The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1860

Allan Kardec

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The desire to see the spirits is a very natural thing and we know only a few people who would not like to have such a faculty. Unfortunately it is one of the scarcest, particularly the permanent one. The spontaneous apparitions are very frequent but accidental, and almost always motivated by a totally personal circumstance, based on the relationships that might have existed between the person that sees and the spirit that shows up. One thing is to serendipitously see a spirit and another is to see them habitually and under normal, ordinary conditions. Well, as a matter of fact, that is what constitutes the faculty of the clairvoyant mediums. It results from a special aptitude whose cause is still unknown, and that can be developed but which would be hopelessly provoked in case there is no natural predisposition. Thus, it is necessary to remain vigilant against the illusions which can be originated from the desire of having such a faculty, and which have given place to so many strange systems. We must fight the scaring theories since these have been the reason for the attacks to the manifestations, particularly when those theories demonstrate ignorance with respect to the facts, as much as we must try to destroy ideas which indicate more enthusiasm than thought, and that for this very reason do more harm than good by being exposed to ridicule.

The theory of the visions and apparitions is perfectly understood today. We have developed it in several articles particularly in the December 1858 and February and August 1859 issues of the Review and in our The Mediums’ Book, or experimental Spiritism. We shall not repeat it here but will remind a few essential points only, before coming to the analysis of the globule spirits system.

The spirits may be seen in several ways, being the human form the most common. Their apparition generally happens under a misty and diaphanous form, sometimes vague and not well defined. It often starts from a whitish spark whose boundaries are gradually delineated. On other occasions the lines are more accentuated and the tiniest details of the face are drawn with such an accuracy which allows their exact description. On those occasions a painter could portray them as easily as done with a living person. The attitude and looks are the same that the spirit had when alive. Since the spirit may give any appearance to the perispirit, which is the ethereal body, the spirit may show up under the appearance in which they are more easily recognizable. Therefore, although the spirit no longer carries any disease which they might have endured as a living person, the spirit may appear limping, limbless or hunchback if that is considered suitable for identification. As for their outfit these are generally made of some sort of floating tunics, at least that is the appearance of the superior spirits who keep nothing of the worldly things. However, the vulgar spirits, our acquaintances, almost always wear the type of clothes that they wore in the last period of their lives. They frequently show the typical traits of their social classes. The superior spirits always show a beautiful, noble and serene face whereas the inferior spirits have a vulgar physiognomy, a mirror which reflects the more or less ignoble passions that moved them. They sometimes even show traces of their crimes or sufferings. A remarkable thing is the fact that, exception made to some particular circumstances, the least defined areas are the inferior limbs while the head, arms and chest are always clearly outlined.

We said that the apparition has something of diaphanous, despite its distinctiveness. In some cases one can compare them to the image reflected on a mirror without tin, which does not preclude us from seeing the objects behind it. That is how the clairvoyants commonly see them. They see the spirits come and go, circulate around the living ones, giving the impression, at least the vulgar spirits, that they take active part into what happens around them, listening and showing interest for what is being discussed, depending on the subject. Sometimes they can be seen approaching people, whispering ideas, influencing them, consoling or showing happiness or sadness, depending on the result. In short, it is the replica or the reflex of the corporeal world, with its passions, vices or virtues, many virtues which our material nature would hardly allow us to understand. Such is this occult world that populates the space that surrounds us, in which we live unsuspectedly, as we live among the myriads of the microscopic world.

However, it can also be that the spirit takes an even more distinct shape with all traces of a solid human body, to the point of producing a complete illusion and make believe that one is before a corporeal being. Finally, the tangibility may become real, that is, such body may be touched; its resistance may be felt and even its temperature, as if from an animated body, despite the fact that it may disappear with the speed of light. Although the apparition of these beings, designated by the name agénères, is very rare, it is always accidental and of short duration. They could not become habitual guests of a house under such appearance.

It is a well-known fact that among the exceptional faculties irrefutably demonstrated by Mr. Home there was the appearance of tangible hands, which can be touched on one side and on the other those hands can hold, grab and even leave impressions on the skin. We say that the tangible apparitions are very rare but the ones which occurred lately confirm and explain those recorded by History, relatively to persons which showed up after death, showing the same appearance as their corporeal form. As a matter of fact, however extraordinary such phenomena may seem, the supernatural aspect disappears as long as the explanation is known and it is then clear that far from being a derogation of the natural laws, the apparitions are their application.

When the spirits take the human form it is impossible to be mistaken. That is not the case when they take other appearances. We will not discuss certain terrestrial images reflected by the atmosphere, which have fed the superstition of ignorant people, but of some other effects about which even educated people could be mistaken. That is precisely when we have to be vigilant against the illusion, avoiding exposing ourselves by taking some purely natural physical phenomena by spirits.

The air does not always present a perfect cleanness, and there are situations in which the molecular currents and agitation produced by heat are perfectly visible. The agglomeration of these particles forms small masses which seem to navigate in space, giving rise to the singular system of spirits in the form of globules. The cause of such appearance is in the air but it can also be in the eye. The vitreous humor has imperceptible spots which may have lost their transparency. These spots are like opaque bodies in suspension, following the liquid’s motions and undulation. They produce the effect of small discs in the air and at a distance, due to the phenomenon of refraction and amplification, varying from 1 to 10 millimeters in diameter. We saw people absorb those discs by familiar spirits that followed them everywhere, and they saw figures in the nuances of the optical formations, out of their own enthusiasm. A simple observation carried out by these persons will bring them back to the terrain of reality. Those discs or medallions, they say, not only follow them but track all their moves: they show up on the right, on the left, up and down, or stop, according to the motion of the head. Such coincidence proves by itself that the seat of the appearance is in us and not outside, further demonstrated by the fact that the wavy like movements are always within a certain angle; however, as they do not follow the sudden changes in the line of sight, it gives the impression that they have certain independence. The cause of that effect is very simple. The opaque or semi-opaque spots of the vitreous humor, primary cause of the phenomenon as we said, are kept in suspension, with a constant tendency to drop down. When there is an upward movement it is because they were required by the ascending motion of the eye; at that point if the eye stays put the disc is seen to slowly move downwards and then stop. It has extreme mobility since an imperceptible motion of the eye is sufficient to make it sweep the full angle of sight, in the region where the image is projected.

The same can be said about the sparks sometimes produced in more or less compact rays, by the contraction of the muscle of the eye, which are likely due to the phosphorescence or natural electricity of the iris, since these are generally limited to the circular circumference of the organ. Similar illusions cannot arise but from an incomplete observation. Those who have seriously studied the nature of the spirits by all means given by the practical science will understand how puerile these illusions are. If those airy globules were spirits we would have to acknowledge that they would be reduced to a purely mechanical role, considering that they are intelligent and free beings, a role which would be painfully boring to inferior spirits, let alone the idea that we have about the superior spirits.

The only signs that may really ensure the presence of the spirits are the intelligent ones. As long as the images which we have just mentioned above have not demonstrated independent, spontaneous movements, even if with a human form, we are only seeing physiological or optical phenomena. The same observation applies to all kinds of manifestations, particularly the noises, raps, and any uncommon motion of inert bodies, which can be produced by a thousand and one reasons. We repeat: while an effect is not intelligent on its own and independent from people’s intelligence, we must examine it twice before attributing it to the spirits.

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