The history of the supernatural
in all ages and nations and in all churches Christian and pagan demonstrating a universal faith.
by William Howitt.
How can a stone move ? How can a petrified man believe ? And the scientific, as a class, are petrified by their education in the unspiritual principles of the last generation. These principles are the residuum of the atheistic and materialistic school of the French Revolution. The atheism is disavowed, but the disbelieving leaven remains, and will long remain. It will cling to the scientific like a death-pall, and totally disqualify them for independent research into the internal nature of man, and of his properties and prospects as an immortal being. This education has sealed up their spiritual eye, and left them only their physical one. They are as utterly disqualified for psychological research as a blind man for physical research. They are greatly to be pitied, for they are in a wretchedly maimed and deplorable condition. It is not from them that we have to hope for any great discoveries in mind ; let us only take care that they do not throw their loads of professional clay, their refuse of human dissections, on the subjects of enquiry, by more perfect and unpetrified natures. Such natures, as I have stated, existed in all times, down to the paralysis which fell on men in the last age. How different is the tone, as I shall hereafter show, in almost all the great writers of the period just preceding ! What a different creed is promulgated by Sir Thomas Browne, who lived in the seventeenth century ! In his 'Religio Medici' he says, ‘ We do surely owe the discovery of many secrets to the discovery of good and bad angels. I can never pass that sentence of Paracelsus without an asterisk of admiration : " Our good angels reveal many things to those who seek into the works of nature ! " I do think that many mysteries ascribed to our own inventions have been the courteous revelations of spirits ; for those noble essences in heaven bear a friendly regard to their fellow nature on earth ; and I, therefore, believe that those many prodigies and ominous prognostics which forerun the ruin of states, princes, and private persons, are the charitable premonitions of good angels, which more careless inquirers term but the effects of chance and nature.' And alluding to the school of Hobbes, which was beginning to cast its dark fog on the hitherto bright faith of men, he adds : ‘The severe school shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes, — that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible, wherein, as in a portrait, things are not truly, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some real substance in that invisible fabric’.