Apparitions - Theoretic explanations of apparitions - Globular spirits - Theory of hallucination.
100. Of all spirit-manifestations the most interesting, without doubt, are those
by which spirits are those by which spirits are able to render themselves visible. We
shall see, by the explanation of these phenomena, that there is nothing supernatural in
them, any more than in the others; but we will first introduce the answers that have
been given to us by spirits on this subject.
1. Can spirits render themselves visible?
" Yes, especially when you are asleep; but there are who see them while awake,
though is less common. "
Remark. - While the body reposes, the spirit disengages itself from its material
bonds; it is then more free, and can more easily see other spirits, with whom it enters
into communication. A dream is only a reminiscence of this state; when we remember
nothing, we say we have had no dream, but the soul has none the less had its eyes open,
and enjoyed its liberty. We shall here treat especially of apparitions seen while the seer
is awake. *
2. Do spirits who manifest themselves to the sight belong to one class rather
"No, they belong to all classes, the highest as well as the lowest."
3. Have all spirits the power of manifesting themselves visibly?
"Yes, but they have not always the permission or the wish to do so."
4. When spirits thus manifest themselves, what is their object?
"That depends upon their nature; their object may be good or bad."
5. What! do you assert that permission may be given when their object is a bad
The intention of the spirit may be bad, but the result may be useful."
"In such cases the apparition is permitted as a trial for those to whom it appears.
6. What can be the object of spirits in showing themselves when their intentions
"The desire to frighten, or sometimes to take revenge."
-What is the object of spirits who come with good intentions?
"To console those who regret them; to prove that they still exist, and are still
near you; to give good counsels; and sometimes to ask help for themselves."
7. What harm would there be, if the possibility of seeing spirits were permanent
and general? Would not this be a means of removing doubts from the minds of the
"Men being constantly environed by spirits, the incessant view of the latter
would trouble them, would put them out in their work, and would take from them, in
most cases, their freedom of action ; thinking themselves alone, men act more freely.
As to the incredulous, they have means enough of conviction, if they would but profit
by them. You know that there are people who have seen, and yet who do not believe
any the more on that account, for they speak of what they have seen as illusions. Do
not vex yourselves about such people; God has them in His keeping."
Remark. - It would be as inconvenient to find oneself incessantly in the
presence of spirits, as to see the air which environs us, or the myriads of microscopic
animals around us and upon us. Hence we may conclude that what God does is well
done, and that He knows what is good for us, better than we do.
8. If there be inconvenience in seeing spirits, why is it permitted in some cases ?
"It is to give you proof that all does not die with the body, and that the soul
preserves its individuality after death. The passing glimpse thus afforded is enough to
give this proof, and to attest the presence of friends near you, but is attended with no
9. Is the view of spirits more frequent in worlds which are more advanced than
"The nearer man approaches to the spiritual nature, the more easily he enters
into conscious relationship with spirits; it is the grossness of your envelope which
renders the perception of ethereal beings rare and difficult."
10. Is it reasonable to be frightened at the apparition of a spirit?
"Any one who reflects must see that a spirit, whatever it may be, is less
dangerous than a person in the flesh. Spirits go about everywhere; and there is no need
of seeing them, to know that you have them at your elbow. If a spirit wishes to hart
you, lie can do so without showing himself, and with greater certainty when unseen; he
is not dangerous because he is a spirit, but he may be so through the subtle influence
that he is able to exercise over your thoughts, in turning you from the right path, and
urging you to evil."
Remark. - Persons who are afraid when alone, or in the dark, rarely understand
the cause of their fear they could not tell you what they are afraid of, but, most
assuredly, there is more to be feared in meeting with men than with spirits, for a
malefactor is more dangerous while in the flesh than after his death. A lady of our
acquaintance, saw, one evening, in her bedroom, an apparition so lifelike that she
thought some-body had entered the room, and her first feeling was one of fear. Having
ascertained that no one in the flesh was in the room, she said to herself: ''It seems that it
was only a spirit: so I can sleep in peace."
