Investigating Spiritism

We quote from a Glasgow Journal, "The Church of Scotland's investigation of Spiritualism has commenced. Yesterday a party of ministerial investigators, comprising many eminent ecclesiastics, assembled in Glasgow, and were present at two séances which had been arranged for the express purpose of enabling them to embark upon the closest possible study of a subject which is receiving increasing attention all over the world."

"At the last General Assembly a committee of inquiry was appointed. This committee, which is now known as 'The General Assembly Committee to inquire into alleged super-normal psychic phenomena', has a membership of 34."

We should have thought that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland would have taken the Scriptural way of investigating Spiritism, which is to test the doctrines it teaches (1 John 4:1-2) by the one and only infallible standard that we possess — the Holy Bible. But if the name of the Committee defines and limits its activities, this test, which is both safe and effectual, because it is the God-appointed one, will not have its place in these investigations. The committee has been appointed to inquire into 'alleged super-normal psychic phenomena'. It may be necessary to do this, but to treat this as the only ground for inquiry, or to give it the first place, or to approach it without the whole armour of God is, we believe, a very dangerous procedure, as we hope to show. On the other hand, if the Scriptural way had been taken, and the Committee had set to work to compare the doctrines taught by the Spiritists with the Word of God — an easy task — the anti-Christian character of the movement would have been exposed; faith would have been strengthened; waverers would have been warned, and some, perhaps, who have been ensnared would have been delivered, and so the Committee of investigation would have rendered a great service in the land.

The super-normal phenomena of Spiritism has been aptly described by Sir A. Conan Doyle as the ringing of the telephone bell; the great thing, he tells us, is to inquire who it is that wants to communicate with us, and what they have to say. Exactly, and we shall certainly discover who they are by the doctrines they communicate. We are glad, however, that there is no necessity for us to spend hours in a darkened drawing-room waiting for things to happen, as this Church of Scotland Committee of investigation has done; Sir A. Conan Doyle and the printing-press, by publishing these doctrines, have saved us that trouble.

This foremost apostle of the movement tells us with a blunt honesty what the teachings of the spirits which he has had to do with are. Infidels and Christians, Buddhists, Mohammedans and Jews all fare alike in the next world, their attitude towards God and Christ makes no difference whatever; indeed, say these spirits, they know no more of God in the next world than Sir A. Conan Doyle does in this, and that he tells us is next to nothing; and the conclusion that one is forced to, after studying Spiritistic literature, is, that one of their chief efforts is to convince those who will hear them that we never shall have to do with God at all, consequently, "repentance towards God" is not necessary. He has also learnt that the doctrine of the vicarious death and atoning blood of Christ are "the brutal side of paganism", and, if so, "faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" is also useless. Now the many eminent ecclesiastics who form this Committee of investigation should have no difficulty in tracing such teachings to their source, especially as their life's work is to preach these great things to the people of Scotland.

There has appeared weekly since February of last year — in a popular Sunday paper — messages, which it is alleged have been communicated to an English Church clergyman from the spirit world. In introducing these 'revelations' this clergyman tells his readers that at first the spirits found considerable difficulty in getting into sympathetic contact with him; and the reason for this was that his mind was full of Biblical questions. It was not until he dismissed these, and his mind became 'quiet and passive', and completely at the disposal of the spirits, that they could make progress. In a later message he was told that those who looked back to Christ to learn of Him as presented in the Bible were 'tethered men'. The doctrine of this spirit is that Christ is moving on and communicating fresh things to men. "The mistake men made", he is alleged to have said, "was to hamper a living, moving life with a Book. They regarded the Book, not what it is, wonderful, beautiful, mostly true, but as both infallible and also complete." The meaning of that, in spite of the flattery, is that the Bible must no longer be our guide and that Spiritism must hold an undisputed field.

We make these quotations, because Spiritists claim that the Bible commends and teaches Spiritism. Sir A. Conan Doyle's constant assertion is that the Bible is full of it, and the early Church was saturated with it, but he has yet to show us a single passage where those who sorrowed for their dead were told to seek out a medium in order to speak with them, or where such attempts are not denounced in most unsparing terms as abominable in the sight of God. No, Spiritism is against the Bible, and the Bible is against Spiritism, and this is so plain that it needs no committee of investigation to discover it. It is certain that where the Bible is read and reverenced there is little room for Spiritism. It abounds in India and China and other non-Christian lands, where mediums are more powerful than any in the west who practise their arts. Its progress in England has followed hard upon the heels of the destructive criticism of the Bible. Yes, the traitors to the Word of God who hold the chairs at the theological colleges, and the pulpits in the churches, have thrown down the only barrier that could have kept this awful menace at bay. And if it has not spread with the same rapidity in Scotland as it has in fast-apostatizing England, what is the reason? If the Committee investigated this question, we believe that they will find that the only answer to it is that the Bible has a larger place in the lives of the people in Scotland generally than in England.

We quote again from the newspaper report of the first séance: —

"The investigators, upon being shown into the room in which the medium was awaiting them, examined their surroundings with the utmost thoroughness.

One or two looked below chairs and couches, others shook the curtains, while a few were observed tapping the walls as if searching for secret panels.

Several prominent Glasgow Spiritualists were present, and they, and also the medium, were seated between the investigators.

When all was ready, silence descended upon the circle, and suddenly the room was plunged into darkness.

Then began what is known as 'direct voice work'.

The voices of spirits, who manifested themselves through the medium, were made audible to the 'circle' through a megaphone."

