The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Mr. Mathieu, former Pharmacist working with the Army, has just published a list of several facts of direct writing that he witnessed, under the title A Miracle. The facts occurred under circumstances more or less similar to those reported in our August 1859 issue. They do not show anything more characteristic thus we will not reproduce them. They are only mentioned to demonstrate that the spiritist phenomena are not a privilege of anyone and we take the opportunity to congratulate Mr. Mathieu for his zeal in propagating those facts. Several other small brochures and articles, published in several journals, are a proof of that.

Mr. Mathieu is a man of Science who, as many others, including ourselves, walked the paths of incredulity. However, he gave in to the facts since before the facts one needs to lay down the weapons. We allow ourselves to uniquely criticize the title of his last publication, not for a question of wordplay but because we believe that it has some importance and deserves a serious exam.

In its primitive origin and etymology, the word miracle means an extraordinary thing, something remarkable. As many other words, however, it has moved away from its original meaning and, according to the Academy, today it refers to an act of the Divine power, contrary to the common laws of nature. That is, in fact, its usual meaning and it is only through comparisons and metaphors that it is applied to common things that surprise us and whose causes are unknown to us.
Has the phenomenon, reported by Mr. Mathieu characterizes a miracle, in the true meaning of the word? It certainly has not. A miracle, as we have already said, is an exception to the laws of nature.
We do not wish to examine if God has considered useful to create an exception to the laws established by Him, under certain circumstances. Our objective is exclusively to demonstrate that the phenomenon of direct writing, however extraordinary it may be, does not bear any miraculous character, since it does not absolutely create an exception to those laws. A miracle cannot be explained; the direct writing, on the contrary, is explained in the most rational way, as seen in our article about the subject. Thus, it is not a miracle but a simple phenomenon supported by the general laws. The miracle has still another character: of being uncommon, isolated. Well as long as a fact is repeated, say, at will and through the intermediary of people, it cannot be a miracle.
Science makes miracles every day to the eyes of the ignorant. That is why in the former times those who had more knowledge than the people were suspected of being witches. And, since it was believed that every scientific phenomenon would come from the devil, they were burned at the stake. Nowadays, considering that we are much more civilized, we are happy to send them to asylums. After having allowed the inventors left there to suffer, we erect statues and name them as benefactors of humanity.
Let us leave those sad pages of our history behind, and return to our subject.
If a truly dead man were called back to life by a divine intervention this would be a miracle since this is contrary to nature. However, if such a man only bears the appearance of death; if he still has latent vitality; if science or a simple magnetic action may reanimate him, to the educated people this will be a natural phenomenon but to the eyes of the ignorant the fact will be miraculous and the author may be stoned or venerated, according to the characters of the persons. If in certain fields a physicist flies an electrical kite, creating a lightning which discharges onto a tree, this new Prometheus will be certainly looked at as if endowed by a diabolic power; and one must say, in passing, that as it seems Prometheus was substantially ahead of Franklin.
The direct writing is one phenomenon that most patently demonstrates the action of the occult intelligences. The fact that it is produced by an occult power, however, does not mean that it is more miraculous than all other phenomena due to invisible agents, since these occult beings, which populate space, are one of the powers of nature, power that is constant over the material world, as well as over the moral world. Through the explanation about such a power, Spiritism gives us the key for the understanding of a number of phenomena, otherwise unexplained and which were considered prodigies in remote eras. As with magnetism, it reveals a law, if not unknown at least badly understood; or even better, the effects were known since produced at all times, but the law was unknown, and it was the ignorance of this law that produced the superstition. Once the law is known, the marvelous ceases and the phenomena enter the order of natural things.
That is why the spiritists do not make miracles when making a table turn or an incarnate person write, in the same way a doctor does not make it by reviving a moribund patient or the physicist when producing an electrical discharge.
That is why we repel with all our heart the qualification employed by Mr. Mathieu, although we are convinced that he did not intend to give that word any mystical meaning, but because the persons who do not investigate in depth – and those are the majority – could be mistaken and believe that some adepts of Spiritism attribute to themselves a supernatural power. Anyone who pretended to make miracles, supported by this Science, would be either ignorant of the subject or a mystifier. One should not give ammunition to those who laugh at everything, including what they ignore, because it would be the same as exposing oneself to ridicule, in good faith.
As with the magnetic phenomena, the spiritist phenomena could be considered prodigies before their causes were known. Well, like the skeptical, the strong spirits, that is, those who in their opinion have the exclusive privilege of reason and common sense, do not believe that something is possible if they cannot understand it. That is why every fact considered prodigious to them is just a matter for mockery. Since religion has a large number of facts of such a nature, they do not believe in religion. From that, absolute incredulity is just a step away.
Spiritism shows the reason for the occurrence of the majority of those facts. It then comes in support of religion, demonstrating the possibility of certain facts which no longer require the miraculous character, although not less extraordinary. God is not smaller or less powerful just because God did not break His own laws.
How many jokes were not told about the levitations of St. Cupertino? Well, the ethereal suspension of the solid bodies is a fact, demonstrated and explained by Spiritism. We ourselves witnessed the phenomenon and Mr. Home, as other persons of our circle, repeated the phenomenon produced by St. Cupertino many times. Thus, such phenomenon is part of the natural phenomena. Among the facts of such a kind the apparitions are in the frontline for being the most frequent ones. The apparition of La Salette, which divides the clergy, has nothing of remarkable. We certainly cannot affirm that the fact has occurred since we do not have the material proof, but the fact is possible to us once we know thousands of recent analogue facts. We believe in them not only because their reality is attested by us but above all because we know perfectly well how they are produced. Refer to the theory we gave about the apparitions and one will see that the phenomenon becomes so simple and plausible as a number of physical phenomena considered prodigious just because their key is missing.
As for the person who appeared in La Salette, it is another question. The identity is not demonstrated in any way. We only attested that there was an apparition. The rest is not up to us. Our objective is not to examine if God can break His own laws either, by making miracles, in the true meaning of the word. This is a point of theology that is not part of our cogitations.
Each person may then have one’s own convictions with that respect and Spiritism must not be involved with that. We only say that the facts produced by Spiritism reveal new laws and provide the key to several things that seemed supernatural. If some of those facts that seemed miraculous find a logical explanation here and a reason to occur, it is one more reason not to hastily deny what we do not understand.
Certain persons criticize us for exposing spiritist theories that they consider premature. They forget that many contest the facts of Spiritism precisely because they seem outside of the common law, and because they are not explained.
Give them a rational basis and the doubt will disappear. Let us simply tell a person that we will send a telegram from Paris to the US and receive the answer in a few minutes and the person will laugh at us. Explain the communication process and the person will believe, even without seeing the operation. In this century in which words are not spared, explanation is a powerful means of conviction. Thus, we daily see persons who have never witnessed any fact, who have not seen one single table turning or a medium writing, and who are as much convinced as we are, only because they learned and understood. If we were supposed to believe only in what we see with our own eyes, our convictions would be reduced to almost nothing.

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