The Roman Catholic Church: A Rejoinder

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The Roman Catholic Church: A Rejoinder (1929)

The Roman Catholic Church: A Rejoinder is a pamphlet written by Arthur Conan Doyle published by The Psychic Press on october 1929.

The pamphlet is an answer to Herbert Thurston's book "Modern Spiritualism" (Sheed and Ward, 1929). An opponent of spiritualism.


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Father Thurston, of the Order of Jesuits, has written a small book against Spiritualism. As he has made very free with my own name and experiences in the course of it, it is a challenge which I can hardly help taking up. I was born in a Roman Catholic family and was brought up as a Roman Catholic until such time as the narrow intolerance shown to other creeds led me to broader and more charitable cults. It is natural therefore that I should have thought a great deal about the old faith. There is much that is sweet and beautiful in it, and there is much which is vile and detestable. If some second reformation inside the Church itself were to preserve the one and destroy the other, it might still be a great agent for good in the world. It is however hardly likely to be so so long as it is the unresisting servant of the little Junta of prelates in Italy. That, however, is the concern of Catholics themselves. I should not have touched their affairs had I not been compelled to do so by Father Thurston's brochure. It is only by a combination of defense and counter attack that one can meet such an assault. No one can say that I have any prejudice against the old Church, for I believe that my letter in "The Times" before the Coronation of the present King was the first public suggestion that the Coronation Oath should be amended so as to place the Roman Catholic faith upon the same level as every other.


August, 1929.

The Roman Catholic Church


The attitude of the believer in Psychic Inspiration and of the Roman Catholic towards creeds other than their own is in striking contrast. To the orthodox Roman Catholic there is nothing good outside his own dogmatic fence. All else is heresy. The fundamental idea is that God, that mighty central Intelligence which has created a thousand million stars, each so far as we know with its train of planets, has so arranged things that on this one of the smaller planets of one of the smaller stars all divine knowledge and divine blessing have been imparted to a single set of men to the exclusion of four-fifths of the human race. With them is salvation. Beyond their pale is damnation, or at the lowest danger. It is true that extreme Jews, extreme Mohammedans, and even the members of some extreme Non-conformist sects may make similar claims, but that only increases their essential absurdity and want of proportion.

The Psychic Investigator, on the other hand, so far as his still rather fluid teaching has hardened into what is definite, holds that the object of life is the improvement of the spiritual part of man, consisting largely in the cultivation of unselfishness. If this beneficent process is being wrought by any creed then he would entreat that person to continue in the creed which was accomplishing the object of life. He would not raise a finger to prevent a Catholic from continuing to be a Catholic or a Baptist a Baptist, so long as they were getting good from it. He would, however, add certain knowledge as to the nature of death and of the beyond, because he holds that this knowledge is not a matter of faith but of proof, and has been sent to be helpful to mankind. He would also implore the holders of all creeds to look narrowly to their own spiritual condition, and not to mistake mere passive and unreasoning acceptance, nor the routine following of certain observances and people with real spiritual progress. But so long as that progress is real, the man is climbing the hill upon his own path, and the essential thing is that he should continue to climb. These are the general views which I have learned from my spiritual teachers whether incarnate or discarnate. On the other hand, where a man has no definite creed, and has lost all grip of spiritual matters, believing as so many do that death ends all, it is the duty of the Spiritualist to submit this knowledge to him, and to see whether he cannot confer the consolation and reassurance which this fresh revelation brings in its train. Thus, he is really a strong ally of religion since he comes in to restore the essentials where others have failed. In his efforts, however, to trove the continuity of life, and the need for spiritual endeavour in this world in order to ensure progress in the next, he is as a rule furiously opposed by the clergy of the various Christian sects, especially by the Roman Catholics, who would apparently prefer that the man should be left in a state of complete materialism rather than that he should accept any system which did not in each particular agree with their own.

Lest it be thought that I only assume this broad view for the purpose of my argument let me quote a passage from my "Vital Message" written ten years ago. I say, "Every church produces beautiful souls, though it may be debated whether 'produces' or 'contains' is the truthful word. We have but to fall back upon our own personal experience if we have lived long and mixed much with our fellow-men. I have myself lived during the seven most impressionable years of my life among Jesuits, .... and I have found them honourable and good men, in all ways estimable outside the narrowness which limits the world to Mother Church. They were scholars, and gentlemen, nor can I ever remember any examples of that casuistry with which they are reproached. On the other hand, some of my best friends have been among the parochial clergy of the Church of England, men of sweet and saintly character, whose pecuniary straits were often a scandal and a reproach to the half-hearted folk who accepted their spiritual guidance. I have known, also, splendid men among the Nonconformist clergy, who have often been the champions of liberty, though their views upon that subject have sometimes seemed to contract when one ventured upon their own domain of thought. Each creed has brought out men who were an honour to the human race, and Manning or Shrewsbury, Gordon or Dolling, Booth or Stopford Brooke, are all equally admirable, however diverse the roots from which they grow. Among the great mass of the people, too, there are very many thousands of beautiful souls who have been brought up on the old-fashioned lines, and who never heard of spiritual communion, and yet have reached a condition of pure spirituality such as all of us may envy. Who does not know the maiden aunt, the widowed mother, the mellowed elderly man, who live upon the hill-tops of unselfishness, shedding kindly thoughts and deeds around them, but with their simple faith deeply rooted in anything or everything which has come to them in a hereditary fashion with the sanction of some particular authority ?" * [1]

This, then, is the broad difference, as I see it, between the Psychic and Roman Catholic positions. The one maintains that there are a hundred paths to heaven. The other that there is only their own. Which is the nobler or more truly Catholic conception is left to the reader's discernment.

But this does not mean that we consider all religions to be equally reasonable. We have to use our own individual brains in this matter, and we have the right to express our convictions. But it would not be our policy to remove any spiritual influences which were working for good. There is no reason at all why a Baptist, a Jew, or an Anglican should not accept spiritualism and yet remain a Baptist, a Jew or an Anglican. For that matter there is no reason why a Roman Catholic should not accept our views and remain a Roman Catholic. The only real objection is on his side, since he lives in a condition of mental and spiritual subservience, not to say slavery, to his lawgivers in Rome who forbid him to extend his knowledge. But many are breaking away and have learned that in order to be a Roman Catholic it is not necessary to repeat the episode of Galileo and to deny what their reason and experience have taught them to be a truth.

These general remarks are introductory to the fact that the well-known Jesuit Father Thurston has written a booklet ("Modern Spiritualism." Sheed and Ward) attacking spiritualism, and directing that attack very particularly upon myself. It is my duty and privilege to reply. Those who are conversant - with the constitution of the order of Jesus will realise that Father Thurston is simply a well-disciplined mental soldier who is bound in this, as in all matters, to do exactly what his superior officer orders him to do. Fully to appreciate this one has only to imagine what Father Thurston's position would be if he allowed the evidence to overwhelm him, and admitted that spiritualism was not only a true cult but also a power for good. Such a conclusion would be treason to his superiors who have commissioned his work. He has therefore done his job on the appointed lines, and we may take it as a compliment that those superiors have chosen one of their best brains in order to belittle us, while we may also congratulate ourselves that with all his cleverness and actual knowledge of the subject, his results have been so mediocre. I do not think that I have ever been so impressed by the strength of our case as when I read the arguments which he had raked up against it.

