CONTRADICTIONS AND HOAXINGS.
297. The adversaries of spiritism do not fail to object that its adherents are far from being agreed among themselves; that they do not all hold the same belief; in short, that they contradict one another. If, say they, your theories are given to you by spirits, how is it that they are not identical? A few simple considerations will reduce this objection to its true value.
Let us begin by remarking that the contradictions referred to are generally more apparent than real, affecting, so to say, the surface rather than the substance if the subject, and that they are consequently of no vital importance. Such as they are, however, they proceed from two sources, some of them being due to men, and others being due to spirits.
298. Contradictions of human origin are sufficiently explained in our chapter on theories, to which we refer the reader. It will be readily understood that, on the first outbreak of modern spiritism, when the whole subject may be said to have been in embryo, many widely different opinions were naturally put forth as to the cause of spirit-phenomena and the inferences to be drawn from them; opinions which, for the most part, have been abandoned, as inquirers have arrived at a more extended knowledge of the matter. With the exception of those who are reluctant to give up opinions which they have originated or espoused, it may be said that, at the present day, the immense majority of spiritists are agreed about principles, at least as regards fundamentals, and that they differ only in regard to a few comparatively unimportant details.
299. In order to understand the cause of contradictions originating with spirits, and to measure the importance of such discrepancies, we must have acquainted ourselves with the nature of the invisible world and studied it on various sides. It may seem astounding, at first sight, that spirits should not all think alike; yet this can surprise no one who considers the infinity of degrees which they have to pass through before reaching the summit of the hierarchy. To suppose that all spit-its have the same mental outlook is to suppose them all to be on the same level of advancement; to attribute to all of them the same clear vision of the truth of things, is to assume that all of them have already attained to perfection; but, spirits being nothing more than human beings stripped of their fleshly envelope, this is not, and cannot be, the case; and, since spirits of every degree are able to manifest themselves, it is evident that spirit communications must naturally bear the stamp of the ignorance or the knowledge, the moral inferiority or superiority, of those by whom they are made. To distinguish the true from the false, the good from the bad, is the aim of the instructions we have been employed to give in the present work.
It must not be forgotten that there are, among spirits as among men, false pretenders to science, having only a smattering of knowledge, and others who, proud and presumptuous, are addicted to theory-building. As it is only the fully purified spirits who know everything, there are mysteries for the others as there are for men; and there are plenty of spirits who endeavor to explain these mysteries according to their own ideas and opinions, making it a point of honor to urge these explanations upon others, and to defend them in their communications. The mediums of these theorizing spirits are to blame for having made themselves the champions of ideas opposed to common sense; but the contradictory statements that are made by spirits are to be attributed to the diversities of intelligence, knowledge, judgement, and morality observable among those who have not yet reached the elevation which, by giving universal knowledge to all who reach it, unites them all in the same convictions.
300. What is the use of spirit-teaching, it may here be asked, if it gives us no more certainty than is given by human teaching? To this question the answer is easy. We do not accept the statements of all men with equal confidence; and, in choosing between statements that differ from one another, we give the preference to the one of which the author appears to us to be the more enlightened and judicious. We must deal with spirits in the same way. If some of them are not above humanity, there are others who are, and who may give us information that we should seek in vain from the most learned of man-kind; and the power of distinguishing between them can only be acquired through the careful study of the principles of spiritist doctrine which we urge upon all inquirers. But the information that we can derive from spirits, even of high degree, has its limits; for, if it is not given to spirits to know everything, still less is such knowledge possible for men There are things, moreover, in regard to which, as previously pointed out, we should question spirits in vain; either because they are not permitted to reveal them, or because they are themselves in ignorance concerning them. In the latter case, spirits can only express their own personal opinions; and it is just these personal opinions that spirits with more vanity than science are apt to thrust forward as absolute truth, making the greatest parade of their pretended knowledge, and putting forth the greatest number of contradictory hypotheses, precisely in regard to matters that are hidden from us for the present, such as the developments of futurity and the origin of things.
301. The following explanations have been given to us by spirits in reply to questions respecting the contradictions of spirit-statements:-
1. Is it possible for the same spirit, when communicating in two different centers, to transmit contradictory answers on the same subject?
