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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XXV - THE SHAKERS AS SPIRITUALISTS

THERE appeared in the New York Daily Graphic, of date November 24th, 1874, a lively and interesting report of an interview between one of the Editors and Frederick W. Evans, one of the chief elders of the Society of Shakers, at which time strange assertions were made.

Among other things, Mr. Evans said that eleven years before the rappings through the mediumship of the Fox girls, similar and much more striking phenomena had run their course throughout the peaceful settlements of this devoted people. The children were first seized with trances, or clairvoyant sleeps, in which they would answer questions correctly, and display the power of seeing objects and persons without the use of the corporeal eye.

The affair got bruited about among the brethren and sisters, and the spirits first manifesting themselves in the Lebanon settlement, passed on to Watervliet, and so, in turn, to all the sixty communities of the Order. The Shakers took the communications at first, much as the world's people do now ; believing the stories told by the

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invisible beings, and keeping a record, which was after- wards published in sundry books, the titles of two of which were " Holy Wisdom " and the " Sacred Roll."

Mr. Evans claims to have first defined (in 1860) Spiritualism as a science and not a religion. He says that it should be studied in the same manner as Agriculture, Chemistry, or any other of the physical sciences. He declared that it ran through three phases in his Society, and the report continues thus :

"What are those?"

"The first is the 'test phase. In this, the seeker is principally interested in ascertaining the reality of the communications and their genuineness. We wish to test the mediums, and inquire whether the manifestations are really what they pretend to be."

"What is the second phase?"

" The second phase is the 'judgment phase. In this, social relations are established between those in and those out of the flesh. Attachments were formed between the spirit-world and the mediums, and the attachments began to take the form of criticisms. The spirits instructed and reproved. The second phase was a phase of judgment on the individual and on society. During the whole of this phase, we were forming a relation with the higher spirits, and they were instructing and criticising us. Then it was that Spiritualism began to be a ministration of religion. That was what caused our people to interblend Religion and Spiritualism. We attached an infallibility to the manifestations, similar to the infallibility which the Christian world attaches to the Scriptures. The second phase was a phase of judgment, for purging out everything that was wrong in the character of the individual-correcting faults, reproving error, and amending the life and disposition."

" What do you call the 'third phase?' "

"The missionary phase.' When the second phase was finished, and the revelations had been received from the highest spirits, then we preached the truth to the lower spirits, We were missionaries to the other world. Religion was ministered to us by the higher circles of spirits, and we ministered to those who were below us. Then it was that the work of judgment took effect among those spirits, and they would confess their faults and the sins of their lives, just as though they were in this life. I have heard many spirits confess their sins."

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"You are a medium, then?"

"Yea. All the Shakers are mediums. There is scarcely an exception. These confessions are made to the mediums, and then they would repeat it aloud. The spirits would obsess an individual, and then the confessions would be made."

"Do you have any of these manifestations now?"

"Yea. We can have as much of them as we like. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets."

"What kind of confessions were made by the spirits?"

" Some of the most interesting confessions were made by members of a tribe of Indians. These came and confessed their sins to us, and said they would join our order. Then we would appoint them elders and elderesses, and then they would go off to their tribe and preach to them, and the spirits of the tribe would confess to them and they would become Shakers. When they had done this they would come again to us, just the same as if they were in the body. For instance, one or two elders might be in the room below, and there would be a knock at the door, and the Indians would ask whether they might come in. Permission being given, a whole tribe of Indian spirits would troop into the house, and in a few minutes you would hear 'whoop' here and 'whoop' there, all over the house."

" But nobody in the rooms above had known that the elders had admitted the Indian spirits?"

"Nay. We only knew it who heard them ask permission to enter. But in a few minutes after permission was given, everybody in the house would be obsessed. You would hear the men and women talking as if they were Indians. No theatricals that ever you saw on earth were equal to it. They would act out what they were simulating. They would sing new songs entirely unknown to our people, and sometimes they would sing in a foreign language that none of us knew. The mediums would converse together as if they were Indians, and not as themselves."