11. Can a person to whom a spirit appears enter into conversation with him?
"Certainly, and, moreover, this is what you should always do under such
circumstances. You should ask the spirit who he is, what he wants, and what you can
do to be of service to him. If the spirit is unhappy and suffering, he will be soothed by
your commiseration; if he is a kindly spirit, he may have come with the intention of
giving you good counsel."
- How, in such a case, can the spirit answer?
"Sometimes he answers by articulate sounds, like a living person, but, more
frequently, there is transmission of thought."
12. When spirits appear with wings, have they wings in reality, or are these
wings only a symbolic representation?
"Spirits have no wings ; they have no need of them, because, from their spiritual
capabilities, they are able to transport themselves everywhere. They assume any
appearance they choose, according to the effect they desire to produce on the person to
whom they show themselves. Sometimes they appear in ordinary clothing; sometimes
enveloped in flowing drapery; sometimes with wings, &c., as attributes of the category
of spirits which they represent."
13. Are the persons we see in dreams always those whom they seem to be by
"They are almost always the very persons whom your spirit has been to see, or
who come to find you, during your sleep."
14. Could not mocking spirits assume the appearance of persons who are dear to
us, and so lead us astray?
"They may assume fantastic appearances, to amuse themselves at your expense;
but there are some things that they are not permitted to meddle with."
15. Thought itself being a kind of evocation, we can well understand that it may
induce the presence of a spirit; but why does it so frequently happen that the people of
whom we think most often, and whom we most ardently desire to see again, never appear to us in our dreams, while, on the contrary, we
constantly see people who are indifferent to us, and whom we never think of?
"Spirits have not always the power to manifest them-selves to your view, even
in a dream, notwithstanding your desire to see them; causes which are independent of
their will may prevent their doing so. Moreover, this often occurs as a trial, which your
most ardent desire is powerless to escape. As to persons whom you regard with indif-
ference, although, you do not think of them, it is quite possible that they may think you.
Besides, you can form no idea of the relations of the world of spirits; you meet there
with a host of acquaintances, old and new, of whom you have no remembrance during
your waking hours."
Remark. - When there is no confirmation of visions or apparitions, we may
fairly set them down as hallucinations; but, when they are confirmed by events, we
cannot attribute them to imagination. Such are, for example, the apparitions so often
seen, sometimes in a dream, sometimes in the waking state, of persons of whom we had
not been thinking, and who come at the moment of their death, to show us, by various
signs, the circumstances of their decease, of which we had no previous idea. Horses
have been often found to rear, and refuse to on, in the presence of apparitions which
frightened their riders also. If imagination counts for something in the human subject,
we can hardly suppose horses to be troubled by it. Again, if the images that we see in
dreams were always the reflex of the preoccupations of our waking hours, it would not
explain the fact, that we often never dream at all of what we think of most frequently
16. Why do certain kinds of visions occur most frequently during illness?
"They occur as frequently in perfect health ; but the material bonds are relaxed
during illness, when the weakness of the body leaves the spirit more free ; so that it
then enters more easily into communication with other spirits.
17. Spontaneous apparitions appear to be more frequent in some countries than
in others. Is it that some races are better endowed than others for receiving this kind of
"Apparitions, noises, all kinds of manifestations, in short, occur equally, all over
the earth; but they present distinctive characteristics according to the peoples among
whom they occur. Among those nations, for example, where writing is in little use, you
will not find writing mediums; elsewhere, they abound. Again, noises and movements
of objects are more frequent than intelligent communications, because these last are
least esteemed, and least sought after."
18. How is it that apparitions generally take place during the night? - Is it owing
to the effect of silence and darkness on the imagination?
