Spirit Teachings thought The Mediumship of William Stainton Moses




The publishers take pride in the production of this book which has been out of print for too many years.


Its “author”, the Rev. W. Stainton Moses, regarded as the man who gave Spiritualism its “bible” was one of the most remarkable mediums of the last century.


Spirit Teachings, which came through his hand in what is called “automatic writing”, is regarded as Spiritualism’s greatest classic.


Here, in language of matchless prose, is contained the religious, philosophical and ethical implications of Spiritualism, as viewed by the spirit world. The communicators, by sheer brilliant logic, compelled their medium to abandon, stage by stage, his orthodox religious beliefs. They gave clear evidence of their high purpose and furnished him with irrefutable proofs of Survival.

There were twenty-two spirit communicators, headed by one who signed himself “Imperator”. Later, he revealed that he was one of the Bible prophets. Others proved that they were ancient philosophers and sages.


The writing of this script—it was done in Stainton Moses’s normal waking state—took eleven years and filled twenty four notebooks. With the exception of the third, which has been lost, they are all preserved at the College of Physic Studies.


Stainton Moses was the son of a headmaster of a Lincolnshire grammar school. As a youth he won a scholarship which took him to Oxford. A successful college life, which seemed to offer the highest possible honours, was interrupted by poor health, which forced convalescence abroad.


He was ordained a few years after his return. His first clerical appointment, at the age of twenty-four, was as a curate in the Isle of Man. He won praise for his labours for his parishioners during an outbreak of smallpox which took a heavy toll.


Ill health dogged his footsteps, causing him to resign from the Church. Dr. Stanhope Speer, who attended him, invited Moses to become his son’s tutor. Mrs. Speer, confined to bed by illness, read a book on Spiritualism and asked Moses to ascertain whether the experiences described in it were true. Although at that time, he regarded Spiritualism as trickery and fraud, he promised to investigate the subject. Within six months, as a result of attending séances, he became a convinced Spiritualist.


About this time, his own psychic powers began to function, and many kinds of phenomena were experienced. By means of spirit rapping, questions were answered intelligently and long messages given. Materialised lights were often seen. Varying perfumes were poured, by invisible operators, on the sitters’ hands and handkerchiefs. Direct writing was obtained on paper out of the circle’s reach. Objects were brought from other rooms through bolted doors. There were levitations of the medium and of furniture. Occasionally the voices of the spirit communicators were heard. In trance, Moses delivered many inspirational addresses.


In his Introduction to Spirit Teachings, this tribute to his inspirers was paid by Moses: “There is no flippant message, no attempt at jest, no vulgarity or incongruity, no false or misleading statement, so far as I know or could discover; nothing incompatible with the avowed object, again and again repeated, of instruction, enlightenment and guidance by spirits fitted for this task.”


Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES


William Stainton Moses was born at the village of Donnington, in Lincolnshire, on the fifth of November 1839. His father, William Moses, was the Head Master of the Grammar School, and his mother the daughter of Thomas Stainton, of Alford, Lincolnshire. His education was commenced at the school of which his father was Principal,

and was afterwards continued with a private tutor, who, impressed by his great abilities, strongly urged Mr Moses to send his son to a public school. His advice was acted upon, and in August , 1855, young Stainton Moses, then in his 16th year, was placed at the Grammar School at Bedford. Here he remained for nearly three years, winning golden opinions from all the masters on account not only of his brilliant abilities but also of his conspicuous industry, regularity, and general attention to all his duties. In one term alone he carried off four prizes; and shortly before he left was elected to one of the two exhibitions which had been founded in connection with the school. On leaving, he received from the Head Master testimonials of the most flattering nature, speaking in high terms of the very rapid progress he had made in all departments of study, and also of the uniform excellence and correctness of his school conduct.


