The Communistic Societies of the United States, by Charles Nordhoff, , at sacred-texts.com
"It should be distinctly understood that special inspired gifts have not ceased, but still continue among this people:" so reads a brief note to the Preface of "Christ's First and Second Appearing," the edition of 1854.
In the "Testimonies concerning the Character and Ministry of Mother Ann Lee," a considerable number of her followers who had known her personally, being her contemporaries, relate particulars of her teaching and conduct, and not a few give instances of so-called miraculous cures of diseases or injuries, performed by her upon themselves or others.
The hymns or "spiritual songs" they sing are said by the Shakers to be brought to them, almost without exception, from the "spirit-land;" and the airs to which these songs are sung are believed to come from the same source. There are, however,
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A SHAKER SCHOOL.
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SHAKER MUSIC HALL.
two collections of Hymns, to most of whose contents this origin is not attributed, though even in these some of the hymns purport to have been "given by inspiration."
In the older of these collections, "A Selection of Hymns and Poems for the Use of Believers," printed at Watervliet, in Ohio, 1833, one can trace some of the earlier trials of the societies, and the evils they had to contend with within themselves. The Western societies, for instance, appear to have early opposed the drinking of intoxicating beverages. Here is a rhyme, dated 1817, which appeals to the members in the cause of total abstinence:
"From all intoxicating drink
Ancient Believers did abstain;
Then say, good brethren, do you think
That such a cross was all in vain?
"Inebriation, we allow,
First paved the way for am'rous deeds;
Then why should poisonous spirits now
Be ranked among our common needs?
"As an apothecary drug,
Its wondrous virtues some will plead;
And hence we find the stupid Slug
A morning dram does often need.
"Fatigue or want of appetite
At noon will crave a little more,
And so the same complaints at night
Are just as urgent as before.
"By want of sleep, and this and that,
His thirst for liquor is increased;
Till he becomes a bloated sot—
The very scarlet-colored beast.
"Why, then, should any soul insist
On such pernicious, pois'nous stuff?
Malignant spirits, you're dismissed!
You have possessed us long enough."
As a note to this temperance rhyme, stands the following:
"CH. RULE.—All spirituous liquors should be kept under care of the nurses, that no drams in any case whatever should be dispensed to persons in common health, and that frivolous excuses of being unwell should not be admitted. Union Village, 1826."
"Slug," in the third of the preceding verses, seems to have been a cant term among the early Shakers for a sluggard and selfish fellow, a kind of creature they have pretty thoroughly extirpated; and presumably by such free speech as is used in the following amusing rhymes:
"The depth of language I have dug
To show the meaning of a Slug;
And must conclude, upon the whole,
It means a stupid, lifeless soul,
Whose object is to live at ease,
And his own carnal nature please;
Who always has some selfish quirk,
In sleeping, eating, and at work.
"A lazy fellow it implies,
Who in the morning hates to rise;
When all the rest are up at four,
He wants to sleep a little more.
When others into meeting swarm,
He keeps his nest so good and warm,
That sometimes when the sisters come
To make the beds and sweep the room,
Who do they find wrap'd up so snug?
Ah! who is it but Mr. Slug.
"A little cold or aching head
Will send him grunting to his bed,
And he'll pretend he's sick or sore,
Just that he may indulge the more.
Nor would it feel much like a crime
If he should sleep one half his time. p. 217
"When he gets up, before he's dress'd
He's so fatigued he has to rest;
And half an hour he'll keep his chair
Before he takes the morning air.
He'll sit and smoke in calm repose
Until the trump for breakfast blows—
His breakfast-time at length is past,
And he must wait another blast;
So at the sound of the last shell,
He takes his seat and all is well."
"Slug" at the table is thus satirized:
"To save his credit, you must know
That poor old Slug eats very slow;
And as in justice he does hate
That all the rest on him should wait,
Sometimes he has to rise and kneel
Before he has made out his meal.
Then to make up what he has miss'd,
He takes a luncheon in his fist,
Or turns again unto the dish,
And fully satisfies his wish;
Or, if it will not answer then,
He'll make it up at half-past ten.
"Again he thinks it quite too soon
To eat his dinner all at noon,
But as the feast is always free,
He takes a snack at half-past three.
He goes to supper with the rest,
But, lest his stomach be oppress'd,
He saves at least a piece of bread
Till just before he goes to bed;
So last of all the wretched Slug
Has room to drive another plug.
"To fam'ly order he's not bound,
But has his springs of union round;
And kitchen sisters ev'ry where
Know how to please him to a hair: p. 218
Sometimes his errand they can guess,
If not, he can his wants express;
Nor from old Slug can they get free
Without a cake or dish of tea."
"Slug" at work, or pretending to work, gets a fling also:
"When call'd to work you'll always find
The lazy fellow lags behind—
He has to smoke or end his chat,
Or tie his shoes, or hunt his hat:
So all the rest are busy found
Before old Slug gets on the ground;
Then he must stand and take his wind
Before he's ready to begin,
And ev'ry time he straights his back
He's sure to have some useless clack;
And tho' all others hate the Slug,
With folded arms himself he'll hug.
"When he conceits meal-time is near,
He listens oft the trump to hear;
And when it sounds, it is his rule
The first of all to drop his tool;
And if he's brisk in any case,
It will be in his homeward pace."
Here, too, is a picture of "Slug" shirking his religious duties:
"In his devotions he is known
To be the same poor lazy drone:
The sweetest songs Believers find
Make no impression on his mind;
And round the fire he'd rather nod
Than labor in the works of God.
"Some vain excuse he'll often plead
That he from worship may be freed—
He's bruis'd his heel or stump'd his toe,
And cannot into meeting go;
And if he comes he's half asleep,
That no good fruit from him we reap: p. 219
He'll labor out a song or two,
And so conclude that that will do;
[And, lest through weariness he fall,
He'll brace himself against the wall],
And well the faithful may give thanks
That poor old Slug has quit the ranks.
"When the spectators are address'd,
Then is the time for Slug to rest—
From his high lot he can't be hurl'd,
To feel toward the wicked world;
So he will sit with closed eyes
Until the congregation rise;
And when the labor we commence,
He moves with such a stupid sense—
It often makes spectators stare
To see so dead a creature there."
The satire closes with a hit at "Slug's" devotion to tobacco:
"Men of sound reason use their pipes
For colics, pains, and windy gripes;
And smoking's useful, we will own,
To give the nerves and fluids tone;
But poor old Slug has to confess
He uses it to great excess,
And will indulge his appetite
Beyond his reason and his light.
If others round him do abstain,
It keeps him all the time in pain;
And if a sentence should be spoke
Against his much-beloved smoke,
Tho' it be in the way of joke,
He thinks his union's almost broke.
In all such things he's at a loss,
Because he thinks not of the cross,
But yields himself a willing slave
To what his meaner passions crave.
"This stupid soul in all his drift
Is still behind the proper gift— p. 220
With other souls he don't unite,
Nor is he zealous to do right.
Among Believers he's a drug,
And ev'ry elder hates a Slug.
"When long forbearance is the theme,
A warm believer he would seem—
For diff'rent tastes give gen'rous scope,
And he is full of faith and hope;
But talk about some good church rule,
And his high zeal you'll quickly cool.
Indulge him, then, in what is wrong,
And Slug will try to move along;
Nor will he his own state mistrust,
Until he gets so full of lust
His cross he will no longer tug,
Then to the world goes poor old Slug."
"Hoggish nature" comes in for a share of denunciation next in these lines:
"In the increasing work of the gospel we find,
The old hoggish nature we will have to bind—
To starve the old glutton, and leave him to shift,
Till in union with heaven we eat in a gift.
"What Father will teach me, I'll truly obey;
I'll keep Mother's counsel, and not go astray;
Then plagues and distempers they will have to cease,
In all that live up to the gospel's increase.
"The glutton's a seat in which evil can work,
And in hoggish nature diseases will lurk:
By faith and good works we can all overcome,
And starve the old glutton until he is done.
"But while he continues to guzzle and eat,
All kinds of distempers will still find a seat—
The plagues of old Egypt—the scab and the bile,
At which wicked spirits and devils will smile.
"Now some can despise the good porridge and soup,
And by the old glutton they surely are dup'd—
To eat seven times in a day! What a mess!
