[Editorial Note: Thomas Lake Harris was one of the more exotic figures of the mid-nineteenth century. Born in England, he was a Universalist minister who adopted Spirtualism after encountering the Harmonic theories of Andrew Jackson Davis. He helped establish the Spiritualist Utopian community of Mountain Cove which lasted from 1851 to 1853. The community soon became engulfed in scandal with charges that Harris and some others were engaging in unorthodox sexual practices.* After Mountain Cove disintegrated, Harris founded his own religion with himself as Messiah. Spiritualists were, in general, tolerant of each other's claims. But the combination of scandal and Harris's insistence upon his own special calling led most to denounce him. Harris returned the favor. The Song of Satan recounts his temptations by various "infernal spirits," even as Jesus was tempted. The temptress here is Cora L. V. Hatch, the temptation "Free Love."
As a doctrine, Free Love had several meanings. Some who advocated it meant simply that marriages undertaken for reasons other than mutual love were invalid, just a respectable form of prostitution. Others, more radical, held that marriages were valid for exactly as long as mutual love continued to exist. They advocated, in effect, a sort of serial monogamy. In either case, the "free" in Free Love referred to individuals freely choosing their partner. Opponents, however, charged that free love meant freedom from any moral restraint.
Why Harris chose Hatch as the temptress is not known. At the time he was writing The Song of Satan, she had separated from her husband, and a panel of three eminent Spiritualists -- including New York Supreme Court Justice John Worth Edmonds -- were adjudicating their dispute. When the panel found in Cora's favor, B. F. Hatch denounced them and published a pamphlet "The Iniquities of Spiritualism Revealed." One of Hatch's accusations was that some Spiritualists advocated Free Love. If it is not certain why Harris made Cora Hatch his temptress, it is clear that he did have her in mind. Note the reference to her appearing to be about twenty years old, to her "tranced eyes," and her "sunny, wavy hair."]
Pp. xxii-xxv: [portion of the Second Interview or Temptation-Combat] I then heard the ensuing sung by a Female Spirit, who appeared enveloped in a haze of irridescence of beauty. She was apparently about twenty years of age. The insinuating softness of her voice, which indeed might have been called melody itself, had it not be for a certain atmosphere of deceit which exhaled from it, was well calculated to deceive. By the mercy of our Lord it was given to me, however, to know that she was a syren, and that her name was Melusina.1
"As when a bell's vibration dies,
Silence, like sleep, fills all the skies,
My spirit felt celestial peace,
And, silent as the snow's decease,
Rose from the world in sweet release.
"I am not dead, but seem to be:
Life blossoms like the orange tree;
And through my heart's full ecstacy,
Flows a celestial prophecy
Of nobler states awaiting me.
"I dwell beneath the milk-white skies,
And mooned stars above me rise.
All beauty bathes my trancéd eyes,
Beside the streams of paradise.
My heart in music I exhale
Upon the balmy, southern gale.
From iron winter's blast and hail
I am translated, to a vale
Where sorrow is a winter's tale;
And joy and pleasure lift the sail,
And memory on the pleasant gale
Flies to the earth where mortals wail.
"I am a daughter of the sea;
My virgin name is Harmony.2
O lover, lover, follow me!
Green are the vales of Arcady,
And life is sweet, and love is free.
There all the festal graces dwell,
And lips, as red as any shell,
Sweet as the rose or cowslip's smell,
Invite thee to the shady dell,
And kiss, and kiss, and never tell.
"Within the fragrant Second Sphere
Find thy congenial atmosphere.
'Progression' is the motto here.
We have outgrown the bigot's fear.
Here love and reason are entwined.
We leave the gloomy past behind;
We change with every change of mind,
And are as free as any wind,
And God in all of us is shrined.
Hell is a fiction; it is true
That Lower Spheres appear to you. -
To gloomy fancies bid adieu,
And these shall change as you pursue,
And shine like globes of honey-dew.
"The Spirits you call 'Angels,' are
Misguided brethren; they would mar
The splendor of the Morning Star.
Mount with me in Progression's car.
You are too orthodox by far.
We love you, and our pity flows
Like sunshine to the drooping rose,
That in a grave-yard's shadow grows,
There is no Hell but in the woes
Of gloomy Spirits, who oppose
The faith of progress we disclose.
"Look at my bosom's dainty white.
Can devils show so fair a sight?
'Tis saints alone who walk in light.
Behold my raiment, silver-bright.
Gaze on my countenance - behold
The sunny locks of wavy gold:
I am not wrinkled, bleared and old:
Youth revels in my peerless mold;
My deep, deep heart thereby is told.
"I am a virgin - fear me not.
My maiden honor hath no spot.
Be every woeful doubt forgot.
My home, like Amphitrite's grot,3
With sea-flowers all is bright and gay
And jewels, born of spirit-spray.
The gentle naiads with me play:
Come, follow, while I lead the way.
"Still that distrust? Am I not fair,
With virgin-roses in my hair?
What means that strange, reluctant air?
The very Gods thy bliss prepare,
And Venus 'self thy couch would share.
I swear to thee, my soul hath blown, -
A golden daisy, all alone.
My heart is like a royal throne
Which never hath a monarch known.
No hand that loosed my Angel-zone.
"I weep, as weeps the virgin Mary,
That mourns the south wind's long delay.
Upon my knees I beg and pray.
I am thy Night, be thou my Day.
That women cheat as well as men
You think, I know; - but tell me when
So fair an Angel met thy ken? -
Dost take me for a Magdalen?"4
"Well," she continued, and now in prose. "I did not think I could take you in, but John Keats told me, - he is the Spirit who has been with you hitherto, - he, as I said, told me that I might favor you with a specimen of my art. Now you know that a woman's weakness is to appear well to men. Were any woman ever damned, the first thing she would request from the devil would be a looking-glass. To repair her wasted appearance and bring back the color she would drink perdition itself. Were there no other way to a milliner's but to crawl on her bare hands and feet through a meadow whose blades of grass were serpents, she'd do it. To win the admiration of her beaux, and to detract from her rivals, she would transform herself, and purchase the privilege of public beauty by sitting at home, a squalid horror, with a Medusa's head.5 You are too fond of an ideal view of woman's nature. Good and bad are relative terms. They are just like men, feeble and capricious in their attachments, but in their tricks, infamous, and terrible in their rage. But that is not to the purpose; let me give you a few lessons in the subterfuges of a woman's art. Who do you think I am?" I replied, "I only know you as a most unhappy Spirit. I meet you with pity, and with entire sympathy. I know that you are fixed, at least for the present, in you condition. Your earth-name I know not, yet I should imagine you to have been a poetess." "I am," she replied, "Letitia Landon, - at least that is as good a name as any other; but you may call me Felicia Hemans if you will, or Sappho.6 I can sing to any strain. When young poets begin their songs in the earth-sphere, there is a special Evil Genius - I am forced to speak this word - appointed to watch over them. I am your Evil Genius. I have never ceased, by every possible means, to lay subtle schemes for your destruction, and, more than once, you have been almost in my power, but you have conquered at last."