From Bedford, Stainton Moses went to Exeter College, Oxford, which he entered at the commencement of Michaelmas term, 1858. His college life was in every way as successful as his school life had been, and great hopes were formed by all connected with him that at the end of his Oxford career he would take the highest honours open to him. This, however, was not to be— overwork gradually told upon him, but he refused to rest or in any way relax his studies; and so, sad to relate, on the very day before commencement of his last examination his health gave way completely, and he broke down, absolutely worn out in mind and body. For some time he was very ill, but on regaining convalescence he was ordered abroad. He spent nearly a year travelling on the Continent with friends, and, with a view to complete restoration, he visited many different scenes and climates. St Petersburg was the farthest limit of his wanderings, and on his return journey he lingered for six months at the old Greek Monastery of “Mount Athos.” Curiosity apparently guided him thither, and his strong desire for rest and meditation doubtless impelled him to remain for so long a time in that remote, old-world spot. Many years afterwards he learned from Imperator , his controlling spirit, that he had been influenced even then by his unseen guides, who had impressed him to go to “Mount Athos” as part of his spiritual training.


At the age of 23, Stainton Moses returned to England and took his degree, leaving Oxford finally in the year 1863. Though much improved in health by his foreign travel, he was not yet strong; so, acting on the advice of his doctor, who insisted on a quiet rural life, he accepted a curacy at Maughold, near Ramsey, Isle of Man. Here he remained for nearly five years, and succeeded during that period in gaining the affection and esteem of all his parishioners. The Rector, a very old and infirm man, was practically unable to render any assistance in the work of the parish, so that the whole of the duties connected with the church and the district devolved upon Stainton Moses. During his stay at Maughold, a severe epidemic of small-pox broke out in the village and surrounding neighbourhood; and it was then that the utter fearlessness of his nature was strikingly manifested. There was no resident doctor in the district, but having at different times acquired some little knowledge of medicine, Stainton Moses was enabled to minister to a certain extent to the bodily necessities of his parishioners, as well as to their spiritual needs. Day and night he was in attendance at the bedside of some poor victim who was stricken by the fell disease; and in one or two cases when, after an unsuccessful struggle with the enemy, he had soothed the sufferers dying moments by his ministrations, he was compelled to combine the offices of priest and grave-digger, and conduct the interment with his own hands. Such was the panic, inspired by the fear of infection, that it was sometimes found impossible to induce men to dig graves for the dead bodies of the victims, or even to remove the coffins containing them. But through all this terrible time Stainton Moses never flinched, and, notwithstanding the


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Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

threefold nature of the duties thus compulsorily thrust upon him, he was fortunate in escaping the malady, and though he steadily remained at his post single-handed, from the commencement to the end of the outbreak, he was spared any uneasiness on the score of his own health. It may be readily imagined how greatly he endeared himself to all those around him by his courageous devotion and strong sense of duty during such an anxious and critical period; but the feelings which he inspired in his parishioners, and everyone with whom he came in contact at Maughold, will be best appreciated by a perusal of the address presented to him on relinquishing his curacy there. It reads as follow:—


“Rev. And Dear Sir,—We, the undersigned parishioners of Maughold, are much concerned to learn that it is your intention shortly to resign the position which you have for some years past so usefully and honourably occupied amongst us. We beg to assure you that your labours have been greatly appreciated in the parish. The longer we have known you, and the more we have seen of your work, the greater has our regard for you increased. The congregations at both the churches under your charge are very different in numbers to what they were some time ago. The schools have been better looked after; the aged and infirm have been visited and comforted; and the poor have been cheered and helped by your kindness and liberality. By your courteous demeanour, by your friendly intercourse, and by your attention to the duties of the parish generally, you have greatly endeared yourself to us all; and not least to our respected and venerable Vicar, whose hands we are well satisfied you have done all you possibly could to strengthen. We cannot but feel that your loss will be a very serious one to the parish, and we should be glad if you could see your way to remaining some time longer with us. By reconsidering your determination and consenting to remain, you would place us under a deep debt of gratitude and obligation.”


