< Another Eminent Convert (continued from page 2-21) >
heard to scratch on this paper. To our question: “Jeke, is it you ? Will you write us something ?” We received affirmative raps on the door-frame.
I owe my readers an explanation as to who “Jeke” was—Spiritualists, who were thoroughly well acquainted with the medium, assured us that he was visited by the spirit of a Chinese woman, who called herself “Jeke,” and who materialized through him. Of course, I had no desire to see my name mixed up with what I considered such a superstitious statement. I felt perfectly indifferent as to under what name or delusive circumstances the phenomenon appeared so long as it could be proved genuine.
A few seconds later, we heard a more significant rustling of the papers than before, as though some one were folding them. The hangings shook again, invisible, trembling hands apparently tried to open them, and then the same hand appeared again at the aperture with two folded notes on its opened palm. We took them from the hand. One of them was blank, but on the other we found an attempt at a letter. At the end of the seance, when carefully examining the dark recess and its corners, we found two more papers on the floor; On one of them, in the comer of the sheet, was written “Je ..” on the other, in a bold and handsome handwriting, the whole name of Jeke, with a flourish at the end of it. In the course of the subsequent seances, this signature became a great deal firmer and boider. Besides this, we received several long sentences, which ran sometimes as follow:
“Jeke, II of February 23 . . .—I love you all, but I . . .—Thank God, I feel very well . . .”
We heard the conventional five raps—which implies an order to bring out the alphabet. After complying with which the raps indicated three letters : T A M. “Tambourine ?” we ventured to suggest; and on receiving an answer in the affirmative, we passed the hand the desired instrument. Immediately, some one began drumming on it, keeping time with the music-box. Moreover, It sounded in many different parts of the dark cabinet. But the most remarkable feature of the seance was the feeling of the hand that appeared to us, or rather that formed itself directly before our eyes. It was a warm, delicate, female hand, presenting to our sight and touch the appearance of a perfectly natural human hand. Every one who wished felt his own hand touched and its fingers pressed. From off my own finger, this hand, whosesoever it was, wanted to take my ring, and I felt very distinctly how it was being pulled off, and how it was caught inside by a finger-nail. Through the cloth of the hangings, we all felt and torched this hand ; I squeezed its fingers, and felt and touched its nails. The same thing happened when that hand, or rather the hands, caught hold of our hands, pressing them and pulling them inside the dark cabinet. Once the curtain at the side opposite that where the medium sat, was pulled apart so wide, and lifted up so high, that Prof. Boutleroff and Dr. A—, who were sitting close by, had all the required time to see very clearly Brediff reclining in his chair, motionless, and with his hands folded on his knees, and his knots undisturbed ; while over his head they saw the white hand fluttering about in the air.
Soon after this, the phenomena became weaker, and finally all manifestations ceased. We heard the medium sighing and feebly moving as he was coming out of his trance. We immediately and carefully examined him and the position he was in. All our knots and ties were undisturbed. To allow the the least suspicion of fraud or jugglery on his part was a pure impossibility. True enough, some skeptic might perhaps suspect the premises themselves, the door-frame, and in short, the door itself, which might have been opened from a neighboring room, as it was hidden in part from sight by the curtain, and perchance some confederate of the medium might have slipped in, and, hiding himself, performed the part of the hands we both saw and felt. But such a theory as that, for all of us who were present at the seance, is perfectly void of common sense. We are perfectly certain that the door-frame is the most innocent of its kind, and that no one could approach it at the time of the seance. Moreover, this door remained perfectly visible to us through the opening of the hanging, expressly arranged to that view in such a way, and I repeat again, to all of us who were present the witnessed phenomena has all the merit of perfect genuineness, and are thoroughly objective. All those manifestations were repeated, with various changes, during a course of many seances.
