Under the Shadow of Great Names
Theosophist, March, 1883
The common vice of trying to palm off upon the world the crude imaginings or rhapsodical concoctions of one’s own brain, by claiming their utterance as under divine inspiration, prevails largely among our esteemed friends, the Spiritualists. Many clever persons known as “trance speakers” and “inspirational writers” keep the thing up at a lively rate, turning out oration after oration and book after book as coming from the great dead, the planetary spirits, and even from God. The great names of antiquity are evoked to father feeble books, and no sooner is it known that a prominent character is deceased than some mediums pretend to be his telephones, to discourse platitudes before sympathetic audiences. Shakespeare’s imagination pictured to his mind the mighty Caesar, turned to clay, being made “to stop a hole to keep the wind away”; but had he made a forecast of our Modern Spiritualism, he would have found an even worse satire upon the impermanency of human greatness, in the prospect of the dead Caesar being forced to say stupidities that, alive, he would not have tolerated in one of his foot soldiers. Some of our more optimistic friends of the spiritualistic party postulate a halcyon time when mediumistic utterances will be judged according to their intrinsic merit, like other oratorical and literary productions, and it is to be hoped they may not deceive themselves. The number of bright minds that are occupying themselves with this great subject is assuredly on the increase, and with such men as “M.A. (Oxon),” Mr. Massey, Mr. Roden Noel, and others of that class, spiritualistic literature is always being enriched. But at the same time we see no diminution as regards bogus platform sermons claiming to come from Judge Edmonds, Robert Dale Owen, Epes Sargent, and Professors Hare and Mapes, or books ascribed to the inspiration of Jehovah and his ancient Spirits. Our poor Mr. Bennett, of the Truth-seeker, had scarcely had time to die before he was paraded as a spirit-control by an American medium. The future has a gloomy look indeed to us when we think that, despite their best endeavours to the contrary, the Founders of the Theosophical Society are quite as liable as either of the eminent gentlemen above mentioned—with all of whom the writer was personally acquainted, and neither of whom, in all probability, ever communicated one word that their alleged mediums attribute to them—to an involuntary post-mortem recantation of their most cherished and avowed ideas. We have been prompted to these remarks by a convincing demonstration, by the Religio-Philosophical Journal, that a recent “trance address” by our dear deceased friend Epes Sargent, through a certain medium, was a sheer fabrication. A comparison of the same with Mr. Sargent’s last and greatest spiritualistic work, “The Scientific Basis of Spiritualism,” shows beyond question that he could never have inspired any such mediumistic oration. While it is yet time, both the founders of the Theosophical Society place upon record their solemn promise that they will let trance mediums severely alone after they get to “the other side.” If after this, any of the talking fraternity take their names in vain, they hope that at least their theosophical confreres will unearth this paragraph and warn the trespassers off their astral premises. So far as we have observed, the best trance speakers have been those who bragged least about their controls. “Good wine needs no bush,” says the adage.