"It is for the same reason that you see stars during the night, and do not see them
during the day. A strong light effaces an apparition of slight force, but it is an error to
suppose that night has anything to do with the matter. Interrogate those who have seen
apparitions, and you will find that the greater number of them have occurred during the
Remark. Apparitions are much more frequent and more general than is usually
supposed; but many persons do not speak of them from fear of ridicule, while others
attribute them to illusion. If facts of this nature appear to be more common among
certain peoples, it is because these facts, true or false, are more carefully recorded in the
traditions of those peoples, multiplied, as well as amplified, by the taste for the
marvellous to which certain localities are more or less predisposed by their aspect, and
other natural conditions; the credulity of the inhabitants dressing tip the commonest
occurrences in the garb of the supernatural. The silence of sparsely-peopled regions,
the abruptness of ravines, the moaning of the wind through the trees, the roar of the
tempest, mountain echoes, the fantastic shapes of clouds, shadows, mirages, all tend to
excite illusions in the minds of the rude and the unlettered, who recount, with entire
belief, what they have seen, or fancy they have seen. But side by side with fiction, is a
reality; the establishing of the latter, freed from the puerile and debasing accessories
added by the former, is one of the most important results of the serious study of spiritist
19. Does the seeing of spirits take place in the normal state or only in the
"It may take place ttnder perfectly normal conditions; nevertheless, people who see them are often in a peculiar state, bordering on trance,
which gives them a kind of second-sight." (See The Spirits' Book, N° 447.)
20. Do those persons who see spirits see them with their eyes?
"They think they do; but, in reality, it is their soul that sees, for they can see
them with their eyes shut."
21. How does a spirit make himself visible?
"As in all other manifestations, by employing certain properties of the perispirit,
which may be made to undergo a Variety of modifications, at the will of the spirit."
22. Can that which is the spirit himself be made visible, or can it only be
manifested by the perispirit?
"To you, in your materialised state, spirits can only manifest themselves with the
aid of their semi-material envelope, which is the intermediary that enables them to act
on your senses. It is with this envelope that they sometimes appear to you under the
human form or any other; whether in your dreams or in your waking state, whether in
the light or in the dark."
23. Is it by the condensation of the fluid of the perispirit that the spirit renders
himself visible ?
"Condensation is not the right word, but rather a term of comparison which may
aid you to form an approximative idea of the phenomenon; for, there is, in reality, no
condensation. The combination of fluids produces, in the perispirit, a peculiar
condition, to which nothing in your experience offers any analogy, and which renders it
perceptible by you."
24. Are the spirits who appear to us inaccessible to the touch ; could they not be
laid hold of?
"When in their normal state, you could no more seize them than you could seize
a shadow: but, they can, nevertheless, make themselves felt by your sense of touch, and
leave traces of their presence. They Can even, in certain cases, render themselves
tangible for a short time ; which proves that there is something material in common
between them and you."
25. Are all persons so constituted as to be able to see spirits?
"Yes, during sleep; but not in the waking state. In sleep, the soul sees without
any intermediary; while you are awake, it is always influenced more or less by your
organs. This is why the conditions are not quite the same when you are awake as when
you are asleep."
26. Whence comes the faculty of seeing spirits while we are awake?
"That faculty depends on the Organisation, and on the greater or less degree of
facility with which the fluid of the seer combines with that of the spirit. It is, therefore,
not sufficient for the spirit to desire to manifest himself; it is also necessary that he
should find the requisite aptitude in the person by whom he wishes to be seen."
-Can this faculty be developed by exercise?
"Yes, like all other faculties ; but it is one of those of which it is well to await
the natural development, for fear of Over-exciting the imagination. A general and
permanent sight of spirits is exceptional, and does not appertain to the normal state of
27. Is it possible to obtain the apparition of a spirit by summoning him to
"Sometimes, but very rarely; apparitions are almost always spontaneous. To
evoke with authority, you must be endowed with a special faculty."
28. Can spirits render themselves visible under any other than the human form?
"The human form is the normal form ; a spirit can vary the appearance of this
form, but it is always the human type." *
- Cannot they manifest themselves under the appearance of a flame?
"They can produce flames and lights, as they can any other appearances, in order
to attest their presence; but these appearances are not the spirits themselves. A flame is often only a mirage, or an
emanation of the perispirit, of which, in all such cases, it is only a part : the perispirit
only appears, in its entirety, in visions."
29. What are we to think of the idea which attributes the Will-o'-the-Wisp to the
presence of souls or spirits?
"Such an idea is mere superstition ; the result of ignorance. The physical cause
of the Will-o'-the-Wisp is well known."
-Was the blue flame, said to have been seen on the head of Servius Tullius,
when a child, a fable or a reality?
"It was a reality, produced by a familiar spirit who desired to warn his mother.