Before I go into the various points which he has raised there is one general observation. which I would make. It is that those who represent the Roman Catholic Church are very ill advised when they publicly criticise any other cult in a way which invites an answer, because the material for a retort is so tremendous. Every creed has sinned, our own not excepted, but what are our worst blunders as compared with the terrific historical transgressions of the Church of Rome! What bathos it is to descend to the admitted roguery of some dishonest mediums when we can contemplate the wholesale massacres of the Albigenses or of the people of the Cevennes, the bloody murders of St. Bartholomew's night, blessed by a medal from the Pope, or the horrors of the Inquisition, where in the name of the gentle Jesus and in the presence of the Crucifix men and women were tortured for matters of dogmatic belief. What the Catholic Church needs, and what would in truth greatly strengthen her position, is exactly what she recommends to her devotees, and that is full confession and heartfelt contrition. When that is forthcoming the world may forget and forgive. As a first fruit of such a reform the order of Dominicans which perpetrated these atrocities, and which were a religious murder society at that time just as truly as the Thugs were more recently in India, should be abolished as, however innocent they may now be, they are reminiscent of what is perhaps the most horrible story in the whole history of the human race when they were the official torturers of the Church. It is retorts of this sort — and there are very many of them — to which a Catholic controversialist exposes himself and his church when he goes out of his way to attack other people. What use is it to vilify poor weak Margaret Fox when the opponent can answer "Pope Borgia!" or "Torquemada!"

A very considerable proportion of Father Thurston's booklet consists of extracts taken from spiritualist papers, most of them of old date, deploring some weakness or declension which could be observed in our movement, and suggesting continual reform, and reconsideration. In some strange way Father Thurston seems to consider this a sign of weakness, otherwise he certainly would not have alluded to it, since he is there not as a just judge but as a blandly venomous counsel for the prosecution. But is it a sign of weakness? Is this examination of conscience and aspiration for better things not the most conclusive sign of honesty and strength? When I see a similar independence and self-criticism in the pages of the "Tablet" and the "Universe" I shall believe that at long last the much-needed internal reformation of the Roman Church has begun. She may yet play a noble part in the world's history, but she has many and radical changes to make before she is fit to do so. It is not by appealing only to the backward, the submissive and the superstitious that she can ever walk in the vanguard, where the true standard-bearers must be. To cover up sores is not the best way to heal them.

Incidentally I may say that no one could appreciate the beauty of one side of the Roman Church more than I do, or express it more plainly. The splendid self-sacrificing work of her missionaries, especially of the early Jesuit missionaries, must appeal to everyone who knows the facts. However cramped and false their theology might be-and it was often, I believe, further from the truth than the views of the natives whom they were trying to convert, they were at least ready to give their lives for it, and outside religious matters they were certainly pioneers of civilisation. It was in describing this type of Jesuit that I wrote long ago in "The Refugees," a sentiment which I would still endorse. The passage runs : "If the Church of Rome should ever be wrecked it may come from her weakness in high places, where all churches are at their weakest, or it may be because with what is very narrow she tries to explain that which is very broad, but assuredly it will never be through the fault of her rank-and-file, for never upon earth have men and women spent themselves more lavishly and more splendidly than in her service." No one can read this passage and believe that I have a bitter bias against the Church. My knife is that of the surgeon, not of the assassin.

The curious thing about these attacks which are cleverly made by Father Thurston and more crudely by many Catholic priests and journalists, is that in many details Spiritualism has tended to confirm Roman Catholic ideas. This is so marked that I can only explain it by supposing that in the early Christian Church there was a true spirit revelation, such as is now being repeated, and that, in spite of the stupidities and ambitions of the human interpreters, this was carried on down the centuries, and some portion of it even survived the Reformation. That the Early Christians had our knowledge and our practices is, of course, evident. Saint Paul (Cor. I, 12) gives a complete list of what he calls spiritual gifts, which correspond almost exactly with our mediumistic powers, including trance speaking, phenomena and clairvoyance. But much of this was smothered by the practical and material administrators, and by the ambitious priests who gained command. A fair part survives. The idea of purgatory, for example, corresponds with the information which we receive, though eternal punishment does not. Controls and guides correspond to guardian angels. We are continually told that the 'dead' would wish to be prayed for, which again is a High Church or Catholic doctrine. The miracles of the Saints, such as levitation or bilocation or healing, are well known among spiritualists. The halo is the aura. The angel is the high spirit. The prophet is the inspirational medium. It is largely a question of terminology; and on the day when Rome, or some limb of the Roman Church, casts off unreasonable forms and dogmas it will find a true system of spiritual inspiration not very far removed, and a large body of earnest people whose actual experience and knowledge have given results which others have attained by faith.

Father Thurston makes a great deal of play concerning our relation to the Christ and to His symbol the Cross. Much of this is, I think, pure dialectics, for Father Thurston is very well informed and must know perfectly well what the answers are to the difficulties and objections which he raises. The original spiritualists were drawn chiefly from non-conformist bodies, and when they were driven out of their churches on account of their beliefs, many of them very naturally became Unitarians. This tendency was increased by the fact that both Andrew Jackson Davis and Mrs. Hardinge Britten, two of the chief exponents took this view. It was soon understood, however, that this was a matter of individual choice, and that, as I have already explained, men of any church were spiritualists so long as they believed in the continuity of life and the possibility of communication. Thus apart from the Unitarian churches many Christian spiritualist churches sprang up, and many ministers such as the famous preacher Haweis and Arthur Chambers proclaimed their belief. Canon Henslow, Archdeacon Colley and Archdeacon Wilberforce were all spiritualists, so that it is absurd to suppose that this cult is necessarily divorced from Christianity. At the present moment many clergymen, like Vale Owen, Drayton Thomas, Dr. Lamond and Fielding-Ould, are with us. On the other hand, a Jew, a Moslem or a Hindoo may be a spiritualist. I can understand that such breadth as this presents a difficulty to the narrow and bigoted critic, but it seems to me to be one of many signs that this cult will pervade the world.

The views of those who have passed on about religious matters are often not much more advanced than our own. They have gone one rung up an endless ladder, and that slight elevation does not give an extended view. Sometimes we are privileged to get into touch with some high spirit who has passed over for many centuries. From him we get more mature teaching, though it is by no means final. On the whole it presents a view of the Christ which is, as it seems to me, a compromise and a reasonable one, between those who confuse Him with that great Creator of the hundred million stars, and with those who would have Him a man like ourselves. That view is that there is infinite space for spirits of every grade between these extremes, and that Jesus of Nazareth was one of those — to my mind the chief of those — who have been sent at different epochs to carry a divine message to the world. He is nearer the divine than we, and it is not for us to measure the exact height of His superiority. I would admit the same claim for Buddha, Confucius, and other world teachers. Each came as a missioner and was a high spirit, but Jesus seems to me (and to my guide Pheneas) to be the highest of all. I have never heard any more reasonable definition of the position of the Christ than that.

Since I have mentioned Pheneas, and since Father Thurston makes desperate efforts to minimise his teaching I would quote some of his utterances about the Christ. He says:—

"What you need is tenderness above all. Humility, unselfishness and the love for Him. Just the love of a child who trusts a tender mother. A gentle, tender spirit radiating out to all on earth, is the entrance key, the passport to Christ's presence.
"Do not think of self. That is the Christ soul, helping everyone upward, everyone who has failed. Everyone is a beautiful child in Christ's eyes, and if He sees one stumbling and down, His heart rushes to him. He would have all humanity so. That is how He will greet you, with two hands held out, and only love on His exquisite face." [2]

I leave the reader to judge how far these sentiments are lowering to the Christ ideal. Father Thurston, who has a perfect genius for making difficulties for himself, and getting muddled up or pretending to be so, over matters which are perfectly simple, makes a great deal later of the fact that Pheneas says that the Cross idea will pass away under the new dispensation. The whole passage in "Pheneas Speaks" is as follows. Speaking of the state of things after Christ's second coming, he says:—

"In the new world there will be no shadows. The cross idea will have passed. The new religion will be all beauty and sweetness. It will be based on universal knowledge of the spirit world.
"But it will be Christian?
"Yes, but the memory of the Cross will be gone. People will have seen Him in His glory, and all that will not be wanted. It will be the thought of the glory of the Christ that will pervade the world, and not the thought of His ancient death." [3]

The Cross, after all, is an instrument of torture, and we can well understand that in a happier evolution of Christianity some other symbol might replace it. There is no contradiction in this. The passage is perfectly clear to anyone but a special pleader bent on misconstruction. When he says in a footnote that to Pheneas and to me the Cross is foolishness he departs from truth. At the same time truth compels us to recognise that the Cross as a holy symbol is far older than Christianity. Those who turn to page 197 of the Illustrated London News (August 3, 1929) will see the photograph of a dalmatic with a pectoral cross taken from the tomb of Tutankhamen.

