4. Moses was all the more justified in inscribing this prohibition among his laws, because the evocations which he forbade were neither prompted by respect or affection for the souls of the departed, nor inspired by any sentiment of piety; they were resorted to simply as a means of divination, and placed on the same footing as the auguries and portents habitually traded in by charlatanism and superstition: an assertion that is justified by the fact that, despite all his efforts, he was unable to root out a habit which had become a matter of traffic, as is shown by the following quotations from the same prophet: –
“And when they say to you, ‘Consult the magicians and the diviners who pronounce their enchantment in whispers,’ reply to them: – ‘Does not each people consult its own God? And do people speak with the dead concerning the affairs of the living?” (Isaiah,” chap. VIII, 19)
“It is I who make manifest the falseness of the prodigies of magic; who sent madness upon those who take upon themselves to divine; who overthrow the minds of the sages and convict of foolishness their useless science.” (Idem, Chap. XLIV, 25)
“Let them come, the augurs who study the sky, who contemplate the stars, and who calculate the months to draw from them the predictions which they profess to give you concerning the future; let them come now, and let them save you. They have become like straw, the fire has devoured them; they will not be able to deliver their souls from the consuming flames; there will not even remain, from their burning, coals at which one can warm oneself, nor a fire by which one can sit. See what will become of all those things about which you have busied yourselves with so much labor! These merchants who have traded with you from your youth up will all flee away from you, some on the one hand, some on the other, without one of them being left to take you out of your troubles.” (Idem, Chap. XLVII, 13, 14, 15)
In this chapter, Isaiah addresses the Babylonians, under the allegorical figure of “the virgin daughter of Babylon, daughter of the Chaldeans.” (v. 1.) He tells them that the enchanters will not prevent the ruin of their monarchy. In the following chapter, he addresses himself directly to the Israelites.
“Come hither, ye children of a sorceress, race born of an adulterer and a prostitute! Whom have you made a mock of? Against whom have you opened your mouths and lashed out with your sharp tongues? Are you not perfidious children and bastard shoots, you who seek your consolation in your gods under every thick tree, who sacrifice your young children in the torrents under the jutting rocks? You have put your confidence in the stones of the torrents; you have poured out drink-offerings in their honor; you have offered sacrifices to them. After this, shall not my indignation be kindled against you?” (Idem, Chap LVII, 3, 4, 5, 6)
These words are clear and explicit; they prove that at the time when they were written evocations were made for purposes of divination, and as a matter of traffic; they were associated with magic and sorcery, and were even accompanied by human sacrifices. Moses was therefore right in forbidding usages of such a character, and in saying that God had them in abomination. Those superstitious practices were perpetuated until the Middle Ages; but, at the present day, human reason has condemned them, and Spiritism has come to show us that the aim of the relations of humankind with the world beyond the grave is exclusively moral, consolatory, and religious. As spiritists neither sacrifice young children nor pour out drink-offerings in honor of heathen gods; as they neither interrogate the stars, nor the dead, nor augurs, to learn the things of the future which God, in God’s wisdom has hidden from humanity; as they repudiate all trafficking in the faculty possessed by some of them of communicating with spirits; as they are prompted neither by curiosity, nor by cupidity, but by a sentiment of piety and by the desire to obtain instruction for themselves and to moralize and relieve the souls who are suffering in the other life, the Mosaic prohibition does not in any way apply to them: a fact which would have been apparent to those who invoke this prohibition against them, if they had acquainted themselves more correctly with the views and the actions of spiritists, on the one hand, and had given a more careful study to the Mosaic prohibition, on the other. They would have seen that there is no analogy between what took place among the ancient Jews and the principles and practice of Spiritism. Furthermore, they would have seen that Spiritism condemns precisely the very things that prompted the Mosaic prohibition; but, blinded by the desire to find an argument against the new ideas, they not have seen how completely their argument misses the mark.
The civil laws of the present day punish all the abuses that Moses aimed at repressing. If Moses pronounced the penalty of death upon the delinquents of his time, it was because rigorous measures were needed for governing the undisciplined people with whom he had to deal, and, consequently, that penalty was lavishly introduced into his code. It should also be remembered that he had no great choice in the means of repression to be employed by him, for in the midst of the desert he had neither prisons nor reformatories, and besides, his people were not of a character that would have been amenable to the threat of merely disciplinary punishment: consequently, it was impossible for him to graduate his punishments as is done at the present day. It is, therefore, a great mistake to insist upon the severity of the chastisement as proving the degree of guilt attributed by the Hebrew lawgiver to the evocation of the dead. Would those who invoke the Mosaic prohibition as condemnatory of spiritist evocation maintain, out of respect for Moses, the application of the penalty of death in all the other cases in which Moses applied it? Why, for instance, do those who manifest so strong a desire to revive this particular provision of the laws of Moses pass over in silence the beginning of the chapter, which forbids priests to possess property and to take any share of any inheritance, “because the Lord Himself is their inheritance?” (“Deuteronomy,” Chap. XXVIII, 1, 2)