Great Spiritualists and Friends

Tarkington, Booth (Indiana, USA, July 29, 1869 - May 19, 1946): Novelist and Dramatist
Institution / Country:USA

Whether or not Booth Tarkington, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author from Indiana (July 29, 1869 to May 19, 1946), was a “card-carrying” Spiritualist is not certain, but it is clear that he was sympathetic toward the Spiritualist movement. In the Introduction to the 1920 book, “Neither Dead Nor Sleeping,” by May Wright Sewall, Tarkington wrote:

“The seeker for the truth about survival (whether the truth be consolation or not) must know that his way lies through a maze, which one enters trying to find a path that will take him out on the opposite side. There are a thousand fraudulent bypaths and he must learn to recognize at their entrances the little marks which show that the way out does not lie there – and yet the true path may be disguised by these same little marks. The seeker’s heart must be steady and his head cool; he will see queer things at which he must remember to laugh, and his elbow will be plucked by hands reaching from many a curious cul-de-sac. If he becomes bewildered he will see things that do not exist, and he may begin to babble nonsense. And though he might never find the true path, he must not deny (if he would claim to have remained reasonable) that a true path may exist. For, in a maze, if there are one million paths, and a man, in his lifetime, explores nine-hundred-thousand of them, all leading nowhere, he is entitled to state no more than his experience. That experience may incline him to the opinion that no true path exists, but all opinions have still the right to differ, so long as they are but opinions. And if among the millions of ‘spirit-messages’ received through ‘mediums’ or ‘psychics,’ or what not, by means of ‘raps,’ ‘slate –writing,’ ‘automatic writing,’ ‘Ouija-boards,’ ‘clairvoyance,’ ‘clairaudience’ or any other generally uncredited and widely discredited manifestations – if in all this vast mass of alleged evidence purporting through the ages to reveal the thoughts of ‘disembodied spirits’ – if in all this there be one veritable message from a person whose body is dead, then the case for survival is made; this dead person is alive (or was alive after his death) and the possibility of the survival of others is demonstrated. And who could prove that there has never been one such message? Only a person who had investigated and exposed all messages; and he could not prove that a veritable message might not come in the future.

“…The child fears the dark, yet there is nothing in the dark that is not in the light – except the light itself – and so there may be nothing in death that is not in life, if we had the light to see. If death is life, with ‘progress and problems’ like those in what we call life, then we should not fear it. We fear it because we imagine it is darkness. – yet that is one thing which it cannot be. Nothing is not darkness. For that matter, of course, death can not be nothing, in the literal sense. When we say ‘Death is annihilation’ we mean only that ‘personal consciousness’ does not survive the change called death.

“Pain is a hint for better education, and dread of death is a form of pain; it is a revulsion caused by the unfamiliar of the unknown. It is Nature kicking us for not knowing. In other words, horror of death, being in part our revolt against not knowing what death is – our fear of thinking about it – is what ought to make us think about it. So a child, locked in a dark room, will sometimes stretch forth his hand to explore, because his fear of what his hand may touch is so great that he must explore! Fear should be the ancestor of curiosity, and out of the hell of fear may come the good thing, the wish-to-know. That is the most benevolent of all the desires…

“Now, certain men have said that they have evidence of survival, and some of these men are scientists – even scientists by profession. If they have the evidence which they say they have, then it is going to be possible to establish before long, the most important fact that can alter mankind. There is no doubt that these men believe the evidenced; and their critics, unable to assail their sincerity, attack them upon the point of gullibility.

“But this leads a person of open mind to suspect the critics of a gullibility of their own; that is, they may be gulled by their prejudices. They are indeed thus gulled if they declare Sir Oliver Lodge to be gullible because Sir Oliver claims to receive messages from a dead person. To show Sir Oliver gullible, the critics must prove the messages to be fraud or delusion. They prove only their own superstition who say, by implication: ‘But spirits do not do thus and so; and they do not speak thus and so.’

“…Of all the men professionally of science who have seriously and persistently investigated and studied the alleged phenomena of ‘spiritualism,’ the overwhelming majority have drawn the conclusion, as a result of their patient researches, that there is personal survival of death.

“Only levity sneers at them now – at these patient men who have sought truth in the dust-heap. They have not yet failed; neither have they shown the truth – if they have found it – so that all men may see it and know that it is indeed truth. Their task is heavy, but it is the greatest one, for it is the task that must be done before civilization can begin. To lift the burden of the unknown from the human soul – to destroy the great darkness; that is the work which engages them. Men cannot be sane in the daylight until the night becomes knowable.”

Text and photo of Booth Tarkington courtesy of Michael Tymn, author of The Articulate Dead where Michael examines several of the best mediums of yesteryear and the scientific research surrounding them.