The borrowing of well-known and respected names by inferior spirits has been observed and confirmed by the spirits themselves. How can we be sure, then, that spirits who reveal themselves as Socrates, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Fénelon, Napoleon and Washington were really these men that they claim to have been? This doubt even persists among many passionate advocates of Spiritism. They believe in the intervention and manifestation of spirits, but wonder how we can be certain of their identity. In truth, this assurance is very diffcult to obtain. Nevertheless, although it cannot be settled as authentically as a certifcate issued by an offce of vital records, it may be reasonably presumed, based on certain signs.
When the communicating spirit is someone we have personally known, such as a relative or friend, and especially if they have passed away recently, that person’s manner of speaking perfectly matches the character that we knew. This provides a strong indication of individual identity, which is almost conclusive when the spirit speaks of private matters or family concerns that only that specifc person could know. A child surely recognizes the language of his or her parents, just as parents recognize that of their child. During these intimate sessions, remarkable events may occur that can persuade even the most stubborn skeptic. The most skeptical are often amazed by the unexpected revelations made to them.
There is another common circumstance that helps verify a spirit’s identity. We have already said that the handwriting of the medium generally changes with the spirit contacted, and the same handwriting is faithfully reproduced every time the same spirit communicates. In the case of recently deceased individuals, this writing often bears a striking resemblance to that of the person during their lifetime. Signatures, in particular, are sometimes perfectly exact. We are still far from presenting this fact as a general rule or constant recurrence, but it is worthy of notice.
Spirits who attained a certain degree of purifcation are entirely free of all physical infuences. Still, as long as they are not completely dematerialized (the expression that they use), they retain most of the ideas, inclinations and even habits that they had while on Earth, all of which constitute additional means of identifcation. This is particularly found in the vast number of small details that are only caught through unrelenting and attentive observation. Spirits who were once authors have been known to discuss their own works or theories, approving or criticizing certain parts. Other spirits may even reveal circumstances connected with their life or death. From these indications, we obtain what may be regarded as moral proof of their identity, the only type that can be sought under abstract circumstances.
If sometimes we can establish the identity of a spirit, to a certain extent, there is no reason to believe that this cannot happen in other cases. Despite not having the same means of identifcation for individuals whose death has occurred further in the past, we can always base our assessment on language and character. The spirit of a good person does not clearly express itself in any way similar to a perverse or immoral individual. As for lower spirits who assume respected names, they soon betray their true nature by their manner of speaking. If someone calling himself Fénelon, for instance, expressed comments straying from Fénelon’s common sense or morality, the deception would become obvious immediately. If the thoughts expressed were always pure, consistent and of an elevation matching Fénelon’s character, there would be no reason to doubt his identity. Otherwise we would have to admit that a spirit whose communications teach only goodness would knowingly be guilty of lying, and that would be contradictory.
Experience has taught us that spirits of the same degree and character, and animated by the same sentiments, unite into groups and families. However, the number of spirits is infnite and we are far from knowing all of them. In fact, the names of the vast majority remain unknown to us. A spirit from the same category as Fénelon may come to us on his behalf, and may even be sent by Fénelon himself as his representative. If this were the case, he would naturally call himself Fénelon because he is his equivalent, capable of taking his place, and because we need a name in order to form an idea with regard to him. What does it matter whether a spirit is really Fénelon or not? If everything that he says is excellent, an in keeping with what Fénelon would probably say, then he is a good spirit. The name that a spirit assumes is of no importance and often is only a means of defning our viewpoint. This would not be acceptable in more intimate sessions, but, as explained above, the identity of the communicating spirit in those instances may be determined by other means.
The substitution spirits make, however, may cause many mistakes, resulting in errors and deception. In fact, this is one of the most critical diffculties of practical Spiritism. We never said that this feld of investigation would be easier than any other science, or that it could be successfully explored without any serious effort. It cannot be stressed enough that Spiritism is a new feld of study, one that demands extensive and tireless exploration. As the facts on which Spiritism is based cannot be produced, and often occur when least expected, we must wait for them to present themselves. For the attentive and patient observer, there are endless materials for study because there are thousands of characteristic nuances that are countless sources of enlightenment. The same applies to every other branch of science. While a superfcial observer only sees a fower, a botanist discovers a treasure trove of knowledge.