Here follow the signatures of the Rector and Churchwardens, also of fifty-four of the principal inhabitants of the district. Such a document, spontaneously presented, speaks for itself. However, in spite of the unanimous wish of the inhabitants that he should remain, Stainton Moses found that the work of looking after two parishes, practically single-handed, made too great demands upon his health, and so in the spring of 1868 he reluctantly relinquished his charge at Maughold, and accepted the curacy of St George’s, Douglas, Isle of Man. Here he first met Dr and Mrs Stanhope Speer, and the acquaintance thus commenced soon ripened into an intimacy which was destined to exercise a very important influence upon the future of the three persons concerned. Very soon after taking up his duties at St George’s, Stainton Moses was laid up with a sharp attack of congestion of the liver, which confined him to his bed for some little time. Dr Speer attended him through this illness (although he had retired from active practice for some years), and was successful in effecting a complete cure. In September of 1869 Stainton Moses left Douglas, where he had made a great impression by his preaching and ministrations among the poor of the parish, and took up the post of locum tenens at Langton Maltravers, in Dorsetshire. Here he remained for two months, when he was transferred to a curacy in the diocese of Salisbury, the last ecclesiastical appointment he held.


At this time he was troubled by an affection of the throat, which rapidly became worse, and necessitated a complete rest, and the relinquishing of all public speaking and preaching. Acting, therefore, upon medical advice, Stainton Moses gave up his curacy, and came to London with the intention of turning his attention to tuition. This practically severed his connection with the Church. Had his health permitted him to follow his original career, he would no doubt have attained a distinguished position, as he was a powerful and original preacher, a successful organiser, and an earnest and efficient worker among the poor.


On coming to London, Stainton Moses stayed with Dr and Mrs Speer for nearly a year, during which time he superintended privately the education of their son, the present writer. About the close of 1870 or the beginning of 1871, he obtained the appointment of English Master in University College School, which position he held until 1889. Little need be said of his work there, further than that as long as his health permitted it was always done well. As one of the English masters in a great school, his opportunities of influencing the boys under his charge, in respect of literary taste and style, were considerable; and of those opportunities he made good use. Many will remember his excellent suggestions, and kindly criticisms of their essays. A portion of his work consisted of


Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

preparing a class for the Matriculation of the University of London. The peculiarly crabbed philological and historical knowledge required for that examination was uncongenial to Stainton Moses’s mind, as in literature he liked to have a free hand; yet the work was done, and done well, and during the years he spent at the school he embodied in a manuscript volume a vast number of valuable notes bearing upon this subject.


Even more striking than his success as a master was the personal influence exercised by him over his pupils. One of the peculiar institutions at University College School is that by which a certain number of boys are especially attached to certain senior masters, with whom they can take counsel and from whom they can seek advice in all matters pertaining to their well-being—moral, intellectual, and physical. Over the boys thus placed under his immediate care the strong personality of Stainton Moses had an enormous influence, often extending over a period long subsequent to their leaving school. Many a time in after life his advice has been sought by old pupils on important matters, and whenever he felt he could help them it was always a real pleasure to him to do so to the best of his ability. His geniality, his knowledge of the world and of men, his invariable straightforwardness and kindness, all combined to strengthen the affectionate regard in which he was held by those boys who had the good fortune to be under his special supervision. On resigning his post through ill-health the Council of University College passed a resolution conveying to Stainton Moses their best thanks for his long and valuable service to the school, and a special letter of affectionate regret was also sent to him signed by twenty-eight of his colleagues. Of his capacity for imparting his ideas to other I can speak from a personal experience extending over seven years, during which period our relations as master and pupil were continuous and unbroken. Nothing could have been kinder or more convincing than his method of imparting knowledge and information; nothing clearer or more helpful than his manner of explaining all difficulties; and no trouble was too great for him to take in smoothing away all obstacles to a clear understanding of the matter in hand.


It was during Stainton Moses’s visit to Dr Speer in 1870 that the subject of Spiritualism was first brought prominently before him. For some time he and Dr Speer had been in the habit of discussing various topics bearing upon religious belief. Both were gradually drifting into an unorthodox, almost agnostic, frame of mind, and both were becoming more and more dissatisfied with existing doctrines, and longing for absolute truth as regards the future life, and for some demonstration of the certainty of immortality. To obtain any proof of such immortality founded upon a strictly scientific basis seemed impossible, and Dr Speer was rapidly becoming a materialist of the most hard-and-fast nature. A note received by him from Stainton Moses, together with a copy of W.R. Greg’s Enigmas of Life, may prove interesting to those who would fain have some inkling of the inner working of these two friends’ minds, at a time when the old faith had lost its hold upon them, and they were standing upon the brink of a newer Revelation :—


“My Dear Friend,—You and I have tackled some ‘Enigmas of Life’ together, and if we have not always solved them, we have generally agreed in our opinion respecting them. I offer you the opinions of a great thinker, which will be, in their outcome, very similar to what we have thought out for ourselves. And if the half century, during which your life here has lasted, leaves much unknown, and much that even another such period will not unravel, I hope at least that during such part of it as we are here together we may continue to talk and speculate together.— Your sincere friend, W.S.M.”