I am stating facts, the solution of which I consider at the present time a perfect impossibility. All of us saw and felt the hands, that were formed in our presence. True enough, we could not well follow the process of that formation, but I deem it fully possible and even necessary to admit the facts all the same. I will here remark a circumstance that struck me. As I had the opportunity of stating before, a certain periodicity, a sort of regular ebb and flow, can be always easily detected in this sort of manifestation by the attentive investigator. The same thing was observed by me in the course of the materialization of these hands. The manifestations flowed regular and wave-like, and gradually became strikingly powerful ; the hands pulled the curtain violently, and rapped on the table placed outside the curtain with remarkable force. After which, the progressive development, seeming to arrive at its maximum, suddenly stopped and the manifestations lost their power or were brought altogether to an end for a few minutes, as if they had lost all their reserve of strength, so necessary for their production. The same oscillatory movements were as evident in the apparition of the hands. Generally speaking, the rapidity exhibited in their movements as they fly from one place to another is remarkable. No less worthy of observation is the fact of the great weakness and the complete lack of strength in those apparitions at the first stage of their development. Very often the hands would drop the pencil without being able to finish the sentence or word begun, and had to employ the greatest exertions to pick it up from the floor. The same was die case with the tambourine and bell.
I am presenting a truthful account of facts, witnessed by myself; I do not deny but that these facts seem fantastical and incredible; but I do not ask credence of them in the least, nor do I care whether I am believed or not. I know that a good many of the errors that crept in while humanity was in the course of its development, are chiefly due to the superabundance of implicit faith in so-called authorities; and what sort of authority can I pretend to phenomenal manifestations, heretofore ignored and completely new to any known science? I desire but one thing, namely, that all those who will not believe me, may prove to me that I am wrong; but in such a case they will have to support their case with facts, as positive and as undeniable as those that forced me to my present conviction, that the mediumistical, or so-called spiritual, phenomena are real existing facts.
Faith in these manifestations increases with striking rapidity. True enough, it may be that this belief is entirely based upon erroneous and thoroughly mystical ideas; but the number of Spiritualists in America alone, which is computed at 11,000,000,(?)* proves undoubtedly the existence at least of some facts, since they are strong enough to support so firmly those errors. On the other hand we arrive at the same conclusion in consequence of the fact of so many well-balanced persons, sober, and armed to the teeth with all the implements of modern science, having, notwithstanding all that, arrived at the full conviction of the reality of the same mediumistical phenomena. The names of these persons are known to the world of science as those of capable, meritorious, and worthy investigators of its questions. But it is evidently the common lot and propensity of the human mind, as soon as the question of facts overthrowing its habitual convictions or ideas is presented to it, it rouses itself immediately in opposition to them. At the time when Crookes, Huggins, and Varley were preparing to give to the public the account of their scientific researches, the scientific world never once thought of opposing or doubting the accuracy of their researches; but suddenly arose the question as to the mediumistic phenomena and the same army of scientists instantly go back on their own brethren, and treat their discoveries with the utmost contempt and skepticism. It seems to me I should have never accorded to myself the right of condemning such proceedings had I not personally experienced all their inconsistency. I, too, had suspected somewhat the investigations of Mr. Crookes, in the psycho-dynamical phenomena, until I satisfied myself personally of the existence of the said phenomena.
Convincing as may appear to us proofs, that we receive from another person's testimony, the propensity of skeptics will always overbalance such evidence, and it is only when facts appearing before our own eyes, or through our own sense of feeling, that they will impress themselves upon our own understandings, and become the real property of those senses. That is the reason why I desire so much to have all those who may read this letter, and who may become desirous of convincing themselves of the truth of my allegations, investigate for themselves and so acquire knowledge by personal experience. Means of obtaining such proofs may be easily found by any one, for impressionable and nervous persons, adapted by their natural faculties for such like phenomena are not so scarce but that they are to be met with in each one’s own social circle.
In consequence of these manifestations, I had occasion to encounter another force, the force of skepticism, which latter fact brought me to the conclusion that this force never submits to convictions, based upon the testimony of other persons, however strong may be their confidence in the latter. It is perfectly natural that it should be so. The deseription made by those other persons, lively and perfect as they may be, are, nevertheless, incapable of impressing upon one in all its details the picture they have not seen themselves; there, fore, they fail to produce in them the same clearness of perception as is afforded to us by our own senses. This reminds me of the answer of the late Alexander Von Humboldt, to a gentleman who tried hard to convince him of the genuineness of the mediumistical phenomena.
