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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/747

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SPIRITUALISM.

fact probably is, that most such claimants are about as competent to form a trustworthy opinion on such a subject as they are to pronounce upon the genuineness of a Syriac manuscript. The matter is as much a technical acquisition as is the diagnosticating of a disease. It is not at all to the discredit of the observing powers or the intellectual acumen of any one, to be deceived by the performances of a conjurer, and the same holds true of the professional part of mediumistic phenomena.[1] Until this homely but salutary truth is impressed with all its importance upon all intending investigators, there is little hope of checking the growth of this vast superstition.[2] You believe that there will be an eclipse of the moon when the astronomer predicts one, not because you can calculate the time yourself, or even understand how the astronomer does it, but because that is a technical acquisition which

  1. "I do not think that this unpreparedncss and inobservancy of mind, in the presence of a conjurer, is a thing of which any one who is not familiar with the tricks already need be ashamed."—Mr. Hodgson.
    Even a conjurer can be nonplussed by a medium's performance if he have no experience in the particular kind of sleight of hand required for the trick. This is the experience of Mr. Harry Kellar. He at first declared himself unable to explain slate-writing as a trick, but now can repeat the process in a variety of ways, and with far greater skill than mediums. Of course the spiritualists keep on citing his former testimony, and ignore his challenge to repeat by trickery any alleged spiritualistic phenomena witnessed by him three times.
  2. The above view ought, perhaps, to be modified somewhat. There is a class of spiritualistic manifestations, to be deceived by which is a mark of weak insight or strong prejudice. To this class belong the materialization of departed friends. On these Dr. Furness writes thus: "Again and again men have led round the circles the materialized spirits of their wives and introduced them to each visitor in turn; fathers have taken round their daughters, and I have seen widows sob in the arms of their dead husbands. Testimony such as this staggers me. Have I been smitten with color-blindness? Before me, as far as I can detect, stands the very medium herself, in shape, size, form, and feature true to a line, and yet one after another, honest men and women at my side, within ten minutes of each other, assert that she is the absolute counterpart of their nearest and dearest friend; nay, that she is that friend. It is as incomprehensible to me as the assertion that the heavens are green, and the leaves of the trees deep blue. Can it be that the faculty of observation and comparison is rare, and that our features are really vague and misty to our best friends? Is it that the medium exercises some mesmeric influence on her visitors, who are thus made to accept the faces which she wills them to see? Or is it, after all, only the dim light and a fresh illustration of la nuit tous les chats sont gris?" Add to this the confession of an exposed medium, Mr. D. D. Home: "The first séance I held, after it became known to the Rochester people that I was a medium, a gentleman from Chicago recognized his daughter Lizzie in me after I had covered my small mustache with a piece of flesh-colored cloth, and reduced the size of my face with a shawl I had purposely hung up in the back of the cabinet." Cases where different members of a circle instantly recognize in the spirit form entirely different persons are not uncommon. Here so much of the trick depends upon the sitter that he must be a firm believer, or very simple, to be deceived. It is this kind of manifestations with which the better class of spiritualists have least to do; and it is seldom that a conversion of a real investigator begins with such materializations. This preying upon the feelings of simple-minded folk is one of the greatest scandals of the movement.