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Mysterious Psychic Forces by Camille Flammarion

CHAPTER II

MY FIRST SEANCES IN THE ALLAN KARDEC GROUP AND WITH THE MEDIUMS OF THAT EPOCH

One day in the month of November, 1861, under the Galeries de l'Odeon,[6] I spied a book, the title of which struck me,---Le Livre des Esprits ("The Book of Spirits"), by Allan Kardec. I bought it and read it with avidity, several chapters seeming to me to agree with the scientific bases of the book I was then writing, The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds. I hunted up the author, who proposed that I should enter, as a free associated member, the Parisian Society for Spiritualistic Studies, which he had founded, and of which he was president. I accepted, and by chance have just found the green ticket signed by him on the fifteenth day of November, 1861. This is the date of my début in psychic studies. I was then nineteen, and for three years had been an astronomical pupil at the Paris Observatory. At this time I was putting the last touches to the book I just mentioned, the first edition of which was published some months afterwards by the printer-publisher of the Observatory.

The members came together every Friday evening in the assembly room of the society, in the little passageway of Sainte Anne, which was placed under the protection of Saint Louis. The president opened the seance by an "invocation to the good Spirits." It was admitted, as a principle, that invisible Spirits were present there and revealed

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themselves. After this invocation a certain number of persons, seated at a large table, were besought to abandon themselves to their inspiration and to write. They were called "Writing Mediums." Their dissertations were afterwards read before an attentive audience. There were no physical experiments of table-turning, or tables moving or speaking. The president, Allan Kardec, said he attached no value to such things. It seemed to him that the instructions communicated by the Spirits ought to form the basis of a new doctrine, of a sort of religion.

At the same period, but several years earlier, my illustrious friend Victorien Sardou, who had been an occasional frequenter of the Observatory, had written, as a medium, some curious pages on the inhabitants of the planet Jupiter, and had produced picturesque and surprising designs, having as their aim to represent men and things as they appeared in this giant of worlds. He designed the dwellings of people in Jupiter. One of his sketches showed us the house of Mozart, others the houses of Zoroaster and of Bernard Palissy, who were country neighbours in one of the landscapes of this immense planet. The dwellings are ethereal and of an exquisite lightness. They may be judged of by the two figures here reproduced (Pl. II and III). The first represents a residence of Zoroaster, the second "the animals' quarters" belonging to the same. On the grounds are flowers, hammocks, swings, flying creatures, and, below, intelligent animals playing a special kind of ninepins where the fun is not to knock down the pins, but to put a cap on them, as in the cup and ball toy, etc.

These curious drawings prove indubitably that the signature "Bernard Palissy, of Jupiter," is apocryphal and that the hand of Victorien Sardou was not directed by a spirit from that planet. Nor was it the gifted author himself who planned these sketches and executed them in accordance

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with a definite plan. They were made while he was in the condition of mediumship. A person is not magnetized, nor hypnotized, nor put to sleep in any way while in that state. But the brain is not ignorant of what is taking place: its cells perform their functions, and act (doubtless by a reflex movement) upon the motor nerves. At that time we all thought Jupiter was inhabited by a superior race of beings. The spiritistic communications were the reflex of the general ideas in the air. To-day, with our present knowledge of the planets, we should not imagine anything of the kind about that globe. And, moreover, spiritualistic seances have never taught us anything upon the subject of astronomy. Such results as were attained fail utterly to prove the intervention of spirits. Have the writing mediums given any more convincing proofs of it than these? This is what we shall have to examine in as impartial a way as we can.

I myself tried to see if I, too, could not write. By collecting and concentrating my powers and allowing my hand to be passive and unresistant, I soon found that, after it had traced certain dashes, and o's, and sinuous lines more or less interlaced, very much as a four-year-old child learning to write might do, it finally did actually write words and phrases.

In these meetings of the Parisian Society for Spiritualistic Studies, I wrote for my part, some pages on astronomical subjects signed "Galileo." The communications remained in the possession of the society, and in 1867 Allan Kardec published them under the head General Uranography, in his work entitled Genesis. (I have preserved one of the first copies, with his dedication.) These astronomical pages taught me nothing. So I was not slow in concluding that they were only the echo of what I already knew, and that Galileo had no hand in them. When I wrote the pages,

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I was in a kind of waking dream. Besides, my hand stopped writing when I began to think of other subjects.

 

 

Plate II. House of Zoroastre of Jupiter from

Somnambulistic Drawing by Victorien Sardou.

 

 Plate III. Animals' Quarters. House of Zoroastre of Jupiter from

Somnambulistic Drawing by Victorien Sardou.

 

I may quote here what I said on this subject in my work, The Worlds of Space (Les Terres du Ciel), in the edition of 1884, p. 181:---

The writing medium is not put to sleep, nor is he magnetized or hypnotized in any way. One is simply received into a circle of determinate ideas. The brain acts (by the mediation of the nervous system) a little differently from what it does in its normal state. The difference is not so great as one might suppose. The chief difference may be described as follows:

In the normal state we think of what we are going to write before the act of writing begins. There is a direct action of the will in causing the pen, the hand, and the fore-arm to move over the paper. In the abnormal state, on the other hand, we do not think before writing; we do not move the hand, but let it remain inert, passive, free; we place it upon the paper, taking care merely that it shall meet with the least possible resistance; we think of a word, a figure, a stroke of the pen, and the hand of its own volition begins to write. But the Writing Medium must think of what he is doing, not beforehand, but continuously; otherwise the hand stops. For example, try to write the word "ocean," not voluntarily (the ordinary way), but by simply taking a lead-pencil, and letting the hand rest lightly and freely upon the paper, while you think of your word and observe carefully whether the hand will write. Very good; it does begin to move over the paper, writing first an o, then a c, and the rest. At least that was my experience when I was studying the new problems of Spiritualism and magnetism.

I have always thought that the circle of science is not a closed one, and that there are many things for us still to learn. In the mediumistic writing experiments it is very easy to deceive ourselves and to believe that the hand is under the influence of another mind than our own. The most probable conclusion regarding these experiences has been that the theory of the action of foreign Spirits is not necessary

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for the explanation of such phenomena. But this is not the place to enter into details upon a subject which, up to the present time, has been only slightly examined by scientific criticism, having more often been exploited by speculators than studied by scientists.

So I wrote in 1884; and I will indorse every word I then wrote, just as it stands.

In these first experiences with Spiritualists, of which I have just been speaking, I soon had the entree of the chief Parisian circles devoted to these matters, and for a couple of years I even took the position of honorary secretary of one of them. A natural or necessary result of this was that I did not miss a single seance.

