Allan Kardec

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Letter from Mr. Mathieu about the Mediumship of Birds

“Paris, August 11th, 1861
Dear Sir,

It is me again writing to you with your permission to pay another tribute to the truth.

It was only today that I read in the latest issue of your Review your excellent observation about the alleged mediumship of birds and I am fast to thank you for the service that you have done to a cause defended by both of us. Several exhibitions of wonderful birds have taken place over the last few years, and since I knew the principal tricks employed to get the desired results out of those flying creatures I was sad to hear certain spiritualists or spiritists attributing those feats to a mediumistic action, certainly provoking hidden smiles on the lips of the birds owners. There is something, however, that those owners are in no hurry to belie and I come to do so in their place since you give me the occasion; I don’t do so to harm their business, I am not angry, but to prevent a deplorable confusion between the effects that ingenious patience and some skilled hands, produced on these birds versus the intervention produced by the spirits on us.

You are perfectly right when you say: ‘Those birds do things that not even the most intelligent person, not even the most lucid somnambulist could do, from what one must conclude that their intelligence is superior to human’s, something that is contrary to the laws of nature.’ Your consideration should have caught the attention of some very enthusiastic persons who are not afraid of reaching out to mediumship to explain things that they cannot explain at first sight. However, judicious and coldblooded observers are still very rare and among the honest people who follow our studies there are those that cannot always defend themselves against the overexcitement of imagination and the dangers of illusion. Well, do you want me to tell you what I learned about those wonderful birds that we had the occasion of observing together one evening, if you remember?

One of my friends, attracted to any curiosity that shows up, one day showed me a long wooden shelf where there were a large number of small cards, placed side by side. The cards contained words, numbers, images of card games, etc. He told me that he had acquired them from a man that held shows with smart birds which had also sold him their method of utilization. He then showed me that certain cards had the superior and inferior borders constructed differently, some solid and others formed by two sheets, yielding an almost imperceptible slit between the two, invisible at a distance. He then said that the cards should be placed on the shelf sometimes with the slid pointing upwards, sometimes downwards according to the desire to have them removed from the shelf with their beaks or not touched by them at all. The bird was previously taught to pull every card that had a slit showing upwards. It seems that the preliminary lessons were given with tiny grains of corn or any other treat placed inside the slit. The bird ended up by learning that when there was a slit it should be touched, even retrieved, walking backwards.

There you have, Sir, the ingenious trick that my friend taught me. I am led to believe that a similar deception is used by all others who exploit the business of smart birds. All they have to do is to train the birds with a lot of patience and creating hunger on the birds’ side of course. They must also learn to hide their tricks with their accomplices or through skillful conjuring in handling the cards and the accessories that are used in their experiments.

I am sorry to reveal the most important of their secrets. Nonetheless, the public will not enjoy less the smart birds regardless of the impossibility of the things they produce. On the other hand, I could not let people accept the opinion that leads to not less than the desecration of our studies. Given such a sacred interest I believe that my silence would be an exaggerated scruple. In case you agree Sir, please share this letter with your readers.

Yours sincerely, etc.

There is no doubt that we agree with Mr. Mathieu and I am glad for sharing the same ideas about this issue. We thank him for the details that he kindly sent us and whose reading will certainly satisfy our readers. Spiritism is very rich of remarkable and authentic facts, not admitting those that touch the marvelous or impossible. It is only a very serious and deep study of this Science that can put the most doubtful persons on guard because that study gives them the key to the phenomena and shows them the boundaries within which they can be produced.

We said that if the birds operated their prodigies with knowledge and through their own intelligence then they would be doing what the most intelligent person cannot do or the most lucid somnambulist. This reminds us of the renowned Munito that we saw 25 or 30 years ago to beat his card game partner, adding up his totals before we could start the calculation. Without any vanity we have stronger skills in Arithmetic than that dog. They certainly used prepared cards in that game like in the case of the birds. As for the somnambulists, there is no doubt that some are lucid enough to produce effects as remarkable as those of the animals, a fact that does not invalidate our proposition. It is well known that lucid somnambulism, even the most developed, is essentially variable and intermittent by default; that it is subordinated to a number of circumstances, particularly the influence of the environment; that very rarely the somnambulist can see instantaneously; that it is frequently the case when the somnambulist does not see something at a given point in time, just to see it an hour later or even a day later; that what the somnambulist sees with one person is not seen with another. Supposing that the animals may have an analogous faculty, we would be forced to admit that they are not susceptible to be disturbed and that they may always utilize it and even twenty times a day if needed, without any alteration. Here is where we pointed out the fact that they could do things that even the most lucid somnambulist could not and this is what characterizes the maneuvers of conjuring like accuracy, punctuality, timeless, repeatability according to the will, and all that are contrary to the purely psychological phenomena of somnambulism and Spiritism, whose effects must always be patiently waited and may only rarely be provoked.

