A Change of Faith

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A Change of Faith

Post by Admin on Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:40 am

MY EIGHTY YEARS
BY
ROBERT BLATCHFORD 1931
260
CHANGE OF FAITH
How many successful men who have led loveless lives would wish to be born again to the mean worry and anxious labour they have suffered under and defeated? But when I have spoken to grey-haired widowed husbands of a future life their eyes have sparkled and I have not needed telling of their secret hope. As I have put it: "If there is another life I will seek my sweet friend and marry her again."

And that brings me to another subject, more attractive and arresting than any political issue: the subject of spiritualism, I had been all my life a materialist. I believed that the mind is the man and that the brain is the mind and that without matter there is nothing, and believing that I did not believe in a future life. Dust we are and into dust we return was my first faith. But I was interested in the question of a future life, I wanted to know. And one
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MY EIGHTY YEARS
day W. T. Stead invited me to lunch and talked to me of spiritualism. I was intrigued and astonished, and I came away much perplexed. I could not doubt Stead's sincerity, nor could his sanity, nor his verity; and I not believe the things he had told me. But I did make one tentative experiment. He said if I sat at my desk alone and laid the point of a pencil lightly on paper it would result in automatic writing. We had sat into the dusk of the evening, and when I reached our Fleet Street office it was in darkness and closed. I let myself in, went to my room and did as I had been told. But the pencil never moved. I waited there in the dark for some time and then began to speak aloud to my dead friends. There was no answer, and it dawned upon me that the situation was becoming creepy. So I went home and talked to my wife about it and she said she did not believe in spirits or a future life. And at that we left it.
But I was still curious. I could not dismiss the earnestness of W. T. Stead. It was the subdivision of the atom which first shook my complacent materialism. An atom which is a kind of minute solar system seemed an unstable foothold for a philosophy. I looked up the atom in the works of leading men of science. Flammarion said that "matter and energy become one." Sir Oliver Lodge said: "It now appears that an atom may break up into electric charges, and these again may someday be found capable of resolving themselves into pristine ether." My idea of matter was some substantial, unchangeable substance: a material. But an atom which breaks up into electric charges and then resolves into pristine ether seems to be guilty of conduct unbecoming a material entity. How could I remain a materialist when deprived of material? I had to get back to Pythagoras, who said: "The visible universe is composed of invisible elements."
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A CHANGE OF FAITH
If a leaden bullet is composed of electric charges, may not a human spirit be composed of something equally intangible—or tangible? I found myself as Carlyle put it, "standing on the bosom of nothing." That was in 1920, when I was just turned sixty-nine. In the following year, on the 19th of December, 1 9 2 1, my wife died. The dear girl had a happy death. She never knew she was dying and she had no pain. She just fell asleep. The last time I saw her she was sleeping quietly, and she looked like a pretty child. There was a slight flush on her cheeks and one little white hand lay out on the green counterpane: "like an April daisy on the grass." That was at midnight, and she died at six the next morning. I had gone to bed, for I was exhausted with watching. For the last week or more she would not let me out of her room by night or day.
When I got up on the morning of her death I found to my surprise that I did not believe she was dead. My materialism notwithstanding, I felt that my wife was alive. My daughters, who held the same materialistic views, shared my feeling. We could not believe that she was not. Perhaps it was because we had been so devoted to her, because she had so filled our lives. I began to ask myself if perhaps the spiritualists were right. I did what Lady Warwick did when the Socialist idea came to her. I read all the best spiritualist books I could get hold of. I read and thought steadily for a couple of years and then I wrote some articles in the Sunday Chronicle protesting against the harsh criticism and cheap ridicule to which spiritualists were subjected. Still, I was not convinced. I was only puzzled. The books had affected me as W. T. Stead's talk had affected me. I told myself that all those gifted and honourable men and women could not be dupes or knaves. And—if they were right?
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MY EIGHTY YEARS
Then Mr. T. A. R. Purchas, Chairman of the Johannesburg Water Board, wrote and told me of his remarkable psychic experiences, and I wrote to him saying if he could get in touch with an African soldier killed in France perhaps he could find my wife who died in England. And within a few weeks, if the evidence was credible, he found her. But I was not yet convinced. I was only puzzled.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. and Mrs. Hewat McKenzie of the National Psychic College called on me at my home in Horsham, and after some talk suggested that I should have a sitting with Mrs. Osborne Leonard, who was, they said, one of the best living mediums. I accepted, and Mr. McKenzie undertook to arrange the meeting. So, one Sunday in September 1923, Mr. McKenzie met me at Victoria and drove me out to Mrs. Leonard's house in Barnet.
I was introduced as Mr. Roberts. Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Leonard went off in the car, and Mrs. Leonard and I were left alone in the house. The room was an ordinary small suburban parlour, with a long bay window looking on the road and a door opening into the hall. Mrs. Leonard drew the thick curtains and we sat down. I sat about a yard from her, on her left front. I could have touched her with my hand. The room was not in complete darkness. After a few minutes I could have read a book or written a letter. The features of the medium were clearly visible.
I was deeply interested, but not at all excited. I was watchful, rather sceptical; but not hostile. I had an open mind, but was not in a credulous mood. While Mrs. Leonard was falling asleep I was asking myself: "Is this a trance, or sleep? Why should she go to sleep.'"' But I liked the lady. She looked tranquil and good. My mental attitude can be gathered from something I wrote four days prior to
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A CHANGE OF FAITH
the sitting, to an old friend in Manchester. "I go to London on Sunday to see the medium. I'll let you know what happens. I have little faith. I don't at all expect to get any solid evidence; but I have promised to go." That does not suggest emotion or credulity.
After a few minutes the control, Feda, spoke. She said: "There is a lady here to see you. She calls you by a name beginning with B. Not the long name, the short name." I was not expecting that. But I thought perhaps the medium knew I was Robert Blatchford and not Mr. Roberts.
The next message did not mean much to me at the time. It was a statement of fact which had to be proved. And it was proved.
Then Feda said something which made me sit up and take notice: "She is trying to put her hand in your breast pocket. She says she is pleased you have that in your pocket; but the little one is gone a long way."
I had a pocket wallet in which I carry two of my wife's portraits. One is a carte size and was taken just before we married; the other a small snapshot taken in 1915. The small one was not in my pocket at the time I sat with Mrs. Leonard. It was in South Africa. How could Mrs. Leonard, or Feda, know that.? I began to think hard. The sitting lasted ninety minutes and I got many messages, all so correct that I could not explain them away, but I need not repeat them here. I have given them in my book "More Things in Heaven and Earth." One incident, though, I must not pass over.
Feda had just made a remark when, from a few feet distant from the medium, my wife's own voice spoke directly to me. She said, in eager anxious tone: "Bob, I'm here. I am with you, Bob." Before
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MY EIGHTY YEARS
I could recover my presence of mind Feda spoke again and I lost the chance to reply. Did I imagine my wife had spoken? She had been dead nearly two years and I had never since heard or expected to hear her voice. This incident, crowning all the other messages, broke down my scepticism. I left for home convinced that I had been in communication with my wife. Another sitting, in the following June, confirmed the impression. I need not say how the conviction helped me to gain my serenity. I should be very unhappy if I were convinced that the splendid hope was a delusion.
And yet—does it not seem too good to be true? Oh, believe me, I cannot shake nor ignore the evidence. My doubt is quite illogical and therefore quite human. And—we shall all know some day—perhaps. Old people love to look back, they say. It may be because they have much to look back upon. But if the promise of the soul's reawakening holds good, there is a larger joy in looking forward. To our next meeting then?
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