Allan Kardec

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Movements and liftings - Sounds - Temporary increase and decrease of the weight of bodies.

72. The existence of spirits being proved by reasoning and by facts, as well as their power of acting upon matter, we have now to ascertain the way in which this power operates, and the means by which spirits move tables and other inert bodies.

In regard to these points, a supposition presented itself spontaneously to our own mind, and we held it for a time ; but, as it was combated by spirits, who gave us an explanation of the matter altogether different from the one which had occurred to us, it is evident that this explanation was not of our inventing. The idea that had first occurred to us may probably have occurred to many others also; as for the explanation given by the spirits, we do not think it would ever have come into the head of any human being. It will easily be seen how very superior it is to our own idea, although not so simple, because it explains a vast number of other facts which could not have been satisfactorily explained by our own idea.

73. When we had arrived at a knowledge of the nature of spirits, of their human form, of the semi-material properties of the perispirit, and of the mechanical action that the perispirit can exercise over matter, - when we had seen their fluidic hands, often as tangible as human ones, taking hold of various objects, and Carrying them about, it was only natural to infer from all this that the spirit simply made use of its hands when it turned a table, and that it raised a table into the air by the action of its arms. But if so, where was the need of a medium? could not the spirit act alone? The medium, as we know, often places his hands the wrong way to help the movement, and sometimes does not even put them on the table at all; he therefore cannot assist the spirit by any muscular action. How was this difficulty to be explained? We will let this question be answered by the spirits whom we have interrogated in regard to it.

74. The following replies were given by the spirit of Saint Louis ; they have since been confirmed by many others: -

I. Is the universal fluid an emanation of the Divinity? “No.”

2. Is it a creation of the Divinity? "All is created, except God."

3. Is the universal fluid the universal element "Yes, it is the elementary principle of all things."

4. Has it any relation to the electric fluid, the effects of which we know? "It is its element."

5. What is the state in which the universal fluid presents itself to us in its greatest simplicity?

"To find it in its absolute simplicity, we must trace it up to the spirits who are completely purified ; in your world it is always more or less modified for the formation of the compact matter which encompasses you; but what you call the animal-magnetic fluid is the universal fluid in the simplest state in which it can be known to you."

6. It has been said that the universal fluid is the source of life ; is it also the source of intelligence ?

No ; this fluid only vitalises matter."

7. The fluid of which the perispirit is composed appears to exist, in connexion with our earth, in a state of condensation which identifies it, up to a certain point, with matter," properly so called. Is it so?

"Yes but only, as you say, up to a certain point; for it has not all the properties of matter; it is more or less condensed, according to the nature of each world."

8. How does a spirit effect the movement of a solid body?

"He combines a portion of the universal fluid with the fluid which is thrown off to this end by the medium."

9. Do spirits raise tables with the aid of their limbs rendered solid by some process known to them?

"Our answer to this question will not give you the confirmation you are wishing for. When a table moves under your hands, the spirit who is acting upon it draws from the universal fluid the means of vitalising this table with artificial life. The table being thus prepared, the spirit attracts it, and moves it, under the influence of his own fluid, thrown off by an exertion of his will. When the mass which he desires to move is too heavy for the spirit, he calls to his aid other spirits, of the same degree as himself; On account of his ethereal nature, a spirit cannot act upon gross matter without an intermediary, that is to say, without the link which unites spirit to matter; this link, which is what you call the perispirit, gives you the key to all the materialised spirit-phenomena. I think I have expressed myself clearly enough to be understood."

Remark. - We would call attention to tills first phrase : -" Our answer to this question will not give you the confirmation you are wishing for." The spirit evidently understood what we were driving at, and that all our previous questions had been put in order to lead up to it. He therefore alluded to our thought, which, in fact, anticipated an answer very different from the one we got; for, what we had expected was tile confirmation of our own idea with regard to the manner in which spirits move tables and other objects.

10. When a spirit calls other spirits to his aid, are they his inferiors ?-are they under his orders?

"They are almost always his equals; and they often come of their own accord."

11. Are all spirits capable of producing phenomena of this kind ?

"The spirits who produce effects of this kind are always inferior spirits, who are not yet entirely disengaged from material influences."

