Allan Kardec

Back to the menu
43. Theory of reflexion. Proofs of intelligence being recognised in the phenomena, there remained the necessity of ascertaining the source of this intelligence. Some thought it might be that of the medium, or of those present, reflecting itself, like the light, or like sonorous vibrations. The suggestion was plausible; experience alone could decide its value. And here let us remark that this theory is anti-materialistic; for if the intelligence of those present could thus reproduce itself, it must be admitted that there is in man a principle distinct from his organism.

If the thought expressed in the communications thus made had been always that of the persons present, the theory of reflexion would have been confirmed; but, even in that case, would riot such phenomena have been of the deepest interest? Would not thought, exerting a reflex action on an inert body, and translating itself into sounds and movements, be something Very remarkable? something worthy to excite the curiosity of scientific men? Why has such a subject been disdained by those who wear themselves out in searching after the properties of a nervous fibre?

Experience alone could show whether the theory of reflexion was right or wrong; and experience has shown it to be wrong, for experience proves, by the most positive facts, that the thought expressed may be not only alien to that of the persons present but in opposition to it, contradicting their preconceived ideas, and disappointing their expectation. When he who thinks white gets black for an answer, it is difficult for him to believe that the answer comes from himself. A great point is often made, by opponents, of the similarity sometimes observable between the thought expressed and that of the persons in the circle; but what does this prove, if not that those present may think like the intelligence which communicates with them? It was never asserted that they are always of an opposite opinion. When, in conversation, your interlocutor expresses a thought analogous to your own, do you say that the thought comes from you? How, again, can reflexion of thought explain the production of writing by persons who do not know how to write? replies of the widest philosophical scope obtained through illiterate persons? answers given to questions propounded mentally, or spoken in a language unknown to the medium? and a thousand other facts, leaving no doubt as to the independence of the intelligence which manifests itself? The theory of reflexion can only be held by those whose observation is of the most superficial and limited character.

If the presence of an outside intelligence is morally proved by the nature of the answers given, it is physically proved by the fact of direct writing ; that is to Say, writing produced spontaneously, without pen or pencil, without contact, and in spite of all the precautions taken to render trickery impossible. The intelligent character of such a phenomenon being undeniable, that phenomenon must be due to something else than fluidic action; and the spontaneousness of the thought expressed, often disappointing our expectation and wandering away from the questions presented, renders it impossible for us to attribute its manifestation to any reflex action on the part of the persons present.

The theory of reflexion is particularly impolite in certain cases; as when, at a party of honourably-minded persons, communications are unexpectedly produced of a coarse, frivolous, or otherwise objectionable character. It would be paying a very poor compliment to such persons, to assert that such communications come from them; and it is probable that, in such a case, each of them would promptly repudiate the implication. (See The Spirits' Book, Introduction § XVI.)

Related articles

Show related items
Wait, loading...