Possible Proofs of Identity
255. THE question of the identity of spirits is one that has given rise to the greatest controversy, even among the believers of Spiritism ; spirits do not bring us letters of introduction, and it is well known with what facility some of them take borrowed names ; so that, obsession aside, it is one of the greatest difficulties in the practice of Spiritism ; yet, in many cases, absolute identity is a secondary question, and without real importance.
The identity of the spirit of ancient personages is the most difficult to verify, often even impossible, and we are reduced to a purely moral valuation. Spirits, like men, are judged by their language; if a spirit presents himself under the name of Fdnelon, for instance, and gives us trivialities or puerilities, it very surely cannot be he; if he says only things worthy the character of F (melon, and which he would not disavow, there is, if not material proof, at least a moral probability, that it must be he. In such case, particularly, the real identity is an accessory question: if the spirit says only good things, it matters little under what name they are given.
It will, doubtless, be objected that the spirit who would take an assumed name, even to say only good, would not the less commit a fraud, and thus could not be a good spirit. Here there are delicate shades quite difficult to seize, but which we shall try to develop.
256. In proportion as spirits are purified and elevated in the hierarchy, the distinctive characters of their personality are, in some sort, obliterated in the uniformity of perfection, and yet they do not the less preserve their individuality :• this is the case with the superior and with the pure spirits. In this condition, the name they had on the earth, in one of their thousand ephemeral corporeal existences, is quite an insignificant thing. Let us remark again that spirits are attracted to each other by the similarity of their qualities, and that they thus form sympathetic groups or families. Again, if we consider the immense number of spirits who, since the beginning of time, have reached the highest rank, and compare them with the very-restricted number of men who have left a great name on the earth, it will be understood that, among the superior spirits who can communicate, the greater part must have no name for us; but as names are necessary to us to fix our ideas, they can take that of any known personage whose nature is best identified with their own ; thus our guardian angels most often make themselves known under the name of one of the saints we venerate, and generally under his name for whom we have the most sympathy. It thus follows that if a person's guardian angel gives his name as St. Peter, for instance, there is no actual proof that it is the apostle of that name ; it may be he, or it may be an entirely unknown spirit, belonging to the family of spirits of which St. Peter makes a part: it also follows that under whatever name the guardian angel is invoked, he comes to the call that is made, because he is attracted by the thought, and the name is indifferent to him.
It is always the same when a superior spirit communicates spontaneously under the name of a known personage; nothing proves that it is precisely the spirit of that personage; but if he says nothing that discredits the elevation of character of this latter, there is presumption that it is he, and, in all cases, it may be said that, if it is not he, it must be a spirit of the same degree, or, perhaps, one sent by him. In recapitulation, the question of name is secondary; we may consider the name as a simple indication of the rank the spirit occupies in the spirit scale.
The position is. quite different when a spirit of an inferior order borrows a respectable name to give credence to his words, and this case is so frequent that we cannot too carefully guard against these substitutions ; for it is under cover of these borrowed names, and with the help of fascination, that certain spirits, more vain than learned, seek to gain credence for the most ridiculous ideas.
The question of identity, then, is, as we have said, nearly a matter of indifference in regard to general instructions, for the best spirits can be substituted the one for the other without its being of any consequence. The superior spirits form, so to say, a collective whole, whose individualities are, with few exceptions, totally unknown to us. The matter of interest to us is, not their person, but their teachings: now, if this teaching be good, it matters little whether he who gives it calls himself Peter or Paul; we judge by his quality, and not by his signature. If a wine is bad, the trade-mark will not make it better. It"is otherwise with private communications, because it is the individual, his very person, that interests us ; and it is right that, in this case, we should be particular to assure ourselves that the spirit who comes at our call is really he whom we wish.