12. We can understand that superior spirits do not occupy themselves with things beneath them ; but we wish to ask, whether, being more dematerialised than the others, they would have the power of producing such effects, if they wished to do so?

"They have moral force, as the others have physical force ; when they want the latter, they make use of those who possess it. Have you not been told that they make use of inferior spirits as you make use of porters?"

Remark - It has been said that tile density of the perispirit, if one may so express it, varies according to the condition of each world but it appears that it also varies, in the same world, according to the state of each individual. In the case of spirits who are advanced morally, it is more subtle, and approaches nearer to that of the higher spirits ; with spirits of lower degree, on the contrary, it approaches to the condition of matter, and this Is why low spirits retain terrestrial illusions for so long a time. Such spirits think and act just as if they were still in the flesh ; they have the same desires, we might almost say, the same sensualities. This grossness of the perispirit, giving it more affinity with matter, renders the inferior spirits more fit for physical manifestations. It is, with spirits, just as it is with a man who, in this world, is accustomed to working with his intellect, and whose body, being therefore more delicate, cannot carry a heavy burden, like a porter. Tire matter of such a man's body is somewhat less compact, and, his organs having less of the nervous fluid, he has less power of resistance. The perispirit being to the spirit what the body is to the man, and its density being in proportion to the spirit's inferiority, it replaces, in lower spirits, the muscular force possessed by men of corresponding degree ; that is to say, it gives them the denser kinds of fluids that are necessary for the physical manifestations, and thus gives them more power to produce such manifestations than is possessed by those whose nature is more ethereal. If an elevated spirit desires to produce effects of this character, he does just what is done, here, by people who are delicate ; he gets it done by spirits whose quality fits them for that kind of work.

13. If we have rightly understood what you have told us, the vital principle resides in the universal fluid; the spirit draws from this fluid the semi-material envelope which constitutes his perispirit, and it is by means of this envelope that he acts upon inert matter. Is this so?

"Yes ; that is to say, he temporarily vitalises matter with a kind of factitious life, causing it to live, for a time, as it does in an animal body. When a table moves under your hands, the matter of which it is composed lives, for the time being, as matter lives in a body of flesh; that is to say, it spontaneously obeys the intelligent being who employs it. Intelligent beings do not move matter, as a man moves an object exterior to himself; matter moves of itself; under the impulsion of the intelligent will with which it is associated. So, when the table moves, it is not the spirit who moves it with his arms; it is the temporarily vitalised matter of the table that spontaneously obeys the impulsion communicated to it by the spirit."

14. What part does the medium play in the production of this phenomenon?
"I have told you that the fluid of the medium is combined with the universal fluid accumulated by the spirit. The union of these two fluids, that is to say, of the animalised fluid with the universal fluid, is necessary to give life to the table. But you must remember that this factitious life is only momentary; it ceases with the cessation of the spirit-action which produced it, and often before the cessation of that action, if the supply of fluid becomes insufficient to maintain it."

15. Can a spirit act on matter without the joint action of a medium?

"A spirit can act without the medium being aware of it; many persons serve as auxiliaries to spirits, in certain phenomena, without their suspecting it The spirit draws from them, as from a well, the animalised fluid that he requires ; and this is why the concurrence of a medium, as you understand it, is not always necessary, especially in the case of spontaneous phenomena."

16. Does the table act with a knowledge of what it is about ?-does it think?

"It no more thinks than does the stick with which you make an intelligent sign; but the vitality with which it is momentarily endowed permits it to obey the impulsion of an intelligence. The table which moves does not turn into a spirit; it has not of itself either thought or will."

17. What is the preponderating cause in the production of these phenomena; is it the spirit or the fluid?

"The spirit is the Cause, the fluid is the instrument; both are necessary."

18. What part does the will of the medium play in this case?

"That of calling the spirits, and seconding them in the impulsion given by them to the fluid."

-Is the action of the medium's will always indispensable?

"It adds to the power of the spirits, but it is not always necessary, for a given movement may be made to take place, against, and in spite of; the medium's will; which is a proof that there is a cause at work that is independent of the medium."

Remark. - The contact of hands is not always necessary to make an object move. Such contact is needed, in most cases, to give the first impulsion ; but, when once the object is vitalised, it can obey the will without material contact; this depends either on the power of the medium or on the nature of the object. A first contact, even, is not always indispensable; we have proof of this in the spontaneous movements and displacements that occur without any one having thought of obtaining them.

