Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865): American President Institution / Country:USA
Historians have not been able to agree as to President Lincoln’s religious beliefs. He has been characterized as everything from a God-fearing Christian to an atheistic humanist. It seems clear that Lincoln did not often attend church services and took issue with some of the dogma, doctrine, and methods of orthodox Christianity. And, yet, he emerges as one of our most spiritual presidents.
Dr. Susan Martinez, the author of The Psychic Life of Abraham Lincoln, points out that more than 6,000 books have been written about Lincoln and that it has been said that “there are no important new facts to disclose.” She takes issue with that comment as the stories about Lincoln’s association with several credible mediums, especially one Nettie Colburn Maynard, while not new, have been pretty much ignored, forgotten, denied, or swept under the rug.
Many of Lincoln’s biographers have taken note of claims that the 16th President received guidance from spirits who communicated through mediums. However, the claims are usually derided as beneath the dignity of such a great man.
Martinez digs deeply into the documented records of Lincoln’s involvement with mediums and sets forth a preponderance of evidence suggesting that he was indeed guided by benevolent spirits communicating through credible mediums in his most crucial decisions and creative works, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.
The president’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, began exploring “spiritualism,” as it came to be called, by visiting mediums and sitting in circles after the death of their 11-year-old son, “Willie.” The president took a passing interest in the phenomena and then joined in on a more regular basis. At one sitting, after Nettie Colburn went into a trance, it is said that the spirits speaking through her lectured the president about his duty to emancipate the slaves.
Lincoln was seen by many who knew him as a somber man with a gloomy disposition. Martinez examines his “peculiar melancholy” and the events in his life that shaped it, including his mother’s death at age nine, a strict and distant father, the death of a sister at age 10, and the death of his beloved Ann Rutledge when he was 26. She examines Lincoln’s inner turmoil and his attempts to reconcile all of his hardships and the vindictive God of the Old Testament with his evolving ideas of justice, mercy, and goodness, concluding that these experiences molded Lincoln’s psyche in a way that made him more sensitive to the unseen principle.
Martinez recounts the paranormal events of 1848 giving rise to belief in spirit communication, pointing out that many celebrated names, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Cullen Bryant, Thomas Carlyle, James Fenimore Cooper, Emily Dickinson, Horace Greeley, Sir William Crookes, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Russel Wallace, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Queen Victoria, and W. B. Yeats, became investigators and proponents of the new “Spiritual Science.” And yet, the evidence was suppressed by the religious fundamentalists, who saw the phenomena as a threat to established dogma and doctrine, as well as by scientific fundamentalists, who viewed it with “intellectual” arrogance.