Gerald Massey: a biography - Chapter 7.

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He set his battle in array, and thought
To carry all before him, since he fought
For Truth, whose likeness was to him revealed;
Whose claim he blazoned on his battle-shield.


MASSEY'S series of winter lectures proceeded well, with the exception of one.  At his best with a sympathetic or sceptically interested audience, he was never offered physical violence in opposition to his opinions as was Charles Bradlaugh, and his early experiences at Chartist meetings enabled him to cope with verbal attack.  On 3 November 1874 he appeared before the Greenwich Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, established in 1837, presenting ‘A Spirit World Revealed to the Natural World from the Earliest Times by means of Objective Manifestations, the only Basis of Man's Immortality’.  The hall was crowded, but there were only a few Spiritualist supporters present, and no chairman.

    Commencing with the theories of man's origin, he went on to detail the universality of objective Spiritual manifestations among savages and civilised nations.  Proceeding to state that the Druid circle, the round towers of Ireland, the words ‘church’ and ‘kirk’ originated from the primitive custom of forming circles to commune with spirits, there were some cheers and hisses among the audience.  Saying, ‘I do not want your cheers or hisses; they are all the same to me,’ he continued elaborating on parts of the Old Testament.  The prophet Esdras, he said, had stated that the originals of the Old Testament had been destroyed, but had been given again through his mediumship while writers had taken down what he said on tablets of box-wood; this then, was the probable origin of the books ascribed to Moses.  This assertion caused a great uproar, a number of people leaving the building.  When he was able to continue, he said that soma juice, used to produce a clairvoyant state, was the fermented juice of a fig tree, which figured in Egyptian and Greek mythology, and was the tree, not an apple tree, in the Garden of Eden.  The juice of the fig tree therefore gave the perception of spirits.  These statements brought confusion and strong hissing, to which Massey remarked, ‘What's the use of hissing at facts which you will find recorded as such in Mr Tylor's books?’  A number of listeners began to leave the hall in groups of six or eight, slamming the doors after them.  Unperturbed, Massey continued, declaring that ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in the Old Testament, might in some places have been more appropriately rendered ‘Thus saith the Devil,’ for the spirit ordered the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and helpless children, who were as much the children of the Almighty as the Jews were.  That caused ten minutes of tremendous uproar, with shouts of ‘Turn him out!’  A Methodist minister, the Reverend Baxendale, was heard bellowing above the tumult, ‘It's perfect blasphemy!’  A Spiritualist, Mr N. Fabyan Daw then mounted the platform.

Mr Daw: Would it not be better for those who do not like the lecture to leave quietly, while the rest remain?

Revd Baxendale: Many young persons have been listening to this blasphemy; indeed, it is worse than blasphemy, it is indecency.

Both Massey and Baxendale were alternately hissed by two main divisions in the now half-empty hall.

Massey: (standing to his full height of five feet four inches): What! are you afraid of me?

A Lady, stepping on the platform: I have paid my money to hear the lecturer; he appears to be a gentleman of culture and education, and I do not think he would say anything to offend any lady.  I consider I have a right to hear him.

The Rev. Baxendale continued to shout.

Listeners in the audience: Turn him out!

The Secretary of the Institution mounted the platform.

Secretary: I wish to state the decision of the members of this Institution.

First voice: They have no right to decide; they have entered into an arrangement with the outside public, and taken their money.

Second voice: I should like to hear the lecture.

Third voice: Those who don't like it should withdraw, and the committee ought to have somebody here to keep order.

The Revd Baxendale again began to shout but was drowned by increasing uproar.

The Secretary: I think Mr Massey should conclude his lecture at once, because I think that many of our members object to it; we offer to return the money at the doors if you wish it.  Perhaps we had better put it to the vote of the members.  I think he had better conclude at once.

A Mr Cullis: I am not a Spiritualist, but a Christian, but I think if we do not hold our faith more firmly than to be afraid to listen to a lecture, it is a poor, paltry kind of faith. (Loud applause.)  I most strongly hold opinions in opposition to Mr Massey, who is a man of intelligence and culture.  We ought to give him a hearing.  Let those who object leave the building.

A Working Man: I hope they won't rob me of my sixpenn'orth! (Laughter.)

Massey: I have not insulted anybody's faith; I have only dealt with the interpretation of facts.

Revd Baxendale: It is not our faith you are shaking, but our sense of decency.

Massey: If this is a specimen of your decency it is a bad specimen; this is the only audience either in America or England where I have seen a hundred people with their hats on, as there are now.  As there is now silence, may I conclude the lecture?

The uproar commenced again.

A Gentleman: I have attended at much inconvenience to listen to the lecture; I have paid my sixpence.

A Voice: Well done! (Laughter.)

The Gentleman continued: I have paid my sixpence, I say, and the point in dispute had better be put to the vote; the minority should then keep quiet, or leave.

A Lady: I came here to listen to the lecture, and have heard nothing to shock modesty.

A Voice: No more than is in the Bible!

    Massey said that the Hebrew account libelled women, by saying a woman was the cause of the ‘fall’, but it was only a lying legend.  This caused more uproar, with people leaving until the hall was only one-third full.

    It was reported that the secretary, still on the platform, had marks of agony on his face whilst wiping the perspiration from his brow.  It was apparent that he wished he was secretary to any other institution at that particular time.  The protesters having left the hall, Massey was allowed to complete his lecture without further disturbance.[1]

    Subsequent to the report of Massey's lecture, Dr Berridge of Highbury criticised him for quoting stale second-hand objections based upon wrong translations, and not referring to the original Hebrew or Greek translations of the Jewish scriptures.[2]  As the writer of the letter went to some depth in demonstrating several points at issue, Massey would certainly have taken note of the caution.  In his later writings he did go to considerable trouble in examining original source material or referring to authorities in a particular specialised subject.

The Greenwich Society Hall (© National Maritime Museum Greenwich).

St. George's Hall, Langham Place. Massey's favourite London lecture venue
(Illustrated London News, 29 June, 1867).

    Massey's only second son, Fabyan Paul, was born on 23 April 1876 (
Sidney William Dobell died in infancy).  That same year the Spiritualists had been somewhat daunted by the accusation that Henry Slade, a famed American medium who arrived in England in July, had been accused of fraud and deception the following September.  Slade, whose speciality was the obtaining of written messages paranormally on a slate, in ordinary lighting, was accused following two séances attended by Professor Ray Lankester FRS.  Not happy with the first séance, he was accompanied for the second by Horatio Donkin, a physician at Westminster Hospital.  The almost instantaneous appearance of writing on the slate, without any sound of pencil scratching, appeared to Lankester as more than suspicious.  Being naturally hasty, and disliking any form of deception, he went on to denounce Slade in a letter to the Times.[3]  Support for Slade, based on personal visits, was given by Professor William Barrett, Dr Alfred Russel Wallace who also gave evidence at his trial, and others.  At the trial, which commenced on 1 October, 1876, the magistrate excluded all testimonies except those from the prosecution.  A statement made by the stage magician, J. N. Maskelyne, that the table used by Slade was specially made in order to deceive, was disproved later in a statement by the workman who made it.  Slade was sentenced under the Vagrancy Act to three months' hard labour, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.[4]

    Newspapers and journals had a field day at Spiritualism's expense.  Punch in particular found the subject worth several piquant and witty comments.  Under one captioned ‘Spiritualism and Swindling’, it wondered if, pending the prosecution of Slade, it might be unsuitable to discuss if a medium, in accepting fees for anything considered spiritual, receives money under false pretences.  Those that do think so might note that the Unita Catholica announced that the widow of the Duke de Galliera laid a million francs at the feet of the Holy Father, imploring apostolic benediction on the suffering soul of her deceased husband.  Punch went on to comment that if the sum was accepted, and His Holiness has got the money, let us trust that he is a medium who really believes in his own mediumship of communication with the spiritual world, and in the efficacy of his benediction to benefit suffering souls in it.[5]  Massey wrote a neat epigram to sum up the case:

The Apostle bade us ‘try the spirits’,
And judge them fairly, on their merits,
But did not clear instructions give
For catching things so fugitive
As spirits, in the Lawyer's sieve;
And possibly, he might retort,
‘I didn't mean at Bow-street Court!’