19. How is it that every one cannot produce the same effects, and why have not all mediums the same power?

"That depends on the Organisation, and on the greater or less facility with which the combination of fluids can be effected; moreover, the spirit of the medium sympathises sometimes more, sometimes less, with the disincarnate spirits, who do, or do not, find in him the necessary fluidic power It is with this fluid as with that of magnetisers ; it is more or less powerful. There are persons whose animalised fluids are, in this respect, absolutely refractile; with others, the combination is only effected by an effort of their will ; while there are others, again, with whom the combination takes place naturally, and so easily that they are not even aware of it, and who thus serve as mediums without knowing it, as we have already said." (See, farther on, the chapter on Spontaneous Manifestations.)

Remark. - Magnetism is undoubtedly the principle of spirit-phenomena, but not in the way generally supposed ; for there are very powerful magnetisers who cannot move the smallest table, while there are persons, and even children, who cannot magnetise, and who yet, by only placing their fingers upon a heavy table, can make it move and therefore, as the medianimic power is not always proportioned to the magnetic power, it is evident that some other condition is required for the production of the phenomena.

20. Are persons who are called "electrical" to be regarded as mediums?

"Those persons draw to themselves the fluid necessary for the production of the phenomena, and are able to act without extraneous help. They are, therefore, not mediums, in the sense you attach to the word; but it is quite possible that a spirit may also assist them, and make use of their natural idiosyncrasy."

Remark. - It would seem to be with persons of this description as with somnambulists, who can act with or without the assistance of spirits. (See, in the chap. on Mediums, the article relating to Somnanbulic Mediums)

21. Is the spirit who acts on solid bodies, when he moves them, inside or outside their substance?

"He may be in or out of it; we have told you that matter is no obstacle to spirits; they penetrate everything; a portion of their perispirit identifies itself; so to say, with the object it penetrates."

22. How does a spirit manage to rap? does he make use of a material object?

"No more than he makes use of his arms to move a table. You are well aware that he has no hammer at his disposal. His tool is the combined fluid put in action by his will, whether he moves an object, or whether he raps upon it. When he moves a body, the light shows you the movements; when he raps, the air conveys to you the sound."

23. We can understand that it may be so, when he raps on a hard body; but how does he cause us to hear raps, or even articulate sounds, in the air?

"Since he can act on matter, he can act upon the air as well as upon a table. As to articulate sounds, he can imitate them like other sounds."

24. You tell us that a spirit does not make use of his hands in moving a table; nevertheless, in certain visual manifestations, we have seen hands appear, the fingers of which ran over the keyboard of a musical instrument, struck the keys, and produced audible sounds. Was there not, in such cases, every appearance of the movement of the keys being produced by the pressure of the fingers? - Is not this pressure as direct and as real as when we feel these fingers upon ourselves, and when these hands actually leave their impress on our skin?

"You cannot comprehend the nature of spirits, and their manner of acting, except by comparisons which give you but an incomplete idea of them; and you are wrong to be always wanting to assimilate their ways of proceeding with yours. Spirits can only work in the way that is in keeping with their organisation. Have we not told you that the fluid of the perispirit penetrates matter and identifies itself with the matter it penetrates, vitalising it, for the time being, with a factitious life? Well when the spirit places his fingers on the keys, he really places them there, and what is more, he moves them; but it is by no muscular force that he presses on the key; he vitalises the key, as he vitalises the table, and the key obeys his will, moves itself, and strikes the string. And there is, yet further, in some cases of this kind, something to be remarked which you will find it difficult to understand, viz., that there are spirits so little advanced, and so material, as compared with elevated spirits, that they still retain the illusions of terrestrial life, and imagine themselves to be acting as they did when in the body. They no more understand the real cause of the effects which they themselves produce, than the peasant understands the laws of acoustics by which he articulates. If you ask such spirits how they play on the piano, they will tell you that they strike it with their fingers, because they suppose themselves to do so; the effect is produced by them instinctively, without their knowing how, and yet it is really produced by an action of their will. When they cause you to hear words pronounced, they do it in the same way."

