If these phenomena had been limited to the movement of objects, they would have remained within the realm of physical science, as we already explained. This proved to be very far from the actual case, as these phenomena were revealed to be only the tip of an even more extraordinary iceberg. However, it was soon discovered that the impulsion communicated to inert objects was not merely the product of a blind mechanical force, but the action of an intelligent cause. This discovery opened up a whole new feld of observation and promised to resolve many mysteries. Is there, in fact, an intelligent power? That is the question at the heart of the matter. If such a power exists, what is it? What is its nature and origin? Is it superhuman? These are the secondary questions that naturally stemmed from the frst.
The initial expressions were communicated through the legs of tables, replying “yes” or “no” to the questions asked by moving up and down, or striking a given number of times. There was nothing conclusive here for skeptics, as these answers could simply be an effect of chance. Before long, however, more complete replies were obtained by means of the object in motion producing a number of knocks that corresponded to the number of each letter of the alphabet, so that words and sentences began to form in reply to the questions asked. The accuracy of these replies and their correlation with the questions asked provoked utter astonishment. When asked about its nature, the mysterious being who gave these replies declared that it was a spirit or genius, gave a name, and even provided specifc information about itself. This response is of substantial signifcance. It proves that no one suggested the idea of spirits as an explanation for the phenomenon, but that the phenomenon provided this explanation itself. Hypotheses are often established in exact sciences to serve as the basis of an argument, but, in this particular instance, this was not the case.
This method of communication was not only diffcult but also tedious. The spirits themselves suggested another method, a factor that is extremely signifcant. One of these invisible beings suggested attaching a pencil to a small basket or another object. This basket, placed upon a sheet of paper, was moved by the same secret power that moved the tables. However, instead of following a simple, regular movement, the pencil traced letters that formed words, sentences, and entire conversations, flling many pages with the answers to the most profound questions of philosophy, morality, metaphysics, psychology, and so on, as rapidly as if written by hand.
This suggestion was made at one and the same time in the United States, France and several other countries. On June 10, 1853 in Paris, one of the most enthusiastic advocates of Spiritism – who had been busily engaged in contacting spirits since 1849 – was offered the suggestion to, “Fetch the small basket from the other room, attach a pencil to it, place it on a sheet of paper, and place your fngers on the edge of the basket.” After these instructions were followed, the basket began to move. A few moments later and the pencil legibly wrote, “I expressly forbid you to repeat to anyone what I have just told you. The next time I write, I will do it better.”
The object holding the pencil is nothing more than an instrument. As such, its nature and form are irrelevant and convenience is the only point to be taken into account. This desire for convenience led to many adopting the use of an instrument known as a planchette.
The basket, or planchette, moves only under the power of mediums, individuals who are gifted with a special power or ability and act as intermediaries between spirits and human beings. The conditions granting this power depend on physical and moral causes that are still not quite understood, as mediums are of all ages, are both female and male, and exhibit every degree of intellectual development. This ability can be developed further by exercise.