Even if the effects of what we have just discussed were due to artificial processes, that would not be strong enough to prove that there is no animal mediumship in general. Hence one needs to establish if the animals have the capability of serving as intermediaries between people and the spirits. Well, the impossibility is confirmed in Erastus’ dissertation published in our August issue and another from the same spirit about the role of the mediums in the communications, published in July

Letter from Mr. Jobard about the Spiritists of Metz
“Brussels, August 18th, 1861
My dear master,

I have just returned from visiting the spiritists in Metz, as you did in Lyon last year. Instead of poor, simple and illiterate workers I found Counts, Barons, Colonels, military engineers, former students of the Polytechnic Institute and scholars renowned for their great works. They also offered me a banquet but it was a pagan banquet that had nothing in common with the modest feast of the early Christians. The spirit of Lamennais also reprimanded such arrogance in the following terms:

‘Poor humanity! Always picking up the debris from the environment of which you live; you materialize everything, a proof that the mud still stains your being. This is no criticism but a simple observation. Since your objectives are covered in the ornament of excellent intentions your chosen paths are not to be condemned. If you place side by side with your almost animal satisfaction the firm desire to sanctify and honor it, the purity of your pleasures will certainly multiply that a hundred times. The good words will also strengthen your friendship; together with the memories of this great day thanks to Spiritism which plays a great part,, do not leave the table without a thought addressed to your teachers, the good spirits, who deserve acknowledgement.’

May that serve as a lesson to those like Lucullus, to the Parisian Trimalchios, that devours in a single dinner what could feed a hundred families, pretending that it was God given pleasure for their enjoyment. To enjoy, yes, but not to abuse to the point of harming the health of one’s body and spirit. What are, I ask you, the need of those double, triple and quadruple services; that growing super fluidity of the most delicate wines from which God seems to have removed the taste, by a reverse miracle at the marriage of Cana, where it changes into poison for those who lose their reasoning to the point of becoming impervious to the warnings of their animal instincts? If Spiritism were spread among the high social classes and had the only effect of stopping gluttonous behaviors and the orgies on the tables of the riches, it would have done a great service to society, a service that conventional medicine itself could not do since the doctors themselves willingly share in the excesses that only render more disease, more stomachs to fix, more spleens to clear, more gout patients to console because they do not know how to heal them.

I must say, dear Master, that I found houses of former nobility in Metz that were very religious, who’s grandmothers, mothers, daughters and grandchildren and even their church officials obtained by a theological classification beautifully dictated, considering that they are inferior to the wise mediums of the Society that I am talking about. Having asked two spirits whether they had read a certain book; one said that he had read it and thought about it and spoke highly of the book. The other confessed not having read it but had heard a lot about it; a good book but offered some vagueness. Judged, exactly as among us here on Earth.

Another provided us with an attractive theory of cosmology, swearing it to be the purest truth, and since he went to the extent of unveiling God’s secrets about the future I then asked him if he was not God himself or if his theory was only hypothetical. He mumbled a few words and acknowledged that he had gone too far but that he was positive about these ideas. Thank goodness!

In a few days you will receive the first publication from the Spiritists of Metz, they have kindly asked me to oversee it; you will be happy, because it’s very good. You will find two dissertations by Lamennais about prayer that were read by a Catholic priest during the mass, declaring that it could only be the work of one man. Mrs. de Girardin visits them and like you, will recognize his spirit, feelings and style. (The male form of ‘his’ is used here because Mrs. de Girardin went under the male pen name of Vicomte Delaunay to compete with the male authors of her time. - NT.)

The Society in Metz asked that I introduce them to the Belgian Society that consists of only two mediums, one French and one English. The Belgians are infinitely more reasonable. They feel sorry from the bottom of their heart that someone with as big a heart and intelligence as mine, covering all matters of sciences and technologies, believes in a crazy thing such as the existence and even immortality of the soul. They turned away with pity, saying ‘What does that have to do with us!’ That’s what happened to me last night when I was reading you’re the Spiritist Review, thinking that it could be of their interest, but they took it as a collection of false news for their own amusement.


