THE PHENOMENA OF SPIRITISM

The next subject which claims our attention in connection with the
hypothesis under consideration is that of modern spiritism. It is
approached with much diffidence and some misgivings, not because of any
doubt as to the applicability of the hypothesis to the vast range of
so-called spiritual phenomena, but because of the transcendent interest
and importance of the subject to all mankind. It cannot be forgotten
that millions of human beings base their hopes of a life beyond the
grave upon their belief that in the phenomena of spiritism they have
tangible evidence of the immortality of the soul, and that by means of
such phenomena they can be put into communication with the spirits of
the loved ones who have gone before. The fact cannot be ignored that
there are millions of stricken hearts whose wounds have been healed
by the consolation afforded by that conviction. The great question,
“If a man die, shall he live again?” has been by these phenomena
satisfactorily answered for many whom revealed religion failed to
satisfy, for many whose reasoning powers have failed to grasp the logic
of the theologian. It were an unwelcome task to throw a shade of doubt
upon the validity of evidence which to many seems to be “confirmation
strong as proofs of Holy Writ;” and if in the perusal of the following
pages such doubt arises, the reader is begged to discriminate between
the question of the validity of evidence and the question of fact.
For, be it remembered, I shall not undertake to prove that the souls
of men do not live after the death of the body. That question stands
just where it has always stood. It is a problem which, outside of
revelation, is no nearer a solution than it was when Job propounded the
momentous question. Neither will I undertake to say that the spirits
of the dead do not and cannot communicate with the living. I do not
know. But I do undertake to say, and will attempt to prove, that the
phenomena of spiritism, so-called, do not constitute valid evidence
of the ability of spirits of the dead to hold intercourse with the
living. In doing so, no attempt will be made to deny the phenomena of
spiritism. On the contrary, I shall not only admit the possibility
of every phenomenon alleged by any respectable number of reputable
witnesses to have occurred, but I shall also assume the substantial
accuracy of the general statements made by spiritists regarding the
leading phenomena of spiritism. But I shall attempt to explain their
origin on other grounds than the supposition that they are caused by
the spirits of the dead. In other words, I admit the alleged phenomena,
but deny the alleged cause.

I will not waste time, however, by attempting to prove by experiments
of my own, or of others, that such phenomena do occur. It is too
late for that. The facts are too well known to the civilized world
to require proofs at this time. The man who denies the phenomena of
spiritism to-day is not entitled to be called a sceptic, he is simply
ignorant; and it would be a hopeless task to attempt to enlighten him.
I shall indulge in the hope, however, that by explaining the origin of
the phenomena on rational principles, and thus removing them from the
realm of the supernatural, those who now assume to be sceptical may be
induced to investigate for themselves. It is easy to deny the existence
of that for which we cannot account by reference to known laws, and
it is easy to believe in that which can be thus explained. This is
especially true in regard to phenomena which are popularly attributed
to a supernatural origin. Modern scientists have an easy way of
treating such phenomena, which consists in denying their existence and
refusing to investigate. Such men would plug their own ears and deny
the phenomenon of thunder if they could not account for it by reference
to laws with which they are familiar. And such a proceeding would be no
more senseless than, at this day, to deny the phenomena of spiritism.

In justice, however, to those scientists who have sought to investigate
the subject, and have failed to witness the phenomena promised, it
must be said that in many instances their failure is attributable, not
to any fault of their own, or lack of earnest purpose on their part,
but to a want of knowledge of the fundamental laws which pertain to
the production of such phenomena. The reasons for the frequent failure
to produce psychic phenomena in presence of avowed sceptics has been
fully discussed in a previous chapter of this book, to which the reader
is referred. But at the risk of repetition they will be restated in
their proper place in this chapter, as they pertain to the subject of
so-called spirit phenomena.

The laws which govern the production of the phenomena under
consideration are precisely the same as those which pertain to all
the other phenomena which have been discussed; and the fundamental
propositions of our hypothesis apply with equal force to them all.
Again, the reader is asked to recall those propositions, in order that
their force and logical sequence may remain clear to his mind in this
connection. They are:–

1. The mind of man is dual in its nature,–objective and subjective.

2. The subjective mind is constantly controlled by suggestion.

These two propositions would seem to have been so well established
as to need no further elucidation at this time. The subsidiary
proposition, which applies to the phenomena under consideration, is
that,–

3. The subjective mind, or entity, possesses physical power; that is,
the power to make itself heard and felt, and to move ponderable objects.

This may seem at first glance to be begging the question; but its truth
must be assumed provisionally, for the sake of the argument which
follows. It will readily be seen that if those three propositions
can be established, all the physical phenomena of spiritism can be
accounted for on the ground that living man possesses inherently the
power to produce them. And this is the position which we must assume,
for it appears to be the truth.

It must be acknowledged by all who have witnessed, under test
conditions, any of the physical phenomena, that there is a dynamic
force residing somewhere that is capable of moving ponderable objects
without physical contact, and that this force, whatever it is, or
from whatever source it emanates, possesses intelligence, oftentimes
to a remarkable degree. Now, this intelligent force either emanates
from the spirits of the dead, or it does not. If it does not, it
necessarily follows that it emanates from the living. That this last
supposition is the true one is evidenced by many of the characteristics
of the intelligence which it manifests, among which the following are
prominent:–

It is essentially a human intelligence, and neither rises above nor
sinks below the ordinary intelligence of humanity.

The intelligence is always on a level with that of the medium through
whom it manifests itself. That is, it never rises so far above that
of the medium as to preclude the possibility of its having its origin
in the medium’s subjective mind. That it often rises above the
medium’s known objective intelligence, is well known and admitted.
But we have already seen what remarkable powers the subjective mind
possesses in certain lines of intellectual activity, and with what
limitations it is hedged about; and we find that the intellectual feats
of mediums possess all the characteristics belonging to subjective
intelligence,–the same wonderful powers, and the same limitations.
That so-called spirit communications always correspond to the nature
of the medium’s mind and character, and are limited by his capacity,
is admitted by all the ablest writers on spiritism; and their greatest
ingenuity is taxed to account for the fact. Alleged communications from
the greatest philosophers who have gone before, amount to the merest
twaddle when filtered through an ignorant medium.

