4. Spiritism comes, then, in its turn to do that which each science has done at its advent, to reveal new laws, and explain, consequently, the phenomena which are the result of these laws.
These phenomena, it is true, are connected with the existence of spirits, and with their intervention in the material world which has been called supernatural. But to make it really so it would be necessary to prove that spirits and their manifestations are contrary to the laws of nature, that not one of these laws produces their manifestation.
The spirit is none other than the human life or soul which survives the body. It is the real indestructible being which cannot die, while the body is only a destructible accessory. Its existence is, therefore, as natural after as during the incarnation. It is submitted to the laws governing the spiritual principle, as the body submits to those which rule the material universe; but as these two principles have a necessary affinity, as they incessantly react upon one another, as from their simultaneous action result the harmony and movement of the whole, it follows that the spiritual and material elements are parts of the same whole, one as natural as the other, and that the first is not an exception, an anomaly in the order of things.
5. During the incarnation the spirit acts upon matter through the intermediation of its fluidic body, or perispirit; it is the same when discarnated. It accomplishes as spirit, and by the measure of its capacities, that which it did when on Earth; only, as it has no longer for an instrument its mortal body, it serves itself, when necessary, with the material organs of an incarnate being who is what we call a medium. It does as he does, who, unable to write himself, employs a secretary, or who, not understanding a language, is served by an interpreter. A secretary and an interpreter are mediums for an incarnated being, as a medium is the secretary or the interpreter of a spirit.
6. The element in which spirits act, and the means of execution being different from those employed during the incarnation, the effects are different. These effects only appear supernatural because they are produced through agents, who are not those by means of which men serve themselves; but from the instant when it is known that these agents are natural, and that the manifestations occur in obedience to laws, there is nothing supernatural or marvelous about them. Before the properties of electricity were known, the electricity phenomenon was regarded as miraculous by certain people. As soon as the cause was known, the miracle vanished. It is the same with spiritual phenomena, which arise no more from the setting aside of nature’s laws than do the electrical, acoustic, luminous, and other phenomena which have given rise to a crowd of superstitions.
7. However, will it not be said, you admit that a spirit can raise a table and maintain it in space without support? Isn’t that a derogation of the law of gravity? Yes, to the known law; but are all laws known? Before men had experimented with the ascending force of certain gas, who had imagined that a heavy machine, carrying several men, could soar by force of attraction? To the vulgar eye the ascent of a balloon must have appeared miraculous or diabolical. He, who had proposed a hundred years ago to transmit a dispatch five hundred leagues, and receive an answer within a few minutes, would have passed for a fool. If he had performed the feat, it would have been commonly believed that he had the Devil under his control; for then no one but the Devil was thought capable of traveling so quickly. However, now the occurrence is not only regarded as possible, but is accepted as altogether natural. Why, then, should an unknown fluid not possess the property, under given circumstances, of counterbalancing the effect of weight, as hydrogen counterbalances the weight of the balloon? An occurrence indeed, similar to that, is which takes place in the case under our notice. (See “The Mediums Book,” chap. 4).
8. The spiritual phenomena, being natural, have been produced in all ages; but because their study could not be effected by material means, with which physical science arms itself, they have remained longest in the supernatural domain whence Spiritism rescues them.
The supernatural hypothesis based upon inexplicable appearances leaves the imagination wholly free, which, wandering into the unknown gives birth to superstitious beliefs. A rational explanation founded upon natural law, leading man to a foundation in reality, gives a place of rest to imaginative flights, and destroys superstition. Far from extending the supernatural domain, Spiritism reduces it to the narrowest limits, and robs it of its last refuge. If it makes possible belief in certain facts, it prevents belief in much else, because it demonstrates in the circle of spiritual being as science in a circle of materiality, that which is possible, and that which is not. Always, however, as it makes no pretension to say the final word upon all subjects, even upon those which belong to its own realm, it does not take the position of an absolute regulator of the possible, and reserves always some knowledge for future disclosures.
9. The spiritual phenomena consist in different modes of manifestation of soul or spirit during the incarnation, or in their discarnate state. It is by its manifestations that the soul reveals its existence, its survival, and its individuality; and it is judged by its effects. The cause being natural, the effect is equally so. These effects made the special object of research in the study of Spiritism, in order to arrive at knowledge as completely as possible of the nature and of the attributes of the soul, as well as of the laws which govern the spiritual principle.