 

Three different methods were employed to receive communications:

(1) writing with the hand;

(2) the use of the planchette to which a lead-pencil was attached, and on which the hands were placed;

(3) table-rapping (or table-moving), operated by the alphabetic code, these raps or the movements of the table marking the desired letter as the alphabet was read aloud by one of those present.

The first of these methods was the only one employed at the Society for Spiritualistic Studies, of which Allan Kardec was president. It was the one which permitted the margin for the most doubt. In fact, at the end of two years of investigations of this kind, which I had varied as much as possible, and which I had entered upon without any preconceived idea for or against, and with the most ardent desire to arrive at the truth, I came to the positive conclusion that not only are the signatures of these papers not authentic, but that the intervention of another mind from the spirit world is not proved at all, the fact being that we ourselves are the more or less conscious authors of the communications by some cerebral process which yet remains to be investigated. The explanation is not so simple as it seems, and

[Pg 29]

there are certain reservations to be made in the general statement above.

When writing in the exalted and abnormal state of mind of the Medium, we do not, as I have just said, form our phrases as in the normal condition; rather we wait for them to be produced. But all the same our own mind mingles in the process. The subject treated follows the lines of our own customary thoughts; the language employed is our native tongue, and, if we are uncertain about the spelling of certain words, errors will appear. Furthermore, so intimately are our own mental processes mingled with what is being written that, if we allow our thoughts to wander to another topic, the hand either stops writing or produces incoherent words and scrawls. This is the mental state of the writing medium,---at least that which I have observed in myself. It is a kind of auto-suggestion. I hasten to add, however, that this opinion only binds me to the extent of my own personal experiences. I am assured that there are Mediums who act in an absolutely mechanical way, knowing nothing of the nature of what they are writing (see further on, pp. 58, 59), who treat subjects of which they are ignorant, and also even write in foreign languages. Such cases would be different from that of which I have just been speaking, and would indicate either a special cerebral state or great keenness of intellect, or a source of ideas exterior to the Medium; i.e., if it were once proved that our mind cannot divine that of which it is ignorant. But now the transference of thought from one brain to another, from one mind to another, is a fact proved by telepathy. We could conceive, then, that a Medium might write under the influence of some one near by---or even at a distance. Several mediums have also composed (in successive seances) genuine romances, such as The History of Joan of Arc, Written by Herself, or certain voyages to other planets,---seeming to

[Pg 30]

indicate that there is a kind of doubling of the personality of the subject, a secondary personality. But there is no authentication of this. There is also a psychic milieu, of which I shall speak farther on. At present I must concern myself only with the subject of this chapter, and say with Newton, "Hypotheses non fingo."

Allan Kardec died on the 30th of March, 1869, and, when the Society of Spiritualists came to ask me to deliver a funeral oration at his tomb, I took occasion, during this discourse, to direct the attention of the Spiritualists to the scientific character of investigations of this class and to the manifest danger of allowing ourselves to be drawn into mysticism.

I will reproduce at this point a few paragraphs taken from this address:

I wish I could impress upon you who hear me, as well as upon the millions of men throughout Europe and in the New World who are studying the still mysterious problem of spiritualism, what a deep scientific interest and what a philosophic future there is in the study of these phenomena, to which, as you know, many of our most eminent living scholars have given their time and attention. I wish I could present to your imagination and theirs the new and vast horizons we shall see opening up before us in proportion as we broaden our scientific knowledge of the forces of nature at work around us; and I would that I could show both you and them that such conquests of the mind are the most efficacious antidote to the leprosy of atheism which seems to be particularly the malignant degenerative element in this our epoch of transition.

What a salutary thing it would be could I but prove here, before this eloquent tomb, that the methodical examination of the phenomena erroneously called supernatural, far from calling back the spirit of superstition, and weakening the energy of the reason, serves, on the contrary, to banish the errors and illusions of ignorance, and assists the progress of

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truth much more than do the irrational negations of those who will not take the trouble to look at the facts.

It is high time now that this complex subject of study should enter upon its scientific period. Enough stress has not been laid upon the physical side of the subject, which should be critically studied; for without rigid scientific experiment no proof is valid. This objective a priori method of investigation, to which we owe the glory of modern progress and the marvels of electricity and steam, should take up the still unexplained and mysterious phenomena with which we are acquainted, to dissect them, measure them, and to define them.

For, gentlemen, spiritualism is not a religion, but a science, a science of which we as yet scarcely know the a, b, c. The age of dogma is past. Nature includes the Universe; and God himself, who was in old times conceived of as a being of similar shape and form as man, cannot be considered by modern metaphysics as other than Mind in Nature.

The supernatural does not exist. The manifestations obtained by the agency of Mediums, such as those of magnetism and somnambulism, belong to the order of nature and ought to be inexorably submitted to the test of experiment. There are no more miracles. We are witnessing the dawning of a new science. Who is there so bold as to predict whither the scientific study of the new psychology will lead, and what the results will be?

The limitations of human vision are such that the eye only sees things between narrow bounds, and beyond these limits, on this side and on that, it sees nothing. The body may be compared to a harp of two chords,---the optic nerve and the auditory nerve. One kind of vibrations excites the first and another kind the second. That is the whole story of human sensation, which is even inferior to that of many of the lower animals; certain insects, for example, in whom the nerves of vision and of hearing are more delicate than in man.

Now there are in nature, not two, but ten, a hundred, a thousand kinds of movement or vibration. We learn, then, from physical science, that we are living in the midst of a

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world invisible to us, and that it is not impossible that there may be living upon the earth a class of beings, also invisible to us, endowed with a wholly different kind of senses, so that there is no way by which they can make themselves known to us, unless they can manifest themselves in acts and ways that can come within the range of our own order of sensations.

In the presence of such truths as these, which have as yet only been barely announced, how absurd and worthless seems mere blind denial! When we compare the little that we know and the narrow limits of our range of perception with the vast extent of the field of knowledge, we can scarcely refrain from the conclusion that we know nothing and that everything yet remains to be known. With what right do we pronounce the word "impossible" in the presence of facts which we prove to be genuine without yet being able to discover their causes?

It is by the scientific study of effects that we arrive at the determination of causes. In the class of investigations which we group under the general head "Spiritualism," FACTS EXIST. But no one understands the method of their production. Their existence, nevertheless, is just as true as the phenomena of electricity.

But, as for understanding them---why, gentlemen, nobody understands biology, physiology, psychology. What is the human body? What is the brain? What is the absolute action of the soul or mind? We do not know. And, neither do we know anything whatever of the essence of electricity or the essence of light. It is prudent, then, to observe with unbiased judgment all such matters as these, and to try to determine their causes, which are perhaps of different kinds and more numerous than has ever been supposed up to the present time.

It will be seen that what I publicly uttered as I stood on the hillock above the grave into which Allan Kardec's coffin

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had just been lowered differs not at all from the purely scientific program of the present work.

