[Editorial Note: "Trance speakers" were part of the Spiritualist phenomenom of the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Cora Hatch was perhaps the best known and most successful. For a contemporary account, from Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, along with a brief account of spiritualism, click here. The following seems to have been typical of Hatch's "discourses" during this period. It is worth noting that she did not claim to be in direct contact with any "spirit guide" or that her opinions were those of any one other than herself. Indeed, she was at some pains to distinguish her views from those of the Universalists. This might have been a sore point since contemporaries, like Leslie's reporter commonly noted the parallels between her discourses and the works of the late Rev. William Ellery Channing. Had Hatch directly claimed mediumistic powers at this point in her career, as she did earlier and later, she might have claimed to be in direct touch with Channing.1
She closed the evening with a chant, reprinted below. One of its lines, "Mortals, join the chorus" of angels, may have inspired a Henry James jibe in an 1863 letter in which he recounted his impressions of Hatch and her husband. He described the latter as "Chorus L. V. Hatch," making the pair Chorus and Cora, a Latin pun on the masculine ending "us" and the feminine "a."]
Preface (by B. F. Hatch, M.D.)
p. iv: Mrs Hatch, at the time of her delivery of this discourse, was seventeen years and seven months old. After she had taken the stand, in company with myself, I invited the audience to select a Committee of three competent persons to designate a subject for the evening's discourse. That Committee was duly chosen and voted in by the audience. I then stated that they had the privilege of presenting any question or theme in Philosophy, Moral or Religious ethics for elucidation. They brought in the following question: -- "Do the immutable decrees of God interfere with, or hinder, the freedom of action in man?" She immediately arose; and after chanting and offering up thanks to God, proceeded to an elucidation of her subject. I give it to the reader without a change of a word, from the Reporter's manuscript, that he may have it as it came from the speaker, in a Trance state.
From this statement, it will be seen that the discourse is entirely impromptu, and delivered without one minute opportunity for reflection or arrangement of ideas. As N.P. Willis [Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867), American poet and essayist] says of another discourse, delivered by Mrs. Hatch on a previous occasion, "How to explain it, with her age, habits and education, is the true point at issue."
Pp.22-24: These are our conceptions. Man is free to do right or wrong. The truth has been presented to him, error has been presented to him; he is free to judge which [p. 23] he will take; but only free inasmuch as Deity is Infinite Goodness; and as there is no infinite principle of evil, he cannot go in that direction beyond the moral limits of the soul, whilst in goodness he can go onward forever, to Jehovah. He is here to judge which he will take, right or wrong, but at the same time he is not free to make the wrong permanently triumphant, for it can never be so. The right is the infinite, and consequently it always predominates over ignorance, error, and darkness.
"But," says one, "that is Universalism. It is simply the doctrine that Universalists preach." We are not aware, precisely, what are the views entertained by Universalists, upon this subject. But, most certainly, it is our opinion, whether it be Universalism or the belief of any other class of men. It is certainly our fixed belief. Not with Universalists would we proclaim that all men, after death, are to be instantly placed in the enjoyment of perfect purity and happiness, however little they may be developed in their spiritual natures. But we will say that there can be no eternity so dark, no torment so dreadful, no hell so strong, no devil so infinite, that in God's infinity he cannot snatch his children away from them. We do say that however deep may be the torments of man's conscience, however depraved he may have been while in this stage of existence, however great the evils consequent upon his depravity, however men may talk of Adam and Eve, and say that the [p. 24] human race is so fallen, we believe that God has not made one mistake since Time or Eternity began, -- that He has not committed such an error as to make an earth filled with love and beauty, and then place upon it a depraved being, as to create all the glories of the solar system, and all the laws of solar revolutions, and all the atomic life which throbs in that vast universe, and then, when, at last, man, the acme of this creation, was placed upon the stage, to pronounce him unfit to fill his place, totally depraved.
. . . .
P. 25: It is customary for men to talk about free-agency, while at the same time they blindly persist in the idea that there is but one true and perfect way to the kingdom of heaven, and that is their own way. They preach up free-agency, and tell you that you will have a right to choose whichever way you will to go to heaven, but that there is but one course, and that a very difficult one. This will do to go with the idea of predestination and foreordination, but not with the idea of an Infinite God of boundless goodness. It will do to go with the idea of those who make their idols of wood and stone, and endow them with their own tastes and appetities, but not with the spirit of the Nineteenth Century, when the minds of men are searching after the Infinite God -- a God of love and mercy.
. . . .
P. 28: No two grains of sand, or pebbles, upon the sea-shore, can be found exactly alike. No two leaves upon the same tree can be found without some difference. And yet no one of them quarrels with the other because it is not like itself. . . .No two souls are made to perform the same part upon the earth; else why was humanity? It is not good, if your brother, your sister, your friend differs with you, in opinion, in education, or life, for you to judge that they are not acting highly and purely. The judge is God. He, the Infinite, is the One who guideth and who judgeth.
We proclaim, notwithstanding all the deep elements of orthodox religion opposed to us, that there is not one crime, not one degree of depravity or wretchedness, however low, not one, which cannot be overcome by knowledge. Therefore, the only object which you should have in view, is to acquire knowledge, by whatever means. If the knowledge of your friend causes him to differ from yourself, he, like a star, is free to revolve in whatever orbit he [p. 29] pleases, provided he does not interfere with yours . . . . Each man has a right to his peculiar wishes and affections, provided they do not interfere with those of his neighbors. When they do, the two are to weigh them in the balances together, and make an equilibrium. But in a perfect state all men's desires would lead them to do the right always, and none could then interfere with the wishes of another.
. . . .
P. 29: If the Committe is not satisfied with our elucidation, or if there are any further inquiries in relation to this subject, we will reply to any questions which may be offered.
. . . .
P. 30: The services were then closed by the following Chant: --
The angels are singing,
The angels are winging
Their course from the sky.
They stoop on soft pinions,
They bring the bright minions
O, they touch their harp-strings
With gentle chords of love!
O, the blessed cadence
Sounding from above!
Mortals, join the chorus --
Mortals, join the chorus --
God is love!
Angels whisper gently
To the sons of earth,
Angels murmur softly,
"Mourn not for the lost."
Angels come forever
On the wings of love;
Angels leave you never,
Murmuring, "God is love."
Mortals, join the chorus,
From the spheres of love;
Angels ever singing, --
Mortal friends, good-night!
Good-night, good-night, good-night.
. . . .
By Mrs. Cora L. V. Hatch.
P. 32: . . . .
God is our life and love --
We know no more of Hime, and feel no less,
He lives around, beneath, beside, above,
And cheers the child of deep distress.
If he [sic, lower case] has Goodness, it is Infinitely Great,
No other power an evil can creat.
We live but in His breath,
Thus our eternal souls can never die,
Infinite Life can give itself no death,
Infinite Truth can never make us lie, --
Our souls are free, but in His freedom blessed;
Our souls are love, and by his [sic, lower case] love caressed.
The soul is free to live,
And free to love, for God is love, --
Free to do good, for He is perfect good;
And free to soar to realms of light above, --
Not free to sin, for sin is slavery's chain;
Can Slavery and Freedom hand in hand remain?
. . . .