I am tempted to give one more example of that spirit teaching received from my guide which Father Thurston tries so hard to make ridiculous. The reader can judge for himself how far it deserves the Jesuit's animadversion. He was speaking at a seance to spirits who have failed when on the Earth sphere—

"All is well, dear friends, if you will only look up. All will be beautiful for you if you will only try to advance. Your hearts are stricken because you realize the lost opportunities. You can see now the privileges God gave you to work for Him and you passed them by and failed the One who loved you. You gave a stone in place of love. But, dear ones, He waits for you. Look upwards. Help the other poor souls who are round you and each soul you help is a step upwards in His direction.
"There are many here who lost the pathway in life, many who saw it, but they walked aside because they thought they saw a light that was brighter, but it was a mirage which led them to an abyss — an abyss into which they fell. There are others here who never woke up in life; they were always on one vibration. They were asleep mentally and spiritually. They woke up only when they crossed the river of Death. Now they have to live in vibrations so much lower and so much more depressing. They missed their opportunity.
"If only Humanity would be awake and would realize the exquisite blessing, the wonderful privilege of being allowed to do something to help God's purpose in this sphere.
"I speak to those whose hearts are bowed, whose hearts are sad, whose eyes are veiled with grief and tears. I address the mourners. Friends, so sweet and fair, so tender a friend waits you a little way down the path, and holds out hands, dear loving outstretched hands, ready to grasp your own. Tender eyes are ready to greet you with such sweet words of comfort, of hope, of friendship. You have only to go a little way forward. just a little strength, a little effort, a little climb, a little prayer, and the hands will meet and the darkness fall away and the loneliness be gone for ever. Hope and love and light are waiting for you such a little way ahead.
"Is it not worth while to make the effort? Is it not? Dear ones look up. Never look back. Always forward!
"God bless each of you with His wonderful love which is so near to you. Let your hearts open and let love come in. God bless you all for only happiness lies ahead. He is waiting, a figure so lovely, so radiant, so infinitely sweet and understanding, so tender, yearning to be your friend."

Is this debasing? Is there anything in Thomas-a-Kempis or any other Catholic writer which strikes a higher, more tender, and more spiritual note?

Father Thurston, talking of the early days of Spiritualism, says: "I have examined scores of volumes containing the communications taken down at this period and — the dreariness, the vagueness, the triviality, and the unconvincingness of these messages are alike appalling." In several subsequent passages Father Thurston asserts that nothing has been learned through Spiritualism. So far as the first statement goes I think that Jackson Davis' "Harmonial Philosophy," which has gone through some forty editions in the United. States, and which was written under Inspiration about 1860 by a man of no education, is a book or a series of books of great importance. In one of these revelations he gives, as I have shown in my History of Spiritualism, [4] a very close and detailed description of the modern motor car, of the typewriter, and of other things which actually materialised many years later. At a later date Stainton Moses' "Spirit Teachings" is a very remarkable work, which may well prove to be the basis of the religion of the future. If I were reincarnated three hundred years from now nothing would surprise me less than to find that the name of Stainton Moses was among the most famous and revered of the Victorian era. When all the rubbish has fallen through Time's sieve there may be some surprises in what is left.

To take an even later instance, the Cleophas script which was written through the hand of a lady with no expert knowledge, but which has been pronounced by capable critics to bear every sign upon the face of it of being a genuine record of First Century life, is an example of what may be done by spirit aid in rescuing the lost literature of the past. Oscar Wilde too has sent messages through, some of which are of such high literary merit that if I were publishing an anthology of Wilde, there is at least one long posthumous passage which I should be forced to include. In the face of these and very many other examples which I could give I do not think that Father Thurston is justified in his sweeping condemnation of these messages.

He says that they have never helped in Science, and quotes Flammarion to that effect. Yet Sir Oliver Lodge has not hesitated to state in public that he has referred difficult points to higher entities and the results have Presumably justified him. When we consider the value of the messages to private individuals then one appreciates their importance. Oliver Baldwin has told us how several times his life has been saved by an unseen voice. It has been stated in the papers how one of our champion racing motorists was warned as to the weakness of his chains. They were changed and afterwards snapped when tested on the bench. Mrs. Hinchcliffe is herself satisfied that the fate of her husband has been cleared up by spirit intervention. One could fill a large book with instances where this power, which Father Thurston decries, has been used for the good of humanity.

Then again, when he talks of no useful in-formation being furnished one would wish to know what sort of information he refers to. Apparently he means scientific inventions and the like. Father Thurston in a later passage supplies an answer to his own difficulty by intimating that we should lose all initiative and become mere automatons if we turned to the spirits for a solution of every difficulty. But it is this material application to which I object. Father Thurston seems to consider nothing of importance unless it can be judged in terms of worldly prosperity or comfort. Is it a trivial thing, or a matter of small importance, that life should be proved to carry on beyond the grave, that the conditions there are reported to be entirely different from anything which has been taught by any of the churches, and that an avenue has been opened by which we may get into touch with a wisdom far higher than our own? That is our claim. Father Thurston may deny the validity of our claim because it cuts across his own theological views. But to deny is not to disprove, and to treat our Communications as negligible may please minds as stereotyped in such matters as his own, but will not shake the belief of those who realise that this invasion from a higher world is the most important episode of modern history.

We freely admit that it may not always be from a higher world. We know that there are all sorts over there as there are here. They are indeed the same people. Quoting some Spiritualist writer, our critic says : "This amounts to an admission that promiscious dabbling in the Occult was bound to prove harmful to the man in the street whose dominant motive is an unhealthy curiosity and who is devoid of the education or guidance which would enable him to exercise his critical faculties." [5] This, of course, is the universal position which we take up. We want no dabblers or wonder seekers. We want earnest folk who have found, as most thoughtful men and women have found, that the orthodox creeds are empty shells and who are anxious to get some proof instead of a multitude of conflicting faiths. If Father Thurston looks upon this as a damaging admission he can have it and welcome.

Even as I wrote this I picked up Davis' "Memoranda of Persons and Events." It opened at page 110 and the first three items discussed from spirit sources were : (1.) That to suppose that those only are saved who are born within the Church is an insane heresy. (2.) That to suppose that any of the Human Race are predestined to be damned is a cruel heresy. (3.) That there is a common essence of all religions by which every one is saved. Here are clear messages upon these all-important subjects, and they come from the pioneer of Spiritualistic philosophy, derived from spirit sources. And yet Father Thurston seems to think that all such information is trivial.

Now let us try and find out what are some of the other objections which Father Thurston finds to Spiritualism. One which seems to impress him very much is that Spiritualism was said to have many millions of adherents at one time in the United States, and that they after-wards greatly decreased. I have never myself believed in the numbers originally given, and I have no doubt that they were exaggerated. There have no doubt been temporary ups and downs, as in all new movements, but I should think there are many more Spiritualists in the States now than then. But, apart from the States, Spiritualism has penetrated to every quarter of the globe. At our recent Congress in London there were messages from forty-two nations and actual deputations from twenty-six. From Iceland to the Gold Coast, India and Central America, the representatives came. In every country in the world the leaven is working. When one remembers that all this came out of one small farmhouse in the year 1848, I do not think that the prophecies given at the time about a world movement have been so fallacious as Father Thurston would make out. On the contrary, though the time element is always. to be distrusted when it comes from those who have no earthly time, still the fulfilment has been very remarkable. As to its increase in England, which was prophesied years ago by Raymond Lodge, the very fact that the Roman Church has clearly become alarmed, and has put on one of its best-known controversialists to try and check it, is enough to indicate its progress. Our press has begun to realise that it does not pay to insult beliefs which so many of their readers have found to be both salutary and true, and in the Daily News plebescite our views were sustained by a large majority of readers. We used to hold our meetings in small rooms. Now we have repeatedly filled the Albert Hall. I do not think that this is a sign that our movement is, as Father Thurston says, a temporary one. The wish, I fancy, is father to the thought.