I have just said that there were three methods employed in our spiritistic experiments. I have given my opinion of the first (writing mediums), basing it on my personal observations, and without desiring to weaken other proofs, if there are any. As to the second (planchette), I became familiar with it more especially by the seances of Mme. de Girardin, at the home of Victor Hugo in the Isle of Jersey. It works more independently than the first method; but it is still only a prolongation, as it were, of the hand and the brain. The third method---table-rapping, or typtology; I mean taps in the table---seems to me still more emphatically an extension of the hand and brain, and some forty-five years ago I often made use of this form of experiment.

Rappings made on the floor by one foot of the table, as letters are spelled out, have no special value. The least pressure can produce these see-saw movements. The chief experimenter himself makes the responses, sometimes without suspecting it.

Several persons group themselves about a table, place their hands upon it, and wait for something to happen. At the end of five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, the time depending on the psychic atmosphere and the faculties of the experimenters, raps are heard in the table, or the sitters help in the movements of the table, which seems possessed. Why choose a table? Because it is the only article of furniture around which folks usually sit. Sometimes the table is lifted on one or more of its feet and is gently rocked to and fro. Sometimes it comes up as if glued to the hands placed on it, remaining suspended in the air two, three, five, ten, twenty

[Pg 34]

seconds. Again, it is nailed to the floor with such force that it seems to have double or triple its usual weight. At other times, and usually on demand, it gives forth the sound of a saw, of a hatchet, of a lead-pencil writing, etc. We have here material results coming under direct observation, and they prove irrefragably the existence of an unknown force.

This force is a material force in the psychic class. If we confined our attention to blind senseless movements of one kind or another, in relation only with the volitions of the experimenters, and not capable of being explained by the mere imposition of their hands, we might see proof of the existence of a new unknown force, explicable as a transformation of nervous force, of organic electricity; and that would be much in itself. But the raps made in the table, or by the feet of it, are made in reply to questions asked. Since we know the table is only a piece of wood, when we ask it questions, we are really addressing some mental agent who hears and replies. It was in this class of phenomena that modern Spiritualism took its rise; namely, in the United States, in 1848, when the Fox sisters heard sounds in their chamber,---raps in the walls and in the furniture. Their father, after several months of vexatious investigation, finally had recourse to the traditional theory of ghosts, and, addressing his questions to the wall, demanded some kind of an explanation from the invisible thing therein. This thing responded by conventional taps to the questions asked, and declared that it was the spirit of the former proprietor once assassinated in this his very home. The Spirit asked for prayers and the burial of its body. (From this time on the replies were so arranged that one rap in response to a question signified yes, two meant no while three meant an emphatic yes.)

I hasten to remark at once that the tapped replies prove

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nothing, and could have been made unconsciously by the Fox sisters themselves, whom we can not consider to have been playing a little comedy since the raps produced by them in the walls astounded and overwhelmed them more, indeed, than they did any one else. The hypothesis of jugglery and mystification, dear to certain critics, has not the least application to this case, although I admit that rappings and movements are often produced as practical jokes by waggish persons.

There is, of course, an unseen cause that originates these rappings. Is it within us or outside of us? Is it possible that we might be capable of doubling our personality in some way without knowing it, of acting by mental suggestion, of answering our own questions without suspecting it, of producing material results without being conscious of it? Or does there exist, around and about us, an intelligent medium or atmosphere, a kind of spiritual cosmos? Or, again, is it possible that we are surrounded by invisible non-human beings,---Gnomes, Spirits, and Hobgoblins (there may be an unknown world about us)? Or, finally, is it possible that the Spirits of the dead may survive, and wander to and fro, and hold communication with us? All these hypotheses present themselves to our minds, nor have we the scientific absolute right to reject any one of them.

The lifting of a table, the displacement of an object, may be attributed to an unknown force developed by our nervous system or otherwise. At least these movements do not prove the existence of a mind extraneous to that of the subject. But when some one is naming the letters of the alphabet or pointing them out on a sheet of pasteboard, and the table, either by raps in the wood or by levitations, puts together an intelligible sentence, we are forced to attribute this intelligent effect to an intelligent cause. This cause may be the medium himself; and the simplest way is, evidently, to

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suppose that he himself raps out the letters. But experiments can be arranged in such a way that he cannot possibly do this, even unconsciously. Our first duty is, in reality, to make fraud impossible.

Those who have sufficiently studied the subject know that fraud does not explain what they have observed. To be sure, in fashionable Spiritualistic soirees people sometimes amuse themselves. Especially when the séances take place in the dark, and the alternation of the sexes is provided for so as to "reinforce the fluids," it is not altogether an unheard of thing for the gentlemen to profit by the temptation to temporarily forget the object of the meeting and break the established chain of hands in order to begin another on their own account. The ladies and the young girls like these changes in the program, and scarcely a complaint is heard. On the other hand, apart from fashionable soirées, to which everybody is invited for their amusement, the more serious reunions are frequently no safer; for the Medium, who is, in one way or another, an interested person, is anxious to give the most he can---and something to boot.

Upon the leaf of an old note-book of mine which has just turned up, I classed Spiritualistic soirées in the following order, which is doubtless a slightly original one:---

1. Amorous caresses. (A similar reproach was made against the ancient Christian love-feasts or agapes.)

2. Charlatanry of mediums, abusing the credulity of the sitters.

3. Some serious inquirers.

At the time of which I was just now speaking (1861-63) I took part, as secretary, in experiments conducted regularly once a week, in the salon of a well-known medium,---Mlle. Huet, of Mont-Thabor Street. Mediumship was, in a way, her trade, and she had more than once been flagrantly detected in some most remarkable trickery. Accordingly, it

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may be imagined that she would quite often give the raps herself by hitting the table-legs with her feet. But quite often we also obtained noises of sawing, of planing, of drum-beating, and torrents of rain, which it would have been impossible for her to imitate. Neither could the holding fast of the table to the floor be the work of fraud. As to the levitations of the table, I said awhile ago that, when one of us showed an inclination to resist with his hand the upward movement, he received an impression as if the table were floating on a fluid. Now it is hard to see how the medium could produce this result. Everything took place in broad daylight.

The communications received at the very many seances (several hundred) at which I have been present, both at that time and since, have always shown me that the results were in direct ratio with the cultivation of mind of the participants. I naturally asked a great many questions on astronomy. The replies never taught us anything new whatever; and, to be perfectly loyal to the truth, I must say that if, in these experiments, there are spirits, or beings independent of us in action, they know no more than we do about the other worlds.

