What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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Hallucination. - Magnedc fluid. - Thought reflection. - Overexcitement of the brain. - T h e somnambulistic state of mediums.

Visitor - Criticism has been mostly aimed at the induced phenomena. Let's put aside any supposition of charlatanism and base it on good faith; mightn't we think that mediums are pawns of a hallucination?

A.K. — I don't know if the mechanism of hallucination has yet been explained clearly. As it is understood, it is a most singular effect and well worth studying. So why is it that those who try to explain spirit phenomena based on this premise cannot explain their own explanation? Furthermore, there are phenomena that rule out this hypothesis: when a table or other object moves, rises or raps; when it moves at will around a room without coming in contact with anyone; when it rises up from the floor and remains suspended in the air without any point of support; and lastly, when it collapses and crashes to the floor - this is certainly not a hallucination. Supposing that, through an effect of their imagination, mediums believe they are seeing something that does not actually exist, is it possible that an entire community could be caught up in the same figment of the imagination? That it would be repeated far and wide, in every land? The hallucination in that case would be more prodigious than the phenomenon itself.

Visitor - If we were to accept the reality of the turning and rapping table phenomenon, wouldn't it be more rational to attribute it to the action of some fluid — the magnetic fluid, for example?

A.K. - That was actually my first thought, and that of many others. If the effects had been limited to material effects, there is no doubt that we could have explained them in that way. However, when the movements and raps gave proof of intelligence and when it was realized that they responded to thought with complete freedom, we had to draw the following conclusion: If every effect has a cause, then every intelligent effect has an intelligent cause. If it were the effect of a fluid, wouldn't we have to say that the fluid was intelligent? When we see the arm of a telegraph make the signals that transmit thought, we know very well that it is not the wooden or iron arm that is intelligent, but we say that an intelligence is making them move. The same happens with the table. Are there or aren't there intelligent effects? That is the question. Those who contest it are persons who didn't see the whole picture and rushed to draw conclusions according to their own ideas and a superficial observation.

Visitor - I would respond to that by saying that if there is an intelligent effect, it comes from nothing more than intelligence itself, whether of the medium, the questioner or one of the participants, because it is said that the response is always within someone's thought.

A.K. - That is yet another error following a faulty observation. If those who think that way had put forth the effort to study the phenomenon in all its aspects, they would have recognized at each step the complete independence of the manifesting intelligences. How can this theory be reconciled with responses that are outside the intellectual capacity and education of the mediums, that are contrary to their own ideas, desires and opinions, or that completely baffle the expectations of the onlookers? What about mediums writing in a language unknown to them or in their own language when they don't even know how to read or write? I will admit that at first sight this theory has nothing irrational about it, but it is contradicted by facts so numerous and so conclusive that doubt is no longer possible.

Furthermore, even if we were to accept this theory, the phenomenon, far from being simplified, would then, in fact, be quite extraordinary. Imagine! Could thought actually be reflected on surfaces like light, sound or heat? That would truly be something that would stoke science's interest. Also, what would make it even more extraordinary is the fact that, out of twenty participants, it would be the thought of this or that particular individual that is reflected rather than the thought of one of the others. Such a theory is unsustainable. It is truly interesting to see opponents do their utmost to find causes a hundred times more extraordinary and difficult to understand than the ones that are offered to them.

Visitor - According to the opinion of some, couldn't we say that mediums in such cases are in an altered state and are enjoying a lucidity that gives them a somnambulistic perception, a sort of second sight? That would explain the momentary broadening of their intellectual faculties, since it is said that the communications obtained by mediums do not exceed the scope of those obtained by somnambulists.

A.K. - That is yet another theory that doesn't hold up under serious examination. These mediums are not in an altered state, nor are they asleep; they are wide awake, acting and thinking like everyone else, displaying nothing out of the ordinary. Certain particular effects might have given rise to this mistake. However, those who do not limit their judgment to only one angle would easily realize that mediums are endowed with, a unique faculty that does not allow confusing them with somnambulists, and that the complete independence of their thought is proven by facts of indisputable evidence. Written communications aside, what somnambulist has ever made an inert body produce a thought? Or produced visible and even tangible apparitions? Or kept a heavy object suspended in the air with no point of support? Was it by some somnambulistic effect that a medium once drew for me, in the presence of twenty witnesses, the portrait of a young woman v/ho had died eighteen months earlier, and whom he had never known, but whose father at the session recognized her? Is it due to a somnambulistic effect that a table accurately answers questions put to it - even those posed only mentally? Even if we were to actually believe the medium is in a magnetic state, it would still seem hard to believe that the table is somnambulistic.

It is also said that mediums speak intelligibly only about things that are known. Then how can the following occurrence and a hundred others like it be explained? One of my friends, a very good writing medium, asked a spirit if a person he had not seen for fifteen years was still in this world. "Yes, she is still alive," it answered; "she lives in Paris, on such and such a street, at such and such a number." He went and found the person at the address indicated. Is that an illusion? His thought could hardly have suggested the response, since considering the persons age, there was every possibility that she was no longer even alive. If in certain cases answers have actually matched thoughts, is it rational to conclude that it is a general law? In this, as in all matters, hasty judgments are always dangerous because they can be invalidated by facts that have not been looked at.

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