"If the two centers hold different opinions, the answer may be changed in reaching them, because they are under the influence of different columns of spirits; the spirit's answers would not be contradictory, but those answers would be modified by the influence of the surroundings through which they are transmitted."
2. We can understand that an answer may be altered in this way; but when the character of the two centers excludes the possibility of evil influences, how is it that spirits of superior degree appear to make different and contradictory statements about the same subject, to persons who are equally earnest in their search after truth?
"Spirits who are really superior never contradict themselves; their statements are always the same in substance, although they may be modified in form according to the differences of persons and places; but such contradictions are only apparent, being more in the style of expression than in the thought, and the fundamental idea being seen, on reflection, to be the same. But the same spirit may reply differently to the same question according to the degree of advancement of those who evoke him. If a child and a scientific man should ask you the same question, you would answer each of them in the way that he would understand, and that would satisfy him; the two answers would be very different, and yet they would both have the same foundation of truth."
3. Why do spirits who seem to be serious appear to approve, in the presence of some persons, ideas, and even prejudices, which they oppose in the presence of others?
"We are obliged to express ourselves in language that is comprehensible by those we address. When a man has a very strong conviction in regard to any doctrine, even though it be a false one, we can only turn him from this conviction very gently, and little by little; for this reason we sometimes employ his own terms, and thus appear to chime in with his ideas, in order not to startle him, and to encourage him to come again to our school.
"It is not well to give too sudden a shock to prejudice; to do so, is, in fact, the surest way to prevent one's self from being listened to; and for this reason spirits often begin, as does every skilful orator, by speaking as though they shared the opinions of their hearers, taking care not to address a Chinese or a Mahometan as they would a European or a Christian, because they know that, if they did so, they would certainly meet with a repulse.
"Besides, what appears to you to be a contradiction is often only a partial statement of a truth. All spirits have their task marked out for them by Providence; and they accomplish their several tasks in the ways, and under the conditions, which they consider to be best adapted to advance the improvement of those who receive their communications."
4. Contradictions, though only apparent, may cause doubt in some minds; by what means, then, can we be certain of arriving at the truth in regard to statements which appear to contradict each other?
"To distinguish truth from error, you must meditate upon the answers we have given, reflecting upon them long and carefully; it is a new field of knowledge that is opening out before you, a new study, and one that demands much time and labor, like every other.
"Study, compare, go to the very bottom of the subject; truth is only to be purchased at this price. For how are you to arrive at the truth in regard to the vast problems dealt with by spiritism, if you persist in interpreting everything according to your narrow ideas, which you so often mistake for grand ones? The day is not far distant when the teaching of spirits will be universally diffused, and will be as uniform in details as in essentials. The mission of spiritism is to destroy error; but that can only be done by degrees."
5. There are persons who have neither the time nor the aptitude for a deep and serious study of these grave questions, and who accept, without examination, the ideas presented to them by spirits. May not the apparent sanctioning of error by the latter have an injurious effect on minds of this character?
"Let each inquirer do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong; there are no two doctrines for that. Goodness is always goodness, whether you practice it in the name of Allah or of Jehovah; for there is but one and the same God for the Universe."
6. How can spirits, who appear to be developed in intelligence, entertain, on certain subjects, ideas that are evidently false?
"Spirits, like men, have their own doctrines. Those who believe themselves to be wiser than they are, take their own false or incomplete ideas for truth, just as is so often done by men."
7. What are we to think of the doctrine of the mono-spiritists, which asserts that there is only one spirit who Communicates, and that this spirit is God or Jesus?
"The spirit who inculcates this doctrine is one who desires to domineer over you, and who therefore tries to make you believe that he is the only one who communicates with you; but the unhappy impostor, who thus dares to take the name of God, will pay dearly for his vanity and presumption. Such a doctrine refutes itself, because it is contrary to averred facts; it does not merit serious examination, for it has no root in reality.
"Reason tells you that what is good must proceed from a good source, and what is evil, from an evil one; therefore, as some communications are good, and some are bad, how is it possible that they can proceed from the same source? Can a good tree bring forth bad fruit? Did you ever gather grapes from a thorn-bush, or figs from a thistle?