Remark. - From these explanations it appears that spirits can produce all the effects that we ourselves can produce, but that they do so by the use of means appropriate to their organisation. Certain forces, peculiar to themselves, replace the muscles which are necessary to us in our manipulations ; just as, with the dumb man, a gesture replaces the words which he is unable to articulate.

25. Among the phenomena adduced as proofs of occult power, there are some which are evidently Contrary to all the known laws of nature; does not doubt appear to be reasonable in regard to such?

"Man is far from knowing all the laws of nature ; if he knew them all, he would be superior to humanity. Every day disproves the pretensions of those who, believing they know everything, would assign limits to nature; and yet they remain as much puffed up as ever. By incessantly unveiling new mysteries, God warns man to distrust his own acquirements ; for a day will come when the science of the most learned will be confounded. * Have you not constantly before your eyes examples of bodies propelled by an impulsion capable of counteracting the force of gravity? - Does not a bullet, fired into the air, momentarily surmount that force? Poor human beings, who think yourselves so very wise, but whose absurd vanity is upset every instant, try to understand that you are, as yet, but very ignorant little creatures!"

75. These explanations are clear, categorical, and unambiguous; and from them we derive this very important information, viz., that the universal fluid, in which resides the principle of life, is the chief agent of spirit-manifestation, and that this agent receives its impulse from the spirit, whether the latter be incarnated or errant. This fluid, condensed, constitutes the perispirit, or, in other words, the semi-material envelope of the spirit. In the state of incarnation, the perispirit is united to the matter of the body ; in the erratic state, it is free. When the spirit is incarnated the substance of the perispirit is more or less bound, more or less adherent, if we may be allowed the expression. With certain persons, a sort of emanation of this fluid takes place, as the result of their Organisation; and it is this fact, strictly speaking which explains the peculiar qualities of physical mediums. The emission of this animalised fluid may be more or less abundant, its combination more or less easy; and mediums will accordingly be more or less powerful There is nothing to guarantee the permanence of the medianimic faculty; and the occasional loss of power by mediums is thus explained.

76. Let us here call in the aid of a comparison. When we desire to act physically upon a given point at a distance, it is our thought which determines the action ; but thought cannot of itself strike the blow : it must have an intermediary which it directs, such as a stick, a projectile, a current of air, etc. Observe, too, that thought does not act directly upon the stick; for, if the stick is not touched, it will not act. The source of thought, which is nothing else than the spirit incarnated within us, is united to the body by the perispirit ; but the thought can no more act upon the body without the perispirit, than it can act upon the stick without the body. Thought acts upon the perispirit, because the perispirit is the substance with which it has most affinity; the perispirit acts upon the muscles, the muscles seize the stick, and the stick strikes the mark. When the spirit is not incarnated, he requires an extraneous auxiliary; this auxiliary is the vital fluid, by the aid of which he renders the object apt to obey the impulsion of his will.

77. When an object is set in motion, carried away, or raised into the air, the spirit does not seize it, push it, or lift it, as we do with our hands ; the spirit, so to say, saturates it with his own fluid combined with that of the medium, and the object, being thus vivified for the moment, acts as a living being would act, with this difference, that, not having a will of its own, it follows the impulsion communicated to it by the will of the spirit.

As the vital fluid, under the action of the spirit, gives an artificial and momentary life to inert bodies, and as the perispirit is nothing else than this same vital fluid, it follows that, when the spirit is incarnated, it is the spirit that gives life to the body by means of the perispirit; and the perispirit remains united to the body, as long as the organisation of the latter permits; when separated from it, the body dies. If; therefore, instead of fashioning wood into a table, we should hew it into a statue, and if we then acted upon this statue as upon a table, we should have a statue moving, rapping, and responding to our action by movements and raps ,- we should, in short, have a statue vitalised for the moment with artificial life, and those who have so perseveringly sharpened their wits upon "talking-tables" might sharpen them upon talking-statues. But what a flood of light does this theory shed on a host of phenomena hitherto unexplained! Of how many allegories, how many mysterious legends, does it give us a rational explanation!

