PHYSICAL MANIFESTATIONS. - TABLE-TURNING.
60. We give the term physical manifestations to those phenomena which
impress our senses, such as the production of sounds, and the movement and
displacement of solid bodies. Some of the above are spontaneous, and independent of
our wills, while others may be called forth by us. It is of the latter that we have now to
The simplest, and one of the earliest-observed, of these manifestations, was the
circular movement of a table. This movement may be produced in any other object; but
a table being the one with which most people make the trial, because the most
convenient object for the purpose, the expression "table-turning" has come into general
use to denote this particular phase of the manifestations we are considering.
When we say that this phenomenon was one of the earliest observed, we mean,
with respect to what has occurred in these latter days; for it is quite certain that all kinds
of spirit-manifestation were known in ancient times: nor could it be otherwise, because,
being due to the action of natural causes, they could not but occur in all ages.
Tertullian speaks explicitly of tables turning, and making themselves understood by
This phenomenon, for a time, excited the curiosity of drawing-rooms. People
then grew tired of it, and took up some other amusement, because it really was, for
them, only an amusement. There were two reasons for this abandonment of the new
plaything; first, fashion, in the case of the frivolous, who rarely follow up the same amusement two winters together, but who,
wondrous event in the lives of such persons! actually consecrated three or four winters
to this one : and next, in the case of serious observers, the fact that results of a highly
important nature had been elicited from this seemingly frivolous diversion, so that they,
too, soon neglected "table-turning," because they were now busy with its consequences,
the importance of which they had recognised. This is the whole secret of the apparent
neglect of the tables, about which the scoffers scoffed so loudly.
Humble as such a beginning may appear, the turning of tables was none the less
the groundwork, the starting-point, of the great spiritist movement of the present day,
and on this account deserves a passing notice. Moreover, the results obtained through
tables present the phenomena under an aspect of such simplicity that the study of their
cause is rendered comparatively easy; and, as all the modern phenomena proceed from
the same source, the ascertainment of the cause of the movement of tables will give us
the key to the far more complicated manifestations which have since occurred.
61. In order to produce the phenomenon referred to, the presence of one or two
persons endowed with a special aptitude, and who are called Mediums, is necessary.
The number of co-operators is of no importance, except that, when there are a good
many, some of them may be found to be mediums. With regard to those of the
company who are not mediums, their presence is of no use, and may even be a
hindrance, through the qualities of mind or of temperament which they bring into the
The qualities of mediums are various. The medianimic power is sometimes
very strong, producing strongly marked effects; a single individual who is really a
powerful medium often producing more effect, alone, than twenty others united. If
such a one lays his hands on the table for an instant, it immediately begins to move,
rising up, turning over, spinning round with great velocity, or performing a variety of
irregular and often violent motions.
62. There is no outward indication of the medianimic faculty; experience alone
is the true indicator of its existence. All that is to be done is for people to sit round a
table, placing the palms of their hands flat upon it, without pressure or muscular
movement. At first, when every one was ignorant of the cause of the phenomena,
various precautions were thought necessary, as, for example, the placing of the sexes
alternately round the table, or the linking together of the little fingers of the parties
operating, so as to form an uninterrupted chain. This last condition was thought to be
necessary, because it was supposed that a sort of electric current was thus established;
but such precautions are now seen to be unimportant. All that is really necessary is
patience. The phenomena may occur in a few minutes, or may require half an hour or
an hour for their development, according to the amount of medianimic power in the
persons composing the circle.
63. The form and substance of the table, the presence of metals, jewels, silk,
etc., the time of day, the amount of light, etc., are of no importance. The size of the
table may be of some moment; but only when the medium's power is insufficient to
vanquish the material resistance offered by the weight of the table employed. When the
medianimic power is strong, even in the case of a young child, it will suffice to move,
or even lift, an enormously heavy table; while, on the contrary, persons not endowed
with that peculiar power would produce no effect whatever on the lightest.
The moving of a table is usually preceded by a slight creaking, and by a sort of
shudder, that seems to occur in the fibres of the wood, and is felt under the hands of all
present. The table then appears to be making an effort to move; and a rotator
movement is gradually established, and is sometimes accelerated to such a degree, and
the table spins round so rapidly, that those present can only follow it with difficulty. In
some cases, when the movement has once been established, the experimenters may take
hands off the table, which continues to move in various directions, without any human
Sometimes the table tilts upon one Bide, poising itself; first on one leg, and then
on another, after which it gently subsides into its natural position. Sometimes it sways
backwards and forwards, as though imitating the pitching and rolling of a ship. At
other times-but, for this, the medium must be a powerful one-the table rises entirely
from the floor, and remains in the air, with nothing to rest on, rising, perhaps, to the
very ceiling, so that persons can stand or walk under it, and then gently lets itself down,
with a fluttering movement, like that of a sheet of paper, or falls to the floor with a
crash, and, perhaps, is broken by the fall. The sudden smashing of a solid oaken or
mahogany table, of a couple of hundred-weight or so, is surely sufficient proof that the
parties present are not the victims of any optical illusion.
64. Another phenomenon of frequent occurrence, according to the nature of the
medium, is the production of raps that seem to be made in the tissue of the wood,
without the table's moving at all; these raps, sometimes very faint and gentle, at others,
extremely loud, are also often heard in the other furniture of the room, in the doors,
walls, or floor: a phenomenon to which we shall presently recur. When these raps occur
in the table, they produce a very perceptible vibration, which is felt distinctly by the
finger, and is equally apparent to the ear, on placing one's head upon the table.