Allan Kardec

Back to the menu
82. The phenomena of which we are now about to treat are, for the most part, elicited; but it sometimes happens that they occur spontaneously, without any participation of the medium's will, and even in opposition to it, becoming, in some cases, very troublesome. And, as though to prove still more conclusively that they are not the figment of imaginations over-excited by spiritist ideas, they often occur with persons who have never heard of spiritism, and just when they are least expected. Phenomena of this spontaneous character, which we may call the practical spiritism of nature, are very important, because they exclude all suspicion of connivance; for which reason, we would invite those who are interested in spiritism to collect all the facts of this description which come to their knowledge, and, above all, to ascertain their reality by a minute study of the Circumstances under which they may have occurred, in order to assure themselves that they are not the victims of trickery or illusion.

83. Of all spirit-manifestations, the simplest and most frequent are those which are made audibly, by raps, or by other noises; and here it is that illusion is most to be feared, for a vast number of natural causes may produce such sounds: the action of the wind, an object that we may move ourselves without perceiving it, an animal not seen by us, an insect, etc.; not to mention silly tricks played off by foolish persons. Spirit- sounds, however, are usually of a peculiar character; they have an intensity and a character of their own, which, notwithstanding their great variety, can hardly be mistaken, so that they are not easily confounded with common noises, such as the creaking of wood, the crackling of a fire, or the ticking of a clock; spirit-raps are clear and sharp, sometimes soft and light, sometimes loud and distinct, sometimes even noisy; changing their place, and recurring, without any mechanical regularity. The best means of ascertaining the nature of any unusual sounds, so as to leave no doubt about their origin, is to satisfy oneself as to their obedience to the will. If the raps make themselves heard in the place we designate, if they answer to our thought by their number or character, we cannot doubt that an intelligence is at work; although it must be remarked that failure to obey our will is not always a proof of the absence of such an intelligence.

84. Let us suppose that, through careful observation, we have arrived at a certainty that unusual sounds, or other manifestations, are the work of unseen intelligences; is it reasonable to be afraid of them? Assuredly not, for in no such case is there the least danger; only those who are persuaded that the devil has a hand in the matter can be alarmed by them. like children who are frightened by stories of "Raw- head and Bloody-bones." But it must be admitted that these manifestations do sometimes assume uncomfortable proportions, and show a persistence which makes people naturally desire to be rid of them ; and therefore a few words on this subject will not be out of place here.

85. We have said that physical manifestations have for their object the desire of spirits to attract our attention by some special act, and thus to convince us of the presence of a power distinct from that of man. We have also said that spirits of high degree do not make these signs them-selves but employ inferior spirits to do it for them, as we employ servants to do rough work for us; and they do this for a purpose which we are about to explain. This purpose once attained, the physical manifestation ceases, because it is no longer needed. One or two examples will give a better idea of our meaning.

86. Several years ago, when we first began the study of spiritism, and while occupied in writing a work in regard to it, we heard knockings around us for four hours consecutively; it was the first time that anything of the sort had occurred to us, and we had abundant proof that they were not produced by accident; but, for the moment, we could not ascertain anything more about them. At that period, we frequently saw an excellent writing medium; and, next morning, we questioned the spirit who communicated through that medium as to the cause of the knockings we had heard. " It is," he replied, "your familiar spirit who desires to speak to you."-What does he wish to say to us?-" You can ask him yourself, for he is here." Having addressed the same question to this spirit, he announced himself to us under an allegorical name (we learned afterwards, from other spirits, that he belongs to a very elevated order, and played a very important part when on earth), pointed out to us certain errors in our work, indicating the lines in which they occurred, gave us wise and useful counsel, and added that he would be always with us, and would come at our call, whenever we might desire to interrogate him. From that time, the spirit alluded to has never quitted us. He has given us innumerable proofs of his great superiority and his kindly and efficacious intervention has been plainly shown in our worldly affairs, as well as in our investigation of metaphysical questions. But, after our first meeting, the knockings were never renewed. Why was this? Evidently, because lie had wished to enter into regular communication with us ; and, in order to do this, it was necessary to apprise us of the fact. The signal once made and explained, and regular relations established between us, the raps ceased to be useful, and therefore were not again produced. When soldiers are already on parade, the drum is no longer beaten to awaken them.