I hate the old glutton for his hoggishness. p. 221
"No wonder that plagues and distempers abound,
While there is a glutton in camp to be found,
To spurn at the counsel kind Heaven did give—
And guzzle up all, and have nothing to save.
"When glutton goes in and sits down with the rest,
His hoggish old nature it grabs for the best—
The cake and the custard, the crull and the pie—
He cares not for others, but takes care of I.
"His stomach is weak, being gorg'd on the best,
He has had sev'ral pieces secret from the rest;
He'll fold up his arms, at the rest he will look,
Because they do eat the good porridge and soup.
"Now all that are wise they will never be dup'd;
They'll feed the old glutton on porridge and soup,
Until he is willing to eat like the rest,
And not hunt the kitchen to find out the best.
"We'll strictly observe what our good parents teach:
Not pull the green apple, nor hog * in the peach;
We'll starve the old glutton, and send him adrift;
Then like good Believers we'll eat in a gift."
Following these verses are some reflections, concluding:
"Away with the sluggard, the glutton, and beast,
For none but the bee and the dove
Can truly partake of this heavenly feast,
Which springs from the fountains of love."
Obedience to the elders and ministry also appears to have been difficult to bring about, for several verses in this collection inculcate this duty. In one, called "Gospel-virtues illustrated," an old man is made the speaker, in these words:
"Now eighteen hundred seventeen—
Where am I now? where have I been?
My age about threescore and three,
Then surely thankful I will be. p. 222
"I thank my parents for my home,
I thank good Elder Solomon,
I thank kind Eldress Hortency,
And Eldress Rachel kind and free.
"Good Elder Peter with the rest—
By his good works we all are blest;
His righteous works are plainly shown—
I thank him kindly for my home.
"From the beginning of this year,
A faithful cross I mean to bear,
To ev'ry order I'll subject,
And all my teachers I'll respect.
"With ev'ry gift I will unite—
They are all good and just and right;
If mortifying they do come,
I'll still be thankful for my home.
"When I'm chastis'd I'll not complain,
Tho' my old nature suffer pain;
Tho' it should come so sharp and hot,
Even to slay me on the spot.
"I will no longer use deceit,
I will abhor the hypocrite;
His forged lies I now will hate—
His portion is the burning lake.
"My vile affections they shall die,
And ev'ry lust I'll crucify;
I'll labor to be clean and pure,
And to the end I will endure.
"Th' adulterous eye shall now be blind—
It shall not feed the carnal mind;
My looks and conduct shall express
That holy faith that I possess.
"I will not murmur, 'tis not right,
About my clothing or my diet,
For surely those who have the care,
Will give to each their equal share. p. 223
"I will take care and not dictate
The fashion of my coat or hat;
But meet the gift as it may come,
And still be thankful for my home.
"I will be careful and not waste
That which is good for man or beast;
Or any thing that we do use—
No horse or ox will I abuse.
"I will be simple as a child;
I'll labor to be meek and mild;
In this good work my time I'll spend,
And with my tongue I'll not offend."
Again, in "Repentance and Confession," a sinner confesses his misdeeds in such words as these:
"But still there's more crowds on my mind
And blacker than the rest—
They look more dark and greater crimes
Than all that I've confess'd
With tattling tongues and lying lips
I've often bore a part:
I frankly own I've made some slips
To give a lie a start.
"But worse than that I've tri'd to do,
When darken'd in my mind;
I've tri'd to be a Deist too—
That nothing was divine.
But O, good elders, pray for me!
The worst is yet behind—
I've talk'd against the ministry,
With malice in my mind.
"O Lord forgive! for mercy's sake,
And leave me not behind;
For surely I was not awake,
Else I had been consign'd.
Good ministry, can you forgive,
And elders one and all?
And, brethren, may I with you live,
And be the least of all?"
In "A Solemn Warning" there is a caution against the wiles of Satan, who tries Believers with a spirit of discontent:
"This cunning deceiver can't touch a Believer,
Unless he can get them first tempted to taste
Some carnal affection, or fleshly connection,
And little by little their power to waste.
The first thing is blinding, before undermining,
Or else the discerning would shun the vile snare;—
Thus Satan hath frosted and artfully blasted
Some beautiful blossoms that promis'd most fair.
"This wily soul-taker and final peace-breaker
May take the unwary before they suspect,
And get them to hearken to that which will darken,
And next will induce them their faith to reject;
He'll tell you subjection affords no protection—
These things you've been tau't are but notions at best;
Reject your protection, and break your connection,
And all you call'd faith you may scorn and detest."
"The Last Woe" denounces various sins of the congregation:
"In your actions unclean, you are openly seen,
And this truth you may ever remark,
That in anguish and woe, to the saints you must go,
And confess what you've done in the dark.
"From restraint you are free, and no danger you see,
Till the sound of the trumpet comes in,
Crying 'Woe to your lust—it must go to the dust,
With the unfruitful pleasures of sin.'
"And a woe to the liar—he is doom'd to the fire,
Until all his dark lies are confess'd—
Till he honestly tell, what a spirit from hell
Had its impious seat in his breast.
"And a woe to the thief, without any relief—
He is sentenc'd in body and soul,
To confess with his tongue, and restore ev'ry wrong,
What he ever has robbed or stole. p. 225
"Tho' the sinner may plead, that it was not decreed
For a man to take up a full cross,
Yet in hell he must burn, or repent and return,
And be say'd from the nature of loss."
In the following "Dialogue" "confession of sins" is urged and enforced:
"Q. Why did you choose this way you're in, which all mankind despise?
A. It was to save my soul from sin, and gain a heav'nly prize.
Q. But could you find no other way, that would have done as well?
A. Nay, any other way but this would lead me down to hell.
Q. Well, tell me how did you begin to purge away your dross?
A. By honestly confessing sin, and taking up my cross.
Q. Was it before the Son of man you brought your deeds to light?
A. That was the mortifying plan, and surely it was right.
Q. But did you not keep something back, or did you tell the whole?
A. I told it all, however black—I fully freed my soul.
Q. Do you expect to persevere, and ev'ry evil shun?
A. My daily cross I mean to bear, until the work is done.
Q. Well, is it now your full intent all damage to restore?
A. If any man I've wrong'd a cent, I'll freely give him four.
Q. And what is now the greatest foe with which you mean to war?
A. The cursed flesh—'tis that, you know, all faithful souls abhor.
Q. Have you none of its sly deceit now lurking in your breast?
A. I say there's nothing on my mind but what I have confess'd.
Q. Well, what you have proclaim'd abroad, if by your works you show, You are prepar'd to worship God, so, at, it, you, may, go."
"The Steamboat" seems to me a characteristic rhyme, which no doubt came home to Believers on the western rivers, when they were plagued with doubters and cold-hearted adherents:
"While our steamboat, Self-denial,
Rushes up against the stream,
Is it not a serious trial
Of the pow'r of gospel steam? p. 226
When Self-will, and Carnal Pleasure,
And Freethinker, all afloat,
Come down snorting with such pressure,
Right against our little boat.
"Were there not some carnal creatures
Mixed with the pure and clean,
When we meet those gospel-haters,
We might pass and not be seen;
But the smell of kindred senses
Brings them on us fair broadside,
Then the grappling work commences—
They must have a fair divide.
"All who choose the tide of nature,
Freely take the downward way;
But the doubtful hesitater
Dare not go, yet hates to stay.
To the flesh still claiming kindred,
And their faith still hanging to—
Thus we're held and basely hinder'd,
By a double-minded few.
"Wretched souls, while hesitating
Where to fix your final claim,
Don't you see our boiler heating,
With a more effectual flame!—When
the steam comes on like thunder,
And the wheels begin to play,
Must you not be torn asunder,
And swept off the downward way?
"Tho' Self-will and Carnal Reason,
Independence, Lust, and Pride,
May retard us for a season,
Saint and sinner must divide;
When releas'd from useless lumber—
When the fleshly crew is gone—
With our little faithful number,
O how swiftly we'll move on!"
The "Covenant Hymn" was publicly sung in some of the Western societies, "so that no room was left for any to say
that the Covenant [by which they agree to give up all property and labor for the general use] was not well understood." I quote here several verses:
"You have parents in the Lord, you honor and esteem,
But your equals to regard a greater cross may seem.
Where the gift of God you see,
Can you consent that it should reign?
Yea I can, and all that's free may jointly say—Amen.
