286.. Too much importance cannot be attached to the manner of putting questions, and still more to their nature. Two things are to be considered in those ad dressed to spirits —the form and the subject. As to the form, they should be compiled with clearness and precision, avoiding complexity. But there is another point not less important —the order that should pre side in their arrangement. When a subject requires a series of questions, it is essential that they be put together with method, so as to flow naturally into each other ; the spirits then answer much more readily and clearly than when they are put by chance, passing abruptly from one object to another. For this reason it is always best to prepare them in advance, intercalat ing those which, during a seance, are brought out by circumstances. The compiling is better done with the head quiet ; and this preparatory work is, as we have already said, a kind of anticipated invocation at which the spirit may have assisted, and be prepared to an swer. It will be remarked that, very often, the spirit answers by anticipation to certain questions, which proves him to have already known them.
The subject-matter of the question requires a still more serious attention, for it is often the nature of the request that draws forth a true or false reply ; there are those to which the spirits cannot or ought not to reply, from motives unknown to us : it is, therefore, useless to insist ; but what we should especially avoid are questions calculated to put their perspicacity to the proof. When a thing is, it is said they ought to know it ; but it is precisely because the thing is known to you, or that you have the means of verifying it for yourselves, that they do not give themselves the trouble of answering ; this suspicion annoys them, and nothing satisfactory is obtained.
Have you not daily examples of this with yourselves ? Would superior men, who are conscious of their value, answer all the foolish questions calculated to subject them to examination like scholars ? The desire of making a believer of such or such a person is not, for spirits, a motive for satisfying a vain curiosity ; they know that conviction will come sooner or later, and the means they employ to lead to it are not always those you think. Suppose a grave man, occupied with use ful and serious matters, incessantly harassed by the puerile questions of a child, and you will have an idea of what the superior spirits think of all the nonsense with which they are credited. It does not follow that very useful teachings and excellent advice may not be obtained from spirits ; but they answer according to the knowledge they themselves possess, according to the interest you deserve on their part and the affection they have for you, and according to the end proposed and the usefulness they see in the thing ; but if all our thoughts are limited to thinking them better fitted to teach us of the things of this world, they cannot have a very profound sympathy for us ; then they make visits very short or very often, according to the degree of their imperfection, evincing their annoyance for hav ing been uselessly troubled.
287. Some persons think it preferable to abstain from asking questions, and that it is best to wait the teaching of the spirits without calling it forth ; that is an error. Spirits, certainly, give spontaneous instruc tions of a very high bearing, which it would be wrong to neglect ; but there are explanations we should often await a long time were they not solicited. Without the questions we have asked, the Book on Spirits and the Book on Mediums would be still to make, or, at least, would have been much less complete, and a crowd of problems of great importance would be still to solve. Questions, far from having the least danger attending them, are of great utility as to instruction, when we know how to keep them within the prescribed limits. They have another advantage ; they help to unmask deceiving spirits, who, being more vain than learned, rarely undergo to their advantage the trial of questions of close logic, by which they are driven „ to their last intrenchments. As spirits truly superior have nothing to dread from such a censorship, they are the first to offer explanations on obscure points ; the others, on the contrary, fearing to meet a stronger party, take great care to avoid them ; thus, in general, they recommend to the mediums they wish to govern, and to make accept their theories, to abstain from all controversy at the place of their teachings.
If what we have already said in this work has been thoroughly understood, some idea can be formed of the circle in which it is best to confine the questions to be addressed to spirits ; yet, for greater certainty, we give below the answers that have been made on the princi pal subjects on which persons of slight experience are usually disposed to interrogate them.