The Ghostly Guild: Channeling’s Lineage

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series New Age Bible Versions

Westcott and Hort were not only ‘Fathers’ in the Angelican church but, according to numerous historians and New Age researchers, appear to be among the ‘Fathers’ of the modern channeling movement. (The Fox sisters along with H.P. Blavatsky were the ‘Mothers’.) The group referred to by James Webb as an element in the Occult Underground was ‘The Ghost Club’ or ‘Ghostly Guild’ launched in the 1850’s be Westcott, Hort and Benson. Webb discloses:

Ghost Society [was] founded by no less a person than Edward White Benson, the future Bishop of Canterbury. As A.C. Benson writes in his father’s biography, the Archbishop was always more interested in psychic phenomena than he cared to admit. Two members of the Ghost Club became Bishops [Benson and Westcott] and one became a Professor of Divinity [Hort].(26)

Hort writes of his and Westcott’s work to set this apparition association in motion.

Westcott, Gorham, C.B. Scott, Benson, Bradshaw, Laurd ect. And I have started a society for the investigation of ghosts and all supernatural appearances and effects, being all disposed to believe that such things rally exist. . .Westcott is drawing up a schedule of question(27)

In the very same letter Hort chaffs that the bible, extant in his day as the King James Version from the Greek Textus Receptus, was ‘Villianous’. (28) This letter, a foghorn sounded by Father Time to us today, testifies to the foreboding genesis of today’s community of translations like the NIV, NASB, NKJV, and NRSV. Westcott and Hort’s position in the current bloodline of the New Age movement is conceded by Hort’s son:

Hort seems to have been the moving spirit of. . .’the Bogie Club’ as scoffers called it, [it] aroused a certain amount of derision and even some alarm; it was apparently born too soon.(29)

Authors of the Ancient Empires of the New Age see this trend without a son’s bias noting, “Once the elite had closed their minds to Biblical revelation, they almost immediately began to fall for every spiritual con game and fringe teaching around.” (30) Their contemporaries gave ample warning as Hort admits:

. . .Macaulay is horrified at the paper. . .During the vacation I distributed some eight or ten ‘ghostly papers’. . .I left a paper on my table the other evening when the Ray met here, and it excited some attention, but not I think much sympathy. Dr. __ was APPALLED to find such a spot of medieval darkness flecking light serene of Cambridge University in the nineteenth century. There were also grave smiles and civil questions; and finally several copies were carried off.(31)

Although Hort referred to evangelical Christians as “dangerous” and “perverted”, “unsound”, and “confused” he was rabidly ‘evangelistic’ about his ‘necromancy’ as the bible calls it. Writing to C.H Chambers, Hort proselytizes:

I sent you two ghostly papers; you can have more if you want them, but I find they go very fast and the 750 copies which we printed go by no means far enough. We are promised a large number of well-authenticated private stories, but they have not arrived yet. Our most active members are however absent from Cambridge; to wit Westcott at Harrow and Gordon at Wells. . .(32)

Westcott’s son writes, “Westcott took a leading part in their proceedings and their inquiry circular was originally drawn up by him. He also received a number of communications in response.” Westcott’s “Ghostly Circular” reads in part:

But there are many others who believe it is possible that the beings of the unseen world may manifest themselves to us. . .Many of the stories current in tradition or scattered up and down in books, may be exactly true. . .(33)

The members apparently had their own ‘experiences’ and the circular was for eliciting “information beyond the limits if their own immediate circle.” (34) Referring to ‘the foundations’ of the occult revival, another historian W.H. Salter, points to Westcott, Hort and Benson, their guild and circular.

First mentioned should be made of spontaneous cases of haunts and the like. . .[T]he founders of psychical research . . .The Cambridge ‘Ghost Society’ had collected them by circular.(35)

Topping over the heap of secular historians which identify Westcott and Hort among the seeds of the present New Age thicket is The Founders of Psychical Research, by Alan Gauld. He lists their ‘Guild’ among the ‘Founders’.

In 1851 was founded at Cambridge a Society to conduct a ‘serious and earnest inquiry into the nature of phenomena vaguely called ‘supernatural’, and a number of distinguished persons became members. (36)

Pogo sticking through the index of The Founders of Psychical Research reveals the following ‘company’ in which our esteemed bible revisers find themselves.

Automatic Writing, Benson, Biblical Criticism, Mme, H.P. Blavatsky, Clairvoyance, ‘Control’ Spirit, Crystal-gazing, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Ghost Club, F.J. A Hort, Hypnotism, ‘Inspirational’ writing and speaking in early British Spiritualism, C.G. Jung, Levitation, J.B. Lightfoot, Mediumship, Mesmerism, Multiple Personality, Plato, Society for Psychical Research, Spiritualism, Swedenborne Society, Synthetic Society, Telepathy, Trance Medium, B.F. Westcott.

Westcott’s son writes of his father’s lifelong “faith in what for lack of a better name, one must call it Spiritualism. . .” The subject was, he notes, unintelligible or alarming to the general”. In response to public disfavor regarding his esotericism and liberalism and in light of his position in the ‘religious’ community, Westcott determined that public involvement in the Ghostly Guild “led to no good.” (37) In 1860 and 1861, Hort wrote to Westcott of their mutual concern in this regard.

[T]his may be cowardice – I have a sort of craving that our text [‘New’ Greek Testament] should be cast upon the world before we deal with maters likely to brand us with suspicion. I mean a text issued by men already known for what will undoubtedly be treated as dangerous heresy will find great difficulties in finding its way to regions which it might otherwise hope to reach and whence it would not be easily banished by subsequent alarms. . .If only we speak our minds, we shall not be able to avoid giving grave offense to. . .the miscalled orthodoxy of the day.(38)

Their subversive and clandestine approach continued, as seen ten years later when Westcott writes, “. . .strike blindly. . .much evil would result from the public discussion.”(39) Westcott’s son alludes to the shroud of mystery surrounding the continuation of the ‘Ghostly Guild’. [M]y father laboured under the imputation of being ‘unsafe’. . . .What happened to this Guild in the end I have not discovered.”(40)

Series Navigation<< The Occult Underground: Address for New Bible TranslatorsRosemary’s Baby: The Society for Psychical Research >>