"Can you part with all you've got, and give up all concern,
And be faithful in your lot, the way of God to learn?
Can you sacrifice your ease,
And take your share of toil and pain?
Yea I can, and all that please may freely say—Amen.
"Can you into union flow, and have your will subdu'd?
Let your time and talents go, to serve the gen'ral good?
Can you swallow such a pill—
To count old Adam's loss your gain?
Yea I can, and yea I will, and all may say—Amen.
"I set out to bear my cross, and this I mean to do:
Let old Adam kick and toss, his days will be but few.
We're devoted to the Lord,
And from the flesh we will be free;
Then we'll say with one accord—Amen, so let it be."
It is evident from these verses that the early Shakers had among them men who at least could make the rhymes run glibly, and who besides had a gift of plain speech. Here, for instance, is a denunciation of a scandal-monger:
"In the Church of Christ and Mother,
Carnal feelings have no place;
Here the simple love each other,
Free from ev'ry thing that's base.
Therefore when the flesh is named,
When impeachments fly around,
Honest souls do feel ashamed—
Shudder at the very sound. p. 228
"Ah! thou foul and filthy stranger!
What canst thou be after here?
Thou wilt find thyself in danger,
If thou dost not disappear.
Vanish quick, I do advise you!
For we mean to let you know
Good Believers do despise you,
As a dang'rous, deadly foe.
"Dare you, in the sight of heaven,
Show your foul and filthy pranks?
Can a place to you be given
In the bright angelic ranks?
Go! I say, thou unclean devil!
Go from this redeemed soil,
If you think you cannot travel
Through a lake of boiling oil."
In those earlier days, as in these, idle persons seem to have troubled the Shakers with the question "What would become of the world if all turned Shakers," to which here is a sharp reply:
"The multiplication of the old creation
They're sure to hold forth as a weighty command;
And what law can hinder old Adam to gender,
And propagate men to replenish the land?
But truly he never obey'd the lawgiver,
For when the old serpent had open'd his eyes,
He sought nothing greater than just to please nature,
And work like a serpent in human disguise."
"Steeple houses" are as hateful to the Shakers as to the Quakers and the Inspirationists of Amana, and they are excluded in an especial manner from the Shakers' Paradise:
"No sin can ever enter here—
Nor sinners rear a steeple;
'Tis kept by God's peculiar care,
For his peculiar people. p. 229
One faith, one union, and one Lord,
One int'rest all combining,
Believers all, with one accord,
In heav'nly concert joining.
"Far as the gospel spirit reigns,
Our souls are in communion;
From Alfred to South Union's plains,
We feel our love and union.
Here we may walk in peace and love,
With God and saints uniting;
While angels, smiling from above,
To glory are inviting."
Occasionally the book from which I am quoting gives one of those lively brief verses to which the Shaker congregation marches, with clapping hands and skipping feet; as these, for instance:
"I mean to be obedient,
And cross my ugly nature,
And share the blessings that are sent
To ev'ry honest creature;
With ev'ry gift I will unite,
And join in sweet devotion—
To worship God is my delight,
With hands and feet in motion."
"Come, let us all be marching on,
Into the New Jerusalem;
The call is now to ev'ry one
To be alive and moving.
This precious call we will obey—
We love to march the heav'nly way,
And in it we can dance and play,
And feel our spirits living."
In the newer collection, entitled "Millennial Hymns, adapted to the present Order of the Church," and printed at Canterbury, New Hampshire, in 1847, a change is noticeable. The hymns are more devotional and less energetic. There are many praises of Mother Ann—such lines as these:
"O Mother, blest Mother! to thee I will bow;
Thou art a kind Mother, thou dost teach us how
Salvation is gained, and how to increase
In purity, union, in order and peace.
"I love thee, O Mother; thy praise I will sound—
I'll bless thee forever for what I have found,
I'll praise and adore thee, to thee bow and bend,
For Mother, dear Mother, thou art my known friend."
"I will walk in true obedience, I will be a child of love;
And in low humiliation I will praise my God above.
I will love my blessed Mother, and obey her holy word,
In submission to my elders, this will join me to the Lord.
"I will stand when persecution doth around like billows roll;
I will bow in true subjection, and my carnal will control.
I will stand a firm believer in the way and work of God,
Doubts and fears shall never, never in me find a safe abode.
"When temptations do surround me, floods of evil ebb and flow,
Then in true humiliation I will bow exceeding low.
I will fear the God of heaven, I will keep his holy laws,
Treasure up his blessings given in this pure and holy cause.
"Tho' beset by wicked spirits, men and devils all combin'd,
Yet my Mother's love will save me if in faithfulness I stand:
No infernal crooked creature can destroy or harm my soul,
If I keep the love of Mother and obey her holy call."
Or this hymn, which is called "Parents' Blessing:
"My Father does love me, my Mother also
Does send me her love, and I now feel it flow;
These heavenly Parents are kind unto me,
And by their directions my soul is set free.
"They fill up my vessel with power and strength—
Yea, make my cross easy, my peace of great length;
My joy fall and perfect, my trouble but light,
My gifts very many in which I delight. p. 231
"I truly feel thankful for what I receive,
In each holy promise I surely believe;
They're able and willing to do all they've said,
And by my kind Parents I choose to be led.
"I love to feel simple, I love to feel low,
I love to be kept in the path I should go;
I love to be taught by my heavenly lead,
That I may be holy and perfect indeed."
I add another, which has the lively, quick rhythm in which the Shakers delight. It is called "Wisdom's Path:
"I'll learn to walk in wisdom's ways,
And in her path I'll spend my days;
I'll learn to do what Mother says
And follow her example.
All pride and lust this will subdue,
And every hateful passion too;
This will destroy old Satan's crew
That's seated in the temple.
"Come, honest souls, let us unite
And keep our conscience clear and white,
For surely Mother does delight
To own and bless her children.
In Father's word let us go on,
And bear our cross and do no wrong,
In faith and love then we'll be strong
To conquer every evil.
"For love and union is our stay,
We'll be strong and keep it day by day;
Then we shall never go astray,
We'll gain more love and union.
Obedience will still increase,
And every evil work will cease,
We'll gain a true and solid peace,
We'll live in Mother's union."
I make no excuse for these quotations of Shaker hymns, for the books from which they are taken have been seen by very
few outside of the order, and not even by all its members, as they are not now in common use.
The Shakers have always professed to have intimate intercourse with the "spirit world." Elder Frederick Evans says in his autobiography that from the beginning the exercises in Shaker meetings were "singing and dancing, shaking, turning, and shouting, speaking with new tongues and prophesying." Elder Frederick himself, as he remarks, "was converted to Shakerism in 1830 by spiritual manifestations," having "visions" for three weeks, which converted him, as he relates, from materialism. He adds:
"In 1837 to 1844 there was an influx from the 'spirit world,' 'confirming the faith of many disciples' who had lived among Believers for years, and extending throughout all the eighteen societies, making media by the dozen, whose various exercises, not to be suppressed even in their public meetings, rendered it imperatively necessary to close them all to the world during a period of seven years, in consequence of the then unprepared state of the people, to which the whole of the manifestations, and the meetings too, would have been as unadulterated 'foolishness,' or as inexplicable mysteries."
In a recent number of the Shaker and Shakeress (1874), Elder James S. Prescott, of the North Union Society, gave a curious account of the first appearance of this phenomenon at that place, from which I quote what follows:
"It was in the year 1838, in the latter part of summer, some young sisters were walking together on the bank of the creek, not far from the hemlock grove, west of what is called the Mill Family, where they heard some beautiful singing, which seemed to be in the air just above their heads.
"They were taken by surprise, listened with admiration, and then hastened home to report the phenomenon. Some of them afterwards were chosen mediums for the 'spirits.' We had been informed, by letter, that there was a marvelous work going on in some of the Eastern societies, particularly at Mt. Lebanon, New York, and Watervliet, near Albany. And when it reached us in the West we should all know it,
and we did know it; in the progress of the work, every individual, from the least to the greatest, did know that there was a heart-searching God in Israel, who ruled in the armies of heaven, and will yet rule among the inhabitants of earth.
"It commenced among the little girls in the children's order, who were assembled in an upper room, the doors being shut, holding a meeting by themselves, when the invisibles began to make themselves known. It was on the Sabbath-day, while engaged in our usual exercises, that a messenger came in and informed the elders in great haste that there was something uncommon going on in the girls' department. The elders brought our meeting to a close as soon as circumstances would admit, and went over to witness the singular and strange phenomena.
