The Nature and Tendency of Modern Spiritualism


Chapter Six. The Spirits Cannot Be Identified

If this assertion can be established, if it can be shown that Spiritualists themselves, after long and carefully testing the matter, acknowledge that spirits cannot be identified-that they will personate and deceive so as to defy all efforts at detection-then their unreliability is fully shown. No better evidence than this is needed of the danger of the system, because deception cannot certainly be detected in any instance, therefore the deception may be permanent-never exposed till the deceived and bewildered soul is ruined. NTMS 84.5

In arguing this and other points, we produce as evidence the testimony of Spiritualists, and such as have been Spiritualists; here we wish to introduce their evidence, with a few interesting remarks from Pres. Mahan:- NTMS 85.1

“Certain experiments have been made, in order to determine whether spirits are present. Individuals go in as inquirers, and get definite answers-in the first place, from departed spirits of persons yet living; in the second place, from departed spirits of persons who never existed here or anywhere else; in the third place from departed spirits of brute beasts. Now, it will not be denied that answers are obtained from these, but it is said the communications come from spirits in a dishonest state of mind. But they will answer all the test questions that any other spirits can do. You cannot get a test applied in any question, cannot form or establish a test, that will not be as perfectly fulfilled in these cases as in any other. Now, if lying spirits can read our inmost thoughts, what evidence have you that any but lying spirits ever did communicate? How do you know but that when you were communicating, the father of lies was present, and shaped his lies for the very purpose of deception?”-Discussion at Cleveland with Tiffany and Rhen, page 13. NTMS 85.2

Had the President followed up the last idea presented above, instead of trying to account for all the phenomena on natural principles, he would doubtless have more nearly met the arguments of his opponents. Again, he says:- NTMS 85.3

“I venture to affirm that the testimony of no individual would be received in a court of justice which varied according to the persons with whom he conversed. Now I say that you cannot bring a solitary spirit that will not do this identical thing. A spirit will come into an orthodox circle, and affirm absolutely all the articles of the orthodox creed. You may in the same spot change the character of the circle and he will deny all he has said before. You may change the third time, and he will deny all he has said before, and assert an entirely new theory. Now I will appeal to any judge of any court, if he would receive the testimony of such a person. Again, they contradict each other in things that spirits cannot be ignorant of. They have attempted to tell us the location of the spheres, the distance between the surface of the earth and the spheres; and I do not believe that you can bring two spirits from the vasty deep that will agree in such a simple fact as that-that will agree with regard to any essential condition with reference to the spirits there, who is there, and what is their condition. NTMS 85.4

“Judge Edmonds has drawn a picture of what he has seen, that made one of his hearers say, ‘Why, Judge Edmonds, that is worse than a Presbyterian Hell!’ He says that he has seen spirits which have been there 18,000 years, that look like monkeys; and that he has seen those who have horns, just as he has seen in pictures. I take the books, and then the testimony of all that have witnessed these circles, of whom I have inquired, and I have never yet met an individual who would honestly tell me that he believed that the testimony of the spirits was reliable. When in New York, I obtained the loan of a book, and wishing to know whether it was a spiritual production, I went down to the Spiritual Telegraph office, and inquired of Mr. Brittan if that was a hoax. He said, ‘We are not responsible for the sentiments here, only for its origin. We do not take the testimony of spirits as reliable.’ I put the same question to Dr. Underhill, and he said, ‘I would not rely upon the responses received through any medium. If the spirits tell me what accords with true philosophy, I believe it, but if they do not, I do not believe it.’ Well, now, what a source of information is that? Why; if it accords with what we know before, believe it, but all beyond is doubt. Now I do not believe there is any person dare go beyond that.”-Id., page 37. NTMS 86.1

In a discussion of this subject in the summer of 1856, one who claimed to have been the first Spiritualist in the State of Michigan (a Mr. Hobart of St. Joseph County), made the following remark:- NTMS 86.2