78. The incredulous go so far as to assert that the raising of a table, without a prop, is impossible, because it would be contrary to the law of gravitation. To this assertion we reply, first, that negation disproves nothing; next, that, the occurrence of a fact, if contrary to all known laws, would only prove that it occurs in virtue of some law as yet unknown to us. We shall give, further on, an explanation of this law; but our explanation will not be accepted by our adversaries, precisely because it is given by spirits who have quitted their terrestrial garments, instead of being given by spirits who wear frock-coats and sit in learned assemblies. If the spirit of Arago, in the flesh, had laid down this law, those objectors would have accepted it blindfold; but, being given by Arago after his decease, they reject it as fanciful, because according to them, Arago being dead, all is over with him. We will not pretend to alter their opinion; but, as this objection might prove a stumbling-block to some minds, we will try to answer it from the objector's Own standpoint, that is to say, leaving aside, for the moment, the theory of artificial vitalisation.

79. When a vacuum is produced under the receiver of an air-pump, it is held down so forcibly that it is impossible to raise it, owing to the weight of the superin- cumbent column of air. Let the air into the receiver, and it is raised with the greatest ease, because the air beneath it acts as a counterpoise to the air above it. If the air beneath the receiver be now compressed, it will acquire a density greater than that of the air above, and the receiver will be raised, in spite of gravitation ; and, if the current of air be rapid and violent, it will be sustained in space without any visible support, in the same way as are the little figures of pith that are made to dance on a jet of water. Why then should not the universal fluid, which is the constituent element of all matter, when accumulated around a table, have the property of diminishing or of augmenting its natural weight, just as air affects the receiver of the air-pump, and as hydrogen affects balloons, without any derogation from the law of gravitation? Are you aware of all the properties of all the forces of this fluid? No; then do not deny a fact because you are as yet unable to explain it.

80. Let us return to the theory of the movement of a table. If a spirit can raise a table by the means indicated, he can raise anything else: an arm-chair, for example. If he can raise an arm-chair, he can also, sufficient force being granted, raise it with some one sitting in it. We have thus the explanation of a phenomenon which has taken place hundreds of times, through Mr Home and through other persons; and, in order to prove that the spectators of these levitations were not the victims of an optical illusion, they have often made a mark on the ceiling with a pencil, and people have passed under them, while they were thus held up in the air.

81. We alluded, just now, to the possible augmentation of the weight of bodies; a phenomenon which sometimes occurs, and which is no more anomalous-than the resistance of the receiver under the pressure of the atmospheric column. Under the influence of certain mediums, we 'have seen objects, light in themselves, offer the same sort of resistance, and, immediately afterwards, yield to the slightest effort. In the experiment mentioned above, the receiver does not really weigh more or less, but it appears heavier or lighter, through the action of the exterior agent to which it is submitted; it is probably the same with the table, which has always the same intrinsic weight (for its mass has not increased), but an extraneous agent opposes its movement, and this agent may very well be the surrounding fluids by which it is pene- trated, just as the air is the agent which augments or diminishes the apparent weight of the receiver. Try the experiment of the air-pump in the presence of an ignorant peasant, who does not understand that it is the air (invisible, and therefore incomprehensible by him), which acts, and you would have little difficulty in persuading him that the devil has something to do with it.

It may, perhaps, be said that, the vital fluid being imponderable, its accumulation cannot augment the weight of an object agreed ; but let it be understood that, in using the word accumulation, we did so by way of comparison, and not as implying similarity between that fluid and air. You say it is imponderable. Be it so; nevertheless, nothing proves this to be the case ; its essential nature is unknown to us, and we are far from being cognisant of all its properties. Before experiment had proved the weight of the air, we had no suspicion of the effects of that weight. Electricity is also ranged among the imponderable fluids; nevertheless, a body may be kept down by an electric current, so as to offer very great resistance to any one who would raise it, and will thus appear to have become heavier. Because, in the phenomenon referred to, we cannot see any means of support, it would be very illogical to assert that no support exists; for a spirit may make use of levers unknown to us. Nature shows us, daily, that her power goes beyond the testimony of our senses.

We can only explain, as the result of a similar action, another singular phenomenon often witnessed by us, viz., that of a young and delicate woman lifting, with a couple of fingers, as easily as she would a feather, a robust, heavy man, together with the chair on which he sits.

The intermittent action of this power, moreover, affords additional proof of its being due to a cause independent of the person by whom it is manifested.

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