Our critic is next very severe upon Mr. Bradley, who is well able to take care of himself, and upon me because both of us have received messages from the beyond to the effect that unless mankind sets his house in order some great world cataclysm may occur in order to shake him out of his material grooves, and turn his mind from his material comforts, These messages have reached me from more than a hundred independent sources, and it was a difficult thing to know how to deal with them, for, on the one hand, one was averse from any sensational prophecies, and yet on the other they seemed to be sent for a purpose and as a warning. Mr. Bradley was no doubt in the same dilemma. Father Thurston's criticism is self-contradictory and shows the Casuist seeking for dialectical points rather than the earnest man who seeks truth. He blames Mr. Bradley for saying too much. "Can any sober-minded man," he writes, "deny that the circulation of these alarmist rumours, if only from the point of view of public polity, is much to be regretted?" A little later he is sarcastic because I have been too reticent. "A.C.D. very prudently commits himself to nothing definite concerning the time or the place or the manner in which the change will be brought about." One had to do one thing or the other, and whichever one did is equally displeasing to Father Thurston. Our dilemma was an obvious one. It was difficult to conceal altogether what may have been a sacred trust, and on the other hand one did not desire scare-heads in sensational journals. I think that I did wisely in putting it on record and at the same time filing the complete information in a safe quarter. Let us pray that it may never be needed for verification. If it should be, it is there, sealed and dated, which meets the Jesuit's innuendo that "the forecast might be made to fit the events which actually occur."

Father Thurston has some sub-acid remarks upon the alleged fact that though these warnings were given first some years ago — they still, I may say, continue to arrive — nothing particular has happened. Time presents a difficulty with our informants, and I am not sure that in the beginning they were themselves sure of the date of an event which they believed to be imminent. These spirits or angels are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Their limitations are as marked as our own. I have never given a date, and a few years one way or the other are a trifle when compared with the aeons of life upon this globe. I cannot agree, however, that there have been no corroborative happenings. Seismic activity has been very marked in the last few years, exactly in those regions which have been mentioned as the primary centres of danger. It is the secondary results which might conceivably be universal.

Of course it is possible to exaggerate such signs of the times, for we have always had earthquakes with us, but attention has in the last few years been several times called to the increasing signs of the world's instability, and these comments have come from quarters quite removed from any psychic influence. Personally I believe that a danger does overshadow the earth, but that it is not absolutely unavoidable, and that we can but put our trust in God and carry on as best we may, doing our obvious duties and making our plans for the future as if no such cloud was on the horizon.

Father Thurston has much to say in criticism of our mediums. So, occasionally, have we. There are good and bad among all classes of mankind. Let Father Thurston turn his attention to the priests of his own church and mark the difference between the English type, which is comparatively a high one, and the ignorant, dissolute representatives of the church who are to be found in many Latin countries. There is much, no doubt, which would be the better for reform in our growing movement where with very little money we have had to cover a large field. But can Father Thurston not find good and profit-able use for his critical faculties in endeavouring to clear up the evil things in his own church without intruding upon ours ? He will find ample scope for all his energies. Let me commend to him the question of the inspection of Convents. He knows as well as I do that there is a term in a young woman's life, generally about the twentieth year, when extreme devotion and idealism take possession of her. It may last, but it is often a passing phase. Yet during that short period she may consign herself and her worldly wealth — the latter, I fear, no unimportant consideration, to a convent from which after a short period, there is no escape. One has but to look at the high walls, the locked doors, and occasionally the barred windows, to see that the caged bird is held securely. She may be happy there. Under a noble mother superior with unanimity of thought and of worship it might be, and sometimes is, a heaven upon earth. But is it not often the other thing? Does not the poor disillusioned creature, her dreams shattered, her ideals all fading before hard realities, her fortune irretrievably gone, find herself under the power of some harsh unsexed woman, a rigid disciplinarian, who takes a pride in her aloofness from human weakness and sympathy? Yet against this woman's tyranny there is no court of appeal save the occasional more or less perfunctory visit of a Bishop, whose coming is announced beforehand and whose inclination is naturally to support instituted authority. Is it an unreasonable request that some small committee or deputation, female for choice, should from time to time present itself before whom nuns could lay their grievances? Do not sane Roman Catholics recognise that this is a perfectly fair and humane contention? Would not these cloistered establishments, which have in some cases been driven out of Catholic countries on account of their abuses, stand higher in public esteem if there were some supervision of the sort, which should be confined to judicious folk, and freed from bigotry on either side? Neither a Thurston nor a Kensit should be included.

We have the account of Miss Edith O'Gorman who ran away penniless in a nun's dress amid a snowstorm in Jersey City. She described her late companions as "a hundred or more uncongenial, disappointed, sour, narrow-minded, self-righteous, pharasaical women" and convent life "a hell." [6] Miss Moult escaped from Bergholt where there is a cloistered convent of Benedictines. She also made a dash in the dark of a stormy night, was recaptured near the station, and was rescued by the porters. [7] She sums her own experiences up in the words : "Life in a convent is a hell upon earth.... It never brought me any happiness, peace or comfort." She dwells upon the formal and useless nature of the Bishop's visitations which are supposed to be once a year, but which she declares to have been once in eighteen years. "During the visitation the Abbess with two or three senior nuns accompanies the Bishop through the enclosure. She takes him through the infirmary and wherever she sees fit, every place having been put shipshape prior to his entrance." Surely sensible Catholics will have some qualms about their relations in convents after reading this, and might request Father Thurston to turn his energies in that direction instead of traducing those who are as earnest for good as himself.

Then there is a fairly good-humoured account by Miss Marion Ayesha [8] who spent five years with the nuns of the Incarnation, who were turned out of France in 1905, but who seem to have been a harmless body feared. by the Government on account of their Royalist leanings. The account in question describes the nuns as "conceited, ridiculously self-satisfied, but harmless and kindly old maids." It is only fair to say that she speaks in the highest terms of the relation between the nuns, and the clergy, especially the Jesuits, who visited. the place. On the other hand, this was an extremely rich institution, educating the aristocracy of France, and other convents could not be fairly compared with it.

A darker side of the picture is presented. by an English lady, Miss Golding, who managed to escape from a convent in France, and who writes : "It is a custom in such convents for the commonest, coarsest and most brutal woman to be appointed Mother Superior so that she may tyrannise over the girls who are of gentle birth and breeding." In the case of this lady she was rescued by an English business man who visited the convent. When the Mother Superior learned his errand Miss Golding was hurried away, but hearing her screams he followed down the passage. "He threw open a door and found four nuns surrounding her trying to stop her screams. They had pulled off her cap, torn her dress, wrenched off the cross of the order and were apparently trying to wrestle her down to the ground. He ran forward... and helped her along the corridor into the hall." Surely no sane Catholic can deny that in the face of such assertions some inspection of these institutions is necessary. One could easily fill many pages with such accounts. Such an exposure is not, however, the main purpose of such a booklet as this, but the subject is only alluded to to show the impolicy of Father Thurston's unprovoked attack upon other people.

Speaking of the general condition under which these poor creatures are received, condemning themselves to perpetual imprisonment without hope of release, before ever they have realised their own natures or the meaning of life, Dr. MacCabe has a remarkable passage. [9]

He says :

"I have never been able to witness without a shudder the ceremony of a young girl making her vows. Some pachydermatous monk or veneered Jesuit preaches to her from the altar of the tranquil joy of her future life as spouse of Christ alone, and the candid virginal eyes that are bent upon him tell only too clearly of her profound ignorance of the sleeping fires within her, the latent joys of love and maternity which she sacrifices so readily. In ten years more she will know the meaning of the vow of chastity into which she has been deluded. It was brought home to me vividly on hearing, a few years ago, the confession of a young nun who was in the wild throes of passion-birth; after detailing the usual peccadilloes she began to tell me of her utter misery and isolation. Her sisters were unkind, thoughtless, and jealous; 'and yet, father,' she urged piteously, 'I do want someone to love me.' I muttered the usual commonplaces, but, as she knelt at my feet, looking sadly up at me, in their little convent chapel, I felt how dark a sin it was to admit an immature girl to a vow of chastity. How their parents — their mothers — can let them act thus without a word of warning surpasses my comprehension. 'Tis another signal instance, no doubt, of the triumph of grace over nature!"

