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STILLING AND SWEDENBORG.
bity beyond suspicion, but somewhat mystical withal, the Aulic Councilor of Baden sought proofs of his speculations in alleged actual occurrences, (as appari tions, house-hauntings, and the like, the records of which he adopted, and thereupon erected his spirittheory with a facility of belief for which the apparent evidence seems, in many of the examples cited, to be insufficient warrant. In our day others have pursued a similar line of argument; in one instance, at least, if sixteen editions in six years may vouch for the fact, attracting the sympathy of the public.*
Jacob Böhme is by some exalted to the highest rank among pneumatologists; but I confess to inability to discover much that is practical, or even intelligible, in the mystical effusions of the worthy shoemaker of Görlitz, The fault, however, may be in myself; for, as some one has said, “He is ever the mystic who lives in the world farthest removed from our own."
Swedenborg, the great spiritualist of the eighteenth century, is a writer as to whose voluminous works it would be presumptuous to offer an opinion without a careful study of them; and that I have not yet been able to give. This, however, one may safely assert,—that whatever judgment we may pass on what the Swedish seer calls his spiritual experience, and how little soever we may be prepared to subscribe to the exclusive claims unwisely set up for him by some of his disciples, an eminent spirit and power speak from his writings, which, even at a superficial glance, must arrest the attention of the right-minded. His idea of Degrees and Progression, reaching from earth to heaven ; his doctrine of Uses, equally removed from ascetical dreamery and from Utilitarianism in its hard, modern sense; his allegation of Influx, or, in other words, of constant influence exerted from the spiritual world on the material; even his strange theory of Correspondences; but, last and chief, his glowing appreciation of that principle of Love which is the fulfilling of the Law; these and other kindred characteristics of the Swedenborgian system are of too deep and genuine import to be lightly passed by. To claim for them nothing more, they are at least marvelously suggestive, and therefore highly valuable.
For the rest, one may appreciate Swedenborg outside of Swedenborgianism. “For ourselves," said Margaret Fuller, “it is not as a seer of Ghosts, but as a seer of Truths, that Swedenborg interests us."
* “Night Side of Nature," by Catherine Crowe, London, 1 vol. 12mo, pp. 502. The work, originally published in 1848, reached its sixteenth thousand in 1854. In common with the older narrative collections of Glanvil, Mather, Baxter, Beaumont, Sinclair, De Foe, and others of similar stamp,
It may be conceded, however, that these narratives have commonly been read rather to amuse an idle hour than for graver purpose. They have often excited wonder, seldom produced conviction. But this, as I think, is due, not to actual insufficiency in this field, but rather, first, to an unphilosophical manner of presenting the subject,-a talking of wonders and miracles, when there was question only of natural, even if ultramundane, phenomena; and, secondly, to an indiscriminate mixing-up of the reliable with the apocryphal, to lack of judgment in selection and of industry in verification. I have not scrupled freely to cull from this department; seeking, however, to separate the wheat from the chaff, and content, in so doing, even if the available material that remains shall have shrunk to somewhat petty dimensions.
Essentially connected with this inquiry, and to be studied by all who engage therein, are the phenomena embraced in what is usually called Animal Magnetism. First showing itself in France, three-quarters of a century ago,
progress arrested at the outset, when its claims were vague and its chief phenomena as yet unobserved, by the celebrated report of Bailly,* often falling into
it is obnoxious to the same criticism as that of Stilling; yet any one who feels disposed to cast the volume aside as a mere idle trumping-up of ghoststories might do well first to read its Introduction, and its Tenth Chapter on “ the future that awaits us."
A recent volume by the same author (“ Ghosts and Family Legends," 1859) makes no pretension to authenticity, nor to any higher purpose than to help while away a winter evening.
* Made to the King of France, on the 11th of August, 1784. It was signed, among other members of the commission, by Franklin and Lavoisier.
It should especially be borne in mind that, while the commissioners, in that report, speak in strong terms against the magnetism of 1784, with its baqucts, its crises, and its convulsions, -against Mesmer's theory, too, of a universal fluid with flux and reflux, the medium of influence by the celestial bodies on the human system, and a universal curative agent,—they express no opinion whatever, favorable or unfavorable, in regard to somnambulism
ARAGO ON BAILLY'S REPORT.
