a manuscript of learned length, and giving a sort of running commentary thereon.  The great doctrine expounded by the Doctor was that souls are drawn out in fibers of “endless tenuity,” and that by these fibers, soul is connected with soul, and with material objects.  So, when, upon going from home, a person feels that he has left something, a fiber of the soul has fastened upon the object forgotten, and it is difficult to tear it away.  Upon finding this object, the person feels that his soul is all aboard, and that there are no fibers holding him back.  Dr. G. gave some account of his first interview with the spirit of his deceased son.  He advised his son at that time to “keep his fellowship in an ascending direction”—that is, to avoid low company.  He recommended his son to consult him in all his difficulties.  The next morning, after breakfast, the son called to consult upon a little matter, which they together soon settled.

A committee reported it expedient to hold a National Convention at Rochester, N. Y., on the 2d, 3d, and 4th days of September next.  Rochester was selected, chiefly from the fact that there the manifestations originated.  A committee of correspondence was appointed, with one or two members from each State, including Mexico.  Rufus Elmer was a member for Massachusetts.  Several gentlemen from Illinois were added to the committee.  An old gentleman remarked that he was glad to have a delegation from Illinois, but hoped they did not belong to the Legislature, as he was certain no spirits would have anything to do with the Illinois Legislature.  A telegraphic dispatch was received from Bro. [Samuel Byron] Brittan, saying that he could not attend, being “submerged in business.”

Adin Ballou offered a series of resolutions which were afterwards adopted, and were, to substance, as follows: that the existence of spirits separate from the body has been a fundamental article of belief in all religions; that occasional manifestations of spirits have always been admitted; that modern manifestations are as legitimate as those of former times; that unbelief in modern spiritualism is to be traced to the same cause as ancient unbelief; that spiritual manifestations take place according to laws; that many manifestations are imperfect and not reliable; that every manifestation should be judged by its intrinsic merit, and not by its assumptions; that when spirits direct or recommend bad conduct, they should be disobeyed; that these revelations lead to improvement in life; that there is coming a new order of society; that contempt, and sneers, and anathemas are indications of Sadduceeism, Sensualism, Phariseeism, Sectarianism and Infidelity, (what do you think of that, Mr. Finney?); and that they, i.e., Spiritualists, would live down all opposition, and celebrate the conjunction of earth and heaven.

With the help of an old gentleman who supplied the “amens” “hit or miss,” Mr. B. commented at some length upon these doctrines.  He believed there were genuine communications from spirits, but not that every thing purporting to be, really is, from spirits.  He seemed to think that those who refuse to believe any thing, and those who swallow every thing, were in about equal error.  Mr. B’s speech was an effective one, characterized by general fairness and candor, and containing many manly sentiments.  Rufus Elmer added a sort of indorsement.  He said that he had had, upon an average, as many as two or three interviews a week, with spirits, that he had detected them in many mistakes and errors, and even falsehoods; but that he had never heard from them any principles or doctrines at variance with those contained in Mr. Ballou’s address.  Whether this was intended as a compliment to Mr. Ballou or the spirits, we did not understand.

In the afternoon, Henry C. Wright, the very easy and pleasant speaker whom we have mentioned, occupied some time in defining his position.  He was followed by a gentleman who explained why the revelations of spirits are so uncertain, and often erroneous.  The separation of the truth from the error is necessary to furnish employment for our faculties, and prevent them from rusting out in indolence.

After some remarks from Rev. J[ames] S[teven] Loveland, as to the modus operandi in Charlestown, Mr. S. C. Hewitt, editor of the New Era, took the stand.  After remarking that though table tippings were very well in their place we were yet to look for something higher, he announced that the spirits had turned their attention to practical matters, and that Roger Sherman had given a course of twelve lectures upon Architecture, through John M. Spear, medium, who was a remarkably good medium, and by whom no serious errors had ever been communicated.  According to those lectures, houses are to be built of a material, formed by mixing with sea water, in equal proportions, iron ore, pulverized granite, fine clay and sand from the sea shore.  The house is to be modeled after the human body when in a sitting posture, and the family are to reside in the apartment which corresponds to the cavity occupied by the brain.  We are not quite certain whether by this is meant the upper story, for it was not very apparent where the brains of the speaker and some of his companions were.  The house is to be warmed in a way revealed in a course of twelve lectures from [the spirit of English philanthropist and prison reformer John] Howard, upon Beneficent Machinery.  No fuel is to be used, and the system is according to the arterial system of the circulation of blood.  A framework is to be built in the basement, of the same materials as the house.  A large boiler is to be placed in the framework, and in the boiler, a jar made of zinc and tin, with two wires, like arms, and five fingers, tipped with brimstone.  Linseed oil is to be poured into the jar, and the wires are to be rubbed, and, somehow—the speaker did not exactly understand how—perpetual heat is to be produced.  Villages are to be built, under the new dispensation, as follows: First, a circular park is to be laid out; and in it a circular church, and a circular school-house, with a triangular roof over all, are to be built.  These are to be surrounded by a circular street, and then the houses are to be built in circles about them.  We are at first angular, being in the first stage of development, but the second form is circular, and when we come to take the second step, in the advancement of art, we shall have nearly all arrangements circular.  These discoveries are not patented, and those to whom they have been revealed, do not wish to monopolize them, so any one who wishes, is at liberty to build a house and warm it, (if he can), or lay out a village according to these plans.  Mr. Hewitt said that if he got a good number of new subscribers, he would give a plan of the house in his paper, and if he received a larger number, would publish a perspective view.  If he had only said that he would build such a house, or live in it, he would hardly fail, of obtaining enough subscribers.

