The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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Those who do not accept the incorporeal and invisible world believe to be able to explain everything by the word hallucination. The definition of the word is well known: error, illusion of a person that wrongly believes to have perceptions that are not there (Academic – from the Latin, hallucinari is the verb err, derivative of lucem). The scholars, as far as we know, have not given their definition yet. Optics and Physiology don’t seem to keep any secret from them. How is it that they have not yet explained the source of images that people see under certain conditions? Real or not, the hallucinated person sees something. Will they say that the hallucinated believes to be seeing something but in fact the person sees nothing? That is unlikely. You can say, if you wish, that it is a fantastic image. Be it as it may, but what is the source of that image? How does it form? How does it impress the brain? Nothing is said about that.

For sure when the person believes to be seeing the devil with its horns and claws, and the flames of hell and fantastic animals that do not exist, a struggle between the Moon and the Sun, it is obvious that there is no reality there. However, if the imagination is playing games how can that person describe those things as if they were present? That person sees an image, some sort of fantasy. Where would that image reflect, on which mirror? What is the cause of that image, its color and movement? That is what we have been unsuccessfully trying to find out in our sciences. Since scholars want to explain everything through matter and its laws, they must then provide a theory of hallucination using those laws. Good or bad it will always be an explanation.

Facts demonstrate that there are true apparitions and that only the Spiritist Doctrine explains perfectly well and that can only be denied by those who admit nothing beyond the visible world. However, are there hallucinations besides the real visions, using the true meaning of that word? There is no doubt about it. The essence here is to be able to separate the characters that may distinguish them from the real apparitions. What is their source? The spirits give us a hint through an explanation that seems complete to us in an answer given to the following question:

Q – Can we consider as apparitions, the figures and images that frequently occur during our initial sleep or simply with our eyes closed? – A. Since the senses are benumbed the spirit separates and may see what it could not see with the eyes of the body, near or far away. Those images are sometimes visions but they can also be impressions left in the brain by the sight of certain objects whose traces are kept, in the same way that the brain keeps the memory of sounds. The freed spirit sees in its own physical brain those impressions that remained there, like in a photographic film. Their variety and mixture form bizarre and fleeting shapes that disappear almost immediately, despite the effort that one may employ to retain them. It is a similar cause that must be attributed to some fantastic apparitions that are fictitious, and are often produced during illnesses.

It is known that memory is the result of all impressions kept by the brain. Through which singular type of phenomenon can such a variety and numerous amounts of impressions exist that they don’t get mixed up? That is an impenetrable mystery but not any less strange than the sound waves which cross in the air and remain no less distinct because of that. In a healthy and well-organized brain those impressions are clear and accurate. Under less favorable conditions they disappear or merge, like the imprint of a stamped symbol onto a solid substance versus that to a fluid substance; hence, the loss of memory or the confusion of ideas. This seems less extraordinary if one admits there being a special destination to each part of the brain, even to each of the brain’s fibers like in Phrenology. The images that come to the brain through the eyes leave an impression that resembles a picture, as if we had it before our eyes. The same happens with the impressions of sounds, smells, tastes, words, numbers etc. According to the fibers that establish the mechanism of transmission of those impressions that are able to be retained, the person then has the memory of shapes, colors, music, numbers, languages, etc. When we imagine a situation that we have already seen it is only a question of memory because in reality we are not seeing that. In a certain state of liberation, however, the soul sees and finds those images in the brain, particularly those that have left a stronger impression, according to the preoccupations and the disposition of the mind; it will then find the imprint of religious scenes, diabolic, dramatic or other impressions that were seen on different occasions, like from paintings, an event, readings from a book, which also leave impressions. Thus, the soul really sees something: it is the photographic image in the brain.

In the normal state those images are fleeting and ephemeral, because all sections of the brain work freely. But in the state of illness the brain is weakened; the organs are not in a state of equilibrium; some may keep their activities while others may be somewhat paralyzed. That is the reason why some images cannot be erased as in the normal state when facing life’s concerns. That is the true hallucination, the first source of fixated ideas, like the exclusive memory of an impression. Hallucination is a retrospective vision of an impression left in the brain.

As you can see, we find the cause of this apparent anomaly in an entirely physiological and well-known law, as in the cerebral impressions, but it was necessary to consider the intervention of the soul with its distinct faculties from the body. Now, if the materialists cannot give a rational solution to this phenomenon yet it is for their denial of the soul, inexplicable in pure materialism. They will then say that our explanation is not good because we utilized the intervention of an unacceptable agent. Unaccepted by whom? By them, but accepted by the vast majority since there have been people on Earth, and the denial of a few does not make a law.

Is our explanation any good? We provide it for what it is worth considering in the absence of others and it may be considered hypothetical while we wait for a better one. At least it has the advantage of providing hallucination with a basis, a foundation, a body and a reason to be, whereas when the Physiologists pronounced their sacramental words of over-excitation, and heightened effects of imagination, they said nothing or did not say everything considering that they did not observe every stage of the phenomenon.

Imagination also plays a role that needs to be distinguished from hallucination as such, although sometimes these two may be combined. Imagination lends inexistent forms to objects like a given shape on the Moon or animals in the clouds. It is well-known that objects may take on strange appearances in the dark when we are unable to distinguish all the parts, and the contours are not clearly shown. How many times has the most composed person not been surprised by clothing hanging in the closet or a vague reflection of light that gave off the impression of a human form? If there is fear or even an exaggeration of doubt, imagination will do the rest. We understand from this, that imagination can alter the reality of the images seen in the hallucination, yielding fantastic shapes and forms.

