Another Eminent Convert
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would have been nothing very extraordinary if every one of us had given way to this peculiar, mysterious, nervous state of mind, seeing as well as himself that “something white,” which hallucination developing and strengthening, under such an unwholesome mental disposition should compel us to see gradually assuming a human shape. The same theory, I thought, can be easily applied to those seemingly objective touches felt by some persons in the circle. I felt them myself on the knee, but this touch was so slight and so insignificant, that I did not hesitate for a moment at that time to take it for something subjective. It seemed to me then that every series of spiritual seances, as a rule, began by objective phenomena, perfectly real, manifested more or less distinctly by raps and table-moving; after which, when on the one hand the Spiritualists were pretty well tired out with a long sitting, and, on the other, their nervous systems began to feel over excited, there came in at that time a long procession a delusive phenomena, which are all accepted as real by the Spiritualists.
But what is the cause that provokes those real spiritual manifestations ? This question has remained and remains till now a dark puzzle to me. My greatest desire was to investigate them, but I had no opportunity for it as I became convinced that for such an object as this what is of the first necessity is to have a medium, namely, a person whose nervous system presents perhaps a very slight difference with the nervous systems of the average of us mortals ; but which is still strong enough to call out phenomena, that it seems to me might be named psycho-dynamical ones. I blamed very strongly Prof. Boutleroff and A. N. Aksakoff—both of whom took a constant and prominent part in Home's seances—for not conducting the latter under strictly scientific tests, and for not changing them into a series of psycho-physical experiments and investigations. In answer to my complaints I generally received such excuses as, for instance, that these manifestations were very whimsical and uncertain, that they varied, and could be subjected with great difficulty to the conditions of tests and experiments, and that long years of patient investigation were required, sometimes, in order to see something satisfactory. As a proof of that, they brought forward the investigations of the subject by the eminent chemist Crookes. I follow the progress of the letter attentively in a pamphlet called “Spiritualism and Science,” in 1872, edited by M. Aksakoff for the purpose of benefiting, by them, the Russian public.
In October last, I was again invited by Messrs. Aksakoff and Boutleroff to take part in spiritual seances, in which the phenomena were manifested in the presence of another medium a M. Brediff. I accepted, and in my turn, invited an old friend of mine, a physiologist, one Dr. A. Mrs. Aksakoff desired to be included also in our seances, and a circle was formed of six persons. Besides the six above mentioned, we had invited to join us one of my brother professors of Natural Science, a young but very eminent zoologist, and another young man, a student of chemistry and a pupil of Prof. Boutleroff.
Camille Brediff is a professional medium, namely: one who will go anywhere for a certain sum of money. He is a Frenchman, from Paris, an ex-crockery merchant, who had seen fit, in hope of better results to his pocket, to benefit himself through such mediumistic gifts as Nature had very generously endowed him with. He is a young man, of slight build and stature, with rather a good looking and good humoured though somewhat vulgar face, and sharp black eyes.
Very naturally a person of such a description inspired in us very little confidence, and we agreed to keep a constant watch over his hands and feet, with a view to ascertain, beyond any doubt, that the manifestations taking place at these seances were not helped along by the said hands and feet. Therefore I will describe only such of the phenomena as were manifested only when this medium’s hands were in strict custody of his neighbor’s hands, and both his feet placed either on our knees or held under the boots of those who sat near him. I was convinced of the reality of, and genuineness of the manifestations hereinafter described by a long series of experiments under-various test conditions. For instance, the table moved and tipped, though feebly—only when no one was sitting near it or touched it.