“I believe in them,” said the great naturalist, “for I hear you endorse them to me and describe what you saw yourself; but were I to see such phenomena myself, I would not believe in my own eyes.” A mighty characteristic paradox!
If the convictions of our society were perfectly free, the progress of its enlightenment would undoubtedly become a great deal more rapid. But that is just where lies its great mistake; men of the world suppose that their convictions arc perfectly independent, and that they submit only to the force of facts; while the truth is that this society constantly lives and feeds itself upon preconceived opinions, prepared for the inspection of the whole universe by a long list of formalities and conditions under which it progresses and developes. Its skepticism represents a double-edged weapon. On the one hand this weapon protects it from unsafe highways, but on the other this sword of skepticism encourages and gives the best chances to reaction. It preserves in society the vitality and popularity of such ideas as are constantly being contradicted by newly discovered evident facts and attested proofs. Spencer’s opinion, expressed in his “Science oi Sociology,” about the old conservatism prevailing in societies can be applied not only to the masses but to each of us who considers himself totally free from any preconceived theories.
As a matter of course, the chief obstacles to the reception of the mediumistic phenomena present themselves in the shape of those explanations that are given of them by Spiritualists themselves, and which no skeptic will ever allow himself to submit to. But apart from those ideas, the surroundings and conditions of these manifestations are such as are best calculated to create various misunderstandings and suspicions! “Why,” inquired a lady of me one day, “is darkness so necessary for these phenomena; why can’t they be produced without all this paraphernalia, more simply and without the aid of any curtains, dark seances or tables?” In other words: “Why should I be refused to get thoroughly convinced that there is no room left in the case for fraud and jugglery?” I hope that the conditions our own experiments were surrounded with, fully remove all grounds for suspicion. Rut on the other hand, it is impossible to insist upon the manifestation of even any natural phenomenon unconditionally, and outside of the laws it is governed by.
I often heard from persons I Invited to join us in our spiritual investigations such answers as follows: “Why should I disturb myself to witness such phenomena as will be perfectly impossible for me to account for?”—an excuse as shallow as it is inconsistent. Students in physics, who first discovered electricity and galvanism, could no more account for them than we can for these phenomena, when they appear to us for the first time. Moreover, in comparison with the psychic manifestations, the discovery of electricity certainly belongs to the most simple primitive laws of phenomena. Constant and patient investigations and inquiries will most likely pour out that same light one day, on the complete darkness of this impenetrable mysterious region of spiritual phenomena as it did on other mysteries conquered by human science. The idea that this subject presents no claim to scientific inquiry is totally false. This fact alone that the mediumistical manifestations depend upon the surrounding general conditions, gives us the possibility of studying and clearly defining them. For instance, they are evidently subjected to the variations of the atmosphere, to its cold or dryness, to light or darkness, and so forth. These conditions are supplemented by others that lie concealed in certain individuals, through whom they are produced, in the psychic state of those persons, and in their individual temperaments.
Some persons may object to these hypothesis and offer roe the following question: Why didn’t I, instead of presenting all my strange theories in the vain attempt to explain the observed phenomena, go on and apply myself to investigating them in the usual scientific way? —I am sufficiently cleared, I suppose, from such a reproach as that, by the very novelty to me of these manifestations. I have first of all to ascertain facts, and I do so with the view of attracting to them the attention of some of our noted physiologists, an attention sufficiently demanded, I should say, after this plain statement of what I have seen myself of the phenomena. Even if the latter were to be assigned to the domain of Psychistry or nervous disease, the more would it be our sacred duty to inquire into them, oppose their rapid spread in their present deceptive shape, unmask their true character, and, having done so much, struggle finally with these seemingly childish, superstitious notions with which Spiritualists are trying to clothe them.
* This number is quoted from statistical information, presented to the Congress of Roman Catholic Bishops, in 1867. (Judge Edmonds letter, Spiritual Magazine 1867, p. 327).—Ed.]