"The diversity of spirit-communications is a conclusive proof of the diversity of their origin. On the other hand, the spirits who pretend that they alone communicate, should explain why other spirits should not be able to do the same. Their pretension is the negation of all that is most beautiful and most consoling in spiritism the relationships between the visible and the invisible worlds, between men and the beings who are most dear to them, but who, if this doctrine were true, would be lost to them forever. It is the knowledge of these relationships that identifies man with his future, and detaches him from the material world; to suppress these relationships would be to thrust him back into the state of doubt which is his torment, and to give new strength to selfishness. Examine the doctrine of these spirits, and you will find it to be full of contradictions and absurdities, that show their ignorance of the most evident truths, and consequently afford unquestionable proof of their inferiority."
"THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH."
8. One of the most striking of the contradictions to be met with in the communications of spirits is that which relates to reincarnation. If reincarnation is a necessity of spirit-life, how is it that all spirits do not proclaim it?
"Do you not know that there are many spirits whose ideas are limited to the present, as is the case with so many men on earth? They believe that what is, according to their present perceptions, will endure for ever; they do not see beyond the circle of those perceptions, and do not trouble themselves as to whence they mayx have come, or whither they may be going; but they will, nevertheless, undergo the law of necessity. Reincarnation is a necessity about which they do not think until it overtakes them; they know that the spirit progresses, but, as to the mode in which its progress is accomplished, they know nothing. If you question them on this point, they will tell you of several 'heavens' or 'spheres' placed one above the other, like the stories of a house, and into which they say that spirits pass progressively; there are some who will even talk of the 'sphere of fire,' the 'sphere of stars,' the 'city of flowers,' the 'city of the elect,' etc."
9. We admit that spirits who are but little advanced may not comprehend this question; but how, then, does it so often happen that spirits who are notoriously of slight advancement, both morally and intellectually, spontaneously allude to their different existences, and express their desire to be reincarnated, in order that they may redeem their past wrong-doing?
"There are many things in the world of spirits that it is difficult for you to understand. Have you not, among yourselves, persons who are very ignorant on certain subjects, and who are, nevertheless, well-informed on others? persons who have more intuition than learning, just as you have others who have more wit than sound judgement? Besides, do you not know that there are spirits who like to keep men in ignorance, and who take advantage of the readiness with which some people accept their statements, although, if such spirits were met by serious argument, they would soon betray the shallowness of their pretensions?
"You must also take into account the prudence exercised by spirits in the promulgation of truth; too strong and too sudden a light dazzles the eye instead of making it see more clearly. Spirits may, therefore, in some cases, consider it to be wise to delay the proclamation of this law, making it known gradually, according to times, places, and persons. Moses did not proclaim all that has since been proclaimed by Christ; and, of the things taught by Christ, there were many of which the right understanding, according to His own declaration, was reserved for future generations. You are astonished that the law of reincarnation has not been proclaimed in all countries; but you must consider that, in a country where the prejudice of color holds sovereign sway, and where slavery is rooted in the customs of the people, the assertion of reincarnation would have sufficed to cause the rejection of spiritism; for the idea that he who is now the master may hereafter become the slave, and that he who is now the slave may hereafter become the master, would have appeared monstrous to its people. Is it not better to get men, first of all, to accept the general principle of intercommunication between spirits and men, leaving them to ascertain, at a later period, the moral consequences of our teachings? How short-sighted are men in judging the designs of God! You should remember that nothing occurs without His permission, and a specific object that you are often unable to fathom.
"I have already told you, and now repeat it, that unity will eventually prevail in spiritist belief. Hold it for certain that such will be the case, and that the differences now existing between you will diminish, little by little, as men advance in clear-sightedness, and will at length disappear altogether; for such is the decree of the Sovereign Will, against which no error can prevail in the long run."
"THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH."
