Allan Kardec

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The language of signs ; raps and tiltings - Alphabetical typtology

139. The first intelligent manifestations were obtained by raps and tiltings, or typtology (from the Greek ... - I strike). This primitive method, indicative of the infancy of the art of communication, was of very narrow application, and those who employed it were restricted, in their communications, to monosyllabical replies, to a mere "yes" or "no," signified by the number of raps previously agreed upon, as the representation of those words. As already observed, this method was subsequently improved upon. Answers were obtained in two ways, with the aid of mediums possessing the aptitude required for physical manifestations; viz., by the movement of a table, and by raps which seem to be produced in the substance of the wood, in the walls, or in the air. The first of these consists in the movement of the table, which tilts itself up on one side, and then falls back, striking the floor with its foot. To obtain this effect, the medium has Only to place his hands on the edge of the table ; but, if he desires to communicate with a particular spirit, he must evoke him, as otherwise he will have the first comer who happens to present himself, or the spirit who is in the habit of coming. It having been agreed, for example, that one tilt shall mean " no," and three tilts " yes " (or any other numbers, this being indifferent), the spirit is asked the desired questions (we shall hereafter allude to the questions which it is wise to abstain from asking). The inconvenience of typtology consists in the brevity of the answers obtained, or "no." Supposing we asked the spirit : What do you want? he could only answer us by an entire sentence. It is therefore necessary to say: Do you desire such and such a thing? - " No." - Do you desire some other thing ? - "Yes." And so on.

140. We would remark that, in the employment of this method of communication, the spirit frequently has recourse to a sort of mimicry; that is to say, he expresses the energy of affirmation or negation by the force and character of the tilts or raps. He often expresses, in the same way, the nature of the sentiments which animate him: violence, by abruptness of movement; anger and impatience, by striking hard and repeated blows, like some one who stamps angrily on the ground; occasionally he upsets the table. A polite and kindly spirit, at the beginning and the end of a séance, moves the table as though making a bow; if desirous of addressing himself directly to one of the persons present, he pushes the table towards him, gently or roughly, according to the sentiment by which he is animated. This is, properly speaking, sematology, or the language of signs, as typtology is the language of raps. Here is a remarkable example of spontaneous sematology: -

A gentleman of our acquaintance, being one day in his drawing-room, where several persons were holding a seance, received a letter from us. While he was reading it, the little table, used by him for spiritist experimentation, suddenly moved up to him. Having finished reading our letter, he went towards another table at the farther end of the room, and laid the letter upon it. The little table followed him, and went up to the table upon which he had laid the letter. Surprised at this occurrence, our friend bethought him that there must be some connexion between the movements of the little table and the letter; he inquired the name of the spirit who had moved the table, and a name was given which is that of our familiar spirit. The gentleman having informed us of this circumstance, we, in our turn, begged the spirit to tell us the motive of the visit he had made to our friend ; whereupon, this reply was given -"It is natural that I should go and see those with whom you are in communication, in order that I may, if necessary, give to them, as well as to you, such advice as may be useful."

It is evident that the spirit wished to attract the attention of the gentleman in question, and sought for some means of manifesting his presence. A dumb man would hardly have managed better.

141. Typtology was speedily improved by the adoption of a more extended method of communication, which we may designate as alphabetical typtology. This consists in designating the letters of the alphabet by tilts; words, sentences, and even long communications are thus obtained. According to one method, the table makes as many tilts as are needed to indicate each letter ; that is to say, one tilt for a, two for b, and so on; meanwhile, some one of the party writes down each letter as indicated by the number of tilts. When the spirit has finished, he makes some sign, previously agreed upon, to indicate the fact.

This mode of proceeding, as will be readily understood, is extremely tedious, and requires an enormous amount of time for obtaining communications of any length ; but practice soon suggested various abbreviative methods more rapid than the above. That which is generally employed, consists in having the letters of the alphabet, and the numerals, written on a sheet of paper or card-board. The medium being seated at the table, some member of the circle runs a pencil or other pointer along the letters, when words are wanted ; along the ciphers, when numbers are wanted. When the pencil reaches the desired letter or cipher, the table gives a tilt, and the letter or cipher thus indicated is written down; the person who holds the pencil going through the same operation for the next letter, and so on. If a mistake occurs in regard to a letter, the spirit gives notice of the fact by several tilts; and the pencil is again taken through the alphabet. In this way, by dint of practice, it is possible to get on with tolerable quickness.