A distinguished poet, P. F. Mathieu, was usually present at the reunions at the Mont-Thabor salon, and hence we sometimes obtained very pretty bits of verse, which I am sure he did not himself consciously produce; for, like all of us, he was there to learn. M. Joubert, vice-president of the civil tribunal of Carcassonne, has published a work, entitled Various Fables and Poems, by a Spirit-rapper, which bears on its face evidence that it is but the reflex of his customary thoughts. We had Christian philosophers with us at our reunions. Accordingly, the table dictated to us fine thoughts signed "Pascal," "Fenelon," "Vincent de Paul," and

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"Sainte Therese." One Spirit, who signed himself "Balthasar Grimod de la Reynière," dictated funny dissertations on the art of cooking. His specialty was to make the heavy table dance about in all kinds of contortions. Rabelais sometimes appeared, still loving the perfumes of savory viands as of old. Some of the Spirits took pleasure in making tours de force in cryptology (secret writing). The following are specimens of these table-rapping communications. The first is from the vulgate version of the Bible, the Gospel of John iii. 8:

"Spiritus ubi vult spirat; et vocem ejus audis, sed nescis unde veniat aut quo vadat. Sic est omnis qui natus est ex spiritu." ("The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.")

"Dear little sister, I am here, and see that you are as good as ever. You are a Medium. I will go to you with great happiness. Tell my mother her dear daughter loves her from this world.

"Louisa."

 

Some one asked one of the Spirits if he could indicate by taps the words engraved inside of her ring. The response was:

"I love that one should love me as I love when I love."

A member of the company suspected that the table around which we were sitting might conceal a piece of mechanism for producing the raps. Accordingly, one of the sentences was dictated by raps made in the air.

Here is another series:

"Je suis ung ioyeux compaignon qui vous esmarveilleray avecques mes discours, je ne suis pas ung Esperict mateologien,

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je vestiray non liripipion et je diray: Beuvez l'eaue de la cave, poy plus, poy moins, serez content.

"Alcofribaz Nazier."

 

("I am a jollie blade who will astonie you by my speech. I am not a vaine-babbling sperit. I will wear my graduate's hood and saie: Drinke ye water of ye cellar [wine],---no more, no less. Be content.

"Francois Rabelais.")

A rather lively discussion arose upon the subject of this unexpected visit,---and of the language, which some erudite persons present thought not to be pure Rabelaisian. Whereupon the table rapped:

"Bons enfants estes de vous esgousiller à ceste besterie. Mieux vault que beuviez froid que parliez chaud."

"Rabelais."

("Ye're regular babies to bawle yourselves hoarse over this selynesse. It is bettaire to drinke cauld than to speak warme.)

"Liesse et Noel! Monsieur Satan est defun, et de male mort. Bien marrys sont les moynes, moynillons, bigotz et cagotz, carmes chaulx et dechaulx, papelards et frocards, mitrez et encapuchonnez: les vecy sans couraige, les Esperictz les ont destrosnez. Plus ne serez roustiz et eschaubouillez ez marmites monachales et roustissoires diaboliques; foin de ces billevesees papales et clericquales. Dieu est bon, iuste et plein de miserichorde; it dict a ses petits enfancts: aimez-vous les ungs les autres et it pardoint à la repentance. Le grand dyable d'enfer est mort; vive Dieu!"

("Hurrah for a merry life! Maister Satan is dead, dead as a door-nail. The monks and the poor-devil friars are married,---bigots and fanatics, Carmelites shod and unshod,

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the hypocrites and the cowled fellows, the mitres and the hoods. There they stand trembling in their tracks; the Spirits have dethroned them. Gone are the roastings and soup-makings in the Devil's Dutch ovens and in monastic kettles. A plague of these trashy tales of pope and priest! God is good, just, and full of pity. He says to his little children, 'Love one another'; and he pardons the repentant. The great devil in hell is dead. Hurrah for God!")

Here is still another series:

"Suov ruop eretsym nu sruojuot tnores emem srueisulp; erdnerpmoc ed simrep erocne sap tse suov en li uq snoitseuq sed ridnoforppa ruop tirpse'l sap retnemruot suov en. Liesnoc nob nu zevius."

"Suov imrap enger en edrocsid ed tirpse'l siamaj euq."

"Arevele suov ueid te sererf sov imrap sreinred sel zeyos; evele ares essiaba's iuq iulec essiaba ares evele's iuq iulec."

These sentences must be read backwards, beginning at the end. Some one asked, "Why have you dictated thus?" The reply was:

"In order to give you new and unexpected proofs."

Read backwards, these Russian-like sentences are as follows:

"Celui qui s'eleve sera abaisse, celui qui s'abaisse sera eleve; soyez les derniers parmi vos freres et Dieu vous elevera."

"Que jamais l'esprit de discorde ne regne parmi vous."

"Suivez un bon conseil. Ne vous tourmenter pas l'esprit pour approfondir des questions qu'il ne vous est pas encore permis de comprendre; plusieurs meme seront toujours un mystère pour vous."

("Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted! Be the least among your brethren, and God will exalt you."

[Pg 41]

"Never let the spirit of discord reign among you."

"Follow good counsel. Do not torment your mind in attempting to fathom questions that it is not yet permitted you to comprehend: several of these will always be a mystery to you.")

Here is another of a different kind:

"Acmairsvnoouussevtoeussbaoinmsoentsfbiideenlteosuss."

"Sloeysepzruintissaeinndtieetuesnudrrvaosuessmaairlises."

I asked the meaning of this bizarre and portentous conglomeration of letters. The reply was:

"To conquer your doubts, read by skipping every other letter."

This arrangement using the skipped letters in their turn for the second and fourth lines gives the four following verses:

"Amis, nous vous aimons bien tous,

Car vous etes bons et fidelese

Soyez unis en Dieu: sur vous

L'Esprit-Saint etendra ses ailes."

("Friends, we love you all,

For you are good and faithful.

Be united in God: over you

The Holy Spirit will spread his wings.")

This is innocent enough, surely and without any great poetic pretensions. But it must be admitted that this method of dictating is rather difficult.

[Pg 42]

Some one spoke of human plans. The table dictated as follows:

"When the shining sun scatters the stars, know ye, O mortal men, whether ye will see the evening of that day? And, when the sombre curtains of night are let fall from the sky, can you tell whether you will see the dawn of another morn?"

Another person asked, "What is faith?"

"Faith? 'Tis a blessed field that breeds a superb harvest, and every labourer may therein reap and garner to his heart's content, and carry home his sheaves."

Here are three prose dictations:

"Science is a forest where some are laying out roads, where many lose their way, and where all see the bounds of the forest recede as fast as they go forward."

"God does not illuminate the world with the lightning and the meteors. He guides peacefully in their courses the stars of the night, which fill the sky with their light. So the divine revelations succeed one another in order, reason, and harmony."

"Religion and Friendship are twin companions, who aid us to traverse the painful path of life."