    Robert Buchanan commented drily that ‘we are not informed whether the above lines were also given through trance mediumship—if so, I am at a loss which to admire most—the poetry of the Spirits, or their satire.’[6]  A number of years later the Echo made retrospective note of the affair, and of Lankester in particular.  It referred to his high achievements as well as his dogmatism, remarking that he believed in little else other than Professor Lankester.  Regarding the Slade case, the paper noted his hostility to all stories of supernaturalism, and to the works of the Society for Psychical Research under the presidency of Professor Henry Sidgwick, which he regarded as a waste of time.[7]

    During his American tour Massey had also come into contact with paranormal slate-writing during sittings with Miss Susie Nickerson and Mrs Hardy, in Boston.  Determined to try an experiment, he wrote the name ‘Pip’ on the slate.  This was the name of a favourite dog, then deceased.  On examining the slate again almost immediately, the writing was found to be almost obliterated, with dampness still remaining from ‘washing strokes’ similar in width and length to a dog's tongue.  Several members present asked ‘Pip, who?’  On the slate was then found written ‘Pip Massey’.  This experiment was later repeated.  A member of the Boston Post, who had been present and reported the séance fairly, could not resist a facetious comment in his account, considered to be unjust by Allen Putnam, a researcher who had also been in attendance.  Putnam wrote:

It was reported that the intelligent and well-known men, … Mr Gerald Massey, Mr William Lloyd Garrison, Revs. C. A. Bartol and William R. Alger, believed that Mr Massey's dog, Pip, actually furnished his own autograph! … [But] no one expressed the opinion that the dog performed the writing.  Probably such a fancy was confined to the brain of the reporter.  The inference that ‘Pip’ had ‘increased wonderfully in intelligence since his translation to the spirit realm’, and thereby become competent to handle the slate pencil intelligently could be drawn by no common intellect—reportorial training was needful for that.[8]

    Due to Massey's increasing involvement with research for his intended book and his improved financial position at that time, the family moved in about 1876 to a more modern house, Bordighiera Villa, 1 Grove Road, New Southgate.  Although the title of 'villa' sounds prestigious, it was used often at that time as a name to denote a good quality, usually three-storey semi-detached residence.  He rented the house for £36 per annum, an average charge for that type of property in the area.  Having three storeys, it might be assumed that the size would have been adequate for the family, but with seven children and a housekeeper living in the house, conditions must have been extremely cramped, and may have been responsible for some of the children's health afflictions later on.

    Since his book on Spiritualism and subsequent concentration on lecturing, literary activities had ceased apart from a tract (6d. per hundred, 4s. per thousand, carriage extra) issued in 1877 to promote Spiritualism.  He continued to write an occasional poem either to give voice to his present opinions or to support a person whose allegiance to an unpopular cause was akin to his own.  An appeal to his idealism was made by Annie Besant and the Secularists who, between 1876 and 1879 were collecting funds toward an Italian committee's memorial to Giordano Bruno, a Dominican monk martyred at the stake in 1600.  A philosophical thinker and sceptical of Christian dogmas, Bruno was imprisoned for eight years by the Inquisition for heresy, prior to being put to death as an atheist.  It was considered that his memory would be reflected in the more recent independent moral philosophies of Garibaldi and Mazzini.  The erection of the statue, strongly opposed by the papacy, took another ten years before it could be completed.  Massey's poem, ‘A Greeting’ dedicated to Annie Besant, later published in the 1896 edition of Massey's Lyrical Life as ‘Annie Besant’, recognised her as a fellow worker in the fight for right:

Annie Besant, brave and dear,
May some message, uttered here,
Reach you, ringing golden-clear.

Though we stand not side by side
In the front of battle wide,
Oft I think of you with pride,

Fellow-soldier in the fight!
Oft I see you flash by night,
Fiery-hearted for the Right! …

Bruno lives! Such Spirits come,
Swords, immortal-tempered, from
Fire and Forge of Martyrdom …

    It might be queried why he did not acknowledge also her more valiant social action in championing the cause of the unfortunate Bryant & May match girls in 1885 and 1888, but he was abroad touring during both these times.

From a carte-de-visite by The Stereoscopic Co.

    The next year, 1880, saw the death of his father, aged 84, from ‘senile decay and diarrhoea’ on 6 October, at 5 King Street, Tring, where he had been living alone attended by neighbours since the death of his wife six years earlier.

A DUTIFUL SON. — Gerald Massey was convicted of disobeying an order of Justices, directing him to pay 3s. 6d. weekly towards the support of his father and mother who had become chargeable to the parish of Tring. Order made for payment of 11s. 6d. expenses, the arrears having been sent by post.

At the time of that earlier newspaper report (Bucks Herald, 8 October 1864), Massey was in his usual state of financial distress, and had temporarily been unable to make the payment.

  Also in that year (1880), probably as the result of his research prior to publication of his Book of the Beginnings, Massey was elected Chosen Chief of the Most Ancient Order of Druids, replacing Edward Vaughan Kenealy.[9]  Founded in 1781, this order claimed to have traditions extending from Neolithic times.  Its Celtic-Arthurian mystery teachings and the mysteries of Ceridwen developed to a more modern emergence in the eighteenth century.  As the order was both practical and philosophical in outlook, a number of prominent persons are said either to have belonged to a Druid order, or to have been acquainted with their teachings.  These included Bulwer Lytton, Charles Kingsley, Sir Edwin Arnold and Lewis Spence of the Rosicrucians.  Traces of Druidic teachings are said to be found in the works of Boehme, William Blake and Swedenborg.  The Three Intentions of Druid Instruction, which must have appealed to Massey, were the training of the mind; the cultivation of the heart, and the making of true manliness.  Massey remained Chosen Chief of the Order until 1906 when ill health forced his resignation, and he handed over to John Barry O'Callaghan. (See under 'Societies' in Appendices.)

    By 1881 he had completed his first two volumes of research, A Book of the Beginnings, as ‘containing an attempt to recover and reconstitute the lost origins of the myths and mysteries, types and symbols, religion and language, with Egypt for the mouthpiece and Africa as the birthplace’.  Elaborately detailed in over a thousand pages, he commenced with origins depicted in aspects of Egyptian ritual, correlating them to their equivalent in British mythology, either by type, sound or analogous meaning.  Proceeding in a similar manner to symbolical customs, Egyptian deities and place names, he included a list of English and Egyptian words to raise the question of an independent derivation of a common source.  The second volume dealing with Egyptian origins in Hebrew, Akkado-Assyrian and Maori, commenced with a similarly comparative vocabulary of Hebrew and Egyptian words.  A section notes parallelism between the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Hebrew scriptures, continuing with the Egyptian origin of the Exodus, Moses and Joshua, and Hebrew deities.  Egyptian origins are also noted in Assyria and, finally, he traces roots in Africa beyond Egypt.  Throughout his book he maintained a strong slant towards astronomical mythology.  In order to develop his theories, he included an enormous amount of information from, among other sources, ancient Egyptian texts, Biblical archaeology, Records of the Past, the Old Testament, and the works of Max Müller.  But in an attempt to be as comprehensive as possible, his objectives became obscured by providing the reader with large amounts of data that were not supported by refined structuring.

    Reviewers of the books were perplexed as how best to deal with them.  For their critical remarks most chose his philological section, which appeared to conflict most clearly with the opinions of that time.  It was easier, also, to pick on the occasional word derivation for sarcastic comment.  The Athenæum, more accustomed to reviewing his poetical works, referred to the 'two large and sumptuous volumes' but it was unable to perceive that he possessed the qualifications requiring a thorough knowledge of anthropology, comparative philology and mythology, or used caution in the use of materials in the application of the inductive method.  The reviewer ended with a particularly caustic comment, 'The verses at the beginning will probably be found by most readers the best part of the book.  The rest is the work of a man who has mistaken his métier.'[10]  The Saturday Review, while noting some philological analogies, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, skated over the bulk of his work, and considered that Egypt had never before produced a jest so monumental and colossal.[11The Scotsman adopted a similar tone[12], their reviewer appearing supportive in considering that …

‘The aim of the work is to demonstrate, or, at the least, to render credible, the hypothesis that at some far away time, and somewhere in the interior of Africa, the negro, or primitive man, was evolved from the ape—for the author is nothing if not an evolutionist—and that, in process of time, the negro race descended the valley of the Nile, peopled Egypt, became a civilised and cultured people, sent out colonies all over the world, and spread "mythology, religion, symbols, language," and all that civilisation implies, to the uttermost ends of the earth.’

    The Scotsman was, however, on firmer ground in sharing the opinion of most philologists of the time when, in referring to Massey's “Comparative Vocabulary of English and Egyptian Words,” their reviewer asked “how many sensible people will trust to the frail and fantastic structure” with which Massey proposed to bridge the distance from Egypt to England?  This, the reviewer maintained, was by “the old-fashioned and exploded etymological process in which the vowels count for nothing, and the consonants for very little more; and in which, by juggling with letters, any word in any language may be identified with any other word in any other language of quite another organic structure.”  The reviewer complained that Massey's special object of abhorrence was Grimm's law[13], and that Massey had, in dealing with consonants, “made use of every possible form of permutation without taking into consideration the phonetic laws and tendencies of the languages to which the words operated upon belong.”  Nevertheless, modern research into the origin of language suggests that Massey's theory of word classification by sound and signification does have principles that are broadly correct.