“The spirit sometimes assumes the name of an individual belonging to the same church, to induce them to hear. This is necessary with some who are so bigoted they would not believe unless a name was assumed which they respected.” NTMS 86.3

This was an admission which we did not then suppose an intelligent Spiritualist would make. Any such assumption by a lying spirit would avail nothing if the person spoken to believed what the Bible says, that “the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. That they do deceive those who seek to them is beyond all doubt; and to ward off the force of this fact, the flimsy covering of doing evil that good may come, is thrown over them. They are good, but it is our weakness and bigotry that causes them to profess to be what they are not! They are obliged to deceive us for our benefit, and to lie us into the truth! NTMS 87.1

We did not know till that time that Spiritualists had so little confidence in these communications; but investigation proves the fact. Yet it is an obvious fact that all Spiritualists have changed in their faith and lives under the influence of the spirits. This is a point worthy of careful consideration, that they are continually being molded and fashioned by an influence in which they dare not publicly avow the least confidence. NTMS 87.2

Said Joel Tiffany:- NTMS 87.3

“Persons have supposed that when they get correct answers they get tests. But when we come to understand that the spirit can come into rapport with the mind in the circle, we then discover that he can perceive his thoughts and get the answer as well as the question from his mind, and then being in communication with the medium can answer all his questions, and give him perfect answers, as to identity, at the same time that he is a far different spirit from what he purports to be.”-Discussion with Mahan, page 52. NTMS 87.4

The following remarks from Dr. Hare, made in the N. Y. Investigating Class, show that he also believed there was danger of being deceived:- NTMS 87.5

“There was a difficulty, undoubtedly, in knowing precisely how it is, even upon the testimony of spirits, because spirits there occupying different spheres and immensely differing in their degrees of development, accordingly give discrepant accounts of the matter. We must first identify the spirit and determine his trustworthiness before we could accredit his testimony. We must observe the same rules of evidence, apply the same tests, and have the same care in ascertaining their identity and veracity we do in like matters here.” NTMS 88.1

What folly, to talk of applying the same tests of identity to spirits that we do to persons here! The Doctor knew better, as every one does. But he admits that we cannot trust them, unless we can identify them, and the most experienced Spiritualists say that it is impossible. He seemed to consider himself safe from deception, as will appear by the following remark:- NTMS 88.2

“He thought it impossible that he could have been deceived. It was not likely that any spirit would, in such a convocation, where Washington, Franklin, his father and mother, and others were present, assume a false character and name to deceive him any more than it was possible for any individual to assume to be and speak as some one else at a town meeting, without being detected.” NTMS 88.3

But Dr. Hare assumed that “Washington, Franklin, his father and mother,” were present, for he could have no evidence of it whatever. We have attended many town meetings in years gone by, but we never yet knew any man to speak in such meetings in the name of his neighbor; but such things often take place in “circles,” according to the testimony of Spiritualists. NTMS 88.4

Judge Edmonds, in “Spiritual Tracts,” No. 7, page 4, says:- NTMS 88.5

“One day while I was at West Roxbury, there came to me, through Laura as the medium, the spirit of one with whom I had been well acquainted, but from whom I had been separated some fifteen years. His was a very peculiar character-one unlike that of any other man whom I ever knew, and so strongly marked that it was not easy to mistake his identity. NTMS 88.6

“I had not seen him in several years; he was not at all in my mind at the time, and he was unknown to the medium. Yet he identified himself unmistakably, not only by his peculiar characteristics, but by referring to matters known only to him and me. NTMS 89.1

“I took it for granted he was dead, and was surprised afterward to learn that he was not. He is yet living. NTMS 89.2

“I cannot, on this occasion, go into all the particulars of an interview which lasted more than an hour. I was certain there was no delusion about it, and as certain that it was just as much of a spirit-manifestation as any I ever witnessed or heard of.” NTMS 89.3

But the credulity of Spiritualists knows no bounds. With all the evidence before him, and the well-known admissions of Spiritualists that lying spirits personate our friends so well as to defy detection, the Judge yet thought it was the spirit of his living friend! NTMS 89.4