I cannot forego the pleasure of inserting here, at the close of this chapter, a fable, dictated like the others by table-rappings, and sent to me by M. Joubert, vice-president of the civil tribunal of Carcassonne. The sentiment of it may be queried by some; but is not the central principle applicable to all epochs and to all governments: Do not the "arrivistes" belong to all times?

[Pg 43]

THE KING AND THE PEASANT

A king who had profaned the public liberties, who for twenty years had slaked his thirst in the blood of heretics; awaiting the quiet peace of the hangman in his declining days; decrepit, surfeited with adulterous amours; this king, this haughty monster of whom they had made a great man,—Louis the Fourteenth, in short, if I must name him,---was one day airing under the leafy arches of his vast gardens his Scarron, his infamy and his troubles. The noble band of court flunkeys came along. Each one at once lost at least six inches of his height. Pages, counts, marquises, dukes, princes, marshals, ministers, bowed low before insulting rivals, the creatures of the king. Grave magistrates made their deep reverences, each humbler than a suitor asking for audience. 'Twas pleasant to see how the ribbons, crosses and decorations on their embroidered coats went ever backwards. Always and always that ignoble bowing and scraping and cringing. I should like to wake up some morning an emperor, that I might sting with my whip the backbone of a flatterer. But see! alone, confronting the despot, yet without abasing his head, forging along with slow steps on his own way, modest, clad in coarse homespun garments, comes one who seems a peasant, perhaps a philosopher, and passes by the groups of insolent courtiers. "Oh," cries the king, in great surprise, "why do you alone confront me without bending the knee?" "Sire," said the unknown, "must I be frank? It is because I alone here expect nothing from you."

If we stop to think how these sentences and phrases and different bits of literature were produced, letter by letter, rap by rap, following the alphabet as it was read out, we shall appreciate the difficulty of the thing. The rappings are made either in the interior of the wood of the table (the vibrations of which are perceptible) or in some other piece of furniture, or even in the air. The table, as I have already said, is alive, pregnant with a kind of momentary vitality. Melodies of well-known airs, sounds of sawing and of the

[Pg 44]

workshop, and the report of fusillades can be drawn from it. Sometimes it becomes so light that it floats for a moment in the air, then so heavy that two men can scarcely lift it from the floor or budge it in any way. You must have a distinct picture in your mind of all these manifestations,---often puerile, no doubt, sometimes vulgar and grotesque, yet striking in their method of operation,---if you would accurately understand the phenomena, and realize that you are in the presence of an unknown element which jugglery and prestidigitation cannot explain.

Some folks can move their toes separately and crack the joints. If we should grant that the dictations, by combinations of letters (quoted above), were arranged in advance, learned by heart, and thus rapped, the matter would be simple enough. But this particular faculty is very rare, and it does not explain the noises in the table, the vibrations of which are felt by the hands. Again, one could fancy the Medium tapping the table-legs with his foot, and thus constructing such sentences as he pleases. But it would require a wonderful memory in the medium to enable him to remember the precise arrangement of letters (for he has no memorandum before him), and, further, these curious dictations have been secured just the same in select companies where no one would cheat.

As to the theory that the Spirits of eminent men are in communication with the experimenters the mere statement of the hypothesis shows its absurdity. Imagine a table-rapper calling up from the vasty deep the Spirits of Paul or Saint Augustine, Archimedes or Newton, Pythagoras or Copernicus, Leonardo da Vinci or William Herschel, and receiving their dictations from the interior of a table!

We were speaking, a few pages back, of the séance drawings and descriptions of Jupiter made by Victorien Sardou. This is the proper place to insert a letter written by him

[Pg 45]

to M. Jules Claretie, and published by the latter in Le Temps at the date when that learned Academician was putting on the boards his drama Spiritisme. The letter is here appended:

... As to Spiritualism, I could better tell you verbally in three words what I think of it than I could write here in three pages. You are half right and half wrong. Pardon my freedom of speech. There are two things in Spiritualism,---(1) curious facts, inexplicable in the present state of our knowledge, and yet authenticated; and (2) the folks who explain them.

The facts are real. Those who explain them belong to three categories: there are, first, Spiritualists who are imbecile, ignorant, or mad, the chaps who call up Epaminondas and whom you justly make fun of, or who believe in the intervention of the devil; those, in short, who end in the lunatic asylum in Charenton.

Secundo, there are the charlatans, commencing with D.; impostors of all sorts, prophets, consulting Mediums, such as A. K., and tutti quanti.

Finally, there are the scholars and scientists, who think they can explain everything by juggleries, hallucination, and unconscious movements, men like Chevreul and Faraday, who, while they are right about some of the phenomena described to them, and which really are jugglery or hallucination, are yet wrong about the whole series of original facts, which they will not take the trouble to look at, though they are highly important. These men are much to blame; for, by their plea-in-bar against earnest investigators (such as Gasparin, for example) and by their insufficient explanations, they have left Spiritualism to be exploited by charlatans of all kinds, and at the same time authorized serious amateurs to no longer waste their time over these studies.

Last of all, there are observers like myself (there are not many of us) who are incredulous by nature, but who have been obliged to admit, in the long run, that Spiritualism concerns itself with facts which defy any present scientific explication, but who do not despair of seeing them explained some day, and who therefore apply themselves to the study of the facts, and are trying to reduce them to some kind of

[Pg 46]

classification which may later prove to be law. We of this persuasion hold ourselves aloof from every coterie, from every clique, from all the prophets, and, satisfied with the convictions to which we have already attained, are content to see in Spiritualism the dawn of a truth, as yet very obscure, which will some day find its Ampere, as did the magnetic currents, and who grieve to see this truth choked out of existence by a dual foe,---excess of credulous ignorance which believes everything and excess of incredulous science which believes nothing.

We find in our conviction and our conscience the wherewithal to brave the petty martyrdom of ridicule inflicted upon us for the faith we profess, a faith exaggerated and caricatured by the mass of follies people never fail to attribute to us, nor do we deem that the myth in which they dress us up merits even the honour of a refutation.

Similarly, I have never had any desire to prove to anybody whatever that the influence of either Moliere or Beaumarchais cannot be detected in my plays. It seems to me that that is more than evident.

Respecting the dwellings of the planet Jupiter, I must ask the good folks who suppose that I am convinced of the real existence of these things whether they are well persuaded that Gulliver believed in "Lilliput," Campanella in the "City of the Sun," and Sir Thomas More in his "Utopia."