"You never let the outside world know what was going on ?"

"Nay indeed. What took place among us was so wonderful that it seemed incredible. And if we had published it to the world, we should all have been sent to Bedlam."

"Don't you think that modern Spiritualism is much the same thing as the visions of monks and nuns in the Middle Ages?"

"Certainly. That is the proper explanation of them through all the ages. The visions of St. Theresa were merely spiritualistic visions, just such as we have frequently had vouchsafed to the members of our society."

"And necromancy and magic belong to the same category?"

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"Yea. That is, when Spiritualism is used for selfish ends, and probably mixed with fraud and pretence, like doctor-craft. If you editors of papers were to turn your criticism upon doctor-craft, with its abominable frauds and shams, and pretences, and poisonous drugs, you would be doing a real service to mankind."

" Well, reverting to your spiritual experiences-how is it that you never published them to the world?"

"We have always known that we should have a work to do in relation to Spiritualism, but we did not know when that work would begin. The manifestations lasted seven years, then they ceased. The spirits told us when they left us, that in a very short time they would give manifestations everywhere, from the palace to the hamlet, all over the world. We knew that we should have to work at the appointed time, but we knew also, that Providence would point out to us the way and the method in which we should work. It was four years, before we had any evidence of the truth of what the spirits had told us. Many of us had begun to doubt; we thought that they had deceived us. But when the Rochester manifestations began, then all knew that they had told us the truth. So I and another member of the society went off to Rochester to question the spirits. I asked them if this was the work for which we had so long been waiting. They told us yes! Immediately that we entered the room, the rappings were made on the table and all around us in the most remarkable manner. The spirits manifested great joy at our arrival. I saw that the room was full of spirits. Margaret and Katherine Fox left everybody to come and assist us in our conversations with the spirits. We sat down and held long conversations with them. We asked them if the work for which we had been so long waiting had really commenced. They said 'Yes, it had.' I then asked them if they would show themselves in materializations. I asked them if they would act in the same way upon material elements, as they had acted upon spiritual elements. They said, 'Yes.'

" Then you consider that the recent materializations are genuine ?" "Yea, certainly. I visited the Eddys at their homestead, and I am certain their manifestations are genuine. I was up there about three weeks ago. Colonel Olcott is doing a good work there, and I will say that he is correct so far as I was a witness of what occurred."

"How many Shakers visited the Eddys?" "Myself and John Greaves."

"How long were you there? " "Three nights."

"How many different apparitions did you see?"

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"Between twenty and thirty men and women."

"Did you or Mr. Greaves see any spirits of relatives?"

"We did not; nor did we care about seeing any. We were perfectly satisfied with the manifestations that we saw. There was no possibility of fraud. As soon as the manifestations began, the spirits called us to the first benches. They knew us immediately. The materializations were very pretty. No Shaker spirit came forward."

"Did you speak to the spirits yourself?"

"Yea, I did; and got answers from them. I saw no person that I knew at all. I think they were perfectly genuine materializations Even if we had detected actual fraud on the part of the Eddys, I should still be convinced that the materializations were genuine. It is not at all uncommon for the best mediums to practice fraud. I detected a downright fraud on the part of that boy Henry Phelps."

"Ha! Where did those manifestations occur? I have heard something of them."

"At Stratford, Ct., about twenty-five years ago. As soon as I heard of the manifestations I went down and visited his father. Stratford was a quiet little place that was composed of retired priests and deacons. Dr. Phelps was a retired.  D. D. his son became a medium, and the manifestations broke out right in the middle of this quiet village. His father told me. that it would have been better for them if his house had been burned down, than that these things should have occurred. The spirits were so eager after this boy that they tore his clothes off his back, and if he went into any house in that village, they pelted it with stones and broke all the windows. The father said, that as soon as he saw me drive up, he was impressed that help was come. I took the boy with me to Lebanon. The manifestations by spirits through his mediumship were wonderful. Yet one evening when I was out driving with him, he began making raps in the wagon with his heels. He wanted me to believe that they were spirits. I said,' Henry, let this be the last time that you attempt such tricks as that with me. "

"What has become of him now?"

