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February 2nd 1920
Boston Daily Globe

Dr. Frothingham Preaches On “The Tree of Life”

Finds World War Strengthened Belief in Immortality

Dr. Paul Revere Frothingham, pastor at the Arlington Street Church, warned members of his congregation to keep away from occult matters, ouija boards and mysticism in his sermon yesterday morning on “The Tree of life.”

“When the mythical parents or the human race were driven out of Paradise,” said Dr. Frothingham, “a sword or flame was placed at the garden to keep the tree of life from the grasp of man. If man passed the barrier he did so I grave danger and with the probability of great harm.”

“We have seen how many hopes have been blighted, how many beliefs have been shaken. If not definitely undermined then because of the crisis that was brought upon us by the war. With all of this, however, there is one belief which seemingly is stronger and more general than it was. I refer to the belief in immortality, which has been developed at the hands of psychical research. Groups of people all around us are looking for visions, listening for voices hoping for communications. They seek out mediums, experiment with planchettes, or ouija boards and endeavor to interpret mystic messages.

Natural Outcome of War
“All of this is to be expected. It is a natural outcome of war with its hideous toll of young and brilliant lives.”

“The desire of the human heart and mind to penetrate the mystery of that which lies beyond the grave is almost always strong, but it becomes a thousand times intensified when death is busy and sorrow becomes general. Whether we scoff at it or are caught by the contagion we have to confess that its roots go back to the very childhood of the world.”

“But old as such happening are there is another sense in which at the present time they are almost new. They cannot any longer be dismissed as either fraudulent, imaginary or not worth considering. The testimony is too strong for that and it bulks too large in volume to be lightly blown away by a careless breathe or criticism. Scientific men and trained investigators and observers have taken their scholarly standing, if not their professional lives, in their hands and have risked their good repute among their kind by weighing evidence in the occult and the unseen.”

“There is much to be said on both sides of the subject. Amid a mass of material that is utterly irrelevant and of testimony that appears of no account. There will ever and again be found such evidence as makes the spiritualistic interpretation the most satisfactory hypothesis there is. At least the wise will not do well to deny that there may be a power which as yet in only partly understood. But however all of that may be, the flaming sword still stands which guards and blocks the way which leads up to the tree of life. I do not say that we cannot pass this barrier; I do not claim that no one has gotten safely by. But what I do say is that we do so at our peril — peril of being burned and peril of being destroyed as far as our higher faculties and moral judgement are concerned. The safe thing and the wise thing is to keep away.”

“I do not believe that we are meant to know or that it is necessarily well for us to know. I would not deny for a moment that many people have been helped and comforted. Yet where one person has been helped and strengthened in such ways as these, dozens have been led astray and lost their poise, to say nothing of their nerves.”

Girls’ Nerves Shattered
“For instance, in one of the newspapers the other day the headlines read that ouija boards are shattering the nerves of the Michigan University girls. One of the professors in the university said that ouija boards are more plentiful in the fraternity and society houses than are Bibles and prayer books. And the physician in charge of the health service claimed that in his opinion the great influx of nervous students was caused by their absorption in spiritualistic phenomena.”

“Now we might pass this by by not believing it. But the trouble is that in this case, I fancy, it is true. For I have known two men rather intimately who became utter nervous wrecks in just this way. Sir William Barrett, a presumable authority on spiritual matters, says: ‘I should dissuade rather than encourage uninstructed persons to resort to professional mediums. Those who yearn to pierce the veil would, if they have not Christian faith, do better to rest content with a perusal of the evidence for survival that is being accumulated.’”

“This from a believer in the subject is significant. He says what I should say for myself, ‘Keep away,’ ‘beware.’”

“There was a reason, I believe, why persons in the Old Testament were forbidden to have dealings with persons possessing spirits, which is the way mediums described themselves. There was reason why our fathers set their faces against those who indulged in mystic arts. And there is reason today why we ought to stand in dread of, and to deplore, this tendency to seek out occult things, and explore the mystic regions.

“What we need today is not excitement but self-control. It is not knowledge of conditions over there that we need, it is knowledge of conditions here, and how they can be met. The next world, as I look upon it, is secure; it is this world that need looking to.”