The mother, a seeing medium, perceived the radiation of her child's spirit-guide. All
seeing mediums do not see with the same degree of Vision, just as your writing
mediums do not all write the same thing. While this mother saw only a flame, another
medium might have seen the spirit's body."
30. Could spirits present themselves under the form of animals?
"That may happen but it is only very inferior spirits who assume such a form. It
could not, in any case, be more than a momentary appearance: for it would be absurd to
believe that any veritable animal could be the incarnation of a spirit. Animals are
always animals and nothing else."
Remark. - Superstition alone could suggest the idea that certain animals are
animated by spirits. Only a very gullible or moon-struck, 'imagination could see
anything supernatural in the peculiarities some-times displayed by animals; but fear
often makes people see things that have no real existence. Fear, however, is not the only
source of this idea we knew a lady, a very intelligent person in other respects, who had
an unbounded affection for a large black cat, because she believed it to be of a super-
animal nature. This lady had never heard of spiritism; if she had known anything of it,
she would have known that such a metamorphosis is impossible.
* For farther details regarding the state of the spirit during sleep, see, in The Spirits’ Book, the
chapter on the Emancipation of the Soul, N° 409.
Theoretic explanation of Apparitions.
101. The most ordinary mode of apparition is that which takes place in sleep,
through dreams; such apparitions are called visions. It does not enter into the plan of our present work to examine all the
peculiarities that are presented by dreams ; we will merely state that they may be: - the
actual sight of objects present or absent; a retrospective view of the past; and, in some
exceptional cases, a presentiment of the future. Dreams are also, in many cases,
allegorical pictures which spirits bring before our eyes ; the good, in order to give us
useful warnings and salutary counsels; the imperfect, in order to lead us into error, or to
flatter our passions. The theory we are about to place before the reader is applicable to
dreams, as it is to all cases of apparitions. (See The Spirits' Book, N°. 400; et seq.). As
for what is vulgarly called " the interpretation of dreams," we should consider it to be
an insult to the common sense of our readers, were we to attempt to point out its
102. - Apparitions, properly so called, take place when we are awake, and in the
full enjoyment of our faculties. They are often vague and undecided ; usually presenting
themselves under a vaporous and diaphanous form. At first, in many cases, only a
whitish light is perceived, the outlines of which become gradually more distinct ; at
other times, the form of the apparition is clearly defined, every feature being plainly
seen. In such cases the air and aspect of the figure before us are the same as those of
the spirit when in the flesh.
A spirit being able to assume any and every appearance, he presents himself
under that by which he can best obtain recognition, if such be his desire. Although, as a
spirit, he has no corporeal infirmity, he can appear as if maimed, lame, humpbacked,
wounded, or scarred, should he consider this to be necessary to his identification.
Aesop, for example, is not deformed as a spirit; but if we evoked him as Aesop, though
he may have had many subsequent incarnations, he would show himself as Aesop, with
his ugliness, his humped back, and his traditional costume. It is worthy of notice that,
while the head, trunk, and arms, are always clearly defined, the lower limbs except
under particular circumstances, are less clearly shown, and that apparitions rarely walk, but seem to
glide, like shadows. Their costume generally consists of a drapery, terminating in long
floating folds ; their hair is wavy and graceful ; such, at least, is the usual appearance of
spirits who have retained none of their terrestrial peculiarities. But ordinary spirits,
those whom we have known, generally preserve the costume that they wore in the latter
part of their earthly existence. They often show themselves with appearances indicative
of their degree of elevation ; with a halo or wings, for example, in the case of those
whom we may consider as "angels ;" while others present themselves with the appear-
ance of objects referring to their terrestrial occupations. Thus, a warrior may appear
with his armour, a learned man with his books, an assassin with a dagger, &c. Spirits of
ugh degree have a beautiful countenance, a serene and noble air; while the degraded
have a fierce and bestial expression, and often show traces of the crimes they have
committed, or of the punishments they have committed, or of the punishments they
have endured. This question of spirit-aspect, with its various accessories, is perhaps
what excites most astonishment among the uninitiated. We shall return to this subject
in a special chapter, because of its bearing upon other very important phenomena.
