There is No Death
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Pages (PDF): 247
Publication Date: 1891
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In 1874, Florence Marryat interviewed a prominent clairvoyant for a London newspaper. This marked the beginning of her belief in spiritualism. She participated in countless seances and claimed to have communicated with her two dead daughters and her brother who died in a shipwreck. She wrote down her experiences in this book.
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It has been strongly impressed upon me for some years past to write an account of the wonderful experiences I have passed through in my investigation of the science of Spiritualism. In doing so I intend to confine myself to recording facts. I will describe the scenes I have witnessed with my own eyes, and repeat the words I have heard with my own ears, leaving the deduction to be drawn from them wholly to my readers. I have no ambition to start a theory nor to promulgate a doctrine; above all things I have no desire to provoke an argument. I have had more than enough of arguments, philosophical, scientific, religious, and purely aggressive, to last a lifetime; and were I called upon for my definition of the rest promised to the weary, I should reply—a place where every man may hold his own opinion, and no one is permitted to dispute it.
But though I am about to record a great many incidents that are so marvellous as to be almost incredible, I do not expect to be disbelieved, except by such as are capable of deception themselves. They—conscious of their own infirmity—invariably believe that other people must be telling lies. Byron wrote, "He is a fool who denies that which he cannot disprove;" and though Carlyle gives us the comforting assurance that the population of Great Britain consists "chiefly of fools," I pin my faith upon receiving credence from the few who are not so.
Why should I be disbelieved? When the late Lady Brassey published the "Cruise of the Sunbeam," and Sir Samuel and Lady Baker related their experiences in Central Africa, and Livingstone wrote his account of the wonders he met with whilst engaged in the investigation of the source of the Nile, and Henry Stanley followed up the story and added thereto, did they anticipate the public turning up its nose at their narrations, and declaring it did not believe a word they had written? Yet their readers had to accept the facts they offered for credence, on their authority alone. Very few of them had even heard of the places described before; scarcely one in a thousand could, either from personal experience or acquired knowledge, attest the truth of the description. What was there—for the benefit of the general public—to prove that the Sunbeam had sailed round the world, or that Sir Samuel Baker had met with the rare beasts, birds, and flowers he wrote of, or that Livingstone and Stanley met and spoke with those curious, unknown tribes that never saw white men till they set eyes on them? Yet had any one of those writers affirmed that in his wanderings he had encountered a gold field of undoubted excellence, thousands of fortune-seekers would have left their native land on his word alone, and rushed to secure some of the glittering treasure.
Why? Because the authors of those books were persons well known in society, who had a reputation for veracity to maintain, and who would have been quickly found out had they dared to deceive. I claim the same grounds for obtaining belief. I have a well-known name and a public reputation, a tolerable brain, and two sharp eyes. What I have witnessed, others, with equal assiduity and perseverance, may witness for themselves. It would demand a voyage round the world to see all that the owners of the Sunbeam saw. It would demand time and trouble and money to see what I have seen, and to some people, perhaps, it would not be worth the outlay. But if I have journeyed into the Debateable Land (which so few really believe in, and most are terribly afraid of), and come forward now to tell what I have seen there, the world has no more right to disbelieve me than it had to disbelieve Lady Brassey. Because the general public has not penetrated Central Africa, is no reason that Livingstone did not do so; because the general public has not seen (and does not care to see) what I have seen, is no argument against the truth of what I write. To those who do believe in the possibility of communion with disembodied spirits, my story will be interesting perhaps, on account of its dealing throughout in a remarkable degree with the vexed question of identity and recognition. To the materialistic portion of creation who may credit me with not being a bigger fool than the remainder of the thirty-eight millions of Great Britain, it may prove a new source of speculation and research. And for those of my fellow-creatures who possess no curiosity, nor imagination, nor desire to prove for themselves what they cannot accept on the testimony of others, I never had, and never shall have, anything in common. They are the sort of people who ask you with a pleasing smile if Irving wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade," and say they like Byron's "Sardanapalus" very well, but it is not so funny as "Our Boys."
Now, before going to work in right earnest, I do not think it is generally known that my father, the late Captain Marryat, was not only a believer in ghosts, but himself a ghost-seer. I am delighted to be able to record this fact as an introduction to my own experiences. Perhaps the ease with which such manifestations have come to me is a gift which I inherit from him, anyway I am glad he shared the belief and the power of spiritual sight with me. If there were no other reason to make me bold to repeat what I have witnessed, the circumstance would give me courage. My father was not like his intimate friends, Charles Dickens, Lord Lytton, and many other men of genius, highly strung, nervous, and imaginative. I do not believe my father had any "nerves," and I think he had very little imagination. Almost all his works are founded on his personal experiences. His forte lay in a humorous description of what he had seen. He possessed a marvellous power of putting his recollections into graphic and forcible language, and the very reason that his books are almost as popular to-day as when they were written, is because they are true histories of their time. There is scarcely a line of fiction in them. His body was as powerful and muscular as his brain. His courage was indomitable—his moral courage as well as his physical (as many people remember to their cost to this day), and his hardness of belief on many subjects is no secret. What I am about to relate therefore did not happen to some excitable, nervous, sickly sentimentalist, and I repeat that I am proud to have inherited his constitutional tendencies, and quite willing to stand judgment after him.
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