"When we entered the apartment, we saw that the girls were under the influence of a power not their own—they were hurried round the room, back and forth as swiftly as if driven by the wind—and no one could stop them. If any attempts were made in that direction, it was found impossible, showing conclusively that they were under a controlling influence that was irresistible. Suddenly they were prostrated upon the floor, apparently unconscious of what was going on around them. With their eyes closed, muscles strained, joints stiff, they were taken up and laid upon beds, mattresses, etc.
"They then began holding converse with their guardian spirits and others, some of whom they once knew in the form, making graceful motions with their hands—talking audibly, so that all in the room could hear and understand, and form some idea of their whereabouts in the spiritual realms they were exploring in the land of souls. This was only the beginning of a series of 'spirit manifestations,' the most remarkable we ever expected to witness on the earth. One prominent feature of these manifestations was the gift of songs, hymns, and anthems—new, heavenly, and melodious. The first inspired song we ever heard from the 'spirit world,' with words attached, was the following, sung by one of the young sisters, while in vision, with great power and demonstration of the spirit, called by the invisible.
"'THE SONG OF A HERALD.
"'Prepare, O ye faithful, To fight the good fight;
Sing, O ye redeemed,
Who walk in the light.
Come low, O ye haughty,
Come down, and repent.
Disperse, O ye naughty,
Who will not relent. p. 234
"'For Mother is coming— Oh, hear the glad sound—
To comfort her children
Wherever they're found;
With jewels and robes of fine linen
To clothe the afflicted withal.'
"Given by inspiration, at North Union, August, 1838, ten years prior to the Rochester Rappings.'
"The gifts continued increasing among the children. Among these were the gift of tongues, visiting the different cities in the 'spirit world,' holding converse with the indwellers thereof, some of whom they once knew in the body. And in going to these cities they were accompanied by their guardian angels, and appeared to be flying, using their hands and arms for wings, moving with as much velocity as the wings of a bird.
"All of a sudden they stopped, and the following questions and answers were uttered through their vocal organism: Question—What city is this? Answer—'The City of Delight.' Question—Who live here? Answer—The colored population. Question—Can we go in and see them? Answer—Certainly. For this purpose you were conducted here. They were admitted, their countenances changed. Question—Who are all these? Answer—They are those who were once slaves in the United States. Question—Who are those behind them? Answer—They are those who were once slaveholders. Question—What are they doing here? Answer—Serving the slaves, as the slaves served them while in the earth life. God is just; all wrongs have to be righted. Question—Who are those in the corner? Answer—They are those slaveholders who were unmerciful, and abused their slaves in the world, and are too proud to comply with the conditions. Question—What were the conditions? Answer—To make confession and ask forgiveness of the slaves, and right their wrongs; and this they are too proud to do. Question—What will be done with them? Answer—When their time expires they will be taken away and cast out, and will have to suffer until they repent; for all wrongs must be righted, either in the form or among the disembodied spirits, before souls can be happy. And when the girls came out of vision, they would relate the same things, which, corresponded with what they had previously talked out.
"Now, we will leave the girls for the present and go into the boys' department. Here we find them holding meetings by themselves, under
the safe guidance of their care-takers, going in vision, some boys and some girls, for the work had progressed so as to reach adults, and all were called immediately into the work whose physical organizations would possibly admit of mediumship. The peculiar gift at this time was in visiting the different cities in the 'spirit world,' and in renewing acquaintances with many of their departed friends and relatives, who were the blissful and happy residents therein.
"But before we go any further we will let our mediums describe the first city they came to after crossing the river.
"Question—'What city is this?' Answer—'The Blue City.' Question—'Who lives here?' Answer—'The Indians.' Question—'What Indians?' Answer—'The American Indians.' Question—'Why are they the first city we come to in the spirit-land, on the plane, and most accessible?' Answer—'Because the Indians lived more in accordance with the law of nature in their earth life, according to their knowledge, and were the most abused class by the whites except the slaves, and many of them now are in advance of the whites in 'spirituality,' and are the most powerful ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.
"At another time these same mediums, fifteen in number, of both sexes, sitting on benches in the meeting-house, saw a band of Indian spirits coming from the 'Blue City' in the spirit world to unite with them in their worship, and said, 'They are coming;' and as soon as the spirits entered the door they entered the mediums, which moved them from their seats as quick as lightning. Then followed the Indian songs and dances, and speaking in the Indian tongue, which was wholly unintelligible to us except by spiritual interpreters."
Some of the most curious literature of the Shakers dates from this period; and it is freely admitted by their leading men that they were in some cases misled into acts and publications which they have since seen reason to regret. Their belief is that they were deceived by false spirits, and were unable, in many cases, to distinguish the true from the false. That is to say, they hold to their faith in "spiritual communications," so called; but repudiate much in which they formerly had faith, believing this which they now reject to have come from the Evil One.
Little has ever become authentically known of the so-called
[paragraph continues] "spiritual" phenomena, which so profoundly excited the Shaker societies during seven years that, as Elder Frederick relates, they closed their doors against the world. Hervey Elkins, a person brought up in the society at Enfield, New Hampshire, in his pamphlet entitled "Fifteen Years in the Senior Order of Shakers," from which I have already quoted, gives some curious details of this period. It will be seen, from the passages I extract from Elkins, that he came under what he supposed to be "spiritual" influences himself:
"In the spring succeeding the winter of which I have treated, a remarkable religious revival began among all the Shakers of the land, east and west. It was announced several months prior to its commencement that the holy prophet Elisha was deputized to visit the Zion of God on earth, and to bestow upon each individual those graces which each needed, and to baptize with the Holy Ghost all the young who would prepare their souls for such a baptism.
"The time at length arrived. No one knew the manner in which the prophet would make himself known. The people were grave and concerned about their spiritual standing. Two female instruments from Canterbury, N. H., were at length ushered into the sanctuary. Their eyes were closed, and their faces moved in semigyrations. Their countenances were pallid, as though worn by unceasing vigils. They looked as though laden with a momentous and impending revelation. Throughout the assembly, pallid faces, tears, and trembling limbs were visible. Anxiety and excitement were felt in every mind, as all believed the instruments sacredly and superhumanly inspired. The alternate redness and pallor of every countenance revealed this anxiety. For the space of five minutes the spacious hall was as silent as the tomb. One of the mediums then advanced in the space between the ranks of brethren and sisters, and announced with a clear, deep, and sonorous voice, and in sublime and authoritative language, the mission of the holy prophet. The ministry then bade the instruments to be free and proceed as they could answer to God; and conferred on them plenary power to conduct the meetings as the prophet should direct.
"After marching a few songs, the prophet requested the formation of two circles, one containing all the brethren, the other the sisters. The two mediums were first enclosed by the circle of brethren. They both
were young women between twenty and twenty-five years of age, and had never before been at Enfield. They had probably never heard the names of two thirds of the younger members. They moved around in these circles, stopping before each one as though reading the condition of every heart. As they passed some, they evinced pleasure; as they passed others, they bespoke grief; others, yet, an obvious contempt; by which it seemed they looked within, and saw with delight or horror the state of all. From our knowledge of the members, we knew they passed and noticed them as their works merited. Little was said to separate individuals in the first meeting. In the second, we were requested to form six circles, three of each sex, and those of a circle to be connected together by the taking hold of hands; and in this manner to bow, bend, and dance. In this condition an influence was felt, upon which psychologists and biologists would differ. It would be needless to enumerate the many gifts, the prophecies, the extempore songs, the revelations, the sins exposed, and the hypocrites ejected from the society during this period of two months. But, as near as we could estimate, four hundred new songs were sung in that time, either by improvisation or inspiration, of which I have my opinion. I doubt not but that many were inspired by spirits congenial with themselves, and consequently some of the songs evinced a fatuity and simplicity peculiar to the instrument. On the other hand, many songs were given from spheres above, higher in melody, sentiment, and pathos than any originating with earth's inhabitants.