10. Is not the teaching of erroneous doctrines by spirits calculated to retard the progress of spiritism?
"You would like to have everything without trouble or delay; but you must remember that there is no garden without weeds which must be rooted out by labor. Erroneous doctrines are a result of the inferiority of your world; if men were perfect, they would attract only high and enlightened spirits. Errors are like sham diamonds that can only be seen to be such by an experienced eye. You must serve an apprenticeship, in order to learn how to tell the true from the false. But even the presentation of false doctrines has its utility; for it serves to exercise your judgement in distinguishing truth from error." - But are not those who adopt error kept back by so doing?
"No; for if they adopt error, it is because they are not yet sufficiently advanced to comprehend the truth."
302. While awaiting the time when unity of belief will have been arrived at, every one believes himself to be in possession of the truth, maintaining that he alone is right; an illusion which deceptive spirits generally try to keep up in the minds of men. On what, then, can the impartial and disinterested inquirer rely, as a sound basis of judgement?
"The purest light is that which is not obscured by any cloud; the most precious diamond is the one which is without a flaw; judge the communications of spirits, in like manner, by the purity of their teachings. Do not forget that there are, among spirits, many who have not yet freed themselves from their earthly ideas. Learn to distinguish them by their language; judge them by the sum of what they tell you; see whether there is logical sequence in the ideas they suggest, whether there is, in their statements, nothing that betrays ignorance, pride, or malevolence, in a word, whether their communications always bear the stamp of wisdom that attests true superiority. If your world were inaccessible to error, it would be perfect, which it is far from being; you have still to learn to distinguish error from truth; you need the lessons of experience to exercise your judgement and to bring you on. The basis of unity will be found in the body of doctrine among the adherents of which good has never been mixed with evil; men will rally spontaneously to that doctrine, because they will judge it to be the truth.
"But what matter a few dissidences of opinion, more apparent than real? The fundamental principles of spiritism are everywhere the same, and should unite you all in a Common bond; that of the love of God and the practice of goodness. Whatever you suppose to be the mode of progression and the normal conditions of your future existence, the aim proposed is still the same, viz., to do right; and there is but one way of doing that.
"If important difference should arise, you have, even in regard to doctrinal principles, an infallible rule for deciding between them; here is this rule: - The best doctrine is that which best satisfies the heart and the reason, and which offers to men the most powerful incentives to well-doing; that doctrine, you may be fully assured, is the one which will ultimately prevail."
"THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH."Remark. - The contradictions presented by spirit-communications may arise from the following causes: ignorance in the case of some spirits; cunning, in that of other spirits, who, from wantonness or malice, say the contrary of what has been stated elsewhere by the spirit whose name they usurp; the will of the communicating spirit, who speaks according to times, places, and persons, and who may not consider it prudent to tell everything to everybody; the inadequacy of human language to express things pertaining to the incorporeal world; the imperfection of the means of communication, which sometimes prevents a spirit from fully expressing himself; and, lastly, the different interpretations which may be given to the same word, explanation, or statement, according to the mode of thought, the prejudices, the point of view, of different persons. Continuous observation, reflection, and the entire abandonment of self-conceit and preconceived opinions, can alone enable us to arrive at the truth amidst these numerous elements of error.
303. If it be unpleasant to be deceived, it is still more so to be hoaxed; happily this is one of the dangers of practical spiritism from which we may most easily preserve ourselves. The ways of confounding the tricks of knavish spirits being implied in all the instructions of the present work, it is unnecessary to enlarge upon the subject. We subjoin, however, a few of the answers received by us from spirits in conversations concerning the tricks alluded to.
1. Hoaxing is one of the most disagreeable stumbling blocks of practical spiritism; is there any method by which we may avoid being thus taken in? "It seems to me that your question is answered by all that we have told you. Yes, certainly, there is such a method, and a very simple one, viz., to ask from spiritism only what it can or ought to give you. Bear in mind that its sole object is the moral improvement of mankind, and you will never incur deception; for there is but one way of understanding true morality.
"Spirits come to guide you into the path of virtue, but not into that of honors, fortune, or the pampering of your pitiable passions. If you never questioned them about futilities, or about things which they are not permitted to tell you, you would give no handle to deceptive spirits; from which fact you may safely conclude that, in most cases, those who are hoaxed only get what they deserve.