Dr. MacCabe and I are very far apart in our view of spiritual matters — indeed we were once opposed in public debate at the Queen's Hall. I feel that in his recoil from the right he has swung far too far to the left, and that while denying what is superstitious he has allowed himself to deny also that which, as Russel Wallace said, can be proved as plainly as any other fact of science. But at the same time I honour Dr. MacCabe as a brave and honest man, and especially admire him for the absence of exaggeration or bitterness in his "Twelve Years in a Monastery," a book which is like a searchlight in a dark place.

Another point to which Father Thurston might devote his attention when he has time to withdraw it from the imaginary iniquities of spiritualism, is that apart from the occasional abuses of convent life there is the persistent question as to how far the obvious duties of this mundane existence may be avoided by these pious ladies. Circumstances may alter and the woman who had no particular ties when she entered the convent may have some very special reasons to recall her to an active life. It must often happen, for instance, that the death of parents may leave her as the sole guardian of younger children, or the death of a father may make her the only companion for an aged mother. Such considerations, which have no effect at all at present, should and would weigh with the nuns under a system by which they had some choice as to their own destiny. I am willing to admit that there are women who are in their right place in a convent, but I am very sure that there are others within those high walls who are eager to come out. Then why should they be kept there? Is the idealism of a young girl to be punished inexorably by perpetual imprisonment? I-Tow vain it is to talk of chivalry to women when so many distressed damsels in our midst are waiting for a rescue. There is no use telling us, as some apologists do, that they can get out if they wish. The high walls, the locked doors and the personal narratives of those who have escaped tell another story.

But I must carry the war a little deeper into Father Thurston's country. If he attacks in so unprovoked a manner he cannot complain of a counter attack. Indeed, I believe that a ventilation of such matters is in the best interests of the Roman Catholic Church of the future, even if it entails some sacrifice of their past. All churches and organisations, including our own, have their occasional scandals, but the Roman Church stands alone in its obstinate determination to take no steps to reform them. I allude to the need of strict inspection of child labour in Catholic institutions. Under the guise of orphanages there are many establishments which may sometimes he well conducted and humane, but have in the past been the scenes of abominable cruelty, where the poor children were sweated to produce goods which the nuns could sell, while at the same time the nuns were begging for the maintenance of these poor little creatures who were already amply paying their way. On the top of this there was often a successful demand for the remission of taxes on the ground that the whole commercial concern was a charity. I am speaking now of the more extreme cases, but it is only by examination that we can tell which are extreme and which are not. Many foreign orders have now settled in England (in order to avoid inspection in France) and they may well have brought some of their methods with them. I have before me the full details of the terrible case of the Orphanage of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Nancy. This order has numerous other houses scattered through France, at Cholet, Loos and other places, and the nuns are interchangeable, so that it is not unfair to assume that the methods were the same in all. The details given by the children who got away are almost too horrible to print, and were largely confirmed by the Bishop of Nancy who sent a report of them to Rome — a report which seems to have found its way into the Papal wastepaper basket, for nothing was done. The evidence would itself fill a small volume, but this is the sort of thing as quoted in the Temps. Mlle. Folio deposed : "When I was at the Good Shepherd a girl named Eliza died. She succumbed to meningitis. She had been struck a short time before on the head with a stick. A girl named G. received a kick on the breast. She became consumptive and spat blood. Anna B. received a blow from a pair of scissors in the eye. They had to have a glass eye put in. Agatha T. is hunch-backed in consequence of blows she received on the back." I will not harrow readers with a repetition of horrors of which the above is a fair sample. An inquiry showed that the establishment had three doors on three different streets, and that the excessive mortality among the poor children was concealed by registering the deaths sometimes from one street, sometimes from another. It came out in the evidence that the children worked fourteen hours a day, and that their work consisted largely in making the fancy embroidery of lingerie for the demi monde of Paris.

It is a long way from Nancy to Brittany — the full breadth of France — but there does not seem to be much difference in the treatment of the children in the convents. Mdlle. Victorine Arnault writes an account of her experience at Rennes:

"Into the convent I entered when I was not quite two years old. Today I am thirty-five. From the time I was five I was obliged to make two shirt buttonholes every day. Between the age of six and eight I had to do the buttonholes of six shirts. From eight to ten I was forced to make an entire shirt every day and from ten to thirteen my daily task was two shirts. It was at the age of twelve that the bad treatment began. Whenever the work set out was not done, we were whipped, often as much as thrice a day. Often the punishment would be administered by the hands, the second time with nettles, according to the season, the third with a wet dish-clout. One day I was struck with a 'cat' of seven tails with sharp points, so that one of my eyes was gouged out. I have only the other one left now. The instruction given was small. I am obliged to get this letter written, in order that you may be able to read it." [10]

One could be easier in one's mind if one felt that the authorities of the Roman Church would themselves take active steps to stop these abuses when they are brought to their notice. Let us hope that they often do, but unhappily there is clear evidence that they don't. Monseigneur Turinaz sent a secret report to the congregation of bishops and regulars in Rome, calling attention to these abuses. Lest it should be said that the cases are due to the hostility of Freethinking newspapers, an extract from the bishop's memorandum may be quoted:

"Nothing is given to them by the Good Shepherd of Nancy — nothing, not even after they have laboured and earned a great deal of money for the Institution during five, ten, twenty years. They are turned out of doors without resources, without a situation, without such exhortations to come and revisit their mistresses from time to time as are usual in all such houses. These young girls, many of whom have no relations, or have relations who are incapable of helping and looking after them, are thus delivered up to all kinds of danger, to every species of seduction from the moment of their departure and later on."

There are many more very urgent things stated in the bishop's letter, but none the less, although the document was examined and commented upon in a secret correspondence by the authorities in Rome, nothing was done for four years, when, by an error, the good bishop's letter was published in the Latin periodical, "Analecta," and so came to the eyes of a horrified world. How many other documents there are of a similar purport which do not happen to be published by chance, it is impossible to say. A little brochure upon this subject, Father Thurston, would be more useful than your animadversions upon our venial sins.

These things occurred not in the middle ages but within the last thirty years in a civilised country. These savage women may still be living and still have helpless children under their control. Without inspection we have no sure proof that it might not recur. Do I, then, exaggerate when I beg Father Thurston not to strain his sight in finding motes in the eyes of others but to see to the beam in his own? If such revelations hurt the feelings of Catholics it is good that their feelings should be hurt, for it may induce them to keep a better supervision upon the management of their own affairs.

Father Thurston raises the bogey of free love among spiritualists, a thing of which neither I nor any other experienced spiritualist with whom I have talked has ever found a trace. Speaking, with the advantage of personal contact with many thousands of them, I should say that the average morality among our people is at least as high as in any other church. But oh, Father Thurston, why will you insist upon throwing pebbles when it is so easy to hurl a boulder back at you? Did a mad devil in his wildest mood ever invent anything so insane, so obviously immoral and degrading to both sexes as auricular confession between a young woman and a celibate priest? In the Evening Standard of yesterday (July 22nd) I observed that Dr. C. Douglas, himself, I believe, a Catholic, says, "If Freud had asked any Roman Catholic priest of the last thousand years he would have been told that in the confessional something like 90 per cent. of all confessions made dealt with sexual subjects."