The following experience of a circle of “six ladies and gentlemen,” is taken from the Boston Bee. The spirit of a dog first identified itself; the paper states:- NTMS 89.5

“Several satisfactory answers were given relative to its name, that of its late master, time of its decease, etc.... The next spirit was that of a cat, who revealed the secret that it had been drowned while at a very tender age, in a cistern, by a young lady who was present. The answers in this instance were correct and satisfactory. NTMS 89.6

“After this, a gentleman (who was a medium) asked if the spirit of a favorite horse was present. The raps were in the affirmative. The raps then gave the name of the horse by the alphabet, its age, the number of years it had been dead, the name of the place where it had been struck by lightning,” etc. [Copied from Prof. Matteson.] NTMS 89.7

In these instances the most satisfactory “tests of identity” were given. Who has ever known any better to be given by any spirits? NTMS 89.8

Dr. Hare became satisfied that he was conversing with Christ, but Woodman says:- NTMS 89.9

“For our part, we do not believe that Jesus Christ has communicated through any medium directly during the present century, though we do not pretend to know. If he should come to communicate, how would he be known? No living person would know him by his form, his voice, or his writing. No person could be induced to recollect by the relation of unpublished facts in his life, or by any peculiar marks or idiosyncrasies of character, for all these are unknown. So far as we could see, there could be nothing to identify his person. If the communication should be in any respect impure or immoral in its tendency, it would stand self-condemned. If it should be found in perfect harmony with the divine law, still it might come from some other intervening spirit.”-Reply to Dwight, page 65. NTMS 90.1

These remarks would apply to any other as well as unto Christ. And if the professed Christ should communicate “in perfect harmony with the divine law,” Mr. Woodman would be inclined to regard it as some intervening spirit-and lying spirit, of course, professing to be what it was not. But suppose it professed to be one who had lived in the present century, with whose form, voice, writing, character, etc., we were acquainted, could we identify him with any greater certainty? A. J. Davis, in the Herald of Proress, Feb. 1, 1862, in answer to a question concerning the appearance of spirits, says:- NTMS 90.2

“These appearances are intended merely as reminders and as tests of identity. All intelligent spirits are great artists. They can psychologize a medium to see them, and to describe them, in the style which would produce the greatest impression on the receiver.... They can easily represent themselves as being old or young, as in worldly dress or in flowing robes, as is deemed best suited to accomplish the ends of the visitation. They substitute pantomime and appearance for oral explanations.” NTMS 90.3

In the Spiritual Telegraph of July 11, 1857, the leading editorial is entitled, “On the Identification of Spirits.” The following is the commencement of the article:- NTMS 90.4

“The question is continually being asked, especially by novitiates in spiritual investigations, How shall we know that the spirits who communicate with us are really the ones whom they purport to be? and for want of a satisfactory answer many minds are thrown into perplexity, and even doubt as to whether the so-called spiritual manifestations are really such. In giving the results of our own experience and observation upon this subject, we would premise that spirits unquestionably can, and often do, personate other spirits, and that, too, often with such perfection as, for the time being, to defy every effort to detect the deception. Not only can they represent the leading personal characteristics of the spirits whom they purport to be, but they can relate such facts in the history of said spirits, as may be known to the inquirer, or to some one else with whom the communicating spirit is or has been en rapport. And this, in our opinion, is done so often as to very materially diminish the value of any specific tests that may be designedly instituted by the inquirer for the purpose of proving identity; and that if direct tests are demanded at all, we would recommend that they be asked for the purpose of proving that the manifesting influence is that of a spirit, rather than to prove what particular spirit is the agent of its production.” NTMS 91.1

So it appears that all their talk about “tests” and “test mediums” is entitled to no credit whatever. The “experience and observation” of the editor of the Telegraph entitles his testimony to as much credit as that of any Spiritualist in the country. According to his view, we can only assure ourselves “that the manifesting influence is that of a spirit,” which we would not deny, but we cannot ascertain “what particular spirit” is communicating, as they “personate with such perfection as to defy every effort to detect the deception.” This is all that we have ever claimed or could claim, in regard to this great system of falsehood. The following from the same article is equally expressive of their characters and actions:- NTMS 91.2

