New York’s Library
The Courier from the United States reports:
“A New York paper publishes a very curious fact already known by a
certain number of people and about some very interesting comments that
have been made for several days. The spiritualists see in that fact one more
example of manifestations from the other world. Sensible people don’t go
that far to find the explanation, and clearly acknowledge symptoms that
characterize hallucination. That is also the opinion of Dr. Cogswell, hero
of this adventure.
Dr. Cogswell is the chief librarian of the Astor Library. His dedication
to the final stages of construction of a complete catalogue of the
library has him using hours of work which should actually been dedicated
to his sleep. That is how he has the occasion of visiting rooms alone where
so many volumes sit on the shelves. About fifteen days ago, around eleven
o’clock at night, he was passing by one side room full of books when
he saw, with great surprise, a well-dressed man standing and apparently
examining the titles of the books with great attention. In the beginning
he thought it was a thief, he then backed up and carefully examined the
intruder. His surprise became even livelier when he recognized the visitor
as Dr. … who had lived near Lafayette-Place, who had died and was buried
six months earlier. Dr. Cogswell does not believe much in apparitions and fears them even less. Nonetheless, he thought it to be appropriate to
treat the ghost with consideration and raising his voice he said: - Doctor,
how come you have perhaps never visited this library when alive and you
come to visit it after your death? The ghost kindly looked at the librarian
and disappeared without responding, leaving him still perplex in his
• A singular hallucination, Dr. Cogswell said to himself. I might
have eaten something spoiled over dinner.
He then returned to work and later went to bed and slept uneventfully.
On the next day, at the same time, he felt like visiting the library
again. He found the ghost at the same spot as the night before. He addressed
him with the same words and got the same outcome.
• That is curious, he thought. I must come back tomorrow.
However, before returning, Dr. Cogswell examined the shelves that
seemed to have the ghost’s attention and out of a singular coincidence he
identified a large number of both old and new books about necromancy.
Hence, the next day and a third time he meets the deceased doctor again,
and now varying the question he said:
• It is the third time I meet you doctor. Tell me if any of these
books trouble your resting so that I can have it removed from the
The ghost did not respond as it had not on previous occasions but it
disappeared definitely and the persistent librarian returned to the same
place, at the same time on several occasions, not finding him ever again.
Yet, advised by friends to whom he had told the story, as well as doctors
who he had consulted with, he decided to take a break and travel to
Charlestown where he spent a few weeks, before resuming the painstaking task that he had imposed upon himself and whose fatigue, no doubt, had
caused the hallucination that we have just described.”
Observation: A first observation about the article: the nonchalance with
which the detractors of Spiritism attribute to themselves the monopoly
of common sense. “The spiritualists, says the author, see in that fact one
more example of manifestations from the other world. Sensible people
don’t go that far to find the explanation, and clearly acknowledge symptoms
which characterize hallucination.” Thus, according to this author,
only people that think like him are sensible people; the others don’t have
common sense, even if they are doctors, and Spiritism can count them
to the thousands. Strange modesty, really, the one that uses the maxim:
Nobody is right but only my friends and us.
We still wait for a clear and accurate definition, a physiological explanation
of hallucination. However, in the absence of that, there is a
meaning that is related to the word. In the mind of those who use that
term it means illusion. Well, illusion means lack of reality. According to
them it is a purely fantastic image produced by imagination, under some
sort of overly excited cerebral. We don’t deny the fact that in certain cases
it may well be so. What remains to be determined is if every event of
that kind occurs under the same conditions. From the examination of the
above case it seems that Dr. Cogswell was perfectly calm, as he declares
himself, and that no moral or physiological cause had disturbed his mind.
On another hand, and even admitting his temporary illusion, it is still
necessary to explain how come such an illusion had lasted for so many
days in a roll, at the same time of the day and in similar circumstances,
since this is not the character of hallucination, per say. Had his brain been
impressed by a given material cause on the first day, it is obvious that the
cause had ceased after a few moments when the apparition vanished. How
could such a material impression be identically reproduced over a period
of three consecutive days, with 24-hour intervals? It is regrettable, the fact that the author disregarded this when providing explanations because,
no doubt, he must have excellent reasons since he is part of the group of
Nevertheless, we agree that in the case above there is no positive proof
of reality and that, strictly speaking, we can admit that the same aberration
of the senses could have repeated. However, would the same thing
happen when the apparitions are followed by events of some sort of material
nature? For example, when well alert people (and not in their dreams)
see their absent relatives or friends, who they were not thinking of, coming
to announce their passing to them, at the time of their death, can it be
said to be a result of imagination?