What is true, however, is that the design of which you speak [Pl. III.] was made in less than ten hours. As to its origin, I would not give a penny to know about that; but the fact of its production is another matter

V. Sardou.

 

Scarcely a year passes that Mediums do not bring me drawings of plants and animals in the Moon, in Mars, Venus, Jupiter, or certain of the stars. These designs are more or less pretty, and more or less curious. But there is nothing in

[Pg 47]

them that leads us to admit their actual resemblance to real things in other worlds. On the contrary, everything proves that they are the products of imagination, essentially terrestrial, both in look and shape, not even tallying what we know to be the vital possibilities of those worlds. The designers of them are the dupes of illusion. These plants and animal are metamorphoses (sometimes elegantly conceived and drawn) of terrestrial organisms. Perhaps the most curious thing of all is that they have a family resemblance in the manner of their execution, and have stamped on them, in some way or other, the mediumistic hall-mark.

To return to my own experiences. When I took the role of Writing-Medium, I generally produced astronomical or philosophical dissertations signed "Galileo." I will quote but one of them as a sample. It is taken from my notebooks of 1862.

 

SCIENCE.

The human intellect holds in its powerful grasp the infinite universe of space and time; it has penetrated the inaccessible domain of the Past, sounded the mystery of the unfathomable heavens, and believes that it has explained the riddle of the universe. The objective world has unrolled before the eyes of science its splendid panorama and its magnificent wealth of forms. The studies of man have led him to a knowledge of truth; he has explored the universe, discovered the inexorable reign of law, and the application of the forces that sustain all things. If it has not been permitted to him to see the First Cause face to face, at least he has attained a true mathematical idea of the series of secondary causes.

In this latest century, above all, the experimental a priori method, the only really scientific one, has been put into practice in the natural sciences, and by its aid man has freed himself from the prejudices of the old school of thought, one by one, and from subjective or speculative theories, and confined himself to a careful and intelligent study of the field of observation.

[Pg 48]

Yes, human science is firmly based and pregnant with possibility, worthy of our homage for its difficult and long-proved past, worthy of our sympathy for its future, big with the promise of useful and profitable discoveries. For nature is henceforth to be a book accessible to the bibliographical researches of the studious, a world open to the investigations of the thinker, a fertile region which the human mind has already visited, and in which we must needs advance boldly, holding in our hand experience as our compass....

An old friend of my terrestrial life recently spoke to me as follows. One of our wanderings had brought us back to the Earth, and we were making a new moral study of this world. My companion remarked that man is to-day familiar with the most abstract laws of mechanics, physics, chemistry, ... that the applications of knowledge to industry are not less remarkable than the deductions of pure science, and that it seems as if the entire universe, wisely studied by man, was to be his royal appanage. As we pursued our journey beyond the bounds of this world, I answered him in the following terms:

"A feeble atom, lost to sight in an imperceptible point of the infinite, man has believed he could embrace in the sweep of his vision the whole expanse of the universe, whereas he can scarcely pass beyond the region he inhabits; he has thought he could study the laws of all nature, and his investigations have scarcely reached the forces in action about him; he has thought he could determine the grandeur of the starry heaven, and he exhausted his powers in the study of a grain of dust. The field of his researches is so small that, once lost to view, the mind seeks in vain to recover it; the human heaven and earth are so small that scarcely has the soul in its flight had time to spread its wings before it has reached the last regions accessible to the observation of man; for the immeasurable Universe surrounds us on all sides, unfolding beyond the limits of our heavens its unknown riches, putting its inconceivable forces into play, and reaching forward into immensity in the splendour of its life.

"And the mere flesh-worm, the miserable mite, blind and wingless, whose wretched existence is passed upon the leaf

[Pg 49]

where it was born, would presume (because forsooth it has taken a few steps upon this leaf shaken in the wind) to have the right to speak of the immense tree to which it belongs, of the forest of which this tree forms a part, and to sagely descant upon the nature of the vegetation developed thereon, of the beings that inhabit it, of the distant sun whose rays bring to it movement and life? In very truth, man is strangely presumptuous to desire to measure infinite greatness by the foot-rule of his infinite littleness.

"Therefore be this truth well impressed on his mind,---if the arid labours of past ages have acquired for him an elementary knowledge of things, if the progress of thought has placed him at the vestibule of knowledge, still he has not yet spelled out more than the first page of the Book, and, like a child, liable to be deceived by every word, far from claiming the right to authoritatively interpret the work, he ought to content himself with humbly studying it, page by page, line by line. Happy, however, those who are able to do this!"

Galileo.

 

These were my customary thoughts. They are the thoughts of a student of nineteen or twenty who has acquired the habit of thinking. There can be no doubt that they were wholly the product of my own intellect, and that the illustrious Florentine astronomer had nothing whatever to do with them. Besides, this would have been a collaboration to the last degree improbable.

It has been the same with all the communications of the astronomical class: they have not led the science forward a single step. Nor has any obscure, mysterious, or illusive point in history been cleared up by the Spirits. We only write that which we know, and even chance has given us nothing. Still, certain unexplained thought-transferences are to be discussed. But they belong to the psychological or human sphere.

In order to reply at once to objections that certain

[Pg 50]

Spiritualists have sent to me apropos of this result of my observations, I will take as an example the case of the satellites of Uranus, since it is the chief one always brought forward as a proof of scientific discoveries imparted by spirits. Furthermore, I received several years ago from divers sources a pressing invitation to examine an article by General Drayson, published in the journal named Light, in 1884, under the title of The Solution of Scientific Problems by Spirits, in which it is asserted that the Spirits made known the true orbital movement of the satellites of Uranus. Pressing engagements had always hindered me from making this examination; but the case having been recently promulgated in several Spiritualistic works as decisive, and I being so persistently importuned to discuss it, I believe it will prove of some use if I now examine the case.

To my great regret there is an error in their communication, and the Spirits have taught us nothing. Here is one instance, wrongly selected as a demonstration. The Russian writer Aksakof sets it forth in the following terms (Animism and Spiritualism, p. 341):

The case of which we are about to give an account seems to be of such a nature as to settle all objections. It was communicated by Major-General A. W. Drayson and published under the title The Solution of Scientific Problems by Spirits. I append a translation:

"Having received from M. Georges Stock a letter asking me if I could mention, were it only as an instance, that, during the holding of a seance, a Spirit had solved one of those scientific problems which have always embarrassed scientists, I have the honour to communicate to you the following circumstance, which I witnessed with my own eyes:

"In 1781 William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and its satellites. He observed that these satellites, contrary to all the other satellites of the solar system, traversed their orbits from east to west. Sir John Herschel says in his Outlines of Astronomy:

[Pg 51]

'The orbits of these satellites present peculiarities altogether unexpected and exceptional, contrary to the general laws which govern the other bodies of the solar system. The planes of their orbits are almost perpendicular to the ecliptic, making an angle of 70° 58',[16] and they travel with a retrograde movement; that is to say, their revolution about the centre of their planet takes place from east to west in place of following the inverse course.'

"When Laplace broached his theory that the sun and all the planets were formed at the expense of a nebulous matter, these satellites were an enigma to him.