It will be interesting to note the circumstances under which, during this visit to Dr Speer, the subject of Spiritualism pressed itself upon Stainton Moses’s attention. Mrs Speer had been confined to her room by illness for three weeks, during which period she had occupied herself in reading Dale Owen’s The Debatable Land. It interested her much, and on being able to rejoin the family circle she asked Stainton Moses to read the book, and endeavour to discover whether there was any truth in the experiences therein narrated. Though at that time he took no interest in Spiritualism, regarding it merely as trickery and fraud, yet he promised Mrs Speer to go into the matter with the view of ascertaining whether there might be some germs of truth underlying the mass of jugglery and imposture; and so began those astounding experiences of his, which, commencing at the time, extended over a period of more than twenty years. In those days, although dissatisfied with the cut-and-dried doctrines of the


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Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

Church, and with the manner in which its teachings were expounded from the pulpit and elsewhere, Stainton Moses was, nevertheless, immensely interested in all religious subjects, and his reading of everything that bore upon them was enormous. No book, pamphlet, or magazine likely to throw any light upon the questions which perplexed him was overlooked, and even after intercourse with the unseen world had commenced he did not entirely give up his faith in the Church without an arduous and prolonged struggle. The reality of the struggle may be clearly discerned in the pages of Spirit Teachings, and in his other automatic writings; but when he had fully satisfied himself of the reality of those “Teachings,” and of the truthfulness and integrity of his spirit-guides, his faith never faltered, and his zeal in the prosecution of the work entrusted to him never flagged. Previous to his own development as a medium, Stainton Moses had been present at various sittings with other mediums. Mrs Speer having been so immensely impressed by her perusal of the Debatable Land, he determined to read it for himself, and in consequence became almost as anxious as she was for fuller information. This was the more curious as, only a month before, he had tried in vain to read Lord Adare’s record of private séances with D.D. Home, but, as he said himself, it had absolutely no interest for him. His first noteworthy experiences were with Lottie Fowler, in the spring of 1872; and soon afterwards Dr Speer—although at that time regarding the whole subject of Spiritualism as “stuff and nonsense”—was persuaded to join him in a visit to the medium Williams. They went several times, and were soon convinced that there was some force outside the medium at work—in which conviction they were much strengthened by a remarkable séance held shortly afterwards in Dr Speer’s house, when Williams was again the medium.


About this time Stainton Moses’s own mediumistic powers began to be developed. It is unnecessary to give a detailed description of that development, as a full and exhaustive account may be found in Mrs Speer’s “Records,” which have lately appeared in Light; but I think that some of my own recollections of the séances, at which I had the privilege of being present during the last two years of Stainton’s Moses’s active mediumship, may be of some interest. At any rate they will place on record the impressions of another witness, and may possibly be of service as bearing additional testimony to the wonderful powers of the medium, and the absolute reality of the phenomena given through him.


It is important to note that at these séances no less than ten different kinds of manifestations took place, with more or less frequency. On occasions when there were fewer varieties we were usually told that the conditions were not good. When they were favourable the manifestations were more numerous, the raps more distinct, the lights brighter, and the musical sounds clearer. The various occurrences may be briefly enumerated as follows:—


1. The great variety of raps, often given simultaneously, and ranging in force from the tapping of a finger-nail to the tread of a foot sufficiently heavy to shake the room. Each spirit always had its own distinctive rap, many of them peculiar as to be immediately recognisable; and these sounds often took place in sufficient light for the sitters to see each other’s features, and—I suppose more important—hands. Raps also were frequently heard on the door, sideboard, and wall, all some distance removed from the table at which we sat; these raps could not possibly have been produced by any human agency; of that I satisfied myself in every conceivable way.