257. The identity of contemporaneous spirits is much more easily proved, those whose character and habits are known, for it is precisely these habits, which they have not yet had time to throw aside, by which they can be recognized; and let us say here, that in these very individual habits we find one of the most certain signs of identity. Without doubt, the spirit can give the proofs if asked, but he does not always do so unless it is agreeable to him, and generally the asking wounds him ; for this reason it should be avoided. In leaving his body, the spirit has not laid aside his susceptibility ; he is wounded by any question tending to put him to the proof. It is such questions as one would not dare to propose to him, were he living, for fear of overstepping the bounds of propriety; why, then, should there be less regard after his death ? Should a man enter a drawing-room and decline to give his name, should we insist, at all hazards, that he should prove his identity by exhibiting his titles, under the pretext that there are impostors ? Would he not, assuredly, have the right to remind his interrogator of the rules of good breeding ? This is what the spirits do, either by not replying or by withdrawing. Let us make a comparison. Suppose the astronomer, Arago, during his life, had presented himself in a house where no one knew him, and he had been thus addressed: " You say you are Arago; but as we do not know you, please prove it by answering our questions: solve this astronomical problem; tell us your name, your Christian name, those of your children, what you did such and such a day, at such an hour, &c." What would he have answered ? Well, as a spirit, he will do just what he would have done during his lifetime ; and other spirits do the same.
258. While spirits refuse to answer puerile and impertinent questions, which a person would have hesitated to ask during their lives, they often spontaneously give irrefutable proofs of their identity by their character, revealed in their language, by the use of words that were familiar to them, by citing certain facts, particularities of their life sometimes unknown to the assistants, and whose truth has been verified. Proofs of identity will spring up in many unforeseen ways, which do not present themselves at first sight, but in the course of conversations. It is better, then, to wait for them without calling for them, observing with care all that may flow from the nature of the communications. (See the fact given, No. 70.)
259. One means employed, sometimes with success, to be assured of identity when the spirit who communicates is suspected, consists in making him affirm, in t/te name of Almighty God, that he is the one he pretends to be. It often happens that he who usurps a name would recoil before a sacrilege, and after having begun to write, / affirm, in the name of—, he stops, and traces some insignificant lines, or breaks the pencil in anger : if he is more hypocritical, he eludes the question by a mental reservation, writing, for instance, / certify that I have told you the truth ; or, / attest, in tlie name of God, tluxt it is I who speak to you, &c. But there are some not so scrupulous, and who swear whatever you want. One of them communicated to a medium, calling himself God; and the medium, highly honored by so high a favor, did not hesitate to believe him. Invoked by us, he did not dare sustain his imposture, and said, " I am not God, but I am His son." " You are, then, Jesus ? That is not probable; for Jesus is too high to employ subterfuge. Dare then to affirm, in the name of God, that you are the Christ." " I do not say I am Jesus: I say I am the son of God, because I am one of His creatures."
We may conclude that the refusal on the part of a spirit to affirm his identity in the name of God, is always a manifest proof that the name is an imposture, but that the affirmation is only a presumption, and not a certain proof.
260. Among the proofs of identity may also be classed the similarity of the writing and the signature, but, as it is not always given to all mediums to obtain this result, it is not always a sufficient guarantee ; there are forgers in the world of spirits as in this ; so that this is but presumptive evidence, which acquires value only by accompanying circumstances. It is the same with all material signs that some give as talismans that cannot be imitated by lying spirits. For those who dare perjure themselves in God's name, or counterfeit a signature, no material sign whatever will offer an obstacle. The best of all the proofs of identity is in the language and in casual circumstances.
261. It will be said, doubtless, that if a spirit can imitate a signature, he can as well imitate the language. That is true: we have seen those who had the effrontery to take the name of the Christ, and in order to delude, simulated the evangelical style, constantly introducing at hap-hazard the well-known words, Verily, verily, I say unto you ; but when the whole was studied without prejudice, the depth of the thoughts, the bearing of the expressions, scrutinized, — when, by the side of fine maxims of charity, ridiculous and puerile recommendations were 'seen, — he would needs be fascinated to mistake it. Yes, certain parts of the material form of the language can be imitated, but not the thought: never will ignorance imitate true knowledge, never will vice imitate true virtue; some part will always show, if but the tip of the ear; the medium, as also the invocator, need all their perspicacity, all their judgment, to unravel the truth from the falsehood. They must remember that the perverse spirits are capable of every stratagem, and the more elevated the name under which a spirit announces himself, the more it should inspire distrust. How many mediums; have had apocryphal communications signed Jesus, Mary, or a venerated saint!