It is not necessary to enlarge upon it. It is impossible to believe that the discussion of such matters with a man has no coarsening effect upon the mind of the woman. As to the man the possible effect upon him is alluded to in decent Latin by the theologian Liguori, otherwise known as Saint Alphonsus, and is treated with indulgence by that pillar of the Church. There are no doubt ascetic and venerable priests who might be trusted to fulfil such a function, but it is amazing that in an age of knowledge and civilisation any man should acquiesce in his wife or daughter taking such a chance. In the name of decency and common sense if such confession is advisable why should it not be made to some discreet matron ? Remember that the whole pernicious system is founded upon a couple of ancient texts which are construed in quite a different fashion by other Christian Churches. There is evidence, too, that the mischief does not stop at the confessional, and the penitent might be surprised at the ultimate results of her confession, for though I acquit the priests of any general charge of betraying the names, none the less the actual facts of the confessions are occasionally used for mutual instruction and amusement.

Anyone who doubts the pernicious effects of this practice must realise that no general statement such as "I have sinned against modesty" would be accepted. The narrative must be detailed and explicit. "No confessor can allow a general accusation to pass. He is bound to recall her and question her minutely upon the subject. The conversation which ensues is much better imagined than described, for by some curious process of reasoning (assisted by the light of Faith) the Church of Rome has deduced from certain words of Christ that the confessor must have a detailed knowledge of every serious transgression before he can give absolution." I quote from Dr. Joseph MacCabe who had personal experience, having heard many confessions himself. [11]

It is most difficult to understand at what period this abominable custom originated. It seems to have been unknown in its present form until long after the early days of the Church. In that remarkable document "The Apostolic Constitutions" which dates at the latest from the third century, and in parts to all appearance from the first, there are minute directions as to every sacrament of the Church but not a word about confession, save in the sense of a public general admission of being in the wrong. It seems to me that more attention should be given to this strange book which is certainly one of the earliest Christian documents, and which has been decried by the theologians of the Church because it clearly showed that the custom of the Church had wandered far away from the original practice and could not be reconciled with it. For example, the marriage of the priesthood seems to have been not merely permissible but obligatory. Every successive Council from Nicaea onwards kept on adding new doctrines and canons, each of them further from the simplicity of the gospels. "Back to Jesus" must be the watch word of the new reformation, so long as it is followed up in accordance with His own precept that "It is the letter that killeth." Shake off all these dusty, musty things, grey with age and sometimes spotted with blood, and replace them with the broad gentle wisdom of "The Sermon on the Mount."

And here let me pull my argument together for a moment lest I should seem to have been unduly wandering. Why have I in turn touched upon such subjects as the supervision of Catholic orphanages, the inspection of convents and the abuses of the confessional? What have they to do with Father Thurston's attack upon spiritualism? The answer is that Father Thurston has in unprovoked fashion gone out of his way to attack our mediums, and our methods, and that therefore since it is proverbial that the best defence is often a counter-attack I have ventured to show one or two of the weak points in that system of which Father Thurston is a protagonist.


Now one word as to Father Thurston's position about spiritualism, which coincides, I presume, with that of his superiors and therefore of the Catholic Church, for Father Thurston as a loyal Jesuit cannot be said to have an individuality of his own. Father Thurston says quite plainly that he and all orthodox Catholics are already spiritualists in the sense that they believe that personality carries on and that under certain circumstances communication may be possible. [12] That the Catholic Church really does accept these things is curiously enough shown very clearly by a paragraph in today's paper. [13] A Dominican priest who had died three years before was seen and heard by several of his fellow monks at the Holy Cross Priory near Leicester. One priest, Father Dix, saw him as he approached the altar. Alarmed at what he had seen he addressed the congregation a few minutes later, saying : "I ask you to pray for the soul of a priest who has passed away and who is greatly in need of your prayers." To the press Father Dix said : "It is a common thing for Catholics to get into touch with the spirits of people who have passed away and who desire prayers for their happiness." The account ends up by saying that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nottingham had been called in to exorcise the ghost, though an experienced spiritualist would have handled the matter better. It is not driving away but it is consolation that the poor creature needs, whose "pain-contorted face" shows the agony of his mind at finding other-world conditions so different from all his expectations.

However, this contemporary account gives weight to Father Thurston's account that Roman Catholics are really spiritualists. What is it, then, that they find so wrong in our beliefs ? What is there between us? What is between us is that they will have it that all our communications, so far as they are genuine are from lying and evil entities. Let us examine this hypothesis and see where it leads us. Our whole teaching is meant to show that the position of the materialist has become impossible and that we continue beyond the grave, our fate there being influenced by our spiritual condition attained during our progress in this world. Under various words this is our consistent position. Does such teaching as that bear any signs of a diabolical origin? Father Thurston himself says that it "may trouble the materialist." [14] Is that the work of an evil force? Would not such a force say, rather, "Eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow you die and there is no retribution?" It seems to me a most perverse view to ascribe such teaching as we receive to a questionable source.

But let us look at the matter more closely. Our controversialist has admitted our main contention, but asserts that it is the lower spirits who get in contact with us. In these days of complete infidelity I should have thought that even to prove the existence of a lower spirit, indeed of anything outside ourselves, Would be a matter of supreme religious significance. But why should we only reach the lower spirits ? If lower why not higher? Surely Father Thurston believes in the power of God, and does he think it credible that this high power would so arrange things that ill predominates over good, and that the lower can drive away the higher? Such a thesis is incredible. Our experience is that we come in contact with the "dead," our own beloved included, with all the characteristics which they had in life. They are no more changed than if they had moved from a smaller room to a larger one. Among that great concourse who pass over there are no doubt some who were wicked, and many who were shallow and foolish. Such entities seem to be attracted only by circles which represent their own state of mind, just as the criminal in this world or the empty worldling mixes with his mates and not with those who have no sympathy for him. The great laws of the universe do not change, and the same phenomena come round again under other names. The inspiration of Jeremiah or of Ezekiel is of the same order as the inspiration of a Jackson Davis, a Stainton Moses, or a Vale Owen. Why not ? Why should God alter His ways towards those whom He has created ? A medieval Saint Francis is raised in the air in Italy. "A miracle!" cries the Catholic. D. D. Home is raised in the air in Ashley Gardens. "It is the Devil!" cries the Catholic. But each is the same, even as the faith-healing of the Anglican Hickson, of the Spirit Doctor Lascelles, or of the Shrine at Lourdes are the same. There are no cliques or favourites in the Divine sight. But we continually deny to the present what we admit in the past. When the Christ came the Jews said, " We know that God spoke unto Moses. As for this fellow we know not from whence he is."

Father Thurston wishes us to believe that the spirits who purport to be our relations are really impostors. But what a complete absence of common sense there is in such a supposition. If it were true, have I not reason to be enormously obliged to the impostor who has cheered my life, loaded me with good advice and encouragement, and removed the acute pain of separation ? But why such an imposture ? What could be gained by the mischievous or evil entity who built himself up into the semblance of my mother, or of Oscar Hornung, both of whom I have seen in the séance room as clearly as ever in life ? What has Pheneas, if he be an impostor, to gain by his beautiful messages in which he used to give advice to the children when they left home for school? Why should an impostor try to console me by putting a photograph of my son upon a plate which I have marked ? It is only when one insists on an answer to these questions that one realises how shallow is such an explanation. Only the relative has a motive for helping us. If it is not a relative but a stranger who does so then it is disinterested benevolence.

This appearance of the earth-bound figure of the Dominican monk at High Cross Priory really puts Father Thurston's whole argument in an impossible light. Here is a returning spirit, retaining his appearance and personality, and delivering an audible message. It is, to use psychic terms, a complete materialisation with the direct voice. But Father Thurston has just committed himself to the general proposition that such appearances are mere simulacra and impostors. Is this then an impostor ? If it is an impostor why should the local priests and congregation pray for his soul as they are now doing? Or are we to believe that all Catholic apparitions are genuine but all Protestant ones are simulacra and impostors? It is a difficult corner for Father Thurston to turn.