If the fact of death was not real there would undeniably be an illusion;
but when the event confirms the prediction, and that is very frequent,
how is it possible that the only thing admitted is silly ghost stories?
Besides, if it were an isolated or rare fact one could believe in a game
of chance. However, as we have been saying, the examples are uncountable
and perfectly confirmed. It is up to the “hallucinationists” to bring
us an irrefutable explanation and we will then see if their reasons are
more demonstrable than ours. In particular we would like to have them
demonstrating to us, especially if they consider themselves the owners of
common sense and do admit that we have a soul which outlives the body,
we would like to have them demonstrating, we were saying, the material
impossibility that the soul that must be somewhere, cannot be around us,
seeing us, hearing and communicating with us.
The Betrayed Bride
The following fact was reported by the “Gazetta dei Teatri” from Milan,
on March 14th, 1860:
“A young man was totally in love with a lady who loved him back
and whom he was going to marry when, yielding to an ill-fated desire, he
abandoned his wife-to-be for a woman who was unworthy of true love.
The unfortunate and abandoned young lady begged and cried but all was
useless. Her fickle boyfriend remained impervious to her appeals. So desperate,
she went to his house and died before his eyes as a consequence of a
poison that she had ingested. Facing the cadaver and after witnessing the
death that he had caused, he is then taken by a terrible reaction and tries
to kill himself. However, he survives, but his conscience always blames
him of this crime. Since that fatal episode, each day at dinner time, his
fiancée appears at the door of his bedroom, in the image of a frightening
skeleton. However much he tried to become distracted, change his habits,
travel, visit with joyful friends, forget about the time, nothing worked.
Wherever he was, the ghost would always appear at the appointed time.
In a short time, he lost a lot of weight and his health became compromised
to the point that the doctors gave up on being able to save him.
A medical doctor, who was his friend, after having experimented with
several medications and studied the case very seriously, had the following idea: hoping to demonstrate to him that he was a victim of an illusion, he
sought a real skeleton and stored it in the room next door; then, having
invited his friend for dinner, at 4 o’clock which was the usual time of the
vision, he brought in the skeleton by the use of pulleys which were fixed
nearby. The doctor thought that he was successful when his friend, taken
by a sudden horror, exclaimed:
• Oh, like one was not enough! Now it is two!
He then fell dead; a fulminating death.”
Observation: Reading this story, which we report on in good
faith to the Italian newspaper, the hallucinationists, from where
we have taken the information, one can easily say, and with reason,
that this was an obvious cause for cerebral super-excitation,
that produced an illusion on the shocked person. In fact there
is nothing that demonstrates the reality of the apparition that
could be attributed to a mind weakened by a violent shock. As
for ourselves, who knew so many analogue and attested facts, we
shall say that it is possible and that, in any case, the in-depth
knowledge of Spiritism would have given the doctor a more efficient
way of treating his friend. The means would have been the
evocation of the young lady at different times, speaking to her,
be it directly or through a medium; asking her what could have
been done in order to please her and obtain her forgiveness; praying
to a guardian angel to intercede on her behalf for reflection;
and since she definitely loved him, she would certainly forget his
mistakes had he shown a sincere regret and sorrow, instead of
a simple horror which was his likely dominant feeling. Perhaps,
she would have stopped to appear to him in such a terrible form,
taking the gracious form she had when alive or she would simply
no longer appear to him. She would have certainly told him good
things which would have reestablished his calmness and balance.
