The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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The fact below was extracted from a letter addressed to us in September 1857 by a corresponding member from Saint-Etienne. After talking about several communications witnessed by him, he adds:

“A most remarkable fact takes place with a family of our knowledge. They moved from the turning tables to the talking couch; later a pencil was attached to the foot of the couch, indicating the psychography; this was then practiced for a long time, more of a distraction than a serious thing. Finally the writings designated a young lady of the house, ordering that she should have her head caressed after lying down. The lady fell asleep almost immedi- ately and after a certain number of experiments she transfigured. The young- ster would take over the facial traces, voice and gestures of deceased relatives; those of her grandparents who she had never met, and a brother that had died a few months earlier. The transfigurations took place one after the other in the same session. She spoke a dialect that is not from our days, as I was told, and since I am not familiar with the current one or the other. What I can affirm is that in one session she assumed the appearance of her funny, strong brother; the thirteen-year-old young lady medium then gave me a tough handshake. The phenomena have been constantly repeating in the same way, for about 18 months to two years, now with the only difference that it is produced natu- rally, without the imposition of hands.”
Although very rare, this phenomenon is not exceptional. We have heard about similar cases and we have ourselves witnessed something sim- ilar with somnambulistic mediums, in the state of ecstasy, as well as with some ecstatic mediums that were not in the somnambulistic state. On another hand it is certain that violent emotions operate a change in physi- ognomy, giving the person a completely different look as from the normal state. Don’t we also see people who have the ability of changing their own appearance through the controlled use of some changeable traces? We then see that the rigidity of the face is not such that it cannot be submitted to a more or less profound temporary change. There is no surprise then that a similar fact may take place here, although through a cause which is independent of the person’s will. Here are the answers given by St. Louis in the session of the Society, on February 25th last:

1. The case of transfiguration that we have just discussed, is that true?
- Yes.

2. Is there a material effect in that kind of phenomenon?

- The phenomenon of transfiguration may occur in a mate- rial way, to the point that its several phases may be registered through daguerreotype (obsolete photographic process).

3. How does this effect take place?
- Transfiguration, as you understand it, is nothing more than a change in appearance, an alteration or modification of the contour lines of the face, which can be produced by the ac- tion of the spirit over its own envelope (perispirit) or by an exterior influence. The body never changes, but it shows dif- ferent appearances through a nervous contraction.

4. Can the spectators be deceived by a false appearance?
- It can also happen that the perispirit plays the role that you know well. In the cited case there was nervous contraction, much amplified by imagination. As a matter of fact, this phenomenon is very rare.

5. The role of the perispirit would be analogous to what happen in the phenomena of bi-corporeity?
- Yes.

6. Then in the case of transfiguration is it necessary that there is a disappearance of the real body, so that the spectators may see only the perispirit under a different form?
- Not a disappearance, properly, but an occlusion. You must be clear about the terms.

7. From what you have just said it seems we can conclude that in the phenomenon of transfiguration there may be two effects: I – alteration of the traces of the real body, originated from a nervous contraction; II – variable appearance of the perispirit, made vis- ible. Is that right?
- Certainly.

8. What is the primary cause of this phenomenon?
- The will of the spirit

9. Every spirit can produce it?
- No. The spirits cannot always do what they wish.

10. How do you explain the abnormal strength of that girl, transfig- ured into the person of her brother?
- Doesn’t the spirit have a great strength? As a matter of fact, the strength is that of the body, in its normal state.

OBSERVATION: There is nothing remarkable about this fact. We often see very weak persons momentarily endowed by a prodigious force due to super excitation.

11. Since in the phenomenon of transfiguration the eye of the observ- er may receive an image different from the reality, could the same happen to other physical manifestations? For example: when a table is lifted without the support of hands and we see the table above ground, is it really the table that moves?
- You still ask?

12. What is it that lifts up the table?
- The strength of the spirit.

OBSERVATION: This phenomenon has already been ex- plained by St. Louis and we thoroughly treated it in the May and June 1858 editions of the review, when discussing the theory of the physical manifestations. We were told that in such a case the table or any other object that moves is taken by a momentary factious life that allows the object to obey the will of the spirit.

Some people wanted to see a simple optical illusion in that fact, through a kind of mirage, that would make us see a table in the air when in reality it would be on the floor. If it were like that it would not be less worthy of attention. It is inter- esting that those who want to dispute or criticize the spiritist phenomena explain them through causes which would also be true prodigies and equally difficult to understand. But why then treat the subject with so much disdain? If the cause which they indicate is real, then why not study that cause in depth? The physicist tries to understand the minimum mo- tion of the magnetic needle; the chemist the slightest change in the molecular attraction. Why then showing so much in- difference to so strange phenomena, such as the ones we have mentioned here, be it through a simple consequence of the visible light beam, or be it by a new application of the known laws? This is not logical.

It certainly would not be impossible, through an effect anal- ogous to the one that makes us see an object in the water at a higher position that it really is due to the refraction of light rays, a table would apparently be in the air while in real- ity it would be on the ground. There is a fact however that definitely resolves the issue. It is when the table violently falls on the floor, broken into pieces. It does not look like an opti- cal illusion.

Let us return to the transfiguration.

If a muscular contraction may modify the physiognomic traces, it would not be but within certain limits. But certainly if a young lady takes the appearance of an old man, no physiological effect would give her a beard. Then we have to look for a cause elsewhere. Bearing in mind what we have said about the role of the perispirit in all phenomena of appari- tion, even those of living persons, and one will understand that this is the key to the phenomenon of transfiguration.

In fact, since the perispirit may be isolated from the body; that it can become visible; that through its extreme subtleness it may take several appearances, according to the will of the spirit, it is not hard to understand that it may thus go by a transfigured person: the body continues to be the same; it is only the perispirit that changed its appearance. But then, you will ask, what becomes of the body? How come the observer does not see a double image, that is, the real body on one side and the transfigured perispirit on the other? These are strange facts about which we will talk soon, demonstrating that from a fascination that assails the observer un- der such circumstances, the real body may somehow become hidden by the perispirit.

The phenomenon that is the object of this current article has been communicated to us long ago. We had not published it yet because our proposal is not to transformer our Spiritist Review into a simple cata- logue, destined to feed curiosity; or a rough compilation without appre- ciation and comments. Our task would then be very easy but we do take it much more seriously.

First of all, our target audience is the person of reason. Those in- dividuals like us, who want to understand things as much as possible. Well, experience has taught us that facts, however strange and amplified they may be, are not elements of conviction. The stranger they are the less convincing they will be. The more extraordinary a fact is the more abnormal it seems to us, and the less willing to believe we become. We want to see, and after seeing we still doubt; we are suspicious of illusion and connivance. It no longer happens when we find a plausible cause to the facts. We daily see people who have attributed the spiritist phenomena to imagination and blind credulity, and who are avid followers today, precisely because today those phenomena no longer repulse their reason: explain them, understand their possibility and then believe, even if they have not been seen. Having to talk about certain facts, we should wait until the fundamental principles were sufficiently developed, so that we could understand their causes. Among these facts is the transfiguration. For us, Spiritism is more than a belief, it is a Science and we feel happy to see that our readers have understood us.

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