A fact of a similar character occurred in the experience of a friend of ours. For some time his bedroom had resounded with different noises, which at length became very annoying. Having had an opportunity of conferring with the spirit of his father, through a writing medium, he learned that the noises had been made by him, ascertained his wishes, did what he was thus requested to do, and was never again disturbed. It may here be remarked that those who have the means of communicating regularly and easily with spirits are much more rarely subject to manifestations of this kind than those who have not the means of doing so ; a fact which explains itself.

87. Spontaneous manifestations are not always confined to noises and rappings; they sometimes degenerate into downright racketing and disturbance, furniture and other objects are upset, projectiles of all descriptions are hurled from without, windows are opened and shut by invisible hands, panes of glass are broken; annoyances which can hardly be set down as illusions.

The confusion thus produced among material objects is often very real ; but sometimes there is only the appearance of reality. We hear? a rattling in an adjoining room ; pots and pans appear to be falling about, and breaking with a crash ; logs of wood seem to be rolling about the floor; we hasten to see what is the matter, but find everything in order; and we have hardly left the room, before the tumult begins again.

88. Manifestations of this description are neither rare nor novel; there are few places without some stories of the kind. Fear has doubtless frequently exaggerated facts, which have thus been made to assume gigantic and ridiculous proportions, through passing from mouth to mouth superstition aiding, the houses where such disturbances have occurred have come to be reputed as haunted, and hence have arisen many wondrous and frightful legends of beasts and devils. Knavery, on the other hand, has not failed to make use of the opportunity of trading on credulity afforded by these stories. It is, moreover, easy to imagine the impression which events of the nature referred to, even when shorn of exaggerations, may produce on weak minds, predisposed by education to superstitious ideas. The surest method of avoiding any such disagreeable impressions (since there is no preventing the occurrence of the facts which give rise to them,) is to learn the truth about them. The simplest things may become appalling when their cause is not understood. When the world becomes familiarised with spirits, and when those who are subject to their manifestations no longer fancy that they have a legion of devils at their heels, the prevalent fear of spirits will vanish.

Many authentic facts of the above nature are recorded in the Revue Spirite; among others, the history of the Rapping Spirit of Bergzabern, whose unpleasant tricks continued more than eight years (Nos. of May, June, and July 1858); that of Dibbelsdorf (August 1858); that of the Baker of Grandes Ventes, near Dieppe (March 1860); that of the disturbances which occurred in the rue des Noyers, in Paris (August 1860); that of the Spirit of Castelnaudary (February 1860); that of the Manufactory in Saint-Petersbourg (April 1860), and many others.

89. Facts of this nature have often the character of unmistakable persecution. We knew of six sisters who lived together, and who, for several years, had their dresses scattered about, every morning, sometimes hidden under the roof of the house, sometimes torn, or cut into shreds, notwithstanding all the precautions they took in keeping them under lock and key. Persons in bed, and wide awake, have seen their curtains shaken, or have had their bed-clothes or their pillows violently snatched away from them have been lifted up from their mattresses, or even been thrown out of bed. These facts are more frequent than is imagined; but the vast majority of the victims dare not talk of them, for fear of ridicule. And, to our certain knowledge, the treatment to which some persons have been subjected, with a view to curing them of what has been thought to be a tendency to hallucinations, has sometimes produced madness. Physicians cannot comprehend these things, because they admit only material causes, and thus make some most terrible mistakes. History will, one day, recount some of the medical treatments of this nineteenth century, as, now-a-days, we tell of the horrors of the Middle Ages.

We fully admit that certain occurrences have been the result of trickery or of malice ; but if, when all the evidence has been examined, it is proved that some of these things are not the work of men, we must necessarily come to the conclusion that they are the work of unseen intelligences some will say of ''the devil!," we say, of spirits ; but the question next arises, of what sort of spirits?