    In contrast, the scientific journal Nature was, in some ways, more kindly disposed to Massey's examples of evolutionary ethnology, though also unable to accept much of his philological arguments.  However, the reviewer extended credit to Massey for the ingenuity with which he had endeavoured to build up his theory and, to his mind, discoveries.  He considered the work would be read with pleasure by some, with amazement by others, and incredulity by specialists, though too warm and rosy for the chill glance of science.[14]  Equally, the Journal of Science regarded his book as deserving a calm and serious examination, and regretted that other commentators had made it a mere peg upon which to hang jests far from ‘sage born’.  It considered that Massey was operating in the right direction in taking man's origins further back than Max Müller's roots of language, and saluted Mr Massey as a fellow evolutionist.[15] [See the Epilogue, Chapter 9, for notes on this theme.]

    During the completion of his next work, The Natural Genesis, five of his poems on Garibaldi, dating from 1851 to 1871, were gathered together and republished in 1882 as Garibaldi.  A Group of Reprinted Poems.  Garibaldi had died earlier that year.  Written at the time of various crises in the life of Italy's liberator, the poems were reprinted in Garibaldi's memory at the publisher's request.[16]

    Approaching the end of 1882, Massey was again facing financial hardship.  Due to his researches and writing which occupied him for the whole of each day, there was no money coming in.  He had sold the copyright of his Book of the Beginnings in 1872 in advance of publication, arranging for a small annual stipend to be paid for ten years, and this had now expired.  His next two volumes were not due to be published until the following summer.  Fortunately he was able again to obtain support from Lady Alford and Joseph Cowen, and was granted £50 following an application to the Royal Literary Fund.[17]

    Cowen wrote to him on 14 November confirming that he had written to the Secretary of the Fund, saying that he had received Massey's first volume, but due to eye trouble and his heavy commitments as an MP, his reading was limited.

I feel as you do, that every year old friends disappear.  Curiously, however, this morning's post brought me letters from two old political associates as well as you—Mr C. D. Collett and Mr Thomas Cooper.  I also now and then hear from Harney.  He has been in this country twice recently—once for several months.  He is about to write a history of Chartism.[18]

    The Natural Genesis, a further two volumes of over a thousand pages, was published in July, in which he continued his researches into mythological and religious evolutionary themes.  While dealing principally with forms of typology originating primarily in Africa, Massey divided his material to include customs, numbers, myths and time.  Religious myths were, he considered, central to his thesis, and he included specific sections relating to creation myths, the deluge and the ark, the fall in heaven and earth, and equinoctial Christology.  The relationships between these, and the ancient Egyptian religious modes of thought as written in their rituals, were compared in their development from Gnosticism to the present Christian dogmas.

    Reviews were more guardedly favourable this time, the reviewers realising to some extent the importance of Massey's conclusions.  The Athenæum, although again condemning his philology and questioning the value of his result, did note that his work must always have a value for the anthropologist.[19]  The New York Tribune praised his evolutionary researches and acknowledged his sifting of the best authorities, but noted that the mass of detail and accumulation of minute proofs would obscure the significance of his argument.[20]  Additionally, the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Science considered the work to have importance, not hesitating to say, ‘if the substance of this work could be presented in a condensed form … it would form a valuable—almost necessary—companion to Darwin's Descent of Man, the one work complementing and supporting the other.’  More favourably inclined to Massey's philological derivations which were based on things, objects, and gesture-signs—the actual ‘roots’ of language, the journal stated that the conclusions reached would be grievously unwelcome to many.  But, ‘it seems that he is turning the only position of importance still held by our opponents [the non-Evolutionists], and that his movement, if properly followed up, will be decisive.’[21]  It was reported that Alfred Russel Wallace, on receiving a copy, wrote, ‘Thanks for your great and wonderful work.  I see it contains many things of profound interest.’[22]

    During Massey's completion of his books, he had been making arrangements for another American tour.  This had become a necessity for financial reasons, as the proceeds from any of his publications were minimal.  Before he left, he delivered a series of four lectures out of the thirteen ‘archaic, evolutionary and theosophic subjects’ proposed for America, at St George's Hall, Langham Place.  George Jacob Holyoake had recommended the lectures as being a good sign for London if Mr Massey has a large audience, as he has always something of point and weight to say.[23]

    The first lecture, held on Sunday 9 September, 1883, ‘Man in search of his Soul during 50,000 years and how he found it’, showed how his opinions had changed since his previous lectures at that venue.  In introducing his subject, Massey offered an apology for his performance, to the effect that he had ‘held his tongue for ten long years, till he half lost the use of it.’  Having become now more evolutionary in his principles, he drew an analogy between man's physical form of evolution and the corresponding enlargement of his consciousness.  Particular emphasis was given to his theories of Africa and Egypt as having formed the cradle of civilisation.  The ‘souls’ to which Massey referred were, as he put it, the result of human awareness of questioning ‘What am I?’  The first conception of soul was of blood, which was life issuing from the mother in the form of a child.  The second was breath, which inspired life into the child.  Later developments attempting to define personality and individuality by mythical legend or mystical representation, indicated the degree of knowledge attained at that time.  The baptism of infants appeared to be an attempt to confer on them the final ‘immortal soul’, and from hence may be derived the term ‘Christening’ and the doctrine of salvation.

    His second lecture on the following Sunday had the subject ‘The non-historic nature of the Fall of Man, and what it meant as fable’.  He traced the development of the earliest non-human elemental powers (images of natural phenomena) and their association with zootypes, which were later imaged in the circling of the constellations.  These were the timekeepers who, on account of precession, were 'unfaithful', falling beneath the horizon until being reinstated again at their next precessional cycle.  It was stellar, not human personages who ‘fell’.

    For his third lecture on Sunday 23 September, he chose ‘The non-historic nature of the Canonical Gospels’.  In his introduction, he said that he regarded two things as constituting the unpardonable sin of the parents against the helplessness and innocence of infancy.  The one in allowing a child to run the risk of blood-contamination through the filthy fraud of vaccination, the other in permitting the soul of a child to be inoculated with the still more virulent poison of the theological vaccine.  Massey did have practical cause to revile against the first, as one of his daughters had nearly died as the result of vaccination at an early age.  This was probably Cecilia, who was mentally backward.  The vaccine used at that time was of the ‘live’ variety, and had greater risk of side effects.  ‘I,’ said Massey, ‘in common with others was vaccinated body and soul, and have to spend the rest of my life in trying to get rid of the evil effects of the virus.  When I lectured ten years ago, I had not found out the fraud by which we have been unfathomably befouled.  I accepted the canonical gospels as containing a human history.’  Stating his belief that the Hebrew miracles developed from Egyptian myths, he detailed many of the parallels between gospel history and Egyptian ritual texts, to an appreciative audience.

    His last lecture on Sunday 30 September, was his favourite—‘Why does not God kill the Devil?’  The ‘Devil’ in original ancient mode of thought being night, or darkness, was a fact in nature.  The Hebrew Satan was the adversary, which swallowed up the light incessantly.  Hence the dualistic aspect of God and the Devil, Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Horus and Set, etc.[24]  This lecture had the best attendance, the speaker being in excellent form, with a clear, powerful and sonorous voice.

    During this time, an admirer had proposed the formation of a guarantee fund to assist the independent Massey in his research and travels.[25]  No doubt earnest and well meaning in his suggestion, this writer's proposal was sharply rebuffed by Massey:

No doubt the writer meant well, so did Romeo when he stepped in and caused the death-wound of his dear friend Mercutio, by an action both futile and fatal.  The letter was most injudicious, most unwarranted, most unauthorised, to say the least of it … In coming forth to lecture once more, I had no notion of being the personal herald of a forthcoming subscription to myself.  I had no thought of holding my hat in my hand on the platform, and have no intention of being posed in that position by any other person... The writer speaks of my going forth to face the world with my 'tongue in my hand', but better that, extraordinary as it may be, even though torn out to realise the figure, than going forth with the tongue in my cheek.  Nor need the writer be distressed at my slender personnel.  I am thin on principle, and have never carried an ounce of spare flesh.  I live by system, and break no dietary law.  My heart is stout, a heart-and-a-half when the pull is up-hill.  It is true that I have suffered from bronchitis; nor could I shake it off whilst sitting cramped over the desk and working in the dusty atmosphere of books twelve hours a day seven days a week as I have done for years … A thousand-fold more than bronchitis would be the suspicion that in going to America or Australia, I was facing the world with the begging-box slung furtively at my back! … [26]

    Just prior to leaving England for America, Massey applied for a Visiting Order from the Home Office in order to visit G.W. Foote, editor of The Freethinker, who was currently in Holloway Gaol for blasphemy.  His application was refused.  Foote had been charged in 1882 for publishing some comic Bible sketches, and was undergoing 12 months imprisonment.  Following the Judge's (who was a Roman Catholic) sentence, Foote responded, “Thank you, my Lord, the sentence is worthy of your creed.”  In Foote's book concerning the trial (Prisoner for Blasphemy. Progressive Publishing Co. 1886 and online at Project Gutenberg), he mentions Massey: “Mr. Gerald Massey, then on a visit to England [he was actually leaving for America] was churlishly refused a visiting order from the Home Office, but he sent me his two magnificent volumes on ‘Natural Genesis,’ and a note to the interim editor of the Freethinker, requesting him to tell me that I had his sympathy.  ‘I fight the same battle as himself,’ said Mr. Massey, ‘although with a somewhat different weapon.’”

