The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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Several newspapers, as usual, mocked this new medium who is a fellow country man to Mr. Home, under whose influence multiple phenomena of up to a certain degree of exceptional nature have also been produced. A particular characteristic is that they only occur in absolute darkness, a circumstance duly observed by the skeptical. As we all know Mr. Home produced a variety of phenomena, among which the most remarkable was that of the tangible apparitions. We described them in detail in our February, March and April 1858 issues of this Review. Mr. Squire produced only two, or even better, only one type with certain variations, but not less worthy of our attention. Since darkness is an essential condition to obtain the phenomenon it goes without saying that every precaution is taken in order to ensure the authenticity of the events. Here is what happens:

Mr. Squire positions himself across from a 35-40 kg table, similar to a reinforced kitchen table. His legs are strongly tied up together, to avoid their use. In such a condition his muscular strength is considerably diminished in case he needed it. Another person, any person and even the most skeptical, holds one of his hands, the other remains free. He then uses that free hand to gently touch the edge of the tabletop. Next the lights are turned off, immediately followed by a movement of the table that lifts it off above his head, landing upside down behind his back onto a couch or a set of previously positioned pillows to protect the table. Once the phenomenon is produced the lights are turned on immediately. It all happens in a few seconds. The experiment may be repeated at will several many times if one wishes in the same session.

A variant of the phenomenon: a person is placed side by side with Mr. Squire; once the table has been lifted and turned as above, instead of falling backwards, it lands horizontally on the other person’s head, and that person only feels a slight pressure. As soon as the light is turned back on, the table recovers its full weight and it would then fall unless two other people are prepared nearby to sustain the weight, holding the table from the sides.

That is substantially the report, in its simplest form, without emphasis or reluctance, extracted from La Patrie from December 23rd, 1860 and from a large number of witnesses, here confessing that we have not seen the phenomenon directly. However, the honesty of the people who told us the story gives no room for any doubt regarding its occurrence. We have another perhaps even more powerful reason to admit it. It is the fact that the theory demonstrates its possibility. Now, there is nothing better to reinforce a conviction than the verification. Nothing provokes doubt more than saying: I saw it but I did not understand it. Let us try then to understand it. Let us start by raising some preliminary objections. The first one that easily comes to mind is the fact that Mr. Squire may use some very secretive means or, in other words, he is a skillful con artist; or even that he is a charlatan, as crudely said by those who don’t bother to be called rude. One word only is enough to respond to such a hypothesis: Mr. Squire came to Paris as a visitor only and takes no advantage of his strange faculty. Well then, since there is no uninterested charlatan to us that is the most important guarantee of honesty. If Mr. Squire had charged a fee per person, or if he were moved by any interest whatsoever, than the suspicions of foul play would be perfectly legitimate.

We don’t have the honor of knowing him in person but we know that he is a very respectable person, with a kind and benevolent character, and we have learned that through other trustworthy individuals. He is a renowned writer, working for several journals in the USA.

The critic rarely takes into account the person’s character and the driving force behind their actions. That is a big mistake since such appreciation is of the essence. There are cases in which the accusation of fraud is not only offensive but illogical.

Having said that and leaving aside any presumption of fraud, one needs to know if the phenomenon could be produced with muscular force. Tests were carried out with the support of very strong men and everyone agreed that it was absolutely impossible to lift that table with one hand and even more so to make it spin in the air. We must add that the physical structure of Mr. Squire is not exactly that of Hercules.

Since the use of physical force is impossible, given the circumstances, and that a thorough exam prevents the use of any mechanical means of support, it is then necessary to admit that there is a superhuman action at play. Every effect has a cause; if the cause is not in humanity it is absolutely necessary that it is outside; in other words, in the intervention of invisible beings that surround us, knowingly the spirits.

The phenomenon produced by Mr. Squire is nothing new to spiritists, with the exception of the way that it is produced; bottom line is that it belongs to the category of all other phenomena of transport and dislocation of objects, with or without contact, of suspension of heavy bodies in the air. Its principle is in the elemental phenomena of the turning tables, whose complete theory can be found in “The Mediums’ Book”.

Any person that may have given some thought to that theory can easily find the explanation about the effects produced by Mr. Squire. Undoubtedly the fact that a table may lift up, move on the floor, rise and stay in the air without support, without any physical contact, is even more extraordinary. If we can understand these phenomena then we can even more so the phenomenon described above.

One may still ask where the proof of the intervention of the spirits is in all that. If the effects were purely mechanical it is true that there would not be any proof of intervention and in such case the acknowledgment of an electric fluid or similar would be enough. However, since there is proof of an intelligent phenomenon there must be an intelligent cause behind it. Well then, it was through the signs of intelligence of these effects that it was possible to recognize that the phenomena were not purely material. We speak of the spiritist phenomena as a whole since there are some whose intelligent effect is almost null, as in Mr. Squire’s case. He could then be supposed to have a natural electrical potential, like many other people seem to have. However, as far as we know, light has never been an obstacle to the action of electricity or the magnetic fluid. On the other hand, the detailed analysis of the circumstances of the phenomenon rule out such hypothesis, while there is an evident analogy with the other phenomena that can only be produced by the intervention of occult intelligences. It is then more rational to classify it among the latter ones. We still need to know how the spirit is able to act upon matter.