2. Raps which answered questions coherently and with the greatest distinctness, and also gave messages, sometimes of considerable length, through the medium of the alphabet. At these times all the raps ceased except the one identified with the communicating spirit, and perfect quiet prevailed until the message had been delivered. We could almost always tell immediately with which spirit we were talking, owing to the perfectly distinct individuality of each different rap. Some of the higher spirits never manifested by raps at all, after the first few séances, but announced their presence by a note of music, or the flash of a light; but among those who did manifest in the usual way it would be difficult to forget Rector’s heavy and ponderous tread, which shook the whole room with its weight, while it appeared to move slowly round the circle.


Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

3. Numerous lights were generally visible to all the sitters. These lights were of two different kinds—objective and subjective. The former usually resembled small illuminated globes, which shone brightly and steadily, often moved rapidly about the room, and were visible to all the sitters. A curious fact in connection with these lights always struck me, viz. that looking on to the top of the table one could see a light slowly ascending from the floor, and to all appearance passing out through the top of the table—the table itself apparently not affording any obstacle to one’s view of the light. It is a little difficult to explain my meaning exactly, but had the top of the table been composed of plain glass, the effect of the ascending light, as it appealed to one’s organs of vision, would have been pretty much the same as it was, seen through the solid mahogany. Even then, to make the parallel complete, it would be necessary to have a hole in the glass top of the table, through which the light could emerge. The subjective lights were described as being large masses of luminous vapour floating round the room and assuming a variety of shapes. Dr Speer and myself, being of entirely unmediumistic temperaments, were only able to see the objective lights, but Mr Stainton Moses, Mrs Speer, and other occasional sitters frequently saw and described those which were merely subjective. Another curious point in relation to the objective lights was that, however brightly they might shine, they never, unlike an ordinary lamp, threw any radiance around them, or illuminated the smallest portion of the surrounding darkness—when it was dark—in the slightest degree.


4. Scents of various descriptions were always brought to the circle—the most common being musk, verbena, new-mown hay, and one unfamiliar odour, which we were told was called spirit-scent. Sometimes breezes heavy with perfume swept round the circle; at other times quantities of liquid musk, etc., would be poured on to the hands of the sitters, and also, by request, on to our handkerchiefs. At the close of a séance, scent was nearly always found to be oozing out of the medium’s head, and the more frequently it was wiped away the stronger and more plentiful it became.


5. The musical sounds, which were many and varied, formed a very important item in the list of phenomena which occurred in our presence. Having myself had a thorough musical education, I was able to estimate at its proper value the importance of these particular manifestations, and was also more or less in a position to judge of the possibility or impossibility of their being produced by natural means, or through human agency. These sounds may, roughly speaking, be divided into two classes—those which obviously proceeded from an instrument—a harmonium—in a room, whilst the hands of all the sitters were joined round the table; and those which were produced in a room in which there was no instrument of any kind whatever. These latter were of course, by far the most wonderful. As regards the musical sounds produced in the room in which there was no instrument, they were about four in number. First, there were what we called “The Fairy Bells.” These resembled the tones produced by striking musical glasses with a small hammer. The sounds given forth were clear, crisp, and melodious. No definite tune was ever played, but the sounds were always harmonious, and at the request of myself, or any other member of the circle, the “bells” would always run up or down a scale in perfect tune. It was difficult to judge where the sound of these “fairy bells” came from, but I often applied my ear to the top of the table, and the music seemed to be somehow in the wood—not underneath it, as on listening under the table the music would appear to be above. Next we had quite a different sound—that of a stringed instrument, more nearly akin to a violoncello than anything else I have ever heard. It was, however, more powerful and sonorous, and might perhaps be produced by placing a ‘cello on the top of a drum, or anything else likely to increase the vibration. This instrument was only heard in single notes, and was used only by one spirit, who employed it usually for answering questions—in the same way that others did by raps. The third sound was an exact imitation of an ordinary handbell, which would be rung sharply by way of indicating the presence of the particular spirit with whom it was associated. We naturally took care to ascertain that there was no bell of any kind in the room at the time. Even if there had been, it would have been a matter of some difficulty to ring it all round the walls and even up to the ceiling, and this particular sound proceeded indifferently from all parts of the room. Lastly, we had a sound of which it is exceedingly difficult to offer an adequate description. The best idea of it I can give is to ask the reader to imagine the soft tone of a clarionet gradually increasing in


