Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/486

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
464
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Montanist[1] and gnostic seers of the second century, are either proved in courts of law to be fraudulent impostors; or, in sheer weariness, as it would seem, of the honest dupes who swear by them, spontaneously confess their long-continued iniquities, as the Fox women did the other day in New York.[2] But whenever a catastrophe of this kind takes place, the believers are nowise dismayed by it. They freely admit that not only the media, but the spirits whom they summon, are sadly apt to lose sight of the elementary principles of right and wrong; and they triumphantly ask: How does the occurrence of occasional impostures disprove the genuine manifestations (that is to say, all those which have not yet been proved to be impostures or delusions)? And, in this, they unconsciously plagiarize from the churchman, who just as freely admits that many ecclesiastical miracles may have been forged; and asks, with the same calm contempt, not only of legal proofs, but of common-sense probability. Why does it follow that none are to be supposed genuine? I must say, however, that the spiritualists, so far as I know, do not venture to outrage right reason so boldly as the ecclesiastics. They do not sneer at "evidence"; nor repudiate the requirement of legal proofs. In fact, there can be no doubt that the spiritualists produce better evidence for their manifestations than can be shown either for the miraculous death of Arius, or for the invention of the cross.[3]|

From the "levitation" of the axe at one end of a period of near three thousand years to the "levitation" of Sludge & Co. at the other end, there is a complete continuity of the miraculous with every gradation from the childish to the stupendous, from the gratification of a caprice to the illustration of sublime truth. There is no drawing a line in the series that might be set out of plausibly attested cases of spiritual intervention. If one is true, all may be true; if one is false, all may be false.

 

This is, to my mind, the inevitable result of that method of

  1. Consider Tertullian's "sister" ("hodie apud nos"), who conversed with angels, saw and heard mysteries, knew men's thoughts, and prescribed medicine for their bodies ("De Anima," cap. 9). Tertullian tells us that this woman saw the soul as corporeal, and described its color and shape. The "infidel" will probably be unable to refrain from insulting the memory of the ecstatic saint by the remark that Tertullian's known views about the corporeality of the soul may have had something to do with the remarkable perceptive powers of the Montanist medium, in whose revelations of the spiritual world he took such profound interest.
  2. See the New York "World" for Sunday, October 21, 1888; and the "Report of the Seybert Commission," Philadelphia, 1887.
  3. Dr. Newman's observation that the miraculous multiplication of the pieces of the true cross (with which "the whole world is filled," according to Cyril of Jerusalem; and of which some say there are enough extant to build a man-of-war) is no more wonderful than that of the loaves and fishes, is one that I do not see my way to contradict. See "Essay on Miracles," second edition, p. 103.