"I really do not know. I have spoken about Spiritualism in England. I spoke before a great crowd of the aristocracy, in St. George's Hall. I told them that Spiritualism ought to be one of the elements of a civil government ; that it would answer the purposes of a police in the suppression of evil, and of an army and navy in the protection of the nation. I said they ought to at once get rid of their army and navy and proclaim England a

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non-resistant power, and then fall back on Spiritualism as a means of national defense. See what a power I had over them then." "What is your general opinion of these multiplied manifestations that we hear of in these days?"

"It is the descent of Spiritualists from the Shakers to the world. We had the manifestations first ; but we kept quiet about it, and did not let the world know anything about it. But the spirits promised us that there should come a time of manifold spiritual revelations to the world, and here they are. It is infallible evidence that the world cannot gainsay. Why even the Mormons have had spiritual revelations."

"You do not mean to convey the idea that the spiritual manifestations confirm the truth of Mormonism?"

"Yea, to a certain extent."

"Why, I should have thought Mormonism the very antipodes of your belief."

"Mormonism is much better than your New York Christianity."

Frederick W. Evans has filled too large a place in the public view during the past thirty years, to require that I should say more concerning him, in this connection, except, that he is a man of decided intellectual power, a skilled controversialist, an enthusiastic propagandist, devoted to his Society, and possessed of excellent practical administrative powers. Seeing such a remarkable report as the above, I thought it would be well to get his answers to certain questions touching the Eddys, and spiritualistic matters in general, and therefore addressed him a letter, his reply to which, is as follows:
MT. LEBANON, December 1st, 1874.
H. S. OLCOTT-RESPECTED FRIEND

Your queries of the 26th ult., are at hand.

"1st.-Could you, as a medium, see the band of spirits controlling the Eddy manifestations; who were they, and of what moral and intellectual degree of development?"

Let me answer evasively. I think the immediate materializing spirits are influenced-controlled-by other- spirits, in and out of the body. They who plan the labor on a farm, do not always perform the labor. When mediums and spirits are interblended-mixed up

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with the physical elements ; and are not too intellectual or spiritual minded, materialization and dematerialization are most possible.

"2nd.-Did you see the evidences of a fraudulent intent and fraudulent  practices, in either brother? If so, which, and to what extent ?" I did not see the least sign of fraud, nor did I feel any during my sojourn. There was no temptation to fraud, that I could discover.

" 3rd.-Most mediums, in America, seem to be attended by Indian " Guides," Why so? Because they are now in your initial stage of development of 1840?"

Because America is the home of the Indian. While in the body, they lived much in the lower spirit world. When out of the body, they go not far from the physical world and their old haunts. They are of, and in the country-part and parcel of the earth, and are attracted and attached to the matter of which earthly human beings are compounded. Also, the Indians have a sense of having been forced from their homes and hunting grounds on earth. They have a feeling of want, like children whose earth-life was prematurely cut off. Injustice has been done. Their earth-life is not yet completed. They seek compensation-may seek revenge on the pale faces. This is under a law referred to, Rev. vi., q, "I saw, under thy altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony that they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true. dust thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth?"

When Shakers labor with such restless souls, they turn the edge of their feelings from persons, to the principle which produced the wrong. We would make a poor slave ashamed of his or herself, by showing that as did the slave-holder, so would do the slave, with the same powers.

The rich and poor, the victor and vanquished, the Indian and white, are, in the sight of God, all one, until faith and conscience make a difference. Let civil governments understand that they do not diminish the number of criminals by sending them to prisons to instruct criminals younger than themselves ; nor do they get rid of them by capital punishment.

