The Medium’s Trial
The critics of the Spiritist Doctrine eagerly pointed to an article published by Scientific America4 in
July 11th of last year under the title “The Tried Mediums”. Several French newspapers replicated the
article as an irrefutable argument. We have, ourselves, reproduced it, adding some observation
which shows its value.
“Some time ago, through the Boston Courier, an offer of $500 dollars was made to any person who,
in the presence of and according to the will of a group of Professors from the University of
Cambridge, reproduced some of these mysterious phenomena which, the spiritualists say, frequently
take place in the presence of agents named mediums.”
“The challenge was accepted by Dr. Gardner and several other people who would brag about being
in contact with the spirits. The contestants met in the Albion building, in Boston, in the last week of
June, ready to test their super natural powers. Among them were the Fox sisters who were
prominent for such events. The examining committee was composed of the Cambridge Professors
Pierce, Agassiz, Gould and Horsford, all well-known experts. The spiritualists’ trials lasted several
days. The mediums had never before seen such a great occasion to evidence their talent and
inspiration. However, as the priests of Baal, in the days of Elijah, in vain they evoked their
divinities, as demonstrated by the following passage from the committee’s report:
“The committee declares that Dr. Gardner, not having been able to present an agent or medium who,
from the room next door, would reveal a word requested to the spirits; who could read the English
word written inside a book or on a folded piece of paper; who could answer one question which
only superior minds could answer; who could vibrate the piano strings without touching it or even
move a small table without the help of hands; as he was unable to give to the committee a testimony
of a phenomenon which, even with the most elastic interpretation and greatest good will, could be
considered as equivalent to the required proofs; of a phenomenon requiring the intervention of a
spirit to be produced, supposing or at least implying such an intervention; of a phenomenon up until
now unknown to Science or whose cause was not touchable and immediately recognized by the
committee, he has no right to claim from the Courier of Boston the payment of $500 dollars as
This experiment reminds us of another one, which took place in France ten years ago, concerning
the pro or con lucid somnambulists, who can generate a magnetic field. The Science Academy had
the task of awarding 2,500 francs to the magnitized somnambulist who could read blindfolded.
Usually all somnambulists did this on stages or playhouses. They would read from closed books and
deciphered letters which were seated upon or well sealed and folded and placed on their chests. In
front of the Academy, however, they read absolutely nothing and the award was not given to
These attempts demonstrate again the absolute ignorance on the part of our critics, with respect to
the principles on which the spiritist manifestations are based. They have the idea that such
phenomena must obey the will and repeat itself with a mechanical precision. They forget or do not
know that the cause of such phenomena is entirely ethical and that the spirits, who are the
immediate agents, do not obey anybody’s caprice – medium or otherwise.
The spirits act when they wish to do so and before whom they please. At times, when least
expected, their manifestations take place with more energy and, whenever requested, they do not
The spirits behave in ways unknown to us. What is outside matter cannot be controlled by matter.
Assessing them from our point of view is to be fooled. If they find it useful to manifest through
particular signs, they will do that but never under our command or to satisfy our useless curiosity.
Besides, one must take into account a very well-known cause which pushes spirits away, namely
their dislike for certain people who want to submit their discernment to a trial, framing questions
about known things. We assume that when something does exist then the spirits have to know it.
Just because it is something known to us or that we have means of knowing it would the spirits
bother to answer. Such suspicion irritates the spirits and it turns the serious spirits away who, out of
their own will, speak to those who trust them, without ulterior motive.
Do we not have a daily example among us? Superior men, who are conscious of their worth, do not
like to respond to naïve questions aimed at testing them on elementary things. How would they
react if we argued: “But if you do not answer is that you do not know!” They would turn their back
to us. This is what the spirits do.
Then you will say: If that is the case, how can you convince us? Considering the interest of the
Spiritist Doctrine, shouldn’t the spirits want to make their presence known? We will answer that it is
too much pride in someone to consider oneself indispensable to the success of the cause. Well, the
spirits do not like arrogant people. They convince whomever they wish and to those who believe in
their own importance they show their dislike by not listening to them.
In summry, let us us see their answers given to two questions about the subject:
Q – Can one ask the spirits to give us material proof of their existence and power?
A – No doubt certain manifestations can be provoked but not everyone is able to do that and, many
times, what is demanded is not obtained. They do not bend to the caprices of men.
Q – But when someone requests proof in order to be convinced, would not be convenient to have
this proof so as to have one more example?
A – The spirits only do what they want and what is allowed to them. Talking to us and answering
your questions, this attests their presence: this should be enough to the serious persons, who seek
the truth in the word.
The Scribes and Pharisees told Jesus: “Master, we would like to see you make some prodigy” to
which Jesus answered: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for miraculous signs! But none
will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39)
We shall even add that it is a great degree of ignorance as to the nature and causes of the
manifestations to consider provoking them for any reward. The spirits despise greed as much as
pride and selfishness. This only condition can be a reason for them not manifesting themselves.
Know this, therefore, that you will obtain one hundred times more from an uninterested medium
than from one moved by profit and glamour and that one million would not stop him from doing
what he should not do. If there is something strange is the fact of finding mediums capable of
submitting themselves to such trials with the purpose of obtaining money.