vol. 3, p. 121
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Miracles and Science

Multitudes who read the Scriptures have quick eyes for the texts which seem to concern the doctrine of the Trinity, or the nature of baptism, or the manner of church- government But they are very few indeed who have an eye for the supernatural. Long ago, even Richard Baxter, towards even the end of his life, ingeniously confessed how much he had been astonished, on counting up, at the number of occasions on which angels are mentioned in the Bible. As to there being a science of spirit involved in the Scriptures, how very few people ever think of such a thing! And of those who attack the credibility of the Scriptures, as compromising the dignity of Jehovah by making him appear to men and talk with them, and give them visions, how very few remember that already and a very long time ago it had been said, “No man hath seen God at any time!” And of these inconsiderate critics, how much fewer still are they who have tried what Maimonides—good old Rabbi—could do for them, even though indisposed to follow him entirely! Thus writes Maimonides in his book “Gad”: “Know also that all the prophets who mention prophecy as coming to them ascribe it either to an angel or to the Blessed God, although it was by means of an angel, without doubt. On this point, our rabbies of blessed memory long ago delivered their opinion in explaining, ‘And the Lord said to her’ thus,—by means of an angel. And know further, that whenever it is written that an angel spake with one, or that the word of the Lord, came to him, this has not taken place in any other way than in a dream, or in a prophetic vision. There is an ancient agada respecting communications made to the prophets, as they are recounted in the prophetic books, which states that they were made in four ways. First, the prophet makes known that the communication was made by an angel, in a dream or vision. Secondly, he merely mentions the communication of the angel to him, without explaining that it was made in a dream or vision, because of the well-established principle that prophecy is confined to one or other of these two methods. ‘I will make myself known to him in a vision, I will speak unto him in a dream.’ Thirdly, the angel is not mentioned at all; but the communication is ascribed to God, the Blessed One, who speaks it to him, but who makes known that h comes to him in a vision or dream. Fourthly, the prophet simply declares that God spoke to him, or said to him, do this, or say this, without explaining, either by mentioning an angel, or by mentioning a dream, on account of the well-established, fundamental principle, that prophecy or prophetic revelation comes only in dream or in vision, and through the agency of an angel.” And in explanation of another point, Maimonides adds, “Furthermore it ought to be known that the expression ‘And the Lord said to such an one’ is used when, strictly speaking, he has no prophetic vision, but the communication was made to him by means of a prophet.” It will be remembered, of course, that by vision is meant what is experienced in a preternatural, trance-like state. Thus, at Joppa, the Apostle Peter “fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him.” But at Jerusalem, giving an account of this experience, he said, “I was in the city of Joppa, praying; and, in a trance, I saw a vision, a certain vessel descend.” This is the meaning of the word “vision,” as it is used by Maimonides; it is a vision during a trance.—Miracles. Past and Present.

“The Mediums of Boston”

To the Editor of The Spiritual Scientist:

Dear Sir.—I am the last to impose upon the columns of a paper devoted to the interests of the community at large, discussions which seem to involve private interests only; but as answer to my article in your issue of January 7th, an article that did involve the best interests of the community at large, and the cause of Spiritualism in especial, Mr. John Hardy has chosen to receive my statement in the spirit of a personal attack, I must beg of your courtesy once more, to make room for the following words of explanation. To that article of January 7th, I again refer all who may be interested id this controversy, and endorse, as I do, the duty of distinguishing true mediumship false. To that article I have nothing to add, except an emphatic reiteration of every word it contains; but the gist of my present writing is this, I said,—

“Permit me to inform your friend, ‘Diogenes’ that the experiences which he so graphically details in connection with Mrs. S. W. Fletcher and Mrs. E. J. Wells have been mine with about two score of ‘celebrated’ advertising mediums, whom, from time to time, I have myself visited in Boston, and who have not even had wit or intuition enough to guess at the character of their visitor.”

These words Mr. John Hardy construes into an attack upon “all the mediums of Boston,” and a crusade against the practice of paying mediums for their time and service. If Mr. Hardy had been as long in the field, and had devoted as much time, money, and service to the cause of Spiritualism as your present correspondent, he would have known better than thus to attempt perverting my words.

It is scarcely more than ten or twelve years ago (at a period when Mr. Hardy was differently occupied, I believe), that I wrote an article for the Banner of Light, entitled “Compensation of Mediums.” That article occupied one entire sheet of the paper, and was devoted to a defence of mediums, a plea for their just appreciation and just compensation, a protest against the injustice of expecting mediums to work for nothing. and an urgent plea for the necessity of professional and well-paid mediums. Up to that time writers in the spiritual journals were full of attacks on the mediums, demands that their work as a profession should be abolished, and that “as they had freely received, so should they also freely give.” At the time when I wrote, I was not only a strong test medium myself, but had quite recently sat for the public of New York, and not having required the compensation due to professional service, I sat at 553 Broadway, free for the public. It was this fact, and the assurance it brought that no one could suspect me of selfish motives in my plea, that induced me to utter it, and the result was the reception of scores and scores of letters from grateful media, thanking me for my timely defence of their interests, and a kindly feeling on the part of my fellow-workers towards myself, which has only broken out into ingratitude and enmity when it became apparent that I should not endorse the harnessing of “social freedom,” or rather “free lust,” to the noble car of pure Spiritualism. Before Mr. John Hardy attacks me with assumptions as gratuitous as false, concerning my motives in my late article, he had better make himself a little more familiar with my past career, and the good service I have rendered alike to the cause of Spiritualism and its exponents. My views are now not changed, neither are my teachings, my writings, and my zeal in behalf of Spiritualism. Mr. John Hardy takes the liberty to say I was formerly “a medium, a lecturer, and a spiritualist.” I beg to say I am all these still, and will not allow any one to deny my being so, or even to insinuate a word to the contrary. If I don’t lecture on free love rostrums, or write for free love papers, that is all the greater proof of my being a true Spiritualist, and I repeat I will not allow even an insinuation to the contrary. Thus much in answer to this gentleman’s personal attack on myself. What he has to find fault with in respect to my treatment of mediums, I am entirely at a loss to conceive. That which I wrote against was the “stuff” which pretends to be, but which is not, mediumship.

In describing my visits from time to time to more than two score of advertising mediums “in Boston and elsewhere,” have I denounced all the mediums in Boston and elsewhere? Have I, in fact, denounced any? I insist upon it, I have not. On the contrary, I have done good service to true mediums, by showing up that which, if mediumship at all, was certainly unworthy the name of it If spirits can only come back to gabble baby-talk, tell falsehoods, and not give the slightest evidence of any knowledge beyond vague guessing, the Spiritualists, above all other classes, should be the first to repudiate such “stuff.” I say all honor to Diogenes and Robert Dale Owen for showing up, each in their several ways, the true from the false.

As to Mr. John Hardy, being somewhat at a loss to comprehend what he is aiming at, but feeling very certain he has made a decided miss when he attempted to strike at me, I kindly recommend him to study those very appropriate and significant words of the Bard of Avon:

“Let the galled jade wince;
Our withers are unwrung.”

I am Mr. Editor, very faithfully yours,

Emma Hardinge Britten.

Editor's notes

  1. Miracles and Science by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 1, No. 21, January 28, 1875, p. 244
  2. “The Mediums of Boston” by Britten, E. H., Spiritual Scientist, v. 1, No. 21, January 28, 1875, p. 244