60. We give the term physical manifestations to those phenomena which
impress our senses, such as the production of sounds, and the movement and
displacement of solid bodies. Some of the above are spontaneous, and independent of
our wills, while others may be called forth by us. It is of the latter that we have now to
The simplest, and one of the earliest-observed, of these manifestations, was the
circular movement of a table. This movement may be produced in any other object; but
a table being the one with which most people make the trial, because the most
convenient object for the purpose, the expression "table-turning" has come into general
use to denote this particular phase of the manifestations we are considering.
When we say that this phenomenon was one of the earliest observed, we mean,
with respect to what has occurred in these latter days; for it is quite certain that all kinds
of spirit-manifestation were known in ancient times: nor could it be otherwise, because,
being due to the action of natural causes, they could not but occur in all ages.
Tertullian speaks explicitly of tables turning, and making themselves understood by
This phenomenon, for a time, excited the curiosity of drawing-rooms. People
then grew tired of it, and took up some other amusement, because it really was, for
them, only an amusement. There were two reasons for this abandonment of the new
plaything; first, fashion, in the case of the frivolous, who rarely follow up the same amusement two winters together, but who,
wondrous event in the lives of such persons! actually consecrated three or four winters
to this one : and next, in the case of serious observers, the fact that results of a highly
important nature had been elicited from this seemingly frivolous diversion, so that they,
too, soon neglected "table-turning," because they were now busy with its consequences,
the importance of which they had recognised. This is the whole secret of the apparent
neglect of the tables, about which the scoffers scoffed so loudly.
Humble as such a beginning may appear, the turning of tables was none the less
the groundwork, the starting-point, of the great spiritist movement of the present day,
and on this account deserves a passing notice. Moreover, the results obtained through
tables present the phenomena under an aspect of such simplicity that the study of their
cause is rendered comparatively easy; and, as all the modern phenomena proceed from
the same source, the ascertainment of the cause of the movement of tables will give us
the key to the far more complicated manifestations which have since occurred.