Again, we find that the intelligence is controllable by the power of
suggestion. This is shown in the readiness with which “spirits” can be
made to respond to calls made upon them, whether they have any real
existence or not. It is well known that any one can as readily obtain
a communication from an imaginary person as from a real one, from a
living person as from the dead, providing the medium does not happen
to know the facts. The writer has had frequent and very affectionate
communications from an imaginary dead sister, and has occasionally had
a very touching communication from himself, the medium believing the
name to represent a dead brother. The fact that he never had either
brother or sister made the communication all the more convincing.

This perfect amenability to control by suggestion is evinced in another
most remarkable way. It is well known to every person who has been
in the habit of attending spiritual séances how necessary it is that
“harmonious conditions” should prevail. The very presence of an avowed
sceptic will often prevent any manifestations. It frequently happens
that some one present remarks, in a despairing tone, that he does not
expect any manifestations, “because it always happens that when I am
present no communications can be had.” When such a remark is made, the
chances are ten to one that the “spirits” will refuse to respond. Why
this happens, spiritists have laboriously attempted to explain, but
never satisfactorily, except to themselves. The fact that a spirit,
possessing sufficient power to move a table, raise a piano to the
ceiling, or levitate the medium, should be paralyzed in presence of
one who does not believe in spirits, is simply inexplicable, except
upon the one hypothesis, namely, that the power evoked is that of the
subjective mind of the medium, which is amenable to control by the
mysterious power of suggestion. It is inconceivable that the spirit
of Napoleon Bonaparte, who, when living, swayed the destinies of
nations, used kings and popes as his puppets, and led his hosts to
successful battle against the combined armies of Europe, should, when
dead, shrink, abashed and powerless, in presence of some one man who
happens not to believe in spiritism. But it can be readily understood
how a séance should prove a failure when we assume that the power
that moves the table or writes the communications is exercised by the
subjective intelligence of the medium, and that the presence of an
avowed sceptic operates as an ever-present and all-potent suggestion
that the promised manifestations are impossible in his presence. It
is in strict accordance with the universal law of suggestion that
such should be the result. It is this constant amenability to control
by suggestion which always hampers mediums when they are giving test
séances in the presence of sceptical investigators; and I undertake
to say that no medium ever was, or ever can be, powerful enough to
produce his phenomena under test conditions in presence of a hostile
and aggressively sceptical investigating committee. It is no fault of
the medium that this is the case, and it is no test whatever of the
genuineness of his phenomena. But it is presumptive, if not conclusive,
evidence that the source of his phenomena resides within himself, and
hence is amenable to the universal law which governs the action of
all subjective intelligence and power. Neither is it any reflection
upon the sincerity of the investigator that he fails to witness the
phenomena that have been promised. His ignorance of the law which
governs the subject-matter, together with his desire to be frank and
honest enough with the medium to put him in possession of a knowledge
of his sentiments and prejudices, leads him unwittingly to place an
insuperable barrier in the way of success. It unfortunately happens
that many professional mediums, despairing of success in producing
the genuine phenomena, and more than ordinarily anxious to earn the
reward of success, will, under such circumstances, resort to fraud
and legerdemain. The temptation to do so is great when he reflects
upon how much is at stake, the immediate monetary reward promised
being the least consideration. His professional pride, his love of
approbation, his hope of future fame and emolument in case he succeeds
in convincing a sceptical scientific investigator,–all operate to
constitute a temptation too great to be always successfully withstood.
Besides, he knows that, under favorable conditions, he can produce the
genuine phenomena, that he has produced them again and again, and he
quiets his conscience by reflecting that it can do no harm to resort to
legerdemain to simulate that which he knows to have a genuine existence.

In this connection it may be well to state what must already be obvious
to the intelligent reader; namely, that the only way to secure the
production of genuine phenomena is, first, to secure the confidence of
the medium by assuming to be in hearty sympathy with him, and by giving
him to understand that you thoroughly believe in his honesty and his
power to produce genuine phenomena. Give him all the time he wants,
and assure him that you are in no hurry; remembering always that quiet
passivity and undisturbed serenity of mind on the part of a medium is
an indispensable prerequisite to success, not only in producing the
phenomena, but in entering the subjective condition. It is precisely
the same in this respect as it is in hypnotism. The condition of the
medium, when in a trance or partial trance, is precisely the condition
of a hypnotized person, and he is subject to the same laws, and the
same conditions are necessary and indispensable to his success. Every
hypnotist knows that it would be madness to antagonize a hypnotic
subject by suggesting to him in advance that he is an impostor, or
that hypnotic phenomena are mere humbug, and then expect to hypnotize
him and produce the phenomena. When investigators realize this one fact
they will have taken the primary lesson in spiritistic investigation.
Every one who understands the first principles of hypnotism knows
what folly it would be to subject the science to the test of allowing
a sceptical investigator to take a subject in hand and begin the
operation of trying to hypnotize him by assuring him that hypnotism
is imposture, and all subjects are mere pretenders. And yet one who
investigates hypnotism in that way does, in effect, precisely what the
sceptical investigator of spiritistic phenomena does when he avows his
scepticism to the medium in advance. If investigators would observe
the rule here suggested, and always endeavor to put the medium at his
ease and accede to all the conditions prescribed by him, instead of
insisting upon test conditions of their own devising, they would soon
find that they would witness all the phenomena desired, and under
conditions that preclude the possibility of fraud or legerdemain. Any
other course almost of necessity defeats the object sought.

It will be seen, therefore, that a failure to produce phenomena at
a given time does not necessarily indicate fraud on the part of the
medium; and in strict justice to professional mediums, who as a class
have been brought into disrepute by the fraudulent practices of some
of their number, it must be said that the detection of a medium in
fraudulent practices does not _per se_ prove that he was consciously
guilty; for it is an undoubted fact that when a medium is unconscious,
and his subjective mind is in control, it often acts capriciously,
and presumably fraudulent practices might be indulged in without the
objective knowledge or consent of the medium. Therefore, until the
laws governing the subject-matter are better understood, we should
extend the broadest charity over the professional medium, except in
cases where it is discovered that the paraphernalia necessary for the
perpetration of fraud have been prepared by the medium in advance.

At this point the question will naturally be asked, “How can a medium,
professional or otherwise, be entitled to credit for honesty, who
represents himself as being able to hold communion with the spirits
of the dead, or to be an instrument through which communications
from spirits of the dead can be obtained, if, in point of fact, such
communications have their origin wholly within his own personality?”