The mention of my nephew Oscar Hornung recalls one of the lapses from good taste in Father Thurston's brochure. I had mentioned a person, who had been alluded to by Pheneas, and I had given the name Cynthia for the sake of privacy. I venture to say that no one who was not behind the scenes, as a Roman priest would be, would know that Cynthia stood for my sister Constance. Not one in a hundred would know it. And yet Father Thurston has a long footnote exposing the fact, and then, with what can only be described as effrontery, rebuking me for disclosing names on account of the pain it might give to relatives. It is obviously Father Thurston and not I who has disclosed the name. He need not, however, fear that any pain to a blood relative can be given, for there is not one who is not in complete sympathy with me in the matter.

His mention of my sister leads me to tell of an incident which shocked me at the time and showed the pernicious outcome of such views as Father Thurston inculcates. At a séance this dear young fellow, who gave his life for his country, came through, giving his name loudly in the direct voice. After some questions in which I assured myself of his identity and of his happiness, I asked him if he would wish me to tell his mother of his return. He said that he would. My sister was the best and most charitable of women but exceedingly orthodox, and as I never impose my views upon other people, I approached her with some diffidence. She wrote to me that the teaching of the priests was that it was a personating demon which had spoken. Some time later Oscar again came to a séance, speaking once more in the direct voice. I said to him, "I have told your mother, Oscar—" when he interrupted me with a storm of sobs. It was a shocking thing to hear his agony of grief. Finally he cried, "I know you have. I know you have. It is that terrible church of hers!" So spoke a voice from the dead.

I was present upon another occasion when a spirit message righted a wrong and controverted an odious doctrine. A Catholic mother was in deep distress because her child had died unbaptised. A priest had told her that the child was certainly damned and that she was herself in danger for permitting such a thing to occur. Her husband, whom I will call Oswald, had died. I allowed Mrs. Oswald to join us in a séance in my own fiat, at which the American medium, Arthur Ford, gave clairaudience. I introduced him to none of my guests nor did he know who was coming. After several messages he turned to the Catholic lady and he said, "I have a message for you, madame. It is from a spirit named Oswald. He says that he is very happy and that Baby is with him." Tears of relief and joy ran down the mother's cheeks, and she realised that the goodness of God was greater than the dogma of the Church which would depict Him in so cruel a light.

Father Thurston and his fellows make much use of fear in religion. I well remember in my boyhood — possibly he does also, as we were contemporaries in the same school — a book called "Hell open to Christians" which in crude pictures depicted the various tortures of the damned.

The whole scheme rests upon a basis of hope in one direction and crude terror in the other. The latter may be disregarded by the healthy adult, but it weighs heavily upon the soul of the child, and it comes back to oppress the spirits of the sufferer who is weakened by disease. It is the latter who in his attempt to escape from the terrors of the future is ready often to pay large sums to Mother Church for redemption, which help to account for those huge edifices which tower over so many of our cities. In large part they are ransoms from the dying, as any study of legacies would suggest, and the great piles of stonework erected in the name of Him who preached upon the hill side, represent very often the despoilment of the relatives.

We spiritualists, who by actual personal contact know something of the real conditions of the next life, are aware that this vision of flame and torture is a horrible chimera. It does not exist. But what most assuredly does exist — and of this I have had ample evidence — is a gloomy region of bitter mental remorse, where those who have allowed their minds to become contracted, and who have been guilty of the mortal sin of bigotry, eat out their hearts with self-reproach. "Oh, if I only had my life over again!" Often I have heard that cry. Have a care, you who try to frighten others. A surprise may be waiting for yourselves.

I am always amazed in reading Father Thurston's criticisms to notice the gaps in his knowledge. They can only be explained by the supposition that he reads our literature, not for the sake of information, but to seek out points which he can twist against us. Thus he seems surprised that spirits can suffer mental pain, although it is part of our clear teaching, as derived from the other side, that though there is no physical suffering, troubles of the mind and soul may still continue. It has even been said that the Christ Himself has shed many bitter tears over the absolute mis-representation of His own doctrines of which the Churches have been guilty. As I said in my "Vital Message" [15] : 'When one compares the general effect of His teaching with that of the more rigid churches, one marvels how in their dogmatism, their insistence upon forms, their exclusiveness, their pomp and their intolerance, they could have got so far away from the example of their Master, so that as one looks upon Him and them one feels that there is absolute deep antagonism, and that one cannot speak of the Church and Christ, but only of the Church or Christ.'

Father Thurston continually misstates my position, though I am quite willing to believe that it is from ignorance rather than from malice. Yet it is noticeable that when he thinks he can make a point, he twists our views so as to enable him to make it. He says that I seem to think all mediums are honest. So far is this from being the truth that when my "History of Spiritualism" came out (which was actually handed to Father Thurston by The Times for review purposes), it was remarked by independent critics that I had been almost too harsh in my judgments. Elsewhere I state: "The word 'spiritualism' has been so befouled by wicked charlatans... that one could almost wish that some such term as 'psychic religion' could be used to clear the subject of old prejudices, just as mesmerism, after years of obloquy, was rapidly accepted when its name was changed to hypnotism." [16] Again, "Behind all these follies and frauds there lay a mass of solid evidence." [17] In another passage I spoke of the 'human hyaenas' who preyed upon the dead. In the face of these and a score of other similar passages which I could quote, what becomes of my critic's assertion that I seem to accept all mediums as honest? I would as soon think of saying that all priests are honest. Human nature varies in every rank of life.

Our critic is also very much worried — or pretends that he is so — because the accounts of life in the other world are not all identical. If he were in some other sphere, and if he was receiving accounts from this world, would he find them all the same? Can we not imagine him reading the experience of an Esquimaux seal hunter, and then of a Hindoo peasant, and pointing derisively to the difference between them. And yet we know that both would be true. So in the next life, which is far larger and more complex than this, one gets the point of view sometimes of a higher, sometimes of a lower plane, and they naturally vary. This is a sign of the truth and not of the falsity of our system. It is what one would a priori expect.

But though the details may and often do differ the general scheme remains always the same. That scheme pictures a graduated series of spheres, by which the evolution of the soul is slowly accomplished. If it has taken many aeons to build up our bodies, we can well believe that the soul is not at once translated into a final condition, but that it also has an infinite vista of progression before it. The idea of a sudden and permanent hell or heaven after this life is surely an unreasonable one, and is already rejected by the more thoughtful portion of mankind. We get our descriptions from those who are actually living this life, and what they say seems to us to be more reasonable and natural than any other explanation which has hitherto been vouchsafed us.

I do not know where Father Thurston gets the idea that because the next stage is usually a happy one therefore all sorrow or trouble has been banished. He first makes this false assumption and then triumphantly produces cases to the contrary, as if we had contradicted ourselves. Sorrow is always a possible shadow in life. Perhaps we could not progress without it. It is reported as being present even in the Christ sphere. The mere thought of the unhappiness of others, even though it be a temporary one, must cast some shadow on the mind. We have advanced since the time when a Roman "Saint," named Thomas of Acquinas, declared that part of the bliss of Heaven was the contemplation of the agonies of the damned. The contrary is the truth, and no one can ever, as it seems to me, be absolutely and entirely happy so long as anyone is absolutely and entirely miserable. We can only say that the serenity and joy of the next world are very much greater than of this one.

Father Thurston expresses surprise also that a high spirit like Pheneas should feel it painful and tiring to come in contact with humanity. The reason partly is that if the medium should herself be tired, the spirit who used her would be aware of her condition. Apart from that there is ample evidence that the thick heavy atmosphere of this earth is indeed uncongenial to those who dwell under lighter conditions and that it is an effort for them to adapt themselves to it. I see nothing unreasonable in such a supposition.

Another difficulty which this critic raises is that nothing, according to him, is said of the fate of the humbler folk, the manual workers in life. But it is chiefly among such people that spiritualism has spread. It has risen from below upwards as surely as did the early and uncorrupted Christianity. Therefore it is to be presumed that these people in their own seances and circles find satisfying assurances as to the fate which is reserved for them. I have very many notes of such messages. One man, for example, who had always longed for education was now receiving it. Each was developing upon the lines of their own natural powers: those latent powers which many of them could never use in life. Because a man had some purely mundane occupation does not mean that such an occupation in the literal sense was still reserved for him. He had perhaps, powers of organisation and of administration, and it was these which found a free opening. As to the doctor, concerning whom Father Thurston is curious, he, too, finds plenty of work in the borderland rest-houses, where poor distracted souls, just rescued from an earthbound condition, are brought back to sanity and to the discarding of the pernicious theologies of earth.