When a table moves it is not the spirit that grabs it and raises it with their hands, for the simple fact that although they do have a body like ours, it is fluidic and cannot exert a muscular action properly speaking. The spirit saturates the table with its own fluid, combined with the animalized fluid of the medium. Thus, the table becomes momentarily animated by a kind of fictitious life. The table then obeys the will of the spirit, like a living creature would do. It expresses happiness, rage and several feelings of the spirit through its movements, serving the spirit. It is not the table that thinks, that becomes happy or angry; and it is not the spirit that incorporates in the table because the spirit does not metamorphoses into a table. The table is just a docile, obedient instrument serving the spirit’s will, like a baton agitated by a person, and with which the person can make threats or express other feelings. In this case, the muscles sustain the baton but the table, since the muscles of the spirit cannot displace it, is then agitated by their fluids that replace the muscular force. This is the fundamental principle of all similar motions.

One question that seems more difficult at first sight is this: how could a heavy body be moved from the ground and be maintained in the air, contrary to the law of gravity? In order to understand this we need to remember what happens daily before our eyes. It is a well-known fact that there is a distinction between the mass and the weight of a solid body. The mass of a given body is always the same, depending on the sum of all molecules; the weight varies depending on the density of the medium where it is located. That is why a body weighs less in water than in air and even less in mercury. Suppose a heavy table is placed on the floor of a room that is suddenly flooded with water. The table will lift up on its own, or at least a man or even a child would be able to lift it, almost effortlessly. Here is another comparison: let us make a vacuum underneath a pneumatic bell, where there will be no air left inside the chamber to balance the external air; the bell would then become so heavy that even the strongest man cannot move it. However, the mass of the table or the bell has not changed by a single atom, but its relative weight has either increased or diminished due to the density of the surrounding fluid (buoyancy).

Now, do we know every fluid of nature or even all properties of the fluids that are known? It would be presumptuous to admit that. The examples above serve as comparison, but we don’t say similarity. We just want to show that the spiritist phenomena that appear strange to us are not stranger than those mentioned above and can thus be explained, if not by the same causes at least by analogous ones.

In fact, there we have a table that evidently loses its apparent weight at a given moment and that, in different circumstances, becomes overloaded, and such fact cannot be explained by the known laws. Since it is repeated, it then demonstrates that it is submitted to a law that cannot be considered inexistent just because it is unknown. What is that law? The spirits tell us that. However, instead of their explanation we can deduce from analogy, without the need of resourcing to miraculous or supernatural causes. The universal fluid, as the spirits call it, is the vehicle and agent of every spiritist manifestation. It is said that the spirits may modify its properties, according to the circumstances; that this fluid is the element that constitutes the perispirit or the semi-material wrapping of the spirit; that it can become visible and even tangible. Is it then irrational to admit that a spirit may at some point in time involve a solid body in a fluidic atmosphere whose modified properties produce on that solid body the effect of being in a denser or thinner surroundings? Under this assumption the motion of the heavy table by Mr. Squire is very naturally explained, as every other similar phenomenon.

The need for darkness is more embarrassing. Why would such an effect stop in the presence of the tiniest ray of light? Would the luminous fluid have any mechanical influence here? It is not likely since similar facts do perfectly occur in daylight. Such specificity can only be associated to the special nature of the spirits that manifest through that medium. Why this medium and not others? This is a mystery only penetrated by those who identify themselves with the multiple types of sometimes bizarre phenomena of the invisible world. They are the only ones who can understand the sympathies between the dead and those alive.

What is the category of such spirits? Are they good or bad? We know that we have offended egotistic earthlings by depreciating the value of the spirits who produce physical manifestations; we have been harshly criticized because we classify them as the acrobatics of the invisible world. We apologize and say that this expression is not ours but from the spirits.

We ask for their forgiveness but we could never accept the idea that superior spirits would come to us to have fun, and do stunts and other things like that, in the same way that we cannot be convinced that clowns, circus strongmen, tightrope walkers and jugglers are members of the prestigious Institute (Academy of Sciences of Paris –LC). Those who are aware of the hierarchy of the spirits know that there are spirits of all levels of intelligence and morality, and that is not surprising since the spirits are nothing more than the souls of those who lived here on Earth. Now then, until proven otherwise allow us to doubt that spirits like Pascal, Bossuet and others less elevated may come to serve us and make tables turn, to amuse a group of curious people. We ask those who think otherwise if they believe that they would play such a role after their deaths. Those that operate with Mr. Squire have servility incompatible with the least intellectual superiority, from which we can conclude that they must belong to inferior orders, but this does not mean that they are bad. One can be honest and good and still incapable of reading and writing.

The bad spirits are typically unruly, angry and like to do evil things. Now, we are not aware of any bad behavior carried out by those spirits that manifest through Mr. Squire. They obey peacefully, submissively; a fact that excludes any suspicion of malevolence, but that does not make them capable of giving us philosophical teachings. We are sure that Mr. Squire has enough common sense to preclude himself from being offended by our appreciation. The subordination showed by the spirits that assist him led one of our comrades to say that those spirits knew him from a previous existence, in which Mr. Squire might have had great authority upon them, that being the main reason why they still show a passive obedience now. Besides, one must not confuse the spirits properly given to physical effects, commonly designated by the name “rapping spirits” with those who communicate through knocks. This latter means of communication is an actual language and may be employed by spirits of any order.

We have noted that we met a large number of people who witnessed the experiences of Mr. Squire, but among those who were not initiated in the Spiritist Science many have remained unconvinced, demonstrating that the simple vision of the most extraordinary effects is not good enough to lead them to conviction. They changed their opinion after having heard our explanations. We certainly don’t present this theory as the last word and definitive solution. However, since known laws cannot explain the facts, one must agree that the system that we admit is not destitute of likelihood. Let us admit it, if you like, as a hypothesis, and when a better solution is presented we will be the first to accept it.

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