“From much experience and observation, however, we are satisfied that if, after having received in all good faith, such messages directly from the spirit friend whom it purports to be, we proceed to inquiries about matters of theological faith or speculative philosophy, or even about such practical concerns of human life as may involve the ambition, conceits, or prejudices of other spirits than the one with whom up to that moment we have been talking, then other spirits who may be more nearly related to, or who may have more perfect control over, the mediums, will most probably assume instantly the name and position of our friend, pushing the latter aside, and will set forth his own theories, fancies, and probably falsities, using the name of our friend and all the confidence we may have gained in the latter’s identity, by way of enforcing what he would have us believe. And we receive the communication perhaps with the utmost surprise that our friend, in passing into the spirit world, should have so soon changed his opinion on that particular subject!” NTMS 91.3

What a confession is this! How completely are all their tests of identity and claims for reliability swept away! NTMS 92.1

Mr. Tiffany has also given pointed evidence on this subject:- NTMS 92.2

“When communications are received through public mediums, the probabilities are that the communicators belong to a very low plane of development, and that the communications cannot be relied upon, whatever may be the professions of the communicator. There is almost always an influence which belongs peculiarly to each medium-an influence which seems to be a presiding spirit, which that medium will usually recognize, answering to the name of ‘Jim’ or ‘John.’ It is generally the case that this spirit will be found on hand first, and is the one to do whatever is to be done, and he becomes the father, mother, brother, sister, or friend of everybody.... The circumstances of a public circle are exceedingly unfavorable to getting communications from spirits of a high degree of refinement. The most that can be obtained under such conditions is some external evidence of spiritual existence. The point to which I wish to call your attention is the almost universal fact that mediums devoted to external manifestations, while under the influence of this presiding spirit, are under an influence to deceive, to cheat, which is almost irresistible. It does not matter particularly how good manifestations they get. I have seen this deceptive disposition manifested in mediums who could get very remarkable manifestations, such as the movement, in the open light, of a table with several men standing upon it.”-Lect., pages 122-3. NTMS 92.3

According to this high spiritualistic authority, all the mediums advertised to give public seances are deceivers and cheats, and subject to a deceptive influence; as the Scriptures say of this class, “Deceiving and being deceived;” and those who consult them are mere dupes. Mr. Tiffany has spoken our mind exactly. NTMS 93.1

Dr. Potter says:- NTMS 93.2

“Not one per cent of the manifestations have had a higher origin than the first and second spheres. These spheres being full of low, ignorant, deceptive, mischievous, selfish, egotistical spirits, fond of controlling media, they have, by reading the minds of mortals, and picking up old poetry, essays, and the floating notions of the times, with a few facts obtained from higher spheres, passed themselves off for our friends and relatives and the great and good of all ages.”-Spiritualism as it Is, page 16. NTMS 93.3

Dr. Randolph says:- NTMS 93.4

“The fact is, good spirits do not appear one-tenth as often as imagined; the majority of spiritual appearances are but out-creations-subjective images of the seer objectified-else are psychological projections of other minds-images impressed upon the susceptible person’s brain.”-Dealings with the Dead, page 255. NTMS 93.5

A. J. Davis, in “Present Age and Inner Life,” says:- NTMS 93.6

“A medium may obtain thoughts from a person sitting in the circle, or from a mind even in some distant portion of the globe, and still be wholly deceived as to the source of them. Because, so far as all the primary interior sensations and personal evidences are concerned, such impressions do appear and feel, to the receptive vessels of the medium, precisely identical with those which emanate from a mind beyond the dominion of the tomb.” NTMS 93.7

So, according to the great seer, all the phenomena of test-mediumship may be produced without any spirit influence at all! NTMS 93.8