the hands of untrained and superficial observers, sometimes of arrant charlatans, its pretensions extravagantly stated by some and arrogantly denied by others, Animal Magnetism has won its way through the errors of its
properly so called. It is usually admitted that somnambulism, with its attendant phenomena, in the form now known to us, was observed, for the first time, by the Marquis de Puységur, on his estate of Buzancy, near Soissons, on the 4th of March, 1784; but Puységur made public his observations only at the close of that year, four months after the commissioners' report was made. Bailly and his associates, learned and candid as they were, must not be cited as condemning that which they had never seen nor heard of. To this fact Arago, a man who rose superior to the common prejudices of his associates, honestly testifies. I translate from his notice of the life and career of the unfortunate Bailly, published in the “Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes” for 1853. “The report of Bailly," says he, "upset from their foundations the ideas, the system, the practice, of Mesmer and his disciples : let us add, in all sincerity, that we have no right to evoke its authority against modern somnambulism. Most of the phenomena now grouped around that name were neither known nor announced in 1783. A magnetizer undoubtedly says one of the least probable things in the world, when he tells us that such an individual, in a state of somnambulism, can see every thing in perfect darkness, or read through a wall, or even without the aid of the eyes. But the improbability of such assertions does not result from the celebrated report. Bailly does not notice such marvels, either to assert or to deny them. The naturalist, the physician, or the mere curious investigator, who engages in somnambulic experiments, who thinks it his duty to inquire whether, in certain states of nervous excitement, individuals are really endowed with extraordinary faculties,—that, for instance, of reading through the epigastrium or the heel,—who desires to ascertain positively up to what point the phenomena announced with so much assurance by modern magnetizers belong only to the domain of the rogue or the conjurer,—all such inquirers, wo say, are not in this case running counter to a judgment rendered; they are not really opposing themselves to a Lavoisier, a Franklin, a Bailly. They are entering upon a world entirely new, the
very existence of which these illustrious sages did not suspect.”-(pp. 444-445.)
A little further on in the same article, Arago adds, “My object has been to show that somnambulism ought not to be rejected a priori, especially by those who have kept up with the progress of modern physical science.” And, in reproof of that presumption which so often denies without examining, he quotes these excellent lines, which, he says, the truly learned ought to bear constantly in mind :
“Croire tout découvert est une erreur profonde ;
friends and the denunciations of its enemies, and (what is harder yet to combat) through frequent mystifications by impostors and occasional gross abuse of its powers, to the notice and the researches of men of unquestioned talent and standing,-among them, eminent members of the medical profession,-and has at last obtained a modest place even in accredited and popular treatises on physiological science.*
The alleged proofs and analogical arguments above alluded to in favor of ultramundane intercourse, together with such corroboration as the phenomena of somnambulism afford, were all given to the world previous to the time when, in the obscure village of Hydesville, a young girl,t responding to the persistent knockings which for several nights had broken the rest of her mother and sisters, chanced upon the discovery that
* An example may be found in “Principles of Human Physiology," by William B. Carpenter, M.D., F.R.S. and F.G.S., 5th edition, London, 1855, 8 696, (at pages 647 et seq.,) under the head “Mesmerism." Dr. Carpenter discredits the higher phenomena of Clairvoyance, but admits, 1st. A state of complete insensibility, during which severe surgical operations may be performed without the consciousness of the patient. 2d. Artificial somnambulism, with manifestation of the ordinary power of mind, but no recollection, in the waking state, of what has passed. 3d. Exaltation of the senses during such somnambulism, so that the somnambule perceives what in his natural condition he could not. 4th. Action, during such somnambulism, on the muscular apparatus, so as to produce, for example, artificial catalepsy; and, 5th. Perhaps curative effects.
Dr. Carpenter says his mind is made up as to the reality of these phens. mena, and that “he does not see why any discredit should attach to them." (Note at page 649.)
The character and standing of this gentleman's numerous works on physiology and medical science are too widely known to need indorsement.
† Kate, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Fox, and then aged nine. It was on the night of the 31st of March, 1848. This was, however, as will be seen in the sequel, by no means the first time that the observation had been made that similar sounds showed appearance of intelligence.
For the particulars of the Hydesville story, see the last narrative in Book III.
PHENOMENA INDEPENDENT OF OPINIONS.
these sounds seemed to exhibit characteristics of intelligence.
From that day a new and important phase has offered itself to the attention of the student in pneumatology, and with it a new duty; that of determining the true character of what is sometimes termed the American Epidemic, more wonderful in its manifestations, far wider spread in its range, than any of the mental epidemics, marvelous in their phenomena as some of them have been, recorded by physicians and psychologists of continental Europe.
From that day, too, there gradually emerged into notice a new department in the science of the soul,—the positive and experimental. Until now the greater number of accredited works on psychology or pneumatology have been made up exclusively of speculations drawn either from analogy or from history, sacred or profane,-eminent sources, yet not the only ones. No such work ought now to be regarded as complete without an examination of phenomena as well as a citation of authorities. And thus, though a portion of the present volume consists of historical recallings, since the wonders of the present can seldom be fitly judged without the aid of the past, another and larger portion embraces narratives of modern date, phenomena of comparatively recent occurrence, the evidence for which has been collected with the same care with which a member of the legal profession is wont to examine bis witnesses and prepare his case for trial.
In perusing a work of this character, the reader will do well to bear in mind that phenomena exist independently of all opinions touching their nature or origin. A fact is not to be slighted or disbelieved because a false theory may have been put forth to explain it. It has its importance, if it be important at all, irrespective of all theories.