CHARLATANISM AND JUGGLERY
Self-interested Mediums. — Spirit Frauds.
304. As everything can become a subject for mak ing capital, it is not astonishing that persons should wish to make capital out of the spirits ; it remains to be seen how they will take the thing, if such a specu lation should be introduced. We will say, first, that nothing lends greater aid to charlatanism and jug glery than such doings. If we see false somnambu lists, still oftener do we see false mediums ; and this reason alone should induce distrust. Disinterested ness, on the contrary, is the most peremptory answer to those who see nothing in the facts but a skillful maneuver. There is no disinterested charlatanism. What motive could persons have for using deception without profit ? still more, when their proved honor places them above suspicion. ?
If the gain a medium may draw from his faculty may be an object of suspicion, this would not be a proof that the suspicion is well founded ; he might have a real aptitude, and act in perfect sincerity, while making it pay : let us see if, in this case, we can rea sonably expect a satisfactory result.
305. If all that we have said of the conditions neces sary to serve as interpreter to good spirits ; of the num beiless causes that may repel them ; of the circum stances, independent of their will, which are often an obstacle to their coming ; of all the moral conditions that may exercise an influence over the communica tions, —if all this has been thoroughly comprehended, how can it be supposed that a spirit, however little elevated, can be, at all hours of the day, at the orders of a director of stances, and subject to his require ments to satisfy the curiosity of the first comer ?
We know the aversion of the spirits for everything that savors of cupidity and egotism, the few cases in which they help in material things ; and yet they are expected to assist in making money by their presence! The very thought is repugnant, and one must know very little of the spirit world to believe that this may be. But, as trifling spirits are less scrupulous, and only seek occasion to amuse themselves at our ex pense, it results that if persons are not mystified by a false medium, there is every chance of their being so by such spirits. These reflections alone will show the measure of the degree of confidence that should be given to communications of this kind. For the rest, why employ paid mediums, when now, if a person has not the faculty himself, he can surely find it in his family or among his friends and acquaintances ?
306. Interested mediums are not the only ones who may exact a fixed payment ; self-interest is not always seen in the hope of a material gain, but also in ambi tious views of every kind on which personal hopes may be founded ; that again is a trait on which mock ing spirits know very well how to seize, and how to profit by, with an address and skill truly remarkable, — rocking to sleep by deceitful illusions those who place themselves under their control. To recapitulate : mediumship is a faculty given for good, and good spirits withdraw from every one who would make it a step ping-stone for aught that does not answer to the views of Providence. Egotism is the sore spot in the social system ; the good spirits combat it, and it cannot be supposed that they come to serve it. This is so ra tional that it would be useless to insist further on this point.
307. Mediums for physical effects are not in the same category ; these effects are usually produced by less scrupulous, inferior spirits. We do not say that these spirits may necessarily be bad : one can be a porter and a very honest man ; a medium of this cat egory, who would make money of his faculty, might have one who would help him without repugnance ; but here again is another danger. The medium for physical effects has received his faculty no more for his pleasure than has the medium for intelligent com munications : it has been given to him on condition that he make a good use of it ; and if he abuse it, it will be withdrawn or turned to his detriment, for, per emptorily, the inferior are under the control of the superior spirits.
The inferior spirits like well to mystify, but they do not like to be mystified ; if they lend themselves will ingly to jesting, to things for curiosity, because they like amusement, they no more than others like to be used for money-making or selfish views ; and they prove at every instant that they have their will ; that they act when and how seems good to them, so that the medi um for physical effects is still less sure of the regularity of the manifestations than the writing medium. To pretend to produce them at fixed days and hours would be a proof of the most profound ignorance. What, then, will be done to earn his money ? Simulate the phenomena : this is what happens not only with those who make it a regular business, but even with persons apparently simple, who find this easier and more agreeable than to work. If the spirit does not give, they supply it : imagination is so fertile when money is in question ! Self-interest being a legitimate motive of suspicion, it gives the right for rigorous examina tion, and none can be offended by it without justifying suspicions. But as far as suspicion is legitimate in such case, just so far is it offensive toward honorable and disinterested persons.
308. The medianimic faculty, even restricted to the limit of physical manifestations, has not been given to make a parade on the platform, and whoever pretends to have at his orders spirits, to exhibit in public, may justly be suspected of charlatanism or jugglery more or less skillful. Let this be held for truth, every time an announcement of pretended seances of Spiritism or Spiritualism is made, wherever the place ; and let every one remember the right he purchases with his entrance.