"The duty of spirits is not to give you advice about earthly things, but to help you to insure your welfare in the world to come. When they speak of the things of your present life, it is because they see a necessity for doing so; but they never do so simply at your demand. If you look upon spirit-communications as a substitute for fortune telling and sorcery, you will assuredly incur deception.
"Again, if men had only to apply to spirits in order to obtain knowledge, they would cease to use their free will, and would not advance on the road marked out for them by Providence. Man must act of himself; spirits are sent to men, not to make straight the path of their human life, but to aid them to prepare the happiness of their future."
-- But there are persons who ask nothing of spirits, and who are, nevertheless, atrociously deceived by spirits whom they have not evoked, but who come spontaneously.
"If they ask no questions about their worldly affairs, they allow statements to be made to them in regard to those affairs; which amounts to the same thing. If they received with doubt and reserve every statement that oversteps the true limit of spirit communication, they would not be so easily taken in by mischievous spirits."
2. How is it that God permits sincere acceptors of spiritism to be hoaxed in this way? Are not such deceptions calculated to destroy their belief?
"If their belief could be shaken in this way, it could not have much reality; those who should renounce spiritism on account of such deception would simply show that they did not understand it, and that their acceptance had been only superficial. These hoaxings are permitted to try your perseverance, and to punish those who see in spiritism only a means of worldly profit or amusement."
"THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH."Remark. - The cunning of deceptive spirits sometimes passes all imagination. The art with which they erect their batteries, and combine their attacks, would be a curious study if innocent pleasantries were their sole object; but these mystifications have very painful consequences for those who are not thoroughly on their guard. We have been fortunate enough to open the eyes of many persons who have asked our advice, in time to prevent them from compromising themselves by following absurd suggestions maliciously made to them with a view of getting them into trouble of various kinds. Among the means of deception, most frequently resorted to by malicious spirits, are pretended revelations concerning hidden treasures, predictions of legacies, inheritances, &c., the announcement of so-called scientific discoveries, and pretentious theories which explain none of the great problems of life. In general, as previously remarked, we should distrust all statements which do not come within the legitimate scope of spirit communication. No advice that is not evidently rational should ever be followed, no matter what may be the name assumed by the spirit who gives it. We could fill a volume with most curious instances of spirit-hoaxings that have occurred within the circle of our own personal observation.
CHARLATANISM. Mercenary mediumship - Sham spiritism.
304. As everything may be made a source of pecuniary profit, it would not be strange if attempts were made to turn spiritism to that purpose; but the spirits would probably be at no loss to show their opinion of such a speculation, should it be attempted, for it is evident that nothing could be more easily abused by charlatans than such a trade.
On the other hand, it is to be remarked that, although the turning of the medianimic faculty into a source of gain must lay its genuineness open to suspicion, it would not be a proof that such suspicion is founded; for a medium may possess real medianimic aptitude, and employ it with perfect honesty, while receiving payment. Let us see, then, what are the results that may be reasonably hoped for under such circumstances.
305. If our readers have carefully weighed what we have said of the conditions necessary for inducing superior spirits to communicate, of the causes which repel them, and of the circumstances independent of their will that are often an obstacle to their coming, they will see that no medium, whatever his faculty or moral worth, could pretend to have them constantly at his beck and call; while, on the other hand, the repugnance of the higher spirits to everything connected with terrestrial aims and interests would indispose them towards any attempt to make a traffic of their manifestations.
306. The same considerations are applicable, not only to mediums who receive payment in money, but to all who turn their faculty to the furtherance of their worldly affairs; for self-interest does not always take the form of seeking pecuniary gain, but is shown as certainly by every sort of contrivance for the furtherance of ambition or of any other personal aim. To sum up: medianimity is a faculty given for a high and holy purpose, and spirits of high advancement withdraw from those who make it a steppingstone to any other ends than those marked out for it by Providence.
