We are not telling our readers anything that they have not already seen through the press. What is remarkable is that newspapers that are apparently well informed have doubted it. The doubt does not surprise us as the fact itself seems so much strange in the contemporary world; it is so distant from our time that however much blindness we admit in fanaticism, it boggles our minds hearing that the burning fires of the Inquisition are still lighting up in 1861, just at the door of France. Under these circumstances, the doubt is a tribute to the European civilization, to the Catholic clergy itself. Today, in the presence of an incontestable reality, what is truly remarkable is the fact that a serious newspaper, one that daily bashes the abuse and invasion of the sacerdotal power, has found for reporting this fact, a few mocking words, adding: ‘In any case, it would not be us at this moment who would be amusing ourselves t by making tables turn in Spain (Le Siècle, October 14th 1861).’ Is it that the Siècle still sees Spiritism as only turning tables? Also, it is therefore quite blinded by skepticism to ignore that a whole philosophical doctrine, eminently progressive, has come out of those tables that they have so ridiculed? They still don’t know that this idea is fermenting everywhere; that everywhere, in the large cities as well as in small towns, in high or low social echelons, in France and abroad, this idea spreads with an extraordinary speed; that everywhere it shakes the crowds that greet it in the dawn of a social reform? Isn’t the blow against it, that some judged to have hurt it, isn’t that an indication of its importance? Nobody throws such a blow against something infantile and without consequences and Don Quixote has not gone back to Spain to fight the windmills.
What is not less exorbitant, and we are surprised that there has been no strong protest against it, is the strange pretension that the Bishop of Barcelona self-embodies to police France. The request for returning the books was answered with a denial justified as follows: ‘The Catholic Church is universal and as these books are against the Catholic faith, the government must not allow them to be perverted by the moral and religions of other countries’. So, this is a foreign Bishop that entitled himself judge of what is convenient or not convenient to France! Then the sentence was maintained and executed, without even exempting the addressee of customs taxes that were duly charged. Here is the report that was addressed to us personally:
“Today, October ninth of eighteen sixty one, at 10 am, in the esplanade of Barcelona, in the place where criminals condemned to capital punishment are executed, and by the order of the Bishop of this city, three hundred books and brochures about Spiritism were burned, as follows:
The Spiritist Review, Editor Allan Kardec;
The Spiritualist Magazine, Editor Piérard;
The Spirits’ Book, by Allan Kardec;
The Mediums’ Book, by the same;
What is Spiritism, by the same;
Fragments of the sonata dictated by the spirit of Mozart;
Letter of a Catholic about Spiritism, by Dr. Grand;
The story of Joana of Arc, dictated by herself to Ms. Ermance Dufaux;
The reality of the spirits, demonstrated by direct writing, by Baron of Goldenstubbe.
Witnesses at the burning:
A clergy man wearing religious garments, with a cross in one hand and a torch in the other;
A notary in charge of writing the minutes of the event;
The assistant to the notary;
A high ranking official of the Customs administration;
Three agents of Customs, in charge of tending the fire;
A Customs’ agent, in charge of representing the owner of the books condemned by the bishop;
A huge crowd on the sidewalks and covering the immense esplanade where the bonfire was lit.
When the fire destroyed the three hundred spiritist books or brochures, the priest and his helpers left, followed by the booing and cursing of numerous persons present, who shouted: Down with the Inquisition!
Then, several people approached the fire and collected the ashes”.
Part of those ashes were sent to us where there is a fragment of a half burned The Spirits’ Book that we preciously keep as a witness to this authentic act of senselessness. Despite any opinion, this fact raises grave concern regarding international law. We acknowledge that the Spanish government has the right to refuse entry into its territory of books that are not convenient, as it does with any prohibited merchandise. Were the books clandestine or had they entered fraudulently, there would be nothing to say, but they were clearly expedited and presented to Customs Officials. There was permission, legally requested. Customs felt obliged to report to the Episcopal authority that, without any form of legal process, condemn the books to the fire, by the hands of an executioner. Then the addressee requests that the books be returned to the place of origin and finally he hears that his request was denied. We ask if the destruction of this property, under such circumstances, isn’t an arbitrary act and outside the law?
Having the case examined from the point of view of its consequences, we shall first say that there is no doubt that nothing could be more favorable to Spiritism. The persecution has always been useful to the idea that one is willing to banish. Its importance is exalted by persecution, it attracts the attention of those who ignored it and made known by those who did not. Thanks to this imprudent fervor everybody in Spain will hear about Spiritism and will wish to know what it is. This is all we want. One can burn books but one cannot burn ideas. The flames of the fire excite them rather than muffle them. When an idea is great and generous it finds thousands of hearts ready to aspire for it. Despite what has been done, Spiritism already has profound and numerous roots in Spain. The ashes of that bonfire will produce fruits. But it is not only in Spain that such results will take place. The whole world will feel its consequences. Several newspapers in Spain stigmatized the retrograde act, as it deserves to be. The periodical Las Novedades de Madrid, from October 19th, carries a remarkable article about it, which shall be reproduced in our next issue of The Review.
Spiritists of all countries! Don’t forget the date October 9th, 1861. It shall be marked in the calendar of Spiritism. May it be a day of festivity and not sorrow to all of you, since it is the guarantor of your forthcoming triumph! Among the multiple communications regarding the subject, dictated by the spirits, we shall cite the two following ones that were spontaneously given in the Parisian Society. They summarize the causes and consequences of this act.