"I recollect that the first spiritual gift presented to me was a 'Cup of Solemnity.' I drank the contents, and felt for a season the salutary effects. During the revival I became sincerely converted. I for a time, by reason of prejudice and distrust, resisted the effect of the impressions, which at length overwhelmed me in a flood of tears, shed for joy and gladness, as I more and more turned my thoughts to the Infinite. At last a halo of heavenly glory seemed to surround me. I drank deep of the cup of the waters of life, and was lifted in mind and purpose from this world of sorrow and sin. I soared in thought to God, and enjoyed him in his attributes of purity and love. I was wafted by angels safely above the ocean of sensual enjoyment which buries so many millions, but into which I had never fallen. I explored the beauties of ineffable bliss, and caught a glimpse of that divinity which is the culmination of science and the end of the world. The adoration and solemnity of the sanctuary enveloped me as with a mantle, even when employed in manual labor and in the company of my companions. The frivolity of some of my companions
disgusted me. The extreme and favorable change wrought within me in so short a time was often remarked by the elders and members of the society; but the praise or the censure of mortals were to me like alternate winds, and of little avail.
"Two years thus passed, in which my highest enjoyments and pleasures were an inward contemplation of the beauty, love, and holiness of God, and in the ecstatic impressions that I was in the hollow of his hand, and owned and blessed of him. Still later in life I retained and could evoke at times the same profoundly religious impressions, contaminated, however, by other favorite objects of study and attachment. Even the expression of my countenance wore an aspect of deep, tender, and benignant gravity, which the reflection of less holy subjects could not produce. It was my delight to pray fervently and tacitly, and this I often did besides the usual time allotted for such devotion. (Vocal prayer is not admissible among the Shakers.) I loved to unite in the dance, and give myself up to the operations of spirits even, if it would not thwart my meditative communion with God and with God alone. Though instruments or mediums were multiplied around me, dancing in imitation of the spirits of all nations, singing and conversing in unknown tongues, some evincing a truly barbarian attitude and manners, I stood in mute thanksgiving and prayer. At times I was asked by the elders if I could not unite and take upon me an Indian, a Norwegian, or an Arabian spirit? I would then strive to be impressed with their feelings, and act in conformity thereto. But such inspiration, I found, was not the revelation of the Holy Ghost. It was not that which elevated and kept me from all trials and temptations. But my inward spontaneous devotion was the kind I needed. I informed the elders of my opinion, and they concurred in it, only they regarded the inspiration of simple and unsophisticated spirits as a stepping-stone to a higher revelation, by virtue of removing pride, vanity, and self-will, those great barriers against the accession of holy infusions."
* * * * * * * * *
"In the fall of that season this revival redoubled its energy. The gifts were similar to those of the spring previous, but less charity was shown to the hypocrite and vile pretender. It was announced that Jehovah-Power and Wisdom—the dual God, would visit the inhabitants of Zion, and bestow a blessing upon each individual as their works should merit. A time was given for us to prepare for his coming. Every building, every apartment, every lane, field, orchard, and pasture, must be cleansed of
all rubbish and needless encumbrance; so that even a Shaker village, so notorious for neatness, wore an aspect fifty per cent more tidy than usual. To sweep our buildings, regulate our stores, pick up and draw to a circular wood-saw old bits of boards, stakes, and poles that were fit for naught but fuel, and collect into piles to be burned upon the spot all such as were unfit for that, was the order of the day. Even the sisters debouched by scores to help improve the appearance of the farm and lake shores, on which were quantities of drift-wood. Thus was passed a fortnight of pleasant autumnal weather. As the evenings approached, we set fire to the piles of old wood, which burned, the flames shooting upward, in a serene evening, like the innumerable bonfires which announce the ingress of a regal visitant to monarchical countries. Viewed from the plain below, in the gray, dim twilight of a soft and serene atmosphere, when all nature was wrapped in the unique and beautiful solemnity of an unusually prorogued autumn, these fires, emerging in the blue distance from the vast amphitheatre of hills, were picturesque in the highest degree. How neat! How fascinating! And how much like our conceptions of heaven the whole vale appeared! And then to regard this work of cleansing and beautifying the domains of Mount Zion as that preparatory to the visitation of the Most High, is something which speaks to the heart and says: 'Dost thou appear as beautiful, as clean, and as comely in the sight of God as do these elements of an unthinking world? Is thine heart also prepared to be searched with the candles of him from whom no unclean thing is hidden?'
"The following words were said to have been brought by an angel from Jehovah, and accompanied by a most beautiful tune of two airs:
'I shall march through Mount Zion,
With my angelic band;
I shall pass through the city
With my fan in my hand;
And around thee, O Jerusalem,
My armies will encamp,
While I search my Holy Temple
With my bright burning lamp.'
"It was during this revival that Henry, of whom I have spoken, was ejected from the society. During this, as also during the previous excitement, he had exhibited an aversion which often found vent in bitter taunts and jeers. Sometimes, however, a simulated unity of feeling had prevented his publicly incurring the imputation of open rebellion. He
had learned some scraps of the Latin language, and on the occasion of the evening worship in which he was expelled, he afterward informed us that, at the time he was arraigned for expulsion, he was pretendedly uniting with those who were speaking in unknown languages by employing awful oaths and profanity in the Latin tongue. A female instrument, said to be employed by the spirit of Ann Lee, approached him while thus engaged, and uttered in a low, distinct, and funereal accent a denunciation which severed him as a withered branch from the tree of life. He suddenly bowed as if beneath the weight of a terrible destiny, smiting his breast and ejaculating, 'Pardon! Pardon! Oh, forgive—forgive me my transgressions'. The elders strove to hush his cries, and replied that 'all forbearance is at an end.' His ardent vociferations now degenerated into inarticulate yells of horror and demoniacal despair. He rushed from the group which surrounded him, he glided like one unconscious of the presence of others from one extremity of the hall to another, he smote with clenched fists the walls of the apartment, and reeled at last in convulsive agony, uttering the deep, hollow groan of inexorable expiation. In this situation he was hurried for the last time from the sanctuary which he had so often profaned, and from the presence of those moistened eyes and commiserative looks which he never would again behold. The confession of his blasphemous profanity he made at the trustees' office prior to his leaving the society, which occurred the subsequent morning."
At another time such scenes as the following are described:
"Shrieks of some one, apparently in great distress, first announced a phenomenon, which caused the excitement. The screeching proceeded from a girl of but thirteen years of age, who had previously among the Shakers been a clairvoyant, and who has since been a powerful medium for spiritual manifestation elsewhere. She soon fell upon the floor, uttering awful cries, similar to those we had often heard emanating from instruments groaning under the pressure of some hidden abomination in the assembly. She plucked out entire handfuls of her hair, and wailed and shrieked like one subjected to all the conceived agonies of hell. The ministry and elders remarked that they believed that something was wrong; something extremely heinous was covered from God's witnesses somewhere in the assembly. All were exhorted to search themselves, and see if they had nothing about them that God disowns. The meeting was soon dismissed, but the medium continued in her abnormal and deplorable condition. Near the middle of the succeeding night we were all
awakened by the ringing of the alarm, and summoned quickly to repair to the girls' apartments. We obeyed. The same medium lay upon a bed, uttering in the name of an apostate from the Shaker faith, and who was still living in New England, tremendous imprecations against himself, warning all to beware of what use they make of their privilege in Zion, telling us of his awful torments in hell, how his flesh (or the substance of his spiritual body) was all to strings and ringlets torn, how he was roasted in flames of brimstone and tar, and, finally, that all these calamities were caused by his doleful corruptions and pollutions while a member, and professedly a brother to us. This, it was supposed by many, was by true revelation the anticipation of the future state of this victim of apostasy and sin. Two or three more girls were soon taken in the same manner, and became uncontrollable. They were all instruments for reprobated spirits, and breathed nothing but hatred and blasphemy to God. They railed, they cursed, they swore, they heaped the vilest epithets upon the heads of the leaders and most faithful of the members, they pulled each other's and their own hair, threw knives, forks, and the most dangerous of missiles. When the instruments were rational, the elders entreated them to keep off such vile spirits. They would weep in anguish, and reply that, unless they spoke and acted for the spirits, they would choke them to death. They would then suddenly swoon away, and in struggling to resist them would choke and gasp, until they had the appearance of a victim strangled by a rope tightly drawn around her neck. If they would then speak, the strangulation would cease. In the mean time two females of adult age, and two male youths, were seized in the same manner. Unless confined, they would elope, and appear to all intents the victims of insanity. One of the young women eloped, fled to a lake which was covered with ice, was pursued by some of the ox teamsters, and carried back to the infirmary. Two men could with difficulty hold a woman or a child when thus influenced. To prevent mischief and elopement, we were obliged to envelop their bodies and their arms tightly in sheets, and thus sew them up and confine them until the spell was over. Such delirium generally lasted but a few hours. It would seize them at any time and at any place.
