Spiritism, as with all new concepts and belief systems, has both ardent supporters and staunch detractors. We will attempt to counter some of the objections formulated by its critics. We will scrutinize the merit of the reasoning on which such criticism is based, admitting beforehand that we will not be able to convince everyone because some people believe that enlightenment was intended solely for them. We are not claiming that we will be able to convert or sway everybody, but we are primarily addressing those who, without clinging to prejudices or preconceived ideas, honestly seek the truth. We will prove to these individuals that our critics’ objections are the consequence of a failure to observe all the facts thoroughly, yielding a predictably superfcial and hasty conclusion.
First, we must briefy summarize the progressive series of phenomena that gave birth to Spiritism.
The frst fact observed was the movement of various objects, commonly known as table-turning or table-tipping. This phenomenon, frst observed in the United States (or more accurately, reintroduced in that country as history proves that it can be traced back to the earliest periods of antiquity) was accompanied by strange occurrences, such as unusual noises, knocking sounds with no discernible cause, and other similar incidences. This phenomenon rapidly spread to Europe and the rest of the world. Initially it was met with skepticism, but the sheer volume of occurrences soon made it impossible to question its authenticity.
If the phenomenon in question had been limited to the movement of physical objects, it could have been explained by any solely physical cause. After all, we are far from being fully aware of the secret agents of nature, or even from fully understanding all the properties of those which are known to us. For example, electricity is not only increasing the resources it offers humankind on a daily basis, but it appears to be on the brink of shedding new light on science. Subsequently, it could not be conclusively ruled out that electricity, modifed by given circumstances or some other unknown agent, might be the cause of these movements. The presence of multiple individuals increasing the intensity of the action appeared to bolster this hypothesis, because this gathering could be viewed as forming a battery, the power of which was in proportion to the number of its components.
The circular movement of the table was in no way shocking or unexpected. After all, circular movement is frequently found in nature, take the stars and planets of the universe for example. All stars move in circles and therefore it seemed possible that the movement of the tables was a small-scale impulse or reaction of the movement of the universe. Some cause, unknown up until now, could accidentally produce a current for small objects that would be parallel to those forces that propel the planets into orbit.
However, not only was the movement not always circular, it was often erratic, with the table sometimes being violently shaken, toppled, carried around in various directions, lifted off the ground, and held up in the air, all contrary to the known laws of static electricity and gravity. Despite all this, nothing occurred that could not be explained by the force of an invisible physical agent. It is not uncommon to see electricity topple buildings, uproot trees and hurl extremely heavy objects far distances, through either the force of attraction or repulsion. The knocking and other unusual noises, assuming that it is caused by something other than ordinary wood expansion or any other accidental cause, could very well be manufactured by the accumulation of a mysterious fuid. It has been observed, after all, that electricity is capable of producing the loudest sounds.
Up to this point, everything can be considered as merely being an effect of physics or physiology. Without venturing outside these two felds of science, these phenomena generated a subject that was quite worthy of serious study and scrutiny by scholars. Why was this investigation never completed? As diffcult as it may be to admit, the complete disregard of the scientifc and academic world was based on something that once again demonstrates the superfciality of the human mind.
First of all, the ordinary nature of the basis for the frst experiments played a decisive role in this derision. The infuence exerted by a simple word in regard to even the most serious matters is incredible! Without considering the possibility that this movement could be produced with any object, the use of tables was automatically associated with it. This deduction was undeniably made because a table is the most convenient object with which to experiment, and because people can sit around a table more easily than any other piece of furniture. However, people who pride themselves on their intellect are sometimes foolish and one can see how many leading minds may have considered it beneath them to give any credibility to what was commonly known as table dancing. If what had been observed by Galvani had been discovered by an illiterate or uneducated person and christened with a ridiculous name, it probably would have been relegated to a position right alongside the divining rod. What scientist would not, in that case, have considered it offensive to study frog dancing?
Nevertheless, a few individuals who were humble enough to admit that nature might not yet have revealed all her secrets to humankind, attempted to investigate the matter. However, as the phenomena did not always respond to their trials, and were not always produced to their liking or according to their methods of experimentation, they reached an unfavorable conclusion. Despite that conclusion, the tables continued to turn and, like Galileo, we can say, “And yet it moves!” We may further assert that these phenomena have been produced to such an extent that we have accepted them. Opinions are now only divided with regard to their nature. Can the fact that these phenomena are not always produced in exactly the same manner, or according to the wishes and requirements of each individual observer, be rationally considered an argument against their veracity? The phenomena of electricity and chemistry, for example, are subject to certain conditions. Do we deny their existence simply because they do not occur when those conditions are not present?
Is it that shocking that certain conditions are necessary for the movement of objects by human fuid, or that it should not occur when the observer insists on producing it according to one’s own whims, or in subjecting it to the laws of known phenomena, without considering that new facts may result from the action of laws that are new to us? In order to learn about such laws, the circumstances under which those occurrences are produced must be thoroughly studied. Such a study can only be completed through comprehensive, focused observation.
Some will object that deception is often apparent. We frst ask whether the challengers are positive that what they labeled as deception may not simply be facts for which they are not yet able to account, like a peasant who misconstrued the experiments of a physics professor for the tricks of an illusionist. Even if we admit that deception occasionally occurs in some cases, can it serve as grounds for denying the authenticity of all facts or occurrences? Should we deny the existence of physics simply because some illusionists call themselves physicists? Similarly, the integrity of the individuals involved in these manifestations should be considered, as well as any interest that they may have in deceiving others. Could it be a joke? A joke may be funny at frst, but if kept up for too long, it becomes as tiresome for the hoaxer as for the victim. Besides, a hoax that manages to be successfully carried out from one end of the Earth to the other, among the most upright and educated minds, would be as extraordinary as the phenomena in question, if not more so.