103. We have said that apparitions frequently present a vaporous appearance; in
certain cases, we might compare them to an image reflected in a sheet of glass ; an
image. which, notwithstanding its distinctness, does not prevent our seeing through it
the objects which are behind the glass. It is thus that seeing mediums generally perceive
them. They seem to be coming and going, entering the room or leaving it, moving about
among the persons who are present in the flesh, listening with interest to their conver-
sation, and taking, at least in the case of the commoner sort of spirits, an active part in
all that is going on around them. They are seen to approach a particular person,
suggesting ideas, endeavouring to influence him, or con-soling him if sorrowful ; others
show themselves scornful or mocking; all appear to be pleased or disappointed, according to the results they
achieve; in a word, the world around us seems to be a counterpart of the corporeal
world. Such is the hidden world which surrounds us, and in the midst of which we live
without suspecting it, just as we live, without perceiving it, in the very midst of the
countless myriads of the microscopic world. The microscope has revealed to us the
world of the infinitely little, of which we were formerly unaware; spiritism, aided by
seeing mediums, has revealed to us the world of spirits, showing us that the latter are
one of the active forces of nature. By the aid of seeing mediums, we have been enabled
to study the invisible world, and to acquaint ourselves with its habits ; as a nation of
blind men might study the visible world, with the aid of those who have eyes. (See, in
the chapter on Mediums, the article concerning Seeing Mediums.)
104. Sometimes a spirit, who desires or who is able to appear, assumes a form
still more defined, and having all the appearance of a solid body, so as to produce a
complete illusion, causing us to believe that we have a corporeal body before us. In
some cases, and tinder certain circumstances, this apparent tangibility becomes a
reality; that is to say, we can touch the spirit, handle it, and feel the same resistance, the
same warmth, as we should feel in a fleshly body; but this does not hinder it from
vanishing with the celerity of lightning. In such cases, it is not the eye alone which
attests the reality of their presence, but also the sense of touch; and though we might
attribute a merely visual apparition to illusion, or to a sort of fascination, we cannot do
so when we are able to seize and handle the apparition, or when the latter seizes and
touches us. The phenomena of tangible apparitions are the rarest of all; but those which
have appeared, in these latter days, through the influence of certain powerful mediums,
confirm and explain many historical statements in regard to persons who, in former
days, have shown themselves, after death, with all the appearances of reality. For the
rest, as we have said however extraordinary such phenomena may be, their marvellousness disappears when we know the means by which they are produced ; for
we then see that, so far from being a derogation from the laws of nature, they are only
another application of those laws.
105. The perispirit, in virtue of its nature, is invisible in its normal state, like a
multitude of fluids which are known to exist, but which we have never seen ; but it can
also, like certain fluids, undergo modifications which render it perceptible to the sight,
sometimes by a kind of condensation, sometimes by a changed arrangement of its
molecules; and it is then that it appears in a vaporous form. What, for want of a better
term, and merely as a comparison, we may term the condensation of the perispirit, gives
to the latter for the time being, all the properties of a solid and tangible body; but the
perispirit, thus condensed, can instantly resume its ethereal and invisible state. We may
understand something of this effect by Comparing the perispirit to aqueous vapour,
which changes from an invisible state to that of mist, becomes liquid or solid, and again
becomes invisible. 'These different states of its perispirit are deter-mined by the will of
the spirit, and do not result from the action of an exterior physical cause, as is the case
in the changes which take place in the state of gases. When a spirit appears, it is
because he puts his perispirit into the necessary condition to render it visible; but the
mere effort of his will does not suffice to this end, for the modification of the perispirit
is effected by its combination with the personal fluid of the medium, which
combination is not always possible; a fact which explains why spirits are not generally
visible. Evidently, therefore, it is not enough that the spirit desires to show himself; it
is not enough that the mortal desires to see him it is necessary that the fluids of the
incarnate and disincarnate spirits should be able to enter into the requisite combination,
that there should be a sort of affinity between them, and, probably, that the emission of
fluid from the mortal should be sufficiently abundant to enable the spirit to effect the
transformation of his perispirit. It is probable, also, that
there are other conditions, of the operation of which we are still in ignorance; and,
moreover, it is necessary that the spirit should have received permission to make
himself visible to a given person; a permission which is not always accorded.