Jacob Harshman, a medium, writes:- NTMS 94.1

“Under these influences, they become impatient with the spirits, who do our work by immutable laws. And under such a state of excitement, they respond to their own questions, by a law which they do not understand, and consequently mistake it for a spiritual operation.”-Love and Wisdom, page 28. NTMS 94.2

Judge Edmonds makes a statement bearing directly against the reliability of the communications. He says:- NTMS 94.3

“Occasionally there are instances where it would seem as if the medium was giving the precise words of the spirit. But this is rare, because it involves a state of things in the medium, both physically and mentally, that is very difficult to attain, namely, an exclusion of the medium’s self-hood-a suspension of his own will, and spirit control, that is very unnatural, very difficult, and very dangerous, and, therefore, necessarily very rare.” NTMS 94.4

The Judge saw that their discord and contradictions needed some apology, and this was his plea in their behalf. Being questioned in relation to the disagreement between himself and Dr. Hare, both under the instruction of the spirits, he answered as follows:- NTMS 94.5

“Thus Dr. Hare has all his life long been an honest, sincere, but inveterate disbeliever in the Christian religion. Late in life, Spiritualism comes to him, and in a short time works in his mind the conviction of the existence of a God, and his own immortality. So far his spirit teachers have already gone with him. But he still denies Revelation. He is as sturdy and sincere now in that denial as he ever was. Will it be just to conclude, because his spirit teachers have not yet brought him up to that point, that, therefore, there is not and never has been a Revelation?”-Spir. Tr. No. 5, page 12. NTMS 94.6

Such an evasion as the above goes very far toward destroying our confidence in the honesty and sincerity of Judge Edmonds. Yet we would not consider it worth while to notice it here did he not do Revelation the injustice to connect it with Spiritualism. That it is nothing better than an evasion is evident, for NTMS 94.7

1. He knew-he could not be ignorant of the fact-that thousands have been led to renounce Revelation under the influence of Spiritualism. NTMS 95.1

2. Spiritualists, including Judge Edmonds himself, deny a Revelation of “authority,” without which the Bible is not only a nullity, but a falsehood, for it claims authority to the fullest extent. NTMS 95.2

3. He must have been aware of Dr. Weisse’s statement that spirits and mediums do not contradict his views of the Bible (which coincide with those of Dr. Hare), that it is only a transcript of heathen fables. NTMS 95.3

4. He very well knew that A. J. Davis, who is the great apostle of Spiritualism, has ever been unsparing of his denunciations of the Bible. NTMS 95.4

5. He well knew that Dr. Hare not only continued to deny Revelation, but that his teachings were sanctioned and approved by the highest spirits! It is stated by Dr. H., in his preface to the fifth edition of his work, that his infidel strictures on the New Testament were indorsed by Christ himself! in the presence of Washington, Franklin, and others. If Judge Edmonds were not a Judge-not acquainted with the laws of evidence-his statement might be considered more excusable. We have seen the claim put forth by a Spiritualist, in a boastful manner, that Dr. Hare has done more to destroy faith in the Bible than any other man of this age; yet his teachings come to us more strongly attested by spirits than those of any other Spiritualist. He received ministerial credentials (which he published), as a teacher of truth to the world; these credentials were given under the sanction of an assembly of spirits, and “obtained under test conditions.” The assembly said that they accredited him as their minister to earth’s inhabitants, and that he was battling fearlessly against error. In this assembly were “Geo. Washington, J. Q. Adams, Dr. Chalmers, Oberlin, W. E. Channing, and others.” Can the Judge show any better indorsement than this? NTMS 95.5

Again, Warren Chase was one of the very earliest advocates of Spiritualism. He has been most persistent and untiring in his efforts to advance its interests. Perhaps no one has delivered more lectures, or cast a wider influence in its favor, than he. An infidel at the beginning of his course, what has Spiritualism done to correct his infidelity? At this time he stands a most defiant infidel, or more nearly an atheist, everywhere indorsed as a faithful exponent of Spiritualism. And so of Ambler, Harshman, Hoar, Denton, Wadsworth, Hull, Carter, etc. In fact, we can scarcely find an exception. Without being able to identify a single spirit, they yet follow them blindly, willingly, into the lowest sinks of Pantheism. NTMS 96.1

