The world is suffering from a plethora of fat boys who will persist in trying to make our flesh creep. We have no objection to them practising their black magic in the privacy of their back parlours, to the prostration of their maiden aunts, but the limit is reached when they insist upon the rest of the world witnessing their performances. We refer to that cult of neurotics of both sexes, viz., “Spiritualism,” and to the publicity that the “sensation press” is giving it.
Some time ago the Weekly Dispatch worked overtime getting out extra copies, while it was running a series of articles by Mr. Vale Owen which purported to convey “communications from departed spirits.” Now Mr. James Douglas, the editor of the Sunday Express is performing similar stunts albeit in the guise of a “not-yet-convinced agnostic.” Yet it is easy to perceive that Mr. Douglas, as a smart journalist, is, among other things, endeavouring to emulate the commercial success of his contemporary and draw the coppers from the pockets of the mystified working class to the coffers of Lord Beaverbrook, “the apostle of success.”
Although one may have a doubt as to whether Mr. V. Owen was a knave or a fool, Mr. Douglas has a more accessible public record, and we know he is no fool. It is perhaps only just, however, to concede him the point that he is the tool of an exploiting master class, to whose interest it is that confusion should exist in the minds of the workers.
It is not our mission, or of any propagandist value to debate “Spiritualism” as distinct from any other phase of religion. Socialism as a system of society means the end of supernatural beliefs. Our work has as its objective the overthrow of Capitalism, and we do not care to spend much time on its various side shows. We therefore are not primarily interested in exposing the credulity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or the senility of Sir Oliver Lodge. Mr. Joseph McCabe and others can do that quite well enough in their professional capacity. But where we are concerned with the question of Spiritualism is that Capitalism prolongs its lease of life while the minds of the working class are confused and side-tracked from the path of progress towards their emancipation.
That the phenomena supposed to have been experienced by Mr. Douglas at the “Black Seance” cannot be substantiated by any scientific fact is obvious to the logical mind, but that the working into a hysteria of nervous apprehension of a great proportion of the populace is a direct advantage to the Capitalist class in their business of keeping the working class submissive and enduring is obvious to the Socialist.
If a table can defy the law of gravity and float round the room of its own volition, well and good; scientists must alter their texts books accordingly. And if a spirit can sing “The long long trail” without a larynx, anatomists must also revise their opinions ! But what we do discover about these seances is that no dead Socialist has come back to tell the readers of the Capitalist Press how they are exploited in the interests of the humbugging Capitalist class! And there must be many of our comrades wandering about the Astral Plane we think! Perhaps—horrible thought—the spirit of Capitalism reigns up there too, and has clapped our departed pals into ghostly jails so that they shan’t blow the gaff on the fat men below !
But, maybe, we wax flippant. The situation has really no funny side. It calls for the same stern comment that the Armistice Day hypocrisy demands, and indeed, as do all the dodges that Capitalism uses to maintain its existence. The Cenotaphs and bunting, the ceremonies and sentimentalities, the panem et circenses, that seem to be more in evidence than ever before, all serve their turn, and the brutal rapacity of the Moloch we endure battens on the ignorance they signify.
Spiritualism will have its brief turn on the stage of history and make its exit, and something else will take its stead in the public mind and eye; but in the meantime the facts remain that Society here below is rotten to the core, that a small section of it lives in luxurious idleness on the profits rung from the remainder, who, as a consequence, suffer the pangs of hunger, the diseases attendant on slum working class should fix its mind upon. Directly the master class discover that flying tambourines and mystic ventriloquisms no longer absorb the attentions of an awakening proletariat they will command the spirits they have summoned to emulate the Arabs by “folding their tents and silently stealing away.” It will be almost time then for the Capitalist class to do likewise.