10. For those who deny the independent existence of the spirit, and consequently that of the independent individuality of the surviving soul, all nature is simple tangible matter. All phenomena attaching to Spiritism are to them supernatural, and consequently chimerical. Failing to admit the cause, they cannot admit the effect; and, when the effects are patent, they are attributed by them to imagination, illusion, hallucination; they refuse to give credence to them. Their own preconceived opinions render them incapable of judging Spiritism fairly, because they deny all things which are immaterial.
11. Since Spiritism admits effects which are the consequence of the existence of the soul, it does not follow that it accepts all the qualified effects of the marvelous, or that it justifies and accredits them. To let it be the champion of all dreamers, of every utopian idea, of all systematic eccentricities, of all miraculous legends, one must have a very slight knowledge of it and its purposes. Its adversaries imagine that they can oppose it with arguments admitting no reply, when, after making learned researches, with the convulsionaries of St. Médard, the Camisards of Cevennes, or the recluses of Loudon, they have discovered patent cases of imposition that no one contests. But are these histories the gospel of Spiritism? Have its partisans denied that charlatanism has employed certain truths for its own profit that the imagination may have created, that fanaticism may have exaggerated much? Extravagances are not committed solely in its name. Is not true science abused by ignorance and true religion by excess of fanaticism? Many critics regard Spiritism as a fairy tale and popular legend, which are fictions worth no more than historical and tragic romances.
12. The spiritual phenomena are most often spontaneous, and are produced without any preparation through persons who bestow the least thought upon them; at other times they are provoked by agents known as mediums. In the first case the medium is unconscious of his mediumistic powers; in the second he acts by a knowledge of cause; hence the distinction between conscious and unconscious mediums. The latter are the more numerous, and are frequently found among obstinate and skeptical persons, who are made good witnesses in defense of Spiritism without their own knowledge or desire. The spontaneous phenomena constitute an important capital for Spiritism; for one cannot suspect the good faith of the parties through whom they are obtained, like somnambulism, which with some individuals is purely natural and involuntary, and with others induced by magnetic action. *
But let these phenomena be, or not be, the result of mental volition, the first cause is exactly the same in either instance, and detracts nothing from natural laws. Mediums, then, produce nothing absolutely supernatural; consequently they perform no miracle. The instantaneous cures often effected are no more miraculous than other effects; for they are due to the action of a fluidic agent performing the office of therapeutic agent, whose properties are no less natural because unknown until today. The title thaumaturgist, given to certain mediums by ignorant critics of the principles of Spiritism, is then altogether improper. The qualification of miraculous given to these kinds of phenomena can only give an erroneous idea of their true character.
* “The Mediums’ Book,” chap. 5 – “Revue Spirite:” examples: December, 1865, p. 370; August, 1865, p. 231.
13. The intervention of occult intelligences in spirit phenomena renders the later no more miraculous than other phenomena which are due to invisible agents, because that the occult beings populating space are one of the powers of nature — a power whose action upon the material world is incessant as well as upon the moral.
Spiritism, in enlightening us with regard to this power, gives us the key, to a crowd of mysterious things unexplained by any other means, and which in former times must have passed for amazing prodigies of knowledge. It reveals, as does magnetism, a law hitherto unknown, or at least poorly understood; or it is more correct to say that the effects were known; for they have been produced through all time before the law was discovered, and it is only the ignorance of this law which engendered superstition. This law being now known, the marvelous disappears, and the phenomena enter into the order of natural events. Thus, by moving a table or writing prescriptions under spirit guidance, spiritists perform no miracles any more than does the physician who restores a man almost dead to life, or than the scientist does by bringing lightning from the clouds. He who would pretend, with the aid of this science, to perform miracles would be either an ignorant or an impostor.
14. Since Spiritism repudiates all pretension to the miraculous, outside of it are there miracles only in the usual acceptance of the word?
Let us first declare, that of so-called miracles having taken place before the advent of Spiritism, and which still take place in our day, the greater part, if not all, find their explanation in the new knowledge of laws just revealed. These facts enter, then, although under a new name, into the order of spirit phenomena, and as such are not supernatural. It is well understood that it acts only with authentic facts, and not with those which, under the name of miracles, are the product of an unworthy jugglery in view of taking advantage of credulity, any more than it acts with certain legendary facts which can have had in the beginning a depth of truth, but which superstition has enlarged to absurdity. Upon these facts Spiritism comes to throw light by affording means to separate truth from error.