Father Thurston points out that mediums differ among themselves, and instances D. D. Home who in his book showed little sympathy with those who had similar psychic gifts to his own. It is quite true. Home was censorious to others and it is a blot upon his character. Among all classes of mankind Jealousy is a powerful factor. How few men or bodies of men are there who can live in perfect amity undisturbed by enmity or detraction. By the way, Father, are the Jesuits particularly popular with the monastic orders, or with the ordinary clergy? Have no hard words or thoughts ever been exchanged between them? Surely I have heard somewhere that even in these exalted circles there is a little spleen sometimes. If you remember that, it will make you more charitable in allowing for regrettable friction among the mediums. I have some recollection that even such stars of the Church as Manning and Newman indulged in an occasional snarl at each other.

There has been a remarkable and varied series of sittings recently at the Castle Millesimo, which is the ancestral home of the Marquis Centurione Scotto, and stands near Genoa. Among the various personalities who manifested there was one who was clearly the late Pope, speaking in a characteristic Venetian accent. He gave an urgent message which he wished to be sent to the Vatican. That message is paraphrased thus by Professor Bozzano who was present and heard it. It was that Professor Passini, who acted as recorder, should endeavour to obtain an audience with the high authorities at the Vatican to impress upon them the urgent necessity in the best interests of the Catholic Church, not to let other sects outstrip them in studying and assimilating the present-day evidence of survival. He most earnestly urged them to receive the Spiritualist movement into the bosom of the Church, even should it be necessary for the Vatican to discipline it. (N.B. This disciplining might be mutual. A.C.D.) In the last sitting this eminent defunct personage of the Vatican manifested in order to confirm this. He declared however that he would still find great resistance to these new truths from the Vatican. At the end of the sitting this exalted personage blessed all the sitters with the "asperges" which he brought into the room in the form of an apport. Professor. Bozzano goes on to say: "Needless to say Professor Passini does not possess the heroic courage to attempt such a forlorn hope. For my own part I content myself with making the following statement, namely, that these two spirit communicators are right when they affirm that the Spiritualist movement is quite reconcilable with all existing religions, without damaging any of the fundamental principles which inspire them. It is only necessary to say that all religions would derive an immense advantage if they accepted and proclaimed this great new doctrine. The fundamental principles — the only vital ones — are contained in all religions, and with the aid of this new truth it is possible to prove these principles experimentally, scientifically, and on the basis of fact."

"Not only the Catholic religion, and all other Christian Faiths need have nothing to fear from the advent of the new Science of the Soul, but they will find it a precious ally for the reinforcement of that faith which is in rapid decadence at the present time. In any case the triumph of Spiritualism is certain, and is sure to take place; for this is bound to happen when new ideas are based upon fact. The Tribunal of the Inquisition forced Galileo to abjure, with solemn words, the scientific truths which he had discovered. But that did not prevent the truth from triumphing, in spite of his abjuration; for facts are facts. May the eminent authorities at the Vatican remember this, and frame their actions accordingly, being inspired and illuminated by wisdom." [18]

Fortunately for those who desire not the destruction but the survival in a more spiritual form of the Catholic Church all her thinkers are not Father Thurstons. I have read with admiration a pastoral from Bishop Francesco de Juiz of the Brazilian Church, which should be a lesson to our European Ultramontanes. He writes, as reported in "La Revue Spirite."

"So far as I am concerned I perceive in Spiritualism none of the evils that people allege it contains. No, I don't see them ! 'Ex fructibus eorum, cognoscetis eos.' 'By their fruits shall ye know them,' said the Christ to the false prophets. Very well, what are the fruits of Spiritualism? A faith in God, keen and ardent; an immense love for one's neighbour; and a universal sense of fraternity. What can one find evil in all that? For myself, on the contrary, I only find what is good. Spiritualism built on these bases cannot ruin the world ! It maintains itself between God and Charity. Now Charity is in God, and God is in it.

"If Spiritualism were a movement essentially satanic, if all the spirits which appear in the world were evil spirits, then those also would be evil spirits which have appeared to all the saintly personages about whom the history of Christianity is full. My reasoning is quite logical, for otherwise all the visions of the saints would be diabolical visions! And that we cannot believe. 'Bona mixta malis.' The good is mixed with the evil. Spiritualistic seances may be sometimes dangerous on account of the presence of certain evil spirits, but they are not all evil, far from that, for there also come to them good spirits, very good spirits. To condemn off-hand ('ex abrupto') all the interventions of spirits in human affairs is an aberration. This new science, whose origin, to speak truly, was anterior to the birth of Christ, deserves to engage the maximum of our attention. Assuredly, excommunication weighs still heavily upon it, but that is not to say that the days of Spiritualism are counted!

"Come, let us lift up our eyes towards the light ! Let us turn ourselves towards Him Who said, ' Believe, and you will live.' " [19]

No wiser words have been uttered upon the subject than these. How petty do Father Thurston's little dialectical points seem in comparison.

I think that I have now finished with Father Thurston and that there is not much of his structure left standing. I have not gone out of my way to attack him or his church, but he has gone out of his way to ask for it, and I hope he has got it. Catholics are sensitive to criticism, but I believe that the Father Tyrrell spirit is not dead, and that there are many who, without actually leaving the Church, would welcome an internal reform even if it entailed a breach with the bigoted and reactionary Roman Junta, who are at present their mental and spiritual tyrants. Let them unite to clear away the relics of paganism with which Constantine effected a compromise between the many creeds of his great Empire, taking the dress of the Egyptian priest and the mitre of the fish god Dagon, putting the crescent of Diana under the Virgin, the horns of Pan upon Moses, and adding so many other sacramental and dogmatical points which have no real connection with the sweet and simple teaching of the Christ. Scrape these and other barnacles off the old ship and it may become seaworthy once more, and carry passengers who are worth the bearing. If this were done and, at the same time, that close spiritual contact was established which is the real glowing core of religion underneath all the human ashes, then those who had worked for such an end would leave a wonderful monument behind them. There is so much that is worth preserving. The wayside shrine, the open church door inviting to meditation and prayer, the presence of religion in the small things of life, the blessing of the fishing boats and of the harvest, the Angelus sounding in the evenings, the sense of the contact with spiritual beings — all that is to my mind beautiful. So, too, is the use of the best music, the best art, the best architecture, in the service of God. Retain all this, but get rid of the spiritual pride, of the arrogant shut mind, of the substitution of forms for facts, of the dogmatic cruelty which denies all charity to other creeds, of the fear of education, of the grasping for wealth and the use of terror to control timid souls. It is in this direction that progress lies.

  1. Vital Message, p. 188 (Psychic Press).
  2. Pheneas Speaks, p. 125 (Psychic Press).
  3. Pheneas Speaks, p. 93 (Psychic Press).
  4. History of Spiritualism. Vol. I. p. 48 (Cassells).
  5. Modern Spiritualism, p. 24.
  6. Letter to the Bishop of Northampton. March 5, 1909.
  7. The Escaped Nun (Cassell, 1911).
  8. The Truth about a Nunnery (Chalto & Wirhis, 1911).
  9. Twelve Years in a Monastery, p. 59 (Smith Elder, 1897).
  10. Aurore. Oct.-Nov. 1899.
  11. Twelve Years in a Monastery. p. 123.
  12. Modern Spiritualism, p. 16.
  13. Evening News, July 24, 1929
  14. Modern Spiritualism, p. 16.
  15. Vital Message, p. 137.
  16. Vital Message, p. 43.
  17. Vital Message, p. 53.
  18. Reported in "Psychic Science," April, 1829 (British Psychic College, Holland Park).
  19. Reported in the "International Psychic Gazette," Nov. 1926.