2009-11-07

006 - There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat: Necromancy is a terrible word...






Before I proceed to write down the results of my private and premeditated investigations, I am reminded to say a word respecting the permission I received for the pursuit of Spiritualism.
As soon as I expressed my curiosity on the subject, I was met on all sides with the objection that, as I am a Catholic, I could not possibly have anything to do with the matter, and it is a fact that the Church strictly forbids all meddling with necromancy, or communion with the departed. Necromancy is a terrible word, is it not? Especially to such people as do not understand its meaning, and only associate it with the dead of night and charmed circles, and seething caldrons, and the arch fiend, in propria persona, with two horns and a tail.
Yet it seems strange to me that the Catholic Church, whose very doctrine is overlaid with Spiritualism, and who makes it a matter of belief that the Saints hear and help us in our prayers and the daily actionsof our lives, and recommends our kissing the ground every morning at the feet of our guardian angel, should consider it unlawful for us to communicate with our departed relatives.
I cannot see the difference in iniquity between speaking to John Powles, who was and is a dear and trusted friend of mine, and Saint Peter of Alcantara, who is an old man whom I never saw in this life. They were both men, both mortal, and are both spirits. Again, surely my mother who was a pious woman all her life, and is now in the other world, would be just as likely to take an interest in my welfare, and to try and promote the prospect of our future meeting, as Saint Veronica Guiliani, who is my patron. Yet were I to spend half my time in prayer before Saint Veronica's altar, asking her help and guidance, I should be doing right (according to the Church), but if I did the same thing at my mother's grave, or spoke to her at a seance, I should be doing wrong. These distinctions without a difference were hard nuls to crack, and I was bound to settle the matter with my conscience before I went on with my investigations.
It is a fact that I have met quite as many Catholics as Protestants (especially of the higher classes) amongst the investigators of Spiritualism, and I have not been surprised at it, for who could better understand and appreciate the beauty of communications from the spirit world than members of that Church which instructs us to believe in the communion of saints, as an ever-present, though invisible mystery. Whether my Catholic acquaintances had received permission to attend seances or not, was no concern of mine, but I took good care to procure it for myself, and I record it here, because rumors have constantly reached me of people having said behind my back that I can be “no Catholic” because I am a spiritualist.
My director at that time was Father Dalgairn, of the Oratory at Brompton, and it was to him I took my difficulty. I was a very constant press writer and reviewer, and to be unable to attend and report on spiritualistic meetings would have seriously militated against my professional interests. I represented this to the Father, and (although under protest) I received his permission to pursue the research in the cause of science.
He did more than ease my conscience. He became interested in what I had to tell him on the subject, and we had many conversations concerning it. He also lent me from his own library the lives of such saints as had heard voices and seen visions, of those in fact who (like myself) had been the victims of  “Optical Illusions”. Amongst these I found the case of Saint Anne-Catherine of Emmerich, so like my own, that I began to think that I too might turn out to be a saint in disguise. It has not come to pass yet, but there is no knowing what may happen. She used to see the spirits floating beside her as she walked to mass, and heard them asking her to pray for them as they pointed to “les taches sur leurs robes”. The musical instruments used to play without hands in her presence, and voices from invisible throats sound in her ears, as they have done in mine. I have only inserted this clause, however, for the satisfaction of those Catholic acquaintances with whom I have sat at seances and who will probably be the first to exclaim against the publication of our joint experiences. I trust they will acknowledge, after reading it, that I am not worse than themselves, though I may be a little bolder in avowing my opinions.
Before I began this chapter, I had an argument with that friend of mine called Self (who has but too often worsted me in the Battle of Life), as to whether I should say anything about table-rapping or tilting. The very fact of so common an article of furniture as a table, as an agent of communication with the unseen world, has excited so much ridicule and opens so wide a field for chicanery, that I thought it would be wiser to drop the subject, and confine myself to those phases of the science or art, or religion, or whatever the reader may like to call it, that can be explained or described on paper. The philosophers of the nineteenth century have invented so many names for the cause that makes a table turn round, tilt or rap, that I feel quite unable (not being a philosopher) to cope with them. It is “magnetic force” or “psychic force”; it is “unconscious cerebration” or “brain-reading”;  and it is exceedingly difficult to tell the outside world of the private reasons that convince individuals that the answers they receive are not emanations from their own brains.
I shall not attempt to refute their reasonings from their own standpoint. I see the difficulties in the way, so much so that I have persistently refused for many years past to sit at the table with strangers, for it is only a lengthened study of the matter that can possibly convince a person of its truth. I cannot, however, see the extreme folly myself of holding communication (under the circumstances) through the raps or tilts of a table, or any other object. These tiny indications of an influence ulterior to our own are not necessarily confined to a table. I have received them through a cardboard box, a gentleman’s hat, a footstool, the strings of a guitar, and on the back of my chair, even on the pillow of my bed. And which, amongst the philosophers I have alluded to, could suggest a simpler mode of communication?
I have put the question to clever men thus: “Suppose yourself, after having been able to write and talk to me, suddenly deprived of the powers of speech and touch, and made invisible, so that we could not understand each other by signs, what better means than by taps or tilts on any article, when the right word or letter is named, could you think of by which to communicate with me?” And my clever men have never been able to propose an easier or more sensible plan, and if anybody can suggest one, I should very much like to hear of it.
The following incidents all took place through the much-ridiculed tipping of the table, but managed to knock some sense out of it nevertheless. On looking over the note book which I faithfully kept when we first held seances at home, I find many tests of identity which took place through my own mediumship, and which could not possibly have been the effects of thought-reading. I devote this chapter to their relation. I hope it will be observed with what admirable caution I have headed it. I have a few drops of Scotch blood in me by the mother’s side, and I think they must have aided me here.



Click on the title and read the biography of Florence Marryat.

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