    On 9 October 1883 he left England on the 400-berth s.s. City of Rome, his fellow-passengers including Henry Irving's dramatic company and the women's rights campaigner Emily Faithfull, who was making her third lecture tour of the U.S.A.  They arrived in New York on 21 October.

    Massey's first lecture, advertised by the United States Lyceum Bureau, was held at Chickering Hall on 16 November, on ‘Man in search of his soul … ’ the first of the series he had given previously in London.  In his introduction, he said:

I have been a fighter on the wrong side all my life … it is not the way to fortune … I come here to sow the seed, not to reap the harvest.  I come to speak to the New America, the America of the future, the Continental America … the America of freer thought and fuller life, that includes Evolution, Spiritualism, Secularism, Nationalisation of the Land, and other re-formative elements in the New World's future mental life.

    It was unfortunate that he had not explained aspects of his thesis 'The Seven Souls' in greater detail during the course of his lecture.  A reporter from the New York Times then briefly summarised the lecture:

Since the ascent of man, as unfolded in the doctrine of evolution, had succeeded the falsehood of his fall, it became necessary to go back to the beginning, and judge from the actions of primitive man. The earliest mode of burial had its primary model in the mother's womb, the idea being to preserve the body for future birth. This is still represented in the navel mounds of India, the nave of a church, the Scottish tumulus and other instances. The certainty of a future after death possessed by primitive man did not come to him by revelation, for he was neither a metaphysician nor a victim of diseased subjectivity.

He said the Egyptians together with the Hebrew Rabbis, Druids and present-day esoteric Buddhists believed in the existence of seven souls. These souls were: the soul of blood, the soul of breath, the soul of external perception, the soul of internal perception, the pubescent soul, the intelligent soul and the immortal soul. This belief was typified in the seven days of the Book of Genesis. The Egyptians' struggle for immortality culminated in the mummy, preservation being the first form of salvation. They believed that man gained his fifth soul only at puberty, and his sixth at 20 years of age. Children consequently had only elementary souls, and from this was derived the false claim of the Church to save the soul of a child by baptism.

They thought (together with Shamans and others) that they might be able in a trance state to transform themselves temporarily into spirits, and used forms of alcoholic beverage to produce that state. This belief in a spiritual entity which could be separated permanently from life, was the first conception of immortality.

    The lecture was reported similarly by the New York Tribune.  The reporter wrote finally that, ‘… the points made in the lecture will be found entertaining to those who only take a casual interest in such subjects.’[27]  The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the same lecture on the 25 November, but with greater (and more necessary) explanatory detail, and it was unfortunate that the lecture had not been treated likewise by the New York Times.

    The following day, an article appeared in the New York Times under the heading ‘A New Philosophy’.  Written by a reporter who obviously intended to make the account of the previous day's lecture an object of fun and derision, it nearly became a disaster for Massey's lecture tour:

Being an exceptionally profound philosopher, Mr Massey of course rejects the Christian religion and treats it with lofty contempt … Through the magnificent vagueness and unequalled unintelligibility of his lecture we find occasional glimpses of the grand system of which Mr Massey is the prophet.  It consists briefly in the theory that man has seven souls, and that he obtains proof of the existence of his seventh and only really valuable soul by getting drunk.  The state of drunkenness is a state of ‘spiritual awakenment’; and in this state man may interrogate nature, become as ‘a spirit among spirits’, and indulge in various other useful and entertaining games.  The divine drunkenness of which Mr Massey treats is not produced exclusively by alcohol or opium.  Mesmerism is a cheaper stimulant, and what is known as the trance state is the variety of drunkenness best adapted for communion with our seventh soul … In the enquiry what must a man do to be saved …  Mr Massey's answer virtually is: ‘Get drunk and commune with your seventh soul.’ … Philosophers could have attained the summit of all knowledge by the help of a few mesmeric passes or a few gills of whisky … It could be wished that he had explained the connection between the seven souls of man and the nine lives of cats.  There must be some connection, for both nine and seven are sacred numbers … Mr Massey should investigate this great question, and Colney Hatch would afford him the quiet and seclusion necessary for this purpose.[28]

    Although he usually ignored unfavourable comments in newspapers, it would be an understatement to say that Massey was annoyed by this particular report.  After consulting solicitors, he immediately issued a writ for defamatory, malicious and injurious libel before the Supreme Court, King's County, against George Jones as treasurer of the New York Times Publishing Association, laying damages at $5,000.  Having given particulars of his previous reputation in the general field of literature and his more recent research studies, he detailed the untruths of statements made in the article.  In his lecture he had mentioned the opinions that various nations have held as to the nature of the soul of man, and of those who have believed that man had seven souls.  Also, he had spoken of the evolution of those opinions, an upward series of seven types, the culmination of which was the fact of only one enduring soul.  The references to drunkenness were utterly false and untrue.  He claimed that by the false and defamatory libels set forth, he had suffered loss in character as an author, writer; lecturer and as a man, and his purposes as a lecturer had thereby been defeated, and his prospective engagements thwarted to his great damage.[29
Massey's comments (also in Natural Genesis  I, vii, 388-393 and Lectures  'Man in Search...',  208-211) regarding Shamans and their trance states induced by alcohol or – more usually – by hallucinogens have received more academic research since then.  See The Mind in the Cave. Consciousness and the Origins of Art,  by David Lewis-Williams, Thames & Hudson, 2002.

    At an interview given to a reporter on the Brooklyn Eagle on the 6 January 1884 in which he mentioned his libel suit, he said all he demanded was vindication.  He was not after the money, but he felt it was his duty as a public man to try and stop the system which he said was practiced with impunity by certain papers in the country.  He had supposed America to be a free country where a man could utter his thoughts, however novel they might appear, without being called a lunatic.  For years, he said, he had been at work on his new philosophy, encouraged with the thought that he would be able to present the result of his labours before American audiences, such as he had had when he was here eight years ago.  "It is rather hard," he said, "to be met on the very threshold of my return to America with such a reception."

    Subsequent to the issuing of the writ, he was advised against proceeding further.[30]  It appears likely that the time spent in an ensuing court case would have seriously impeded or even necessitated the cancellation of the remainder of his lecture tour.  The damages claimed, if he had been successful, may not have covered the financial expectations of a full tour, and had he lost the case it would have been a financial disaster.

    Immediately following the lecture, Massey was taken ill with bronchitis and a tonsil abscess brought about, he thought, on account of the cold weather of that week.  This caused the cancellation of his remaining three booked lectures, and some unforeseen expense.  A Catholic paper, published in Brooklyn, gave personal feelings of delight that Massey did not appear to be meeting with much success on his second visit to the United States.[31]

    Following two months of recuperation, his reputation apparently undamaged, he felt able to recommence his tour.  He began with a series of four lectures at the Old Baptist Church, 133 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn.  Two of these lectures were new, ‘The Non-historic nature of the Fall of Man’ and ‘Non-historic nature of the Canonical Gospels’.[32]  Judge A. H. Dailey presided for his first, the now infamous ‘Man in search of his Soul …’  The reporter found Massey to be:

… at the grand climacteric of life; and is below the medium stature.  Grey whiskers, of English trim, half mask a face which wears a look of intensity as he plows through the mystical domains of Egyptology and the shadowlands of the ancient Orient.  Brown hair, with occasional streaks of grey, rolls forward in a billow on his crown, and ripples off from the ears.  He wears spectacles when he reads from manuscript.  He spoke for nearly two hours with such rapid enunciation that his hearers were strained to follow him.[33]

    From Judge Dailey's residence at 252 Bushwick Avenue where he was staying, not yet fully recovered from the trauma of the aborted court action and subsequent ill-health, he wrote to Harry Edwards on 25 February:

You put a little new life into me on Saturday.  I was losing heart and nerve.  But, we must make this a success or I shall feel worse than before.  To your 25 or 10 or 5 Dollar friends you may hint of my illness and that this is a sort of benefit Lecture …

    Leaving Brooklyn he went in early March to Gill's Hall, Springfield, Mass.[34], where he wrote to Edwards again:

Heartfelt thanks for your kindly note.  All right.  What I make here will keep me going.  I did not know that I was to stay over the two Sundays here.  I look in at Dailey's on Tuesday and go to Philadelphia on Thursday, then back to Dailey's.  I have an offer from Cleveland for a course of Lectures, at a price, early in April.  So it begins to look as tho' with your invaluable help the worst is over and I shall get along.  The improved prospect puts me in better spirits.  Indeed, I am fighting down my nervous dyspepsia fast … [35]

    From Springfield he went then to Cleveland, at the Church of the Unity, on 8 April, for a series of five lectures.  Prior to leaving Cleveland he gave a short talk to the Children's Progressive Lyceum, on ‘The Origin of some of our everyday Habits and Customs’.[36]  On his way to San Francisco he stayed to lecture in Power's Opera House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, from 21 to 28 April which the Eagle reported, and noted his delivery ‘as like the rushing storm’.[37]  Professor Marvin Vincent, a theologian, commented, ‘He is a splendid lecturer.  He went off like the eighty-one ton pounder.  I didn't agree with his opening remarks, but it was like a shell bursting among us, and we had enough to do to look out during the rest of the lecture.’[38]

    Having arrived in San Francisco, he was met by a reporter from The Call on 23 June 1884, who asked him for his impressions of America before he continued his onward journey to Australia.  He used the opportunity to restate his beliefs concerning capital, labour and co-operation, which had remained a firm conviction since his Chartist days. (Appendix D.)

    Massey's first lecture in Australia was in Freemasons' Hall, Sydney, on 12 August 1884.  For his subject, ‘The Man Shakespeare with Something New’, he was introduced by His Honour Mr Justice Windeyer as the first English poet that had visited Australia.  The hall was crowded to capacity.  Following the lecture the poet was cheered by the enthusiastic audience.  They again showed their appreciation when it was mentioned that Massey was the critic who, in the Athenæum had first introduced the Australian poet Henry Kendall to the rest of the world.[39]

    From Sydney he went on to Melbourne for a conversazione of the Victorian Association of Spiritualists on 29 September, where he spoke in general terms on the subject.  Remarking on the divergences of opinion within their ranks, he thought it was in many ways an advantage, making those people independent in mind.  He did consider, nevertheless, that a loose confederation would assist them to agree on plans of action.[40]

    With regard to Massey's visit to Melbourne, it is interesting to speculate if John James Bezer, who had left England under a cloud in 1852, and was living in Melbourne at this time, had heard of the visit.  If he had, he would certainly have avoided Massey.  See the author's John James Bezer, Chartist, and John Arnott, National Charter Association ( 2008).

    In Ballerat, New South Wales, he irritated the religious dogmatists before returning to Sydney at the Theatre Royal.  After giving several lectures he was taken ill, which lost him two months, but was able to continue with further lectures at West's Academy in May, before sailing to Auckland, New Zealand, in August.[41]  The local Rationalist reported large sections of his lectures, which also received fair commenting from the national press.  Towards the completion of his tour in the colonies, he was frequently asked for his opinions on their culture and social state:

I have been twelve months in the Colonies, and still feel that I want to come back to see what I think.  Roughly speaking, I see a land of coarse plenty, which must be a paradise to myriads of emigrants half starved at home …  Douglas Jerrold said of the soil out here, that if you tickled it with a hoe, it would laugh out with a harvest.  It strikes me there has been too much tickling with a hoe—too much surface work.  You want a lot of our small farmers with some means of their own—the men who are being ousted from the land at home every day … One thing I have been delighted with, that is the universal use made of flowers as a daily beauty in the homes of the people, wherever I have been.  I have been struck with the look of English solidity in buildings.

    Asked if he considered free trade or protection best for a young colony like New Zealand, in relation to local industries, he replied:

I am a freetrader myself, and I consider that England has absolutely demonstrated the benefits of free trade for the whole people.  I should be very chary of protecting anything, although there may be necessary exceptions in a young colony... It is not the duty alone that tells, but the profit on the duty. Thirty per cent duty means another 30 per cent to the purchaser.  A 1s 6d bottle of eau de cologne in London, is 2s in Sydney, and 3s in Auckland and Dunedin.  Nor is it necessary for all people to produce all things, as if they were going to stand a siege against all the rest of the world.[42]

    In spite of the litigation concern and health problems that caused delays to his tour, he appeared satisfied with the result, and left for England in November.

    During his travels, Massey must have read about the Pall Mall Gazette's articles ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’ which, in May 1885, had exposed large scale prostitution and white slave traffic in London.  William T. Stead, editor of the journal and author of the articles had been less than circumspect in obtaining evidence, and was imprisoned for three months on charges of abducting a minor.  J. O. Baylen in the Victorian Periodicals Newsletter traced a copy of Massey's poem ‘Greeting to W. T. Stead’ which Massey had sent to Stead, presumably in January, the month of his release, congratulating him on his crusade.[43]  This was not published in Stead's journal, but another copy, with some minor variations and an extra verse, was published in the Medium and Daybreak, 22 January 1886.  Stead had been released from prison on 18 January, and the additional penultimate verse indicates that particular event:

… And so we greet him at the Prison-porch,
With bosoms beating music for his march,
And hearts uplifted like a Triumph-Arch.

Honour to him, we cry, who sought to save
The Girls dragged down our gutters to the grave!
For him our plaudits ring and welcomes wave.

The poem was reprinted by Massey in 1889, as ‘At the Prison-door’, again with an extra verse and some amendments.[44]

    On 28 March 1886 he was ready to recommence his lecturing with a welcome at St George's Hall, for which the Reverend Stainton Moses had urged a large attendance.  Samuel Carter Hall, then aged 86, who had supplied evidence to the Dialectical Society and provided valuable assistance to D. D. Home during his trial, expressed his regret at being unable to attend:

Dear Gerald Massey,
I wish to let you know that nothing but very severe illness would have prevented my attending your Lectures, which I am very sure will be of deep interest and value.  I should like to write you a long letter, but, in truth, I cannot.  I am very near to death.  To borrow a saying of my old friend Thomas Hood, ‘I am so near Death's door that I fancy I can hear the creaking of the hinges’ … I shall long precede you out of this life, but I may be, I believe that I shall be, one of your helpers in the next …

Massey responded to the greeting:

I sometimes feel that the assurance of Spiritualism must almost make me seem brutal in my acknowledgement of death … It is, however, betwixt a smile and a tear that I think of you looking back here for work to do, at a time when all good Christians are looking forward to doing nothing whatever but lying down lazily in the oyster-beds of everlasting repose …

    Of the more worldly affairs during 1886, nothing provided more attention than the general election.  Fought principally on the issue of Irish Home Rule, Gladstone's ‘Bill for the Better Government of Ireland’ was defeated with the aid of dissident Liberals.  Randolph Churchill aided Salisbury's Conservative Party with an onslaught against Gladstone, and the Conservatives were returned to power in July.  Massey, who always had strong political interests, supported Gladstone, particularly on the front of Home Rule.  Prior to the election, he wrote a pamphlet of six ‘Election Lyrics’ which were published by Burns, and sold at 'Twopence each; 7/6 per 100; 30/- per 1000'.  The sales are not recorded.  Politically satirical as compared with his radical protests of the 1850s, the lyrics were cleverly constructed and topical.  ‘The Poet of the People uttered the voice of the People.’  He exhorted them to ‘Vote for the Liberation Laws, The Grand Old Man, and the Great New Cause!’ and criticised the Conservative Primrose League.  The League had been formed by Lord Randolph Churchill and some of his friends in 1883 to promote the political opinions of the Tory party in a more popular manner.  From their base at 20 Essex Street, Strand, they aimed to maintain the union of the Crown, the Constitution, and the Country.  The name of the League was suggested by the late Lord Beaconsfield's favourite flower.  Queen Victoria had acknowledged this by sending a wreath of primroses to be placed on his tomb on 19 April, the anniversary of Beaconsfield's death, thus commencing the annual Primrose Day.[46] The league was very well organised, and became a powerful force in obtaining votes. Advertisements for Primrose pocket handkerchiefs, Primrose tooth powder, Beaconsfield sun shades and skirts were widely placed in journals.  The Grand Council had two Grand Masters, the Marquess of Salisbury and the Earl of Iddesleigh, followed by trustees, and a large Grand Council.  Branches, known as ‘habitations’ were formed countrywide under the old ‘orders of knighthood’ basis, with members joining as knights or squires.  Habitations were subdivided into wards, each ward consisting of one or more blocks of buildings, controlled by a ‘warden’, which facilitated intensive canvassing.  Early in its formation, the league recognised the importance of women as a political force, and a special branch for them, the ‘Dames’, was formed the following year under the presidency of the Marchioness of Salisbury.  Lady Randolph Churchill was a vice-president.  The dames appreciated the primrose as being representative, as they considered it possessed their own characteristics attributed by Burns to the daisy, of being both ‘wee and modest’—although approval by a dame of the league was to mean more than the favour of a gracious smile.  They assisted their knights very effectively in the canvassing duties.  In 1886 the league had a membership of half a million people.[47]