106. Another property of the perispirit, resulting from its ethereal nature, is its
power of penetration. No species of matter constitutes an obstacle to its passage; it
penetrates all material bodies as easily as light penetrates transparent ones." No
enclosure can shut out spirits; they visit the prisoner in his dungeon, as easily as the
inhabitant of the open country.
107. Apparitions seen in the waking state are neither new nor rare. They have
occurred in all ages; history recounts a vast number of them; but we need not go back
so far, for they are very common in our own times. They are especially frequent in
connection with the death of persons who, being absent, come to Visit their relations or
friends at the moment of departure. They often appear to have no determined object;
but it may be affirmed that spirits who thus manifest themselves are usually drawn by
sympathy. There are very few persons who are not cognisant or unquestionably
authentic facts of this character.
108. We will add to the preceding considerations the examination of some optical effects which have given rise to the singular system of globular spirits. The air is not always of an absolute limpidity, and there are conditions under which the currents of aeriform molecules and their agitation produced by the heat are perfectly visible. Some persons have taken that for masses of spirits moving around in space ; the mere mention of this opinion is all that is necessary to refute it ; but there is another species of illusion, no less absurd, against which it is equally well to be forewarned.
The aqueous humor of the eye offers points, scarcely perceptible, that have lost their transparency. These points are like opaque bodies in suspension in the liquid, and whose movements they follow. They produce in the air, and at a distance, from the effects of enlargement and refraction, the appearance of small disks varying from one to ten millimetres in diameter, and which seem to swim in the atmosphere. We have seen persons take these disks for spirits, who follow and accompany them everywhere, and in their enthuse asm take for figures the shades of irisation, which is almost as rational as to see a figure in the moon. A simple observation, furnished by these people them selves, would bring them to the land of reality.
These disks, or medallions, they say, not only accompany them, but follow all their movements ; they go to the right, to the left, up, down, or stop, according to the movement of the head : that is not astonishing, since the seat of the appearance is in the globe of the eye ; it should follow all its movements. If they were spirits, it must be admitted that they would be confined to entirely too mechanical a part for free and intelligent beings — a very tedious part, even for inferior spirits, and certainly entirely incompatible with our ideas of superior spirits. Some, it is true, think the black points bad spirits. These disks, the same as the black spots, have an undulatory movement which never varies from a certain angle, and their not rigidly following the line of vision adds to the illusion. The reason is very simple. The opaque points of the aqueous humor, primary cause of the phenomenon, are, as we have said, held, as it were, in suspension, and have always a tendency to descend ; when they ascend, it is in consequence of the movement of the eye from low to high ; but, after reaching a certain distance, if the eye is fixed, the disks descend of them selves, then stop. Their mobility is extreme, for an imperceptible movement of the eye . is sufficient to make them change their direction and traverse rapidly the whole extent of the arc in the space where the object is produced. So long as it is not proved that an image possesses a spontaneous and intelligent movement of its own, there can be seen in it but a simple optical or physiological phenomenon. It is the same with the sparks, which are sometimes produced in sheafs and bundles, more or less compact, by the contraction of the muscles of the eye, and which are, probably, owing to the phosphorescent electricity of the iris, as they are usually limited to the circumference of the disk of that organ. Similar illusions can only be the result of incomplete observation. Whoever may have seriously studied the nature of spirits by all the means practical science gives, will understand their puerility. While we combat the theories by which the manifestations are attacked, when these theories are based on ignorance of facts, we should also seek to destroy the false ideas which exhibit more enthusiasm than reflection, and which, in that very way, do more harm than good with the skeptical, already so disposed to look for the ridiculous.
109. The perispirit, as we have seen, is the foundation of all spirit-
manifestations, to which the knowledge of this integral part of a spirit's personality
gives us the key; a key which, let us never forget, has been furnished by the spirits
themselves, for it is by them that the existence, nature, and functions of the perispirit
have been made known to us. This knowledge enables us to understand the action of
spirits on matter, the movement of inert bodies, the mode of production of aural, visual,
and tangible phenomena; it will also be found equally available for the explanation of
the other phenomena which we shall have to examine, before we proceed to the study
of spirit-communications properly so called, and which we shall comprehend all the
more easily with the aid of the preliminary knowledge we shall thus have acquired of
the general principles on which they rest.
