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OCCULTISM





SPIRITISM as a theory, a science, a practice, a religion, or--I might
add--a profitable business venture, is considered an evil thing by the
Church, and by her is condemned as superstition, that is, as a false
and unworthy homage to God, belittling His majesty and opposed to the
Dispensation of Christ, according to which alone God can be worthily
honored. This evil has many names; it includes all dabbling in the
supernatural against the sanction of Church authority, and runs a whole
gamut of "isms" from fake trance-mediums to downright diabolical
possession.

The craft found favor with the pagans and flourished many years before
the Christian era. Wondrous things were wrought by the so-called
pythonic spirit; evidently outside the natural order, still more
evidently not by the agency of God, and of a certainty through the
secret workings of the "Old Boy" himself. It was called Necromancy, or
the Black Art. It had attractions for the Jews and they yielded to some
extent to the temptation of consulting the Python. For this reason
Moses condemned the evil as an abomination. These are his words, taken
from Deuteronomy:

"Neither let there be found among you any one that consulteth
soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens; neither let there be any
wizard, nor charmer, nor any one that consulteth pythonic spirits or
fortune tellers, or that seeketh the truth from the dead. For the Lord
abhorreth all these things; and for these abominations He will destroy
them."

The Black Art had its votaries during the Middle Ages and kept the
Church busy warning the faithful against its dangers and its evils.
Even so great a name as that of Albert the Great has been associated
with the dark doings of the wizard, because, no doubt, of the marvelous
fruits of his genius and deep learning, which the ignorant believed
impossible to mere human agency. As witchcraft, it nourished during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The excesses to which it gave rise
caused severe laws to be enacted against it and stringent measures were
taken to suppress it. Many were put to death, sometimes after the most
cruel tortures. As is usually the case, the innocent suffered with the
guilty. The history of the early New England settlers makes good
reading on the subject.

Some people claim that the spiritism of to-day is only a revival of
old-time witchery and necromancy, that it is as prevalent now as it was
then, perhaps more prevalent. "Only," as Father Lambert remarks, "the
witch of to-day instead of going to the stake as formerly, goes about
as Madam So-and-So, and is duly advertised in our enlightened press as
the great and renowned seeress or clairvoyant, late from the court of
the Akoorid of Swat, more recently from the Sublime Porte, where she
was in consultation with the Sultan of Turkey, and more recently still
from the principal courts of Europe. As her stay in the city will be
brief, those who wish to know the past or future or wish to communicate
with deceased friends, are advised to call on her soon. Witchcraft is
as prevalent as it ever was, and the witches are as real. They may not
have cats on their shoulders or pointed caps, or broomsticks for quick
transit, but they differ from the witches of the past only in being
liberally paid, instead of liberally punished."

The Church does not deny the possibility of intercourse between the
living and the souls of the dead; she goes farther and admits the fact
that such intercourse has taken place, pointing, as well she may, to
the Scriptures themselves wherein such facts are recorded. The lives of
her saints are not without proof that this world may communicate with
the unknown. And this belief forms the groundwork, furnishes the basic
principles, of Spiritism.

Nevertheless, the Church condemns all attempts at establishing such
communication between the living and the dead, or even claiming, though
falsely, such intercourse. If this is done in the name of religion, she
considers it an insult to God, Who thereby is trifled with and tempted
to a miraculous manifestation of Himself outside the ordinary channels
of revelation. As an instrument of mere human curiosity, it is
criminal, since it seeks to subject Him to the beck and call of a
creature. In case such practices succeed, there is the grave danger of
being mislead and deceived by the evil spirit, who is often permitted,
as the instrument of God, to punish guilty men. When resorted to, as a
means of relieving fools of their earnings, it is sacrilegious; and
those who support such impious humbugs can be excused from deadly sin
only on the grounds of lunacy.

Hypnotism and Mesmerism differ from Spiritism in this, that their
disciples account for the phenomena naturally and lay no claim to
supernatural intervention. They produce a sleep in the subject, either
as they claim, by the emanation of a subtile fluid from the operator's
body, or by the influence of his mind over the mind of the subject They
are agreed on this point, that natural laws could explain the
phenomenon, if these laws were well understood.

With this sort of a thing, as belonging to the domain of science and
outside her domain, the Church has nothing whatever to do. This is a
theory upon which it behooves men of science to work; they alone are
competent in the premises. But without at all encroaching on their
domain, the Church claims the right to pronounce upon the morality of
such practices and to condemn the evils that flow therefrom. So great
are these evils and dangers, when unscrupulous and ignorant persons
take to experimenting, that able and reliable physicians and statesmen
have advocated the prohibition by law of all such indiscriminate
practices. Crimes have been committed on hypnotized persons and crimes
have been committed by them. It is a dangerous power exercised by men
of evil mind and a sure means to their evil ends. It is likewise
detrimental to physical and moral health. Finally, he who subjects
himself to such influence commits an immoral act by giving up his will,
his free agency, into the hands of another. He does this willingly, for
no one can be hypnotized against his will; he does it without reason or
just motive. This is an evil, and to it must be added the
responsibility of any evil he may be made to commit whilst under this
influence. Therefore is the Church wise in condemning the
indiscriminate practice of hypnotism or mesmerism; and therefore will
her children be wise if they leave it alone. It is not superstition,
but it is a sin against man's individual liberty over which he is
constituted sole guardian, according to the use and abuse of which he
will one day be judged.





Next: CHRISTIAN SCIENCE

Previous: IDOLATRY AND SUPERSTITION



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