314. Those who do not admit the reality of the physical manifestations generally attribute the effects produced to fraud. They base their opinion on the fact that skillful jugglers do things that appear like prodigies when we do not know their secrets ; whence they conclude that mediums are only another kind of sharpers. We have already refuted this argument, or, rather, this opinion, principally in our articles on Mr. Home, and in the Nos. of the Review of January and February, 1858 ; we shall, therefore, say but a few words before speaking of a more serious thing.
It is, besides, a consideration that will not escape any one who reflects a little. There are, no doubt, marvelously skiLful prestidigitators, but they are rare. If all mediums practice juggling, it must be conceded that the art has made unheard-of progress in a short time, and become suddenly very common ; as it is found innate with persons who scarcely suspect it : even with children.
Even as there are quacks who sell drugs in public places, so there are mediums who, without going to public places, betray confidence : must it follow that all doctors are quacks, and that the medical corps is, for that reason, unworthy of consideration ? Because there are persons who sell adulterations for wine, does it follow that all wine merchants are adulterators of wine, and that there is none pure ? Everything is abused, even the most respectable things, and it may be said that fraud also has its genius. But fraud always has a motive, some material interest : where there is nothing to gain, there is no interest in deceiv ing. So we say, apropos to mercenary mediums, that the best of all guarantees is absolute disinterestedness.
315. Of all the spirit phenomena, those which most lend themselves to fraud are physical phenomena, from motives it is useful to take into consideration. First, because, addressing themselves more to the eyes than to the intelligence, they are those that jugglery can most easily imitate. Secondly, that, awaking curiosity more than the others, they are more suited to attract the crowd, and are, consequently, more productive. In this double point of view, charlatans have every interest in simulating them : the spectators, mostly strangers to the science, seek them usually more as an amusement than as a serious instruction ; and every one knows that what amuses pays better than what instructs. But set that aside, there is another motive not less decided. If juggling can imitate material effects, for which only address is needed, we have not, as yet, known it to possess the gift of improvisation, which requires a degree of intelligence not very common, neither the gift of producing those beautiful and sublime dictations, often so apropos, which the spirits give in their communications. This recalls to us the following fact : —
A literary man, quite well known, came, one day, to see us, and told us that he was a very good intuitive writing medium, and that he would put himself at the disposal of the Spirit Society. As we were accustomed to admit into the society only mediums whose faculties were known to us, we requested him to come and give proofs in a special reunion. He came ; several ex perienced mediums gave dissertations and answers of remarkable precision on questions proposed and sub jects unknown to them. When this gentleman's turn came, he wrote some insignificant words, said he was indisposed that day, and since then we have never seen him : he doubtless found that the role of medium for intelligent effects was more difficult to play than he had supposed.
316. In everything, those most easily deceived are those not of the trade ; it is the same with Spiritism ; those who know nothing of it are most easily deceived by appearances ; while a previous" attentive study in itiates them, not only into the cause of the phenom ena, but into the normal conditions under which they can be produced, and furnishes them also with the means of detecting fraud, should it exist.
317. Deceiving mediums are stigmatized as they deserve in the following letter in the Review of Au gust, 1 86 1 : — " Paris, July 21, 1861. " Sir : One may disagree on certain points, and agree on others. I have just read, page 213 of the last number of your journal, reflections on frauds in spiritualist (or spiritist) experiments, to which I am happy to give my entire assent. There all differences in matters of theory or doctrine disappear as by en chantment. .
" I am not, perhaps, as severe as you in regard to mediums who, in a worthy and suitable way, accept a remuneration as indemnity for the time they devote to experiments often long and fatiguing ; but I am quite as much so —and one cannot be too much —in re gard to those who, in such cases, supply, on occasion, by trickery and fraud, the absence or insufficiency of the result's promised and expected. (See No. 311.)
" To mingle the false with the true, when phenom ena obtained through the intervention of spirits is in question, is wholly infamous, and there must be an utter obliteration of all moral sense with the medium who can do so without scruple. As you have so well observed, it is casting discredit upon the cause in the minds of the undecided, to find it mixed withfraud. I would add that it is compromising in the most deplora ble manner the honorable men who give to mediums the disinterested support of their knowledge and their light, who are guarantees of their sincerity, and in one way their patrons ; it is committing a veritable crime against them.