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Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

intensity until it rivalled the sound of a trumpet, and then, by degrees, diminishing to the original subdued note of the clarionet until it eventually died away in a long drawn-out melancholy wail. This is a very inefficient description of this really extraordinary sound, but as I have in the whole course of my experience never heard anything else at all like it, it is impossible to give to those who have not heard it a more accurate idea of what it was like. As was the case with the two previous sounds I have described, it was always associated with one spirit. It is a noteworthy fact that in no case did the controlling agencies produce more than single notes or at best isolated passages. This they accounted for as due to the peculiarly unmusical organisation of the medium. At any rate, the production of these sounds was wonderful enough in itself, as I over and over again satisfied myself fully that there were no materials in the room which could in any way assist in the making of any kind of musical tones; and the clarionet and trumpet sound was one that I should be utterly at a loss to give at all an adequate imitation of, whatever materials might be at my disposal. Before I joined the circle several other musical sounds were frequently heard, and all were given with greater variety, both of manipulation and tone; but as I am now only giving a brief epitome of what actually happened under my own observation, I refrain from alluding to occurrences which took place when I was not present.


6. Direct writing was often given, sometimes on a sheet of paper placed in the centre of the table, and equi­distant from all the sitters; at other times one of us would place his hands on a piece of paper previously dated and initialled, and usually a message was found written upon it at the conclusion of the séance. We usually placed a pencil upon the paper, but sometimes we only provided a small piece of lead—the results being the same in both cases. Usually, the writing took the form of answering questions which we had asked, but sometimes short, independent communications were given, and also messages of greeting.


7. Movements of heavy bodies, such as tables and chairs were by no means infrequent. Sometimes the table would be tilted up at a considerable angle; at other times the chairs of one or more of the sitters would be pushed more or less forcibly away from the table, until they touched the wall behind; or the table would move away from the sitters on one side, and be propelled irresistibly against those on the other, compelling them to shift their chairs in order to avoid the advance of so heavy a piece of furniture. The table in question, at which we usually sat, was an extremely weighty dining-table made of solid Honduras mahogany, but at times it was moved with much greater ease than the combined efforts of all the sitters could accomplish; and these combined efforts were powerless to prevent it moving in a certain direction, if the unseen force willed it to do so. We frequently tested the strength of this force by trying to check the onward movement of the table, but without success.


8. The passage of matter through matter was sometimes strikingly demonstrated by the bringing of various articles from other rooms, though the doors were closed and bolted. Photographs, picture-frames, books and other objects were frequently so brought, both from rooms on the same floor and from those above. How they came through the closed doors I cannot say, except by some process of de-materialisation, but come they certainly did, apparently none the worse for the process, whatever it might have been.


9. The direct spirit voice, as opposed to the voice of a spirit speaking through the medium while in a state of trance, was very seldom heard, and never with any clearness or distinctness. But occasionally it was attempted, and by listening carefully we could distinguish one or two broken sentences which were hissed out in a sort of husky whisper. These sounds generally seemed to be in the air above us, but they were produced with evident difficulty, and there being so many other methods of communication, the direct voice was essayed but seldom.


10. The inspirational addresses given by various spirits through Stainton Moses when in an entranced condition have been so thoroughly dealt with by Mrs Speer in her “Records” that I can add nothing as regards the matter thus expounded. Touching the manner of these addresses (one or more of which we had


Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

at almost every séance) I can only say that they were delivered in a dignified, temperate, clear, and convincing tone, and that though the voice proceeded from the medium, it was always immediately apparent that the personality addressing us was not that of the medium. The voice was different, and the ideas were often not in accordance with those held at the time by the medium. An important fact, too, was that although many spirits exercised this power of control, the voice which spoke was always different; and in the case of those spirits which controlled regularly we came to know perfectly well which intelligence was communicating, by the tone of the voice and the method of enunciation.


