Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/728

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706
SPIRITUALISM


arose anywhere spontaneously, 1 but those who sat with the Foxes were often found to become mediums themselves and then in their turn developed mediumship in others. The mere reading of accounts of seances developed the peculiar susceptibility in some persons, while others, who became mediums ultimately, did so only after prolonged and patient waiting.

There seems to have been little practical interest in spiritual- ism in England till 1852, when its first development took the form of a mania for table-turning (q.v.). This seems to have prevailed all over Europe in 1853. In England it was greatly stimulated by the visit of Mrs Hayden, a professional medium from Boston, in the winter of 1852-1853. Daniel Dunglas Home, the next medium of importance who appeared in London, came over from America in 1855; and for many years almost all the chief mediums for physical phenomena known in England came from the United States. It was at Keighley in Yorkshire — where also the first English periodical, the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was published in 1855 and onwards — that spiritual- ism as a religious movement first made any mark in England; but this movement, though it spread rather widely, cannot be said to have attained at any time very vigorous proportions. It had taken more hold in its original home in the United States of America, and thence it has spread in some degree to most Christian countries. Nowhere, however, has there been much religious organization in connexion with it, and the force of the movement seems to have declined rather than increased.

In the present article it is impossible to give an exhaustive catalogue of the phenomena and modes of communication of modern spiritualism. 2 The greater part of the phenomena may be divided into two classes. To the first belong what may be called the physical phenomena {q.v.) of spiritualism — those, namely, which, if correctly observed and due neither to conscious or unconscious trickery nor to hallucination or illusion on the part of the observers, exhibit a force acting in the physical world hitherto unknown to science. The earliest of these phenomena were the raps already spoken of and other sounds occurring without apparent physical cause, and the similarly mysterious movements of furniture and other objects; and these were shortly followed by the ringing of bells and playing of musical instru- ments. Later followed the appearance of lights; quasi-human voices; musical sounds, produced, it is said, without instruments; the " materialization " or presence in material form of what seemed to be human hands and faces, and ultimately of complete figures, alleged to be not those of any person present, and some- times claimed by witnesses as deceased relatives; " psycho- graphy," or " direct writing and drawing," asserted to be done without human intervention; " spirit-photography," or the appearance on photographic plates of human and other forms when no counterpart was visible before the camera to any but specially endowed seers; 3 unfastening of cords and bonds; elongation of the medium's body; handling of red-hot coals; and the apparent passage of solids through solids without disintegration.

The second class of phenomena, which we may call the automatic, consists in table-tilting and turning with contact; writing, drawing, &c, through the medium's hand; convulsive movements and involuntary dancing; entrancement, trance- speaking, and personation by the medium of deceased persons attributed to temporary " possession " (q.v.); seeing spirits and visions and hearing phantom voices. This class bears affinity to some of the phenomena of hypnotism and of certain nervous

1 It is possible that the family of Dr Phelps we'c unaware of the " Rochester knockings " when the disturbances began in his house at Stratford, Connecticut, in 1850 (see Capron's Modern Spiritualism, its Facts, &c.) ; but these disturbances, as recorded, have no closer resemblance to the ordinary occurrences at a spiritualistic seance than those which took place at Tedworth in 1661 (see Glanvill's Sadducismus Triumphatus) and at Slawensik in 1806 (see Kerner's Sekerin von Prevorst), and others too numerous to mention.

2 See the articles on Psychical Research; Magic; Conjuring; Automatism; Divination; Crystal Gazing; Hypnotism; Appari- tions; Hallucinations; Hauntings, &c.

3 There have been several professional photographers (all detected in fraud sooner or later) who made it their business to take photo-

complaints, to certain epidemics of the middles ages, 4 and to phenomena that have occurred at some religious revivals.

In a third class must be placed the cure of disease by healing mediums. This belongs to medical psychology, and cannot well be studied apart from hypnotic treatment of disease, from the now well-recognized power of suggestion (q.v.), from "faith cures," " mind cures," " Christian Science " and cures connected with other forms of religious belief (see Faith-Healing).

Phenomena falling into the automatic class are much the most common. The investigation of Carpenter on unconscious cerebration and of Faraday on unconscious muscular action 6 showed early in the movement that it was not necessary to look outside the medium's own personality for the explanation of even intelligent communications unconsciously conveyed through table-tilting, automatic writing and trance-speaking — provided the matter communicated was not beyond the range of the medium's own knowledge or powers. And the whole subject of the action of the subconscious personality — the " subliminal self " — has since been more fully worked out by psychologists and notably by F. W. H. Myers. 6 No one conversant with the facts now doubts that what looks like possession or inspiration by an external intelligence may generally be accounted for by subconscious mentation, so that in all cases where no material effects are produced except such as can be attributed to the muscular action of the medium, the evidence for a supernormal interpretation must depend on the content of the communication. Spiritualists maintain that true information is received, which is provably unknown to the medium or other persons present, or which at least is expressed in a manner obviously beyond their powers; and they attribute this to extra-corporeal intelligences. Others, while not going so far as this, admit that the content of the communications does occasionally exceed the medium's knowledge and affords evidence of telepathic communication (see Telepathy) between living persons. Probably most per- sons who have studied the subject would now be inclined to go this length; and there is some evidence, notably in connexion with the trances of an American medium, Mrs Piper, 7 which has convinced some good observers that the hypothesis of occasional communication from deceased persons must be seriously enter- tained. 8 Recently the Society of Psychical Research has obtained from various persons automatic script affording important new material for investigation and which prima facie supports the spiritualistic hypothesis. Whether or not further study of the scripts of these writers confirms this hypothesis, it cannot fail to throw light on the nature of the intelligence in- volved. The scripts contain some matter unknown to the writers and in particular show interconnexions with each other not to be accounted for by knowledge normally possessed by the writers. 9

At no period of the spiritualistic movement has the class of physical phenomena been accepted altogether without criticism. Most spiritualists know that much fraud in connexion with them has been discovered — frequently by spiritualists themselves— and that the conditions favourable to obtaining them are often such as favour fraud. It is with a full knowledge of these difficul- ties in the way of investigation that they maintain that un- mistakably genuine phenomena are of constant occurrence. Many volumes containing accounts of such phenomena have been printed, and appeal is often made to the mass of evidence so accumulated. " No physical science can array a tithe of the mass of evidence by which psychism " (i.e. what is usually called spiritualism) " is supported," says Serjeant Cox. 10 But the

graphs which should contain, besides the normal sitter, representations of deceased friends. For an account of these see Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vii. 268.

4 See Hecker, Epidemics of the Middle Ages (1859).

5 Athenaeum (July 2, 1853); see also on this subject Chevreul, De la baguette divinatoire, &c. (1854).

6 Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (2 vols., 1903).

7 See Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, vi. 436; viii. 1 ; xiii. 284; xxiv. 351.

8 See F. W. H. Myers, op. cit.

9 See Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, xx., xxi. 166; xxii. 19; xxiv. 2-328.

10 Mechanism of Man: What am I? (1879), ii. 313.