The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Among the important questions related to the Spiritist Science, the role of the mediums was a subject of many controversies. Mr. Brasseur, director of the Industrial Center, published his private ideas with respect to this in the Moniteur de la Toilette, * particularly in the month of August last, from which we extracted the texts transcribed below. He honors us by requesting our opinion. We will most sincerely give it, not pretending that our point of view becomes law. We let our readers and observers judge the question. As a matter of fact, it is enough to summarize what we have said about it in several occasions, when treating the subject with much more extension than we can do here, since it is not possible to repeat everything that can be found in our writings.
Here the main passages of one of Mr. Brasseur’s articles, followed by our answers:

“What is a medium? Is the medium active or passive? Such are the questions aiming at the clarification of a subject which concerns those willing to get educated about the matters from beyond the grave and, consequently, about their relationships with that world.”

“On May 18th last I sent a note to the President of the Spiritist Society entitled: The medium and the spirits. On July 15th Mr. Allan Kardec published a new book entitled: What is Spiritism? By reading it I supposed to have found a categorical answer but that was in vain. The author persists in his errors: the mediums, he says on page 75, are THE PERSONS capable of patently receiving the impression of the spirits, serving as intermediaries between the visible and the invisible worlds.”
The book mentioned above is not a course of Spiritism. It is a summary explanation of the principles of that Science, to be used by persons willing to acquire its first notions. The analysis of details about the issues as well as the multiple opinions cannot enter into such a restricted space that has a specific objective. As for the definition we gave about the mediums, it seems perfectly clear to us, and it is with that definition that we respond to Mr. Brasseur’s question: “What is a medium?” It is possible that it does not correspond to his personal opinion. As for ourselves, however, we have so far no reason to modify it.
“Mr. Allan Kardec does not acknowledge the inert medium. He speaks of boxes, cards or planchettes, but does not see in those things (page 62) but appendices of the hand, whose uselessness would have been recognized…”
“Let us be clear”.
“In your opinion the medium is an intermediary between the visible and invisible worlds. But is it absolutely necessary that such a medium be a person? Isn’t it enough that the invisible may have any instrument for their manifestation?”
No, we will respond to that. It is not sufficient that the invisible may have any instrument at their service in order to manifest, since the fluidic support of a person is missing and to us, that person is the true medium. If it were enough to the spirit the use of any given instrument, we would see planchettes and baskets writing on their own, fact that has never happened. The direct writing, apparently the most independent fact of any cooperation, can only be produced under the influence of mediums, endowed by special aptitudes. A powerful consideration comes to support this opinion. According to Mr. Brasseur, the instrument is the main thing; the person is an accessory. In our opinion, it is exactly the opposite. Otherwise why wouldn’t the planchettes move with nobody? If, then, to make them move it is necessary to be endowed by a special aptitude, then the role of the person is not simply passive. That is why such a person is to us the true medium. The instrument, we repeat, is no more than an appendix of the hand, which we can go without. This is so true that every person who writes through the planchette can also do it directly with the hand, without the planchette and even without the pencil, since the characters may be drawn with the finger, whereas the planchette does not write without a person. As a matter of fact, every variety of mediums, as for their active or passive role, is widely developed in our Practical Instructions about the Manifestations.
“Separated from matter by the dissolution of the body, the soul no longer has any physical element of humanity.”
And what happens to the perispirit? The perispirit is the link uniting body and soul, the semi-material wrapping of the soul when alive and that remains after death. It is through that envelope that the soul shows itself in the apparitions. That wrapping is also matter, which although etherealized, may acquire the properties of tangibility.
“It has been observed that the person, directly holding the pencil, mixes her feelings and ideas with the feelings and ideas of the invisible, so that in such a way only mixed communications are given, whereas by the use of boxes, cards and planchettes, under the hands of two persons together, those persons do not absolutely intervene with the manifestation, being given only by the invisible. Hence I declare this mode superior and preferable to that of the Spiritist Society.”
That opinion could be true if not contradicted by the thousands of observed facts, at the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies and elsewhere, which demonstrate with incontestable evidence that the inspired mediums, even intuitive, and even with stronger argument, the mechanical mediums, may be absolutely passive instruments and enjoy the most thorough independence of thoughts. With the mechanical medium the spirit acts upon the hand, which receives an entirely involuntary impulse, taking the role of what Mr. Brasseur called inert medium, be the hand alone or holding a pencil, or even resting on a mobile object which is holding a pencil.
With the intuitive medium the spirit acts upon the brain, transmitting the movement of the arm through the nervous system, and so forth. The mechanical medium writes without the slightest awareness about his production. The act precedes the thought. With the intuitive medium the thought follows the act, and sometimes precedes it. Hence it is the thought of the spirit which crosses the medium’s brain, and if sometimes they seem to blend together, their independence is not less patent when the medium writes, even out of intuition, things that he cannot know or which are entirely contrary to his own ideas, his way of seeing things, his own convictions. In one word, when he thinks white and writes black. Besides, there are so many spontaneous and unpredictable facts that the doubt is not possible on those who observe them.
The role of the medium, in that case, is of an interpreter that receives a strange thought; transmits it; must understand it in order to transmit but does not assimilate it. That is how things are with the speaking mediums, who receive an impulse onto the organs of the word, as others receive on the arm or hand, and also with the hearing mediums, who clearly hear a voice speaking with them, dictating what they must write. And what will you say about the clairvoyant mediums, to whom the spirits show up as they were when alive, mediums who see them circulating around us, coming and going like the crowd we see before our eyes? And how about the impressionable mediums who feel the occult touches, the impression of fingers and even nails which mark their skin, leaving a sign? And how about the mediums of double sight who clearly see in daylight and awake what happens far away? Isn’t that a faculty, a kind of mediumship? The mediumship is the faculty of the mediums. The mediums are persons accessible to the influence of the spirits, being able to serve as their intermediaries. That is the definition found in the small Abbreviated French Dictionary of the Dictionaries, by Napoleon Landais, and so far it seems to give us a very exact idea.
We do not deny the utility of the instruments designated as inert mediums by Mr. Brasseur, name that he has total freedom of choice if he considers it appropriate. From experience, the names incontestably have an advantage to individuals who have not seen anything. However, since the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies is formed by experienced persons, whose convictions are already formed, not carrying out any experience to satisfy public curiosity; it does not invite people to the meetings so as they are not perturbed in its researches and observations and those primitive means would teach the Society nothing. That is why the Society prefers others, more expedited, considering that it has a significant experience with the subject to perfectly distinguish the nature of the communications that are received.
We will not follow Mr. Brasseur in every argument which he bases his theory for we are afraid of weakening and truncating them. Given the impossibility of reproducing them all we prefer to refer the readers interested in knowing about it to the newspaper that he edits with incontestable talent, where there are also very well written articles from Mr. Jules de Neuville, having one problem only to our eyes: not been preceded by a sufficiently deep study of the subject, thus allowing for many superfluous questions.
In short, and in common agreement with the Spiritist Society, we persist in the consideration of persons as the true mediums, who can be passive or active, according to their nature and aptitudes. We may call the instruments by the name of inert mediums if you will. It is a distinction that may be useful. We would make a mistake, however, had we attributed them with the role and properties of the animated beings of the intelligent communications. Furthermore we say intelligent to make the necessary distinction from the spontaneous, purely physical manifestations. This is a subject widely discussed in the Review.

* Journal of the Salons, fashion, literature and theater. Rue de l’Échiquier, 15

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