So far, in this enumeration of the various phenomena, I have spoken generally of the manifestations which usually occurred at most of our sittings, but in conclusion I will give two particular instances, one of direct writing, and one of identity, both of which I think are interesting, and which certainly impressed me considerably. On one occasion we were told to cease for a time and resume the séance later on. I asked the communicating intelligences if they would during the interval give me a sample of direct writing under test conditions. Having received an affirmative reply, I procured a piece of my own note-paper, and, unknown to the other members of the circle, I dated and initialled it, and also put a private mark in a corner of the sheet. The others having retired from the dining to the drawing room, I placed my piece of paper with a pencil under a table in the study, and having thoroughly searched the room, I barred the shutters, bolted and locked the door, and put the key in my pocket. I did not lose sight of the door until I re-entered, when to my great satisfaction I found a message clearly written on the paper. As we had not been sitting in the study, and as I can positively aver that no one entered the room after I had left it until I myself unlocked the door, I have always considered this particular instance of direct spirit writing as a most satisfactory and conclusive test. The other occurrence which I consider specially worthy of mention took place as follows. We were sitting one night as usual, and I had in front of me, with my hand resting upon it, a piece of note-paper, with a pencil close by. Suddenly Stainton Moses, who was sitting exactly opposite me, exclaimed, “There is a very bright column of light behind you.” Soon afterwards he said that the column of light had developed into a spirit-form. I asked him if the face was familiar to him, and he replied in the negative, at the same time describing the head and features. When the séance was concluded I examined my sheet of paper, which my hand had never left, and found written on it a message and signature. The name was that of a distinguished musician who died in the early part of the present century. I purposely refrain from specifying him, as the use of great names very frequently leads to results quite different from those intended. However, now comes the most extraordinary part of the affair. I asked Stainton Moses—without, of course, showing him the written message— whether he thought he could recognise the spirit he saw behind my chair if he saw a portrait of him. He said he thought he could, so I gave him several albums, containing likenesses of friends dead and alive, and also portraits of various celebrities. On coming to the photograph of the composer in question he at once said, without hesitation, “That is the face of the spirit I saw behind you.” Then, for the first time, I showed him the message and signature. I regarded the whole incident as a very fair proof of spirit-identity, and I think that most people would, at any rate, consider the occurrence one of interest.


During the time of Stainton Moses’s active mediumship, he was often busily engaged in assisting in the formation of various societies, whose primary object was the investigation of Spiritualism and other occult, though kindred, subjects. He took part in the establishment of the British National Association of Spiritualists in 1873. He was also connected with the Psychological Society of Great Britain, which was inaugurated in April 1875, and of the Council of that Society he was one of the original members. In 1882 Stainton Moses took an active interest in the formation of the Society for Psychical Research; and in 1884 he established “The London Spiritualist Alliance,” and became its first President, which post he filled up to the time of his death. For the last few years of his life, he added to his other duties the editorship of Light, and though his active mediumship, as regards physical phenomena, had then almost entirely ceased, yet his power of automatic writing remained with him to the end. For the last three or four years of his life he suffered from failing health, and many successive attacks of influenza gradually undermined a constitution which had never been conspicuously robust. Though he gradually became worse, he was never supposed to be in any real danger, and when the end came, on September 5th, 1892, it was a


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Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES

terrible shock to all those who knew him, and who realised what a loss to themselves personally, and to the cause of Spiritualism generally, his death would prove.


Far more interesting to those who knew him intimately was Stainton Moses’s personality than his life. The latter, as all who read this brief sketch will readily see for themselves, was, with the exception of the wonderful spiritual experiences so indissolubly linked with it, unmomentous and uneventful. But his individuality and force of character were immense; his ability was quite out of the common; and more than all, the versatility of his talents was perhaps one of his most striking features. No study was too dry or uninteresting for him to master, no subject so apparently unimportant and unworthy his attention but he would easily acquire an intelligent conception of its details. And this applies equally to the whole range of more or less trivial matters which make up the sum total of nineteenth-century every-day life, as well as to those deeper and more serious subjects which, being akin to his own especial one, naturally engrossed most of his attention. From the time that he first began to realise of what vast importance it was to establish the possibility of communion with the world of the future, to the end of his life, his zeal in proving the truth of his teachings never failed. In spite of the demands made upon his time by school and press work, he contrived to bestow an immense amount of energy upon his Spiritualistic researches; his enormous correspondence with thousands of inquiries all over the world affording quite sufficient material to occupy the life of any ordinary man. But in this as in everything else he was conscientious to the last degree, and never considered time wasted that was expended in answering the queries and solving, to the best of his ability, the doubts of earnest seekers after truth. A certain proportion of his time was devoted to visiting many of the most important people in the country—important both socially and politically—and also those who were distinguished for their eminence in the scientific, literary, and artistic world. During the lifetime of such people their names cannot be divulged, but it is not too much to say that Stainton Moses had interviews, more or less frequently, with most of the illustrious personages of his day; and all who took any interest in the phenomena of Spiritualism, whatever their position or attainments, were alike anxious to hear his opinions and experiences of that subject, on which none were so well qualified to speak as himself.