True apparitions have certain characteristics that an experienced observer would not confuse with the effects that have just been mentioned. Since they can occur in broad daylight, one needs to be suspicious about images that are seen at night for fear of being a victim of optical illusions.

In fact apparitions, like all spiritist phenomena, present intelligent characteristics and that is the best proof of their reality. Every apparition that does not provide an intelligent sign may definitely be put aside as an illusion. Materialistic persons may see here that we provide them with a huge head start.

Will our explanation provided so far cover every single case of vision? No, naturally it will not. From our side we defy any Physiologist to provide a single explanation, based on their exclusive point of view and one that can resolve them all. Then, if all theories of hallucination are insufficient to explain every event it means that there is something different from hallucination per se and that something has its explanation only with the Spiritist Doctrine that encompasses them all.

In fact, if we carefully analyze some frequent cases of common visions we will see that it is impossible to assign them with the same origin as in hallucination. Looking for a plausible explanation to the latter we wanted to clearly show how they differ from that of an apparition. In both cases it is always the soul that sees and not the eyes. In the first case the soul sees an image that is interior, in the second it is something external, if we can say so.

When a person that we were not at all thinking about and that we consider to be healthy, spontaneously shows up in our wake state and comes to us to reveal details of their death that is taking place as we speak, a fact that had not been reported yet, this cannot be attributed to any effect of memory or concern from our part.

Even if we were worried about that person one still needs to explain the coincidence of the apparition with the time of death, and particularly the circumstances of death, something that was not known and cannot be predicted. Therefore, it is okay to classify fantastic visions as hallucinations that have nothing to do with reality; but that is not the case with those that positively reveal current affairs, confirmed by the facts. It would be absurd to explain both with the same causes and even more absurd to attribute them to chance, the last resort used by those who have nothing to say. It is only Spiritism that can provide the reason for their occurrence by the double theory of the perispirit and the emancipation of the soul. However, how can one believe in the emancipation of the soul if one does not accept that they have a soul?

By not taking the spiritual element into account, science is powerless to solve a large number of phenomena, falling into the absurdity of trying to explain everything with the material element only. It is especially in Medicine that the spiritual element represents an important role. When doctors take this into account they will make less mistakes as they do now. They will then be guided by a ray of light that will guide them more safely in the diagnostic and treatment of diseases. That is what can be observed now in the practice of the spiritist doctors whose numbers grow daily. Since hallucination has a physiological cause we are certain that they will find means of treating it. We know a doctor that is close to discover things of the highest importance because he has learned from Spiritism the true causes of certain diseases and those that are resistant to the materialistic Medicine.

The phenomenon of apparition may occur in two different ways: it is either the spirit that comes to see the person that has the vision or it is the spirit of that person that travels to find the other. The two examples given below seem to characterize both cases well.

A colleague of ours told us not long ago that an officer friend of his was in Africa and suddenly had the vision of a funeral before his eyes. The funeral was of one of his uncles who resided in France and that he had not seen for a long time. He saw the whole procession from the moment it left the mortuary chapel and arrived at the Church and from there to the cemetery. He even noticed several details that he could not have any idea about. At that time he was awake but in a certain state of absorption that lasted until the moment when everything disappeared. Still shocked by those visions, he sent a letter to France requesting news about his uncle, only to learn that he had died suddenly and was buried on the exact day and time when he had the vision and with all the details that he had seen. In this case, it is evident that it was not the funeral procession that came to meet him but that he had gone to meet the procession, whereas the perception occurred through his second sight.

We know a doctor, Mr. Felix Mallo, who once treated a young lady. He thought that the Parisian air was not doing her any good and advised her to spend some time in the countryside with her family, which is what she did. Six months had passed since he had heard from her and he was no longer giving any thought to the case when one evening, at around 10pm he heard from his bedroom, someone knocking on his office door. Thinking that it could be someone in need of urgent care, he invited the person in. He was caught by great surprise when he saw before him the young lady mentioned above, with a pale face, dressed in the same manner as when he first met her, she then calmly said: ‘Mr. Mallo, I come to tell you that I died;’ and then she disappears. He was positive that he was awake and that there was no one else in the office. Immediately he sought news about her and learned that the young lady had passed on the very evening that she appeared to him. In this case it was the spirit of the lady that came to meet him. Now, the disbelievers may say that the doctor could be concerned with the health of his patient and that there is nothing special in the fact that he could have predicted her death. Agreed, but, they must also explain the coincidence between the time of her apparition and her actual death considering that the doctor had no news about her. Even assuming that he had believed the impossibility of a cure, how could he predict that she would die on a given day at a given time? We must add that this is not a man prone to a vivid imagination.

Here is another fact that is none the less characteristic and that could not be attributed to any kind of prediction. One of our associates, a Navy officer, was working offshore when he saw his father and his brother to be thrown under a carriage. The father died and the brother was unharmed. Fifteen days had passed when he came ashore in France, where friends who tried to prepare him for some bad news greeted him. ‘You don’t need to worry’, he said, ‘I know what you are about to say. My father died. I’ve already known this for fifteen days.’

In fact his father and his brother were driving a carriage down Les Champs Élysées in Paris when one of the horses was scared by something and broke the carriage; his father died and his brother had slight injuries only. These are positive and current facts and one cannot say that these are medieval legends. If each one of us gathers up their memories, recollections, you will see that these facts are more common than thought. Our question is this: do these facts have any characteristics of hallucination? We also fairly ask the materialists to give an explanation regarding the facts in the article that follows.

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