The certainty that they would never really be separated; that she watched over him and that they would reunite one day, all would
have given him courage and acceptance. It is a result that we have
often seen. The spirits that show up spontaneously always have
an objective. In such cases the best thing to do is to ask what
their wishes are. If they are suffering, it is necessary to pray for
them and do what we can to please them. If the apparition has
a permanent character, like an obsession, it almost always stops
when the spirit is satisfied. If the spirit manifests with obstinacy,
visually or through any disturbing means that cannot be taken
by an illusion; if the spirit is ill-behaved and acts malevolently,
that spirit is generally more tenacious, a fact which justifies even
further perseverance and sincere prayers in its favor. However, one
must be really persuaded that there are no sacramental words in
such cases, or even cabalistic formulas or exorcisms that may have
any influence. The more mischievous these spirits are the more
they laugh at the inspired terror and importance given to their
presence. They enjoy being called devils or demons and thus take
names like Asmodeu, Astaroth, Lucifer and other diabolical qualification,
multiplying their perniciousness, whereas they simply
leave when they notice that they waste their time with people that
are not mistaken and just pray for God to have mercy on them.
The Siècle from April 6th, 1860 reports:
“Mr. Felix N…, a gardener from an area near Orléans, was said to
have the talent of exempting conscripts from the draft lottery, in other
words making them get an non-chosen number. He promised a certain
Frederic Vincent P…, a young winemaker from Saint-Jean-de-Braye, a
conscription number that he wanted, for a compensation of 60 francs
that he would have to pay, 30 in advance and 30 after the draft lottery.
The secret consisted of praying three Our Father and three Hail Mary
for nine days. In addition, the sorcerer indicated that if he gracefully
did his part, the actions would greatly influence the conscript, hindering
him from sleeping on the very last night but yielding his release
instead. Unfortunately the enchantment did not work. The conscript
slept as usual and picked number 31, which made him a soldier. Since
these facts occurred two more times the secret was out and the sorcerer,
Felix N… was prosecuted.”
Spiritism’s adversaries accuse it of promoting superstitious ideas.
However, what is the commonality between the doctrine that teaches the
existence of the invisible world communicating with the visible one and
facts of nature that were just reported, true superstitious facts? Where has anyone seen Spiritism teaching such absurdities? Had those who attack
it, dedicated themselves to its serious study before judging it so lightheartedly,
they would then know that Spiritism not only condemns all
witchcraft practices but it also demonstrates its uselessness. Hence and as
we have reiterated often, the serious study of Spiritism tends to destroy all
superstitious practices. In the majority of the popular beliefs there is almost
always some truth but it is typically altered or modified. That is how
the genie and fairy tales are founded, on the idea of the existence of good
and bad spirits, protecting or malevolent; that all stories of apparitions are
based on the very real spiritist visible and even tangible manifestations.
Such phenomenon, perfectly explained and verified now, enter into the
category of natural phenomena, a consequence of the eternal laws of creation.
But people are rarely satisfied with the truth that seems too simple.
People tend to coat it with all fantasies created by imagination, falling
then in the zone of absurd. Those who are interested in exploiting those
same beliefs come next, adding a self-serving fantastic reputation. This
explains the crowd of fortunetellers, witches and sorceress against whom
the law is fairly enforced.
The true, rational Spiritism is then not more responsible for their
abuse than Medicine is by the ridiculous formulas and practices employed
by charlatans or ignorant people. Once more, before judging Spiritism,
give yourself time to study it seriously.
It is conceivable that there might be some truth in certain beliefs,
but one may ask about the origin of the belief in something like the facts
described above, such as a wide spread belief in our countryside, as one
knows it. It seems to us, at first sight, that one has in its origin an intuitive
feeling about invisible beings and their inclination to attribute to them
a power that they often do not have. The existence of deceiving spirits
hanging out around us by force of our planet’s inferiority, like pesky insects
in a swamp, who amuse themselves at the expense of credulous people,
predicting their utopian futures, always suitable to flatter their tastes
and desires, is a fact from which we have demonstrated daily by today’s mediums. These things that happen before our eyes have happened in
all times as a means of communication according to the time and place
required for that reality. With the help of charlatanism and greed, reality
has turned into a superstitious belief.