John M. Spear gave an account of his success in the healing art.  At first, his hand would be moved towards the diseased person, who would be thereby relieved.  Then he would be impressed to prescribe remedies, but he never recommended medicines.  In difficult cases, the spirits would seem undecided, and would appoint a day for consultation.  He would accordingly prepare a large room, and at the time appointed the spirits would attend in large numbers, and deliberate upon the case.  He stated that several cures had been effected.  In one case, a small woman had gained ten pounds of flesh in a week.

The spiritual dramatic performances which closed the exercises of the afternoon was a curiosity.  A request was made for all to leave the room, who would not be able to sit it through, as the door would be locked, and neither ingress nor egress allowed.  The mediums were called to the front seats, and to the stage, all sat down, and then followed a long and solemn silence.  Then Rev. J. M. Spear began to go to sleep, his right hand raised, and held tremulously upwards.  Then he arose, advanced slowly towards the center of the stage, and suddenly put both hands to his face, and burst out into a most lugubrious bellowing; and as nearly as we can recall it, we will give some of the first of the performance, as a specimen:

Mr. Spear—(Hands to his face—face red as a cabbage) Boo hoo!  Ah-h boo-hoo!  Oh-h-h boo boo-oo-oo-oo!!!  My father is dead, my mother is dead, and my little boy is dead!  I saw them all buried in the grave!  And I must be buried in the grave!  (Wringing his hands)  Boo hoo!  Oh where is my mother, where is my father, and where is my little boy?  (more blubbering.)

Lady—[probably John Spear’s daughter, Sophronia Spear Butler] (Arising and advancing) Your father and mother are here, and little Johnny is here.—Don’t you see them?  Here they are, and here is little Johnny—little curly headed fellow!

Mr. Spear—(More boo-hooing.) My father is dead, my mother is dead, and little Johnny is dead.  Oh!  I want to see little Johnny.  Oh! I wish I was dead, too.

Lady—(Kindly.)  Here they are—they are not dead, they are living.

Mr. Spear—Little Johnny is dead.  I saw him die.

Lady—No, Johnny is not dead.

Mr. Spear—It’s a lie!

Lady—Why, here he is.  Can’t you see him?  He lives, and is here, by your side.

Mr. Spear—It’s a lie!  It’s an infernal lie!!  Oh!  Where is Johnny?

Mr. Finney—(Advancing, and partly addressing the audience.)  Here is materialism in its grossest form.  (Addressing the lady)—He comprehends you not.  His eyes are closed.  With the material vision he sees not spiritual realities.  He must be educated.  He must be taught the very A-B-C’s of spiritual being.

Mr. Spear—I want to see Johnny.

Lady—(Impatiently sputtering.)  Patience!  Oh can’t you see him?

But enough.  In this style, the drama progressed, Mr. Spear persisting in his infidelity and in his desire to plant his peepers on Johnny, the lady determined that he shall see him, Mr. Finney moralizing generally and particularly on material and spiritual things, another gentleman throwing up his hands, uttering all sorts of oracular sayings, and sometimes walking back and forth on the stage, like Bill Christy before commencing a Virginia break-down, and a young girl “mixing in” occasionally, with something about the church, which the talkative lady thought was very silly and foolish.  Soon the play took another turn, and branched off into Slavery, the church, the devil, &c., &c., and, at last, “brought up” in no particular place.  We regretted to see that Mr. Spear did not get a squint at Johnny, except in dreams, to which dreams the good lady conjured him to hold on.

Well, what was it all about?  Our vision being still material, we, of course, cannot be expected to be entirely correct in our interpretations, but as near as we understand it, it was thus: Mr. Spear was possessed by the spirit of a superlatively ignorant Negro slave.  His father and mother were slaves, and so was Johnny.  He was in the spirit world, but was so gross and undeveloped that he did not know that he was dead, and had not yet obtained spiritual vision.  The spirits around him, in the other forms, were trying to teach him and comfort him.  The lesson was (as explained) that undeveloped spirits had to be trained and developed gradually by the ministrations of those more advanced.  The expositor also stated that the education of undeveloped spirits was a portion of the new movement in the spirit world, and was participated in more largely there than here.  To us, outside barbarians and “infidels,” the exhibition looked like a most unmitigated humbug.  If the spirits are no smarter than their exhibition would indicate, we don’t want them around us.  It was a poor, pitiful, nonsensical, incoherent, hodge-podge, inane, insane, frothy mess of tom-foolery.  And there, hundreds sat and swallowed it!  If any man in his sober senses could have witnessed it without a solemn conviction that it was anything more or less than a compound of delusion, deception and knavery, he must be made of materials different from those which enter into our composition.

The Address of Andrew Jackson Davis, in the evening, was read from manuscript, and was rather hum-drum-ish.  He was followed by Mr. Finney, who exhausted the vocabulary of sarcasm, contempt and abuse, in a continuation of his attacks on the bible and the church.  Had he been inspired by a fiend of hell he could not have been more bitter in his denunciations.  There is one thing we have to thank him for.  He has shown us the terrible gulf to which he and the movement with which he is identified is tending.  If the foul fiend has anything to do with the movement, he has over-reached himself, and of the general subject we shall have more to say hereafter.


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