90. Superior spirits do not, any more than grave and serious men, amuse themselves with playing ill-natured tricks. We have often made spirits of this disorderly nature come to us, and have questioned them as to the motives of their misbehaviour. The majority of them seem to have no other object than that of amusing themselves, and to be rather reckless than wicked ; they laugh at the alarm they occasion, and at the useless searchings that are made to find out the cause of the tumult. There are others, however, who will furiously assail some one whom it gratifies them to persecute, and will follow him from one house to another. Others, again, attach themselves to Some particular locality, from no graver motive than caprice. Sometimes it is a vengeance which they exercise, as we shall show farther on. In other cases, their object is more praiseworthy they wish to attract our attention, and to enter into communication with us, either for the purpose of giving advice which may be useful to us, or to ask something for themselves. We have often known them ask for our prayers ; others have begged that some vow, which they were not able to fulfil during their earthly life, might be fulfilled in their name ; others, again, have desired to make reparation for some evil deed committed by them when on earth, and this, for the sake of their own repose in their present state. Generally speaking, it is a mistake to be afraid of them; their presence may be troublesome, but is rarely dangerous.

It is not strange, however, that people are anxious to rid themselves of such visitants; but, unfortunately, they generally set about doing this in a wrong way. If spirits are only amusing themselves, the greater the gravity with which their antics are met, the more persistent they become ; like mischievous children, who only tease the more, the more anger they excite, and the more successful they are in frightening the timid. The wisest course is to laugh at their absurdities for they then get tired of playing the fool, and cease their efforts to annoy. We have an acquaintance who, far from being irritated by these attacks, excited them, defying their authors to do this or that, with such good effect, that, after a few (lays, they took themselves off. But, as we have said, there are some whose motives are less frivolous ; and for this reason it is always well to learn what they are aiming at. If they make some request, we may be sure they will cease their visits as soon as their wish is satisfied. The best way of gaining information in this respect is to evoke the spirit, through the intervention of a good medium, in order to ascertain with whom, and what, we have to do. Should it be a spirit who is unhappy, charity commands us to treat hint with the consideration due to his suffering ; if he be a practical joker, we may treat him more cavalierly if he be malicious, we must try to aid him in becoming better. In any case, prayer can only have a good effect, but the gravity of any formal exorcism only excites their merriment, and they treat it as of no account. If we are able to enter into communication with them, we must attach no importance to any titles they may assume, whether of a burlesque character, or assumed with a view of horrifying ; for this is often done to divert themselves with our credulity.

We shall recur to this subject, giving further details, and stating the reasons which often render prayer for spirits inefficacious, in the chapters on Haunted places and Obsession.

91. The phenomena we are considering, although produced by spirits of an inferior order, are often superintended by spirits of higher degree, with the view of convincing us of the existence of incorporeal beings in close connection with mankind The sounds they make, the very fears excited by them, arrest attention, and end by opening the eyes of the incredulous. The question as to the nature of the mysterious beings who take these means of manifesting their presence and their power, is answered by the means which they themselves point out of communicating with them. The explanations which they give us, in regard to themselves and their procedures, teach us also to distinguish between what is real and what is false or exaggerated in statements of these phenomena; a discrimination hardly to be arrived at of ourselves. Whenever anything unusual occurs in our presence, such as an unaccustomed noise, a movement, or even an apparition, our first care should be to ascertain whether it may not be due to some natural cause, because this is most probable; and we must be careful not to admit the intervention of spirits, unless we are sure that the phenomenon is of their producing. In this way we exclude the possibility of illusion. If, for example, at a time when we are sure that no creature in the flesh is near us, we get a box on the ear, or a slap on the back, we can be in no doubt as to whether an invisible being is, or is not, in our vicinity.

We should be very careful in regard, not only to tales which may be more or less exaggerated, but also to our own impressions, and not b in haste to attribute an occult origin to all that is beyond our comprehension. An immense number of very simple natural causes may produce effects that appear strange at first sight; and it would be mere superstition to lay to the account of spirits all the accidents that may happen in the house, or in daily life, and which are usually the result of our awkwardness or want of care.

Related articles

Show related items