" 4th.-Do you know whether materialized spirits intend to address the public themselves from the rostrum, before this epoch passes away ? And when will it pass away ? "

In an article published in the old Spiritual Telegraph I foretold that manifestations would yet be made to whole villages, towns and cities. And in a book entitled "Tests of Divine Revelation," re- published in London, 1871, I predicted that spirits would yet obsess persons, and that the unspiritual Protestant sects would not be able to exorcise them,

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In Stratford, Ct., Dr. Phelps gave us the following statement "The ministers and deacons called a meeting for the, purpose of exorcising the spirits from my boy and girl. When assembled in a room, each with a Bible in his lap, as a talisman, and while praying, the Bibles were thrown by the spirits at the heads of the priests and deacons, until they broke up the meeting.

"5th.-I know a noble family in Europe, who assert that for more than two centuries they have been caused the direst calamities, by a wicked ancestor's spirit, who leads them to murder, arson, pillage, incest, &c. Can such a fiend be reached by any influence within the control of your society, and the cause removed ?"

A society of zealous, primitive Methodists, who could proselyte the members of the family on earth, would make it easy for us to lead that wicked spirit to confession and repentance.

"6th.-Do the spirits, with you, feel interest enough in my work, to admit me to one or more private sittings with you, so that I may be furnished with important facts for the book I am about to publish ?  If so, when, etc. ? "

You are welcome to visit us at any time for the why and where- fore of our faith in spirits. If you come seeking a sign, I cannot assure-you that any sign, save that of a cross against Generation, will be given. Nor yet do I know that a sign will not be given. The times are, as the English would say, big with coming events. If you look over my St. George's Hall lecture you will get some idea how I feel.

The Graphic Editorial breathes the right spirit. Robert Dale Owen and I belonged to the same school-the Hall of Science-in New York, in 1830. We were both materialists. I related to him the spirit-manifestations which converted me to Shakerism. I corresponded with Robert Owen, his father, and he visited Mt. Lebanon. Should you come, as per invitation, you may see the whole correspondence.

The Graphic Interview was well done, with some mistakes. "Shakers are all mediums," hardly conveys a right idea. "Every body in the house was obsessed," should be many instead of all. "I and another member went to Rochester;'-it was New York, where the Fox girls were holding sťances.

Your statement that the spirits at Chittenden have not fed you philosophy and wisdom, is somewhat remarkable. It goes to confirm our position, that, at present, it takes all the concentrated power of the spirits to effect materialization ; because of general unbelief, induced by general self-indulgence. Use should be the law of action for all human beings.

If you go to those spirits, seeking, with all your heart to see some

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dearly, loved lost one, with whom you had been in intimate social, emotional relation, you will have no difficulty. But if you go, as evidently you have clone, deeply exercised upon principles, prying into the source, the philosophy, the religion of the manifestations, the Eddys will wish the Old Harry had you-and the spirits will help them to send you to him,

Spiritualism went out from this Order. I have always supposed it would return to this Order, and that then the manifestations, con- trolled by a Christ spirit, would be attended with gifts of healing, gifts of divine revelation, &c., and the organization of Pentacostal Communities, simultaneous with corresponding changes in the Civil Government. A new Heaven and a new Earth,

"And when will it pass away?," (4th question, last clause.)

Never more. The two worlds will become like body and soul--"there will be no more sea,"-disordered spiritual elements, unclean spirits, out of which "The Beast" arose. And there will be time no more, for all will be Eternity.

When I was at Eddys, the Witch of the Mountain came, in the beginning of the seance, and delivered a beautiful panegyric upon Shakers and Shakerism, without naming them ; depicting, in glowing colors, the blessedness of those who, in earth-life, conquered their passions, and lived in physical and spiritual innocence.

At the close of the seance, Mayflower, the Little Spirit, said, "The Shakers, notwithstanding the reproaches cast upon them, are the most virtuous, self-denying, and holy people, upon the face of the earth.

I consider Mormonism a revival of ancient Judaism-the God-Tutelar Deity, of the Jews, is probably the controlling spirit of Mormonism. He allowed polygamy 2,000 years ago. Why not now?

But the Mormons have abolished poverty and prostitution; and from children and youth the "Social Evil."

Is not that better than New York and co-Christianity ? And would it not be well for Christians (?) to stop persecuting Mormons, until there are no poor-no hire of harlots-and those law suits are settled?          F. W. EVANS.