This is perhaps the most pertinent and the most far-reaching
question that could be formulated in regard to the hypothesis under
consideration. If it could not be fairly answered from a purely
scientific standpoint, our hypothesis would not be worthy of further
discussion; for it is simply impossible to presuppose that all the
immense number of mediums, professional and private, who may be
found in all ranks of society throughout the civilized world, are
deliberately and consciously perpetrating a fraud upon mankind. On
the contrary, I here take occasion to say that there is no system of
religious belief which is so thoroughly fortified by facts as that of
spiritism, when its phenomena are viewed from the standpoint of the
investigator who is unacquainted with the latest scientific discoveries
in the domain of experimental psychology. But with that knowledge in
possession, the evidential value of the phenomena of spiritism is
vastly depreciated, and the high character of the medium for truth and
sincerity loses all its weight as a factor in the case.

The intelligent reader has already anticipated the answer to the
foregoing question. It is simply this: that the subjective mind of
the medium, being controlled by suggestion, believes itself to be the
spirit of any deceased person whose name is suggested. It has been
educated to that belief through the objective education and environment
of the individual. It is, by the laws of its being, absolutely
controlled by the objective belief of the medium, and the suggestions
embraced in that belief. It is true that it often acts capriciously and
independently, but it is always in pursuance of the auto-suggestion
or belief of the medium that it is an extraneous and, therefore, an
independent power.

No one who has witnessed even the stage exhibitions of the phenomena
of hypnotism will doubt the substantial truth of this proposition. An
intelligent subject can be made to assume any number of characters,
diverse as the antipodes, and in each one he will imitate the original
in thought, word, and action with perfect fidelity, so far as he knows
the character, habits, and idiosyncrasies of the individual personated,
firmly believing himself to be the individual he represents. He may,
with the same facility, be transformed into an angel or a devil or an
animal; and he will never doubt the truth of the suggestion, or fail to
act the character suggested, so far as it is physically possible. These
facts are well known to all hypnotists, as well as to all who witness
the common stage exhibitions of the phenomena. Some stage hypnotists
have much difficulty in preventing their subjects from exhibiting
spiritistic phenomena on the platform. This was a common experience of
Professor Cadwell, an American performer, who was himself a spiritist.
When it became known to his audiences and subjects that the latter were
liable to be “controlled by spirits,” the trouble became very marked,
and the professor was greatly annoyed by the frequency with which his
subjects were seized upon by “passing spirits,” and made to receive
communications and perform other antics in the name of the spirits
of their dead acquaintances. The phenomena exhibited through these
subjects were identical with those shown through ordinary mediums,
and indeed some of his best subjects afterwards became successful
professional mediums. That the liability of the professor’s subjects to
lapse into mediumship was the result of suggestion is shown by the fact
that Professor Carpenter, who was Cadwell’s pupil, and operated by his
methods, and was in every sense his peer as an operator, never had any
trouble with mediumistic phenomena, for the simple reason that he was
careful to avoid suggesting the idea to his subjects that such a thing
was possible. In point of fact it is well known to many hypnotists
that all the phenomena of spiritism can be reproduced through their
subjects by simply suggesting to them that they are under the control
of spirits. Of course it may be said that the spirits do actually take
possession of a hypnotic subject when permitted to do so, and that it
is the genuine control of spirits after all. The answer to this is that
it is also just as easy to obtain communications from a living person
through a hypnotic subject as from a dead one, and from an imaginary
person as from a real one, by merely making the proper suggestion. The
same is true of any medium, for that matter, as will presently be shown.

It is obvious, therefore, that the universal law of suggestion operates
upon the subjective mind of a medium with the same force and certainty
as upon all others. He is in the subjective, or hypnotic, condition.
The suggestion that he is about to be controlled by the spirits of the
dead is ever present to his mind, and is all potent. It is a part of
his education. It is his religious belief. No other explanation of the
mysterious phenomena is known to him. He knows only that he is moved by
a power, an intelligence, over which he exerts no conscious control.
It gives utterance to thoughts beyond his comprehension, and possesses
knowledge of matters of which he consciously knows nothing. His
conclusion is, first that the intelligence is something extraneous to
his personality, and secondly that it must be that of an inhabitant of
another world. From his standpoint it is the only rational conclusion.
His hereditary belief in the immortality of the soul confirms it. His
reading of the Bible sanctions the belief in the power of spirits to
hold communion with the living. His hope of a life beyond the grave,
and his longing to hold communion with the loved and lost, combine to
give his conclusions a welcome reception in the chambers of his mind.

A more potent suggestion was never forced upon the subjective
mind of man than this; and in obedience to the universal law, it
must be believed by the medium’s subjective mind, and acted upon
accordingly. And the subjective mind _does_ believe the suggestion
most implicitly. If it did not, the law of suggestion would have no
place in experimental psychology, and all the conclusions deducible
therefrom would have to be revised. So believing, it follows that,
when questioned, it will unhesitatingly affirm that it is the spirit
of whatever person is suggested; and so far as the medium knows the
character or antecedents of the spirit invoked, that spirit will
be personated with all the preternatural acumen characteristic of
subjective mental activity.

If the chain of reasoning by which the medium and his friends have
arrived at the conclusion that the phenomena must proceed from
disembodied spirits seems to them to be perfect, their conviction rises
to the dignity of a certainty, in their estimation, when the supposed
spirit begins to forward alleged communications from the hypothetical
border-land of another world. They find that his alleged “control” is
able to tell them secrets which they supposed to be safe in their own
custody, or perhaps only known to themselves and the deceased whose
spirit has been invoked. He will describe the character and personal
appearance of deceased persons whom it was impossible that he should
have known in life, sometimes even giving their names and ages; he will
tell of incidents in their career known only to the person for whose
benefit the communication is given.

If the sitter is sceptical, and has learned something of telepathy,
his ready objection is that all this is “mind-reading.” But presently
the medium will describe some one of whom the sitter has not thought
for years, who was utterly unknown to the medium, and of whom he
never heard. It is then that the sitter is confounded. His telepathic
explanation is exploded, for he “was not thinking of the deceased at
all; it could not, therefore, be mind-reading,” he declares, with all
the enthusiasm of a new convert whose last objection has been answered.