"The phenomena to which we allude was the source of much facetious pleasantry with the young brethren. One of the infernal spirits had one evening declared that 'before morning they would have the deacon and Lupier.' 'Deacon' was an epithet applied to myself, as a token of familiarity. The tidings of the declaration of this infernal agent were soon
conveyed to me. It happened that my companion of the dormitory, a middle-aged man, had that evening gone to watch with the mediums, and I was left alone. I replied to my companions, who interrogated and sarcastically congratulated me on my prospects for the night, that 'if the corporeal influence of incarnate devils could be kept from the room, I would combat without aid all other influences and answer for my own safety.' I accordingly locked myself into my room, and enjoyed, unmolested for the night, except by occasional raps upon the door by my passing comrades, some of whom were up all night by reason of the excitement, a sound and pleasant sleep. One or two instances occurred in which a superhuman agency was indubitably obvious. One of the abnormal males lay in a building at some distance from the infirmary where the female instruments were confined. Suddenly one of the last, who had been for some time in a quiescent state and rational, was seized by one of these paroxysms, which were always accompanied by dreadful contortions and sudden twitchings of the body, and, speaking for the spirit, said that 'Old S—— had bound him with a surcingle, and he had left E——,' one of the male instruments. The physician instantly repaired to the building where E—— lay, and he was perfectly rational. S——, the watch, informed the physician that E—— raved so violently a moment before that he bound his arms to his body by passing a surcingle around both, and he quickly became himself. At another time one of the females took a handful of living coals in her bare hands, and thus carried them about the room without even injuring the cuticle of the skin.
"The phenomena and excitement soon dwindled away by the tremendous opposition directed against them; and when afterward spoken about, were designated by the sinister phrase—'The Devil's Visitation.'
"Other ministrations and gifts, original and perfectly illustrative of the inspirations of crude and uncivilized spirits, continued as usual to exist. They were truly ludicrous. I have seen female instruments in uncouth habits, and in imitation of squaws, and a few males acting as suneps, glide in groups on a stiffly frozen snow, shouting, dancing, yelling, and whooping, and others acting precisely the peculiar traits of a Negro, an Arab, a Chinese, an Italian, or even the polite gayety of a Frenchman. And, what is still more astounding, speaking the vernacular dialects of each race. Their confabulation, aided by inspired interpreters, was truly amusing and interesting. On one occasion I saw a sister, inspired by a squaw, her head mounted with an old hat of felt, cocked, jammed, and
indented in no geometrical form, rush to a pan containing a collection of the amputated legs of hens, seize a handful of the raw delicacy, and devour them with as much alacrity as a Yankee woman would an omelet or a doughnut."
In general, Elkins relates:
"I have myself seen males, but more frequently females, in a superinduced condition, apparently unconscious of earthly things, and declaring in the name of departed spirits important and convincing revelations. Speaking in foreign tongues and prophesying were the most common gifts. In February, 1848, a medium became abstracted from earthly scenes, and announced the presence of an angel of God. The angel declared, through her, that he was sent on a mission to France, and that before many days we should hear of his doings in that nation. This announcement was in presence of the whole family, and it was then and there noted down. France at that time was, for aught we knew, resting upon a permanent political basis; or as nearly in that condition as she ever was. In a few days the revolution of the 24th of February precipitated the monarchy into an interregnum, which philanthropists hoped was bottomless.
"Turning rapidly upon the toes, bowing, bending, twisting, and reeling like one a victim to the fumes of intoxication; swooning and lying prostrate with limbs stiff and unyielding, like a corpse, and to all outward appearance the vital spark extinct; then suddenly resuscitating—the mind still abstracted from scenes below—and rising to join in the jubilancy of the dance, in company with and in imitation of the angels around the throne of God, singing extemporaneous anthems and songs, or those learned direct of seraphs in the regions of bliss—such are the many exercises, effusions of devotion, and supernatural elapses of which I was for fifteen years at intervals an eye and ear witness. Also the exposure of sin, designating in some cases the transgressor, the act, and the place of perpetration, of which the accused was most generally found culpable.
"More than a score of new dances were performed, with an attitude of grace and with the precision of a machine, by about twenty female clairvoyants. They said they learned them of seraphs before the throne of God.
"I was doubtful of their assertions, for such things were to me novel. I however determined not to overstep the bounds of prudence, and declare the work an illusion, for fear that I might blaspheme a higher power.
[paragraph continues] I communicated my doubts to a few of my companions, and one, less cautious than myself, immediately broke forth in imprecations against it. I never was secretly opposed, but a turbulent disposition or a love for dramatic scenes, prompted by the hope of detecting either the validity or deception of such phenomena, impelled me to wink opposition to my reckless companion. In the devotional exercises, which served as a preliminary to the entrance of the mind into a superior condition, such as whirling, twisting, and reeling, we all took a part. Henry, for that was the name of the youth who was so zealous in his aspersions, united awkwardly and derisively in these exercises. Amid so many arms, legs, and bodies, revolving, oscillating, staggering, and tripping, it is not remarkable that a few should be thrown prostrate (not violently, however) upon the floor. One evening, in a boy's meeting at a time of great excitement, when the spirits of some of our companions were reported to be in spiritual spheres, and other departed spirits were careering their mortal ladies in the graceful undulations of a celestial dance, Henry and many others, among whom I was seen, were whirling, staggering, and rolling, striving in vain, by all the humility we could assume, to be also admitted into the regions of spiritual recognition, Henry suddenly tripped and fell. One of his visionary companions instantly sprang, passed his hands with great rapidity over him, as though binding him with invisible cords, and then returned to his graceful employment. The clairvoyant's eyes were closed, as indeed were the eyes of all while in that condition. In vain Henry struggled to rise, to turn, or hardly to move. He was fettered, bound fast by invisible manacles. The brethren were summoned to witness the sight. In the space of perhaps half an hour the clairvoyant returned, loosened his fetters, and he arose mortified and confounded. Singularly disposed, he ever after treated these gifts with virulent ridicule, and never was heard to utter any serious remarks concerning this transaction. The clairvoyant after this event was the butt of his satire and jests, and received them without revenge so long as Henry remained, which was about five years—a reckless, abandoned, evil-minded person, eventually severed by that same power which he strove incessantly to ridicule. All these strange operations and gifts are attributed by the Shakers to the influence of superhuman power like that manifested in the Primitive Church."
Some of the hymns which date from this period have fragments of the "strange tongues" in which the "mediums"
spoke. Here is one, dated at New Lebanon, and printed in the collection called "Millennial Hymns:"
"Lo all ye, hark ye, dear children, and listen to me,
For I am that holy Se lone´ se ka´ ra an ve´;
My work upon earth is holy, holy and pure,
That work which will ever, forever endure.
"Yea, my heavenly Father hath se-ve´-ned to you
That power which is holy and that faith which is true;
O then, my beloved, why will ye delay?
O la ho´ le en se´ ren, now while it is day.
"The holy angels in heaven their trumpets do raise,
And with saints upon earth sound endless praise.
Blessed, most blessed, your day, and holy your call,
O ven se´ ne ven se´ ne, yea every soul.
"All holy se ka´ ren are the free blessings given
And bestowed on you from the fountain of heaven;
Yea, guardian spirits from the holy Selan´,
Bring you heavenly love, vi´ ne see´, Lin´ se van´.
"Press ye on, my dear children, the holy Van´ la hoo´
Is your heavenly guide, and will safely bear you through
All vo´len tribulation you meet here below;
Then be humble, dear children, be faithful and true.
"For God, your holy, holy HEAVENLY FATHER, will never,
Never forsake his holy house of Israel on e.a.r.t.h.,
But the blessings of heaven will continue to flow
On you, my beloved Ar´ se le be low. (n-o-t-e-s.)"