Thus the Committee set to work, evidently determined to eliminate, if this report is true, every chance of deception, but it would not be so easy to do this when the room was plunged in darkness; when that happened, there surely must have come to the memories of some of these investigators those solemn words of the Lord Jesus, "Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil". And these spirits are evidently like them, and this is the more strange, since they profess to come from realms of light. Why did not one of these investigators propose that they should open the séance by some suitable passage of Scripture, and with prayer to God that He would preserve them from deception and cause His truth to triumph? That would surely have been appropriate, since they were there representing the Church of Scotland, and professing to be servants of God.

There are those who contend that there is nothing but deception in this thing, and that all the phenomena displayed at these séances can be reproduced by clever conjurors. We are sure that they are wrong. It may be that a large percentage of the phenomena is fraudulent, we believe it is, but there is that which is real, devilishly real. It has been proved again and again, that at these darkened séances intelligent beings not in the flesh do communicate through mediums. Men of science and letters have become confirmed Spiritists, who were once absolute sceptics on the subject, simply by what they have seen and heard. And we have no doubt that when the Scotch Committee has completed its investigations it will be compelled to the conclusion that spirits do communicate. But then they will have to address themselves to the further question, who are the spirits?

Are these spirits then the spirits of departed men and women? Many refuse to believe in any other kind of spirit, hence they are the more easily deceived, and to this category belong the men of science and letters who have taken up this thing with such enthusiasm: and herein lies the danger to the present investigators in Scotland; they are urged to approach their labours with open minds, but an open mind will not preserve them; their minds must be garrisoned by the truth of God or they will be surely ensnared, for the devil is shrewder than they.

The Lord Jesus, risen from the dead and glorified, says, "I have the keys of death and hades", and we believe this fact excludes all possibility of the dead communicating with the living; for it surely means that He is Master of death and the world beyond. His Lordship may not be acknowledged by all in this life, but none can refuse it in the life beyond, all there are subject, willingly or unwilling, to His dominion. Then if this be true, none can return who have passed through the portals of death except as He permits it, certainly they cannot obey the call of a godless medium. We know all about Samuel and the witch of Endor; this case does not help the Spiritists, but condemns them. There God intervened specially, that the apostate Saul might hear his doom. It was not the power of the medium that brought him up; she expected her familiar spirit to come, impersonating Samuel, and was terrified when Samuel himself appeared. And the Lord slew Saul for his great sin.

Here are some 'extracts' from English Spiritualistic papers, given in The Apostasy or Seducing Spirits, and Teachings of Demons, by E. McHardie. "Spirits from the vasty deep … will come when we do call if they can once quaff, if not the bowl, the vital spirit of the blood through us as mediums … Hence cases of the most awful spiritual persecutions of particularly susceptible persons of today … with them the approach of spirits is not a visit … but an inroad. They come, the door once open, in crowds, in riotous invasions. They run, they leap, they fly, they gesticulate, they sing, they whoop, and they curse. There is no doubt, with the wretched sufferers of their phantasmagorical assaults, that they are the life and quintessence of hell … Mind, body, soul, memory and imagination — nay the very heart — are polluted by the ghostly canaille … We have known such sufferers, and know them still … No agony of petition had been able to dislodge the foul and murderous crew."

Are these the spirits of the human dead? Surely not. They are evil spirits, which, as the Bible shows us, desire to possess human bodies, such spirits as possessed Mary of Magdala and Legion before the delivering power of Jesus set them free; and the damsel of Philippi. And the spirits that possess the bodies of mediums today, and speak at these séances are spirits of the same order; spirits in rebellion against God. For their own purposes they may veil their malignity and even appear as ministers of righteousness, for Satan, their arch-leader, transforms himself — when it suits him — into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15); but such they are, for no unfallen angel would transgress the definitely expressed commands of God, nor would they assist men and women in this terrible defiance of His will (Deut. 18:9-14).

The devil is "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and Sir A. Conan Doyle tells us that the spirit world from which these communicating spirits come is all round and about us. Are we wrong, then, in saying that these spirits belong to the devil's realm? He is the leader of the rulers of this world's darkness, and these spirits form part of the vast army that serves under him in his fight against God and Christ and the salvation of men. "The gates of hell" are a reality. Just as a power like Germany could flood the world with spies in view of a possible war, so the powers of darkness have their emissaries moving constantly amongst men, working together in their fell determination to blind and destroy their souls. Their doom is certain, for everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). They want men to share their doom, and how easy they seem to succeed in this, for, alas! thousands refuse the truth of God and embrace the devil's lies, and exult in doing so.

The question may arise as to how it is that these spirits, if they are not the spirits of the dead, seem to know so much about those whom they impersonate? The Bible helps us as to this. From the Book of Job we learn that Satan had carefully considered Job; he knew his outward circumstances intimately, though he could not discern his motives, and in the same way we have no doubt these evil spirits make a study of men, and are able, as a result, to impersonate men. Satan spent his time, we learn, in going to and fro in the earth, and these restless spirits are like their leader. Hebrews 1:13-14 teaches us that the heirs of salvation are constantly cared for by angel ministers from God, and may it not be that these evil spirits also attach themselves to individuals, especially to those who know not God? If so, to speak of a person's 'evil angel' is more than a figure of speech; and this would certainly account for the knowledge that these spirits possess of those who are dead.

If the alleged super-normal psychic phenomena of spiritism must be investigated let it be done in the Name of the Lord, and tested by the word of God. We urged a well-known Baptist minister who has been ensnared by it, to put three questions to these spirits.

1st. — In the Name of the Lord Jesus declare whether you are what you profess to be?

2nd. — Do you confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, according to the meaning of 1 John 4:1-3?

3rd. — Why were these very practices condemned in Old Testament times as abominations in the sight of God?

He would not apply the tests, and so remains ensnared.

But it is only by the power of the Lord's Name that any one could force the truth from those spirits, for Satan, their leader, is a liar from the beginning, and they are "lying spirits", "speaking lies in hypocrisy".