There is no more common or popular explanation of certain phases of
spiritistic phenomena than attributing them to mind-reading. When a
medium relates to you incidents of your life of which you know he
has no previous knowledge, the most obvious explanation is that he
reads your mind,–that is, if you do not believe that he is controlled
by spirits; and you are undoubtedly right. But when he tells you of
things that you had forgotten, and describes persons of whom you are
not thinking, you jump to the conclusion that thought-reading does not
explain that particular phenomenon. And it is just here that you make a
mistake, for the reason that you do not understand the first principles
of mind-reading. But when it is once understood that mind-reading
is the communion of two subjective minds, and that the objective or
conscious thoughts of the sitter have no necessary effect upon the
character of the communications, it will be seen that the fact that the
sitter was not consciously thinking of the person described, or had
forgotten the incident recalled, has no evidential value whatever. The
sitter may or may not be thinking consciously of the subject of the
communication; he may even be endeavoring to cause the medium to speak
of some particular one with whom he earnestly desires to communicate.
It makes no difference whatever, for it is the uppermost thought of
the subjective mind that is read, and of that the sitter has neither
knowledge nor conscious control. That the medium relates incidents of
the sitter’s life which he had forgotten until reminded of them, is not
at all strange or unaccountable, when we remember that the memory of
the subjective mind is perfect. Neither is there any evidential value
in the fact that the sitter cannot remember an incident related by the
medium; for he must remember that objective memory retains little,
comparatively, of the incidents of life, while the subjective mind
retains all.

It will thus be seen that in order to explain the phenomena of
spiritism on the hypothesis that it has its origin wholly within the
sub-conscious mind of the medium, it is not necessary to presuppose
that he is dishonest or insincere when he attributes it to disembodied
spirits. In the absence of knowledge on his part of the recent
discoveries in psychological science, he has the best of reasons for
so believing, for up to the present time no other hypothesis has
been advanced which will account for all the phenomena on any other
rational supposition. But the two great laws–duality of mind and
suggestion–clear away the greatest stumbling-block in the way of
scientific investigation of this, the greatest problem of the ages.
It is now no longer necessary to deny the phenomena, since they can
all be accounted for on scientific principles, outside the domain of
the supernatural. It is no longer necessary to consider the spiritual
medium either a fool or an impostor, since the phenomena are genuine,
and their explanation on scientific principles is impossible, except in
the light of very recent discoveries in psychic science.

Having set forth the fundamental principles underlying the production
of so-called spirit phenomena, we will now proceed briefly to examine
their various phases and leading characteristics, and to show how the
hypothesis under consideration applies to each of them with the same
force and pertinency as in the case of the other psychic phenomena
which have been considered.

There are several ways by which the operations of the subjective mind
can be brought above the threshold of consciousness. When this is done
by any one of the various methods, a phenomenon is produced. Each of
these phenomena has been, at some time in the history of mankind,
attributed to the agency of disembodied spirits.

The leading phenomena above alluded to are clairvoyance, clairaudience,
telepathy, mesmerism, or hypnotism, automatic writing, percussive
sounds (spirit-rapping), movement of ponderable bodies (table-tipping),
and phantasmic appearances.

Of these, clairvoyance, telepathy, and hypnotism have generally ceased
to be regarded as proceeding from supernatural agencies. They are now
recognized as powers inherent in mankind, and, as will be seen, are
largely employed to explain other phenomena.

Of clairvoyance little will be said, for the reason that it is still
an open question among scientists who have been, and are still,
investigating the subject, whether independent clairvoyance exists as
a power of the human mind. Sufficient evidence has not been brought to
my attention to demonstrate its existence. Certainly the great bulk of
phenomena which are popularly regarded as evincing clairvoyant power
must now be referred to telepathy. It must be said, however, that many
phenomena have been produced which cannot at present be accounted
for on any other hypothesis than that of independent clairvoyance.
Yet it is not impossible that, when the laws of telepathy are better
understood, all so-called clairvoyant phenomena may be referred to that
agency. For the purposes of our argument, however, it is not specially
important that the distinction should be clearly drawn between the two,
inasmuch as telepathy, which is an undoubted power of the subjective
mind, sufficiently explains all the so-called spiritistic phenomena
involving the perception by the medium of facts not within his own
experience or his previous knowledge. I will therefore first treat
of those phenomena the mysteries of which are directly and primarily
referable to telepathy.

A very simple experiment will enable almost any one to demonstrate
telepathic power. Let a person be securely blindfolded, by taking a
pair of kid gloves, folding them into pads, placing them over his eyes,
and binding them on by means of a handkerchief. Then let a circle
be formed by a few persons, with their hands joined, the percipient
forming one of the circle. Let a card be selected at random from a
pack, taking care that no one sees any other card of the pack, even for
an instant, until the experiment is over. Then place the card in plain
sight of all but the percipient, and let them fix their minds and gaze
upon the card, and in silence await the result. In the mean time the
percipient should be and remain in a perfectly passive and tranquil
frame of mind, and simply watch for visions. He will soon begin to see
indistinct objects floating in the darkness, and these objects will
presently begin to form themselves into shapes more distinct. They may
be evanescent, and disappear at intervals; but they will soon return
in still more definite form, and will eventually assume some shape
that will suggest the card selected. It may be that a vision of the
whole card will be presented, exactly as it is, or it may be that there
will be a sort of allegorical representation of it. For instance, in
an experiment tried in presence of the author the ten of diamonds had
been selected. Instead of seeing a vision of the card, there was an
appearance of ten real diamonds, arranged in rows corresponding to the
rows of spots on the card, each one sending forth rays of light and
scintillations of color. As it was the first experiment the percipient
had ever tried, he was at a loss to know the meaning, if it had any,
of the vision; but as it persisted in coming, he finally ventured
to remark, hesitatingly, that he had an “impression of the ten of
diamonds.” The applause which followed told him that his subjective
mind had conveyed to his consciousness by means of an allegorical
vision the information it had telepathically received. It may here be
remarked parenthetically that the subjective mind of man appears to be
fond of allegory as a means of conveying its thoughts or information
above the threshold of consciousness. The history of mankind is full of
illustrations of this fact.

When the next card was selected, the percipient saw the vision of a
single heart spot floating in the darkness, unattached to anything like
a card; whereupon he ventured to name the ace of hearts, which was
correct. In all, five cards were selected at this sitting, and each one
was named correctly, with the exception of the last, which was the five
of spades. The five of clubs was named; but the percipient explained
his mistake by saying that one-half of each spot was concealed from
his view, namely, the points of the spade spots, which appeared to be
thrust into the darkness, so to speak, leaving only the handle end of
the spades exposed to view. As that half of the spade spot corresponds
exactly to the corresponding half of a club spot, the mistake was
natural, and was really of as great, if not greater, evidential value
than if the card had been correctly named.

