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Judge John Worth Edmonds
Judge John Worth Edmonds,1816-1874, is amongst the most distinguished Spiritualists of his age.
After a great public career, as a member of both branches of the New York State Legislature and, for some time,
President of the Senate and Judge of the Supreme Court of New York, he resigned the latter position on account of the outcry raised against his Spiritualistic beliefs and, especially, his support of the Fox sisters.
His interest in the Rochester knockings was aroused in early 1851, and the first account of his experiences was published on August 1, 1853, in the New York Courier, in an article “To the Public.” In this article, in order to meet the constant attacks against him by the Press, he confessed his complete conversion to Spiritualism and related his experiences.
This bold step aroused a tremendous sensation, and a furious controversy arose.
In a letter published in the New York Herald, on August 6, 1853, he wrote:
“I went into the investigation originally thinking it a deception, and intending to make public my exposure of it. Having from my researche come to a different conclusion, I feel that the obligation to make known the result is just as strong. Therefore, it is, mainly, that I give the result to the world. I say mainly because there is another consideration which influences me, and that is, the desire to extend to others a knowledge which I am conscious cannot but make them happier and better.”
The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism: Leah (1831–1890), Margaret (1833–1893) and Kate Fox (1837–1892). The two younger sisters used “rappings” to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits.
Their older sister then took charge of them and managed their careers for some time. They all enjoyed success as mediums for many years.
However, Edmonds’ faith in them was misplaced, an error that only became apparent four years after his death.
In 1888, Margaret and Kate confessed that their rappings had been a hoax and publicly demonstrated their method.
Margaret attempted to recant her confession the next year, but their reputation was ruined and in less than five years they were all dead.
Edmonds’ investigations into mediumship were logical, hard, and indicative of a man of the law.
He was very shrewd, and, consistently, his conclusions were the same: spirit out of body can and does communicate with spirit in body.
As time passed on, Judge Edmonds developed mediumship himself. Between the years 1853 and 1854, within a small circle formed with a few close friends, he received many spirit messages and communications.
The chief communicators were alleged to be Swedenborg and Bacon.
Francis Bacon 1561-1626 was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. He served both as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England.
After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution. “New Atlantis” was Bacon’s most spiritually infused literary work.
In it he presents his vision of an advanced civilization, in which scientific understanding and application compliments enlightened religious belief and practise in the creation of a future utopia.
The consciousness that gave rise to this visionary work also influenced the philosophical and spiritual framework on which the new nation of the United States of America was formed. Bacon was involved in the establishment of early colonies in the new world and was considered by Thomas Jefferson, among others, to have contributed greatly to the welfare of mankind.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, and mystic. He is best known for his book on the afterlife, “Heaven and Hell” (1758).
Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at age 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he began to experience dreams and visions, beginning on Easter weekend of 6 April 1744. This culminated in a ‘spiritual awakening’, in which he received revelation that he was appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity.
According to “The Heavenly Doctrine” the Lord had opened Swedenborg’s spiritual eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell and talk with angels, demons and other spirits; and the Last Judgment had already occurred, in 1757.
For the remaining 28 years of his life, Swedenborg wrote eighteen published theological works, and several more which were unpublished. He termed himself a “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ” in True Christian Religion, a work he published himself. Some followers of “The Heavenly Doctrine” believe that, of his theological works, only those which Swedenborg published himself are fully divinely inspired.
Bacon and Swedenborg were in the vanguard of contemporary religious philosophical thinking. Edmonds referenced, compiled, and published these communications in two volumes on Spiritualism. This venture was achieved jointly with George T. Dexter, M.D.
These volumes achieved tremendous success, with several editions being printed. They are some of the most fascinating and informative literature ever published on Spiritualism, a seminal collection.
In addition to his own mediumistic encounters, Judge Edmonds’ daughter, Laura, became a trance medium.
She developed incredible musical powers and the gift of tongues. Although she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke nine different languages with great fluency: Spanish; French; Greek; Italian; Portuguese; Latin; Hungarian; and Indian dialects were identified.
These phenomena and many others were all meticulously recorded by Judge Edmonds.
The account of his experiences with raps, as given in the New York Tribune, March 1859, is especially significant and informative:
“And finally after weeks of such trials, as if to dispel all idea in my mind as to its being done by others, or by machinery, the rappings came to me alone, when I was in bed, when no mortal but myself was in the room. I first heard them on the floor, as I lay reading”.
“I said ‘It’s a mouse.’ They instantly changed their location from one part of the room of another, with a rapidity that no mouse could equal.
‘Still, it might be more than one mouse.’ And then they came upon my person — distinct, clear, unequivocal.
“I explained it to myself by calling it a twitching of the nerves, which at times I had experienced, and so I tried to see if it was so. It was on my thigh that they came. I sat up in bed, threw off all clothing from the limb, leaving it entirely bare. I had my left hand flat on the spot — the raps would be then on my hand and cease on my leg. I laid my hand edgewise on the limb and the force, whatever it was, would pass across my hand and reach the leg, making itself as perceptible on each finger as on the leg. I held my hand two or three inches from my thigh and found that they instantly stopped and resumed their work, as soon as I withdrew my hand. But, I said to myself, this is some local affection which the magnetism of my hand can reach. Immediately they ran riot all over my limbs, touching me with a distinctness and rapidity that was marvellous, running up and down both limbs from the thighs to the end of the toes.”
Judge Edmonds never wavered in his beliefs nor in his advocacy of Spiritualism. He was a true champion for the cause, and he suffered dearly for it.
Despite his distinguished legal and political career and formidable amazing intellect, the Press and public, condemned him for his support of Spiritualism and, especially, for his support of the Fox sisters and the Rochester rappings.
Nonetheless, he continued in his Spiritual work, even at the expense of stepping down from the New York Supreme Court.
In the year 1873, in recognition of his years of service to Spirit and to the cause of Spiritualism, the Spiritualists of England presented Judge Edmonds with a testimonial and a Testimonial Certificate.
Two such certificates were made: one for Judge Edmonds, himself; the other was given to the founder of our Church, Marcellus Ayer, by those same British Spiritualists. This second certificate proudly adorns the wall of our Church Library.
This Testimonial begins as follows:
“To Judge Edmonds: We, on behalf of your many admirers in England, desire to testify to you our high appreciation of the distinguished services you have rendered to the cause of Spiritualism.”
It continues with beautiful words of recognition and appreciation and signed, at the bottom, by 26 prominent British Spiritualists. It was presented to Judge Edmonds in London, in November 1873.
Judge Edmonds wrote the following: Letters and Tracts on Spiritualism; Spiritualism, Volume I (1853); Spiritualism, Volume II (1855); and Uncertainty of Spiritual Intercourse (1856).
His pioneering work was an important factor in the growth and spread of Modern American Spiritualism. Curiously the Fox sisters scandal had little adverse impact in the growth of the movement.
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