Of Reunions in General.
324. Great advantages may be derived from spirit ist reunions, through reciprocal interchange of thought, questions and remarks that each one may make, and from which- all may profit ; but in order to draw from them all desirable fruit, they require special condi tions, which we will examine, for it is wrong to liken them to ordinary societies. Reunions being collective wholes, consequently the preceding instructions natu rally concern them ; they should take the same pre cautions and guard against the same dangers as indi viduals : therefore we have placed this chapter last.
Spiritist reunions have very different characters, according to the end therein proposed, and'their qual ity must, for the same cause, also differ. According to their nature, they may be frivolous, experimental, or instructive.
325. Frivolous reunions are composed of persons who see only the jesting side of the manifestations, who are amused with the humor of the trifling spirits, who are very fond of these assemblies, where they have full liberty to say what they please, and are not considered at fault. In these reunions nonsense of all kinds is asked ; here is where they expect fortunetelling of the spirits, where they put their perspicacity to the proof to guess ages, what they have in .their pockets, to detect little secrets, and a hundred other things of like importance.
These reunions are of little consequence ; but as the trifling spirits are often very intelligent, and are usually in an easy and jovial mood, they often produce in them very curious things, from which an observer may draw profit ; he who has seen only that, and should judge the world of spirits from that sample, would have as false an idea of it as one who should judge the whole society of a great city by the inhabit ants of a certain part of it. Simple good sense tells us that elevated spirits cannot enter such reunions, where the spectators are no more serious than the actors. If persons desire to engage in futile things, they must frankly call trifling spirits, as they would call jesters, to amuse a society ; but there would be profanation in inviting thither venerated names, — to mingle the sacred with the profane.
326. Experimental reunions have more especially for their object the production of physical manifesta tions. For many persons this is a more amusing than instructive spectacle ; skeptics come from them more astonished than convinced, when they have seen nothing else, and their whole thoughts are turned toward seeking out frauds, for, not understanding any of it, they willingly suspect subterfuges. It is other wise with those who have studied ; they already un derstand the possibility, and positive facts afterward achieve or finish their conviction ; if there should be fraud, they would be safe to discover it.
Yet there is a use in these experiments that no one should despise, for they were the means of discovering the laws that rule in the invisible world ; and for many they.are certainly a powerful means of conviction ; but we maintain that they alone could no more initiate the science of Spiritism, than an ingenious piece of mech anism could make us understand mechanics, were we unacquainted with its laws ; if they were always con ducted with method and prudence, better results would be obtained. We shall return to this subject.
327. Instructive reunions have quite another char acter, and as these are where true instruction can be received, we shall insist strongly on the conditions they ought to fill.
The first of all is, to be- serious in the full accep tation of the word. We should remember that the spirits addressed are of a very special nature ; that the sublime cannot be allied to the trivial, nor the good to the bad ; if we desire to obtain good things, we must address good spirits ; but to ask good spirits is not sufficient ; express conditions are necessary, to be in propitious conditions, so that they may want to come ; but superior spirits will no more come into the assem blies of trifling and superficial persons than they would have come there during their lives.
A society is truly serious only on condition of being engaged in useful things, to the exclusion of all others ; if it aspire to obtain extraordinary things, for curiosity or pastime, the spirits who produce them will come, but the others will withdraw. In a word, whatever may be the character of a reunion, it will always find spirits ready to second its tendencies. A serious re union turns aside from its end, if it leaves instruction for amusement. Physical manifestations, as we have . said, have their use ; let those who wish to see them go to experimental reunions : let those who desire to understand go to reunions for study; thus both will be able to complete their spirit teachings, as, in the study of medicine, some take the course, others clinics.
328. Spirit instruction comprises not only the moral teachings given by the spirits, but, still more, the study of facts ; here belong the theory of all the phenomena, the inquiry into causes, and consequently, the verifica tion of what is possible and what is not ; in a word, the observation of all that can advance science. But it would be a mistake to suppose that the facts are limited to the extraordinary phenomena; that those which strike the senses most forcibly are alone worthy of attention ; at every step in the intelligent commu nications, which men united for study must not neglect, are met these facts, impossible to enumerate, springing from a host of unforeseen circumstances ; though less salient, they are none the less of the highest interest for the observer, who finds therein either the confir mation of a known principle, or the revelation of a new one, which brings him still further into the mys teries of the invisible world : there also is philosophy.
329. Reunions for study are especially useful for mediums, for intelligent manifestations, particularly for those who desire to perfect themselves, and who do not go to them with a foolish presumption of infalli bility. One of the greatest dangers of mediumship is, we have said, obsession and fascination ; they can thoroughly delude the medium as to the merit of what he obtains, and it may well be understood that the deceiving spirits have full scope when their interpreter is blinded ; for this reason, they remove their medium from all criticism : if necessary, they produce in him an aversion even to being enlightened ; by means of isolation and fascination, they can make him accept anything they choose.
We cannot too often repeat it, here is not only the stumbling-block, but the danger ; yes, we say it, a real danger. The only means of escaping it is the censorship of disinterested and kind-hearted persons, who, judg ing the communications with coolness and impartiality, may open his eyes, and make him see what he cannot see of himself. Every medium who fears this judgment is already on the road to obsession ; he who believes the light is made only for him, is completely under the yoke ; if he takes remarks in ill part, repulses, is irri tated by them, there can be no doubt of the bad nature of the spirit who assists him. We have said, a medi um may lack the knowledge necessary to understand errors ; he may be deluded by big words and preten tious language, be led astray by sophisms, and that in all sincerity ; therefore, in default of his own light, he should modestly have recourse to that of others, ac cording to these two adages, that four eyes see better than two, and that no one is a good judge for his own cause. In this point of view, reunions are of very great utility for a medium, if he is sufficiently sensible to listen to advice ; because he may find in them per sons more clairvoyant than himself, who can seize the most delicate shades by which a spirit may betray his inferiority.