"Admiral Smyth mentions in his Celestial Cycle that the movement of these satellites, to the stupefaction of all astronomers, is retrograde, contrary to that of all the other bodies observed up to that time.

"All the astronomical works published before 1860 contain the same reasoning on the subject of the satellites of Uranus. For my part, I did not find any explanation for this peculiarity: to me it was a mystery as much as for the writers whom I have cited.

"In 1858 I had as a guest in my house a lady who was a medium, and we arranged daily séances. One evening she said to me that she saw at my side a spirit who claimed to have been an astronomer during his life on earth.

"I asked this person if he was wiser at present than when he lived on the earth. 'Much wiser,' he said. I had the idea of asking this so-called Spirit a question the object of which was to test his knowledge. 'Can you tell me,' I asked him, 'why the satellites of Uranus make their revolution from east to west and not from west to east?' I received at once the following reply:

"'The satellites of Uranus do not move in their orbits from east to west: they circle about their planet from west to east, in the same way that the moon moves around the earth. The error comes from the fact that the south pole of Uranus was turned toward the earth at the moment of the discovery of this planet. In the same way that the sun, seen from our southern hemisphere, seems to run its daily course from right

[Pg 52]

to left and not from left to right, so the satellites of Uranus were moving at that time from left to right, though this does not mean they were moving in their orbit from east to west.'

"In reply to another question which I asked, my interlocutor added: 'As long as the south pole of Uranus was turned toward the earth, in relation to a terrestrial observer, the satellites seemed to move from left to right, and it was erroneously concluded from this that they were going from east to west: this state of things lasted for about forty-two years. When the north pole of Uranus is turned toward the earth, his satellites run their course from right to left, but, in either case, always from the west to the east.'

"I thereupon asked him how it happened that the error had not been detected forty-two years after William Herschel's discovery of Uranus. He replied, 'It is because people repeat that which the authorities who have preceded them have said. Dazzled by the results obtained by their predecessors, they do not take the trouble to think.'"

Such is the "revelation" of a Spirit on the system of Uranus, published by Drayson and presented by Aksakof and other authors as an undeniable proof of the intervention of a Spirit in the solution of this problem.

 

The following is the result of an impartial discussion of this very interesting subject. The reasoning of the "Spirit" is false. The system of Uranus is almost perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. It is the direct opposite of that of the satellites of Jupiter, which turn almost in the plane of their orbit. The inclination of the plane of the satellites to the ecliptic is 98°, and the planet ascends almost in the plane of the ecliptic. This is a fundamental consideration in the picture which we ought to make to ourselves of the aspect of this system seen from the earth.

Let us, however, adopt for the method of movement of these satellites around their planet the projection upon the plane of the ecliptic, as has always been the custom. The author maintains that, "when the north pole of Uranus is turned toward the earth, his satellites run their course from

[Pg 53]

right to left, that is to say from west to east"; he indorses the communication of the Spirit to the effect that the astronomers are in error and that the satellites of Uranus really revolve around their planet from west to east, in the same way that the moon revolves around the earth.

In order to give ourselves an exact account of the position and of the method of the movements of this system, let us construct a special geometrical figure, clear and precise. Let us represent upon a plane the appearance of the orbit of Uranus and of its satellites seen from the northern hemisphere of the celestial sphere (Fig. A). The part of the orbit of the satellites above the plane of the orbit of Uranus has been drawn with heavy lines and hatching, the lower part in dotted lines only.

It is easily seen by the direction of the arrows that the revolution of the satellites, projected upon the plane of the orbit, is entirely retrograde. All dogmatic affirmations to the contrary are absolutely erroneous.

These satellites turn like the hands of a watch,---from left to right, looking at the upper part of the circles.

The error of General Drayson's Medium comes from the fact that she maintained that the south pole of Uranus was turned toward us at the date of its discovery. Now, in 1781, the system of Uranus occupied relatively to us almost the same situation as in 1862, since the time of its revolution is eighty-four years. It is evident from the figure that, at that moment, the planet presented to us the pole most elevated above the ecliptic; that is, its north pole.

General Drayson allowed himself to be led into error when he adopted without verification these paradoxical premises. As a matter of fact, if Uranus had presented to us its south pole in 1781, the movement of the satellites would have been direct. But the observations of the angle of position of the orbits at the time of their passage of the nodes gives us

[Pg 54]

abundant evidence that it was really the north pole which was at that moment turned toward the sun and the earth,---a fact which renders direct movement impossible, retrograde movement certain.

 

Fig. 1---The inclination of the system of Uranus.

Aspects seen from the earth at the four extreme positions.

 

For greater clearness, I have placed outside of the orbit, in Fig 1, the aspect of the system of Uranus seen from the earth at the four principal epochs of the revolution of this distant planet. It is evident that the apparent method of the revolution was analogous to that of the hands of a

[Pg 55]

watch in 1781 and 1862, the opposite in 1818 and 1902. At these dates the apparent orbits of the satellites are almost circles, while during the passage of the nodes, in 1798, 1840, and 1882, they are reduced to straight lines.

Figure 1a completes these data by presenting the aspect of the orbits and the method of revolution for all the positions of the planet, even down to our own epoch.

I have desired to completely elucidate this question, which is a little technical. To my great regret, the Spirits have taught us nothing, and this example, to which so much importance is attached, is seen to be an error.

Aksakof cites, in this same chapter (p. 343), the discovery of the two satellites of Mars, also made by Drayson through a Medium, in 1859; that is to say, 18 years before their discovery, in 1877. This discovery, not having been published at the time, remains doubtful. Furthermore, after Kepler had pointed out its probability, this subject of the two satellites of Mars was several times discussed, notably by Swift and Voltaire (see my Popular Astronomy, p. 501). This is not, then, to be set down as an undeniable instance of a discovery made by the Spirits.

The immediately foregoing instances are facts actually observed at Spiritualistic seances. I will not treat them under a generalization foreign to their proper setting. They do not prove that, in certain circumstances, thinkers, poets, dreamers, investigators, may not be inspired by influences emanating from others, from loved ones, from departed friends. That is another question, a topic quite apart from experiments which we are giving an account of in this book.

 [Pg 56]

Fig. 1a.---Orbits of the satellites of Uranus as seen from the

earth at different dates since the time of their discovery (1781).

 

[Pg 57]

The same author, otherwise generally very judicious, cites several examples of foreign tongues spoken by Mediums. I have not been able to verify them, and I am asked not to say here anything but what I am absolutely sure of.

According to my personal observations, these experiments bring us constantly into the presence of ourselves, our own minds. I could cite a thousand examples of this.