142. The other application of typtology is by raps produced in the wood of the table, without any movement occurring in the latter; and all that we have just described, in reference to the tilting of the table, is equally applicable to the obtaining of communications by raps. All mediums are not equally successful in obtaining both kinds of typtology, for some can only obtain tilts, while others can only obtain raps.

Most mediums, however, by perseverance, can eventually succeed in obtaining raps, which have the double advantage of being not only more rapid, but also less open to suspicion, than the tiltings, which may be attributed to voluntary or involuntary pressure. It is true that the raps also can be imitated by untruthful mediums, for the best things may be counterfeited; a fact which proves nothing against their reality.

But however improved, this way of proceeding can never attain the ease and rapidity of writing; and, consequently, the old methods of tilting and rapping are now less frequently employed. The old way is nevertheless very interesting as a phenomenon, especially for beginners; and it has the special advantage of being independent of the medium's mind. By the old method, too, answers are often obtained, so unexpected, so apt and pertinent, that one must be prejudiced indeed to reject the evidence thus afforded, and which is often an effectual means of conviction. But neither by this method, nor by any other, can spirits be made to yield to the caprices of mere curiosity, or forced to answer misplaced or indiscreet questions.

143. In order to render spirit-communications independent of the medium's mind, various instruments have been devised. One of these is a sort of dial-plate, on which the letters of the alphabet are ranged like those on the dial of the electric telegraph; a moveable needle, set in motion through the medium’s influence, with the aid of a conducting thread and pulley, points out the letters. We cannot help thinking, however, that independence of the medium’s thought is insured as well by the raps, and that this independence is proved more conclusively by the unexpectedness and pertinence of the answers, than by all the mechanical contrivances yet invented for this purpose. Moreover, the incredulous, always on the lookout for wires and machinery, are more inclined to suspect deception in connexion with any special mechanical arrangements than with a bare table, devoid of all accessories.

144. A more simple contrivance, but one open to abuse, as we shall see in the chapter on Frauds, is the one devised by Madame Emile de Girardin, and by which she obtained numerous and interesting communications; for that lady, accomplished and clever as she was, had the weakness to believe in spirits and their manifestations. The instrument alluded to, consists of a little table with a moveable top, eighteen inches in diameter, turning freely on an axle, like a wheel. On its edge are traced, as upon a dial- plate, the letters of the alphabet, the numerals, and the words "yes" and "no." In the centre is a fixed needle. The medium places his fingers on this table, which turns and stops when the desired letter is brought under the needle. The letters thus indicated being written down one after the other words and phrases are obtained, often with great rapidity.

It is to be remarked that the top of the little table does not turn round under the fingers, but that the fingers remain in their place and follow the movement of the table. A powerful medium might probably obtain an independent movement; in which case the experiment would be more conclusive, because less open to the possibility of trickery.

145. Let us here correct the wide-spread error which confounds all spirits who communicate by tilts or raps with "rapping-spirits". Typtology is a means of communication like any other; and is no more unworthy of elevated spirits than writing or speaking. All spirits, good or bad, may employ this method as well as any other. What characterises superior spirits is the elevation of their thought, and not the instrument they may use for its transmission; they no doubt prefer the more convenient and rapid methods, but, in the absence of these, they willingly employ the table, as is shown by the fact that some of the grandest communications yet received have been made in this way. If we do not usually employ the table, it is not because we despise it, but merely because, as a phenomenon, it has given us all that it was capable of giving, so that it can add nothing to our convictions, while the length of the communications we receive has compelled us to have recourse to more expeditious methods.

All spirits who rap are not, then, what are commonly called "rapping-spirits;" which designation should be reserved for those who may be styled professional rappers, and who take pleasure in going their rounds, amusing some, and boring others. Smart things are sometimes said by them, hut never anything really profound. It would be a loss of time to ask scientific or philosophical questions of ignorant pretenders, who are classed by higher spirits as the quacks and mountebanks of the spirit-world. They are, nevertheless, often employed by superior spirits as their instruments for the production of physical manifestations.

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