" Every medium convicted of fraudulent maneuvers, taken, to use a common expression, with his hand in the bag, deserves to be ostracized by all spiritualists and spiritists, for whom it should be a rigorous duty to unmask them, and send them adrift. " If you choose, sir, to insert these few lines in your Journal, they are at your service. " I am, &c, "Matthew ."
318. All spirit phenomena are not equally easy to imitate, and there are those that evidently defy all the skill of practiced jugglers ; such are, especially, the movements of objects without contact, the suspension of heavy bodies in space, blows struck on different, sides, apparitions, &c, without employing helpers and companions ; therefore, we say, what should be done in such cases is, to observe attentively the circum stances, and particularly take into account the char acter and position of the persons, the motive, and the interest they may have in deceiving ; that is the best of all censorship, for these are the circumstances that destroy all cause for suspicion. We think, then, on principle, it is necessary to beware of any one what ever who makes of these phenomena a spectacle, or an object of curiosity or amusement, and who pretends to produce them at will or at a given place, as we have already explained. We cannot too often repeat that the occult intelligences, who manifest themselves to us, have their susceptibilities, and will prove to us that they have their free will, and are not subjected to our caprices. (No. 38.)
It will suffice to mention some subterfuges em ployed, or that it is possible to employ, in certain cases, to warn sincere observers against fraud. As to persons who persist in judging without studying, it would be labor lost to seek to convince them.
319. One of the most ordinary phenomena is that of raps in the very substance of the wood, with or without movement of the table or other object used ; this effect is one cf the easiest to imitate, either by contact of the feet, or by calling out little crackings in the furniture ; but there is a special little stratagem that may be exposed. It suffices to rest the two hands flat on the table, near enough for the thumb nails to rest strongly against each other ; then, by a muscular movement entirely imperceptible, they are rubbed to gether, which gives a little dry sound, very much like that of interior typtology. This noise resounds in the wood, and produces a complete illusion. Nothing more easy than to make as many raps heard as are asked, a drum beating, &c, to answer to certain ques tions by yes or no, by numbers, or even by indicating letters of the alphabet.
Once warned, the means of detecting this fraud are very simple. It is not possible if the hands are sepa rated, and if you are sure no other contact produces the noise. The true raps, however, have this char acteristic, that they change place and tone at will, which could not be if they were due to the cause we have mentioned, or any similar, if they go from the table to a piece of furniture no one is touching, on the walls, on the ceiling, &c, if they answer impromptu questions. (See No. 41.)
320. Direct writing is still easier to imitate ; with out speaking of well-known chemical agents for mak ing writing appear in a given time on a blank piece of paper, which may be exposed by the most ordinary precautions, it might happen that, by skillful trickery, one piece of paper could be substituted for another. It might be that he who might wish to deceive would have the art of distracting the attention while writing a few words. We have been told that writing has been produced with a small crumb of lead hidden under the nail.
321. The phenomenon of materialization is not less accessible to jugglery, and a person can easily be the dupe of a skillful sharper without having recourse to a professional. In the special article we have published above (No. 96), the spirits have themselves told the exceptional conditions under which they can be pro duced ; whence it may be concluded that the easy and optional obtaining of them must be held more or less suspicious. Direct writing is under the same head.
322. In the chapter on Special Mediums, we gave from the spirits the common medianimic aptitudes, and those that are rare. Mediums who pretend to have these last too easily are to be suspected, as also those who are ambitious of a multiplicity of faculties —a pre tension rarely justified.
323. Intelligent manifestations are, according to the circumstances, those which offer the strongest guaran tee ; and yet they are not proof against imitation, at least the ordinary and trivial communications.
It is supposed there is more security with mechani cal mediums, not only for independence of ideas, but also against fraud ; for this reason many persons prefer material intermediaries. Well, it is an error. Fraud is everywhere, and we know that, with skill, even a writing basket or planchette can be directed at will. The sentiments expressed will relieve all doubts whether they come from a mechanical, intuitive, auditive, speak ing, or seeing medium. There are communications so far above the ideas, the knowledge, and even the intellectual strength of the medium, that we should strangely deceive ourselves in giving him the honor of their authorship. We see, in charlatanism, an extraor dinary skill and fertile resources, but we have yet to find it capable of giving knowledge to the ignorant, or mind to him who lacks it.
To recapitulate : we repeat, the best guarantee is in the known morality of the mediums, and in the absence of all material interested motives or self-love which might stimulate in him the exercise of the medianimic faculties he may possess ; for these same causes may lead him to simulate those he has not.