The great mystic of the eighteenth-century, the ardent disciple of Jakob Böhme — Louis Claude de Saint-Martin — used to say in the last years of his life: “I would have loved to meet more with those who guess at truths, for such alone are living men.”
This remark implies that, outside the limited circle of mystics which has existed in every age, people endowed with correct psychic intuition were still fewer at the end of the last century than they are now. These were, indeed, years of complete soul-blindness and spiritual drought. It is during that century that the chaotic darkness and Babylonish confusion with regard to spiritual things, which have ever reigned in brains too crammed with mere scientific learning, had fully asserted their sway over the masses. The lack of soul perception was not confined to the “Forty Immortals” of the French Academy, nor to their less pretentious colleagues of Europe in general, but had infected almost all the classes of Society, settling down as a chronic disease called Scepticism and the denial of all but matter. The messengers sent out periodically in the last quarter of every century westward — ever since the mysteries which alone had the key to the secrets of nature had been crushed out of existence in Europe by heathen and Christian conquerors — had appeared that time in vain. Saint Germain and Alessandro di Cagliostro are credited with real phenomenal powers only in fashionable novels, to remain inscribed in encyclopaedias — to purblind the better, we suppose, the minds of forthcoming generations — as merely clever charlatans. The only man whose powers and knowledge could have been easily tested by exact science, thus forming a firm link between physics and metaphysics — Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer — had been fire-blazing from the scientific arena by the greatest “scholar-ignoramuses” in things spiritual, of Europe. For almost a century, namely from 1770 down to 1870, a heavy spiritual darkness descending on the Western hemisphere, settled, as if it meant to stay, among cultured societies.
However, an under-current appeared in the middle of our century, crossing the Atlantic between 1850 and 1860. Then came in its trail the marvellous medium for physical manifestations, Daniel Dunglas Home. After he had taken by storm the Tuileries and the Winter Palace, the light was no longer allowed to shine under a bushel. Already, some years before his advent, “a change” had come “over the spirit of the dream” of almost every civilised community in the two worlds, and a great reactive force was now at work.
Amidst the greatest glow of the self-sufficiency of exact science, and the reckless triumphant crowing of victory over the ruins of the very foundations — as some Darwinists had fondly hoped — of old superstitions and creeds; in the midst of the deadliest calm of wholesale negations, there arose a breeze from a wholly unexpected quarter. At first, the significant afflatus was like a hardly perceptible stir, puffs of wind in the rigging of a proud vessel — the ship called “Materialism,” whose crew was merrily leading its passengers toward the Maelstrom of annihilation. However, very soon the breeze freshened and finally blew a gale. It fell with every hour more ominously on the ears of the iconoclasts and ended by raging loud enough to be heard by everyone who had ears to hear, eyes to see, and an intellect to discern. It was the “Inner Voice” of the masses, their spiritual intuition — that traditional enemy of cold intellectual reasoning, the legitimate progenitor of Materialism — that had awakened from its long cataleptic sleep. And, as a result, all those ideals of the human soul which had been so long trampled under the feet of the would-be conquerors of the world-superstitions, the self-constituted guides of a new humanity — appeared suddenly in the midst of all these raging elements of human thought, and, like Lazarus rising out of his tomb, lifted their voice and demanded loudly recognition.
This was brought on by the invasion of “Spirit” manifestations, when mediumistic phenomena had broken out like influenza all over Europe. However unsatisfactory their philosophical interpretation, these phenomena being genuine and true as truth itself in their being and their reality, they were undeniable; and being in their very nature beyond denial, they came to be regarded as evident proofs of a life beyond — opening, moreover, a wide range for the admission of every metaphysical possibility. This once the efforts of materialistic science to disprove them availed it nothing. Beliefs such as man’s survival after death, and the immortality of Spirit, were no longer to be pooh-poohed as figments of imagination; for, prove once the genuineness of such transcendental phaenomena to be beyond the realm of matter, and beyond investigation by means of physical science, and — whether these phaenomena contain per se or not the proof of immortality, demonstrating as they do the existence of invisible and spiritual regions where other forces than those known to exact science are at work — they are shown to lie beyond the realm of materialism. Cross, by one step only, the line of matter and the area of Spirit becomes infinite. Therefore, believers in them were no longer to be brow-beaten by threats of social contumacy and ostracism; this, also, for the simple reason that in the beginning of these manifestations almost the whole of the European higher classes became ardent “Spiritualists To oppose the strong tidal wave of the cycle there remained at one time but a handful, in comparison with the number of believers, of grumbling and all-denying fogeys.”
Thus, it was once more demonstrated that human life, devoid of all its world-ideals and beliefs — in which the whole of philosophical and cultured antiquity, headed in historical times by Socrates and Plato, by Pythagoras and the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists, believed — becomes deprived of its higher sense and meaning. The world-ideals can never completely die out. Exiled by the fathers, they will be received with opened arms by the children.
It was, as said, between the third and fourth quarters of the present century that reaction set in in Europe. The days of a determined psychic rebellion against the cold dogmatism of science and the still more chilling teachings of the schools of Belcher and Charles Robert Darwin had come in their pre-ordained and pre-appointed time of cyclic law. Our older readers may easily recollect the suggestive march of events. Let them remember how the wave of mysticism, arrested in its free course during its first twelve or fifteen years by public, and especially by religious, prejudices, finally broke through every artificial dam and over-flooded Europe, beginning with France and Russia and ending with the United Kingdom — the slowest of all countries to accept new ideas, though these may bring us truths as old as the world.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding every opposition, “Spiritualism,” as it was soon called, got its rights of citizenship in Great Britain. For several years it reigned undivided. Yet in truth, its phenomena, its psychic and mesmeric manifestations, were but the cyclic pioneers of the revival of prehistoric Theosophy, and the occult Gnosticism of the antediluvian mysteries. These are facts which no intelligent Spiritualist will deny; as, in truth, modem Spiritualism is but an earlier revival of crude Theosophy, and modern Theosophy a renaissance of ancient Spiritualism.