One day I received an "aërolite" discovered in a forest in the environs of Etrepagny (Eure). Mme. J. L., who kindly sent it to me, added that she consulted a spirit about its origin and that he replied to her that it came from a star named Golda. Now in the first place there is no star of this name; and, secondly, this is not an aerolite at all, but a piece of slag from an old forge. (See Section 662 of my Inquiry of 1899. The first of these sections, relating to telepathy, have been published in my work The Unknown.)

A lady reader of mine wrote me from Montpellier:

Your conclusions would perhaps diminish the prestige of Spiritualism in the eyes of certain persons. But, as prestige may produce superstition, it is well to clear up matters. For my part, that which you have observed agrees with what I have myself observed. This is the method which I have employed, aided by a friend:

I took a book and, opening it, retained in my mind the number of the right-hand page. Suppose it was 132. I said to the table, which had been put in movement by the little manoeuvre ordinarily used, "Does a Spirit desire to communicate?"

Reply---"Yes."

Question---"Can you see the book which I have just been looking at?"

Reply---"Yes."

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"How many numbers are there on the page that I have been looking at?"

"Three."

"Indicate the number of hundreds."

"One."

"Indicate the value of the tens."

"Three."

"Indicate the value of the units."

"Two."

The amounts indicated in these statements are of course 132. It was enchanting.

Then, taking the closed book and, without opening it, sliding the paper-knife between the pages, I resumed the conversation, and the result with this last method was always inexact.

I frequently repeated this little experience (curious at any rate); and, every time, I had exact replies when I knew them, inexact when I was ignorant of them. (Section 657 of my Inquiry.)

These examples might be multiplied ad infinitum. Everything leads us to think that it is we who are the actors in these experiments. But it is not so simple as one might suppose, and there is something else in it as well as ourselves. Certain unexplained things take place.

In his remarkable work, Intelligence, Taine explains Spiritualistic communications by a sort of unconscious duplication of our mind, as I said above.

The more singular a fact is [he writes[18]] the more instructive it is. In this respect, Spiritualistic manifestations themselves point the way to discoveries by showing us the coexistence at the same moment in the same individual of two thoughts, two wills, two distinct actions, the one conscious, the other unconscious; the latter he attributes to invisible beings. The brain is, then, a theatre on the stage of which several pieces are being played at once, upon several

[Pg 59]

planes, of which only one is not subliminal. Nothing is more worthy of study than this plurality of the me. I have seen a person who, while speaking or singing, writes, without regard to the paper, consecutive sentences and even entire pages, without any knowledge of what she is writing. In my eyes her sincerity is perfect. Now she declares that at the end of a page she has no idea of what she has written on the paper. When she reads it, she is astonished, sometimes alarmed. The handwriting is different from her ordinary handwriting. The movement of the fingers and of the pencil is stiff and seems automatic. The writing always ends with a signature, that of a deceased person, and bears the mark of intimate thoughts, of a secret and inner reserve of ideas which the author would not like to divulge. Certainly there is proof here of a doubling of the me, the coexistence of two parallel and independent trains of thought, of two centres of action, or, if you wish, of two moral persons existing in the same brain, each one doing his work, and each one a different work, the one upon the stage and the other behind the scenes, the second as complete as the first, since, alone and unwitting of the other, it constructs consecutive ideas and fashions connected sentences in which the other has no part.

This hypothesis is admissible, in the light of numerous observations of double consciousness.

It is applicable to a great number of cases, but not in all. It explains automatic writing. But, as it stands, it is necessary to stretch it considerably to make it explain the rappings (for who raps?), and it does not explain at all the levitations of the table, nor the displacement of objects of which I have spoken in the first chapter, and I do not very well see how it can even explain phrases rapped out backwards or by the strange combinations described above. This

[Pg 60]

hypothesis is admitted and developed in a more unqualified way by Dr. Pierre Janet in his work Psychological Automatism. This author is one of those who have created a narrow circle of observation and study, and who not only never emerge from it, but imagine that they have got the whole universe in their circle. In going over this kind of reasoning, one thinks involuntarily of that old quarrel of the two round eyes who saw everything round and of the two square eyes who saw everything square, and of the history of the Big-endians and of the Little-endians of Gulliver's Travels. An hypothesis is worthy of attention when it explains something. Its value does not increase by the attempt to generalize it and make it explain everything: this is to overpass all reasonable limits.

We may admit that the sub-conscious acts of an abnormal personality, temporarily grafted upon our normal personality, explain the greater part of mediumistic writing communications. We can see in these also the evident effects of auto-suggestion. But these psycho-physiological hypotheses do not explain all observations. There is something else.

We all have a tendency to want to explain everything by the actual state of our knowledge. In the face of certain circumstances, we say to-day: "It is suggestion, it is hypnotism, it is this, it is that." Half a century ago we would not have talked in this way, these theories not having yet been invented. People will no longer talk in the same way half a century, a century, hence, for new words will have been invented. But let us not be put off with words; let us not be in such a hurry.

We must know how to explain in what way our thoughts---conscious, unconscious, sub-conscious---can strike blows in a table, move it, lift it. As this question is rather embarrassing, Dr. Pierre Janet treats it as "secondary personality," and is obliged to have recourse to the movements of

[Pg 61]

the toes, to the snapping of the muscles of the fibular tendon, to ventriloquism and the deceptions of unconscious accomplices. This is not a sufficient explanation.

As a matter of fact, we do not understand how our thought, or that of another, can cause raps in a table, by which sentences are formed. But we are obliged to admit it. Let us call it, if you please, "telekinetsis"; but does that get us any farther along?

There has been talk for some years about unconscious facts, about sub-consciousness, subliminal consciousness, etc. I fear that in these things also we are putting ourselves off with words which do not explain things very much.

I intend some day, if the time is given me, to write a special book on Spiritualism, studied from the theoretic and doctrinal point of view, which will form a second volume of my work The Unknown and Psychic Problems, and which has been in preparation since the publication of that work in 1899. Mediumistic communications, dictations received (notably by Victor Hugo, Mme. de Girardin, Eugene Nus, and the Phalansterians), will be the subject of special chapters in this volume,---as well as the problem, otherwise important, of the plurality of existences.

It is not my intention to enlarge in this place upon the aspects of the general question. That which I restrict myself to establishing in this book is that there are in us, about us, unknown forces capable of putting matter in motion, just as our will does. I ought, therefore, to limit myself to material phenomena. The range of that class of investigations is already immense, and the "communications" of which I have just spoken are really outside the limits of this range. But, as this subject and that of psychological experiments are continually overlapping, it was necessary to give a summary of it in this place. Let us

[Pg 62]

return for the present to the material phenomena produced by Mediums and to that which I have myself ascertained in my experiences with Eusapia Paladino, who unites them nearly all in her own personality and experiences.

To continue with the book go to next chapter click here seances 29

 

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