The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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The Oxford Chronicle dated June 1st, 1861 states the following:

“In 1828 a ship was traveling from Liverpool to New Brunswick with Mr. Robert Bruce as second in command. As they were approaching the banks of Newfoundland the Captain and his second in command were calculating a full day’s route, the first one in his cabin and the second in an adjacent chamber. The two rooms were designed so that they could see and talk to one another. Bruce was very absorbed in his work that he did not notice that the Captain had left his cabin and gone up to the bridge. Without looking he said: “I found a similar longitude, what did you get?” Since there was no answer he repeated the question and again with no answer. He walked to the Captain’s cabin and saw a man sitting in his chair, writing on his slate board. The individual then turned and stared at Bruce, who ran to the bridge horrified.

• Captain, he said as soon as he saw him, who is that person in your cabin?

• Nobody, I believe.

• I guarantee you that there is a stranger there.

• A stranger! You are daydreaming Bruce. Who would dare to be in my cabin, at my desk without my orders? You may have seen the boatswain or the steward.

Sir, there is a man at your desk, writing on your slate board. He stared at me and I saw him more clearly than anyone I have ever seen before.

• He! Who?

• God knows, Sir! I saw a stranger that I had never seen before.

• You are crazy Bruce. A stranger! We have been offshore for about six weeks now.

• I know, but I saw.

• Well then, go and see who that person is.

• Captain, you know I am not a coward. I don’t believe in apparitions however I must confess that I cannot bear the idea of going there alone. I would like to have you with me. The Captain then led the way and found nobody. He then said:

• Look now, you had a dream.

• I don’t know how it can be but there was someone there and he was writing on your slate board.

• In that case there must be something written then. He took the slate board where it read: “Take the Northeast route.”

The Captain then had everybody on the ship, including Bruce; rewrite that phrase, attesting that the writing was unlike anyone else’s. They searched every corner of the ship and found no stranger. The Captain had given thought to the mysterious advice and decided to change course and follow the Northeastern route, appointing a man of his personal trust to be on the watch.

Around 3 pm a block of ice was spotted, then a ship with a broken mast and several men on board. As they approached they learned that the ship could not set sail, had no supplies left and everyone on board was starving. Several boats were sent for the rescue operation but as soon as they got on board and to Mr. Bruce’s bewilderment, he saw the very man that he had seen in the Captain’s cabin in the crowd of shipwrecked men.

As soon as the wreckage was attended to and the ship was able to reestablish its course Mr. Bruce told the Captain:

• It seems that I did not see a spirit today, after all. He is alive. The man who wrote on your slate board is one of the passengers that we have just saved. There he is. I swear!

The captain then invited the man to his cabin and asked him to write on the other side of the board containing the mysterious words: “Take the Northeast route”. The passenger obeyed although intrigued by the request. Taking the slate board, the Captain showed the written words to the passenger and asked:

• Is this really your writing?

• No doubt and I have just written it here, before your eyes.

• Then the Captain turned the other side of the slate and asked: How about this?

• Yes, it is my writing but I don’t know how that could happen since I only wrote on the other side.

• According to my Second officer here, he saw you today, around noon, by this desk and writing these words.

• Impossible – this is the first time I have been on this ship.

They then questioned the Captain of the wrecked ship about what could have happened to that man, and he said: ‘All I know is that he is one of my passengers. However, just before noon he fell heavily asleep, waking up an hour later. During his sleep he said he was confident that we would soon be saved, saying that he was aboard a ship and then described in detail, everything that we confirmed moments later. When he woke he said that he had no memory of any dream, just a recall of some sort of unexplained presentiment about a ship that would rescue us. Something strange, he added, is that everything in that ship seems familiar although I had never been there.’

Mr. Bruce then told the Captain the story of the apparition that he had seen and all agreed that it had been providential.”

This is a perfectly true story. Mr. Robert Dale Owen, former Minister of the USA in Naples, who also mentions this event in his book, found every possible piece of evidence supporting its truthfulness. Our question is whether this event has any aspect that one can characterize it as hallucination! It is understandable that the passenger had a lot of hope in his sleep, the kind that never abandons people in desperation. The coincidence between the dream and the rescue could still be the result of chance. However, how can one explain the detailed description of the ship? Even if it is still chance, then the writing on the slate board is material evidence. And for that reason, what about the advice to change course and navigate in the Northeastern direction, towards the wreckage? The hallucination supporters should kindly provide us with the reasons for all those events, and using their exclusive system.

In their opinion there is deception in the provoked spiritist manifestations. But in the event above there is no indication that the passenger was playing a role in a comedy. That is how the spontaneous manifestations, when supported by undisputable testimony, are of great relevance since there is no room for suspicion of any kind. To the spiritists there is nothing extraordinary about the fact above because they can explain it perfectly well. To the eyes of the ignorant it will seem supernatural, marvelous.

To someone that knows the theory of the perispirit and the liberty of the soul among the incarnated, it is all part of the laws of nature. A critic greatly amused himself poking fun at the story of the man of with his snuffbox published in the March 1859 issue of The Review, saying that it was all the imagination of the sick lady. What is it that is more impossible in that story than in this one? The two facts are explained by the exactly same rule that governs the relationship between spirit and matter. Besides, we ask all spiritists who have studied the theory of phenomena if, by reading the facts that we have just reported, their attention was not immediately attracted to the mode by which it can be produced; if they did not find an explanation; if, as a consequence of the explanation, their conclusion was not a possibility, and by force of that possibility, if their reason was not more satisfied than if they had to accept it just as a matter of faith, without the support of their intelligence? Those who criticized us for presenting this theory forget that it is the result of long and patient studies, that they could have done the same, as we have, working as much as we did and still do every day; that by providing the means of understanding phenomena we give it a foundation, a reason for its existence, that silenced many critics and contributed by and large to the propagation of Spiritism, considering that people accept it with more good will than something that is understood in opposition to something that cannot be.

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