The Primrose Dame is a likely lass,
To wile and wheedle the Working Class
                  Of their Votes - her end and aim.
A vision of beauty, in by-way or street,
Is the glance of her face, or a glimpse of her feet,
                  When a-foot is the Primrose Dame …

Soliciting votes, she is not shy,
Will let you light your pipe at her eye, -
                  Kindle your fire with her flame;
But look for the snare when you see the smile,
Under the Primrose she can beguile:
                  Beware of the Primrose Dame …

In a later edition of the poems he added a further verse:

‘Refreshments at five, in the Primrose Bower!
You WILL come? You WILL wear it? MY favourite flower?
                  HIS flower who gave it HIS fame!'
And the touch is of velvet, the look is of love:
But beware of the claw that is sheathed in the glove
                  Of the Beaconsfield Primrose Dame.

    Lecturing occupied most of Massey's time for the next two years.  Another series of ten at St George's Hall commenced on 31 August, and included Shakespeare and Burns as a lighter variation on his now more orthodoxy opposed subject matter.  As a result of his iconoclastic change of stance he found himself in greater conflict with accepted authorities on biblical and mythological exegesis, as well as with some of his Spiritualistic advocates.  Dr James Peebles, a Christian Spiritualist, had been lecturing in Australia in 1874 on ‘Spiritualism defined and defended’.  There he had been referred to as ‘the American devil-rapper’, ‘bold infidel’, ‘long-haired apostate’, and other unflattering terms to which even Massey, with the occasional exception, had not been subjected.[49]

    Massey was now firmly against the literal interpretation of biblical narrative.  He declared that the Christ of the Canonical Gospels was not to be resolved into the man whose identity is acknowledged by the Jews; but could be traced by trait, characteristic and character, to the several copies of the Egyptian prototype, especially to the Horus-Christ of the Osirian religion, who was continued as the Horus of the Gnostics, and who is developed as the Christ in the Catacombs of Rome.  Peebles had complained of Massey's anti-Christian opinions, to which Massey had responded by referring to Peebles as ‘one of those professed Spiritualists who are the very worst cacklers on behalf of historic Christianity, as if they were the Geese who are going to save Rome for the second time’.[50]  Massey was also attacked by William Coleman in the Chicago Religio-Philosophical Journal, on a lecture ‘The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ’ which had been published in the Medium and Daybreak.  Coleman, in some detail, accused Massey's parallels between the New Testament and Egyptian mythology as being far-fetched, incongruous, absurd, and positively false in construction.[51]

    As no copy was sent to him, Massey was unable to reply until the following March.  By that time Coleman had written a letter in the same journal on 5 February, ‘Opinions of eminent Egyptologists regarding Mr Massey's alleged Egypto-Christian parallels’.  Quoting a letter on the subject by Professor Sayce, in which Sayce referred to Massey's books as ‘a mass of ignorance and false quotation’, he mentioned a letter from an Egyptologist connected with the British Museum, who did not want his name published ‘owing to the rather personal character of some of his remarks’.  This person had written, with other assertions, that Massey was ‘an ignoramus of the worst kind’.  Massey was quick to take up the challenge, and wrote to Mr Le Page Renouf at the British Museum, as being the most likely person to have made the statements, but Mr Renouf declined either to admit or deny having been the author.  Massey replied in a very abrasive manner to the points made by Mr Coleman, whom he judged to be incompetent to discuss matters of Egyptology.  Strangely, Coleman had written in his article ‘that there is no reasonable doubt in the light of historico-critical biblical science, that while large portions of the latter [John's Gospel] are genuinely historical, the Gospel of John, as a whole, is unhistorical, mythical’, and Massey was quick to take up that point.  Welcoming honest criticism and genuine correction, Massey said that he had spared no time to get at his facts, and neglected no source of knowledge.  He had learned the Egyptian Book of the Dead nearly off by heart, and consulted with Dr Samuel Birch regarding variant texts, who also had corrected his proofs and gave him advice.  And that, he added bitingly, was a great disadvantage when being judged by Mr Coleman![52]  He had also received assistance from Claude Montefiore, a Hebrew religious and biblical studies authority as well as from Goldridge Pinches, Lecturer on Assyria at the British Museum. [Birch/Pinches correspondence, British Library.]  Massey's ‘Retort’ was appreciated by a pseudonymous ‘M.A. (Cantab.)’.  He mentioned that Le Page Renouf, who had succeeded Dr Samuel Birch as Keeper of the Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, was a Roman Catholic, and queried his judgement on religious philosophy.  Although the Egyptian origin of Christianity was an old theory, Massey's discoveries built a firmer foundation for this thesis.  Even if several facts were found to be errors either of judgement or other cause, the force of the array of the others is undiminished.[53]

    On 11 November Massey was in Glasgow, when his subject incurred the displeasure of the Christian Leader.  Under the heading of ‘A wasted life’ the journal stated its orthodox indignation against that part of the audience who showed their appreciation of some of Massey's comments:

Shame on the men who laughed outright, and deeper shame on the few women who veiled their smiles at the wittily couched blasphemies which interspersed Gerald Massey's lecture last week on the historical (Jewish) Jesus, and the Mythical (Egyptian) Christ!  I saw a minister present.  Why did he not speak out against the man who had the effrontery to state that Christianity has for eighteen hundred years presented a sorry spectacle trooping after paganism! … Granted, as Massey asserts, that nearly all the passages in our Lord's life had parallels in heathen mythology long before Christ's advent, would not this alone be sufficient reason for the Redeemer to gather up these dim threads of expectation, and weave them into His own personality so as to present to the heathen mind the completion of what the fable-links had indicated? … [54]

    This attack was ignored by Massey, although undoubtedly brought to his attention.

    In Edinburgh he mentioned that in spite of the wretched wet weather he had done fairly well, and had been reported in a somewhat "brief but dynamitish" fashion by The Scotsman.  Massey may have been referring to the edition of 22 October 1886, which carried a report on his lecture in the Albert Hall, Edinburgh on ‘Paul the Gnostic—not a Witness for Historic Christianity.’[55]

    Massey's next intended visit, to Newcastle, was spoiled by a series of misunderstandings.  When he suggested a fee of £30 for four lectures, he received no reply from the Newcastle Spiritualists.  On then asking for an offer, they said they could pay £3 3s plus the hall and advertisements for two nights, but no expenses.  Neither of these suggestions being satisfactory to both parties, further proposals were made, which then became confused, with the whole affair ending in publicised acrimony.  However, it appeared not to have damaged Massey's lecture tour, the paper being less sympathetic to the Newcastle Society when it stated that generosity in the form of a more handsome offer for such services was desirable.[56]

    A few years after he had received his Civil List Pension in 1863, it was proposed by friends that an application should be made for an extension of the sum that had been granted.  This course was urged also by Lord Lytton, who had written on 15 July 1866:

Dear Mr. Massey,
I was sorry to hear that you did not receive a more adequate pension.  I should be willing to sign a memorial with others; and I advise you to get one prepared, stating the circumstances, and asking for an increase of the amount now given.  I think you well worthy of whatever pension can be allowed from the fund set apart for literary men.


    But due to his involved personal affairs and American tours, he had been unable to act on this advice at the time.  He now prepared the necessary Memorial and sent it to the Rt. Hon. W. H. Smith, the First Lord of the Treasury.  Forty-two signatures were appended for:

Your Lordship's most considerate attention, and venture to hope that your Lordship may see fit to recommend Mr Massey's name for an extension of the amount now granted, that his lot may be made a little lighter, and his chance increased for rendering fuller justice to the literary talent which, according to the undersigned, has already done good service.