110. We are far from regarding the theory which we are about to set forth, as
being absolutely true in every minute particular, or as giving an exhaustive explanation
of the subjects which which it deals. The instructions we have already derived from our
spirit-teachers will doubtless be completed or rectified by future studies; but, however incomplete or imperfect our
theory at this time, it will at least assist us to comprehend the possibility of certain
facts, by showing that they result from the action of natural causes, and are therefore in
no way supernatural. Regarded as a hypothesis, it is one the reasonableness and
probability of which cannot be denied, and which may fairly claim to be worth all the
arguments employed by our opponents to prove that there is nothing but illusion,
phantasmagoria, and deception, in spirit-phenomena.
Theory of Hallucination.
111. Those who do not admit that there is an incorporeal and invisible world,
fancy they can explain everything by the word hallucination. The definition of this
word is well known ; it means the error, the illusion, of one who believes himself to
experience perceptions which he does not experience in reality; it comes from the Latin
word, hallucinari, to err ; but the learned have not yet, so far as we know, explained the
cause of the fact expressed by this word.
As optics and physiology appear to have no secrets for their devotees, how is it
that the latter have not yet explained the nature and source of the images, which, under
certain circumstances, present themselves to our consciousness? They would fain
explain everything by the laws of matter; let them then deduce from those laws a theory
of hallucination, capable of giving a rational explanation of the facts comprised under
112. The cause of dreams has never yet been explained by science, which
attributes them to an effect of the imagination, but does not tell us what imagination is,
nor how it produces the clear and distinct images which sometimes appear to us.
Scientific men are too much given to explaining an unknown thing by another thing as
little known, leaving the problems they deal with very much as they were. It is often
said that dreams are a recollection of the occupations of our waking state; but, even admitting this solution, which is no solution at all, there still remains the question, what
is the magic mirror which thus preserves the traces of things, and, above all, how are
we to explain the visions we sometimes see of real things, never seen by us in our
waking state, and about which we never thought? Spiritism alone can give us the key
to this strange phenomenon, which is only overlooked because it is so very common,
like all the other wonders of nature that we are so apt to trample under foot.
The votaries of science have disdained to trouble them-selves about
hallucinations; but whether real or not, they nevertheless constitute an order of
phenomena that physiology ought to be able to explain, under pain of avowing its
insufficiency. If; some of these days, a scientific man should undertake to give, not a
mere definition, but a physiological explanation, of this class 6f phenomena, we shall
see how far his theory covers the whole ground; he must not omit the very common
facts of the apparition of persons at the moment of their death, and he must show us the
source of the coincidence of the apparition with the death of the person. If this
coincidence had occurred but once, we might attribute it to chance; but the fact is of
frequent recurrence, and chance is not recurrent. If the person who saw the apparition
were already possessed with the idea that the party appearing was about to die, we
might attribute the apparition to imagination ; but it generally happens that the person
seen is not in the thoughts of the seer at the moment of the apparition, so that
imagination has nothing to do with it. Still less can the imagination theory explain the
presentation of the circumstances of a death, the idea of which never entered our heads.
Will the partisans of hallucination assume that the soul (supposing they admit the
existence of the soul) has moments of over-excitement, and of abnormal power? If so,
we agree with them, for this may be the case ; but, when what is seen is proved by
events to have been real, we must drop the theory of illusion. If the soul, in its
excitement, sees an object which is not present, it must transport itself to that object; and if our soul can transport itself to an absent person, why should not
the soul of an absent person transport itself to us? Let those who adopt the theory of
hallucination explain all this; and let them not forget that a theory which is opposed by
facts is necessarily false or incomplete.
While awaiting the explanation demanded, we ask attention to the following
considerations on the subject.
113. Facts prove that there are veritable apparitions, which spiritism is perfectly
competent t6 account for, and which can only be denied by those who admit of nothing
beyond the bodily organism but, besides real visions, do what are called hallucinations
also occur? We reply, that such do undoubtedly occur. What, then, is the source of the
latter ? It is the spirits themselves who assist us to explain this point, for our
explanation appears to us to be fully implied in the answers given by spirits to the
following questions: -
-Are visions always real, or are they not sometimes the effect of hallucination ?