Every medium who sincerely desires not to be the plaything of a lie, should try to be developed in seri ous reunions, and bring there what he obtains in pri vate ; accept with gratitude —solicit even — critical examination of the communications he receives ; if he is the dupe of deceiving spirits, it is the surest means of getting rid of them, and of proving to them that they cannot delude him. It is so much the worse for a medium who is irritated by criticism, as his self-love is not at all engaged, since what he says is not his own, and he is no more responsible for it than if he should read the verses of a bad poet.
We have insisted on this point, because, a stum bling-block for mediums, it is also one for reunions, to which it is of great importance not lightly to confide in all the interpreters of the spirits. The assistance of any obsessed or fascinated medium would be more injurious than useful ; it should not be accepted. We think we have so fully entered into their development, that it will be impossible to mistake the characteris tics of obsession, if the medium cannot recognize it himself; one of the most salient points is the supposi tion that he alone of all the world is right. Obsessed mediums, who will not be convinced, are like those sick persons who are deluded as to the state of their health, and are lost for want ofsubmitting to salutary regimen.
330. A serious reunion should propose to itself, especially, to drive away lying spirits ; it would be an error to suppose its aim and the quality of its mediums a safeguard from them ; nothing will save it unless it be itself in favorable conditions.
In order perfectly to comprehend what happens under these circumstances, we beg the reader to turn to what has been said, No. 331, on the Influence of the Surroundings. Each individual is surrounded by a certain number of invisible acolytes, who are identified with his character, his tastes, and his inclinations : thus, each person who enters a reunion brings with him spirits who are in sympathy with him. Accord ing to their number and nature, these acolytes may exercise a good or bad influence on the assembly, and on its communications. A perfect reunion would be that in which all the members, animated by an equal love of good, would bring with them only good spirits ; in default of this perfection, the better would be where the good would preponderate over the evil. This is too logical to need that we should insist upon it.
331. A reunion is a collective being, whose qualities and properties are the result of those of its members, and form, as it were, a bundle, and this bundle will have as much more force as it may be more homogeneous. If our readers have thoroughly understood what has been said (No. 282, Question 5) on the manner in which spirits are warned of our call, they easily com prehend the power of the association of thought in the assistants. If the spirit is, in some sort, struck by the thought as we are by the voice, twenty persons, being united in the same intention, will necessarily have more force than one alone ; but that all these things may tend toward the same end, they must vibrate in unison ; let them be commingled, as it were, in a one, which cannot be done without concentration of thought.
Then, again, the spirit, entering a completely sym pathetic circle, is more at his ease ; finding there only friends, he comes more willingly, and is more disposed to answer. Any person who has attentively watched intelligent spirit manifestations, must have become convinced of this truth.
If the thoughts are divergent, the result will be a clashing of ideas disagreeable for the spirit and injuri ous to the manifestations. It is the same with a man addressing an assembly ; if he feel all the thoughts to be sympathetic and kindly to him, the impression he receives will react on his own ideas, and give them more fervor ; the .unanimity of the assembly exercises on him a kind of magnetic action, which doubles his means, while indifference or hostility troubles or para lyzes him ; so actors are inspired by plaudits ; and spirits, being much more impressionable than human beings, are very much more sensitive to the influence of the surroundings.
Every spiritist reunion should tend as much as pos sible to homogeneity ; of course it is understood that we speak of those that would achieve serious and truly useful results ; if they desire simply to receive com munications, without caring for the quality of those who give them, it is evident that all these precautions are not necessary ; but then they should not complain of the quality of the product.
332. Concentration and communion of thought be ing the essential conditions of every serious reunion, it can be seen that too many assistants must be one of the causes most directly adverse to homogeneity. There is, certainly, no absolute limit to this number ; and a hundred persons, sufficiently collected and atten tive, will be better than ten inattentive and noisy ; but it is also evident that the greater the number the more difficult to comply with the conditions. It is, besides, a fa>:t proved by experience, that the small private circles are always more favorable for beautiful commu nications, for reasons already mentioned.
333. There is still another not less necessary point : the regularity of the reunions. In all there are always spirits that may be called habitues : we do not mean those spirits that may be found everywhere, and min gling themselves in everything ; but those who are either spirit protectors, or those who are most often interrogated. It must not be supposed that these spirits have naught else to do but to listen to us ; they have their occupations, and may, besides, be in conditions unfavorable for invocation. When the re unions take place on fixed days and hours, they man age accordingly, and are rarely absent. There are some who are extreme in punctuality ; they take offense at a quarter of an hour's delay, and if they themselves set the time of beginning, it is in vain to call them even a few minutes sooner. Let us add that, as well as the spirits prefer regularity, those who are truly superior are not tenacious on this point. The exaction of a rigorous punctuality is a sign of inferior ity, like everything puerile. Beyond the devoted hours, they can come, and do come, even willingly, if the end is useful ; but nothing is more injurious to good com munications than to call them at random, when the fancy takes us, and especially without a serious mo tive ; as they are not bound to submit to our caprices, they might very well not trouble themselves ; then others are sure to take their places.