307. Physical mediums are not in the same category as those who habitually receive intelligent communications. The physical phenomena are usually produced by lower and less scrupulous spirits; and mediums of this category, desirous to turn their faculty to pecuniary account, may therefore find willing assistants among the spirits with whom they are habitually connected. But the medium for physical effects, like the medium for intelligent manifestations, has not been endowed with this faculty for his own pleasure merely. It has been given him in order that he may make a good use of it; should he do otherwise, it may be taken from him, or it may turn to his disadvantage, the lower spirits being always under the orders of the higher ones, who sometimes use them for the punishment of unfaithful mediums.
308. From the preceding considerations we conclude that the most entire disinterestedness, on the part of evokers and of mediums, is the best guarantee against deception; for, although it does not always suffice to insure the intellectual superiority of the communications received, it deprives evil spirits of a powerful means of action and shuts the mouths of detractors.
309. We need give but a few words to the comparatively innocent trickery of those who may be called amateur charlatans; that is to say, those who imitate spirit manifestations for the amusement of an evening-party. But, though such trickery may gratify the shallow and frivolous, every attempt of the kind must be regarded as exceedingly reprehensible when made in serious centers, or palmed off upon serious inquirers.
310. It may perhaps be said that a professional medium who gives up his time to the public cannot be expected to do so for nothing; for he must live. True but, even in this case, he must see to it that he adopts the medianimic profession for the good of spiritism, and not because he regards it as a lucrative calling. Let him never forget that spirits, whatever their superiority or inferiority, are the souls of deceased men and women, and that, while morality and religion prescribe it as a duty to respect the bodily remains of the departed, it is still more incumbent on us to respect their souls. And neither mediums nor those who address themselves to them must ever lose sight of the fact that physical manifestations, as well as manifestations of the intellectual order, are only permitted by Providence for our moral instruction and improvement.
311. While urging attention to these self-evident considerations, we have not the least intention of denying that paid mediums may be found who are both honorable and conscientious. We only refer to those who misuse their faculty; and it must be conceded that, for the reasons we have given, such misuse is more likely to occur in the case of paid mediums than in the case of those who, regarding their faculty as a talent entrusted to them for high and holy purposes, employ it solely as a means of rendering service to others.
The degree of confidence to be accorded to a paid medium depends, in the first place, on the esteem commanded by his character and morality, and, in the next place, on circumstances. The medium who is prevented from following any other employment, by the fact that he is devoting his time and strength to a work which is eminently useful and advantageous to the community at large, is thereby justified in taking payment for his services and such a medium is not to be confounded with the mere speculator who, from no other motive than the desire of gain, makes a traffic of his medianimity. The payment of mediums may therefore be condemned, absolved, or favored, according to the motive and aim of each individual medium; the intention of the medium, rather than the material fact of payment, furnishing the basis of our judgement.
312. With somnambulists who utilize their faculty for pay, the case is not the same, although they, also, may make a bad use of their gift, and although disinterestedness must always be the best guarantee of sincerity; for their position is a different one, because it is their own spirit which acts, and therefore their faculty is always at their own command. The somnambulist trades only upon himself, and is free to dispose as he chooses of his own action whereas he mercenary medium trades upon the souls of others.
313. We are well aware that our severity with regard to mercenary mediumship has gained us the ill-will of those who are tempted to make of spiritism a source of worldly gain, and of their friends, who naturally side with them but we console ourselves with the thought that the buyers and sellers in the Temple, who were driven out by Jesus, can hardly be supposed to have regarded His action with complacency. We have also against us many of those who do not regard the question in so serious a light as is done by us; but if our view of the subject has been adopted by the immense majority of spiritists, it is, doubtless, because their experience has shown them that it is the right one. At all events, we do not see how any one can maintain that there is not a greater risk of fraud and of misuse of the medianimic faculty, when the latter is made a matter of speculation, than when it is exercised with entire disinterestedness and if our writings have contributed, in France and other countries, to discredit the turning of mediumship into a trade, we believe it will not be the least of the services they will have rendered to the cause of spiritism.
314. Those who do not admit the possibility of the physical manifestations of spirits, generally suppose their production to be the result of fraud. They found their supposition on the fact that skillful conjurors do things which appear to be prodigies to those who are not in the secret of their tricks and they accordingly conclude that mediums are nothing more than jugglers. We have already refuted this argument, or rather this opinion, especially in our articles on Mr. Home and in the Revue Spirite of January and February 1858; we will therefore say only a few words on this point before touching on a point still more important.
