128. It was the spirit of Saint-Louis who gave us, in reference to this problem, the solution referred to, and which is embodied in the following dialogue: -
1. We have laid before you the case of an apparition of the spirit of a person in the flesh. This spirit carried a snuff-box and took snuff; did he feel the sensation which we should feel in this act ?
2. This snuff-box looked exactly like the one which he habitually used ; but that real snuff-box was in his house. What was the snuff-box seen in his hand?
"An appearance; it was made to occur, in order both that the circumstance might be remarked, as, in fact, was the case, and also that the apparition might not be taken for an hallucination produced by the ill-health of the seer. The spirit desired that the lady should be convinced of the reality of his presence; he therefore assumed all the appearances of reality."
3. You say it was an appearance; but there is nothing real in an appearance, which is a sort of optical illusion.
What we want to know is whether this snuff-box was only an image without reality, or whether there was not something of materiality in its nature?
"Certainly there was something material in its nature; it is by the aid of this materiality that the perispirit takes on the appearance of clothes like those which the spirit wore while on earth."
Remark - It is evident that we must here understand the word "appearance" in the sense of aspect, or imitation. The snuff-box in its reality was not there ; what the spirit held in his hand was only its representative ; it was therefore an appearance as compared with the original, although formed of a sort of matter.
Experience teaches us not to take too literally every expression employed by spirits. By interpreting their expressions according to our own ideas, we run the risk of falling into serious errors; and we should therefore endeavour to ascertain the real meaning of their words, whenever these present the least ambiguity, as the spirits themselves constantly recommend us to do. For instance, without the explanation just given, the word appearance, frequently recurring in analogous cases, might give rise to false interpretations.
4. Can it be that inert matter has its "double?" Can it be that, in the invisible world, there is an essential matter which assumes the forms of the objects of our world? in other words, have the objects of the terrestrial world their ethereal counterparts in the invisible world, as spirits are the counterparts of men?
"That is not the case. A spirit exerts, over the material elements everywhere disseminated through space and in your atmosphere, a power such as you are far from suspecting. He can, by his will, concentrate those elements, and give them the apparent form required for his projects."
Remark. - The foregoing question, as will have been seen, was the translation of our own thought, that is to say, of the idea that we had formed in regard to the nature of those objects. If the answer had been, as some may surmise, the reflexion of our own thought, we should have received the confirmation of our own supposition, instead of receiving an explanation altogether contrary to the one which we had imagined.
5. We repeat our question, categorically, to avoid all ambiguity, and we again ask you: -
Are the clothes, worn by spirits, something real?
"It appears to me that my previous answer replies to your question. Do you not know that the perispirit itself is something real?"
6. Your explanation seems to imply that spirits transform ethereal matter at pleasure, and that, consequently, with regard to the snuff-box, for example, the spirit did not find it ready made, but made it himself, at the moment when he wanted it, by an act of his will, and that he was able, afterwards, to unmake it. It must therefore be the same in regard to all other objects seen with spirits, whether clothes, jewels, or what not.
7. The snuff-box in question was visible for the lady, and so plainly as to make her think it real. Could the spirit have made it tangible for her?
"He could have done so."
8. Could the lady have taken the box in her hands, and, in that case, would it still have appeared to her to be a real snuff-box?
9. If she had opened it, she would probably have found snuff there; if she had taken a pinch, would it have made her sneeze?
10. A spirit, then, cannot only produce a form, but can give to that form the special properties of the object thus imitated?
" Yes, if he so wills it ; it was in virtue of this principle that I gave affirmative replies to your preceding questions. You will have abundant proofs of the powerful action exercised by spirit over matter; proofs such as you little imagine at present, as I have already told you."
11. If a spirit had compounded a poisonous substance, and some human being should swallow it, would the latter be poisoned?
"Such a compound could be made; but no spirit could make it, for he would not be permitted to do so."
12. Could he fabricate a substance that would be beneficial to health, and capable of curing a malady? has such a thing ever been done?
"Yes, very often."
13. If so, he could, no doubt, as easily fabricate all alimentary substance; suppose he made some fruit, or any other article of food, would it appease a man's hunger if he ate it ?
"Yes, yes; but do not try so hard to find out what it is so easy to understand. A ray of sunlight suffices to enable your gross organs to perceive the material particles which fill the space in the midst of which you live. Do you not know that the air contains the vapour of water? Condense that vapour, and you bring it back to its normal state of water ; deprive it of heat, and do! the impalpable and invisible molecules of that vapour have been changed into a solid body ; and how many other substances are there, from which chemists will produce marvels even more astonishing ! But spirits possess instruments more perfect than yours, viz., their will, and the Divine permission."
Remark. - This question of the appeasing of hunger by substances of the character we are considering is very important. If a substance has only temporary existence and properties, and is, so to say, only a sort of pretence, how can it appease the hunger of the material body ? This substance, by its contact with the stomach, produces a sensation of satiety, but not the satiety which results from filling the stomach with its natural food. If such a substance can act on the bodily economy so as to modify a morbid state, it can just as well act on the stomach so as to produce the sensation resulting from the satisfaction of appetite. Nevertheless, those whose business it is to provide us with drugs and with dinners need not be jealous of spirit-power, nor imagine that the denizens of the other world are coming into competition with them. Such cases of spirit-action are rare, exceptional, and independent of the human will ; otherwise we should really be fed and cured too cheaply.
14. Could objects that have been thus formed by spirits, and rendered tangible by their will, obtain the attributes of permanence and stability, and be made use of by men?
"The thing is possible in itself, but it is never done; it would be an infringement of the laws of natural order in the sphere of human life."
15. Do all spirits possess the power of producing tangible objects in the same degree?
"The higher the spirit, the more easily does he obtain this effect; but it also depends upon circumstances: inferior spirits sometimes have this power."
16. Does a spirit always comprehend the way in which he makes his garments and the other objects he shows us?
"No, he often determines their formation by an instinctive act which, if he is not sufficiently enlightened, he does not understand."
17. If a spirit can draw from the universal element the materials for making all sorts of things, and if he can give to each of those things a temporary reality and peculiar properties, it is evident that he can draw from this element the matter necessary for writing; and your explanations would therefore appear to give us the key to the phenomenon of direct writing : is it so
"Ah! you've found that out, at last, have you ?"
Remark. - All our preliminary questions had been put with a view to arriving at the solution just given. The spirit's exclamation proves that he had read our thought.
18. If the matter employed by the spirit be not permanent, how is it that the traces of direct writing do not disappear ?
"Do not strain at words; I did not say that spirit-formations are never permanent. I have been speaking of voluminous objects ; but writing consists merely of signs that have been traced, and which it may be useful to preserve; and they are accordingly preserved. I meant to say that the objects thus composed by spirits could not become objects of common use, because there is, in them, no real aggregation of matter such as there is in your solid bodies."