Others of the company tried the same experiment, generally without
physical contact with any one else, and each one was able to name some
of the cards correctly. But no one was able to name correctly a card
which was not seen by some one else,–which showed clearly that the
power to see the card resulted from telepathy, and not from independent
clairvoyance. It should be here stated that there were six in the
company, each one of whom tried the experiment, and each scored a
sufficient number of successes to remove the result from the domain of
coincidence.

These experiments were as simple as could well be devised, and to the
unreflecting mind may seem trifling. But I shall endeavor to show that
they possess unmeasured significance.

Before proceeding to do so, it may be well to state that visions
resulting from telepathic communion are as varied as is the character
of the communicants or the subjects of the messages. They are often
seen by the percipient as plainly as the objective reality could be
seen; and events are depicted by means of visions that re-enact the
scenes, with all the characters and actors represented, as perfectly as
the reality itself.[35]

It now remains to show how this faculty of reading the minds of others
is unconsciously employed by spirit mediums to impart to their clients
information regarding persons and events of which the medium has no
previous knowledge.

We will consider, for this purpose, the case of a medium who develops
no physical phenomena, but who simply receives his visitor, tells
him of the events of his past life, describes his spirit-friends,
conveys oral communications from them, and occasionally drops into
prophecy. The visitor may or may not be a professed believer in
spiritism; but the fact that he is there to consult a medium shows a
faith sufficient for the purpose in view, and propinquity places his
subjective mind _en rapport_ with that of the medium. We will suppose
that this is the first time that the two have met, and that the medium
is entirely unacquainted with the character, the antecedents, or the
deceased friends of the sitter. The first thing that the medium does
is to become wholly or partially self-hypnotized. He may go into the
state only partially, and appear to the visitor to be in his normal
condition. He may, and probably does, believe that his “control” takes
possession of his body and talks through him; he has, as we have
already seen, every reason for this belief. He is taken possession
of by some unseen force, is guided by some unseen intelligence which
possesses powers and attributes of which he is not conscious in his
normal condition. He has no other hypothesis to account for the
extraordinary manifestations of which that intelligence is the source.
To make assurance doubly sure, the intelligence tells him that it is
the spirit of some deceased person, and gives him a detailed and very
plausible account of itself. He is forced to believe the statements of
his subjective entity, for he knows no reason for believing otherwise,
and it, in turn, is compelled by the laws of its being to believe
itself to be what it represents; for the suggestion has been made to
it that it is the spirit of a deceased person. That suggestion having
been made in a general way, to begin with, his subjective mind will
proceed to fill in the details in some way with marvellous acumen, and
with such logical circumstantiality of detail as to deceive “the very
elect.” It is just as it is in the case of a hypnotized person, who, in
pursuance of a post-hypnotic suggestion, having done some absurd act,
when questioned as to why he did it, will, on the instant, invent some
reason so plausible that the act will seem perfectly natural to one who
does not know its origin.




Again, the subjective mind of the sitter is also controlled by a
suggestion, more or less strong, that spirits of the dead are about
to be invoked; and it is also ready with its logical deductions from
the premises suggested, and will perform its part in the séance with
the same alacrity and acumen. Here, then, we have two subjective minds
_en rapport_, and the telepathic conditions for a successful séance
are established. The shrewd and successful medium usually begins by
making some very complimentary remarks concerning the character and
mental attributes of the sitter. This puts the latter at his ease,
and gives him an exalted opinion of the good sense and judgment of
the medium. Some incidents of the sitter’s life may then be related,
and his occupation indicated. It will generally be done in terms such
as indicate the fact that the medium obtains his impressions by means
of visions. For instance, the writer once heard a medium in New York
city describe the occupation of an examiner in the United States
Patent Office. The two had never met before, and did not know of each
other’s existence ten minutes before the séance. Even the name of the
sitter had been withheld from the medium, for the purpose of testing
her telepathic powers, and for the further purpose of convincing one
of those present that spirits of the dead had nothing to do with the
manifestations. The members of the party introduced each other by
fictitious names, and talked spiritism to the medium until “harmonious
conditions” were established, when the séance began. “I see an immense
building,” she began, “with a great number of rooms in it. In one of
these rooms I see you, seated at a large desk, with a great many papers
upon it. I see drawings, apparently of machinery, spread out upon the
desk before you. It seems to me that you must have something to do
with patent rights.” She was informed that her conjecture was thus far
correct. It should here be remembered that a medium should always be
encouraged by a frank acknowledgment when he is correct. It encourages
him, puts him at his ease, and constitutes a suggestion that he is able
to perceive the truth in reference to that particular person; and,
consequently, helps him to proceed correctly with other manifestations.

“But,” continued the lady, “this is not your only occupation. I see
you in your library at home, surrounded by books and manuscripts. You
appear to be writing a book.”

She then went on to describe correctly all the bookcases and other
furniture in the room, and then said,–

“I see the pathway by which you have arrived at your present conclusion
in reference to the subject of your book. It is all strewn with
rubbish and weeds, all of which you have thrown aside. But you see a
great light ahead, and are pursuing that with perfect confidence and
steadiness of purpose.”

“Am I in the right path?” inquired the examiner.

“I cannot tell, for I cannot perceive the subject on which you are
writing. I think you are, however, for the light ahead seems so clear.”

After a pause she added,–

“You are making one mistake. You think that you are doing it all
yourself. But you are not. You are constantly guided by a great spirit.”

“Who is he?” was asked, with all the greater interest because the
gentleman _was_ writing a book, and, like every other author, felt that
he had perceived “a great light;” moreover, if he was sure of anything
connected with it, he was sure that he was doing it himself, without
the aid of any spirit or spirits. “Give me the name of my spirit friend
and guide,” he added.

“I cannot do that to-day,” she replied, with the true commercial
instinct of the professional medium; “come to-morrow, and I will try to
give you the name.”

