Am I a Spiritualist?

The question is often asked if I am a spiritualist. My answer is that I am not, after the manner of the Rochester rappings, but I am a believer in the spirits of the living. Here seems to be a difference of opinion. The common opinion of the people in regard to the dead I have no sympathy with, from the fact that their belief is founded on an opinion that I know is false; yet I believe them honest but misled for the want of some better explanation of the phenomenon. We see men, women and children walking around; by and by they pass away from us, and their bodies are laid in the earth.

This is one of the phenomena of the world. We look on the scene and pause. A cold icy sensation passes through our frame. We weep from our ignorance. We have seen the matter in a form moving about as though it contained life. Now it lies, cold and clammy, and our hope is cut off. Perhaps it is a son or a daughter in whom we had our hopes raised to the highest extreme of seeing them stand before the world, loved and respected for their worth, now gone forever. Doubts and fears take possession of our minds. We want to believe that they will know us, and in this state of mind, we often ask this lump of clay if it does know us, but no answer returns. We weep and repeat the question but no answer comes, and in a convulsive state of mind we leave and retire to some lonely spot to pour out our grief. Some kind friend tries to console us by telling us that our friend is not dead, but still lives, by talking what they have no knowledge of, only a desire that it may be so.

Their sympathy and ignorance mingle in a belief, and we try to believe it. This is the state of the people in regard to the dead. Their belief rises from the necessity of the case, but it keeps them in ignorance of themselves and all their lives subject to bondage.

Now where do I differ from all this belief? In every respect. My belief is my knowledge, my knowledge is my practice, and my practice gives the lie to all my former belief. I believed as all others did, but my theory and practice were at variance with each other. I therefore abandoned all my former beliefs as they came in contact with my practice, and at last followed the dictates of the impressions made on me by my patients. In this way I got rid of the errors of the world or my old opinions and found an answer to all my former opinions. These former opinions embraced all sorts of disease and ideas that contained error, disease and unhappiness which lead to death. The unraveling of my old opinions gave me knowledge of myself and happiness the world knew nothing of, and this knowledge I found could be taught to others. It teaches man that he is not in the body but outside of it, as much as the power is outside of a lever; and the body is to the soul as the steam engine is to the engineer, a machine without knowledge or power, only as it is given by something independent of itself.

January 1860