A consideration which can hardly fail to occur to any one who reflects upon the subject is this, viz., that, although there are, undoubtedly, conjurors whose skill is really prodigious, they are few in number. If all mediums practiced sleight-of-hand, it would have to be admitted that the art of conjuring had not only made most wonderful progress in these latter days, but that it had suddenly become exceedingly common, since the medianimic faculty is now found to be innate in people who had no suspicion of its existence in themselves, and even among children.
There are quacks who vend their worthless nostrums in the streets and squares, and even physicians who, without going down into the highways, impose upon the confidence of their patients; but does it follow, from the fact of these abuses, that all physicians are charlatans, and that the whole medical body is unworthy of respect? Because some dealers sell dye-stuffs for wine, does it follow that all wine merchants are adulterators, and that pure wine is not to be found? All things, even the best, are imitated, and to such a point that fraud may even be said to assume in some cases the stamp of genius. But fraud has always a personal object, a material interest, of some kind or other, to compass; where nothing is to be gained, there is no temptation to deceive; and, as we remarked in reference to mercenary mediums, the best of all guarantees of the genuineness of the phenomena is the absolute disinterestedness of the mediums through whom they occur.
315. Of all spirit-manifestations, the most easily imitable are the physical phenomena, for reasons which it is well to take into consideration: - First, because, from the fact of their being addressed to the eyes rather than to the intelligence, these phenomena are the ones which conjuring can most readily imitate; and, Secondly, because they stimulate curiosity more generally than do the others, and are therefore the ones most likely to attract the crowd, and consequently to be the most lucrative. For both these reasons, charlatans find it most to their interest to simulate this class of phenomena; the spectators, for the most part strangers to spiritism, usually go to such exhibitions for amusement rather than for any serious purpose, and as what amuses pays better than what instructs, amusement is all that the charlatan provides for them. But there is yet another argument still more peremptory. Conjuring can imitate certain physical manifestations, for which nothing more than address is required; but it has not, up to the present time, been able to simulate, for instance, the gift of improvisation, which, in fact, requires an amount of intelligence quite above the common level, nor to produce the grand and sublime dictations, so admirably appropriate as regards time and place, which are often given by spirits. Here is a fact illustrative of the foregoing assertion:-
A well-known literary man once came to see us, stating that he was a good intuitive writing medium, and would be happy to join the Spiritist Society. As it was a rule with us not to admit to our meetings any mediums but those whose faculties were already known to us, we begged him to give us an opportunity of witnessing his medianimity at a private meeting. He assented to this request, and came to the meeting proposed, where a number of excellent mediums were assembled, some of whom gave dissertations of great interest, while others gave answers of remarkable precision to questions relating in some cases to subjects unknown to them. When this gentleman's turn came to read the communication received by him, he read off a few insignificant words, remarked that "he was not up to the mark that day," and made a hasty retreat. He had probably discovered that, to play the part of a medium for intellectual manifestations was very much more difficult than he had supposed; for, from that time, we saw no more of him.
316. It is always those who do not understand a matter that are most easily deceived in regard to it. It is so with spiritism; those who know nothing about it are easily led away by appearances, while those who have made an attentive study of the subject beforehand, understand not only the cause of the phenomena they witness, but the conditions under which they may be produced, and are thus furnished with the means of detecting fraud if such should be attempted.
317. Sham-mediums are stigmatized, as they deserve to be, in the following letter, which we quote from the Revue Spirite of August 1861:-
" PARIS, July 21st, 1861.
"SIR, - I have read in the last number of the Revue Spirite your remarks in reference to fraudulent imitations of spirit-manifestations, and in these I most heartily concur.
"I am not, perhaps, quite so severe as you are in regard to paid mediumship, for I see nothing wrong in the action of mediums who, in an upright and becoming way, accept remuneration for the time devoted by them to experimentations which are often long and fatiguing; but I am quite as much so, and it is impossible to be too much so, in regard to those who sometimes resort to fraud and trickery, to make up for the absence or insufficiency of results that have been promised beforehand on one side, and that are expected on the other.