Accordingly, the same party visited her the next day, when she made
every effort to obtain the name, but without success. It should be
stated here that the lady was a slate-writing medium. Communication
after communication was written, but without signature, and all efforts
to obtain the name were futile. Finally the gentleman said, in an aside
apparently not intended for the ears of the medium, “I think I know who
it is. It must be either A B [naming a living friend in Washington],
or my brother, C D [giving his own name],” for he had no brother,
living or dead. Immediately a communication was written out, signed
by the supposed spirit brother, announcing the fact that he, and he
alone, was the inspiring power in charge of the literary work named,
that he was the “guardian spirit” of the gentleman, over whom he was
“constantly watching,” etc.

The emotions created by the affecting terms of the communication can be
imagined when it is stated that all present, save the medium, knew that
the name was that of the sitter, and that he never had a brother. But
these emotions quickly gave place to wonder and admiration when it was
discovered that the signature was an almost exact reproduction of his
own, with all its salient peculiarities faithfully reproduced.

Comment upon this wonderful admixture of genuine telepathic power
and conscious or unconscious fraud will not be indulged in, save to
remark that the first day’s proceedings exhibited marvellous telepathic
power under the most perfect test conditions. As to the second day’s
performance, it need only be said that if the communication had
been from a genuine spirit, struggling in vain to remember his own
name, it shows that even spirits are controlled by the subtle power
of suggestion; for he had no hesitation in assuming the name of the
sitter when that name was suggested, and he so completely identified
himself with that person as to reproduce his signature with marvellous
accuracy. It may be said that a fraud was perpetrated upon the medium.
To this the plea of guilty must be entered, together with a plea of
extenuating circumstances, in that it was done in pursuit of scientific
truth. Whether the interests of truth were subserved, the reader must
judge for himself. To that end he must ask himself the question whether
it is not more probable that this manifestation was of the subjective
entity of the medium rather than of an independent, disembodied
spirit. Conceding the inherent power in mankind to convey and receive
telepathic communications, it must be evident that telepathy is a
sufficient explanation of what occurred the first day. It is true that
the medium thought that the information thus obtained was conveyed to
her by disembodied spirits. But that does not change the facts; and
when a phenomenon is explicable by reference to known natural laws,
we have neither occasion nor logical right to seek an explanation in
the realm of the supernatural. The second day’s performance is as
easily explicable under the well-known laws of hypnotism. The medium
was in a partially hypnotic state, her subjective mind was active
and in control of her physical powers, and was necessarily perfectly
amenable to control by suggestion from any source. In obedience to the
law of auto-suggestion, it believed itself to be a disembodied spirit.
It acted in that capacity far enough to write communications of the
standard, indefinite character common to such productions, but could
give no name, for the simple reason that there was no name to give, and
none had been suggested. But the instant a name was suggested it seized
upon it, and, in pursuance of the suggestion that it represented the
sitter’s brother, wrote just such a communication as the logic of the
situation dictated, believing, without a doubt, that it was actually
the spirit of the deceased brother of the sitter. It may be asked why,
if the medium was possessed of such wonderful telepathic power, did
she not perceive the fact that she was being imposed upon, that the
sitter was not sincere in his professions of a belief in spiritism,
and that he had not a brother in the spirit-land. Simply because
she was controlled by the universal law of suggestion, and the oral
suggestions had been made that he was a believer, and that he had a
brother deceased. If she had disbelieved the statement, it would have
constituted an exception to the operation of a natural and universal
law,–a suspension, in fact, of the laws of nature.

On the other hand, if we are to discard the foregoing explanation and
hold that it was actually a disembodied spirit controlling the medium,
we must presuppose a spirit without a name, or without sufficient
intelligence to remember his name. Either supposition, if it does
no violence to common-sense, is contrary to all the teachings of
spiritists, who have led us to believe that the law of spirit-life
is that of eternal progress; that all truth stands revealed to the
perception of the disembodied soul. It would cause one to lose
confidence in his guardian angels if he were forced to believe that a
short residence in the spirit-land could reduce the immortal mind to
such a state of imbecility.

This digression is indulged in for the purpose of illustrating the fact
that one of the means by which telepathic impressions are conveyed from
one to another is by visions. The percipient sees a vision representing
the incident sought to be communicated by the agent. He sees the image
of the object or person which the agent desires him to see. Thus, when
a person consults a medium he generally expects and desires to learn
something of his deceased friends. The medium goes into the subjective
condition for that purpose. The visitor’s mind is full of anticipation
and hope that he will be put into direct communication with the loved
and lost. Presently the medium sees a vision of some person. He
believes that he sees a spirit. He describes it, and it is found to
correspond with one of the visitor’s deceased friends. The visitor
recognizes the description, and says so. He asks for the name, and it
is given. Then the medium sees a vision representing some incident
known only to the visitor and the deceased. He describes the incident,
not, perhaps, as a vision which he sees, but as a statement of fact
imparted to him by the spirit. The visitor very likely knows that the
medium knew nothing of him or of the deceased before that hour. He is
convinced that the medium has seen and conversed with the spirit of
his dead friend, and he is a convert to spiritism from that moment.
Now, has the medium actually seen a spirit, or has he merely read the
sitter’s subjective mind? Is there any more reason for supposing that
he has seen a spirit of a dead man than there is for supposing that a
mind-reader sees the spirit of the Jack of clubs when the image of that
card is telepathed to him? Obviously not. The conditions are precisely
the same in both cases. The percipient sees the image of that which is
in the mind of the agent. In the one case, it is a card; in the other
it is an individual. If it is the spirit of the individual that is
seen in the one case, it is the spirit of the card that is seen in the
other. In the case of the New York medium, did she see the spirit of
the Patent Office, the spirits of the papers, the drawings, the desks,
and the spirit of the examiner seated at the spirit of one of the
desks, examining the spirits of the drawings and of the specifications?

