Published in 1911 | 312 pages | PDF reader required
The Introduction on 'Spiritual Vitality' is an enlargement of an article on that subject which I contributed to 'Light,' of London, and which was published in that Journal on the 9th of July last. The Spirit Band from whom the messages were received, were brought together by my wife, at different times within the two years, or more, after her decease, which occurred on the 21st of May, 1901.
The sittings were, at first, in New York City, the medium being Mrs. Mayer, the most powerful of the slate-writing hind I have known in my long experience. She has now passed to the spirit world.
Eight years ago, I engaged a Swedish housekeeper, Mrs. Matilda Sjoegren, who had known nothing before of spiritual seances, but had been, early in life, conscious of spirit visitations. During two visits to me from Mrs. Mayer, she became interested in the subject and, after she left, we began to have regular daily sittings at a small table. For some time, the manifestations were only of a physical character. After some months, raps came on the table, and we got answer, 'yes' or 'no' to questions asked, three raps meaning 'yes,' and one rap, 'no.'
After some months, again, there were whispered voices; and these, in time, became fully vocal. At this stage of our progress, the sittings began to be held only twice a week, and so continued for two years or more, and afterwards but once a week, one of my sons having said that they had all been advanced, that their work would consequently be increased, and that they could come but once a week. The weekly sitting has been continued to the present time.
In reply to my question, what was meant by advancement, he said they had passed to a sphere of higher vibrations.
It was at the request of the Band that I went to Boston, last September, to have sittings with Mrs. Minnie Meserve Soule, a trance medium, of high repute, who had been highly recommended to me by Miss Lilian Whiting, who has written so much, indirectly, on Spiritualism.
The object of the request of the Band was, as they explained it, that they could give me long and coherent messages. (The messages received at home were generally not more than a sentence or two, the 'power' not being sufficient for longer messages.)
The remarkable messages contained in this book, are the result of 24 daily sittings with Mrs. Soule.
The names of the spirits constituting the regular Band are those given in the title of the book, with the exception of the four last, Goldwin Smith, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ewart Gladstone, and Valentine Mott. These four were brought, at different times, to the sitting, by their friends, and special honors were shown them.
The sittings were guarded from intruding spirits by a large band of Indian spirits, brought by Longfellow, whose work is in the Indian sphere. Intruding spirits, who are generally of a low rank, would seriously have interfered with the messages of the Band, which messages were, as previously purposed, each of a special character.
My long and loving relationship with the Band, and my not being a scientific investigator (that is, one who applies his insulated intellect to a spiritual subject) caused the conditions to be altogether favorable for the delivery of the messages.
All the members of the Band knew of me when they were in the body, and of my work as Professor of English Literature; and I was acquainted with their literary works, and included some of them in my courses of lectures and readings.
This will partly serve to explain the make-up of the Band.
Robert Browning and Elisabeth Barrett Browning were the first to join my wife, daughter, and two sons, at the sittings. Browning I knew for several years; my wife and I were last with him in Venice, in November, 1889; and when we parted, he had but a month and four days to live, though, he showed remarkable vigor at the time. The last words he said to us, after bidding us good bye, were, "now remember you must visit me next May at De Vere Gardens in London."
I published, in 1886, an introduction to the study of his poetry, which met with his highest approbation In his letter acknowledging the receipt of the book, he wrote—"Let it remain as an assurance to younger poets that, after fifty years' work unattended by any conspicuous recognition, an over-payment may be made, if there be such another munificient appreciator as I have been privileged to find; in which case let them, even if more deserving, be equally grateful."
Elisabeth Barrett Browning received my daughter when she passed to the spirit world in 1874, and was her guardian angel until her mother went over in 1901.
I write this about these two great poets as an obvious explanation of their being the first to join my wife and children at the earliest sittings, which were held in New York, Mrs. Mayer being, as I have said, the medium.
Tennyson came next, brought by Browning and welcomed by my wife to the Band. They were devoted friends when in the body, and the messages show that they are devoted friends in the spirit world.
Tennyson knew of me when he was in the body, first through my annotated edition of "The Two Voices" and "Dream of Fair Women," published in 1882; and a short time before his decease, he read my book on the Aesthetics of English Verse, and expressed himself delighted with it.
Walt Whitman I knew the last seven years of his life. I saw, several years before, the greatness of his message as embodied in his "Leaves of Grass," especially in his "Song of the Open Road," and I presented that message to my students, in my courses of lectures on American literature.
He has shown in his messages, as will be seen, a great devotion to my two sons, who passed away in babyhood, one, 54, the other 49 years ago; and they, in their messages, show a like devotion to him.
My wife corresponded with Longfellow, now 56 years ago, while she was making a French translation of his 'Hyperion,' with which he expressed himself highly pleased; he said, in fact, that his translation was better than the original. She also translated portions of 'Hiawatha' into German, in the trochaic-tetrameter verse of the original. There is a playful allusion, in one of his messages, to her translation of 'Hyperion.'
Browning and Tennyson knew F. W. H. Myers as a poet and a distinguished Virgil scholar, when they were in the body. I don't remember how he was brought to the Band. But I remember he was joyfully received.
I used, for several years, his Wordsworth, published, thirty years ago, in 'English Men of Letters,' in my department of English Literature. This work shows his early spiritual vitality, which long after led to his interest in Psychical Research, the result being his great work, 'Human Personality and its survival of bodily death,' a great contribution to real Psychology. Much that is so called is only somatology, the science of the physical body. He has expressed his great pleasure in coming to my private sittings after the repeated tests of his identity, made in London, by those who knew him in the body, and without their being satisfied.
I knew Phillips Brooks and Frances Bennett, the latter about forty years. I gave a course of lectures and readings, nearly every year, during that period, in the Ladies' school with which she was connected. She was an Episcopalian, and had then no belief in Spiritualism. She thought I had been deceived!
How far Phillips Brooks's belief in spirit visitation went, when he was in the body, can be seen in one of his great messages.
The messages of Goldwvn Smith, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Ewart Gladstone, and Valentine Mott will tell their own story.
In one of Goldwin Smith's latest articles, written in his earthly life, he bids farewell to ghosts. He had no belief whatever in spirit visitation. The first sentence of his first message, given herein (he had been but three months in the spirit world), indicates the sudden change induced by physical death: 'I believe the world would fall to pieces if it were not held together by the influences from the Spirit World.'
I have thus noted the unique character of the Spirit Band, including the four great spirits who were welcomed to the sittings.
In the nine years of my sittings with this Band, I never had occasion to question the identity of any member of it.
Identity is a thing which cannot be proved to unbelievers in spirit visitation, nor even to some believers; and it is not worth while to attempt proof to such, as was shown in the case of F. W. H. Myers.
The time is not far distant when there will be (and it will appear to some to be very sudden) a wonderful transformation of the general mind, which is now being more or less unconsciously moulded by the atmosphere which is in course of rapid development.
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