    The forty-two names appended included those of Lady Marian Alford, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Richard Burton, William Crookes, David Masson, George Meredith, Henry Morley, Herbert Spencer and John Tyndall.  This application proved to be successful, and on 1 April, 1887, ‘in consideration of his literary merit, and of the smallness of his means of support’ he was awarded an extra £30 per annum.[58]

    Since 1883 Massey had realised the desirability of providing short synopses of some of the principal areas in his Book of the Beginnings and Natural Genesis as suggested by the Quarterly Journal of Science (vide sup.).  Certain reviewers had commented on the complexity of the material, and he had received enquiries from other persons, particularly Freethinkers, Secularists and Spiritualists, concerning publication of abstracts.  As his current lecture courses were derived from these large works, he prepared a series of ten for private publication in 1887.  These included several of the lectures that he was currently presenting, together with some additional titles.  In these short published lectures (Gerald Massey's Published Lectures) he demonstrated his research into the African origin and development of myth, symbol, language and religion by the use of a system of typologies that he developed as a method of classification.  These included totemic typology, primitive customs, numbers, time, the mythical serpent, the cross, the four quarters, mythical creations, etc.  He stated that mythology is a mode of representing certain elemental powers by means of living types that were superhuman-like phenomena in nature, i.e. representation on the ground of likeness.  They were representatives of certain natural forces, from which the earliest gods evolved.  How these were thought of and expressed constitute the primary stratus of what is termed 'Mythology' today.  Early man made use of 'things' to express their thoughts, and these 'things' became symbols—outward and visible shapes of ideas—the beginning of gesture sign-language by imitation being earlier than words.  As an example, Massey notes that the figure of an eye directly represents sight and seeing, but the eye as reflector of the image becomes a symbol.  Myths were therefore founded on natural phenomena and remain in the register of the earliest scientific observation.  Massey treats mythology as 'the mirror of prehistoric sociology.'  Throughout his works, when examining racial mythology, Massey places particular emphasis on ancient Egyptian myths (the most developed in African culture) and general mystery religions.  He maintains that these myths developed as a necessary and fundamental central core of belief from earliest times, and are the roots of modern cultural origins.  Intrinsic to these beliefs are world-wide convictions that support the particular idea of the post-mortem persistence of the human soul.  In Egypt, for example, prayers and offerings were not made to the person of the deceased (represented as a type of transformation by the dead Mummy—a mortal likeness), but to the ka-image, a likeness of the person's soul that lived on after death. 
Elaine Pagel’s introduction to her Adam, Eve, & the Serpent (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson 1988) p. xix quotes the anthropologist Clifford Geertz' definition of culture as "an historically transmitted pattern of meaning embodied in symbols; a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form, by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitude to life."  This would certainly equate with Massey's concise concept of mythology as being "the mirror of prehistoric sociology" and the Oxford definition of culture as "ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society."

    It has to be noted that the lectures were published in 1887, and due account must be taken of research and archaeological discoveries made since then.  Elements of these must necessarily amend some of his details and conclusions.

    Massey's theme in his Paul as a Gnostic opponent, not the Apostle of Historic Christianity—and comments of some later scholars regarding Gnosticism were reinforced by the discovery in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, of twelve 2nd/3rd century Coptic Gnostic codices.  Bart Ehrman in his Lost Christianities. The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we never knew (OUP 2003) quotes from a section of 'The Apocalypse of Peter' in which Peter witnessed the crucifixion.  What was crucified was not the divine Christ, but his physical shell.  Jesus replied to Peter's query as to whose hands and feet they were hammering:

The Saviour said to me, "He whom you see above the cross, glad and laughing, is the living Jesus. But he into whose hands and feet they are driving the nails is his physical part, which is the substitute … "

    The Gnostics believed that salvation does not come in the body, but by the divine spirit escaping the body, which is the physical shell, and that the physical death of Jesus was not therefore the key to salvation.  It is not the dead Jesus that saves, but the true self—the Divine Essence.  Before the publication of Massey's lectures in 1887, portions of gospel texts associated with Paul were considered corrupt.  Since then, further biblical exegesis (such as the Nag Hammadi cache discovery) has continued to cast doubt on the accuracy of a number of works attributed to Paul and other writers.  Bart Ehrman—vide supra,—Barry Layton's The Gnostic Scriptures (1987) and Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Paul (1975) confirm the multiplicity of groups with diverse ideas in that period that gave rise to conflicting opinions in their writings.  Although known Gnostic writings have not been dated before the early 2nd century, mythological elements may probably have existed from an earlier date.  It appears also that the Gnostics had much in common with early non-Gnostic Christians.  But can Paul be termed a 'Gnostic' as a classic term, as Massey asserted?  A form of philosophical Jewish mysticism comprised an integral part of Gnostic beliefs, and it is likely that Paul understood some of those beliefs.  Both Jesus and Paul as cited in the gospel texts spoke often in parables that were symbolic, and not to be taken literally.  Pagels—supra—notes two conflicting images of Paul.  Traditionally in one image he is viewed as a Christian literalist and anti-Gnostic, in the other as a symbolic Gnostic—supporters of each both claiming to be authentically Christian.  Massey takes the latter, Gnostic view, giving his thesis a marked bias in that direction.

    To some extent also, is Massey's overstatement of the importance of the phenomena of Spiritualism that runs thematically throughout many of his works.  His lecture The coming religion provides a good example.  Whilst not necessarily doubting the earliest forms of psychic phenomena and its important influence, or some of the more modern exponents, it does appear that Massey at times became less that critical when taking that particular approach.

    The Theosophists were also very interested in his works, and held him in high regard except for a number of his opinions on the relevance of secret forms of mysticism.  Madame H. P. Blavatsky quoted him twenty-four times in her Secret Doctrine, and wrote to him on 2 November 1887:

… I have read and re-read your Lectures, and the more I read them the more I rejoice, for whatever there is in them (except your unjust pitching, semi-unjust at any rate, into esoteric Buddhist and our septenary idea) is a corroboration of our esoteric teaching … I quote you constantly, and, for me, you are the only man in Europe and America who understands that symbolism correctly … You differ from us in several important points, such as not accepting the Avatars, or the spirit of Christos, Buddha, Krishna, (rather Vishnu), &c., otherwise than as purely subjective manifestations. We say that, with regard to the Gnostic Christ, you are absolutely right … I say, Mr Massey, glory and honour to you … [59]

    When Massey had this letter published in 1891, he wrote an open reply referring to one of his lectures, The Seven Souls.  In this, he had written of theosophy, or esoteric Buddhism as it was then called, in terms that could hardly have brought a smile to the face of the usually inscrutable ‘H.P.B.’

They are blind guides who seek to set up the past as superior to the present, because they may have a little more than ordinary knowledge of some special phase of it … I do not want to find out that I am a god in my inner consciousness; I do not seek the eternal soul of self.  I want the ignorant to know; the benighted to become enlightened; the abject and degraded to be raised and humanised; and would have all means to that end proclaimed world-wide, not patented for the individual few, and kept strictly private from the many … I cannot join in the new masquerade and simulation of ancient mysteries manufactured in our time by Theosophists, Hermeneutists, pseudo-Esoterics, and Occultists of various orders, howsoever profound their pretensions … The only interest I take in the ancient mysteries is in ascertaining how they originated, in verifying their alleged phenomena, in knowing what they meant on purpose to publish the knowledge as soon and as widely as possible … Mystery has been called the mother of abominations; but the abominations themselves are the superstitions, the rites and ceremonies, the dogmas, doctrines, delusive idealisms, and unjust laws that have been falsely founded on the ancient mysteries by ignorant literalisers and esoteric misinterpretation.

[Chapter 8]




Spiritualist, 6 Nov. 1874, 224-5.


Ibid. 4 Dec. 1874, 273-4.


The Times, 16 Sep. 1876, 7.


Doyle, Arthur Conan, History of Spiritualism 2 vols. (London, Doran, 1926, New York, Arno, 1975), 1, 284-88.


Punch, 71, (16 Dec. 1876), 269. (1887), 232.


Buchanan, Robert, A Look Around Literature (London, Ward & Downey, 1887) 232.


Echo, 9 Feb. 1891, 1.


Cited in the Spiritualist, 6 Mar. 1874, 120, from the Banner of Light, 31 Jan. 1874.


Edward Vaughan Kenealy (1819-1880) LL.D., Q.C. commenced the independent Englishman in 1874.  He had many literary connections, and was an advocate of female suffrage.  Later in life he became interested in Hinduism and Buddhism and wrote anonymously, Fo The Third Messenger of God (London, Englishman Office, 1878), giving deistic connections between Buddhist, Druid and Mediterranean philosophies.  See Memoirs of Edward Vaughan Kenealy by Arabella Kenealy (London, Long, 1908), and Kenealy and the Tichborne Case by Michael Roe (Melbourne UP, 1974). Neither mentions any connection with a Druid Order. It was considered by some that Kenealy's erratic behaviour during the celebrated Tichbourne Case, which led to him being disbarred, could have been due in part at least to his diabetic condition, of which he was a long term sufferer.