I repeat it, the percipient sees the image of that which is in
the mind of the agent, and he never sees more than that. It often
happens that the image of some one is seen, of whom the agent is not
consciously thinking at the moment. This has been already explained,
on the obvious ground that it is the subjective, or unconscious, mind
of the agent that is read. It sometimes happens that some fact is
related, some scene described, which the sitter cannot recall to mind,
and he conscientiously declares that he never knew the fact related,
nor witnessed the incident depicted. But when it is remembered that
the subjective mind of man retains all that he has ever seen, heard,
or read, and that he retains comparatively little in his objective
recollection, it is extremely unsafe for him to declare that any one
fact has never been known to him. It is merely negative evidence
at best, and amounts only to a declaration that he does not recall
the fact. When we consider how little we retain, in our objective
recollection, of what we have seen, heard, or read, we may well wonder
that it does not oftener happen that so-called spirits tell us of
circumstances which we do not remember. On the whole, it may be safely
assumed that no medium has ever yet been able to impart any information
that is not known either to the medium or to some living person with
whom he is _en rapport_. There is certainly nothing but the merest
negative evidence, such as has been described, that such a thing ever
happened. On the other hand, there is the strongest possible evidence
to the contrary, in the fact that there is room for a doubt on that
question. It is self-evident that if facts, known neither to the
medium nor those surrounding him,–that is, facts not known to him nor
obtainable by means of telepathy,–can be perceived or obtained by him
from independent sources, the evidence of that fact would be thrust
upon us from ten thousand different sources every hour. This is also
negative evidence, it is true, but it is all but conclusive. Thus, the
question of spirit identity has given spiritists no end of trouble.
Their ablest writers have sought in vain for a solution of the question
why it is that spirits constantly fail to give conclusive evidence of
their identity by means which could not be referred to the knowledge of
the medium or to telepathy.

On this subject Allan Kardec, one of the ablest writers on the subject,
discourses as follows:–

“The identity of contemporaneous spirits is much more easily
proved,–those whose character and habits are known; for it is
precisely these habits, which they have not yet had time to throw
aside, by which they can be recognized.”[36]

This may be true; but it is also true that where the “character and
habits” of a supposed spirit are known to the medium, or to those who
are in telepathic rapport with him, simulation of that character and
those habits is perfectly easy to the expert medium. The more generally
the character and habits are known, the less evidential value is to be
attached to their reproduction.

Our author then proceeds:–

“Without doubt the spirit can give the proofs if asked, but he does
not always do so, unless it is agreeable to him, and generally
the asking wounds him; for this reason it should be avoided. In
leaving his body the spirit has not laid aside his susceptibility;
he is wounded by any question tending to put him to the proof.
_It is such questions as one would not dare to propose to him,
were he living_, for fear of overstepping the bounds of propriety;
why, then, should there be less regard after his death? Should a
man enter a drawing-room and decline to give his name, should
we insist, at all hazards, that he should prove his identity by
exhibiting his titles, under the pretext that there are impostors?
Would he not, assuredly, have the right to remind his interrogator
of the rules of good breeding? This is what the spirits do, either
by not replying or by withdrawing. Let us make a comparison.
Suppose the astronomer Arago during his life had presented himself
in a house where no one knew him, and he had been thus addressed;
‘You say you are Arago; but as we do not know you, please prove it
by answering our questions; solve this astronomical problem; tell
us your name, your Christian name, those of your children, what you
did such and such a day, at such an hour, etc.’ What would he have
answered? Well, as a spirit he will do just what he would have done
during his lifetime; and other spirits do the same.”

The above is considered the best reason that can be given for
the fact that spirits whose character and habits in life are not
generally known, or not known to the medium or to those surrounding
him, invariably refuse to give proofs of their identity. But is his
comparison pertinent? I think not. It might be considered impertinent,
nay, the very height of ill-breeding, if one should insist on proofs
of identity when a stranger is casually introduced, or introduces
himself, in a drawing-room. But let us make another comparison.
Suppose a stranger–we, too, will say Arago the astronomer–calls
us up by telephone, and makes a statement of the most transcendent
interest and importance to us,–a statement which, if true, will change
the whole course of our lives and our habits of thought. He states
that his special mission is to make this portentous announcement to
us, and that his name is Arago, the astronomer. We know Arago the
astronomer by reputation, but have never had the honor of his personal
acquaintance. We know enough of him, however, to be certain that he
would tell us the exact truth as he understood it; and we would stake
our dearest interests upon a statement of his regarding that about
which he professed to have positive personal knowledge. Under such
circumstances would it be likely to wound his feelings or shock his
sense of propriety if we should reply through the telephone something
like this:–

“Sir, your message is of portentous import to us, and we cannot
hesitate to believe it if we can be assured that you are Arago the
astronomer, as you represent. We can hear you, but we cannot see you,
and you are not vouched for by any one we know. Please give us some
proof of your identity.”

Would Arago the astronomer, or any other sensible man, wrap himself in
the mantle of offended dignity and treat us with silent contempt, or
remind us of “the rules of good-breeding”? Certainly not, especially if
the object of his existence was to make the communication, not only for
our individual benefit, but for the purpose of giving to all mankind
that direct and positive assurance, that tangible evidence, for which
all humanity has sought in vain since the dawn of creation.

Our author then continues:–

“While spirits refuse to answer puerile and impertinent questions
which a person would have hesitated to ask during their lives,
they often spontaneously give irrefutable proofs of their
identity by their character, revealed in their language, by
the use of words that were familiar to them, by citing certain
facts,–particularities of their life sometimes unknown to the
assistants, and whose truth has been verified. Proofs of identity
will spring up in many unforeseen ways, which do not present
themselves at first sight, but in the course of conversations.
It is better, then, to wait for them, without calling for them,
observing with care all that may flow from the nature of the
communications. (See the fact given, No. 70.)”

Turning now to page 82 of the volume, we find the statement above
alluded to, and it reads as follows:–

“On a vessel of the Imperial French navy, stationed in the Chinese
seas, the whole crew, from the sailors up to the staff-major, were
occupied in making tables talk. They hit upon the idea of invoking
the spirit of a lieutenant of this same vessel, some two years
dead. He came, and after various communications, which astonished
every one, he said, by rapping, what follows: ‘I pray you instantly
to pay the captain the sum of (he mentioned the sum), which I owe
him, and which I regret not having been able to repay before my
death.’ No one knew the fact; the captain himself had forgotten the
debt,–a very small one; but on looking over his accounts, he found
there the lieutenant’s debt, the sum indicated being perfectly
correct. We ask, of whose thought could this be the reflection?”