From all that precedes we conclude that the most absolute disinterestedness is the best guarantee against charlatanism ; if it does not always insure the good ness of intelligent communications, it takes from bad spirits a powerful means of action, and silences de tractors.
309. There remains what may be called amateur jugglery ; that is, innocent frauds of mischievous jest ers. They may doubtless practice it, by way of pas time, in trifling and frivolous circles, but not in serious assemblies, where only serious persons are admitted. A person may please himself by a momentary mystification, but he must be endowed with singular pa tience to play this part for months and years, and each time for several consecutive hours. Interest of some kind can alone give this perseverance ; and this interest, we repeat, makes everything suspicious.
310. It will, perhaps, be said, that a medium who gives his time to the public, in the interest of the thing, cannot give it for nothing ; for he must live. But is it in the interest of the thing, or in his own, that he gives it ? and is it not rather because he sees in it a lucrative business ? You can always find de voted people at that price. Has he no other industry at his disposal ? Let us not forget that spirits, what ever may be their superiority or inferiority, are the souls of the dead ; and when morality and religion make it a duty to respect their remains, the obligation is still greater to respect their spirits.
What would be said of one who should take a corpse from the tomb to exhibit it for money, because there might be something about it to arouse curiosity ?
Is it less disrespectful to exhibit the spirit than the body, under the pretext that it is curious to see a spirit act ? It is also to be remarked that the price of seats is according to the wonders they can perform, and the attraction of the spectacle. Surely, during his life, had he been a comedian, he could hardly have supposed that, after his death, he would find a manager who would make him play comedy gratis for said manager's own profit.
It must not be forgotten that physical as well as in telligent manifestations are permitted by God only for our instruction.
311. These moral considerations aside, we will not aver that there cannot be interested mediums, honorable and conscientious, because there are honest men in all trades ; we speak only of the abuse : but it will be readily agreed that there is more reason for the abuse in paid mediums, than with those who, regard ing their faculty as a favor, employ it only to render a service.
The degree of confidence or mistrust that may be given to a paid medium depends entirely upon the esteem his character and morality may command, in dependent of circumstances. The medium who, with an eminently serious and profitable aim, would be pre vented from utilizing his time in any other way, and for that reason exonerated, must not be confounded with the speculating medium, him who, from premedLtated design, would make a trade of his mediumship. According to the motive and the end, the spirits could condemn, absolve, or even favor ; they judge the in tention rather than the material fact.
312. Somnambulists who utilize their faculty in a lucrative manner are not in the same case. Though this may be subject to abuse, and disinterestedness be a greater guarantee of sincerity, the position is differ ent, as it is their own spirit that acts ; it is, conse quently, always at their disposal, and, in reality, they simply make money of themselves, because they are free to dispose of their person as they understand it, while speculating mediums use the souls of the dead. (See No. 172, Somnambulistic Mediums.)
313. We are fully aware that our severity in respect to interested mediums will arouse against us all those who make money, or may be tempted to make money, by this new trade ; and we shall make bitter enemies of them, as well as of their friends, who will naturally take up their cause ; we console ourselves that the merchants whom Jesus drove from the temple could not have regarded him with a favorable eye. We have also against us those who do not see the thing with the same gravity ; yet we believe we have a right to our opinion and to express it : we force no one to adopt it. If an immense majority agree with us, it is, apparently, because they find it just ; for we see not, indeed, how it can be proved that there are not more good chances for frauds and abuses in speculation than in disinterestedness. As to ourselves, if our writings have tended to cast discredit on interested mediumship in France and in other countries, we believe it will not be one of the least services they will have ren dered to serious Spiritism.
314. Those who do not admit the reality of the
physical manifestations generally attribute the effects
produced to fraud. They base their opinion on the
fact that skillful jugglers do things that appear like
prodigies when we do not know their secrets ; whence
they conclude that mediums are only another kind of
sharpers. We have already refuted this argument, or,
rather, this opinion, principally in our articles on Mr.
Home, and in the Nos. of the Review of January and
February, 1858 ; we shall, therefore, say but a few
words before speaking of a more serious thing.
It is, besides, a consideration that will not escape
any one who reflects a little. There are, no doubt,
marvelously skiLful prestidigitators, but they are rare.