The most curious relics of those days are two considerable volumes, which have since fallen into discredit among the Shakers themselves, but were at the time of their issue regarded as highly important. One of these is entitled "A Holy, Sacred, and Divine Soil and Book, from the Lord God of Heaven to the Inhabitants of Earth: Revealed in the United Society at New Lebanon, County of Columbia, State of
[paragraph continues] New York, United States of America. Received by the Church of this Communion, and published in union with the same." It is dated Canterbury, N. H., 1843; contains 405 pages; and is in two parts. The first part contains the revelation proper; the second, various "testimonies" to its accuracy and divine origin. Of these evidences, some purport to be by the prophets Elisha, Ezekiel, Malachi, Isaiah, and others; from Noah, St. Peter, St. John; by "Holy and Eternal Mother Wisdom," and a "holy and mighty angel of God," whose name was Ma´ne Me´rah Vak´na Si´na Jah; but the greater number are by living Shakers. As a part of the revelation, the Shakers were commanded to print, "in their own society, five hundred copies" of this book, to be "given to the children of men," and "it is my requirement that they be printed before the 22d of next September. To be bound in yellow paper, with red backs; edges yellow also." Moreover, missionary societies were commanded to translate the book into foreign tongues, and I have heard that a copy was sent to every ruler or government which could be reached by mail.
The body of the book is a mixture of Scripture texts and "revelations of spirits;" and the absurdity of it appears to have struck even the so-called "holy angel" who was supposed to have superintended the writing, as appears from the following passage:
"We are four of the holy and mighty angels of God, sent from before his throne, to pass and repass through the four quarters of the earth; and many are the holy angels that bear us company. And thus we shall visit the earth in partial silence, as this Roll goes forth, until we have marked the door-posts of all, as our God hath commanded, who shall humble themselves and repent at his word, by proclaiming a solemn fast, and cease from their awful crimes of wickedness, and turn to him in righteousness.
"My name, says the angel whose quarter is eastward, and stands as first, is HOLY ASSAN´ DE LA JAH´. The second, whose part is second, and quarter westward, is MI´CHAEL VAN´ CE VA´ NE. The
third, whose part is third, and quarter northward, is GA´ BRY VEN´ DO VAS´ TER REEN´. The fourth, whose part is fourth, and quarter southward, is VEN DEN´ DE PA´ ROL JEW´ LE JAH´.
"These are our names in our own tongues, and we are sent on earth to prepare the way for the Most High; and the whole human family will be convinced of this before the final event of our mission shall arrive.
"And although we know that the words of this book will be considered by many as being produced in the wildest of enthusiasm, madness, blasphemy, and fanaticism, and by others as solemn, sacred, and awful truths; yet do we declare unto all flesh that this Roll and Book contains the word of the God of heaven, your Almighty Creator, sent forth direct from his eternal throne now in this your day.
"And by this word shall every soul on earth be judged, in mercy or in judgment, whether they believe or disbelieve. We are not sent forth by our God to argue with mortals, but to declare his word and his work. And we furthermore declare unto all the inhabitants of earth that they have no time to lose in preparing for their God.
"If there be any who cannot understand to their souls' satisfaction (though the requirements are plain), yet they may apply wheresoever they believe they can be correctly informed."
As a sample of the book, here is an account by one of the mediums of her "interview with a holy angel:"
"It was in the evening of the twenty-second of January, eighteen hundred and forty-two, while I was busily employed putting all things in readiness for the close of the week, that I distinctly heard my name called very loudly, and with much earnestness. I could not go so well at that moment, and I answered, 'I will come soon,' for I supposed it to be some one in the adjoining room that wished to see me; but the word was repeated three times, and I hastened to the place from whence the sound seemed to come, but there was no one present.
"I soon saw in the middle of the room four very large and bright lights, or balls of fire, as they appeared to be; they moved slowly each way, and after a little time joined together in one exceedingly large light, or pillar of fire. At this moment I heard a loud voice, which uttered many words with such mighty force that I feared to stay in the room, and attempted to go out; but found that I had not power to move my feet.
"For some time I could not understand one word that was sounded
forth; but the first that I did understand were as follows: 'Hark! Hark! hearken, oh thou child of mortality, unto the word that is and shall be sounded aloud in thine ears, again and again, even until it is obeyed.
"'And lo, I say a time, and a time, and a half-time shall not pass by before my voice shall be heard, and my word sounded forth to the nations abroad. But in the Zion of my likeness and true righteousness shall it be received first, and from thence shall it go forth; for thus and thus hath the God of heaven and earth declared and purposed that it should be.
"'Then why will you, O why will you, yet fear to obey? What would you that your God would do in your presence, that you might fear his power rather than that of mortal man?'
"From this moment I was not sensible where I was; and after a little time of silence the body of light, or pillar of fire, dispersed, and I saw a mighty angel coming from the east, and I heard these words:
"'Woe, woe, and many woes shall be upon the mortal that shall see and will not stop to behold.'"
And so on, for a good many pages.
The second work is called "The Divine Book of Holy and Eternal Wisdom, revealing the Word of God, out of whose mouth goeth a sharp Sword. Written by Paulina Bates, at Watervliet, N. Y., United States of America; arranged and prepared for the Press at New Lebanon, N. Y. Published by the United Society called Shakers. Printed at Canterbury, N.H., 1849." This book contains 718 pages; and pretends also to be a series of revelations by angels and deceased persons of note. In the Preface by the editors its origin is thus described:
"During a number of years past many remarkable displays of divine power and heavenly gifts have been manifested among the children of Zion in all the branches of the United Society of Believers in the second appearing of Christ. Much increasing light has been revealed on many subjects which have heretofore remained as mysteries; and many prophetic revelations have been brought forth, from time to time, through messengers chosen and inspired by heavenly power and wisdom.
"Among these it has pleased God to select a female of the United Society at Wisdom's Valley (Watervliet), and indue her with the heavenly light of revelation as an instrument of divine Wisdom, to write by divine
inspiration those solemn warnings, prophetic revelations, and heavenly instructions which will be found extensively diffused through the sacred pages of this book.
"These were written in a series of communications at various times during the year 1841, '42, '43, and '44, with few exceptions, which will be seen by their several dates. But the inspired writer had no knowledge that they were designed by the Divine Spirit to be published to the world until a large portion of the work was written; therefore, whenever she was called upon by the angel of God, she wrote whatever the angel dictated at the time, without any reference to the connective order and regular arrangement of a book; for she was not directed so to do, for reasons which were afterwards revealed to her and other witnesses then unknown to her.
"Hence it was made known to be the design of the Divine Spirit that these communications should be transmitted to the Holy Mount (New Lebanon), there to be prepared for publication by agents appointed for that purpose, in union with the leading authority of the Church. Accordingly they were conveyed to New Lebanon, and the subscribers were appointed as editors, to examine and arrange them in regular and convenient order for the press, and divine instructions were given for that purpose.
"Having therefore faithfully examined the manuscripts containing these communications, we have compiled them into one book, in two general divisions or volumes, agreeably to the instructions given. We have also, for convenient arrangement, divided the whole into seven parts, according to the relative connection which appeared in the different subjects. And for the convenience of the reader we have divided each part into chapters, prefixing an appropriate title to each.
"Some passages and annotations have been added by The Angel of Prophetic Light, who by inspiration has frequently assisted in the preparation and arrangement of the work, for the purpose of illustrating and confirming some of the original subjects by further explanations. A few notes have also been added by the editors for the information of the reader. These are all distinguished in their proper places from the original matter.
"But although it was found necessary to transcribe the whole, in order to prepare it properly and intelligibly for the press, yet we have used great care to preserve the sense of the original in its purity; and we can testify that the substance and spirit of the work have been conscientiously preserved in full throughout the whole.
"This work is called 'Holy Wisdom's Book,' because Holy and Eternal Wisdom is the Mother, or Bearing Spirit, of all the works of God; and because it was especially revealed through the line of the female, being WISDOM'S Likeness; and she lays special claim to this work, and places her seal upon it.
"An Appendix is added, containing the testimonies of various divine and heavenly witnesses to the sacred truth and reality of the declarations and revelations contained in the work. The most of these were given before the inspired writers who received them had any earthly knowledge concerning the book or its contents. A testimony is also affixed to the work by the elders of the family in which the inspired writer resides, bearing witness to the honesty and uprightness of her character, and her faithfulness in the work of God."
The main object of the book is to warn sinners of all kinds from the "wrath to come." Especial woes, by the way, are denounced against slaveholders and slave traders: "Whether they be clothed in tenements of clay, or whether they be stripped of their earthly tabernacles, the same hand of Justice shall meet them whithersoever they flee." It must be remembered to the honor of the Shakers that they have always and every where consistently opposed human slavery.