When one sees in a dream or otherwise, the devil, for example, or any other fantastic
appearance which has no real existence, is not such an appearance a product of the
"Yes, sometimes, in the case of persons whose minds are excited by stories
which leave a strong impression, and which they carry in their memory until they fancy
they see what has no real existence. But we have already said that a spirit, with the aid
of its semi-material envelope, can assume any and every form for manifestation. Thus,
a mocking spirit can appear with horns and claws, if it pleases him so to play with your
credulity ; just as a good spirit can show himself with wings and a radiant
-Can we regard as apparitions the faces and other images which often present
themselves when we are halt asleep, or when we merely close our eyes?
"As soon as the senses grow torpid, the spirit disengages itself, and is able to
see, whether far or near, what it could not see with the bodily eyes. The images then
seen are frequently visions, but they may also be an effect of the impressions that the view of
Certain objects has left on the brain, which retains traces of them as it does of sounds.
The spirit, when disengaged, sees, in its own brain, these imprints which are fixed
therein as in a daguerreotype. From their variety and their intermingling are formed
fantastic but fugitive wholes, which disperse again almost immediately, in spite of the
efforts made to retain them. It is to an analogous cause that you must attribute many
fantastic apparitions which have nothing of reality in them, and which frequently occur
It is certain that memory is the result of impressions preserved by the brain ; by
what singular arrangement is it that these impressions, so numerous and so varied, are
not inextricably confused? That is an impenetrable mystery; but it is not more strange
than the crossing of the sonorous undulations which pass athwart each other in the air,
and vet are none the less distinct. In a healthy and well-organised brain, these
impressions are clear and precise ; In a state less favourable, they become faint and
confused, which produces loss of memory and confusion of ideas a result that appears
less extraordinary, if we admit, with phrenologists, a special destination of each part,
and even of each fibre, of the brain.
Images which come to the brain through the eyes leave in them an impression,
so that we may remember a picture, as though we had it before us; but this is always an
act of memory, for we do not see the object thus present to our mental eye. In the state
of emancipation, the soul looks into the brain, and finds those images therein ; those,
especially, which have struck it the most, according to its personal idiosyncrasy,
prepossessions or disposition. Thus, it finds again, in its brain, the impress of religious
events, of diabolical, dramatic, or worldly scenes, the figures of fantastic animals,
which it has seen at some previous period in paintings. or has heard or read of for
recitals also leave their impress. Thus the soul really sees; but what it sees is only an
image daguerreotyped on the brain.
In the normal state, these images are fugitive and ephemeral, because the cerebral
organs perform their functions freely; but in illness, the brain being always more or less
enfeebled, the equilibrium of the organs is lost. some of them retaining their activity,
while others are partially paralysed : hence the permanence of certain images, which are
not effaced, as when in a normal state, by the pre-occupations of external life. This is
veritable hallucination, and the determining cause of fixed ideas.
It will be seen that we have explained this anomaly by a well-known
physiological law, that of cerebral impression but we have also had to assume the
intervention of the soul. If the materialists have not yet been able to give a satisfactory
solution of this phenomenon, it is because they do not admit of a soul ; and they will
say that our explanation is worth nothing, because we assume the very point which is
contested. Contested by whom? - By them; but admitted by the immense majority of
mankind, ever since men have lived upon the earth ; and the negation of the few cannot
be accepted as authoritative.
Is our explanation a sufficient one? - We give it for what it is worth, for want of
another, and as one which may he regarded as a convenient hypothesis, while waiting
for a better one. Does it explain all cases of vision? Certainly not ; but we defy
physiologists to give, from their point of view, any explanation that can do this; for,
when they have pronounced their sacramental words, excitement and imagination, they
have not advanced the solution of the problem a single step. Therefore, as all theories of
hallucination are insufficient to explain all the facts referred to, it follows that those
facts imply something else besides hallucination properly so called. Our theory would
fail if we applied it to all cases of visions, because there are cases which contradict it ;
but it may, nevertheless, be true in regard to some kinds of visions.