If all mediums practice juggling, it must be conceded
that the art has made unheard-of progress in a short
time, and become suddenly very common ; as it is found innate with persons who scarcely suspect it :
even with children.
Even as there are quacks who sell drugs in public
places, so there are mediums who, without going to
public places, betray confidence : must it follow that
all doctors are quacks, and that the medical corps is,
for that reason, unworthy of consideration ? Because
there are persons who sell adulterations for wine, does
it follow that all wine merchants are adulterators of
wine, and that there is none pure ? Everything is
abused, even the most respectable things, and it may
be said that fraud also has its genius. But fraud
always has a motive, some material interest : where
there is nothing to gain, there is no interest in deceiv
ing. So we say, apropos to mercenary mediums, that
the best of all guarantees is absolute disinterestedness.
315. Of all the spirit phenomena, those which most
lend themselves to fraud are physical phenomena, from
motives it is useful to take into consideration. First,
because, addressing themselves more to the eyes than
to the intelligence, they are those that jugglery can
most easily imitate. Secondly, that, awaking curiosity
more than the others, they are more suited to attract
the crowd, and are, consequently, more productive.
In this double point of view, charlatans have every
interest in simulating them : the spectators, mostly
strangers to the science, seek them usually more as an
amusement than as a serious instruction ; and every
one knows that what amuses pays better than what
instructs. But set that aside, there is another motive
not less decided. If juggling can imitate material
effects, for which only address is needed, we have not,
as yet, known it to possess the gift of improvisation,
which requires a degree of intelligence not very common, neither the gift of producing those beautiful and
sublime dictations, often so apropos, which the spirits
give in their communications. This recalls to us the
following fact : —
A literary man, quite well known, came, one day, to
see us, and told us that he was a very good intuitive
writing medium, and that he would put himself at the
disposal of the Spirit Society. As we were accustomed
to admit into the society only mediums whose faculties
were known to us, we requested him to come and give
proofs in a special reunion. He came ; several ex
perienced mediums gave dissertations and answers of
remarkable precision on questions proposed and sub
jects unknown to them. When this gentleman's turn
came, he wrote some insignificant words, said he was
indisposed that day, and since then we have never seen
him : he doubtless found that the role of medium for
intelligent effects was more difficult to play than he
316. In everything, those most easily deceived are
those not of the trade ; it is the same with Spiritism ;
those who know nothing of it are most easily deceived
by appearances ; while a previous" attentive study in
itiates them, not only into the cause of the phenom
ena, but into the normal conditions under which they
can be produced, and furnishes them also with the
means of detecting fraud, should it exist.
317. Deceiving mediums are stigmatized as they
deserve in the following letter in the Review of Au
gust, 1 86 1 : —
" Paris, July 21, 1861.
" Sir : One may disagree on certain points, and
agree on others. I have just read, page 213 of the
last number of your journal, reflections on frauds in spiritualist (or spiritist) experiments, to which I am
happy to give my entire assent. There all differences
in matters of theory or doctrine disappear as by en
" I am not, perhaps, as severe as you in regard to
mediums who, in a worthy and suitable way, accept a
remuneration as indemnity for the time they devote to
experiments often long and fatiguing ; but I am quite
as much so —and one cannot be too much —in re
gard to those who, in such cases, supply, on occasion,
by trickery and fraud, the absence or insufficiency of
the result's promised and expected. (See No. 311.)
" To mingle the false with the true, when phenom
ena obtained through the intervention of spirits is in
question, is wholly infamous, and there must be an
utter obliteration of all moral sense with the medium
who can do so without scruple. As you have so well
observed, it is casting discredit upon the cause in the
minds of the undecided, to find it mixed withfraud. I
would add that it is compromising in the most deplora
ble manner the honorable men who give to mediums
the disinterested support of their knowledge and their
light, who are guarantees of their sincerity, and in one
way their patrons ; it is committing a veritable crime
" Every medium convicted of fraudulent maneuvers,
taken, to use a common expression, with his hand in
the bag, deserves to be ostracized by all spiritualists
and spiritists, for whom it should be a rigorous duty to
unmask them, and send them adrift.
" If you choose, sir, to insert these few lines in your
Journal, they are at your service.