Here, then, we find the supreme test applied,–the best conditions
possible, as prescribed by one of the ablest and most thoughtful
writers on the subject. It will be observed that he is not blind to the
possibilities of telepathy, and counts it as a factor in the case. “Of
whose thought could this be the reflection?” he asks triumphantly. “No
one knew the fact; the captain himself had forgotten the debt.” It must
be admitted that if this test is conclusive, their case has been proved
a thousand times over. But in view of what is now known of the laws
of telepathy, it is self-evident that it proves nothing. Telepathy,
as we have again and again repeated, is the communion of two or more
subjective minds. It is not that of which we are consciously thinking
that the subjective mind of the medium perceives. Doubtless the captain
had forgotten, objectively, all about the loan. It was a very small
amount, and the lieutenant had been dead two years. But the subjective
mind of the captain, which remembers all things, great and small, could
not forget it, and it was telepathed to the subjective mind of the
medium. Besides, there was another very potent agency at work to bring
this loan into prominence. We have already seen, in former chapters,
that the normal function of the subjective mind is to watch over and
protect the life of the individual. It is the strongest instinct of
all animate nature. The protection of the material interests of the
individual is as much a part of the function of the subjective mind as
the protection of his life. Indeed, the promotion of the one is but a
means to secure the other. It was, therefore, simple obedience to the
first law of nature that prompted the subjective mind of the captain to
thrust this loan upon the attention of those present and thus secure
its payment.

It may be said, however, that there was no evidence that the captain
was present at the séance; and it may be assumed by some that
telepathic communion with his mind was impossible in his absence
from the circle. The former supposition is possibly correct, but the
latter is not probable, in view of the well-known facts of telepathy.
But assuming both to be true,–that the captain was absent from the
immediate circle, and that the circumstance would prevent telepathic
communion with his mind,–there still remain two or three other ways
of accounting for the phenomenon. In the first place, it is extremely
probable that the captain’s accounts were kept by a subordinate, who
was present, and who, subjectively at least, remembered the account.
It is distinctly stated that all the subordinates were present, “from
the sailors up to the staff-major.” This would necessarily include the
one whose duty it was to keep the books. His subjective mind would be
just as available as that of the captain for the production of what, in
those days, was considered a test case. Again, supposing that the entry
of the account was made by the captain’s hand, it is extremely probable
that some one else had access to the books; and however superficially
the knowledge was impressed upon his consciousness, it was forever
fixed upon the tablets of his subjective memory, and was instantly
available for use when a test case was needed. To those who regard
independent clairvoyance as an established principle, or faculty,
of the human mind, the explanation is easy; for there would be no
difficulty in supposing the mind of the independent clairvoyant to be
capable of taking cognizance of all that was to be found in the ship’s
records.

It is extremely improbable, however, that any third party figured in
the transaction, or that it is necessary to assume that any third party
knew of the loan. It is sufficient to know that the captain was aboard
the ship, and that everyone on the vessel was necessarily _en rapport_
with him. Besides, if any one in the circle was in telepathic rapport
with the captain, it would be an all-sufficient explanation of the
phenomenon; for it is well known that specific information, not known
to any one in the circle, can be obtained from some one having the
knowledge who happens to be _en rapport_ with any person in the circle.

Thus it will be seen that there are at least four ways of accounting
for the phenomenon, on well-established principles, without the
necessity of resorting to the assumption of supernatural agencies.

The subtle _rôle_ which telepathy plays in so-called spirit
manifestations must now be apparent. It is not only in the class
of phenomena to which we have alluded that its power is manifest,
but it reappears in all classes and phases of phenomena popularly
attributed to spirits. The greater part of the mystery which surrounds
these manifestations, aside from the purely physical phenomena, is
directly traceable to telepathy; and it explains that which, without
its aid, would be inexplicable on any other hypothesis than that the
manifestations proceed from disembodied spirits.

In concluding the discussion of this branch of the subject, I desire
distinctly to impress upon the mind of the reader an important
proposition which seems to have been lost sight of by many who are
otherwise inclined to give full credit to telepathy as a means of
explaining many so-called spirit phenomena. It is this:–

_It is not necessary that any member of a circle should be in
possession of objective knowledge of a fact in order to be able to
communicate it telepathically to the medium._

The reason will be obvious, after a moment’s reflection, to any one
who admits the existence of the power of telepathy. If the power is
possessed by A to communicate a telepathic message to B, it follows
that B can communicate the same message to C, and C can convey it to
D, and so on, _ad infinitum_. This proposition will not be gainsaid by
any one who admits that A can convey a telepathic message to B. D may
have no objective knowledge of A or of B, but is _en rapport_ with C.
Now, we will suppose that a disaster happens to A. He is missing; he
is drowned; but no one possesses any objective knowledge of the fact,
and his friends institute a vain search, no one having the remotest
idea of what has happened to him. B, his mother, receives a telepathic
message, conveyed by A at the moment of his death to her subjective
mind, informing her of the sad accident. But not being sensitive to
subjective impressions, it is impossible for her subjective mind to
convey the message above the threshold of her consciousness. She is,
therefore, objectively ignorant of the fact, although her subjective
mind is fully cognizant of all its sad details. In the mean time, C, a
sympathetic neighbor, _en rapport_ with B, subjectively perceives that
which is so strongly impressed upon the subjective mind of the mother.
C is also unable to elevate the knowledge above the threshold of her
consciousness; but she is a believer in spiritism, and volunteers
to visit a neighboring city and consult a medium. She does so; and
the moment she becomes _en rapport_ with the medium, the telepathic
message is delivered, and the medium perceives, objectively as well as
subjectively, the details of the disaster which befell A. He describes
the whole transaction, and locates the exact spot where the body may
be found. Subsequent investigation demonstrates the exact knowledge
possessed by the medium, for the whole environment is found to be
exactly as described, and the body is found in the very spot indicated.

Now, the spiritists say that this occurrence cannot be explained by
reference to telepathy, for the reason that D was not _en rapport_
with A, nor with B. Nor was C _en rapport_ with A, for the latter was
dead before C could have become cognizant of the facts. The obvious
answer to this is, as before indicated, that if the power exists in
man to convey a telepathic message to his fellow-man, it presupposes
the existence of the power in the percipient to repeat the message to
a third person, and so on indefinitely, until some one receives it who
has the power to elevate the information above the threshold of his
consciousness, and thus convey it to the objective intelligence of the
world. Nor is the element of time necessarily an adverse factor in the
case; for there is no reason to suppose that such messages may not be
transmitted from one to another for generations. Thus, the particulars
of a tragedy might be revealed many years after the event, and in such
a way as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the line
through which the intelligence was transmitted. For the spiritist the
easy and ever-ready explanation of such a phenomenon is to ascribe it
to the intervention of spirits of the dead. But to those who have kept
pace with the developments of modern scientific investigation, and who
are able to draw the legitimate and necessary conclusions from the
facts discovered, the explanation is obvious, without the necessity of
entering the domain of the supernatural.