"To mingle falsehood with truth, when the obtaining of phenomena by the intervention of spirits is in question, is simply infamous; and all moral sense must be obliterated in the medium who could venture on such a proceeding. As you truly say, frauds of this character, which are sure to be discovered sooner or later, bring discredit on the cause itself in the mind of those who are undecided. I add that it compromises most cruelly the honorable men who have afforded to such mediums the disinterested support of their knowledge and countenance, who have vouched for their honesty, and who have given them, so to say, their patronage. Such conduct, on the part of mediums, is treason to the friends who have trusted and helped them.
"All mediums who are convicted of fraudulent maneuvers, all who have been caught tricking, should be placed under the ban of all the spiritists and spiritualists of the world, who should consider it as their bounden duty to unmask and to expose them. "If you think proper to insert these lines in your periodical, they are at your service. -Yours, etc.... "
318. All spirit-phenomena are not imitated with equal facility; and there are some which absolutely defy the efforts of the most skillful conjuror. Among these may be mentioned the movement of objects without contact, the suspension of heavy bodies in space, rappings heard, at the demand of those present, in various places, provided these phenomena are produced under conditions which exclude the possibility of trickery and collusion; in order to ascertain which point we must carefully observe all the attendant circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the character and position of the parties concerned, and the interest they may have in deceiving; and always remembering that deceit is not likely to exist where nothing is to be gained by it. A few words will suffice to put inquirers on their guard against the tricks sometimes resorted to for simulating spirit-phenomena.
319. The tiltings of tables are sometimes imitated by pressure of the hands and feet, and the rappings in the same, by movements of the hands, or of boot-heels, etc. Genuine spirit-raps, however, are easily distinguished from sham ones by their changes of quality and place, at the demand of the sitters, by being repeated in various pieces of furniture in different parts of the room, in the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the air, etc., and by their replying to questions on subjects not known to the medium, which cannot be done by any method of simulation
320. Direct writing is still more easy to imitate than are the raps; not to speak of sympathetic inks, mediums have sometimes been caught in the act of writing with a particle of black lead, or slate-pencil, hidden under one of their nails.
321. The phenomenon of the transport of objects is also one that is open to trickery, and that may be imitated with the aid of clever management, even by those who do not possess the skill of the professional conjuror. We have given above the statements of spirits, showing the exceptional conditions under which, alone, this class of phenomena can be produced; and we may therefore safely conclude that the claim of a medium to obtain phenomena of this order at pleasure must always be regarded with suspicion.
322. In the chapter on Special Mediums, we indicated, according to spirit direction, the medianimic aptitudes that are common, and those that are rare. Mediums who profess to obtain the rarer phenomena too easily, or to cumulate too many varieties of mediumity, lay themselves thereby open to suspicion.
323. Intelligent manifestations are usually the most reliable; nevertheless, even these are not always safe from imitation. As previously remarked, it is sometimes thought that there is more security with mechanical mediums, not only as regards independence of ideas, but also as regards trickery; for which reason some persons prefer to employ the material appliances described above. But such persons are mistaken; fraud slips in everywhere, and nothing is easier, for instance, than to direct a planchette at pleasure, giving to it the appearance of spontaneous movement. What alone removes all doubt is the expression of thought; whether through a mechanical, intuitive, auditive, speaking, or seeing medium. Some communications are so far beyond the knowledge, or the intellectual grasp, of the medium, that it would be impossible to attribute them to him. We admit that charlatanism is very skillful, and that it possesses a great variety of resources; but we do not admit that it can give knowledge to the ignorant, intellect to the stupid, or familiarity with names, dates, places, and circumstances, unknown to the medium.
To sum up, we repeat that the best guarantee of the genuineness of any manifestation is furnished by the character and position of the medium, and by the absence of all motives of worldly interest or vanity in the exercise of his faculty; because the same stimulus of unworthy motives, which would prompt a medium to make an interested use of a faculty really possessed by him, might also prompt him to simulate that faculty if he did not really possess it.