Another Eminent Convert
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Such was my first acquaintance with Spiritualism. The result of the experiment was striking. I found myself in the position of a man before whose eyes was evidently produced a phenomena he was unable to clearly account for.
The table had moved on for a certain time : that was an evident fact; it had moved without the participation of any of those that were present, for none of them could or would have done such a thing with the sole object of mystifying me. The only exception to the rule was Home himself ; but his hands and feet were under my control, and in full view.
I formed different conjectures, jumping away from one theory to another in order to explain the fact. But when there is nothing to catch at, the basis for any reasonable theory is lacking, and theory is impossible; on the other hand; I could not help entertaining this suspicion : suppose it is all sleight of hand, and clever trickery or art, so perfected that it becomes impossible of detection. I confess that this idea prevailed in my mind and seemed the most probable. I could not get rid of it. It brought to my mind thousands of reports of the press on the subject of spiritualistic seances. It seemed to me that this constant display of the same conditions, all this table-tipping and moving, and the same materializing of hands was more than suspicious. Could’nt it be accounted for by the supposition that the so-called “medium,’’ had found out some secret means or way of mystifying and deceiving a certain class of the public, generally credulous and inclined to mysticism ? But the idea of any trickery under such conditions as were applied to Home at the time of the spiritual manifestations that occured in his presence seemed to me inadmissable.
Home, who is related by his first wife to Prof. Boutleroff, dived in the house of the latter for several months, therefore the Professor as well as the rest of his household had the opportunity of watching him closely during his long stay in their family. It is next to impossible that some one should not have detected in the lapse of that time preparations of some kind or other; and the phenomena occuring at his seances, required not only a clever sleight of hand, but also machinery more or less complicated and therefore very difficult to conceal.
From my personal acquaintance with Home and what I learned about him from Prof. Boutleroff, I discovered that, first of all, he is a very sickly and nervous man, apt to easily fall into somnambulism, a man constantly disposed to fits of every description, for the explanation of which our medical knowledge is as yet to limited and undeveloped. During my stay in St. Petersburg I was present at two of his seances. At one of them nothing occured whatever. We got some slight motions of the table, some raps, feeble and hardly perceptible and thoroughly insignificant. We sat for about one hour and a half around the table, and parted very much disgusted at the failure. Moreover Home had evidently reckoned on the success of that seance. It had been advertised beforehand, and miscellaneous mystical preparations had been attended to in its behalf. During the evening a lady had been constantly in the adjoining room, playing, on the piano, Scotch melodies. That seance proved to me clearly one thing : that Home is unable to control or direct the spiritual manifestations, and that they are not subject to his caprice or his power.
The other seance was successful enough. Like the first one, it began and ended at a card table, unfolded in all its width and covered with a fine woolen table cover. Two lighted wax candles were placed upon it, and one bell and a accordeon. Round the table, besides Home and myself, sat five other persons, three of whom were my personal, dear friends and brother professors; one of the other two, placed at the left hand side of Home, was an old general, a Spiritualist of many years’ standing. I found myself on Home’s right hand. About ten or fifteen minutes after we took our places, we noticed slight oscillatory movements of the table, and then began the tippings. The table inclined one moment to one side then to the other, and its motions evidently were not produced by Home. His hands were slightly touching the cloth ; he took them off very often, sometimes joining the palms together, and went on with his conversation paying them very little attention. Twice his armchair was pushed away with himself sitting in it, and each time he very quietly brought it back, remarking only, “that they had pushed him.’’ The longer we sat the stronger became these manifestations, exhibiting at the same time an evident periodicity. They <... continues on page 2-9 >