Empty Marvels

A Spiritualist, “A Trumpet Call to Spiritualists,” Religio-Philosophical Journal, December 17, 1887

Every candid thinker who believes in the philosophy of Spiritualism must admit the basic importance of its phenomena; but it must not be forgotten that the importance of the phenomena is basic, and that there is need of something higher than continually digging and prying about foundation stones.  It needs but little experience with the phenomena of Spiritualism to convince a candid mind that the intellectual products of passive mediumship can never equal the products of the soul in its active state.  Whether the imperfections of the medium’s organism impose necessary limitations upon the communicating intelligence, or whether the larger part of so-called inspirations are merely the self-quickening of the medium’s own powers, certain it is that the communications and actions of departed great ones are not consistent with their lives on earth.  Shakespeare, if we believe the trance medium, has become a school boy rhymer; Plato babbles nonsense; the sages of antiquity are become the murderers of the king’s English and the assassins of common sense.  Raphael lends his hand to daubs such as might excite the admiration of a savage in his war paint, but of no sober, cultured mind.  Mozart, Beethoven, and other tone masters whose souls were once vibrant with music of the spheres, are now become the cheap drummers on pianos at dollar séances—their grandeur of conception and feeling all gone, and their music contented with a jig or hornpipe.  The great souls of the ages, come down from Olympian heights, are engaged in peddling cheap morality and fulsome nonsense at twenty-five cents per admission.  The dignity of the great is departed, and monarchs, queens, sages, priests, masquerade in extemporized costumes before the staring eyes of mortals who, tired and cloyed with the sights of this world, are seeking fresh novelties and sensations on the borders of the next.  Reverent truth seeking is almost unknown; but instead we find open-mouthed wonder, morbid curiosity, a seeking of marvel and miracle for its own sake.  The sacred privacies of domestic life are invaded, secrets long buried are brought to light, the scroll of the soul’s life is unrolled before curious eyes, that the mad thirst for tests may be not sated, but gratified.  Wonder after wonder is performed, till the mind grows dizzy with their contemplation; and until the cry is “give, give.”  It is no wonder the cunning of the hands is called in to supplement the works of the spirit.  To such a length has the mad hunt for marvels been carried, that the possibilities of spiritual laws have been exhausted, and legerdemain must patch out the phenomena of the Spirit-world.

It is time that this phenomenalism should receive a check.  To learn the alphabet is necessary; but to stay dallying with a-b a-b, and looking curiously at the letters, and pronouncing them again and again in various tones, when the mind should be going onward to higher lessons of truth, is to dwarf and cripple our spiritual faculties, and let our own reason remain unused.  Let phenomena have their place, but let them keep it.  Let the alphabet be learned, but let it not be forgot for what end it was invented.  Let us study psychic laws, and learn of the mysteries of spirit; but let us seek truth rather than miracle, and desire edification rather than amusement.  The faculties of the soul must not be wasted in the vain search for empty marvels.  Let us feed no longer on husks, but return to the father and his bounty.

Phenomenalism can furnish no permanent conditions for spiritual growth.  The things of the spirit are spiritually discerned; and only as physical phenomena are signs and symbols of underlying truths and principles can they be of any service to the soul.

The time is come for a forward movement in the ranks of Spiritualism.  Phenomenalism has had its day and done the work for thousands.  Upon the basis thus laid there should be builded the high temple of a spiritual philosophy and a religious faith.  The world waits for the master builder who shall lay the cornerstone of this new temple.  Orthodox creeds are fast dissolving.  Articles of belief no longer have their old time meaning.  The real belief is read between the lines of all the creeds.  Liberal Christianity is almost paralyzed with doubt.  Materialism and agnosticism are making deep inroads upon the ancient faiths.  Christianity has no weapon sharp enough and no armor strong enough to turn the edge of the sword of Goliath of the Philistines.  If the claim of Spiritualism is true, there is a David who with sling and pebble can slay the giant.  Shall the opportunity now offered for the upbuilding of a Universal Temple on the ruins of the old faiths be embraced by Spiritualism, or shall she wrap herself in the drapery of phenomenal delusion, and sink into the sleep that can know no waking?


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