Athenæum, 2 Jul. 1881, 12-13.


Saturday Review, 26 Mar. 1881, 403-4.


The Scotsman, 21st May, 1881.



Grimm's Law, formulated in 1822 after Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, shows how close by spelling and pronunciation Latin, Greek and Sanskrit are in relationship to Germanic and Slavonic languages. However, it was agreed then—in opposition to Massey—that the European languages had no connection with Semitic or African families.


Nature, 24, (19 May 1881), 49-50.


Journal of Science, 3, (June 1881), 360-61.


Published by J. Pearce, 'Dr. Johnson's House,' Gough Square, Fleet St., 1882.


Royal Literary Fund, File no. 1581.


Ms. Newcastle City Libraries. Harney's history of Chartism only reached the research stage and was never commenced. See Schoyen, The Chartist Challenge, 274-77.


Athenæum, 29 Dec. 1883, 864.


Reprinted in the Medium and Daybreak, 4 Dec. 1885, 781.


Quarterly Journal of Science, 5, (July 1883), 414-18. Captain Richard Burton and Massey corresponded during 1881. In Massey's 'Explanatory' introduction to his Natural Genesis vol. I, viii, he thanks Captain Burton (and George St. Clair F.G.S.) for their helpful hints and time and labour they have given him. Burton replied to a number of Massey's queries on specific examples of typologies, cited in his Natural Genesis vol. I, 24 through to 439. Mary Lovell in her biography of the Burtons' A Rage to Live (London 1998) mentions two letters of Burton to Massey that are held currently in the Quentin Keynes collection, dated 30 July 1881 and 19 August 1881. Part of the first, referring to Burton's translating of the Arabian Nights is quoted, " … I intend to publish some day all the excised parts in plain English. It will be nice reading for babes and sucklings." In A Catalogue of the Library of Sir Richard Burton, edited by B. J. Kirkpatrick (London, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1978), Massey's Concerning Spiritualism is listed (p.84, 1280.a.d.10). Two copies of The Luciads—Englished by Burton (London 1880) are also listed (p.8, 75a.c.1) which have annotations and marked pages by Massey. Again, (p.205) “In a letter to Gerald Massey in 1881 Burton, after listing the work he had done recently, had added a postscript: ‘Hard-willed men have time for all things.’”


Cited in Banner of Light, 24 Nov. 1883, 4.


Cited in the Medium and Daybreak, 14 Sep. 1883, 585.


Ibid. 14 Sep. 1883, 585-6. 21 Sep. 601-2. 28 Sep. 617-8. 5 Oct. 625-6.


Ibid. 14 Sep. 585.


Ibid. 21 Sep. 602.


Cited and reported in the Banner of Light, 24 Nov. 1883; see also the New York Times, 17 Nov. 1883.


New York Times, 18 Nov. 1883.


Reported in the Banner of Light, 22 Dec. 1883, 4.


Index No. 265/1883, King's County Clerk's Office, Brooklyn, New York.


Ibid. 23 Feb. 1884.


Brooklyn Eagle, 30 January, 1884; see also the final lecture in the series reported in the Brooklyn Eagle, 2 February 1884.


Banner of Light, 27 Jan. 1884.


Banner of Light, 15 and 22 March 1884.


Mss Harvard University Library. This was probably Harry Edwards (1855-1938), assistant editor of the Macon Telegraph.


Medium and Daybreak, 16 May 1884, 311, and Cleveland Herald. His Springfield lectures were reported in the Republican.


Banner of Light, 3 May 1884.


Cited in Medium and Daybreak, 12 Mar. 1886, 179.


Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph, 13 Aug. 1884. Massey is not recorded in the Athenæum listing as having reviewed Henry Kendall. Kendall had sent some unpublished verses together with a covering letter, to Thackeray at the Cornhill Magazine, but had not received a reply. See A. M. Hamilton-Grey's Poet Kendall. His romantic history. (Sydney, Sands, 1926), 269-71. He then sent them to the Athenæum, and these were commented upon favourably possibly by Massey, though not officially reviewed, in the issue of 27 Sep. 1862, 394-5.


Medium and Daybreak, 16 Jan. 1885, 39. Cited from the Harbinger of Light, 1 Nov. 1884.


Lecture report in Medium and Daybreak, 24 Jul. 1885, from the Sydney Daily Telegraph, 26 May 1885.


Medium and Daybreak, 12 Mar. 1886, 179.


Victorian Periodicals Newsletter, 11, (Jun. 1978), 80-82. Ms. held at Georgia State University, Atlanta.


Massey's My Lyrical Life, 2, 110-12.


Medium and Daybreak, 26 Mar. 1886, 201. Hall, a barrister and avowed Spiritualist, had been editor of the Art Journal from 18391880. See his Retrospect of a Long Life 2 vols. (London, Bentley, 1883).


W. E. Adams in his Memoirs of a Social Atom, op. cit. mentioned that the wreath's inscription, 'His favourite flower', might have referred to Prince Albert.


The Primrose League (London, Hatchards, 1887). The Primrose Record, 24 Apr., 6 and 15 May 1886.


Massey's My Lyrical Life, 2, 419.


Banner of Light, 21 Mar. 1874. James Martin Peebles (1822-1922) was born in America, where he qualified as an M.D. An ardent Christian Spiritualist, he lectured and travelled widely in the States and England. He was a Fellow of the Anthropological Society, and founder and president of the Peebles' College of Science and Philosophy. See Medium and Daybreak, 10 Sept. 1886.


Medium and Daybreak, 10 Sep. 1886, 579.


Religio-Philosophical Journal, 41, (16 Oct. 1886), 1.


'Massey to Coleman. A Retort'. Medium and Daybreak, 18 Mar. 1887, 163-66. Reprinted with some additions in Massey's lecture 'The Seven Souls of Man'.


Medium and Daybreak, 1 Apr. 1887, 194-5.


Christian Leader, 18 Nov. 1886, 7 10.


Massey's explanation was that there were two different doctrines present in Paul's Epistles—the Doctrine of the Gnostic or Spiritual Christ, and that of the historic Jesus, both fundamentally opposed to each other. The greatest imposition was the conversion of the Epistles of Paul into the main support of historic Christianity. In his lifetime, Paul had fought against the men who forged the faith of the Christ made flesh. Massey showed that according to the date and data of the Acts, the conversion of Paul was wrongly recorded. He said that the account of Paul's conversion recorded in the Acts was entirely opposed to that which is given by Paul himself in his Epistle to the Galatians. A comparative study of these two versions shows how the matter has been manipulated and the facts perverted for the purpose of establishing an orthodox history. Jesus of Nazareth was unknown to Paul. The compilers of the Acts had falsified when they thought fit, and told the truth when it suited their own notions. Here they found Paul in agreement with the Gnostic rejection of Jesus of Nazareth and historic Christianity, and that could not be permitted.

At the same time, Paul repudiates the genealogies. He tells Titus to "avoid foolish questionings and genealogies" and councils Timothy to warn his followers against giving "heed to fables and endless genealogies" such as they now found in the canonical Gospels of Matthew and Luke. These could have no application to the Christ of the Gnosis who was unconnected with personality any more than place and, therefore, could not be Jesus of Nazareth.

The Gnostics were Christians in an esoteric sense only, and Paul's Gospel and Christ are not those of Peter and James. He therefore warns his followers against the preaching of that "other Gospel" and other Jesus, which are opposed to his own truer teaching.

Again, Paul's doctrine of the resurrection was Gnostic, and that made the Christian's cardinal doctrine of the physical resurrection an impossibility. The Gnostic Christ was the immortal spirit in man, and could not depend on any single manifestation in historic personality. The work of the forgers who laid the foundations of the Church of Rome was to blend the Christ-Jesus of the Gnostics, of the pre-Christian Apocrypha, of Philo and of Paul with a corporeal Christ. That made an impossible personality through a literalisation of mythology, making the historic look like the true starting point and the Gnostic interpretation of a later heresy. That was finally effected when the teaching of John, that the "Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" had been accepted as the genuine Gospel. This lecture was considerably enlarged and published privately by Massey in 1887 as ‘Paul, the Gnostic Opponent of Peter, not an Apostle of Historic Christianity.’


Medium and Daybreak, 29 Oct. 1886, 700. 5 Nov. 713. 12 Nov. 725. 19 Nov. 743. 26 Nov. 755-57.


Published in the 'Memorial'. Author's copy of the Memorial deposited at the Local History Unit, Upper Norwood Library.


Literature and the Pension List, op. cit. 73.


Published in the Agnostic Journal, 3 Oct. 1891, 214, and Medium and Daybreak, 16 Oct. 1891, 668.