In 1856, Mr. Evans wrote to Robert Owen, making the same statement regarding the outbreak of spiritualistic manifestations among the Shakers, in advance of their appearance in the outside world. During the seven years of the continuance of the phenomenon, hundreds of

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spiritual mediums were developed throughout the eighteen societies. Says Mr. Evans, in the letter referred to :

"In truth, all the members, in a greater or less degree, were mediums. So that physical manifestations, visions, revelations, prophecies, and gifts of various kinds, of which numerous records are kept, and, indeed, divers operations, but all of the same spirit, were as common as gold in California." He says that these spiritual manifestations were of three distinct degrees. The first, being for the complete convincement of the junior members; the second, for the work of judgment, the judging and purifying of the whole people by spiritual agency; and the third, for the ministration of millennial truths, to various nations, kindreds, tribes and people, in the spirit-world, who were hungering and thirsting after righteousness. And that spiritualism in its outward progress will go through the same three degrees in the world at large, being only yet in its first degree in the United States. Spiritual manifestations, he maintained, were God's answer to the hearts' cry of earnest men and women, seeking facts, not words, in attestation of the "Word of Life." (See Howitt's" History of the Supernatural." Ed. 1863, London. Vol. II, P, 194.)

His affirmation of the genuineness of the Eddy materializations, it will be seen, is unqualified and positive. He neither detected any fraud on the part of either of the brothers, by his external powers of observation, nor by his internal function as a seer; in which particulars he goes beyond the position I should be willing, at present, to assume. But I must admit that, in my case, I am hampered by the exercise of only the ordinary

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faculties, and therefore may have contracted suspicions that time would prove groundless. If they were not mere suspicions, unsupported by what I consider adequate evidence, I should not hesitate a moment in stating what they are. If I withhold my unqualified endorsement of the entire genuineness of their verity, in the face of such an apparently overwhelming mass of evidence, it would ill become one who desires to proceed to his conclusions with deliberation, to throw suspicions into the scales, which are trembling in the effort to find a balance.

The files of many of the leading secular newspapers furnish ample testimony in favor of the Eddy mediums, and very little against them. Perhaps I should qualify by saying, very little that is entitled to consideration. There are many hasty accounts of single sťances, either by persons who went to Chittenden to find support for preconceived prejudices; or by others, who could not see the forms distinctly enough in the obscurity of the chamber, to distinguish their physical contrasts with each other, and did not remain long enough to so familarize their eyes with the light, or themselves with the features of the room, so that they might judge of these peculiarities of form, stature and bearing, as compared with those of William Eddy.

Strangely enough, Mr. Evans' views of the genuineness of the Eddy materializations, find unqualified endorsement by a sect, communistic like his, but its very antipode in one of the fundamentals of belief, I mean the so-called "free-love" society called "The Oneida Community." A committee, consisting of Dr. T. R. Noyes and Mr. F.

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Wayland Smith, visited Chittenden on the 2d of November, and upon their return published a report in the a Oneida Circular, the official journal of, the Community, which I have the permission of Mr. Smith to use in this Chapter. He charges me, however, to give it as the expression of his individual opinion concerning the Eddy manifestations; adding that the Community are investigating Spiritualism through their own mediums, and in time will give an authoritative opinion upon the subject.

After describing the committee's arrival at Chittenden, their reception by the Eddys, and the materializations at several successive sťances, the writer says :