OBSERVATION: We knew long ago that the city of Metz walks in strides on the path of the spiritist progress and that its officials are not the last ones to follow it. We are happy to have that confirmation from our honorable colleague Mr. Jobard. Thus, we will gladly publicize the works of that center established on serious foundations. We are sure that given the social position of their members, the works will certainly have a great influence. We shall soon speak of those from Bordeaux, sponsored by the Parisian Society, with already many members, elements and conditions to soon place it among one of the centers in the forefront.. We know Mr. Jobard’s principles well enough to be sure that he did not want to make any offensive comparison between the spiritists of Metz, given their titles and positions, and the modest workers of Lyon that we visited last year. His only objective was to attest that Spiritism counts on followers in all social classes. It is a well-known fact that the first ones to be recruited were in the most enlightened ranks of society in order to prove to the adversaries that it is not a privilege of fools and ignorant, and also to get to the masses only after having cleaned and cleared every superstitious ideas. It was only recently that it entered among the working class but it made rapid progress there too because it brings supreme consolations to material sufferings, teaching courage and resignation to endure the trials of life.

Mr. Jobard is mistaken if he thinks that we only find the working class among the spiritists of Lyon. Their contingency also included those from high level business, large commercial businesses, the arts and sciences.. It is true that the working class is the majority there and mostly due to local circumstances. Those workers are poor, as Mr. Jobard said. That is a reason to reach out to them. However, they have plenty of courage, eagerness and devotion. If they have only a piece of bread they know well how to share it with their brothers. They are also simple, that is true, and they don’t bear the pride or the presumptuous of knowledge; they are relatively illiterate, it is true, but not in the absolute sense. Although they may lack science, they have a lot of reason and common sense to evaluate what is fair, and to be able to distinguish between the rational and the absurd in what they are taught. We were able to assess it ourselves. That is why we take the opportunity to pay a fair tribute to them. The letter below, inviting us to visit them again this year, reflects the happy influence of spiritist ideas and the results we should expect when they will be widespread.

“Lyon, August 20th 1861

My good Mr. Allan Kardec,

If it has been a long time since my last correspondence, please do not take it as an air of indifference on my part. Knowing the large amount of correspondence that you receive, I only write when there is something important to tell you. I shall then tell you, that we are counting on you to visit us again this year and to kindly let us know the time and place of your arrival as precisely as possible since this year the number of spiritist has grown significantly, particularly in the working class. Everyone wants to see and hear you and although they know that it is the spirits that dictate the work they are eager to see the man chosen by God for this great mission. They want to tell you about their great happiness for being able to read your works and compliment you for their own moral progress, thanks to your instructions, they endeavor to become kind, patient and resigned in their own miseries, of which there is so much in Lyon, particularly in the silk weaving industry. Those who still moan and groan are the beginners. The instructed ones tell them: Courage! Our penalties and sufferings are trials or consequence of our previous lives; God who is good and just will make us happier and will reward us in new incarnations. Allan Kardec told us so and he demonstrates that in his writings.

We chose a place that is more spacious than the previous time considering that we shall have more than a hundred people. Our meal will be modest, as there will be many with small purses; it will be the pleasure of our reunion more than anything else. I will make sure that there will be spiritists from all classes and all walks of life so that everyone can understand that we are all brothers. Mr. Déjou is in charge and highly dedicated to this matter. He will bring his large group along.

Yours sincerely,
C. Rey

We were also honored by another invitation from Bordeaux, as follows:
“Bordeaux, August 7th, 1861
My dear Mr. Kardec,

Your latest The Spiritist Review announced that the Society will be on vacation from August 15th to October 1st. Can the spiritists of Bordeaux expect to be honored by your visit during that break? That would make us very happy. The most enthusiastic followers of the Doctrine, whose members’ increases daily, would like to organize a society subordinated to that of Paris in terms of the works. We have created rules and bylaws based on those of the Parisian Society and would like to submit it to you. Besides the main Society there will be groups of ten to twelve people in several areas of town, particularly in the working class areas where from time to time there will be members of the Society to give advice as needed. All of our spiritual guides are in agreement that Bordeaux must be a society of studies since this town will be the center of propagation of the Doctrine in the South. We happily await you with confidence that you will join us on the memorable inauguration day and we hope you will be satisfied with our eagerness and mode of operation. We are ready to submit ourselves to the wise advice of your experience. Come then to see our work. The server is known by his work.
Your dedicated servant,

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