Recently a case has been reported in the Medium and Daybreak of England which is offered as evidence of identity, but is really a strong proof against their claims. It was the “materialization” of the spirit of a Mr. Thomas Ronalds, who revealed as follows:- NTMS 96.2

“I have to inform you that my last life on earth was a reincarnation. In a former existence I was a Persian prince, and lived upon the earth some hundreds of years before Christ. In that life I was possessed of a quantity of beautiful and valuable jewels. Strange to say, I have become aware of the existence of those jewels in this very city of London. They are diamonds of the purest water and brilliancy, and, moreover, they are charmed stones, and would therefore be of inestimable value to their possessor. I wish you, my dear brother, to become the purchaser of those stones.” NTMS 96.3

Here is a revival of two heathen pagan notions: the transmigration of souls, and the possession of charmed objects to preserve from harm. We lately heard some of this class object to the Bible on the ground that it was merely a transcript of pagan dogmas. Yet they are ever ready to adopt the most absurd dogmas of paganism contrary to the teachings of the Bible. If they really believe that the Bible is of pagan origin they are singularly inconsistent in rejecting it, for they take to pagan notions as a duck takes to water. NTMS 97.1

But in this instance the doctrine was turned to practical account, as the following will show. It is an extract from the instruction of the spirit for the disposal of the ring in which were set the charmed jewels:- NTMS 97.2

“This ring, my dear brother, I wish you to present to our medium, Arthur Colman, as a testimonial of my gratitude to him for his services in enabling me to materialize for you.... It will be a talisman to protect him; it will increase his power as a medium; and with that ring he can never want a friend; indeed, he will bear a species of charmed life.” NTMS 97.3

The unbeliever may be so uncharitable as to suppose that the medium had something to do with the direction, but Spiritualists, who profess to be guided only by reason! cannot see it. The spirit gave very explicit directions as to where the stones might be found, and how obtained, and the brother was stimulated to activity in the matter by the information that another party was intending to purchase the ring the following day. This is a dodge often played by speculators in this world, and we are led to suspect that the spirit which dictated the direction was not far removed from the plane of earthly interests. NTMS 97.4

But the point on the question of identity is this: At a certain “seance” this spirit appeared in both forms at once, as a Persian prince and an English gentleman. Now as no individual can exist in two forms at the same time, it follows that one of these appearances was manufactured for the occasion if we even allow that the identical spirit was present. And if one was certainly got up for the occasion it is proof that both might have been produced in like manner. So, instead of being evidence of personal identity, it is destructive of their claims for tests of identity. We think, as A. J. Davis says, the parties were “psychologized to see them” in the form desired, and that Mr. Ronalds was not there either as English gentleman or Persian prince. It is all a work of deception by Satan, the prince of deceivers. NTMS 98.1

Although Spiritualism does not furnish any test of identity, nor any means of detecting the tricks of mediums or the falsehoods of spirits, we feel assured that there is a test which will “detect the deception.” It is “the law and the testimony” of God’s word. “If they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.” We have shown that they do not speak according to this word, and that, even by their own admisions, there is neither light nor truth to be expected from them. Every test by which Spiritualists profess to be convinced of its truthfulness is proved fallacious by the evidence quoted from Partridge, Davis, and others; and we give not a tithe of the testimony that might be collated on this point. Professing to be led by “the most enlightened reason,” they daily receive and credit what is most unreasonable. They would overthrow the word of God, and introduce as a substitute the caprices and fancies of unknown evil spirits. They would dethrone God, “the Judge of all,” and arrogate to themselves the prerogatives of his office. They would bring the Saviour from the Father’s throne, where he sits a priest to intercede for man, and be their own redeemers-their own saviours. They destroy all distinctions of right and wrong. They cast off moral restraint in the name of freedom, and make no difference between liberty and licentiousness. NTMS 98.2