Apart from Spiritualism, Stainton Moses possessed in his own character a rare combination of remarkable qualities, not often met with in the same individual. He had the keenest sense of justice and equity, his judgment was invariably sound and discreet, and in addition to all this, no man ever possessed a kinder heart or livelier sympathies, or was more ready to assist with counsel or advice those who came to him for either. Notwithstanding his varied spiritual experiences, unique in themselves, he was never puffed up by them in the smallest degree, and though impatient of mere frivolous or ignorant opposition, he would never refuse to join issue in friendly argument with any opponent—however much beneath his attention. In these various encounters, Stainton Moses’s clear understanding and extremely logical habits of mind enabled him to score heavily and with decisive effect off those antagonists who sometimes had the temerity to attack him with very little reason and still less knowledge. His crushing rejoinder to Dr Carpenter, who some eighteen or twenty years ago lectured at the London Institution on the “Fallacies of Modern Spiritualism,” will probably be still remembered by a good many people as a striking instance of logical reasoning and effective sarcasm, which, significantly enough, was never answered. Considering the then unpopular nature of the subject which he had unmistakably made his own, and of the conclusions which he deduced from a close and systematic study of the same, it is a matter to be wondered at that he was not more often attacked by narrow-minded religious bigots, pseudo-scientists, and superficial penny-a-liners. But however this may be, the fact remains that with a few insignificant exceptions he was not so attacked; when he was, his power of showing up the weakness of his opponent’s case and ignorance of the matters on which he presumed to dogmatise was only equalled by the polite ridicule and quiet satire which he was always ready to bring to bear upon the author of any unprovoked piece of aggressive meddling.


It was a noteworthy feature about Stainton Moses, that in spite of his being compulsorily drawn in many ways into a conspicuously public position, no man ever hated publicity more than he did. Retiring and modest by nature, he detested the making of speeches, delivering of addresses, presiding over meetings, and other similar functions for which the singularity of his own powers and the extent of his knowledge naturally marked him out as being


Biography of W. STAINTON MOSES


eminently fitted. Though richly endowed with gifts sufficient to stamp him in any age as a leader of men, his own inclinations would, had he been untrammelled by force of circumstances, have led him to prefer a life of studious ease and unostentatious retirement. But this was not to be; so he trod his allotted path with zeal, courage, and discretion; did his duty with an utter abnegation of self; and died at his post in the prime of manhood, carrying with him to the grave the affectionate regard and esteem of hundreds who will cherish the memory of his friendship as one of their most precious legacies.


It is quite impossible within the limits of a short biography like the present to do more than present a brief sketch of the character of Stainton Moses; but I should like to once more insist upon the entirely admirable ingredients of which that character was composed, and I might fill volumes in dilating upon his utter absence of pride, fanaticism, arrogance, or conceit; upon his love of truth, purity, and integrity; and upon his absolute fearlessness, generous large-heartedness, and wholly sympathetic friendship. But to what avail? He has crossed the bar, and gone from out mortal vision for ever. And whatever I could say in his praise would not heighten the affection and esteem of those who knew him; and those who did not would gain but a poor idea of his worth and talents from any paltry efforts of mine. So let us gain what benefit we can from the words of those inspirational teachings which he has left behind, and to which this short memoir is intended to serve as a humble introduction, and then, for a time at any rate, let us re-echo the old formula, Requiescat in Pace.