" I am, &c,
318. All spirit phenomena are not equally easy to
imitate, and there are those that evidently defy all the
skill of practiced jugglers ; such are, especially, the
movements of objects without contact, the suspension
of heavy bodies in space, blows struck on different,
sides, apparitions, &c, without employing helpers and
companions ; therefore, we say, what should be done
in such cases is, to observe attentively the circum
stances, and particularly take into account the char
acter and position of the persons, the motive, and the
interest they may have in deceiving ; that is the best
of all censorship, for these are the circumstances that
destroy all cause for suspicion. We think, then, on
principle, it is necessary to beware of any one what
ever who makes of these phenomena a spectacle, or
an object of curiosity or amusement, and who pretends
to produce them at will or at a given place, as we have
already explained. We cannot too often repeat that
the occult intelligences, who manifest themselves to us,
have their susceptibilities, and will prove to us that
they have their free will, and are not subjected to our
caprices. (No. 38.)
It will suffice to mention some subterfuges em
ployed, or that it is possible to employ, in certain
cases, to warn sincere observers against fraud. As to
persons who persist in judging without studying, it
would be labor lost to seek to convince them.
319. One of the most ordinary phenomena is that
of raps in the very substance of the wood, with or
without movement of the table or other object used ;
this effect is one cf the easiest to imitate, either by
contact of the feet, or by calling out little crackings
in the furniture ; but there is a special little stratagem
that may be exposed. It suffices to rest the two hands flat on the table, near enough for the thumb nails to
rest strongly against each other ; then, by a muscular
movement entirely imperceptible, they are rubbed to
gether, which gives a little dry sound, very much like
that of interior typtology. This noise resounds in
the wood, and produces a complete illusion. Nothing
more easy than to make as many raps heard as are
asked, a drum beating, &c, to answer to certain ques
tions by yes or no, by numbers, or even by indicating
letters of the alphabet.
Once warned, the means of detecting this fraud are
very simple. It is not possible if the hands are sepa
rated, and if you are sure no other contact produces
the noise. The true raps, however, have this char
acteristic, that they change place and tone at will,
which could not be if they were due to the cause we
have mentioned, or any similar, if they go from the
table to a piece of furniture no one is touching, on the
walls, on the ceiling, &c, if they answer impromptu
questions. (See No. 41.)
320. Direct writing is still easier to imitate ; with
out speaking of well-known chemical agents for mak
ing writing appear in a given time on a blank piece of
paper, which may be exposed by the most ordinary
precautions, it might happen that, by skillful trickery,
one piece of paper could be substituted for another.
It might be that he who might wish to deceive would
have the art of distracting the attention while writing
a few words. We have been told that writing has been
produced with a small crumb of lead hidden under the
321. The phenomenon of materialization is not less
accessible to jugglery, and a person can easily be the
dupe of a skillful sharper without having recourse to a professional. In the special article we have published
above (No. 96), the spirits have themselves told the
exceptional conditions under which they can be pro
duced ; whence it may be concluded that the easy and
optional obtaining of them must be held more or
less suspicious. Direct writing is under the same
322. In the chapter on Special Mediums, we gave
from the spirits the common medianimic aptitudes, and
those that are rare. Mediums who pretend to have
these last too easily are to be suspected, as also those
who are ambitious of a multiplicity of faculties —a pre
tension rarely justified.
323. Intelligent manifestations are, according to the
circumstances, those which offer the strongest guaran
tee ; and yet they are not proof against imitation, at
least the ordinary and trivial communications.
It is supposed there is more security with mechani
cal mediums, not only for independence of ideas, but
also against fraud ; for this reason many persons prefer
material intermediaries. Well, it is an error. Fraud
is everywhere, and we know that, with skill, even a
writing basket or planchette can be directed at will.
The sentiments expressed will relieve all doubts whether
they come from a mechanical, intuitive, auditive, speak
ing, or seeing medium. There are communications
so far above the ideas, the knowledge, and even the
intellectual strength of the medium, that we should
strangely deceive ourselves in giving him the honor of
their authorship. We see, in charlatanism, an extraor
dinary skill and fertile resources, but we have yet to
find it capable of giving knowledge to the ignorant, or
mind to him who lacks it.
To recapitulate : we repeat, the best guarantee is in the known morality of the mediums, and in the absence
of all material interested motives or self-love which
might stimulate in him the exercise of the medianimic
faculties he may possess ; for these same causes may
lead him to simulate those he has not.