The "Divine Book of Holy Wisdom" contains the "testimonies" of the "first man, Adam," of the "first woman, Eve," of Noah and all the patriarchs, and of a great many other ancient worthies; but, alas! what they have to say is not new, and of no interest to the unregenerate reader.
These two volumes are not now, as formerly, held in honor by the Shakers. One of their elders declared to me that I ought never to have seen them, and that their best use was to burn them. But I found them on the table of the visitors' room in one or two of the Western societies, and I suppose they are still believed in by some of the people.
At this day most (but not all) of the Shaker people are sincere believers in what is commonly called Spiritualism. At a Shaker funeral I have heard what purported to be a message
from the spirit whose body was lying in the coffin in the adjoining hall. In one of the societies it is believed that a magnificent spiritual city, densely inhabited, and filled with palaces and fine residences, lies upon their domain, and at but a little distance from the terrestrial buildings of the Church family; and frequent communications come from this spirit city to their neighbors. "When I was a little girl, I desired very much to have a hymn sent through me to the family from the spirit-land; and after waiting and wishing for a long time, one day when I was little expecting it, as I was walking about, a hymn came to me thus, to my inexpressible delight"—so said a Shaker eldress to me in all seriousness. "We have frequently been visited by a tribe of Indians (spirits of Indians), who used to live in this country, and whose spirits still come back here occasionally," said another Shaker sister to me.
On the other hand, when I asked one of the elders how far he believed that their hymns are inspired, he asked me whether it did not happen that I wrote with greater facility at one time than at another; and when I replied in the affirmative, he said, "In that case I should say you were inspired when your words come readily, and to that degree I suppose our hymn-writers are inspired. They have thought about the subject, and the words at last come to them."
I think I have before said that the Shakers do not attempt to suppress discussion of the relations of the sexes; they do not pretend that their celibate life is without hardships or difficulties; but they boldly assert that they have chosen the better life, and defend their position with not a little skill against all attacks. A good many years ago Miss Charlotte Cushman, after a visit to Watervliet, wrote the following lines, which were published in the Knickerbocker Magazine:
Are you indeed the things you seem to be,
Of earth—yet of its iron influence free— p. 252
From all that stirs
Our being's pulse, and gives to fleeting life
What well the Hun has termed 'the rapture of the strife.'
"Are the gay visions gone,
Those day-dreams of the mind, by fate there flung,
And the fair hopes to which the soul once clung, And battled on;
Have ye outlived them? All that must have sprung,
And quicken'd into life, when ye were young?
"Does memory never roam
To ties that, grown with years, ye idly sever,
To the old haunts that ye have left forever—Your early homes?
Your ancient creed, once faith's sustaining lever,
The loved who erst prayed with you—now may never?
"Has not ambition's paean
Some power within your hearts to wake anew
To deeds of higher emprise—worthier you, Ye monkish men,
Than may be reaped from fields? Do ye not rue
The drone-like course of life ye now pursue?
"The camp—the council—all
That woos the soldier to the field of fame—
That gives the sage his meed—the bard his name And coronal—
Bidding a people's voice their praise proclaim;
Can ye forego the strife, nor own your shame?
"Have ye forgot your youth,
When expectation soared on pinions high,
And hope shone out on boyhood's cloudless sky, Seeming all truth—
When all looked fair to fancy's ardent eye,
And pleasure wore an air of sorcery?
"You, too! What early blight
Has withered your fond hopes, that ye thus stand,
A group of sisters, 'mong this monkish band? p. 253
Ye creatures bright!
Has sorrow scored your brows with demon hand,
Or o'er your hopes passed treachery's burning brand?
"Ye would have graced right well
The bridal scene, the banquet, or the bowers
Where mirth and revelry usurp the hours—Where, like a spell,
Beauty is sovereign—where man owns its powers,
And woman's tread is o'er a path of flowers.
"Yet seem ye not as those
Within whose bosoms memories vigils keep:
Beneath your drooping lids no passions sleep; And your pale brows
Bear not the tracery of emotion deep—
Ye seem too cold and passionless to weep!"
A "Shaker Girl," in one of the Kentucky societies, published soon afterward the following "Answer to Charlotte Cushman," which is certainly not without spirit:
"We are, indeed, the things we seem to be,
Of earth, and from its iron influence free:
For we are they, or halt, or lame, or dumb,
'On whom the ends of this vain world are come.'
"We have outlived those day-dreams of the mind—
Those flattering phantoms which so many bind;
All man-made creeds (your 'faith's sustaining lever')
We have forsaken, and have left forever!
"To plainly tell the truth, we do not rue
The sober, godly course that we pursue;
But 'tis not we who live the dronish lives,
But those who have their husbands or their wives!
But if by drones you mean they're lazy men,
Then, Charlotte Cushman, take it back again;
For one, with half an eye, or half a mind,
Can there see industry and wealth combined.
"If camps and councils—soldiers' 'fields of fame'—
Or yet a people's praise or people's blame, p. 254
Is all that gives the sage or bard his name,
We can 'forego the strife, nor own our shame'
What great temptations you hold up to view
For men of sense or reason to pursue!
The praise of mortals!—what can it avail,
When all their boasted language has to fail?
And 'sorrow hath not scored with demon hand,'
Nor 'o'er our hopes pass'd treachery's burning brand;'
But where the sorrows and the treachery are,
I think may easily be made appear.
In 'bridal scenes,' in 'banquets and in bowers!'
'Mid revelry and variegated flowers,
Is where your mother Eve first felt their powers.
The 'bridal scenes,' you say, 'we'd grace right well!'
'Lang syne' there our first parents blindly fell!—
The bridal scene! Is this your end and aim?
And can you this pursue, 'nor own your shame?'
If so—weak, pithy, superficial thing—
Drink, silent drink the sick hymeneal spring.
'The bridal scene! the banquet or the bowers,
Or woman's [bed of thorns, or] path of flowers,'
Can't all persuade our souls to turn aside
To live in filthy lust or cruel pride.
Alas! your path of flowers will disappear;
E'en now a thousand thorns are pointed near;
Ah! here you find 'base treachery's burning brand,'
And sorrows score the heart, nor spare the hand;
But here 'Beauty's sovereign'—so say you—
A thing that in one hour may lose its hue—
It lies upon the surface of the skin—
Aye, Beauty's self was never worth a pin;
But still it suits the superficial mind—
The slight observer of the human kind;
The airy, fleety, vain, and hollow thing,
That only feeds on wily flattering.
'Man owns its powers?' And what will not man own
To gain his end—to captivate—dethrone?
The truth is this, whatever he may feign,
You'll find your greatest loss his greatest gain; p. 255
For like the bee, he will improve the hour,
And all day long he'll hunt from flower to flower,
And when he sips the sweetness all away,
For aught he cares, the flowers may all decay.
But here, each other's virtues we partake,
Where men and women all their ills forsake:
True virtue spreads her bright angelic wing,
While saints and seraphs praise the Almighty King.
And when the matter's rightly understood,
You'll find we labor for each other's good;
This, Charlotte Cushman, truly is our aim—
Can you forego this strife, 'nor own your shame?'
Now if you would receive a modest hint,
You'd surely keep your name at least from print,
Nor have it hoisted, handled round and round,
And echoed o'er the earth from mound to mound,
As the great advocate of ——— (Oh, the name!).
Now can you think of this, 'nor own your shame?'
But, Charlotte, learn to take a deeper view
Of what your neighbors say or neighbors do;
And when some flattering knaves around you tread,
Just think of what a SHAKER GIRL has said."
The Shaker and Shakeress, a monthly journal, edited by Elder Frederick Evans and Eldress Antoinette Doolittle, is the organ of the society; and in its pages their views are set forth with much shrewdness and ability. It is not so generally interesting a journal as the Oneida Circular, the organ of the Perfectionists, because the Shakers concern themselves almost exclusively with religious matters, and give in their paper but few details of their daily and practical life.
I give here, in a convenient tabular form, figures showing the present and past numbers of the different Shaker Societies—males, females, and children—the amount of land each society owns, and the number of laborers, not members, it employs:
Click to enlarge
The returns of land include, for the most part, only the home farms; and several of the societies own considerable quantities of real estate in distant states, of which I could get no precise returns.
221:* To eat like a hog.