"The third evening Honto was dressed very prettily, having a bright, phosphorescent diamond on her forehead, and another in her belt. The light from these rose and fell constantly. Her skirts were quite short, so that her stockings and moccasins were visible. She played and sang, danced, and then asked for a pipe. Horatio lighted his for her. She took it and smoked vigorously, so that the light from the burning tobacco reflected on her features, enabling me to see distinctly her copper-colored cheek, the bridge of her nose, and the white of her eye. She smoked and played at the same time, and was so overcome with this double intoxication of her senses that she remained out too long. She suddenly handed back the pipe, and started rapidly towards the cabinet, but just as she reached the curtain, she collapsed into a shapeless heap on the floor, only one hand being distinguishable. The curtain fell back over her, and in half a minute she again appeared, apparently as bright and strong as ever. "At Horatio's light-circle' the tambourine rattles ; the harmonicas sound ; the guitar is held up in plain view and thrummed ; the bells are thrown about ; hands of different sizes and shapes are thrust through the opening between the shawls and passed over the faces of the persons, sometimes tweaking their beards with unpleasant force ; a hand minus the little finger is held up over the top of the curtain ; a large black chair, which has been placed near the table in the recess, is held out horizontally by a strong hand which grasps one leg ; the visible hands write on cards, names and messages for various guests, etc. At one time, I saw the guitar held up above the curtain by its extreme head, the strings being turned towards us, so

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that I could see their whole length, in which position it was vigorously thrummed, and yet, though there was a bright light shining on it, I could not see that any thing touched the strings to cause the sounds. All this time the three persons in front of the curtain sat motionless. The supposition that it was their hands which we had seen, and which had caused the manifestations I have described, is, from the nature of the circumstances, their position, etc., simply absurd."

The " dark-circle " phenomena also excited the wonder of the Committee. Says Mr. Smith :

But the most wonderful thing was the ring test. The candle was lighted, and we saw that Horatio was securely tied, as at first. Then, by his direction, an iron ring six inches in diameter and of three-eighths inch metal was found and placed on one corner of the table. Elder Evans, who had that day arrived, was then invited to sit in Horatio's lap and see that he did not stir. A lady also changed her position, so as to sit in front of the Elder and hold his hands. Thus there could have been no collusion or trickery. The candle being now extinguished, the fiddle sounded for a couple of minutes, when the light was again called for. The match was no sooner struck than we saw the Elder still seated on Horatio's knees, Horatio still securely tied. But the iron ring was now on Horatio's right arm above the cord, and his coat had been taken off and lay on the floor beside him ! Then the medium said, 'Mr. Frost, please open the door for two spirits who cannot get in.' "Mr. Frost tool: the candle and went to the door. Returning instantly, he placed the light on the table, within two feet of the ring as it hung on Horatio's arm. Then, while we were all looking directly at it, we saw the ring drop to the floor and roll away I had previously marked this ring, by scratching a bright spot on the inside of the weld with my knife. I now picked it up, and found it to be the same ring. When the ring was put on, and again when it was taken off, Horatio Eddy, the medium, underwent a violent shudder. " I have now brushed hastily over the main facts which came under our observation. I am aware that Dr. Beard, and many other skeptics, are exerting themselves to prove that all these phenomena are produced by jugglery and tricks cleverly executed by the Eddy brothers. But after studying the men as carefully as possible during the four days we lived with them, I cannot believe them dishonest. It would tax my credulity much more severely to believe that this is jugglery, than to believe that it is what they say it is, the work of

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spirits ; for to believe that it is jugglery, is to ascribe to these two simple farmers all and more than all the combined skill of every prestidigitator who has ever visited us. The most that the skeptics undertake to prove is, that many of these phenomena might be produced by sleight of hand; no one has been able to prose that any of them are so produced by the Eddys."

Mr. Smith writes me that they "have found a very peculiar medium in Syracuse, N. Y., who gets direct writing in a good light, under very satisfactory conditions," and sends me a printed report of the visit made to him by the Communists." Says Mr. S.:

"This medium is a broker, moves in the best society, and does not allow his name to be mentioned in this connection. I suppose there are a hundred such in the country, who will come out of their shells by and by, when Spiritualism has become somewhat less unpopular with the would-be wise men of the world."

Every investigator, of respectable social position, can indorse the correctness of Mr. Smith's concluding remark. I, myself, have met within the past fortnight in private families, in different cities, two lady mediums, whose Spiritualistic phenomena are of the most wonderful character, equaling anything I ever read of, except the materializations that are now attracting so much attention. When the ban is removed, the world will be astonished to discover how many mediums were long since developed  in the circles of our best society.

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CHAPTER XXVI - SUMMING UP