Mr. X…, one of our most renowned scholars, was at the house of
Ms. Huet last February 11th, with a group of six people who were
acquainted with spiritist manifestations for a long time already. Mr. X…
and Ms. Huet sat face to face around a little table chosen by Mr. X… He
took a piece of paper from his pocket, completely blank, folded it four
times and marked it with an almost imperceptible sign, but sufficient to
be identified. He put the piece of paper on the table covered by his white
handkerchief. Ms. Huet put her hands over the handkerchief. Mr. X…
did the same, asking the spirits to provide a direct manifestation, with an
enlightening objective. Mr. X… directed his request to Channing to be
evoked for that. Ten minutes had passed when he raised the handkerchief
and retrieved the piece of paper in which there was a phrase written on
one side, written with difficulty, almost illegible, but showing the outline
of these words: God loves you. On the other side it read: God on the external
angle, and Christ at the end of the paper. This last word was written
in such a way that it showed a hinged mark on the folded paper. A second
trial was carried out under the same conditions and after fifteen minutes
the paper contained on its lower surface, written in bold characters, the following English words: God loves you, and below it read: Channing. At
the end of the piece of paper it read in French: Faith in God. Finally, on
the back of the same page there was a cross with a sign similar to a reed,
both drawn with a red substance. Once the experiment was over Mr. X…
expressed to Ms. Huet his desire to obtain more elaborated explanations
from Channing, through her mediumship as a writing medium. The following
dialogue was established between him and the spirit:
• Are you here, Channing?
• I am here. Are you satisfied?
• Have you addressed the things you wrote to me in particular or
to everybody else?
• I wrote a phrase whose meaning applies to all people. The experiment
of writing in English however, is particularly to you. As for
the cross, it is the symbol of faith.
• Why have you done it in red?
• In order to ask you to have faith. I could not write it because it
would be too long; then I used the symbol.
• Is the red then the symbolic color of faith?
• Certainly. It is the representation of baptism by blood.
Observation: Ms. Huet does not speak English and thus the spirit
wanted to give another proof that his thoughts were foreign to the manifestation.
He did that spontaneously and from his own initiative, but it
is more than likely that if one had requested more proof, it would not
have been there. It is well known that the spirits do not like to be used as
instruments in experiments. The most patent proofs are sometimes given
when least expected and when the spirits act freely, they sometimes give
more than if they were asked. Whether they have the heart to show their
independence, or for the fault of not being able to produce certain phenomena
as a contest of circumstances which cannot always be produced
by our will. It is never too much to repeat that the spirits have their own free will and want to demonstrate to us that they are not submitted to our
caprices. That is why they rarely yield to curiosity.
The phenomena, whatever their nature, are never at our services with
any certainty, and no one can guarantee that they will be produced at a
given moment and at will. Any person who wishes to observe them must
be patient and wait and this is frequently a test of perseverance from the
part of the spirits, assessing the observer and the actual intention. The
spirits give no importance to the entertainment of curiosity and do not
bind themselves but to those who demonstrate their real desire for instruction,
doing whatever is necessary to achieve that, without any commercialization
of their time and effort.
The simultaneous production of signs in characters of different colors
is an extremely curious fact, but it is not more supernatural than all others.
We have an account of that in the article Pneumatography or direct
writing in The Spiritist Review, August 1859. The supernatural disappears
giving place to a simple phenomenon explained by the general laws
of nature, and that would be called the physiology of the spirits.
Spiritism and Spiritualism
The following statement by Cardinal Donnet was given in a recent
speech in the Senate: “But today, like in former times, it is true to
say with an eloquent publicist, in humankind, that Spiritualism is represented
It would certainly be a strange mistake if we thought that the celebrity
speaker in that particular event had understood Spiritualism in
the sense of spirits’ manifestations. The word was employed there in
its true meaning, and the speaker could not have expressed it in a different
way, unless he had made use of a paraphrase because there was
no other term to express the same thought. If we had not provided the
source of our citation, people might certainly think that we had extracted
it from an American spiritualist, about Spiritism, equally represented by
Christianity, in its most sublime expression. According to that, would it
be possible that a future scholar, giving a free interpretation to the words
of Cardinal Donnet, would try to demonstrate to our descendants that in
1860 a Cardinal had publicly professed the manifestation of the spirits,
before the French Senate?
Don’t we see in this fact a new proof that there is the need for a different
word for each thing, so that we can understand one another? How
many endless philosophical arguments haven’t we had due to the multiple meanings of the words! The inconvenience is even worse with the translations,
from which the biblical texts show more than one example. If in
Hebrew the word day and period were not expressed in the same way, we
would not have been mistaken about the meaning of the words in the
book of Genesis, regarding the duration of the formation of the earth, and
science would not have been cursed for a lack of understanding, when it
demonstrated that the formation of the planet could not have been accomplished
in a period of six times 24 hours.