Two arguments still need to be investigated, and are the only ones truly deserving of this name because they are founded on rational theories. Both admit the reality of the material and moral phenomena of Spiritism, but they deny the intervention of spirits.
According to the frst of these theories, all manifestations attributed to spirits are merely effects of animal magnetism, also known as Mesmerism. Mediums are in a state that might be called waking somnambulism, a phenomenon that is likely to have been observed by anyone who has studied animal magnetism. In this state, the intellectual faculties acquire abnormal development and the circle of our intuitive perceptions extends beyond its ordinary limits. Mediums fnd in themselves through their lucidity, everything that they say and all the notions transmitted by them, even with regard to subjects with which they are completely unfamiliar in their regular state of consciousness.
We do not dispute the power of somnambulism, a type of slight hypnotism, whose wonders we have witnessed and studied for more than thirty-fve years. We admit that many spirit manifestations may be explained by such, but we maintain that sustained and attentive observation reveals a host of events in which any intervention by the medium, other than as a passive instrument, is categorically impossible. To those who attribute these phenomena to magnetism, we say, “See and observe, for you have surely not seen everything.” We would also ask them to consider the two following points, suggested by their own theory. What is the origin of Spiritist theory? Is it a system invented by a few individuals to account for certain events?
Not at all. Then who suggested it? The very mediums whose lucidity you praise; if their rationality is what you declare it to be. Why should they attribute to spirits what they have derived from themselves? How can they have given such precise, logical and inspiring information in regard to the nature of those superhuman beings? Either mediums are lucid, or they are not. If they are, and if we trust their authenticity, we cannot think that they are wrong with regard to this point, without being contradictory. Second, if all the phenomena originated from the mediums themselves, they would always be identical for that particular medium. We would never fnd the same medium employing different languages, varied styles of expression, or making contradictory statements. If anything, the lack of unity so often observed in the manifestations obtained by the same medium is proof of the variety of sources, and as the cause of this diversity is not found in the medium, it must be sought elsewhere.
According to another opinion, mediums are the real source of the manifestations. They do not derive them from themselves, as the supporters of the somnambulist theory assert, instead, they derive them from the individuals around them. The medium acts like a mirror, refecting all the thoughts, ideas and knowledge of those around him or her, and, therefore, says nothing that is not known by at least one of them. One of the fundamental principles of Spiritism is that those who are present exercise some infuence on the manifestations, this cannot be denied. However, this infuence is very different from the hypothesis that we are considering, and in no way supports the idea that mediums are the echo of the thoughts of those around them. There are thousands of facts and events that directly prove the contrary. This is a serious error and shows the danger of hasty conclusions. People who are unable to deny the reality of phenomena that current science is unable to explain, and who are also unwilling to admit the presence of spirits, have to fnd their own way to explain it. Their theory would be superfcially plausible if it explained all the facts, but it cannot do this.
Based on the evidence of facts, it has been proven that a medium’s communications are often entirely foreign to the thoughts, knowledge, and even the opinions of those who are present. These communications are frequently spontaneous, and contradict all preconceived ideas. Of course, naysayers are not discouraged by such a slight diffculty. They maintain that the radiation of thought extends far beyond the circle immediately around us. Mediums are the refection of humanity in general, so if they do not draw their inspiration from those around them, they derive it from those who are further away in the town or country in which they live, from people in the rest of the globe, and even from those of other worlds.
This theory does not provide a more simple and probable explanation than that given by Spiritism, for it assumes a cause that is much more spectacular. The idea that universal space is populated by beings who are in perpetual contact with us, and who communicate their ideas to us, is certainly not more objectionable than the hypothesis of universal radiation, coming from every point of the universe, and converging in the brain of one person.
Once again, and this is a point that we cannot stress enough, the somnambulist theory and that which may be called the refective theory, are products of the imagination of human minds. These are individual opinions created to explain an event. However, the human mind did not conceive Spiritism; it was dictated by the manifesting intelligences themselves. This occurred at a time when no one thought of spirits and the opinion of most of humanity was opposed to such a hypothesis. We frst need to ask from where the mediums could have derived a theory that never existed in the mind of anyone on the globe. We also ask by what strange coincidence did tens of thousands of mediums, across the entire globe and unknown to one another, all agree in proclaiming the same idea. If the frst medium that appeared in France was infuenced by opinions already accepted in the United States, what led this person to search for ideas across the ocean in a nation whose values and language were foreign to his or her own, instead of adopting those in his or her immediate vicinity?
There is yet another circumstance that merits further attention. The earliest manifestations in France, as in the United States, were not written or oral, but were transmitted through rapping or knocking that indicated the letters of the alphabet, forming words and sentences. This is how the communicating intelligences declared themselves to be spirits. Although we admit the involvement of the medium’s mind in the production of verbal or written communications, we cannot attribute the same involvement on the part of the medium in producing rapping or knocks. The medium could not have known them beforehand.
Any number of facts could be cited that prove the existence of clear individuality and an absolutely independent will on the part of the communicating intelligence. We challenge our antagonists to observe the phenomena in question more carefully. We assure them that if they study these events objectively and refrain from drawing any conclusions until they have thoroughly studied the subject, they will fnd that their theories are inadequate to account for all of the phenomena that have occurred. We will only pose the following two questions: Why do the communicating intelligences often refuse to answer certain questions in regard to well-known matters, such as the name or age of the asker, what they may have in their hand, what they did yesterday, or what they intend to do the following day? If mediums are mirrors refecting the thoughts of those around them, answering these questions should be simple.
Our critics counter by inquiring why spirits, who should know everything, are unable to answer simple questions, as dictated by the adage, “He who can do the most can do the least,” and conclude, from this assumed inability, that the phenomena cannot be caused by spirits. If an ignorant or foolish person were to stand before an academic council and ask why it is light out in the middle of the day, would a reply be given? Would it be reasonable to conclude, from the derision or silence with which such a question might be received, that its members were merely imbeciles? It is precisely because they are at a higher level than us that spirits decline to answer idle and foolish questions. This is why they are silent when such questions are asked, or they advise us to focus on more serious subjects.
We also would ask why spirits come and go as they please, and why, after they leave, neither prayers nor pleas can bring them back. If mediums were acted upon solely by the mental impulsion of those around them, the union of their wills would stimulate their clairvoyance in such a case. If they do not yield to the wishes of people gathered around them, even when strengthened by their own desire, it is because they obey a power that is separate from themselves and those around, a power that asserts its own independence and individuality.